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What Luther Says

A Lutheran Layman's Perspective On Signs-And-Wonders Christians (a.k.a. "Spiritual Elites" and "Spiritual Narcissists")

The Word of God is crystal clear...

Matthew 24:24 (ESV) For false christs and false prophets will arise and perform great signs and wonders, so as to lead astray, if possible, even the elect.

When things turn desperate, people instinctively recognize the need for a spiritual answer.

Under such wretched conditions, it is no wonder that false teachers would attract so many followers.

Still, despite the fact that the Lord told us to expect this, is doesn't change the agony and pain that we feel whenever our dear loved ones fall for such false teachings regardless of our persistent warnings.

Thankfully, I found a REALLY good commentary on the spiritual dangers of these "Signs-And-Wonders" types within Christianity today (minus the tacit approval of Eugene Petersen by including one of his quotes to introduce the commentary, of course, regardless of whether or not he's right), and it's written by another Lutheran.

I've only ever sort of danced around this subject in the past, but I think it's time to start giving it more attention here in this space particularly as I continue to see more and more family members and friends being seduced by the subtle serpent's half-truths and outright lies stemming from this kind of belief system.

So, here's a good primer for anyone who's new to this subject and who wants to know why we make so much fuss over something that seems so "harmless" to them, especially since it also seems to "bring one closer to God" too.

As part of our discussion about “signs and wonders,” I want to offer some comments by way of critique. This is not meant to be a comprehensive statement of what I think about Christian groups that emphasize the Holy Spirit and supernatural gifts. That’s a book, not a blog post. Instead, I want to focus on a few fundamental reasons these theologies, movements, churches and parachurch groups ought to be critiqued. My primary problem with the pentecostal/charismatic groups preoccupied with “signs and wonders” that I’ve been exposed to in my life may be summarized in the following two observations:

They have been too fixated on a limited stock of supernatural experiences and manifestations, with a tendency to define them as normative for Christian living. 
They have not been sufficiently grounded in creation and a robust sacramental appreciation of the material and ordinary stuff of life.
These groups have therefore become vulnerable to a number of serious errors: 
Docetism: Since God cares more about the spiritual than the material, earthly things are ultimately unimportant. 
Escapism: Since the world is doomed, we need not take responsibility for improving it. 
Separatism: Since the world is evil, we must avoid sympathetic contact and practice a confrontational stance. 
Gnosticism: Since the world has no true knowledge to offer, we must seek divine insights through secret insider teachings and practices. 
Elitism: Those who have had extraordinary experiences tend to set themselves apart from others, indicating in subtle or not-so-subtle ways that they have arrived at a higher level of spirituality. 
Anti-institutionalism: Since a person or group’s authority is determined through allegedly experiencing God’s activity, no mere institution or outside authority figure has the right to critique them. 
Authoritarianism: Since some show special aptitude and charisma (in all its senses), these individuals rise to an authority which no one can question because it is based on personal testimony of divine intervention. 
Triumphalism: The theological term we learned for this in seminary was “over-realized eschatology.” In simple terms, it means claiming too much too soon — thinking that God’s future blessings are available for us to experience now. “Victory” or “dominion” becomes stressed in such a way that the N.T. teaching on suffering and service (theology of the cross) gets swallowed up by an emphasis on power and superiority (theology of glory).

Their biggest error is part and parcel of every movement that places an unbalanced emphasis on a particular area of doctrine or practice that is not at the creedal core — Jesus gets left out. The Gospel ceases to be the focal point of attention. God’s simple cruciform gifts of baptism, community, and pastoral ministry, Word and Table, lament and thanksgiving, and vocation and service become overwhelmed by an enthusiasm for spiritual experience and manifestations of divine power. The fruit of the Spirit gets swallowed up by the gifts of the Spirit (as we define them). 
Now, as to the fundamental critiques... 

This is most certainly true.

I strongly encourage you to click the above link and read the rest of that entry.

I was once told I had reason to doubt my faith because I wasn't performing miracles.

I was once told I had reason to doubt my faith because I wasn't having supernatural dreams or "direct downloads" from God.

I was once told I had reason to doubt my faith because I didn't speak in tongues.

I was once told I had reason to doubt my faith because I didn't have clear evidence of the Holy Spirit working in my life due to the absence of miracles, signs, and wonders.

Needless to say, this is being told to many more Christians by these "Spiritual Elites," these "Spiritual Narcissists," and who knows the lasting damage that is being done (1 Timothy 1:18-20; Matthew 24:24).

As Chaplain Mike pointed out...

"This is not meant to be a comprehensive statement of what I think about Christian groups that emphasize the Holy Spirit and supernatural gifts. That’s a book, not a blog post."

Which got me thinking, maybe it's time to finally take some time to read Douglas Judisch's "An Evaluation of Claims to the Charismatic Gifts" that's been sitting on my bookshelf for months now. Stay tuned.

In a Lutheran layman's terms, the "Signs-And-Wonders" Christians are playing with fire -- an unholy fire -- that threatens their very souls and could have deadly serious eternal consequences, because doctrines are distorted, and because Jesus always seems to get left out.

NOTE: Please understand that I'm not a called and ordained minister of God's Word and Sacraments. I'm a layman or just a regular Christian, Corporate Recruiter, Husband, Father, Friend who lives in the "City of Good Neighbors" here on the East Coast. As another Christian Blogger once wrote, "Please do not see this blog as me attempting to 'publicly teach' the faith, but view it as an informal Public Journal of sorts about my own experiences and journey, and if any of my notes here help you in any way at all, then I say, 'Praise the Lord!' but please do double check them against the Word of God and with your own Pastor." To be more specific, and relevant to the point I want to make with this disclaimer/note, please understand that I'm a relatively new convert to Confessional Lutheran who recently escaped American Evangelicalism a little more than 4 years ago now. That being said, please contact me ASAP if you believe that any of my "old beliefs" seem to have crept their way into any of the material you see published here, and especially if any of the content is inconsistent with the Bible, our Confessions, and Lutheran doctrine in general (in other words, if it's not consistent with God's Word, which our Confessions merely summarize and repeatedly point us back to over and over again) so that I can not only correct those errors immediately and not lead any of His little ones astray (James 3:1), but repent of my sin and learn the truth myself. Also, please be aware that you might also discover that some of the earlier/older pieces I wrote for this blog back in 2013 definitely fall into that "Old Evangelical Adam" category (and they don't have a disclaimer like this) since I was a "Lutheran-In-Name-Only" at the time and was completely oblivious to the fact that a Christian "Book of Concord" even existed (Small/Large Catechism? What's that!?!). This knowledge of the Lutheran basics was completely foreign to me even though I was baptized, confirmed, and married in an LCMS church! So, there are some entries that are a little "out there" so-to-speak since the subject matter was also heavy influenced by those old beliefs of mine. I know that now and I'm still learning. Anyway, I decided to leave those published posts up on this website and in cyberspace only because they are not blasphemous/heretical, because I now have this disclaimer, and only to demonstrate the continuing work of Christ and the Holy Spirit in my life (Hebrews 12:2; Philippians 1:6). Most importantly, please know that any time I engage in commenting on and/or interpreting a specific portion of the holy Scriptures, it will always closely follow the verse-by-verse footnotes from my Lutheran Study Bible and/or include references to the Book of Concord unless otherwise noted. Typically, I will defer to what other Lutheran Pastors both past and present have already preached and taught about such passages since they are the called and ordained under-shepherds of our souls here on earth. Finally, I'm going to apologize ahead of time for the length of most entries (this disclaimer/note is a perfect example of what I mean! haha). I'm well aware that blogs should be short, sweet, and to the point, but I've never been one to follow the rules when it comes to writing. Besides, this website is more like a "Christian Dude's Diary" in the sense that everything I write about and share publicly isn't always what's "popular" or "#trending" at the time, but is instead all the things that I'm studying myself at the moment. For better or for worse, these posts tend to be much longer than most blog entries you'll find elsewhere only because I try to pack as much info as possible into a single piece so that I can refer to it again and again over time if I need to (and so that it can be a valuable resource for others -- if possible, a "One-Stop-Shop" of sorts). Thank you for stopping by and thank you in advance for your time, help, and understanding. Feel free to comment/email me at any time. Grace and peace to you and yours!


About JKR

Christian. Husband. Father. Friend.

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Thank you for visiting A Lutheran Layman! Please feel free to leave a comment or a question since we do not exercise censorship. We've seen a similar policy with other blogs and it's worth repeating: Please act as if you're a guest in my home, and we'll get along just fine. I think anyone would agree that the kind of back-and-forth that is characteristic of blogs/chat forums and social media is becoming tiresome for all of us. Still, we should confess, edify, and love (and contend and defend when needed). Bottom line? Search the Scriptures! Apply Acts 17:11 to anything and everything you find here and, if you do happen to disagree with something you find here (which is certainly ok), or think I'm "irresponsible" and "wrong" for writing it, then please refute my position by supporting yours with Scripture and/or the Confessions. I don't think that's an unreasonable request, especially for those who identify themselves as "Christians" here, right? Besides, Proverbs 27:17 tells us "Iron sharpens iron, and one man sharpens another" and 2 Timothy 3:16 says, "all Scripture is breathed out by God and profitable for teaching, for reproof, for correction, and for training in righteousness." If you have an opinion that's great, I welcome it, but try to support it using God's Word. I mean, if the goal here is to help us all arrive at the truth of God's Word (myself included), then it should be easy to follow through on this one simple request (I'm talking to all you "Anonymous" visitors out there). Grace and peace to you and yours!

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