FACING 2016-2019 … a backward and forward look.
“These things I have spoken to you…. But the Helper, the Holy Spirit, whom the Father will send in my name, he will teach you all things and bring to your remembrance all that I said to you.
Peace I leave with you; my peace I give to you; not as the world gives do I give to you. Do not let your hearts be troubled, nor be fearful…
Now, I have told you before it happens, so that when it happens, you may believe.” (John 14:29)
Picking up the baton from my husband concerning the Pentecostal/Charismatic “prophetic” voice which may “bring considerable confusion” particularly in the light of the EU referendum, (prophetic & the EU referendum) I want to draw specific attention to the time element which radically affects prophetic interpretation. To be as clear as possible at this point, let me say that “prophetic” can itself be understood in many different ways. Roger refers to its counterpolitical voice. It can also be a speaking out, in advance (‘pro’) of things about to happen, as of God speaking directly and definitively to someone, or used more metaphorically of a view of something which will probably take place.
“Interpretation” is an even more complex process, as the communication is received by another person or group who already carry a worldview and expectation (what theologians and philosophers call a hermeneutic) which, in a measure, determines the outcome of understanding the ‘original’ meaning, although some would say this can never actually be fully known! To disclose my own hermeneutic, I best discover interpretation in the relational connection between the participants in the communication, which for me includes a transcendent God defined by the Jesus story and any previous information, data and events. These all come together in what Nicholas Davey in his book Unquiet Understanding calls a “revelatory moment of understanding”.
Some events actually change the trajectory of our understanding as they move us to look from a different perspective. Most of us can testify individually that some events such as marriage, a death of someone close, or an unexpected encounter, irrevocably changed the way we thought about things, and the way we live as a result. The Jesus Event obviously had such a cultural and collective impact. As Matthew describes in his account of the famous sermon on the mount (Matt. 5:38ff), Jesus stood in time and space, shared the history, culture and understanding he was born into, but re- interpreted its meaning for those who would follow. “You have heard it said…. ‘an eye for an eye, and a tooth for a tooth,’ or ‘you shall love your neighbour and hate your enemy’. … But I say to you, do not resist an evil person…. love your enemies….” In this way, the incarnation event adjusts the trajectory of our sight from a fixed point in the history of Israel, to a differently configured future, in which a ‘prophetic’ nation would be perfected in an inconceivably greater fulfilment, which is now both possible and expected, namely that a transcendently loving people would emerge from every tribe and nation.
It has been suggested that even Jesus himself had significant perspective-changing encounters, as, for example, with the Syrophoenician woman (see my chapter “The Gift of Woman” in Discovering Kenarchy). My research into human wellbeing has convinced me that the exercise of free moral choice is what makes us essentially and spiritually human, but that our freedom is significantly curtailed by, among other factors, cultural, sub-cultural contexts (e.g. church affiliation) and familial and individual development. Processing the dissonance between what we believe and how we behave, or how we think or feel and what we value, is the process of awakening and strengthening the moral or spiritual core of our personhood. It is the impact of an event that often reveals the dissonance between what we ‘thought we thought’ and a different perspective that we are beginning to be awake to. So I am not surprised to find it in Jesus’ own development as the second Adam, as the redemptive new human being himself goes through the process of “being born again”, being morally challenged about understandings he thought he believed, and developing his own spiritual response.
Martin Scott draws our attention to the fact that “the world has changed”, particularly since ‘9/11’ (2001). This, and the ‘9/11’ (1989) European event, the fall of the Berlin wall 12 years earlier, seriously impacted our individual and cultural beliefs, feelings and behaviours, but very differently. Nationally, culturally and individually, we are continually being formed and reformed by events, yet often without consciously processed moral or spiritual awareness. Prophetic interpretation therefore considers the significant events which have affected, for good or ill, our perspective, as the Holy Spirit teaches and reminds us. It draws clearer perspective from further back than any immediate event, into a longer term, adaptive trajectory. In this posture we then let the peace of God surpass our best knowledge and reasoning as well as our reactions and anxiety. So in these times we need to take into account former prophetic insight and God events which already “informed us beforehand”, so that now, in the choices we have to make, we may believe hopefully, rather than be fearful.
As we face a significant moral and spiritual decision about how or whether we vote in the EU referendum, let’s recall earlier dates, events and patterns that may throw some light on our present trajectory and adjust, where necessary, any unprocessed short term reactions and unexamined beliefs that may be undermining our hopes, faith and present discipleship.
- The 20th century: a theological and actual historical dividing line. We stand in a new era.
Since early church days, except in small, mainly unreported happenings, there has been a deficit of theological literature and experience of the Holy Spirit until the early 20th century, as theologians Veli-Matti Kärkkäinen and Rowan Williams both agree, although the ‘awakenings’ of the 18th century might be seen as a potential prophetic pattern of what was to follow. Martin Robinson’s research into the effect of these awakenings shows how the initial dramatic spiritual experiences had relatively little impact on church growth but that 50 years later there was significant societal reformation through those moved by the collective history. This could suggest such a pattern for a similar process after the fuller 20th century outpourings. These consisted in three historically and globally reported outpourings: the Pentecostal, Charismatic and Third Wave/Toronto. The collective church has never been so equipped, renewed, matured by the Holy Spirit’s actual impartation ever in her history! This in turn will trigger responses and changes in the world.
- The latter two moves fulfilled previous prophecies in part, but are yet to be completely applied. They contextualise our recent Holy Spirit experience into Europe.
Smith Wigglesworth (1947): It emphasised to look for a people of “Word And Spirit”, significantly after “the waning of the new church movement”, and that “The outpouring of God’s Spirit will flow over from the UK to the mainland of Europe, and from there will begin a missionary move to the ends of the earth.”
Jean Darnell (1967): “This renewal of life in the church would spread outside resulting in a public awakening,” resonating with the pattern of the Methodist awakening; and she too saw the flow of God’s life going into Europe. “Then I said, ‘Lord, what about these streams that go on across the Channel into Europe?’ And He said, ‘That represents people who will rise up in the midst of this people movement, this army of witnesses in Britain, whom I will make My communicators.’ Now I hadn’t used that word very much before in ministry I said, ‘Lord, what do you mean by communicators?’ And he said, ‘They will not only be people endowed with the gifts of the Holy Spirit, with strong faith, but they will also be people talented in the arts. They will be writers, musicians, singers and actors, and also technicians in television, radio and the mass media. I will call and send them and put them in strategic places. I will bless their natural talents with my Spirit, and they will be good: they will excel. They will be leaders in their fields. I will send them into Europe, where they will meet other people in the media, and through them I will release the word of God very fast in Europe. The result will be another wave of a spiritual awakening, with thousands coming to Christ throughout Europe.’”
Malcolm Duncan has pointed out that 2017 will mark a fullness of 70 years since the Wigglesworth prophecy and 50 since Darnell. His expectation also includes “God is to birth a passion for the gospel to spread from the United Kingdom across the continent of Europe.”
- The significance of the 2007/8 events: the world has changed irrevocably, and we discover the need to re-interpret some deep theological foundations.
I, along with others, saw 2007/8 as a year that would change the trajectory of the western world. It was seven years since the impact of the “towers falling” (Isaiah 30:25) in 2001. Martin Scott and Chuck Pierce warned of the danger of being sucked back into old cycles, or old facades coming back into place, if we failed to break into radical newness. The global financial crisis was triggered and everything changed – but did we? Mike Love noted the need for “intercessory theology”, that a change of mindset must accompany such a cultural shift, an event equivalent to the early church encountering their new call to the Gentile world. In such a context there is a type of prophecy, a “reasoning and persuading” type that we see in Isaiah’s approach (Isaiah 1:18) and again with Paul in Ephesus (Acts 19:8). The social and cultural contexts were so radically changed that they had to rework their world-views fundamentally. The movement of “Word and Spirit” which succeeds the global outpourings I suggest now implies some more to be work done on how we incarnate “Word”, and the evidence of many undertaking radical new theological training, and key prophetic leaders returning to study, highlights this call and development. Obviously among the most significant in my/our view is the work done on sovereignty (see all over Roger’s blog), and the essential challenge of encountering the God who is the loving, humble, learning Jesus, rather than any other. Leading on from this restoration of a Jesus-centered faith are many implications but I want to flag up what I see as the next crunch issue.
There is much yet to be interpreted about the question and meaning of “the waning new Church movement” to which Roger and I will return. For now I highlight that its origins were in studies around eschatology, and my sight is that these roots are now exposed for us to visit them again, from a clearly Jesus style hermeneutic. Our present, extremely varied, theological expectations of how the coming Kingdom of God impacts today’s world do not work out well in daily practice. So the challenge is how today’s church, matured through the threefold outpourings of the Spirit, today’s body of Christ, the anointed Word in the flesh, enacts the kingdom. It requires us to process the dissonance of what ‘we thought we believed’ with who we are becoming and how we can act in our present day context. At this point I often hear people react with a sense of frustration with ‘academic’ or ‘impractical’ talk; this is all too airy fairy and out of touch with ’ordinary people’. But if what we believe, however we came to believe it, is at odds with us living authentically and effectively for God, we do need to dig down into those beliefs and adjust them before we can ever hope that our practical living will change properly. Martin Scott’s chapter “Kenarchy and an Eschatological Hope” in Discovering Kenarchy is a master class on how faith, worldview belief and hope interact practically, and is a great place to start. Years ago, Dave Tomlinson, a radical prophet, was pilloried for calling charismatics “cabbage headed”. To look for the fulfillment of a movement of people in whom the Word and the Spirit are coherent, it may well be time to take him seriously, add his insight to our trajectory and do some critical thinking, some moral, spiritual processing, and not just to ask someone else to tell us what to believe.
- The present shaking and re-configuration of “nation statehood” was also foreseen, so that “when it happens, (we) may believe.”
My sight in 2008 was that the “structures of the nation state would begin to crack by 2011”, and that 2012-15 will “see nation states try, increasingly frantically, to strengthen their legal machinery, … and shift to more and more stringent sentencing domestically and posturing internationally, a fresh rise of extreme nationalism and ever stronger interventions of global institutions to determine trans-national alliances. And pray for new wisdom and strategic direction for how to engage constructively with these shifts around us.” And now we see it. Refugees are pouring out of disintegrating nation states, in whose failure it may be argued the UK had a hand. Greece’s national statehood was and still is challenged by its conflict with the Troika: the threefold monetary compact of the European Commission, the International Monetary Fund and the European Central Bank, but the money to help them was refused and sent rather to Turkey to keep the refugees out of Europe! The legal machinery of some nations re-established borders, fences and camps. Austria kept the extreme right out of the presidency by the slimmest of margins, but nationalism in Britain became pretty vocal.
5. What now to expect? What is the wisdom to engage constructively?
2016-2020 will be a continuing time of extreme shaking, in which our prayers, and our experience of the ‘ironic’ kingdom, will become equally, and marvellously extreme. The appropriate biblical narrative from which to draw now will be the Acts 8 story of the shaking of Jerusalem and the scattering of the then ecclesia, with an equally redemptive effect. The impulse is forward, through the chaotic changes, not backwards or turning the clock back. Today’s scientific insight of the essentiality of chaos for any true creativity reassures our fears; neither is there an idealised past to which we can return or which we must protect.
So within the context of these earlier words and insights, I personally can do nothing other than embrace a future in Europe, though I also accept that many see differently. Whatever the outcome of a referendum that I see happening because of a rumbling, and in my view unhealthy, nationalism, I am sure no-one will be pacified or relieved whatever the result. The shattering of Western imperialism is irrevocable and either as part of a European Union in great need of reformation, or as separated from it as a United Kingdom which will then face considerable internal challenges and disunity, the shuddering will continue. Jesus did not restore the kingdom to Israel, as the first disciples hoped and expected in their shaking, but he re-focused their perspective on the future, implying the forthcoming scattering into Judea, Samaria and ever onwards. The ethnae are being gathered to Europe and, if we believe the gospel, we might believe that we, as “sons of the kingdom” (Matthew 13:38) are being scattered among these peoples. Here we are to grow the good seed among those in need of “tomorrow’s bread” (Luke 11:3). Here were are called to walk and talk, like Jesus did, with the “multitude”, ordinary people like us, who are looking for a transcendent love to change the lot of the poor in spirit, those who are persecuted, hungry and excluded.
Though the social and political implications of the June 23rd event will change the world one way or another and there will be struggling and difficulty either way, the fulfilment of the scattering of renewed and fruitful seed into the field of this changing shape of Europe has been foreseen, prepared and foretold in the transcendent events of the charismatic and 3rd wave encounters with the Holy Spirit. If British Christians, who make up at least one third of all the so-called Bible-believing Christians of the European continent, can now realise and embrace the call forward into the mainland from where we first received this vibrant seed, we surely will find it more coherent to remain part of it politically and relationally, and grow there with others of good heart in this new adventure. I recommend my friend Andy Knox’s merry 5 reasons why we may embrace this. Like Andy, gladly, or even like Jeremiah, I hope to go forwards, into that calling. I am sure we will go anyway.
June 6 2016