A Critique of "Quenching the Spirit" by William DeArteaga

INTRODUCTION

William DeArteaga's book, QUENCHING THE SPIRIT, published by Creation House, is essentially a defense of the current "move of God" as expressed in the Toronto Blessing, the Brownsville Revival, and the "prophetic movement." It is well written and comprehensive in scope.

THE CENTRAL THEME

DeArteaga's central theme is that those who oppose this "move of God" are acting the pharisee, pharisee as in those First Century adherents to the Scripture and traditions of the elders who, many at least, would not recognize the messiahship of Jesus. DeArteaga has chosen the word "pharisee" with care since the name is generally seen as a negative, even damning, designation. He has given opposers of the "move of God" a label, lumped them all together, and consigned them to the nether regions where men will weep and nash their teeth. (See Matthew 25:14-30, the useless servant is often taken to represent the pharisaical party).

WHAT ABOUT THE PHARISEES?

A straw man is a weak thing set up that can be easily knocked down. The pharisee is a straw man for DeArteaga. Certainly they do not come across as especially wonderful in the pages of the New Testament, yet, Nicodemus (of John 3 fame), Joseph of Arimathea (who buried Jesus' body in his own tomb), and Saul (later Paul) were all of them pharisees. We do not know how many pharisees eventually became believers in Jesus, but we know three who did. The pharisees, and their forerunners, kept the law, the prophets and the poets alive during the time of the Babylonian exile and throughout the interbiblical period, they taught the people as best they could, and hoped to be ready for the Messiah when He came. Many missed Him, but not all.

DeArteaga is not content to note that there are Christians who differ in their interpretation of the latest "move of God," rather he wants to hang the stereotypical word "pharisee" around their neck. He would create a second class of Christian, a Christian who would stand stoically with their dry, lifeless doctrine and mindlessly oppose what God is doing in the "last days." He does not reach out, he vilifies and condemns. It is the creation of a "we versus they" mentality.

SOME MISCELLANEOUS POINTS

True Revivals Have Those Who Oppose Them

DeArteaga argues that because the recent "move of God" is maligned by some segments of the Christian community it must be genuinely of God.

It has certainly been true that great outpourings of the Holy Spirit have had people heap scorn upon them--it happened at the Acts 2 Pentecost and the First Great Awakening in America. The opposition was not what authenticated the outpouring, of course. That there are those who oppose the recent "move of God" does not authenticate it as genuine. Such an argument is without merit.

Strange Things Have Happened in True Revivals. Some of the strange phenomenon taking place in the recent "move of God" have been reported in both the secular and Christian community. DeArteaga argues that strange happenings are common to genuine awakenings so the recent "move of God" must be genuine since it too has its strangeness.

Yes, some people said the apostles were drunk when the Holy Spirit was poured out on them as we read in Acts 2. There were strange phenomenon during the First Great Awakening in America, too. The strange behavior does not authenticate anything, one way or the other. Other means must be used to verify a true move of God. Strange things are happening in this recent "move of God," strange to the point that people, particularly school age kids, twitch and jerk for weeks on end and can not even participate in their high school classes. Does this mean the Brownsville Assembly of God Church in Pensacola, Florida has been visited with a true outpouring of the Holy Spirit of God? DeArteaga does note that "wild fire" revival often accompanies true revival and we know from a cursory look at the history of the Church that there have been many counterfeit revivals (e.g., the Montanists). Strange phenonomon are often just that, strange.

It is recorded that people fell over or fell down in meetings during some of the great awakenings in the past. People regularly fall over (slain or resting in the "Spirit) in the recent "move of God." The former is supposed to authenticate the latter. How is it that this makes sense? How is it known that those who fell over in some of the great awakenings of the past did so under the power of God? Many observers noted such strange things. A lot of crazy things happened in the great awakenings-we do not need to credit God as being the author of it all. Maybe the enemy of God was there, too, and conducted his own revival. Since we do not know for certain, we must be cautious about what authenticates what.

Use of Jonathan Edwards to authenticate the "Revival"

Edwards' writings are frequently used to authenticate the recent "move of God." An analysis of this issue is way beyond the scope of this essay. However, a few points will be made.

Edwards said that evidences of a true revival were:

1. "Esteem for Jesus is raised in the community, proclaiming Him as Scripture depicts Him, Son of God and Savior." This is not the case in the Pensacola area where the Brownsville Revival is taking place. The opposite is the case to the point that many Christians feel scandalized by the events taking place at the Brownsville Assembly of God Church. Locals often look at it as a side show or worse.

2. "The revival works against the kingdom of Satan, which encourages sin and worldly lusts." I have no comment here.

3. Revival stimulates a "great regard for the Holy Scriptures, and establishes them more in their truth and divinity..." My experience with the "revival" has not demonstrated this at all. In the many meetings I have attended the Bible is given lip service more than anything else. In fact, people who preach and teach the Scripture are often made fun of. After all, new revelation is abounding so who needs the old seems to be a theme of many in the 'revival."

4. A genuine revival "is marked by a spirit of truth." More and more a typical "revival" meeting focuses on prophecy. These prophecies are often written down and distributed. Most are so general that evidence determining their accuracy is not a serious consideration. The meetings of the "revival" are marked by long lines of people waiting to be slain in the Spirit. Meeting after meeting people are doing "carpet time" and "soaking" in the Spirit. Sometimes it is somewhat wilder with some people laughing, others staggering around as though they were drunk, and others barking, or roaring, or crowing, or jerking, or twisting, or dancing, or assuming a kind of statuesque posture.

5. A genuine revival "manifests a renewed love for God and for man". Participants in the "revival" seem to constantly want and need "more, and more, and more." The "more" is more of the Holy Spirit and when a person gets the "more" they simply lay on the carpet and soak it up. The "more" seems to incapacitate them, floor them, sometimes for hours or even days.

THE PHARISAICAL CESSATIONIST

DeArteaga discusses "cessationism" at length, the doctrine that the gifts of the Holy Spirit ceased in their operation after the Apostolic era (there are many variants to the cessationist doctrine). DeArteaga creates a straw man of the cessationist though and delights in knocking him down. He charges cessationists, among others, with standing in the way of the great last days "move of God." So the straw man is knocked down and the "revival" is authenticated! However, not all who oppose the "revival" are cessationists, yet, the cessationist argument should not so easily be dismissed.

I am not a cessationist, though I doubt that many of the expressions of the "gifts" of the Spirit in the "revival" bear any resemblance to the genuine gifts of the Holy Spirit. We do not know what speaking in tongues looks or sounds like, we don't know how prophecies were given; in fact, we know little if anything about how the gifts of the Spirit were manifest in the New Testament churches. Where can you turn in the New Testament and read about barking like a dog, or staggering around drunk (the accusation that the apostles were drunk on Pentecost simply won't do), or laughing on and on, or being "slain in the Spirit" for hours, or roaring like a lion or warrior, or becoming rigid in a statute like pose-these phenomenon are not in the Scripture.

THE GIFTS OF THE SPIRIT AUTHENTICATE THE GOSPEL

DeArteaga proposes that the Gospel truth needs miracles for its verification. It is as if the Truth of the Gospel of Jesus Christ is inadequate in itself. Some Christians believe that healing and the casting out of demons may accompany the preaching of the Gospel, but in any case, the Gospel stands on its own without any help. We are reminded that "Jews demand signs and Greeks seek wisdom, but we preach Christ crucified, a stumbling block to Jews and folly to Gentiles," (1 Corinthians 1:22-23) Faith does not need to be bolstered by miracles, miracles can obscure faith and actually set up a desire for more of the same. Jesus told doubting Thomas, "Have you believed because you have seen me? Blessed are those who have not seen and yet believe." (John 20:29)

MAGICAL CHRISTIANITY

DeArteaga presents a magical view of Christianity in many ways. Power flows from person to person, usually healing power or the power to slay in the "spirit." These are examples of what I consider to be a kind of magic. He also indicates that there is a magical sort of power in the "sacraments." He believes in spiritual laws that if acted upon insure that God will act and reward. The positive faith affirmations are admired even to the point that we as Christians can bind and loose spiritual powers-a text book definition of magic. Words and thoughts are said to have power over natural circumstances. Visualization is even defended as mind power used to influence God. God will do, according to DeArteaga, what we affirmatively confess as long as what is asked for is among the things promised in Scripture. Even conversion, becoming born again, is, in his opinion, within the natural capacity of the individual; a works oriented salvation affected by the will of the individual. In a sense this view of conversion is magical-the human controls God.

REVIVALS ARE "MESSY"

There is generally a dark side to revival. There is excess, doctrinal error, wild fire, counterfeit revival and false conversion. Some of the most successful Christian- based cults like Jehovah's Witnesses and Mormonism have come out of times of awakening. DeArteaga acknowledges that the recent "move of God' has "messy" components to it. That it does I will not argue, but, of course, its messiness does not authenticate it as a genuine revival.

CONCLUSION

Christians have traditionally welcomed revival and pray that revival might come even in their own generation. To that end we preach the Gospel that God might save those He calls to Himself. God does this in times of revival and in normal times as well. To God be the glory.
 

For an extended discussion of conversion see:  ARE YOU REALLY BORN AGAIN? UNDERSTANDING TRUE AND FALSE CONVERSION book by Kent Philpott, published by Evangelical Press.
 
Kent Philpott

 

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