Churches, Teaching Differing Doctrines, Claim They Are Led of the Spirit

An incredible point in the middle of all the division among Christian believers is that so many churches claim the leading of the Holy Spirit. Look at some of these statements from church and denominational materials. Here are a Methodist statement:

We have, therefore expected that the Discipline would be administered, not, merely as legal document, but as a revelation of the Holy Spirit working in and through our people.i

The Methodist church makes the claim here that the holy spirit is leading them. Now, read that each minister follows Methodist teaching, and that this teaching has been given by God.:

Each year every Methodist minister must renew his vows to believe and preach our doctrines, as contained in 44 sermons of Wesley and his explanatory notes upon the New Testament. In the sermons and notes Wesley affirms what he takes to be the Catholic theological stream as represented by the creeds, the articles of religion of the Church of England, and of the book of common prayer. Yet he also affirms his belief that certain doctrines in this tradition, in particular the doctrine of sanctification, have received insufficient emphasis and clarification. He thus believed that God has given Methodism a responsibility to serve the church catholic by bringing these emphases into their right place in the total orbit of the Catholic faith. In British Methodism the church is still committed to Wesley’s general position. ii

As regards the gifts of the spirit the First Baptist Church in Newton NJ writes this in their statement of beliefs, “We are Confident that God gives spiritual gifts to all believers for the building up of the body of Christ; however, we believe that some gifts of the Spirit, such as tongues and healings, were evidently limited to the early church.” iii

Baptists in general may deny the modern day existence of some of the gifts of the spirit, yet Baptists teach being led by the spirit in what they know and do. “God directs us through the Word, and through the Holy Spirit enables us to understand the Word and empowers us to obey the Word.” iv

Roman Catholics say they are led by the holy spirit, and that this leading is through scripture, tradition, and the magesterium, the teaching authority of their church, comprised of the pope and the bishops:

“Based on the promises of Jesus in the Gospels, the [Roman Catholic] Church believes that it is continually guided by the Holy Spirit and so protected infallibly from falling into doctrinal error. The Catholic Church teaches that the Holy Spirit reveals God’s truth through Sacred Scripture, Sacred Tradition and the Magisterium.” v

Of course, Pentecostal and Charismatic churches are based on the premise that they are following the workings of the Holy Spirit. “At the heart of the Pentecostal practice is an experience that often involves claims to direct guidance from the spirit for decisions and actions by Pentecostal believers.” This statement reflects the Pentecostal belief that Pentecostals are not only led in doctrinal matters, but in everyday practical matters as well.

There you have it. Methodists, Baptists, Catholics, Pentecostals all teach the leading of the Holy Spirit in their midst, yet they are clearly divided.

i. From the 1940 edition of the Methodist Discipline, quoted at
JOHN WESLEY’S THEOLOGY TODAY, Colin W Williams, Abingdon, Nashville, 1960, preface
v. LED BY THE SPIRIT, Toward a Practical Theology of Pentecostal Discernment and Decision Making, Stephen E Parker, Continuum International Publishing Group, 1996, ISBN 1850757461, 9781850757467,p9

© copyright 2009 Mark W Smith, All rights reserved.

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