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Hungry for more of "Jesus" in a modern, individualistic context
on August 1, 2010
Wilkerson may be said to be one of the few old pentecostals who pays pretty much attention to the Bible rather than "new revelations" or the so-called "anointing" of newer pentecostals. As a pentecostal preacher of the fundamentalist, holiness and revivalist bent, Wilkerson would use a literal approach to much of his Bible reading. In this review I would leave out my personal views on his dispensational eschatology, arminian soteriology, failed prophecies and elsewhere where I beg to differ, nicely put. Instead I will discuss what I see as the main objective of this book.
Being now about fifteen years since I read this book, some have fallen out, but I still recall the themes of albeit serious and not uncalled for admonitions to seek a deeper personal life in Christ. In traditional pietistic and holiness vein Wilkerson serves a rebuke on the sloth and dull of the faith, against the risks of "worldliness" and spiritual dryness, and would urge the believer to strengthen his personal relationship to Christ, in a notable way.
My main objection is that this "relationship" is always left up to the individual to act upon, if he just wills it. It's not viewed within the context of christian community but, as with with secular modern society at large, individualism. The deeper walk of faith that Wilkerson proposes must be obtained on the personal level and consists mainly of subjectively experiencing "the presence" of Christ. "More of Jesus" is then not to be sought after in increased knowledge of and advancement in doctrine, neither in extended church fellowship nor in the growth of the local congregation as an organism, it is to be sought after in personal experiences.
Really, Wilkerson's admonitions are for the "strong". Probably the strongest of his faithful listerners who either are enough "gifted", or have enough longing for suggested experiences. For the "weak", that is, for all who are consciously, and correctly, aware about their true state, Wilkerson's admonitions may be heavy burdens, and put up a level of "holiness", which they will feel they can not achieve. Bringing them more or less condemnation as they compare themselves to their fellow pentecostal friends. Both groups (A and B) are actually side tracked by a yoke of feelings instead of a clear gospel teaching which rightly divides judgment and liberty.
I know that the charismatic crowd will dislike these critical remarks. But I hope someone would at least be willing to understand my perspective here. I have myself some background in pentecostalism and have come to see its basic errors. That said, I'm by far against to point out the importance of a personal, intimate life in Christ. My objection is that a credible christian life can only be lived within the context of church fellowship and not become so "personal" as to diminish or neglect the very important matter of the unity of that fellowship, or the church as an institution per se.
If we cannot see Christ in the ordinances, in the form of worship, in the confessions, in the church itself as an institution, in its members of flesh and blood, but would focus on individual experience, we have a big problem with our image of Christ. If we dispatch our christian life to cultural radicalism as the main outward expression of faith and view subjective experiences, and the chase for same, as the major warrant for that faith, then individualism and self-centrism will undoubtly take over and our christian life will (just like gnosticism) have no other or higher authority than our very own selves and their impressions for the day.