The question that shall mostly concern us this evening is the difference between those more Conservative Evangelicals and those more Charismatic Evangelicals. That such a distinction should even be able to be made is a sad state of society, and hopefully you, dear reader, are unaware that some churches lean more one way than the other. But it is an important issue and I shall discuss it so.
In a moment I’m going to give you a great John Owen quote, but before you get into it, let me give you a bit of a heads-up because it’s John Owen and it’s a bit obtuse. It’s quoted in a book called “the Glory of Christ”, a book that’s all about how we, as Christians here on earth see Christ in all his glory and how that differs from seeing Christ in the ever after. And he gets to a part where he starts talking about dangers we may fall into when doing this one of which is that our heads might outstrip our hearts (a common problem in Conservative Evangelicalism) or that our hearts might outstrip our heads (a common problem in Charismatic Evangelicalism). Alas, because he’s John Owen and obtuse (and because he’s living in 17th century England) in explaining all this he doesn’t make the obvious analogy; Charismatic Evangelicalism is biscuits, Reformed Evangelicalism is cake.
As you all know, the difference between a cake and a biscuit is this: When a biscuit gets old it goes soft, when a cake goes old it gets hard1. Perhaps old is the wrong word, maybe it’d be better to think about it as being out of the heat of the oven for a long time. When biscuits are out of the heat for a bit they start to get soft and malleable and fall over at anything. When cake is out of the heat for a bit it gets hard and is better for hitting people with than for sustenance. This is what John Owen is driving at with the —by now much anticipated quote —the second we take our hearts or minds off Christ then our hearts start to harden to his glory or our minds start to soften in our view of it.
Finally then, the quote:
That view of the glory of Christ whereof we treat consists in two things, — namely, its especial nature, and its necessary adjunct or effect. The first is, a spiritual perception or understanding of it as revealed in the Scriptures. For the revelation of the glory of his person, office, and grace, is the principal subject of them, and the principal object of our faith. And the other consists in multiplied thoughts about him, with actings of faith, in love, trust, delight, and longing after the full enjoyment of him, 1 Peter 1:8. If we satisfy ourselves in mere notions and speculations about the glory of Christ as doctrinally revealed unto us, we shall find no transforming power or efficacy communicated unto us thereby. But when, under the conduct of that spiritual light, our affections do cleave unto him with full purpose of heart, our minds are filled with the thoughts of him and delight in him, and faith is kept up unto its constant exercise in trust and affiance on him, — virtue will proceed from him to purify our hearts, increase our holiness, strengthen our graces, and to fill us sometimes “with joy unspeakable and full of glory.”
This is the just temperature of a state of spiritual health, — namely, when our light of the knowledge of the glory of God in Christ does answer the means of it which we enjoy, and when our affections unto Christ do hold proportion unto that light; and this according unto the various degrees of it, — for some have more, and some have less. Where light leaves the affections behind, it ends in formality or atheism; and where affections outrun light, they sink in the bog of superstition, doting on images and pictures, or the like. But where things go not into these excesses, it is better that our affections exceed our light from the defect of our understandings, than that our light exceed our affections from the corruption of our wills.
1 This is why the confusion arises over the state of Jaffa Cakes, not because no-one knows the grounds on which to decide whether they are cake or biscuit, but because no Jaffa Cake has ever survived for long enough to conduct the experiment.