What my childhood neo-Pentecostal community forgot

Or, didn’t know:

“God, when he makes the prophet, does not unmake the man. He leaves all his faculties in the natural state, to enable him to judge of his inspirations, whether they be of divine original or no. When he illuminates the mind with supernatural light, he does not extinguish that which is natural.” — John Locke, An Essay Concerning Human Understanding, “Of Enthusiasm”

4 responses to “What my childhood neo-Pentecostal community forgot

  1. metamorphmind

    That’s an interesting little section. Of course, there are some problems, especially his confidence in ‘pure reason’. However, his critique on Enthusiasm is much needed today. I especially like, “What is meant by enthusiasm. This I take to be properly enthusiasm, which, though founded neither on reason nor divine revelation, but rising from the conceits of a warmed or overweening brain, works yet, where it once gets footing, more powerfully on the persuasions and actions of men than either of those two, or both together: men being most forwardly obedient to the impulses they receive from themselves; and the whole man is sure to act more vigorously where the whole man is carried by a natural motion. For strong conceit, like a new principle, carries all easily with it, when got above common sense, and freed from all restraint of reason and check of reflection, it is heightened into a divine authority, in concurrence with our own temper and inclination.” It seems we’re in an age where faith is so divided from reason that we’re doomed to a religion of enthusiasm until we can recover a sense of reason interacting with revelation.


  2. That’s a better passage. I knew there were some risks bringing Locke to bear on this topic! But that one sentence — “God, when he makes the prophet, does not unmake the man” — was just too good to pass up. Along the lines of some of our other correspondance, in American evangelicalism and fundamentalism, there seems to be a lot of casual gnosticism and transcendentalism, for which Locke provided the perfect zinger.


  3. metamorphmind

    I’m definitely motivated to revisit Essays now! I wonder even still if Locke doesn’t unintentionally open the door for the gnosticism of our age with his emphasis on reason. Once you see how many different conclusions can be reasonably reached, it’s easy to think that reason and truth are not necessarily one and the same. Locke does seem to keep anchor by ascribing to revelation in some sense. I don’t know, just idle musings.


  4. I think Locke’s appeal in that time was for an objective reason — which we’ve already identified as problematic — which was also a publicly available reason. At least he believed that there was some kind of objective, higher standard for (more or less) every man, which is a belief that fell out of fashion in many circles since Locke. Still, my use of “gnosticism” should have been qualified, because the anti-material philosophy is only one element; the other would be secret knowledge or special enlightenment. I value certain interpretations of the meaning of the Incarnation because it is the remedy to the anti-material thrust of gnosticism, and not only (in my opinion) for the sake of the battle over the dual nature of Christ, but also for the sake of our very view of creation and humanity. God created it all, called it good, and then it became fallen, but some of its original goodness must remain, or else nothing could grow, flourish, or develop in any arena, from agriculture to arts. But in Locke’s time, among intellectuals, there seemed to be a belief in the commonality of an objective reason within the human race; the error of the time might have been (so they might have thought) a failure to properly exercise that objective reason. Yes, still unanchored by revelation and all of tradition’s musings over it. Or maybe as Michael Novak has said, with only one wing (reason) instead of both wings (the second wing being faith and/or revelation).