Wednesday, April 23, 2014

Is It That You're Really Missing Something? Forms of Second Blessing Theology, pt. 3

When you compare a historical, biblical view of sanctification with forms of second blessing theology, what are the differences?  People usually want to know the practical results of whatever belief one takes, and that's understandable, but it is also often a trap, because the first difference is that one is biblical, that is, it obeys God, and the other one doesn't.  They can't both be true.  The Bible presents one way, not a buffet of various choices.

Many who believe in some form of second blessing theology likely do not know that there is some other view.  It's all they've ever heard.  However, it isn't the historic and biblical view.  If I were to characterize the forms of second blessing, they would be either a perversion or misunderstanding of the eras of miracles, making them normative for today.  To understand the difference though, we should first consider the historic view.  The following is the gist of it.

A man has one nature only, first born with a sinful one.  When he is converted, however, the old one passes away and he receives a new redeemed nature, united to Christ.  He still has the flesh, human fallenness found in his not glorified body.  A Christian struggles with his flesh, the fallen impulses that yet remain in his body.  His old nature is crucified and new nature now reigns in his inner man, giving him a desire for righteousness.  Sanctification is the mortification of sin while at the same time learning practical righteousness.  He must reckon himself dead to sin and alive to God, meaning he should count his old nature as dead, having a new nature in Christ and cooperating with what the Holy Spirit is doing in him through the Word of God.

It's tough to write an exact second blessing description, because there are varied forms of it, as I've said.  Technically, second blessing says sanctification begins at one's justification but is perfected afterwards at a single moment.  John Wesley taught this, which later Charles Finney adopted.  One nuance involves what some will call "baptism of the Spirit," in which someone is given new or greater power or even more of the Holy Spirit.  It involves steps.  Step one accepts Jesus as Savior.  Two comes with a decisive moment of surrender to Christ as Lord, which effects victory over sin and attainment of a higher level of Christian living.  The second step might be where he stops being carnal. In my experience, he doesn't ever need to stop being carnal, but can skip straight from one to three, which is glorification.  If lordship comes in, it's in step two, and this is a complete surrender where someone starts getting success over his sin.

Historic Christianity says sanctification is a struggle and is a gradual, day-by-day process, and second blessing is a modern innovation, that is a decisive post-conversion act of surrender to a higher life of spiritual living.  If someone is looking for the latter as a biblical point of view, he's going to have trouble.   At most, he'd have to be a Charismatic, which would say that the sign gifts were for today.  The Charismatic movement doesn't look like the Bible, but the revivalist version of it brings some sort of powerful experience that falls even further short of biblical sign gifts.

A historic, biblical Christian believes he isn't missing anything.  He's going to struggle.  He already has the victory in Christ, but he needs to cooperate with what the Holy Spirit is always doing.  He isn't going to get any more power than what he already has, because He has all of it.

The second blessing in most cases is always looking for some higher level of Christian living.  He might call it revival.  After he's saved, he's got to act in any number of ways to get there.  By behaving in a moral way, he can help himself along to get there.  He can exchange a certain kind of dedication to get more spiritual stuff.  God doesn't just give it to him, but he buys it by praying more or fasting more or aligning himself with more moral standards.

An irony to second blessing, as I've witnessed it, is that the power gotten as a second blessing isn't the reason for the growth.  The growth justifies it.  The growth says that he must have more power. However, the growth comes from man-made, man-designed techniques used to manipulate people.  Then when the strategies or techniques "work," they say that this came because of the power.

Another example of the last paragraph is the use of architecture and music and preaching style, even color.  They cause an environment, a feeling.  People want a feeling.  They say it's the Holy Spirit, but it is in line with ecstasy, an excitement.  The speaker calls it unction.  At the end of the sermon, music and emotion are used to get these decisions that are what second blessing is all about.


Michael S. Alford said...

Excellent article. If I may suggest one more item to add to your list, though, might I suggest the 'call to preach' that is so heavily promoted among independent Baptists in the South. Presumably a young man gets saved and at a later date experiences some sort of mysterious secondary work of grace by which he is now a 'God-called preacher'. These calls seem to never arrive when the young man is reading his Bible or praying, but always at the culmination of an emotional revival meeting or some such event. The young man is now expected to go buy a suit, eat lots of fried chicken and show up at youth rallies and revival meetings to testify about his 'calling'. What I don't ever really see them do much of, oddly enough, is preach. In my circles, I have literally gone to these young men and offered to take them out on the streets with me. After all, you say God has called you to preach the gospel, and I know where you can preach to thousands of people that need the gospel. By and large they will decline my invitation, and continue to work the youth rally circuit.

Anonymous said...

It was interesting - a friend and I were discussing how to live a victorious Christian life, and it reminded me of viewing this blog post earlier today. I'm a little confused though; are there not practical steps to living a victorious Christian life? I know there isn't a "second blessing," a feeling, or something like that. But it is also clear that not all (or even most) Christians, who are truly saved, live a spiritual Christian life. Instead, they live carnally, or Laodicean-like at best. What is the key to being an overcoming, spiritual Christian?

The Philosopher :-)