On Ecstatic Experiences

Just as the Bibical concepts of resurrection and eternity are hardly any longer understood in modern Christianity, so also the understanding of the Holy Spirit has more and more disappeared. One does not yet know who the Holy Spirit is if one knows the workings of the Spirit or of spirits as reported in the epistles of Paul. He tells of speaking in tongues, of prophecy, of visions, of things heard, of gifts of healing, of the power to do miracles, and all sorts of gifts. Most of these phenomena do not belong only to Christianity but are found in many a religion. They are native to ecstatic religion, which is found all over the world. Here a person thinks of his powers and capacities as intensified into the supernatural because divinity is at work in him. Such primitive expressions of ecstatic religion were much prized in Corinth as evidence of possessing the Holy Spirit. Paul himself had experience of them, and yet he ranks them less than the silent working of the Spirit of Christ. In making this distinction, he does the same as the prophets of the Old Testament. They had such experiences too, and yet they decisiively marked themselves off from the ecstatic seers and professional prophets. What is the significance of this distinction? It is connected with the distinction between true and false prophets and so also the scrupulous distinction between God and man - between what is truly God's doing and what is not.

From Jesus Christ is Lord, The Church's Original Confession, in We Confess Jesus Christ (Concordia, 1984), p.29 [trans by Norman Nagel.

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