Wednesday, December 31, 2014

A Door to Door Evangelism Encounter

Read part one.

Don't try to convince yourself that door-to-door means "shoving it down people's throats," a sales pitch, or the enemy of evangelizing your circles of influence.   It doesn't. Door-to-door is sowing the seed on every single plot of ground, searching every square inch for the lost coin, sheep, and son, and making sure everyone has the opportunity to hear.  It isn't up to you at all to make it more interesting to people or to show them how cool it is.  The Bible says people already know how great it is or you wouldn't have a hope of any success ever.  No extra-scriptural strategy will make it any better for you if you want genuine conversions.  You can make it a ton better if you want mere professions.

Also don't try to convince yourself that door-to-door was the invention either of the Watchtower Society or of the 1-2-3-pray-with-me of Jack Hyles.  They did it or do it, so it's wrong, is a very bad argument.  You know that.  So is, other stuff works better.  Leaving your house and visiting other people is how everyone else besides you will hear the gospel.  My life is full of testimonies of preaching a true gospel door-to-door and people being saved.  I gave mini testimonies of two people in Monday's post.

Jesus did not command His disciples to go out and build relationships with lost people.  He didn't send out the seventy to go and make friends with the world.  Almost every person Jesus preached to was a stranger.  He didn't know Nicodemus.  He didn't know the woman at the well.  I'm sure He preached to people He knew, but in the best example of that, they planned to throw Him over a cliff in Nazareth.  This isn't some recent revelation.  It's easy to see that Jesus preached everywhere and to everyone and then the apostles followed that example.  When Paul went to a synagogue, he wasn't going there to become buddy-buddy with those people.  When he finally did arrive in Damascus, he had to leave over the wall in a basket.  We know this.  And we do have it better here in the United States than what they had it.

People want an easier way to preach, where when you're done, you go your merry way and everyone still likes each other.  I've found that I retain popularity where I don't preach.  If I deal with a person's soul, it most often ends with somebody wishing I wasn't there, and that is with me being as non-offensive as possible.

Other Christians talk like we don't know that people don't want to have someone visit their home. People don't want you to preach to them, period.  You can sit right next to someone at a fast food restaurant.  I mean almost on the person's lap.  You can smell his breath, he's so close.  You turn and offer only a gospel tract -- he rejects it.  I.  know.  that.

God told Isaiah to preach to people who didn't want to hear.  In Matthew 13, Jesus said He had a similar task.  We live in an age in America where we are very much closer to that situation. Many call it a post-Christian America.  I live in what is the most liberal and unchurched metropolitan area in the United States.  In many places here, people are hostile.  They can't kill me, yet.  They would rather kill me than a tree, a whale, or a bird.

We can see that Jesus does not intend for us to preach to people who don't want us.  If I could know that someone had heard the gospel and did not want it, before I got to him, I would leave him alone.  I don't want to talk to people who don't want to listen.  And yet I still go door-to-door.  What do I say when I get there?

I don't use a survey.  I'm not there to invite them to church.  I often do that in the midst of a conversation, but that's not my purpose.  I don't start out with the idea that I'm going to strike up a conversation.  The nature of people in this area encourages you to get right to the point.  When I read all of the examples of Jesus and the Apostles, I don't read them merely trying to make it the most pleasant experience possible.  I say "merely."  You aren't going for unpleasant, but as soon as you turn any conversation in the direction of the gospel, you will start feeling a bad vibe 99% of the time.

Despite everything I have said so far, I very often am able to preach the gospel to people.  One of my secrets is that I behave like I like doing it.  I actually do care about the person, so I talk to the person like he's a person.  I'm also very equipped to talk about the Bible.  Not being prepared should not be an excuse.  You can go with someone else for awhile, and then the best way to learn is to do it yourself.  You'll learn far more Bible by talking to people about the Lord from God's Word.

Alright, let me get at least to how I start with someone.  For awhile, when someone comes to the door, I say, "I'm Kent (and this is so-and-so), and I'm (we're) here to talk only to someone who is interested in Jesus.  I want to talk to people about Jesus and the gospel.  Gospel means good news.  And the good news is that we are in horrible trouble with God, but because of Jesus we can get right with God.  But I'm interested only in people who want to talk about Jesus Christ and about that good news.  Do you want to do that?"

That start covers everyone.  Buddhist.  Hindu.  Moslem.  Liberal.  New Age.  Mind science.  Religious person.  Irreligious person. Baptist.  Lutheran.  Evangelical.  Charismatic.

"Who is Jesus and why did He need to come to earth?  There is good reason to believe in Him.  Could we talk about that?"  Then you can start with sin, because sin is the problem.  This is, by the way, communicating the Christian worldview, which most simply is:  creation, fall, redemption.  It all starts with God.

This start does two great things.  One, you find out right away if the person wants to talk.  You are not responsible to talk with people who don't want to talk.

You may say, "But no one is going to want to talk to you with that approach or start."  Wrong.  You don't waste your time with people who don't want to talk, but you also have people who can't resist that.  I notice conviction immediately when I start like that.  It is difficult to say, I don't want to talk about or hear about Jesus, if you know you need Him.  Of the people who do say, "no," many times they look guilty saying it.  I even add to it by saying, "So you don't want to talk about Jesus?"  I will keep going, "We need Jesus.  We're doomed without Him, are you sure?  Can I?"

Theologically, I believe we have at least two things going with a person.  One, you have previous knowledge of the true God in everyone.  God's grace works in God's world.  That's very positive.

Two, you have rebellion that is innate to every human being.  The solution to rebellion is a supernatural one.  It doesn't make sense to us.  It's not a strategy.  If it were a strategy, strategists would laugh at it.  So you immediately go to a supernatural solution.  I assume people know they need it.  If they won't show interest, it's rebellion.  The cure for rebellion is still the truth, which is supernatural.  The cure isn't intellectual per se.  The whole gospel is partly intellectual, but that is not the component that is the problem for people.  They have sufficient knowledge to show interest in the conversation.  Rebellion is why they don't.  Therefore, you go all truth on them.

So, first, the start finds if someone wants to talk.   If the person says, "No," I try to leave a tract, and I know I've done what I can do, and I move on.  But, second, I find with that approach, the people are to some degree appreciative that I've been honest.  It does say, "He's not ashamed of what he's talking about."  If nothing is greater, I'm talking like nothing is greater.  Most people don't talk like nothing's greater.  They talk like it's something you don't think is so great, so you've got to wrap it in dog food and sneak it in, so the dog will eat it.  No, it's filet mignon.  It's the best.  Treat it like it is the best.  It is!

Just a short aside here.  The most rude people often are "Christians," especially evangelicals.  Your mere presence reminds them of the facade they're a part of.

Talk about Jesus like He's worth talking about.  Most people don't know Who He is.  They know the name.  They have a conception, but it's usually wrong.  They also don't know how much trouble they are in.

You ask, "Does this work?"  I preach the gospel all the time.  I give a lot of people an opportunity.  Jesus sent out the 70 to do that.  He wants the gospel to spread out.  There are churches that are getting bigger, but they are missing the point.  Their church is hear to preach the message of the kingdom.  People need to hear about the King, and what He's done.  So while their church is growing, all people will hear is that they can come and play volleyball or watch a movie or hear a concert.  The number of people in about 100 yards of commute traffic go to the biggest churches and the rest of the people they just leave damned for Hell.  I've never run into one of them out preaching in 27 years.  I know, they're so smart.

Many today, it's true, won't want to talk to you.  They'll feel proud that they turned you away, like that was an important task for them to fulfill.  They hate you, because they see you as the religious right, pro-death penalty, the moral majority, anti-homosexual.  They already think you're that way. You keep it to talking about Jesus and maybe you'll get to that.

Another little secret, when people are uber-rude with me, the conversation just got longer.  I turn into his best friend, Gomer Pyle to his Sergeant Carter.  I'll ask, "Why are you so angry?"  Etc.

If you have more questions, I'm open to answering as many as I think I should here.  Fire away.


Monday, December 29, 2014

Door-to-Door Evangelism: Are There Better Ways to Evangelize than Evangelizing?

Imagine a method of evangelism where almost everyone enjoyed the encounter.  Sounds like heaven. Is there a comfortable manner for a root canal?  Asleep.  But you've got to be conscious to receive the gospel.

Proponents of Jesus asked why so few were saved?  He said they would not strive (agonizomai) to enter the narrow gate.  People have to want it.  They've got to "find" it.  The Apostle Paul said that the truth is suppressed by people in their unrighteousness.   2 Peter says they don't want a boss.  This question is also answered by the parable of the sower.  The seed is the same, but the problem isn't the technique for how it is flung, but the condition of the soil.  People who are ready to receive are, well, ready to receive, and if not, they're not.  So who are these people who want to receive it?   We don't know, but we will know when we try to give it to them.

In the mid 19th century, Charles Finney proposed "new measures" to allure the lost to salvation.  His notion arose from his distorted notion of man's nature.  Finney's techniques changed the essence of the gospel, and exponential more perversions have proceeded from them.   That tradition continued on December 16, when Christianity Today (CT), what might be better titled "Christianity" Today, published an article, entitled, "The Dangers of Door-to-Door Evangelism," a review of a new book, The Unbelievable Gospel:  Say Something Worth Believing.

The online forum, ShaperIron, started a discussion on the article, and there was overall agreement from readers there who commented.  Both the article and the comments on the forum reminded me of the growing femininity of American Christianity.  Here is a person of masculine gender, who rejects biblical obedience out of fear, but writes to excuse himself, suave his guilt, and emolliate others like him.  He should just say it:  he lacks courage, hates rejection, and doesn't want to feel bad about any of it.

All the reasons given in the article and on the forum were actually the same reasons for not evangelizing period.  Many would like to evangelize without evangelizing.  Both the book and the online forum missed the most important criteria for judging door-to-door:  is it a scriptural method? Or, did Jesus and the Apostles practice it?

The gospel, of course, is worth believing, even though the lost think it is foolishness.  It's also believable, because it is the truth.   It really is a matter of faith.  Preaching the gospel won't usually look "effective."  But the better question is, do American Christians believe the gospel is the power of God unto salvation?  If it is (and it is), then they should be and actually would be preaching it door-to-door.

In Isaiah 6, God sent Isaiah to preach to a nation, who didn't want to hear the message.  King Manasseh of Judah killed the prophets, who came to him.  In the end, those prophets had sowed the seed for his conversion (2 Chronicles 33).  John the Baptist was killed by Herod.  Every apostle but John the disciple died the martyr's death.

The Father sent Jesus and then Jesus sent believers to preach the gospel to every person.  We have been left with the task of delivering a message, much like Hezekiah sent out postmen to call on those remaining in the Northern Kingdom to repent.  They mocked and ridiculed him, so was his message unbelievable?

We don't need a book to tell us not to evangelize.  We don't need so-called preachers discouraging us from preaching the gospel.  These preachers want to be relevant.  They seek a method, not found in the Bible, that will "work."  The gospel works, when you preach it.  An unbelievable gospel is one that isn't preached.  No one can believe that one, because no one has heard it.

Door-to-door evangelism is in one sense not a method, unless it is a sales pitch or is offering something other than a true gospel.  If it is a true gospel preached, it is evangelism.  It is loving the world like God so loved the world.  It is caring about everyone.

Does door-to-door work?  It works at preaching the gospel.   It works at giving the opportunity for everyone to hear.  It works at obeying the Bible.  It works at loving God, loving the world, and loving your neighbor.  It works at going.  It works at faithfulness with the mysteries of God.  It works at being an ambassador of Christ.  It works at not having the spirit of fear.  It works at a lot of stuff that's good and right.

When the Hebrew spies came back with a bad report, they discouraged the hearts of the people, who then died in the wilderness.  Forty years later, the tribes of Reuben, Gad, and a half tribe of Manasseh said they didn't want to go in the second time.  Moses scorched them (Numbers 32).  When they would not participate, he said, "Be sure your sin will find you out."  I say the same thing to those discouraging men from evangelizing the world.  Be sure your sin fill find you out.  Do you believe the gospel or not?

Reviewing the Reasons against Door to Door

From the Author of the Article

In reading the article, there is some overlap here, but I'm going to use direct quotes to provide separate reasons.

One, "the door-to-door method follows a sales model"; "I did not want it to sound like a sales pitch."
Two, "the friendship model attempts first to cultivate a relationship with a non-believer (who might live in your dorm or attend classes with you) and then introduce the gospel in a more casual and natural way."
Three, "(friendship model) better suited my personality and because, well, it 'felt' right."
Four, "I’ve always hated the 'hard sell' and have quickly (if politely) closed the door or hung up the phone whenever a solicitor has tried to sell me something."
Five, "I wanted it to rise up organically from our friendship, or at least from a sense of shared interests and passions."
Six, "our current social-cultural moment has made the door-to-door model not only less effective, but potentially counter-productive."
Seven, "People do not respond well to gospel presentations because they don’t recognize our good news as good news."
Eight, "Our job is not to increase guilt but to relieve it through the message of grace."
Nine, "if it is to touch the hearts of individuals, [it] must be personalized."
Ten, "his central spiritual struggle is to find acceptance."
Eleven, "the good news needs to speak to people where they are."

There may have been more, but there were at least these eleven.

From the Comments

One, "The only time I see door to door anymore is when JW's come around."
Two, " I think that door to door is promoted because it is traditional, visible, and 'easy' to do in terms of scheduling."
Three, "I don't like callers at my door."
Four, "Please respect my right to not be bothered and never visit my house again."
Five, "I abandoned door to door several years ago.  I did this because I sensed it was failing in our church."
Six, "Let's face it, when was the last time you were visited by a door-to-door salesman? The technique was abandoned for a reason."

These represent the arguments against door-to-door.

What's Wrong with These "Reasons"

None of them are scriptural.  They don't speak as the oracles of God; they don't glorify God (1 Pet 4:11).  What are the biblical reasons against door-to-door?  None.  There are many arguments for, but none against.

The stated reasons above are disgusting.  They're repugnant.  And sad.  They're built upon lies.

What about the so-called "friendship model"?  It's not what we see Jesus or the apostles do.   We don't have a model in scripture for "making friends" with the lost.  The Bible goes the other direction. Friendship with the world is enmity with God.   Psalm 1:1.   Have no fellowship with the unfruitful works of darkness.

Christians live in the world with unbelievers, among them.  We work with them.  We're their neighbors.  We're part of this system on this side of eternity.  We have relationships.  We treat unbelievers as men made in the image of God.  We represent God before them, so they will understand Who God is.   When we don't, we're a bad testimony.  But that is not evangelism.  That is how we live.

The world thinks coming to its door is this or that.  Maybe so.  But if someone is striving to enter in, if someone is trying to find it, the evangelist is there for him with door to door.  It's not supposed to make sense, to seem reasonable.  It's a supernatural work of God.

If a JW visits you on Christmas morning, preach him the gospel.  He's at your door; he's a captive audience.

This year I got a Christmas card photo of a family with grandparents, parents, and grandchildren, 20 to 30 people.  Twenty-seven years ago, I visited the grandparents, then just parents of small children, door-to-door.  The man and then his wife were converted.  I looked at that picture and thought of the parable of the sower again.  Some thirty, some sixty, some one hundred.  Just one couple, and what a difference it made.  If the Lord tarries another 100 years, you have their great grand children and more.

I visited a house, door to door, and a teenaged girl made a profession of faith.  The boy she was dating was saved.  We discipled them.  Since then, they were married and moved away, but he had taken 50 or more through the discipleship I had written in another state.  30, 60, 100.

Just two examples.  Let's say that it was only those two and one million others rejected it.  If one more was you, would you want me to stop at one million?

The gospel is the power of God unto salvation.  Preach the gospel to every creature.

*****************

Here is a thorough scriptural argument for door-to-door evangelism by Thomas Ross, who writes here on Fridays.


Friday, December 26, 2014

Hannah W. Smith, Sign Gifts and Pentecostal Roots: part 4 of 21 in Hannah W. Smith: Keswick Founder, Higher Life Preacher, Quaker Quietist and Universalist Heretic

In line with the Quaker background she shared with her husband, both Mrs. and Mr. Smith were believers in the continuation of miraculous gifts for the present day as opposed to being cessationists, advocates of the Biblical truth that the sign gifts ceased with the completion of the canon of the Scripture and the death of the Apostles in the first century.  The Smiths were consequently involved in the Faith or Mind Cure movement which advocated miraculous and non-medical means for healing and laid the foundation for Keswick continuationism and Pentecostalism.  Mrs. Smith knew Quakers who had received Faith Cures.[1]  She was the instrument through which various people received such Cures herself,[2] healing several who were “close to hysteria,” although she “tried her powers, in vain, on a victim of cancer,”[3] since cancer is clearly a physical disease that is not removed when someone is no longer hysterical.  She stated:  “With Faith Healing I have had a great deal of experience.”[4]  Hannah wrote concerning a sick friend:  “I wish she could get hold of faith healing[.]”[5]  She herself used a “Mind Cure for sea-sickness[.]”[6]  She was acquainted with that prominent evangelist of the Faith Cure,[7] Dr. Charles Cullis, from at least 1871,[8] and ministered with Cullis on various occasions,[9] since “Dr. Cullis of Boston [was] a friend and fellow evangelist” of the Smiths.[10]  After all, Cullis surely had miraculous powers;  he healed Mrs. Smith’s daughter of indigestion through the techniques of the Faith Cure,[11] although he was unable to heal himself—ever—of a serious heart condition he endured for decades.[12]  Indeed, Cullis was such a firm supporter of Mr. and Mrs. Smith and their Higher Life preaching that he sought to restore Robert after Mr. Smith’s fall due to his preaching of erotic Spirit baptism.[13]  As a Quaker, Hannah W. Smith was naturally an advocate for the continuationism of the Faith or Mind Cure.
Mrs. Smith was likewise a “friend” of the “New Thought teacher . . . Mrs. Caldwell,”[14] illustrating the close relationship between the nineteenth century New Thought or Mind Cure movements from which arose the Christian Science of Mary B. Eddy, with its spiritualism and laws of healing, and the Faith Cure.[15]  Hannah noted:
I find that spiritualists have all the “baptisms” and “leadings” and “manifestations” that [non-spiritualistic but continuationist] Christians have, with precisely similar symptoms. The same “thrills,” the same “waves” or currents of life, the same spiritual uplifts, the same interior illuminations; they even see similar visions of Christ, and hear similar interior voices . . . taken in themselves, it is utterly impossible to distinguish between them.[16]
Mrs. Smith’s daughter also “visited . . . with the intention of studying her doctrine, the famous female prophet, Mrs. Mary Baker Eddy.”[17]  Indeed, Hannah Smith’s description of the Faith Cure makes its identity with the Mind Cure of New Thought evident:
[O]ur faith lays hold of spiritual forces which are superior to natural forces and which therefore can overpower them. . . . [W]e become able to avail ourselves of powers that He has put at our disposal in the spiritual realm. I expect His real will for us is health always, but if we disobey natural laws His will is thwarted, and it is only by bringing in spiritual laws that we can overcome the evil tendencies caused by sin[.] . . . [J]ust as a wire does not create the electric current but only draws it down in certain directions so our faith does not create health but only draws the vitality of the spiritual realm down into our vessel. It is wonderful what faith will do.[18]
Thus, the Faith or Mind Cure works based on “law,” and prayer is not, as it is in the Bible, a means of healing through the petitioning of a personal, sovereign, and loving God in Christ for His gracious physical mercies—rather, prayer is the instrument of healing insofar as by it people are “brought into harmony with those laws” of healing.[19]  Anticipating the Word of Faith doctrine of positive confession creating positive realities and negative confessions creating negative realities, Mrs. Smith consequently counselled:  “[L]et me advise thee not to talk of thyself as being old.  There is something in Mind Cure, after all, and, if thee continually talks of thyself as being old, thee may perhaps bring on some of the infirmities of age.”[20]  She wrote:  “[T]he mind cure . . . is only the science by which the faith cure works,”[21] a fact generally recognized by objective writers of her day.[22]  No objective disjunction and sharp division between an allegedly Christian Faith Cure movement and a clearly pagan and evil Mind Cure movement can be established by objective historiography—Hannah W. Smith and other early continuationist Higher Life leaders certainly made no such division.
Indeed, the Mind or Faith Cure was simply the application to the body of the Higher Life or Keswick doctrine of sanctification by faith alone:  “[T]he mind cure . . . [or] faith cure . . . is simply doing on the plane of physical health what we did on the plane of sin when we reckoned ourselves dead to it and alive only to God.  If the atonement covers sickness as well as sin this [is] all . . . true.”[23]  Hannah’s rejection of self-examination was helpful as a support for the Faith and Mind Cure, for not only should one refrain from spiritual self-examination, but from physical self-examination also, so symptoms that were “cured” by the Faith Cure but were still present could be ignored:  “Self examination of one’s physical symptoms or spiritual symptoms is about as disastrous as anything.”[24]  Unfortunately, the adoption of the Faith and Mind Cure in Hannah’s family led to unnecessary and tragic early death.  Hannah Whitall Smith’s sister Mary Thomas died of breast cancer at the age of fifty-three in 1887, leaving behind her husband and eight children.  Mary believed she was cured by the Faith Cure, consequently refused to go to a doctor to deal with her cancer, and consequently died.  In the words of Hannah W. Smith:
The one great grief to all of us is that six months [earlier] she could have been cured [by conventional medicine], when she first began to think she had the trouble, but then she trusted the Lord for healing and fully believed it was done and went on believing this all summer so fully that she never said anything to anyone about it.[25]  And all the while [her cancer] was growing as rapidly as it was possible for it to do . . . my sister is simply the victim of the faith cure teaching.[26]
Hannah’s preaching at a camp meeting exemplified the union of the Faith Cure and the Higher Life in her theology:
In our hotel I found one of the housekeepers who was a devoted adherent of mine and who told me of a Holiness Camp Meeting in progress in the country outside of the city. . . . Just as I neared the ground . . . I saw a Philadelphia lady whom I used to see at meetings there long ago coming to the pump for water! I spoke to her and she recognized me at once, gave me a hearty welcome, and then introduced me to the leaders of the meeting and to all the dear saints right and left. I received a perfect ovation! They had all apparently read my book “The Christian’s Secret,” and were full of it, and of the blessing it had been to them “next to their Bibles” [as] the “constant companion of their devotions,” the “greatest help of their lives” etc. etc. And they fairly overwhelmed me with their delight at seeing me, dear souls.
They would hear nothing but that I should stay and preach for them in their evening meeting, which I did, under a large tent. It was altogether quite a refreshing experience. . . . They had a meeting for faith healing, and insisted on my going to it to teach them! . . . I told them . . . I would give them Dr. Cullis’ teaching, and that seemed to satisfy them.[27]
Mrs. Smith was far from being alone in combining the Faith or Mind Cure and the Higher Life;  rather, preparing the way for Pentecostalism, “belief in and the witness to miraculous divine healings attended the holiness movement at every turn.”[28]  Her Quaker continuationism was by no means restricted to a belief in continued Apostolic healings;  she noted that “speaking with tongues . . . is . . . apt to come to [Higher Life] Revivals, [and] I have known a great many instances.”[29]  She likewise thought:  “[It is] the privilege of Christians to receive the same Baptism now . . . [as was received] on the day of Pentecost. . . . There is nothing in the Bible which suggests that this gift [of Spirit baptism as experienced on Pentecost] should cease[.] . . . [T]he early Friends must have known and experienced it, and . . . this accounts for their wonderful success.”[30]  After all, for Mrs. Smith, if not for Scripture, only elite believers—those only who have entered into the Higher Life—have the Holy Spirit,[31] so a post-conversion second blessing comparable to Pentecost was obviously of tremendous importance.  Mrs. Smith was a committed continuationst because of her Higher Life Quakerism, and was consequently very important Pentecostal precursor.



This entire study can be accessed here.





[1]              Letter to Priscilla, August 14, 1882, reproduced in the entry for August 12 of The Christian’s Secret of a Holy Life, Hannah W. Smith, ed. Dieter.
[2]              Mrs. Smith testified that she was the instrument of several healings, the character of which illustrate well many of the healings practiced in the Keswick and Pentecostal movements.  Hannah recounts:
On one occasion I had a dear friend who was very nervous.  She used to cry on the smallest provocation and about things which had no personal element in them, except that they upset her nerves. . . . She and I attended a little prayer meeting . . . she announced to us at the beginning of the meeting that we were to devote that meeting to her[.] . . . I confess that I had not much expectation that praying would do her any good, as I thought it was a physical condition which probably could never be alleviated.  But when the time came we all knelt down to pray, and of course I knelt with them.  I supposed that there would be fervent prayers offered for our friend by the others, and I did not really intend to pray myself at all, but to my astonishment the whole little company prayed all round in turns and never mentioned her case.  It seemed to me that this was very impolite, and, in fact, unkind, when she had thrown herself so upon our sympathy, and so mainly, with the idea that she might not be disappointed, and simply out of an impulse of politeness and kindness, when the rest had finished I prayed for her;  but, I confess, I had not the slightest idea that anything would come of it, except that her feelings would be smoothed by the recognition of her need.  Imagine my astonishment when we rose from our knees and she turned to me and said, “Hannah, thy prayer is answered;  I am cured.”  And as a fact she was cured from that time.
        Another case was once when I was attending a meeting.  After I had spoken, a woman rose from the middle of the meeting and said, “If that lady who has just spoken will come and lay hands on me and pray for my recovery I shall be healed of a throat trouble that has caused me great suffering for many years, and for which the doctors declare they can do nothing.”  I thought to myself, “How little that woman knows how unbelieving I am with regard to faith healing.  I am certain my prayers would do her no good.”  And, in fact, I was rather amused at her ignorance, and had to cover my face to hide a smile.  The meeting went on for a little longer, and by the time it closed I had entirely forgotten the incident, and began to talk to a friend beside me, when someone came hastily in and said, “Mrs. Smith, that woman is waiting for you to come and pray for her, and you must come at once, for she says her throat is very bad.”  Out of kindness I went, but I said to the woman as I entered the room, “You have sent for me to pray for you, but I haven’t a particle of faith that it will do the least bit of good.”  “Yes it will,” she replied;  “it will cure me.  Kneel right down here beside me, and lay your hand on my throat and ask God to heal me, and I know I shall be healed.”  Out of kindness I did as she wished, although I confess it seemed to me something of a farce.  However, when we rose from our knees, to my amazement her voice was changed, and she declared her throat was cured.  I hear from her quite often afterwards, and the story was always the same, that the cure was complete.
        As I bade the woman farewell, she said, “Now, Mrs. Smith, you have the gift of healing, and you ought to exercise it.” . . . Another instance . . . was in the case of a friend who had become . . . a victim of the opium habit.  One day when we were talking together, she said, “I believe if you would pray for me, I could be cured of this habit.”  I myself had no idea that it could be done, but, of course, when a person wanted me to pray for them [sic], I should not think of refusing, so I keeled down beside her wheel-chair and prayed, and the result in her case also was a complete cure.  (pgs. 253-256, Religious Fanaticism, Strachey)
Many other instances of the Faith Cure were, without a doubt, as supernatural as those Mrs. Smith experienced, and as a result of the employment of similar means.
Notwithstanding working several Faith Cures herself, elements of skepticism were engendered in Hannah concerning the Faith Cure as she saw that the Cure failed to cure disease.  For example, having heard of Dr. Charles Cullis, whom she called “a most delightful Christian doctor,” she assembled a few dozen sick people at her house so that he could come and heal them.  He failed to heal anybody at all (pgs. 262-263, Religious Fanaticism, Strachey).  The fact that the Faith Cure led to the death of her sister Mary Thomas must also have brought doubts into Hannah’s mind.  Nevertheless, she never renounced or opposed the Faith or Mind Cure but continued to believe and preach that there was truth in the practice, and she continued to recommend the Cure to others.
[3]              Pgs. xv-xvi, A Religious Rebel:  The Letters of “H. W. S,” ed. Logan Pearsall Smith.
[4]              Pg. 262, Religious Fanaticism, Strachey.
[5]              Letter to Anna, May 15, 1878, reproduced in the entry for August 22 of The Christian’s Secret of a Holy Life, Hannah W. Smith, ed. Dieter.
[6]           Pg. 89, A Religious Rebel:  The Letters of “H. W. S,” ed. Logan Pearsall Smith, reproducing Letter to her daughter, Mary Costelloe, September 2, 1886.  Not surprisingly, the Mind Cure did not work, and Hannah W. Smith still suffered from a horrible sea-sickness.
[7]              Hannah describes the views of Cullis, and his working of a Faith Cure, in connection with a positive confession of healing, on her nephew Tom Whitall, who had suffered from overwork.  The Cure did not completely cure him, and it did not work at all at first.  In any case, the partially cured “overwork” of the Faith Cure is hardly the reattached limbs or raising of the dead performed by Christ and His Apostles.  Mrs. Smith wrote:
We really have been stirred up on this faith healing question lately. You may have heard me speak about Saidee’s brother Tom as having broken down from overwork several years ago. For four years now he has been doing every thing possible to recover his health, but all in vain. His last venture was a voyage to the Cape of Good Hope, but he came back worse than he went.
When Dr. Cullis was here a week or two ago, Tom felt drawn to try the faith cure, as every thing else had failed, and Dr. Cullis prayed with him twice and told him to say he was healed. He began to say it, and, poor fellow, he had a hard battle, for a whole week there was no sign of any improvement. His mother and I were immersed in the deepest sympathy with him, and we all had to fight for our faith together. . . After a week, however, Tom began to improve, and there has been a most wonderful change in him in every way, and he is full of praise to the Lord. It has, of course, made a great stir among all our circle here, for Tom was always a great favorite. He has gone on to Boston now to spend a little time with Dr. Cullis to have his faith strengthened, and perhaps to help the Dr. a little in his faith work.
If he really does get entirely well I believe I will have to give up and adopt Dr. Cullis’ view of the subject. He says Matt. 8:17 teaches clearly that Christ bore our sicknesses just as much as He bore our sins, and that we may be delivered from the one by faith precisely as we are delivered from the other! If this is true, it would revolutionize the church! I am not convinced yet that it is true, but I confess that passage looks wonderfully like it. I will mail thee some little books about it. Ask thy sister Charlotte and thy cousin Mary Agnes to compare Matt. 8:17 with James 5:14, 15 and see whether they get any light on the subject for themselves.
It would be glorious, would it not, if Christians universally could dispense with all human doctors and be cured by the Great Physician alone, and could show the world a continual miracle of healing? Dr. Cullis thinks all disease is from the devil, and is a direct attack from him upon God’s children, just like temptation to sin is, and must therefore be met in the same way. There is a good deal of Scripture that seems to support his view. (Letter to Priscilla, May 7, 1882, reproduced in the entry for August 12 of The Christian’s Secret of a Holy Life, Hannah W. Smith, ed. Dieter)
Nonetheless, surely Tom’s Faith Cure, while nothing like Apostolic healing, was very grand—at least until some days later, when it became apparent that he was not cured at all, causing Hannah doubts:
I went up to that invalid friend’s who has been trusting for faith healing for so long. We had a little Bible class in her sick room. She does not seem any better. And yet she sticks to the testimony that she is healed, since that is what Dr. Cullis told her she must do. It does not seem right to me somehow.
The fact is this faith healing matter grows more and more perplexing all the time. You remembers [sic] that funny friend of mine Elisabeth Nicholson, who went with us to the prayer meeting about President Garfield? She is not particularly consecrated, except in quite an ordinary fashion; she does not believe in the “Higher Life” at all, and she is very much afraid of fanaticism. And yet the other day she wrote me as follows[:] “The 31st. of May, sitting waiting for the dinner bell to ring, I talked to the Lord like this, “Lord, you know the muscles of my back are weak, and cause me much pain. You know I have inherited this through two generations; that I have been very indifferent about healing, making it an excuse for not visiting or doing anything I did not want to. But now, if it will honor you and if it will give me more strength to work for you, Lord Jesus, then I ask thee to heal me instantaneously.” It was done! From that moment I have not had a pain; nor even the soreness which often made me shift my position. It no longer seems like me, but somebody else! I have done my hardest work since then without pain. [Note:  At least this is the testimony of this lady, unexamined medically, from the standpoint of two weeks later—a time frame in which Tom Whitall also thought he was cured.]
Now what are we to think when such saints as some I know can’t get healed with all their praying and all their trusting? There is a secret somewhere that we have not fathomed yet, I am convinced. Meanwhile, I would advise every sick person to try this way of prayer and faith anyhow. It cannot hurt, and it may be a grand success. My nephew Tom Whitall is not well yet. He thought he was for a few days, and was very jubilant over it, but his trouble all came back, and he has been having a hard conflict. Now he has gone to a water cure to fight it out. My heart just aches for him. I wish I understood! (Letter to Priscilla, June 16, 1882, reproduced in the entry for November 14 of The Christian’s Secret of a Holy Life, Hannah W. Smith, ed. Dieter)
Indeed, Mrs. Smith’s “invalid friend” was still not better many months later, despite “declaring . . . she was healed that day” so long ago, despite still “trusting for faith healing” many months later, despite having “Dr. Cullis pray for her,” and despite believing “teaching of all kinds on the subject of faith”—despite all this, her Faith Cure “fail[ed] . . . utterly” (Letter to Priscilla, August 14, 1882, reproduced in the entry for August 12 of The Christian’s Secret of a Holy Life, Hannah W. Smith, ed. Dieter).  However, despite its failures, and despite the lack of exegetical evidence for it, Hannah W. Smith was so far from being willing to denounce the Cure of Cullis as a delusion that she still concluded that she “would advise every sick person to try this way” of the Faith Cure anyway.
[8]              See her Letter to Frank, May 16, 1871, reproduced in the entry for June 5 of The Christian’s Secret of a Holy Life, Hannah W. Smith, ed. Dieter.
[9]              See, e. g., her narrative of her “Framingham, Massachusetts meeting sponsored by Dr. Charles Cullis,” or her description of her ministry with “Dr. Cullis at his conference” in 1879 and her commending the “little book issued by Dr. Cullis” there, in her Letter to a Friend of August 8, 1876 & Letter to a Friend, August 17, 1879, reproduced in the entries for August 2-3 & September 20 of The Christian’s Secret of a Holy Life, Hannah W. Smith, ed. Dieter.
[10]          Pg. 66, A Religious Rebel:  The Letters of “H. W. S,” ed. Logan Pearsall Smith.
[11]            Pg. 39, A Religious Rebel:  The Letters of “H. W. S,” ed. Logan Pearsall Smith, reproducing Letter ot Mrs. Henry Ford Barclay, April 13, 1877.
[12]            Pg. 131, Theological Roots of Pentecostalism, Dayton.
[13]            Pg. 32, A Religious Rebel:  The Letters of “H. W. S,” ed. Logan Pearsall Smith, reproducing Letter to Mrs. Anna Shipley, August 8, 1876.
[14]            See Letter to Sarah, March 7, 1881 & Letter to Sister, July 28, 1881, reproduced in the entries for October 24 & 28 of The Christian’s Secret of a Holy Life, Hannah W. Smith, ed. Dieter.
[15]            Interestingly, Hannah noted:  “I find that spiritualists have all the ‘baptisms’ and ‘leadings’ and ‘manifestations’ that [continuationist] Christians have, with precisely similar symptoms. The same ‘thrills,’ the same ‘waves’ or currents of life, the same spiritual uplifts, the same interior illuminations; they even see similar visions of Christ, and hear similar interior voices . . . taken in themselves, it is utterly impossible to distinguish between them” (Letter to Carrie, July 31, 1882, reproduced in the entry for November 17 of The Christian’s Secret of a Holy Life, Hannah W. Smith, ed. Dieter).
[16]            Letter to Carrie, July 31, 1882, reproduced in the entry for November 17 of The Christian’s Secret of a Holy Life, Hannah W. Smith, ed. Dieter.
[17]            Pg. 128, Unforgotten Years, Logan Pearsall Smith.
[18]            Letter to Mary, November 1, 1882, reproduced in the entry for November 27 of The Christian’s Secret of a Holy Life, Hannah W. Smith, ed. Dieter.
[19]            Letter to Mary, November 1, 1882 & December 8, 1882, reproduced in the entries for November 27 & December 1-2 of The Christian’s Secret of a Holy Life, Hannah W. Smith, ed. Dieter.
[20]            Pg. 187, A Religious Rebel:  The Letters of “H. W. S,” ed. Logan Pearsall Smith, reproducing Letter to her Daughter, Mary Berreneson, March 5, 1907.  The date of the letter validates that Mrs. Smith continued to believe in the value of the Mind or Faith Cure for the course of her lifetime;  her faith in the law of the Faith or Mind Cure was no passing fancy.  Note also the connection between her affirmation of the Mind Cure and of the Word of Faith idea of positive and negative confession.
[21]            Letter to Anna, July 1, 1885, reproduced in the entry for December 28 of The Christian’s Secret of a Holy Life, Hannah W. Smith, ed. Dieter.  Hannah made these remarks concerning her sister Mary Thomas, who trusted in the Mind and Faith Cure, but saw “the mind cure . . . fai[l] . . . [a]nd . . . the faith  cure . . . fai[l]” (Letter to Sister, March 15, 1885, reproduced in the entry for December 28 of The Christian’s Secret of a Holy Life, Hannah W. Smith, ed. Dieter), so that she died of a breast cancer that the medical science the gracious God has allowed men to discover could have cured.
[22]            For example:
Christian Scientists and Faith Healers are closely affiliated. . . . [T]hey have a common foe—the scientist and the Christian;  and a more or less common practice—reaching, in a somewhat similar way, about the same sort of results. . . . [T]he adherents of the two systems often meet together in conventions, and the laity are to some extent interchangeable. . . . The two systems . . . converge in practice. (pg. 249, “Christian Science and Faith Healing,” Clyde W. Votaw. New Englander and Yale Review.  New Haven, CT:  Tuttle, Morehouse & Taylor, 1891.  However, Votaw recognizes that there are ways in which the Christian Scientist and Faith Cure advocate “diverge” markedly in their “theory,” the manner in which they speak of their systems.)
[23]            Letter to Anna, July 1, 1885, reproduced in the entry for December 28 of The Christian’s Secret of a Holy Life, Hannah W. Smith, ed. Dieter.  The “newer gospel” of the faith cure, Hannah’s letter affirms, teaches that “suffering and sorrow” are not part of God’s plan for the body, just as sorrow and suffering must be eliminated from the spiritual life for a perpetual state of happiness—the secret of a happy life.  However, Hannah also notes that she entertains doubts about the validity of the Mind or Faith Cure, despite the fact that it is the necessary consequence of her Keswick or Higher Life theology of sanctification by faith alone, chiefly because the Faith Cure does not seem to work.  It was not evident to her that her theology of sanctification by quietistic faith alone also was contrary to the truth of God.
[24]            Letter to Mary, May 12, 1878, reproduced in the entry for August 24 of The Christian’s Secret of a Holy Life, Hannah W. Smith, ed. Dieter.
[25]            Mary Thomas’s action, a result of her confidence in the Faith Cure, was an instance of misplaced faith and of sinful disobedience to use proper means to preserve her life.
[26]            Pgs. 97-98, Remarkable Relations, Barbara Strachey.  Italics in original.  Hannah likewise queried while her sister was still alive:  “Why should you have all this to suffer when you already had so much?  And why the mind cure has failed with you . . . why the faith cure has failed too?  And why, if you are going to get well, you do not get well faster?”  (Letter to Sister, March 15, 1885, reproduced in the entry for December 26 of The Christian’s Secret of a Holy Life, Hannah W. Smith, ed. Dieter).
[27]            Letter to Priscilla, August 14, 1882, reproduced in the entry for November 19 of The Christian’s Secret of a Holy Life, Hannah W. Smith, ed. Dieter.  While she publicly preached the Faith Cure at the camp meeting, in her private letter to Priscilla she voiced reservations that she did not make public:
I could not bear to upset their faith by telling them of the practical difficulties I see in the subject[.] . . . But I can tell you my heart ached to hear some poor invalids there declare they were healed, when it was perfectly plain to everyone else that they were not. I do not know what will be the outcome of all this agitation on the subject of faith healing. In all parts of the church it is being made prominent, and enough wonderful results follow it to excite a continually increasing interest. And yet there are far more failures than successes, and I dread the reaction. For these failures are nearly always with the most devout Christians, and it is an awful strain on their faith.
She noted later:  “It’s no wonder that doctors are provoked at the way Christians ignore the very first laws of health, and because of it bring such misery and make so much trouble for others” (Letter to Priscilla, 1883, reproduced in the entry for December 16 of The Christian’s Secret of a Holy Life, Hannah W. Smith, ed. Dieter).
[28]            Pg. 68, Aspects of Pentecostal-Charismatic Origins, ed. Vinson Synan.
[29]            Pgs. 260-261, Religious Fanaticism, Strachey.  Hannah recounts:
[I]n one case it went so far that two apparently sensible people allowed their young daughter of thirteen years to go out to China . . . as a missionary, she not knowing a word of Chinese, but being led to speak gibberish in this way, and they all believed that when she got there the Chinese would understand.  What really happened when she did get there, however, I have never heard, but I presume she had to come home again. (pgs. 260-261, ibid).
By the time Mrs. Smith composed those papers published posthumously by Ray Strachey, having increased in her skepticism with age, Mrs. Smith thought tongues were a “fanaticism.”
[30]            Journal, October 29, 1866, reproduced in the entry for February 11, The Christian’s Secret of a Holy Life, Hannah W. Smith, ed. Dieter.
[31]            As Hannah preached at the Broadlands Conferences:  “God wishes us [Christians] to have the Holy Spirit . . . [W]hy do we not?  We do not accept [Him].”  The Conferences taught:  “The permanence of the presence of the Holy Spirit is a surer sign of a high degree of spiritual life than any other. . . . Let us pray for the Spirit of God Himself to come to us . . . [t]he highest life[,] [to be] one with God” (pgs. 190-195, The Life that is Life Indeed:  Reminiscences of the Broadlands Conferences, Edna V. Jackson.  London:  James Nisbet & Co, 1910.  Italics in original.).  While the permanent presence of the Holy Spirit is the sign of spiritual life, a life possessed by all believers (cf. Romans 8:9), for Mrs. Smith and the Broadlands Conferences such a permanent presence is emphatically restricted to those in the Higher Life alone.

Tuesday, December 23, 2014

Should Christians Celebrate Christmas?

Through my 27+ years of pastoring, the question of the title of this post has arisen from several individuals on different occasions.  I think it is a good question.  It falls under "prove all things" (1 Thess 5:21).  So let's begin first with the meetings of a church.  I'll approach that with the regulative principle of worship.

Any element of worship not taught in scripture is forbidden.  Our worship should be regulated by what God said.  God has told us what He wants and we should give that to Him.  Silence is not permission.

Does Christmas violate the regulative principle?  I can't see it.  Let me take you through my mental checklist.  The incarnation of Christ, His virgin birth, is the truth.  Singing is an element of worship in the Bible.  Our church believes instrumental music is authorized by God's Word too.  We see congregational, choir, and small group singing in scripture.  If one preaches the Word of God, he will at some point preach about the incarnation, the Lord's first coming, His becoming a man.  It's a teaching all over the Bible, so it is appropriate to preach those passages as an element of worship. That really does cover what we do in our church for Christmas.  None of this is forbidden, because it's all in the Bible.

So what else matters in this, as it relates to the worship of a church meeting?  Just really trying to be thorough here, but I think of practicing the above paragraph every year and using the term, "Christmas."  Are those two actions violations of God's Word?

For the first one, I believe that the incarnation is worth singing and preaching about every year.  The fact that we do this at the same time every December, since scripture doesn't tell us what time of the year Jesus' birth is, does not violate the regulative principle.  I can preach about motherhood every mother's day and that doesn't conflict with the Bible.  I have had Decembers where I just kept preaching whatever book I was covering, but not because it was wrong to stop and preach about Christ's birth.  All the winter solstice stuff just seems like a red herring to me.

To me, using the term Christmas could be the most possible wrong practice, and I'm not convinced it is.  Why?  The big problem, it seems, is the "mas" part at the end of "Christmas."  Is using the term "Christmas" supporting the Roman Catholic mass?  Is using the term Easter supporting the worship of Ishtar?  I don't believe it is.

I have read some about the history of the word "Christmas," like I'm sure some of you readers have. There is material all over the internet on this issue, so you can find it.  It's hard to figure out what is true.  English itself is a new language relative to the history of the world.  It comes primarily from the Latin, a romantic language.

"Mass" comes from the Latin missa, which connects to the English words "dismissal" and "mission."  At the institution of the Lord's Table, you might remember that Jesus and the disciples sang a hymn and went out.  We do that at our church, that is, end with a hymn, then prayer, and go out.  The original idea was that after prayer, singing, preaching, and other elements of worship, including the Lord's Table, another biblical element of worship, the saints were ready to be sent out on their mission, properly prepared for dismissal.

Churches assemble for edification and then disassemble for evangelism.  The Father sent Jesus on His mission and the Lord Jesus sent us on the same mission.  Are we dismissed or sent out every assembly to serve the Lord in the gospel?

Over a period of time, missa became "the eucharist," transubstantiation, and the whole Catholic liturgy. What was once a part of the order was now the whole thing.  The word developed in its meaning, really perverted.  The word for dismissal became the word for the entire order of Catholic worship.

"Christmas" is a word with an etymology.  Maybe Catholics think "Christmas" is mass in its apostate form.  Of course, Roman Catholics twist a lot of things, like a lot of other religions do too.  You can't take every word and break it down into its etymology.  People will say, "words mean things." They do, and in this case, Christmas doesn't mean "Catholic mass."  "Christmas" means the celebration of Christ's birth.

I see using "Christmas" like using Wednesday, Thursday, or Saturday, except the latter has no connection to anything true at all, while missa actually does.  I'm saying the latter are worse, so if someone shouldn't say "Christmas," then he shouldn't say "Wednesday" either.  Wednesday is the "god" Woden, Thursday the god "Thor," and Saturday the "god" Saturn.  But that's not what they mean to us.  Are we really celebrating "Woden day" when we use "Wednesday"?  Those three days just do not associate with false worship.  They don't mean that to the people using them.  I don't believe there is inherent meaning related to those false gods in the use of those terms.  Get the following, because it's a scriptural argument.  Shadrach, Meshach, and Abednego didn't stand against getting names that referred to pagan gods.  That wasn't how they stood upon the Word of God.  They kept those names, but they wouldn't violate dietary restrictions or bow before an idol, because those were taught in scripture.

I believe we have liberty to use the word "Christmas."  That doesn't violate the regulative principle of worship.

What about the history of antagonism to Christmas?  It's there.  My interpretation of it is that it centers on Cromwellian England.  Cromwell had some good points and a lot of bad ones too.  The history of England revolves around religious conflicts, Protestantism versus Catholicism and the divine right of kings and its relationship to the English parliament.

OK, that seems like enough, but then we come to tinsel and trees and bulbs and presents.  The regulative principle applies to corporate worship.  That's how we argue that principle.  Every life should be regulated by scripture.  You should do what scripture says, but scripture is also silent on a lot.  It does not tell you to listen to radios or not to listen to them.  We've got to rely on principles to make these decisions.  This is where Romans 14 and 1 Corinthians 6-10 come into play on this.

If the tree really is an act of worship like the Asherah pole or Gideon's ephod, then we should be rid of it.  If you think it is, then don't have one.  I don't think you should be picky on others who do have a tree.  I believe you are violating Romans 14 when you are.  Be picky on yourself.

I have never seen a Christmas tree used in a ceremony of worship.  So how is it wrong?  The tree itself isn't, any more than meat is wrong.  It's a tree.   I think the meat was worse in Corinth and Paul said it wasn't wrong to eat, unless it caused someone to stumble.  There were ways that eating the meat was wrong, but it wasn't the meat.  If I was convinced of a tree worship religion, I would get rid of my tree.

For a couple of years, my wife and I didn't set up a tree.  Why?  We were just starting as a church, had just a handful of people, two of which were a couple that had been taught that the tree was a sin. We did not want to hurt those two people's consciences.  That was a 1 Corinthians 8-10 argument against the tree, but it was because of scruples these people had, which were not even legitimate.  I don't know that I would do it again, but we did for a couple of Christmases.  Now I'd probably just teach them what I'm writing here.

Here's another whole different issue -- Santa Claus.  We don't have Santa in our home.  Why?  I think he's a replacement for Christ at Christmas.   However, if you think that Christmas itself is pagan, then Santa Claus isn't any different than Christmas itself, or maybe better, because he's just a fictional character or the historical one, Nicholas, all depending on how you choose to see him.  Because I think Santa is a replacement, we generally opt out on him.  But that's not something I expect from or judge for everybody else.  If a Christian got caught up in the Santa figure and talked like he was real, that would cross the line for me.  I don't think parents should lie about who brought the presents.

I remember hearing a country western lyric as played by a roommate I had in college, and this is just out of my brain, because it stuck, "I don't believe in Santa Clause, but I believe what I believe in, and I believe in Santa's cause."  Some people think that giving gifts is the cause of Christmas, and Santa represents Santa's cause.  I'll let you judge that for yourself.