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|By Pastor Bill Randles
Tommy Tenney is a third generation United Pentecostal minister, who bills himself and his growing following as a "God chaser". He is the author of a best-selling book entitled "The God Chasers". He has also served as a pastor for ten years and has spent another 17 years as a "revivalist". According to the blurb on the back cover of his recent book, he has been used to both "Spark and fuel the fires of revival". It also states that although "He has experienced the miraculous, more importantly he knows the value of intimacy with and humility before God".
The book, The God Chasers, is a call to those who consider themselves to be hungry for the manifested presence of God. It begins with a narrative which should strike a chord with those who have been radicalised by experience based religion, à la Toronto and Pensacola. In the chapter entitled "The day I almost Caught Him" (`Him' referring to God), Tenney describes a service he held in Houston Texas, in which upon the reading of II Chronicles 7:14, and an exhortation by the host pastor to `seek God's face rather than just His hand', a loud thunderclap sounded and split the pulpit into two pieces! From there the usual `river' manifestations exploded across the sanctuary, slayings in the spirit, profuse cryings, and even the bodies of businessmen stacked up `like cordwood'!
So much for those Christians, off into "Dusty Truth", enamoured by God's tracks, but what about the New Agers and occultists? Tenney is sure that they have the purest of motives,
They are just trying to get by, they are just trying to survive because the church has failed them. They looked, or their parents and friends looked and reported, and the spiritual cupboard was bare" (pages 19-20)
The church is the one forcing people who are earnestly searching for God, out into the bars and clubs? What ever happened to "They knew God but would not glorify Him as God, neither were they thankful, . . . . therefore they are without excuse"? Not so according to Tenney, these good-hearted witches and occultists actually came to church but found nothing, therefore they have had no choice but to go into the occult! This kind of accusation will always find a ready audience in our modern "seeker sensitive" world, discontented, and casting about for any scapegoat for their sense of restlessness. The church is at fault!
Between the various personal experiences recounted by Tenney and his attempts at whetting the spiritual appetites which the book calls for, glimpses of the author's theology can be seen. As we have already seen, Tenney holds to a curious view of the Word of God, as being "God's tracks", "where God's been", and "past truth", interesting, but not enough for the God chasers. Tenney further denigrates the Word of God and those who would insist on measuring all things by it, in a very unusual and creative way. He calls the scripture "Old Love Letters", at the same time, paying some homage to them, yet at the same time rendering their present application irrelevant.
Tenney generously concedes that the scriptures are "good, holy and necessary", but . . . . . (and there is a world of meaning in that `but') by designating scripture to the status of "Old Love letters" he renders them inadequate for present intimacy with God! Picture Paul relegating scripture to the status of "Old Love Letters"! Jesus never contrasted "intimacy and power" with God as opposed to scripture. He equated them! "Ye do err not knowing the scriptures or the power of God." Knowing and loving scripture is the only way to begin to have intimacy with God, not the obstacle to it! Of course, there could be a problem of people being "hearers of the Word and not doers of it", but the answer is not to compare scripture to "Old Love Letters" or worse yet, to relegate scriptural knowledge to `being able to win a bible trivia game'. What is Tenney promoting? Perhaps the answer to this can be found in the oft-cited nugget of charismatic wisdom,
This saying or some variation of it is basically the underlying assumption of the entire "River" revival, that experience supersedes `doctrine', and that the Word alone is insufficient for relationship with God.
Did the apostles believe this way? Did they ever "split pulpits"? Did they constantly contrast truth and intimacy? Peter had the ultimate sensual religious encounter. He saw the transfigured Jesus! But rather than contrast his experience on the holy mountain, with those who are still "stuck in some dusty truth", Peter commended us to the "more sure Word of prophecy, which you would do well to take heed unto". Peter never held a laughing revival, nor did Paul ever refer to Himself as God's bartender. James never saw the need to put loaves of bread on the altar so that they could soak up the anointing.
Nor did the apostles ever conduct the kind of spiritual warfare Tenney and others proclaim in the name of "Taking their cities for God",
Is this another Toronto or Pensacola? I think Tenney and I would probably disagree. I would say that this `intimacy' that is being sought is of the same nature as that "presence" that pilgrimages to Toronto and Pensacola have sought encounters with. Tenney seems to allude to these earlier revivals on page 21, as being somewhat less than what he is promoting,
Tenney may well have made a point without realising it. He acknowledges that the experience based revivals of our day, with their sensual encounters with "the presence", tend eventually towards a "been there done that" attitude, as repeated mystical experiences lead into a kind of spiritual "Law of Diminishing returns".
But the answer, according to Tenney, is more of "IT". Toronto and Pensacola were only crumbs. There's more of it in a purer form. Rodney Howard Browne held forth to those who were weary of "dead religion" a fresh touch of God, a drink of the "new wine'. Toronto came along and offered those same people an opportunity to "soak in" the manifested anointing of God. Pensacola, which, in spite of denials to the contrary, is directly descended from the Toronto Blessing, (Steve Hill, bringing "IT" back with him from Holy Trinity Brompton church, the Toronto church of England), offered a purer touch of revival than Toronto, giving more emphasis on repentance. But to Tenney, these were just crumbs, what does he offer? More of God? These are all the same claims, the same clichés, the same criticisms of doctrine, and even in many cases the same denigration of the Word of God. I predict that as in the other "waves", this also will leave many emptier even than they were before. Unfortunately this will only open them up to the next excursion into mystical experience-based religion.Orthodox Christianity has held that true hunger for God is valid and can be validly met through seeking Him, fasting, prayer, a renewal of obedience to Him, a going back to wherever it was that we left Him. `Signs and wonders' are not God nor do they satisfy.
Even fantastic signs such as splitting pulpits, slaying whole crowds in the spirit, businessmen lying around like `cordwood', none of this necessarily has anything to do with truly hungering for God. Finally, is The God Chasers really about the kind of hunger for God that perhaps Tozer wrote of, or Spurgeon, Wesley, Nee and the other giants of the faith of days gone by?
You be the judge.
But lest there be any doubt that some other kind of hunger is at work here, consider that the last page of this Destiny Image book is an advertising page featuring the full line of GOD CHASERS' products, The GOD CHASER hat and the GOD CHASER shirt is available in four sizes, and for those who truly want to attest to this new hunger, the GOD CHASERS' licence plate is available.
-BILL RANDLES -
Follow up by Mike R Taylor
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Appeared in Issue 12 September 2000
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