The Nearly Perfect Crime Jul 22, 2012 23:10:12 GMT -8
Post by shirley on Jul 22, 2012 23:10:12 GMT -8
The Nearly Perfect Crime by Francis MacNutt
So this was the book I requested when I won the monthly contest back in February. I first picked up this book about 5.5 yrs ago and its premise “How the Church almost killed the ministry of healing” fascinated me for purely secular literary reasons which I won't go into. But I wasn't able to read it then. Even when I requested it, I doubted I would find any relevance to my personal life. Actually its a pretty interesting book.
When I first started I thought that MacNutt must live in a very narrow Christian world, if he didn't think it was common to pray for healing. In all of my life as a Christian, it has always been common to ask for prayer when someone was ill. Shoot, even my atheist friend recently asked on facebook for people to pray for his cousin who was just in a motorcycle accident. But then MacNutt started to talk about expectation. When people asked Jesus to heal, they expected it would happen. When the apostles cast out demons, they expected somtething would happen. Now we just hope it might work. I think that another author might have expounded more on the scriptures, but once he got into his history, he brought out some interesting points.
His claim is that Jesus mission of healing and casting out demons, which he also empowered his followers to do, was central to the gospel, it was proof that Jesus was Lord, and this proof is what enabled the gospel to spread so quickly. His claim is that through time and the influence of certain theologians, this ministry nearly died. It didn't, and it is slowly being revived.
In the section of his book which describes how this crime was committed MacNutt has a chapter titled “The Enlightenment and Dispensationalism”. Immediately I recognized the name John Nelson Darby, highly influential amongst the Brethren and with Watchman Nee, and thus the vein of Christianity I was raised in. Darby taught that the charismatic gifts ended with the death of the last apostle. He taught that the Rapture was imminent for the true believers, and that the non-believers and apostate Christians would be left behind to suffer Tribulation. Consequently he taught that worrying about the sick and poor was a waste of time – a Christians' focus needed to be on saving souls from the world. I can clearly see how theologians have in fact strayed from the gospel of Jesus with transcendence of the world. Jesus walked among sinners, fed the poor, healed the sick, and told his followers to do the same, that in this way, they also fed him (Matt. 26:35-40).
Several years after becoming an ordained Catholic priest MacNutt started hearing about the baptism of the Holy Spirit and its relativism to healing – and was inspired to learn more about it and to receive it. But when a group of people prayed over him he says he “recieved no interior experience”. Agnes Sanford told him, “I think it would be better to pray for you for a release of the Spirit and the charismatic gifts that are already in you through baptism, confirmation, and ordination.” When this was done, he felt the joy of the Lord in him. Later MacNutt writes, “For many of us, the Spirit has been there all the time but was quenched or bottled up. The baptism of the Spirit is a release of the Spirit(225).” I feel I can support this view.
Early on in his book he observes that in the early years of Christianity baptism of the Holy Spirit generally accompanied baptism in water. But, as it became more common to baptize infants, the events necessarily became separated, or the latter simply never happened. I noticed that he never gives a formula for receiving the baptism of the Holy Spirit. But he expects that it will be demonstrated by the fruits of the Spirit, love, joy and peace(223).
MacNutt's style of writing is very anecdotal. It makes it easy to read, but not thoroughly convincing. I think that he brought out some really interesting points that satisfied my literary ideas, but more importantly makes me think about the relevance of spiritual gifts today. Besides my upbringing, objections I've retained were related to the way the charismatic gifts are commonly touted and displayed. MacNutt inserts several times regarding various charismatic movements in the last couple centuries that they are commonly mixed with excesses. I've seen and heard about the excess. Part of his story about the attempts to revive these gifts is how and why the Spirits' moving gets shut down – from the inside, from believers, not un-believers.
I don't ever wish to shut down the moving of the Holy Spirit. I think that this book has enabled me to be more sensitive to other Christians ideas and spiritual gifts.