What is the “Baptism in the Holy Spirit?” (#1)

Fired up by enthusiasm, the theology of “the baptism in the Holy Spirit,” is taking over the globe. But what is it exactly? (photo credit: Getty Images/Economist magazine)

“… Have you ever been baptized in the Holy Ghost?”

Over the next few blog posts, I want to walk you through how a simple question lead me to a test of faith, and how the Lord, through an informed study of the Scripture, eventually led me through that crisis.

I was a sophomore college student in the early 1980s, having only been an active follower of Jesus for a few years. I did not know much about the Bible, but what little I had learned from my Bible teachers, I had trusted. So, when I went to visit some friends at a neighboring university, I was unprepared for the question I would receive.

It was a sunny, spring Saturday, and the local campus fellowships at Virginia Tech were putting on a Christian music festival.  A bunch of friends of mine had hopped into a car, going down the road to Blacksburg, Virginia, to check it all out.

There I bumped into a slightly-older friend from my high school, who was finishing up at Virginia Tech. I did not know her that well. She was known to be a bit of a party-animal back in my high school, while I was a nerdy book kid. But it was to our mutual delight that we learned that we had both become Christians in the intervening years. We spent about twenty minutes swapping stories, sharing with one another how we had both come to faith. We both spoke of the joy of having a relationship with the Savior, and the confidence we shared in Jesus. Everything was very encouraging, until she stopped for a moment, pondered what she might say next, and then dropped the bombshell.

Clarke, have you ever been baptized in the Holy Ghost?

I can still remember my puzzled web of thoughts. Though she spoke in the terms of the old King James Version, of the “Holy Ghost,” and I understood her to be asking me as to when I received the “Holy Spirit.” The question from my friend confused me, as we had been sharing how we had both become Christians. Surely, we were both “baptized in the Holy Spirit” when we both became believers. At least, that is how I was taught in my Bible-believing church:

“For in one Spirit we were all baptized into one body—Jews or Greeks, slaves or free—and all were made to drink of one Spirit”(1 Corinthians 12:13 ESV)

There is but one Spirit, and one baptism in the Spirit, into the one body of Christ. The Apostle Paul had settled the matter. We receive the Spirit upon conversion to having faith in Christ. That being the case, what was my friend from my days in high school talking about?

Doubts and questions flooded my mind: Was she implying that I really was not a believer in Christ, at least, not yet?

Or was she indicating that she had a type of “second blessing” experience of the Holy Spirit in her life, something that I had not experienced in my journey with the Lord, but needed to? She did talk about so-called “speaking in tongues,” but what did that have to do with the “baptism in the Holy Ghost/Spirit?” Could I really trust what I had been previously taught about the Holy Spirit?

I was confused.

The day in Blacksburg had been a lot of fun, with fellowship, great music, and times of praise to the Living God. But as I rode back along Interstate 81, to my college dorm that evening, I kept thinking about that awkward conversation with my high school friend. I had no clue what she was talking about, but I was determined to search the Scriptures to find out. It was a bit of a spiritual crisis for me, and I needed some answers.

Over the next few blog posts, I hope to show you what I learned in sorting this all out. I acknowledge that not everyone will agree with me, as to where I finally landed. All I ask is that you sift through the content of this series and line it up with the Word of God. I may not get everything right, but I know that His Word is True.

But first, we need to gain some historical perspective, that I will explore in the next blog post in this series.


Pentecost! Why the Charismatic Movement Freaks Out “Respectable” Evangelicals … (and What We Can All Learn)

Fired up by enthusiasm, the theology of “the baptism in the Holy Spirit,” is taking over the globe. But what is it exactly? (photo credit: Getty Images, Economist magazine)

Do you experience the presence of the Holy Spirit in your life? Would you say that you live a “Spirit-filled” life? Do you long for the power of the Holy Spirit to permeate your Christian walk and witness?

Or does a lot of talk about the Holy Spirit give you the “heebie-jeebies?” Have you ever been to a church meeting, where you heard “speaking in tongues,” saw people “slain in the spirit,” or claimed “faith healings,” and you felt a little bit… er…. uncomfortable?

What are we to learn then from the miracle at Pentecost?

When the day of Pentecost arrived, they were all together in one place. And suddenly there came from heaven a sound like a mighty rushing wind, and it filled the entire house where they were sitting. And divided tongues as of fire appeared to them and rested on each one of them. And they were all filled with the Holy Spirit and began to speak in other tongues as the Spirit gave them utterance (Acts 2:1-4).

My evangelical church has a wide set of backgrounds. Some have a Pentecostal or charismatic movement background, with positive views towards those experiences, bearing testimonies of the Holy Spirit working in incredible ways, that push us beyond rational, naturalistic categories. Others have had some exposure to such movements, but eventually left with a bad taste in their mouth.

Everyone else I know are in a group I call the “respectable” evangelicals. They generally maintain a low profile in church, though some will lift up their hands while singing worship songs, but not too high, less they feel self-conscious.

“Respectable” evangelicals are freaked out by “charismania.” They have heard of the abuse, ranging from phony faith healers to money-addicted, promoters of the prosperity gospel. There is now even this “New Apostolic Reformation,” whereby people think that God is restoring today’s church with real, live apostles, just like in the days of Peter and Paul.

It can be a real mess. Continue reading


History in Charleston: French Protestants Come to South Carolina

The French Huguenot Church in Charleston, South Carolina, one of the many church buildings in the “Holy City.” It is a beautiful structure, where I saw at least two, presumably engaged couples, getting their photo taken on the church steps.

My wife and I recently returned from a trip to Charleston, South Carolina, a city loaded with history. Charleston is known as the “Holy City,” due to the large number of church steeples that dot its historic skyline. One of these churches peaked my curiosity, as it ties into a lot of my family’s history. The old French Huguenot church, in Charleston’s “French Quarter,” has a remarkable story behind it.

Though the worship building was built in 1844, the French Huguenot community in South Carolina dates back to the late 17th century. In the previous century, during the tumultuous 16th century of the Protestant Reformation, a rapidly growing community of Reformed-minded Christians was spreading throughout France. The ideas of sola scriptura (Scripture alone), sola fide (faith alone), and sola gratia (grace alone), championed by Reformation leaders, such as Martin Luther and John Calvin, had captured the imagination of about 1/4 of France’s population.

But tensions were running high between these advocates for Reform, and more traditional Roman Catholics. Theology was mixing with politics to create a lethal stew. In one of the greatest tragedies of Europe, thousands of French Reformation believers, their families, and particularly their leaders, were killed during a mob uprising, the infamous Saint Bartholomew Day Massacre, in 1572. The massacre signaled the end of religious freedom for those advocates of Reform in France.

Of those who survived the massacre, thousands more of these French Protestants, also named “Huguenots,” (for unclear reasons), were forced to leave the country over the next 100+ years. This is where we get the modern word “refugee” from, a French word originally used to describe Huguenots who were exiled from their homeland.

Protestant countries across Europe extended asylum for these refugees. But the number was so great, that it became impractical for these French believers to remain in Europe. The “New World” in the Americas was opening up at the time, so a number of these refugees sought to try to make a new life for themselves in the Americas.

At least one of these groups of refugees, that eventually passed through England, then found their way to Virginia, in 1700, to live in a former Native American village, Manakin, southwest of Richmond, Virginia. A line of my ancestors, from the “Sallé” family, helped to establish Manakin, eventually blending into the larger surrounding, English-speaking society.

 

Joseph Manigault, descendant of French Protestant refugees who made it to the colony of South Carolina, built this grand Charleston home, from the wealth he gained from African slave-labored rice production.

Another group of French refugees made their way to Charleston, South Carolina, my focus here. The Huguenots of Charleston were enterprising, many of them being from the merchant and tradesmen classes, originally in France. Like their Virginia counterparts, these French Protestants began to blend into the larger English-speaking society as well, though many of them continued in passing along their Protestant Christian heritage.

The early 19th century home of Joseph Manigault, a descendant of these earlier French Huguenot pioneers, built a very large home in Charleston, which is now available to the touring public. It is tragically ironic, that the Manigault family, who left Europe because of oppression, became members of the ruling, elite class of antebellum South Carolina, making their fortune on the backs of African slave labor, through their network of labor-intensive rice plantations.

The Charleston Slave Mart Museum, originally a private slave market that opened after the public slave trading ended in Charleston, in the early 19th century.

While touring the Old Slave Mart, an indoor market where slaves were bought and sold in the first half of the 19th century, I discovered another French Huguenot connection. The Slave Mart interprets the history of the slave trade in Charleston. Some 40% of all African slaves, who entered English-speaking America, passed through the port of Charleston.

When looking at one of the exhibits, I ran across the slave name of Olaudah Equiano (1746-1797), who eventually became an early leader of the abolitionist movement. At a young age, Olaudah Equiano was kidnapped from Africa, and taken to America. He was eventually sold to an owner in Virginia, where he also received the name of “Gustavus Vasa.”

“Gustavus Vasa” is a very important name in my French Huguenot ancestry. “Gustavus Vasa” was the name of a 16th century Swedish king, who as told to me by my mother, offered temporary sanctuary to a group of French Protestant refugees, who most probably were some of my ancestors. The name “Gustavus Vasa” has been passed down for centuries in my family tree, where one of my uncles was known as “Uncle Gus.”

“Gustavus Vasa” has been an awkward name to pronounce, for Americans like me, so I was glad just to call my uncle as “Gus.” Nevertheless, the story is important. Presumably, my family’s ancestors passed the name down as a way of remembering what this Swedish king did to save the lives of my great-great-????? grandparents.

Olaudah Equiano (alias “Gustavus Vasa”) exhibit in the Slave Mart museum, in Charleston, SC.

Anyway, back to the main story… this particular African American slave, Olaudah Equiano (alias “Gustavus Vasa”), was eventually sold to a Quaker, who allowed Gustavus Vasa to purchase his own freedom. Upon gaining his freedom, Gustavus Vasa had not only become an outspoken evangelical Christian, with a vibrant love for Christ, he had also became an early advocate for abolition among freed African Americans, preserving his story in The Interesting Narrative of the Life of Olaudah Equiano, or Gustavus Vassa, the African.

This trip to Charleston, South Carolina helped me to piece together some things in my family’s history. But it also helped me to consider some of the more complicated elements of following in on the Christian journey.

On the one hand, I am inspired by the courage of my French ancestors, who stood for their evangelical faith in Christ, during a time when mass hysteria against French Protestants threatened their very lives. But I also see how tenuous it is to pass on this same faith from one generation to another. It disturbs me that it only took a few generations for descendants of once persecuted Christians to forget their past, and become the persecutors of others. But on the bright side, I am encouraged that an ancestral name in my lineage made its way somehow to one of the early advocates of abolition, a movement that eventually led to end the scourge of racial-based slavery in the United States.


Idols and Images: Ten Commandments, Yes, But How Do You List Them?

Moses and Aaron, with the Ten Commandments: Aron de Chaves (1674)

I received a little pushback offline on a previous post about dream catchers. I kind of expected that.

Christians have long struggled with the relationship between idols and visual images. Much of the controversy stems back to how Christians read the Ten Commandments, or more to the point, how various Christians read the Ten Commandments differently. An often ignored consequence of the 16th century Protestant Reformation illustrates the difficulty.

The Ten Commandments are derived from two passages from the Bible, Exodus 20:1-17 and Deuteronomy 5:4-21, texts that are very close to one another in content. But careful study demonstrates that not every Christian identifies all of the commandments in the exact same manner. However, contrary to some misguided assertions, there are no mainstream Christian traditions that have “changed” the Ten Commandments. Rather, the problem is in how different traditions have grouped the various commandments together.

An obvious question to start off with would be, so why “Ten” commandments? Well, we have three passages in the Bible that directly tell us of “ten words” given to Moses at Sinai (Exodus 34:28, Deuteronomy 4:13, and Deuteronomy 10:4).

However, the Bible was not divided up into a verse numbering scheme until the Protestant Reformation, in the 16th century. Therefore, in the early church, there was no intuitively clear way to group the Ten Commandments together. Even the Jews have had their own unique pattern of grouping the “commandments,” and it has not matched 100% with any Christian version. Continue reading


Who Is Clarke Morledge?

Who-Is-Clarke-Morledge


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