Hyatt International Ministries
Taking Spiritual Awakening & Biblical Thinking to the Nations
with Drs. Eddie & Susan Hyatt & Friends
THE NEW ENTHUSIASTS:by
Balancing Word & Spirit in
an Age of Extremes
Eddie L. Hyatt.
This article is derived from Eddie's latest book entitled Revival: Discerning Between the True & the False. Check it out at www.eddiehyatt.com/bookstore.html
Throughout history revival movements have again and again fallen prey to what the ancients called “enthusiasm,” a word coined by Martin Luther in referring to those who had forsaken reason, Scripture and common sense in pursuit of sensational, spiritual experiences. The word then became a common designation for those who mistake their own feelings and imaginations for the work of the Holy Spirit, and exalt their own personal experiences above the revelation found in the word of God.
But who are the enthusiasts today? Read the rest of the article and then tell me what you think.
It was in his encounter with the Zwickau prophets that Luther coined the term schwarmer or “enthusiast,” which became a designation for those who have forsaken Scripture and common sense in pursuit of sensational, spiritual experiences.
I plainly told them the utmost I could allow, without renouncing both Scripture and reason, was that some of these circumstances might be from God (though I could not affirm they were) working in an unusual manner, no way essential to either justification or sanctification; but that all the rest I must believe to be the mere empty dreams of an heated imagination.
While remaining open to spiritual manifestations, Wesley continually called his followers back to the Scriptures. His standard was,
Try all things by the written word, and let all bow down before it. You’re in danger of enthusiasm every hour, if you depart ever so little from the Scripture: yea; from that plain, literal meaning of any text, taken with the context.
I think it is tempting God to require such signs. That there is something of God in it, I doubt not. But the devil, I believe, does interpose. I think it will encourage the French Prophets, take people away from the written word, and make them depend on visions, convulsions, etc., more than on the promises and precepts of the gospel.
We are measuring everything by the Word; every experience must measure up to the Bible. Some say that is going too far, but if we have lived too close to the Word, we will settle that with the Lord when we meet Him in the air.
The saints at Azusa believed that the diligent study of Scripture was the only way that fanaticism and spiritual pride could be avoided. They, therefore, urged their people to make the diligent study of God’s Word a life-long pursuit. The October 1907-January 1908 issue carried a page of questions and answers. One question asked, “Do we need to study the Bible as much after receiving the Holy Ghost?” The response was:
Yes, if not we become fanatical or many times will be led by deceptive spirits and begin to have revelations and dreams contrary to the Word, and begin to prophesy and think ourselves some great one, bigger than some other Christians. But by reading the Bible prayerfully, waiting before God, we become just humble little children, and we never feel that we have got more than the least of God’s children.
The Azusa Street leaders also warned the people against exaggerating their experiences (a warning that is needed today). In the January 1908 issue they published a correction and exhorted the people to be careful about overstating their experiences. They wrote,
Correction: We want to correct some errors that were in the last published report from Portland. It was stated that one hundred were baptized at the evening campmeeting. The saints believe there were not so many. The insane persons that were brought for healing were not fully healed, or else through lack in our faith and through weakness lost their healing. The saints want the simple truth stated about the work. Amen! May no one from any place send in a report that is overstated but rather let it be understated. (January 1908)
So, who are the enthusiasts today? Well, in some cases it is obvious, but we must all look into our own hearts. We must, on the one hand, guard against falling into the extreme of the Zwickau prophets with an undue reliance on feelings, imaginations, signs and manifestations. After all, Satan can perform miraculous signs as is clear from passages such as Mark 13:22 where Jesus said of the last days, For false christs and false prophets will arise and show signs and wonders to deceive, if possible, even the elect.
On the other hand, we must guard against over-reacting to enthusiastic extremes and, thereby, quenching the real work of the Holy Spirit in our midst. Tell me what you think.
 Wesley, vol. 1 of Works of John Wesley, 426-27, Sept. 6, 1742.