Recent years have seen a resurgence of interest in spiritual expression. The ‘laughing revival’ rocked most of Christendom with its strange outbursts of joy and laughter. The Toronto Vineyard church experienced people ‘roaring in the Spirit.’ Expressive worship has emerged with many new songs and musicians coming forward. In the midst of these outwardly obvious demonstrations of faith, some have criticized. Accusations have been leveled that ‘experiential theology’ (as it has been called) lacks the Biblical underpinning necessary to substantiate itself as practically, historically or orthodoxically viable. The Charismatic expression of the Christian faith has been especially susceptible to these accusations. It is a sad commentary indeed that much of the public failure and moral decay seen in the Christian church over the past few years has occurred among Charismatic Christians. The most notable of these have been the moral and legal failures of several very prominent Christian television personalities.
While it is disappointing to see these cave-ins in the lives of prominent Charismatic leaders, it is equally upsetting to realize that the public eye is not turned simply to the sinful nature of people in general, but to suspicions and accusations regarding the theology of the Charismatic movement in particular. Some have claimed that a ‘if it feels good do it’ mentality has crept into the church and that ‘experientialism’ has allowed these failures to occur because they ‘felt right’ at the time. Those who have held these beliefs will suggest that more effort be applied to ignore or remove the objective and experiential aspects of Christianity. Opponents to an emphasis on experience will say that what is necessary is a hermeneutic that is rigorously academic and Bible-based. This thinking espouses the belief that feelings and experience should be relegated to the back shelf while an educated, subjective and systematic theology needs to be brought front and center.
It is the purpose of this work to demonstrate that the full theological complement of the local church should be both academically (theology) and experientially (Holy Spirit) oriented. Biblical faith is not either education or experiential spontaneity. Accurate biblical faith and practice include both a sound and academic mental profile and an openness to the often extemporaneous activity of the Holy Spirit in the midst of the church. Herein, it is hoped, staunchly non (anti)-Charismatic believers will find reason for fresh openness to the Pentecostal possibilities in a spontaneous/’experiential’ local church setting. Equally and as importantly, it is expected that Charismatic believers will heed the challenge to be as academically prepared and mentally rigorous in their approach to their faith as is possible.