[Note: although this post is inspired by what I've been seeing here these last few days, it's not intended to characterize the precise teachings of anyone in particular. Frankly, I'm having too difficult a time following exactly what some folks are saying to get any kind of exact handle on them, and I lack the time and inclination to do the extra-curricular reading that some claim is necessary in order to catch their meaning. Instead, I'm just using the overall tone and lingo of parts of the discussion as a springboard for a topic that's of vital importance in today's doctrinally weak but mystically bent evangelical world: is God still speaking today?]

In my charismatic days, I think I rather pitied my non-Spirit-filled friends. Sure, they were Christians, but compared to me they had so little light. I had the power of the Spirit, but they were just born again. Yes, they knew Jesus, but I also had the Holy Spirit. God spoke to me through prophecies, dreams, and visions, but my friends had only the Bible. How dead their faith seemed to me. After all, God often gave me vivid personal revelation, but they only had a two thousand year old book. They had only the Word, but I had the Spirit, too. How sorry I felt for them unless I was able to somehow help encourage them to receive the fullness of the Holy Spirit as I had. Sure I was glad when an unbeliever accepted Christ, but what really excited me was when a "mere" believer received the Holy Ghost and spoke in tongues!

A few years later, the song I sang went to a rather different tune. As it began to dawn on me that not all of my revelations had come from God, I started to get a bit more discerning. I began to do something I'd never done before: test the spirits to see whether they were of God. Sometimes this was pretty easy: if someone rose up in church and prophesied that we ought to pay greater homage to Mary, I knew that the Holy Spirit couldn't possibly have been the inspiration, so I threw it out as being either fleshly or demonic in origin. Other times, though, the prophecy, dream, or vision wasn't blatantly unbiblical. Sometimes it seemed to bear a resemblance to something in the Bible. Although I couldn't be 100% certain that this type of revelation was from God, I couldn't be 100% certain it wasn't, so in such cases I gave the prophecy/whatever the benefit of the doubt: don't get my hopes too high in case it's not from God, but don't throw it out lest I miss out on something that's truly from God.

A few more years passed. Of the revelations to which I'd given the benefit of the doubt, not a single one had come to pass. In fact, far from being an encouragement to my faith, they became a constant source of spiritual turmoil. "What if it isn't from God? Then my waiting has been in vain, but I dare not give up hope because it might be from God." My faith, such as it was, had come to be founded upon mights and maybes. Compared to the faith of Scripture--based upon the Yeas and Amens of God's inspired Word--my faith was a pitiful, doubt-ridden mess. It took ten years for me to see it, but the truth was that my oh-so-vital faith in Word and Spirit had nearly led me to spiritual shipwreck. You see, I learned my lesson too well: if I can't be sure about God's present-day Word, how I can I be sure of His written Word?

Therefore, I've learned to be rather cautious when I am counseled that I ought to strike a balance between the Word and the Spirit. Granted, there is a sense in which I _must_ have both Scripture and the Holy Spirit. Given the depravity of my sinful heart, I will not--cannot--hear what the Scriptures say unless the Spirit grants me understanding as well as a willing heart to receive what God has said. What has been called the illuminating ministry of the Holy Spirit is absolutely essential.

However, this is all too often _not_ all that is meant when folks say that we need both Word and Spirit. In some cases, they mean that the Word doesn't contain everything that God intends to say: that He is in fact still imparting new revelation in our day. Obviously, if God was speaking through the kind of Apostles and Prophets He used in biblical times--speaking with absolute inerrant authority--we had better listen to what He is saying through them. ABSOLUTELY!!! If there is a man who speaks and writes with the authority and inspiration of a Paul, you and I had better listen up. The Word of God, whether in written form or as spoken from an anointed apostle or prophet, ought to be heeded and obeyed.

So, if I need both the Word and the Spirit, what am I to do? Listen to what God is saying today? OK, fine. Whom is He speaking through? Is there a true Bible-type apostle or prophet living today? If so, where is he? Who is he? At this point, some will say, "Well, uh, that's not exactly what I mean. I'm not saying that there are guys like Paul or Peter around today. Yeah, there are prophets today, but they're not quite as inspired as the apostles. Even the best of them get it wrong from time to time, but some of them have a pretty good track record. That's the kind of guy God is speaking through today. Sure there's some error mixed in with the truth, but you better not throw out the baby with the bathwater in case you miss what God is doing."

Well, sir/madam, if that's what you're selling, I'm not buying it. Been there, done that, got the T-shirt. Say all you want that God is speaking today in a watered-down, semi-inspired way. All I'll say in reply is, "Who needs second-rate revelation like that when I've got 100% Grade A Truth in the Bible I'm holding in my hand? Although I need the Spirit who helps me to understand and trust my Bible, I don't need any 'Spirit' who's giving me 'words' that I can't take to the bank!" Whether you're a full-blown professing charismatic or a "moderate" something-or-other, as soon as you tell me that I've got to mix half-flesh-half-spirit "revelation" with the pure milk of the Scriptures if I'm going to have the whole package, all I can say is "Forget about it! Up through the end of Scripture, God always spoke with the utmost clarity and authority, and He never said that He was going to start speaking in a fallible, half-fleshly manner. Unless you can point me to a full-blown apostle or prophet who speaks with the authority of a Paul, Isaiah, or Moses--which you most certainly CAN'T--I'm going to stick with the Scriptures alone, thank you."

OK, that's my US$0.02. Please don't take this screed as a 100% airtight defense of the sufficiency of Scripture and the cessation of the spiritual gifts. Instead, take it as a rant from someone who's heard over and over again "we need the Word and the Spirit" or "don't throw out the baby with the bathwater" who's frankly sick of hearing that same old tired song. You see, we ex-Charismatics already have all of the Spirit we need, 'cause without Him we never would have come to Christ, and without Him we'd never understand or receive the Word. As Scripture plainly reveals, we have all we need in Christ. No extra ingredients are required.

Dave