Just when you thought I could not get any crazier

How to become possessed by demons

This is a subject that keeps coming up and is frankly one I would rather avoid. In the mid 1970s I co-authored a book with Robert L. Hymers, Jr. that dealt with the subject, resulting in a flood of people showing up who wanted to look into the subject more carefully. During that period the occult largely flew under the radar, but has now emerged as mainstream and garners a great deal of attention in all forms of media.

For instance, neo-pagan practices like Wicca have swept across the country, key components of which are magic(k), spiritism, fortune telling, and more.

Shamanism in many guises is growing in popularity in the West, with shamans from multiple cultures advertising their services on the Internet. Here the occult is center stage and loudly announced.

Santería, one of the largest and fastest growing of the world’s religions, is utterly reliant on occult theory and practice, from spells and divination to contacting the dead.

Why is this so? One reason is that the occult is spiritual to its core and provides an alternative to humanist materialism. Many a materialist has moved to a spiritual orientation after direct contact with the spirit world. Perhaps an even deeper reason for the popularity of groups that are spiritistic is the quest for power.  Since power is the main focus of religions like Wicca, Santeria, and various other forms of shamanism, for many who feel powerless, the occult ‘arts’ are a strong temptation.  

But there is a problem. Contact and involvement with the occult is a sure and quick route to being possessed by demons. Shocking? For many the sense that power indwells them is a prized goal. However, the horrific and vile nature of that power within is a realization usually made too late.

This essay is concerned with how people become demon possessed. The word
“possessed” is troublesome, because most people think that a possessed person acts in a crazy or bizarre manner and is constantly under the control of a demonic spirit. Were it that simple! Most possessed persons rarely realize their condition, and it is rarely seen or confirmed by family or friends. The devil prefers to lie low and only slowly, little by little, wreak havoc. People may eventually figure out what has grabbed hold of them, but then they are left wondering what in the world to do. Most of them can only suppress and deny or run and cover, since no one in our culture wants to look like a ‘mental case’. How many abuse substances to keep the demons at bay?

What ‘opens the door’ to possession?

The Occult

There are three primary divisions in the occult world: fortune telling or divination, spiritualism, and magic.

Fortune telling: This is everything from the Ouija Board to the palm reader, but it includes psychic readings, the I Ching, tealeaf reading, astrology, tarot card reading, and a great many more practices.

Spiritualism or spiritism: The focus here is the séance, which can take any number of forms, but is the attempt to contact the spirits or souls of the dead. It is known from ancient times, is mentioned in the Bible, and is still popular, since actual spirits are contacted.

Magic: This is sorcery, witchcraft, and spells and curses, and it is the manipulation of spirits, gods, and goddesses to do one’s bidding through the performance of rites and rituals. The world of magic is complicated but far more common that most recognize. Whether white, neutral, or black, magic is still magic. Some of those involved rationalize that they are only invested in good magic or natural magic but not the bad varieties. However, the devil does not pay attention to such distinctions. Magic is magic.

After decades of dealing with people who have attracted and finally become possessed by demons, I have discovered that, when a person gives herself or himself to the occult, whatever form it might take, they expose themselves to the possibility of being possessed by evil or unclean spirits, all of which are ruled over by Satan. And you do not want Satan to get inside your head.

Occult involvement: By this I mean giving into, believing in, trusting in, acting on, or relying on, any overt form of occultism, which is more than casual contact. How much is enough to become demon possessed? Who knows, but the devil never plays fair.

Power and knowledge: These are the central motives that bring people into the occult world. That power and knowledge is accessed is not to be denied. The Faustian trade-off is operable, however; the devil will give gifts in order to achieve great dominance over a person’s life.

Satan is a gift giver and is especially good, for a period of time, at providing power, sex, money, and other goodies we humans desire. He gives to get, and this principle must not be underestimated. His assistance comes with strings attached, and he usually yanks back the delights and replaces them with torments, sooner or later.

Traumatic Events

A near-death experience is chief among the traumas that the devil uses to capture unwary and vulnerable prey. People of all ages have spoken of experiences in which they returned from the brink of death or even after actual biological death occurred. They describe being conscious, witnessing a wide assortment of events, and even conversing with people. Some of these “remembered experiences” result in best selling books or films. It is virtually impossible, however, to fact-check the reports on what occurs in the brain of someone in this stage of brain activity. It is likely that the complex electrical and chemical mix that goes to work on the central nervous system of one who is on the brink of death produces incredible hallucinations.

My view is that such events, while not always of a demonic nature, are untrustworthy.  The devil, however, loves to hitch a ride on these visions to further his trickery and introduce spiritual entities. To suddenly encounter the spirit world is life changing to all who experience it. Books and movies about such experiences continue to emerge, from both Christian and secular publishers and filmmakers, and this makes me rather suspicious. The story lines are nearly always the same: the dearly departed always communicate they are okay and have landed in a good place after death. This is one of the devil’s favorite plot twists.

Linked to the discussion of near-death experiences above is what happens in the lives of the newly bereaved. Reflecting on my four-plus decades as a pastor who has conducted several hundred memorial and funeral services, I recall frequent episodes of demonic activity played out in the lives of those whose loved ones have died. Perhaps it is an appearance of the departed in a dream or even while fully awake. At a time of loss we are thrown off emotionally and will imagine things we would not otherwise, and this is not all, or even mostly, of a Satanic nature. That said, it is nevertheless true that the devil knows all too well that grieving people are vulnerable to deception. 

Initiations into religions

Satanism is a religion, and the introduction into it is a deliberate inviting of Satan to take control over one’s life, whether through a focused worship of the devil as god or reliance upon a ‘spirit’ for guidance. If someone is attracted to devil worship, the pull is powerful and lustful, an almost irresistible lure from which few can escape once they are trapped.

When devotees of Transcendental Meditation and Krishna Consciousness undergo initiation ceremonies, they are knowingly inviting the spirit of a dead guru to inhabit their minds and bodies. Of course, a demon shows up instead, but the devotee does not realize that he or she has been duped. The power gurus like Muktananda and Rajneesh had their ‘spirits’ within them, and as submission was made to the guru, it was in fact a submission to evil spirits. Current gurus continue in a similar mode.

In the asiento or initiation into Santería, the initiate is essentially “mounted” or possessed by an orisha deity. Here the possession is deliberate; the deception is that instead of the expected god or goddess, what possesses the head of the initiate is a satanic spirit.

What are the animal guides or spirits that the Wiccans meet on their soul journeys? They are certainly demonic spirits in disguise. The elves and fairies are cute; gnomes are curious looking; animal helpers are intriguing or majestic; goddesses may be clothed in spectacular auras; Zeus, Diana, Apollo, Moses, Abraham, Elijah, angels Gabriel and Raphael may dazzle; and John the Baptist, Jesus, Peter, and Paul may seem to appear with special messages and prophecies. They are all merely familiar spirits who are expert in disguise, even down to the molecular level, but are no more than demons (see 2 Corinthians 11:14-15).


The trance state (or the ecstasy, passive state of mind, altered state of consciousness, or shamanic state of consciousness – all essentially synonyms) is the mechanism through which many are invaded by demonic spirits.

Trance states are induced in various ways. Sometimes drugs and other substances are used to reach the trance state, as is common among shamans and Santeríans. Music is often the vehicle, with the beat of the drum and the dance that goes with it, as seen in ‘charismania’ among Christians, where a person loses track of reality and ‘yields’ to the spirit (assumed to be God’s Holy Spirit). Books on Wicca and shamanism may come complete with chapters on various means to enter into the desired trance state so as to initiate the soul journey. They will invariably involve deep breathing, centering, visualizing, chanting, clearing of the mind, blanking out conscious thought from the mind, waiting to experience the otherworld, listening for the voice of a god, goddess, or spirit guide, dancing and whirling with eyes closed and heart ready to receive – whatever and whoever is out there. And the devil prowls around for just such a time and place to pounce.

My prior experience and recent research shows that the trance state is the most popular door opener to being possessed by demonic spirits. 

How to become unpossessed of demons

Jesus alone has power over demons; all of the satanic kingdom is fully aware of this and tremble at His name.[1] Jesus’ death on the cross, with His subsequent resurrection, ascension to heaven, and being seated at the right hand of the Father, has secured His power and authority over Satan and his fallen angels.

Consider two passages:

“The reason the Son of God appeared was to destroy the works of the devil” (1 John 3:8a).

“Since therefore the children share in flesh and blood, he himself likewise partook of the same things, that through death he might destroy the one who as the power of death, that is, the devil, and deliver all those who through fear of death were subject to lifelong slavery” (Hebrews 2:14-15)

Jesus cast demons out of people while on the planet two thousand years ago and gave His disciples authority to cast out demons as well.

“And he called the twelve together and gave them power and authority over all demons and to cure diseases, and he sent them out to proclaim the kingdom of God and to heal” (Luke 9:1-2).

Later Jesus sent out seventy-two others to do the same. (We see, then, that not only the Twelve called ‘apostles’ had authority to cast out demons.) Upon their return the seventy-two gave the following report: “Lord, even the demons are subject to us in your name!” (Luke 10:17).

This authority over the demonic continues to this day.[2] A key biblical verse in this regard is James 4:7: “Submit yourselves therefore to God. Resist the devil, and he will flee from you.”

The verse’s opening word, “Submit,” is the largest stumbling block to many looking for a way out of the devil’s sway. Demon possession gives power, and the demon will fight hard not to be cast out, so a usual ploy is to remind the person possessed that power will be lost. That threat freezes those who fear such a loss. The “submit” means a submission to the God and Father of our Lord Jesus Christ as well as a determined resistance to the devil. A spiritual battle ensues, until finally the demonic is rejected, Christ is embraced, and the demons flee.

Kent Philpott

February 2014

[1] Only Jesus and His disciples have authority over the demonic. Exorcists are magicians who promise relief but succeed in little more than play acting, trickery, and deception.

[2] For more on this is my book, How Christians Cast Out Demons Today.

The Anointing, The Anointing, The Anointing

The Anointing. The Anointing. The Anointing.

“The Anointing — this is the whole thing, isn’t it?”

That is what I heard Paul Cain say some ten years ago at a nearby Pentecostal church.

Reverend Cain is a big name among the so-called Kansas City Prophets, along with a number of others like Bob Jones, Mike Bickel, Rick Joyner, John Paul Jackson, Francis Frangipane, Lou Engle, and James Goll. The Apostolic-Prophetic Movement[1], sometimes known as the Third Wave, was to be the re-establishment of the Five-Fold ministry of apostle, prophet, evangelist, pastor and teacher as found in Ephesians 4[2]. These leaders saw themselves as part of the reconstitution of the fabled biblical model meant to operate in the “last days.” And for such a grand vision, a special and super powerful anointing would be required.

Rodney M. Howard-Browne

I was wondering then if the anointing Cain talked about was the same that Rodney M. Howard-Browne purportedly brought to America from his home in South Africa. It was Howard-Browned who strongly influenced the “revival” that came to the Toronto Airport Vineyard Church in Canada. It was there that Randy Clark received the anointing from Howard-Browne and spread the “fire” of the revival.

Howard-Browne, in his books Flowing in the Holy Ghost (FHG) and Flowing in the Holy Spirit (FHS), describes that anointing.[3] It is essential and necessary to define what Howard-Browne means by anointing as presented in the two books mentioned above.

In FHG he says, “the anointing is the presence of God”. . .”that will come and begin to touch people” (p. 13). “I wait for the unction all the time; I wait for the burning of the Spirit of God within. That burning, that churning, bubbles like a boiling pot inside, because that’s what the word ‘prophesy’ means” (p. 14).

Howard-Browne says, “you must stir yourself up for the gifts to begin to operate” (p. 14). Therefore, after stirring, “it will happen automatically. God will begin to move.” (p. 15).

In a section labeled “When the Anointing Falls” he says, “I began to speak supernaturally. I became another person! . . .It’s almost like I’m standing outside my body, hearing myself prophesy. . . .People begin to shake and fall out under the power of God in their seats as the word of the Lord comes forth. No one touches them” (p. 31). He goes on: “You can’t say, ‘I’m going to get up and prophesy now.’ However, you can prepare for the anointing to prophesy. You do this by stirring yourself up, by preparing your heart, and by waiting on the Spirit of God. Then, when the anointing comes, you flow with it. But you can only prophesy when the anointing comes!'” (p. 31).

Randy Clark

Not everyone got the anointing, not even those who actually touched Browne. Randy Clark, who had reportedly gotten the anointing, was also able to pass it on to others, or so it was claimed, and he was in Toronto, too, and people touched him, and some got it, but most didn’t.

A contingent from our local ministerial association visited Toronto, and after they returned we gathered in a meeting. There we were, expecting something big. But even for those who got close to the “anointed” people and even touched one of them, nothing happened. Though disappointed, we planned another trip.

I saw Randy Clark personally some years back now in Redding, California, when he visited the Bethel Church pastored by Bill Johnson, whom I guessed had gotten the anointing as well. The anointing was power, and power was what it was all about, the power to heal and do miracles. So many had miracle stories: crowns of gold on teeth; gold dust in their hair; feathers mysteriously floating down from the ceiling; people raised from the dead (none were confirmed); people with stomach and back pain – healed; folks with chronic migraines – healed; youth who smoked pot and were popping pills – healed on the spot. Oddly, the people I was with who were members of Bethel, both with some serious bodily ailments, were never themselves healed, nor did they know anyone personally who had actually been healed. The miracle stories circulated around town, one here, one there, but somehow the ones healed could not be located. This was no doubt a miracle, too.

Do I sound irreverent, or judgmental? Am I being a God mocker and thus in danger of committing blasphemy against the Holy Spirit?[4] Could I be standing against the flowing of the river of the Spirit now moving in these last days? Am I foolishly, even rebelliously, refusing to ride the wave? Frankly, these kind of mind-think, conformist charges are enough to satisfy and shut-up most questioners, but not everyone is falling in line or is so lacking in confidence in the saving grace of Jesus that they stop thinking and evaluating.

Cain’s anointing

Paul Cain rambled on for an hour and finally starting indicating that he was about to reveal the biggee, the real deal, the ultimate, that one great thing that meant absolutely everything. Wow, the anticipation; it was palpable. Cain moved toward the front of the stage. He stood stone still. He stretched out his left arm, his brown eyes scanning the congregation, now speechless, motionless, while we waited without a sound. And then it came, what we were all waiting for: “The Anointing. The Anointing. The Anointing.” He said it was the anointing.

To demonstrate the anointing he stared at a number of the faithful sitting in the front row.[5] One by one he told their fortunes. He said he saw a television set type thing over each one’s head and could watch their futures unfold before his very eyes. One would be a great prophet in Africa. Another would be greatly used of God in Asia as a healer. One young lady would found a school for orphans in South America. Without exception each person would  do something wonderful in the kingdom of God. Cain could see it on the television screen. It was the anointing that made it all happen.

Kundalini and Shaktipat

Over the years I’ve talked with a number of so-called prophets and healers who spoke like Howard-Browne. A burning power rising up in their bodies that gave them power to do miracles. During my days in the Jesus People Movement when we did see miracles, I never experienced or heard about anything like what Howard-Browne described. However, I had, and actually continue to have, conversations with those involved in various spiritual practices that do sound like what Howard-Browne described.  I turned to Wikipedia for the material I suspected I would find.

Kundalini is described within–eastern religious, or spiritual, tradition as “an indwelling spiritual energy that can be awakened in order to purify the subtle system and ultimately to bestow the state of Yoga, or Divine Union, upon the ‘seeker’ of truth.” “The Yoga Upanishads describe Kundalini as lying ‘coiled’ at the base of the spine, represented as either a goddess or sleeping serpent waiting to be awakened.” In physical terms, one commonly reported Kundalini experience is a feeling like electric current running along the spine.

Kundalini can be awakened by shaktipat — spiritual transmission by a Guru or teacher — or by spiritual practices such as yoga or meditation. Sometimes Kundalini reportedly awakens spontaneously as the result of physical or psychological trauma, or even for no apparent reason.

One man said he felt an activity at the base of his spine starting to flow so he relaxed and allowed it to happen. A feeling of surging energy began traveling up his back, at each chakra he felt an orgasmic electric feeling like every nerve trunk on his spine beginning to fire. A second man describes a similar experience but accompanied by a wave of euphoria and happiness softly permeating his being. He described the surging energy as being like electricity but not, traveling from the base of his spine to the top of his head. He said the more he analyzed the experience, the less it occurred.

Kundalini can also awaken spontaneously, for no obvious reason, or triggered by intense personal experiences such as accidents, near death experiences, childbirth, emotional trauma, extreme mental stress, and so on. Some sources attribute spontaneous awakenings to the “grace of God,” or possibly to spiritual practice in past lives.

The popularization of eastern spiritual practices has been associated with psychological problems in the West. Psychiatric literature notes that “since the influx of eastern spiritual practices and the rising popularity of meditation starting in the 1960s, many people have experienced a variety of psychological difficulties, either while engaged in intensive spiritual practice or ‘spontaneously’.

I could go on, but I think the above is enough; however, one last observation might be of value. On the fourth page of the Wikipedia article on Kundalini is a section with the heading, “Physical and psychological effects.” In brief, I list some of the items which are referred to as “Kundalini syndrome”:

 involuntary jerks, tremors, shaking, itching, tingling, and crawling sensations; energy rushes or feelings of electricity circulating the body; intense heat (heating) or cold; trance-like and altered states of consciousness; disrupted sleep pattern; loss of appetite or overeating; mood swings with periods of depression or mania.

The quest for power

Certainly Howard-Browne and any of the Kansas City Prophets and those associated with Rick Joyner of Morningstar in North Carolina, Mike Bickle of IHOP in Kansas City, Bill Johnson at Bethel Church in Redding, California, or anyone else associated with the Third Wave would not knowingly embrace anything to do with Kundalini or shaktipat, but there is an obvious association if not direct connection. That association could well be the quest for power.

Power, the one great and overriding drive behind the occult, is the great lure. So much of the tragedy of humanity has been the direct result of striving to acquire and retain power. The quest for magical powers to heal drives shamanism and religions like Santería. The neo-pagan religions like Wicca also focus on power to heal and perform  magic. How thin the line can be that separates the occult and pagan from the biblically orthodox.

Anyone who has either read of or experienced firsthand a great moving of the Holy Spirit desires to see it happen again. It is as though we can “work up” such a revival or awakening ourselves. We can go to extremes and “work up” the crowd with music and great expectations of miracles and pass them off as a genuine move of the Holy Spirit. In my view, the epitome of error is the concept of containing an anointing, a special and rare gift of the Holy Spirit. One way of identifying authentic Christianity is that Jesus Christ and Him crucified is front and center.

Off the charts

But then I think: no, wait a minute. These guys up in Redding at Bethel and in Kansas City say we are “off the charts.” Their prophet’s declare that these are the last days and the Bible is not so important anymore. After all, many are conversing with angels now, even big name angels, some speaking directly with Jesus as one would in a phone call;[6] people like Kat Kerr are going direct to God, bypassing angels all together. Yes, face to face meetings with the Creator of heaven and earth in the “throne room” to get the real scoop for the last of the last days. Apparently, we are right up there at a few seconds before midnight on the great cosmic clock. Wow, I’m a believer!

Going corporate?

Am I making fun? Yes I am to a degree, in order to highlight the ridiculousness of the whole thing. And one wonders, what comes next? I mean, where can you go next? After hearing from God personally and getting the definitive word about the wrap-up of history from the Big Guy, everything else seems second rate, not to mention a waste of time. Someone who has followed the whole enterprise in Redding said to me last month that they have shifted into “corporate” mode to fill a possible void, and by that he meant the selling of product – everything from worship music, dietary supplements, t-shirts and other kinds of clothing, paperback books, and who knows what else that these entrepreneurs will concoct. God help us.

Is it possible for the newly and self ordained apostles and prophets to drop all of it? Think of the humiliation, the embarrassment, the decrease in salary, invitations to speak drying up, the rejections, the tongue-waggers, the falling book sales, the payments on the improvements to the property, the praise of the crowds? What do you do – retire, repent, step down, and confess, with your whole life exposed as a fraud? What do you do after making shipwreck of your faith and many thousands of others’ faith as well? Here is where the miracles are needed.

Closing comment

I am one who has made major errors in my life and ministry, and from these I am yet greatly pained and will until I get home. Indeed, the sufferings of this present time, whether the result of the Fall or my own rebellious folly, are not worth comparing with what God has prepared for us. My repenting will last my whole life, and though I may be embarrassed in certain circles, yet I take confidence that all my sin has been atoned for through the shedding of the precious blood of the Lamb. Thus it is with confidence that I continue following Jesus and rejoicing in the ability to yet be a servant in His kingdom. The audience, after all, is not in the pews but in heaven.

Kent Philpott

February 2014 

[1] C. Peter Wagner is often recognized as an “apostle” in the recreation of the “Five Fold Ministry,” and by virtue of his position as a professor at Fuller Theological Seminary in Pasadena, California, and his part in launching the Church Growth seminars at Fuller (of which I was a part), he provided prestige and clout to the fledgling “Third Wave” revival.

[2] Rather than 5 ministries of apostle, prophet, evangelist, pastor, and teacher, many combine pastor and teacher, since the two are joined by the Greek co-coordinating conjunction kai or and. More correctly, it is the four fold ministry. And it may be noted that, while these ministries or offices may not always have been formally established, they have never be absent in the long history of the Church. 

[3] The two books are virtually identical in content, having only minor variations and additions. To read one is to read the other.

[4] The God Mockers is the title of a book written by Stephen Hill who was the principle evangelist for the Brownsville Revival in Pensacola, Florida during the mid-1990s. All those who rejected the idea that it was a genuine outpouring of the Holy Spirit he so labeled.

[5] I had gotten in place early and was a little surprised at how ushers brought in, paraded might be a better word, a group of people and seated them directly in front of the platform. The reason for this became clear later on.

[6] This is what Sarah Young does as she journals in her books like Jesus Calling.

Legalist Grace?

Legalistic Grace?

Sounds like a contradiction in terms doesn’t it, legalistic grace, but I have been coming across the sentiment, not the term itself, in a number of different ways. However expressed, whether in print, sermon, television, radio, or conversation, it sounds very much like, “I am more of a Calvinist than you are.”

At first I thought it was akin to an animal marking territory as we observe in dogs and cats. Perhaps it is little more than the old guard Calvinists not wanting to be marginalized or not receiving recognition for their heroic manning of the Reformed fort now that new recruits have volunteered for the front lines.

My journey toward the doctrines of grace has been a slow one–little by little. This may have been due to the sheer glory of free grace, which must be absorbed over the course of time, or, my slowness may have been due to the complexity of it all. I wonder, back in 1996, if I would have been rejected, even ridiculed, if I could not embrace so much doctrine suddenly. But as it was I knew no one, and for some years, who was a self confessed Calvinist. Perhaps I was spared a rude awakening.

Coming from a Baptist background I had little exposure to the theology of those who had imbibed the traditional theologies handed down from Calvin, Luther, and others, through John Knox mostly; I learned from Billy Graham, Campus Crusade for Christ, C.S. Lewis, Watchman Nee, and other Arminian leaning evangelicals. Then when I began reading Edwards, Owen, Spurgeon, Lloyd-Jones, I. Murray, J.I. Packer, R.C. Sproul, and others, my theological reeducation took a new, and confusing, turn.

The year, 1996, when I began to understand the differences between Calvinistic and Arminian points of view by way of research into the debate between Asahel Nettleton and Charles Finney during American’s Second Awakening, I was in the eleventh year of pastoring Miller Avenue Church in Mill
Valley, California. For twenty-nine years of professional ministry I had been a staunch Arminian regularly teaching through Charles Finney’s Revival Lectures; John Wesley was one of my heroes.

Happily, there was no pressure from my congregation or denomination to toe any doctrinal line. And the people I preached to and taught had little exposure to Reformed theology and took to it slowly. It was some time before I even mentioned the name of John Calvin or Jonathan Edwards. Some rejected even my feeble efforts to introduce clear biblical ideas like predestination and election. As pastor I had to be careful to not drive everyone off remembering how haltingly I had progressed. The plain fact is that even after fourteen years not all of the congregation would be what I would call Reformed. Yet I am content with the progress.

Now then, what I have been observing, and experiencing with the emergence of the New Calvinists, is a pressure to accept a whole array of doctrines and positions beyond TULIP. Many insist that to be a true Calvinist means adhering to much more that the famous five points. Some of these doctrines are: views on the inerrancy of the Bible; replacement theology where the church replaces Israel; the place of infant baptism and the Lord’s Supper in the context of Covenant Theology; views of last things; women and their place in the church; cessationism—whether spiritual/charismatic gifts are in operation today; applications of church discipline; using the correct forms of worship especially having to do with music; the place of historic confessions of faith, among others. The list can even include political or social positions. My discovery has been that not all of those who identify with the Doctrines of Grace are in harmony all the way down the list. So often, too often I think, it is all in or nothing. Surely this attitude, while it may appear to be a strong one, is likely not the firmest foundation for growing in grace; such a doctrinaire attitude, at least in my experience, has seemed more like sectarianism that faithful biblical orthodoxy.

Marking out territory? Maybe, or perhaps what I have been observing is a lack of grace along with a misunderstanding of the working of the Holy Spirit. We grow up slowly. We generally agree that the wise parent does not demand their young children demonstrate adult stature or maturity.

When asked to describe my theological position I will say I am reforming rather than reformed. I have a long way to go in grasping all the ramifications of the doctrines of grace since they go to the greatness and glory of our creator God. Early on, were I to have been bombarded by the extent of the mercy granted me in Christ I would have been overwhelmed, perhaps immobilized. Yet, I run into people who have seemingly overnight become full five-pointers and are furthermore convinced of a number of extra points such as those listed above.

This is indeed a plea for those of us who have had the time and freedom to grow up into the doctrines of grace to extend this same privilege to others who are setting out on their journey.

We begin with grace and we must continue the same way. Paul made this clear in his letter to the Galatian churches. And most Christians get the point easily enough when it comes to the salvation issue–works versus grace—and are convinced that they were helpless to attain it through their own efforts. But Calvinists, new and old, can be a blessing to those who are on the Reforming journey by not imposing unnecessary road blocks or by demanding doctrinal conformity in a host of other issues. If we trust that God saves us in a sovereign way, may we not also expect that He will continue that process until the day of Jesus Christ?

Kent Philpott, July 29, 2010