Sunday, February 15, 2009

Revisiting the Psalms a few months later

In the months since I first blogged about the difficulty I have had appreciating and studying the Psalms I have set about rectifying my tendency to look down the Psalmist as having the emotional stability of a whiny teenage girl. I have also attempted to rectify my preference than when possible the Psalms would only be considered as a prophetic book anticipating or describing the experiences or the actions or words of Christ. I have also begun to contemplate how the Psalms are, as many have put it, a prayer book and a book in which we are invited to have our emotions reflected and corrected in meditation on the Psalms as with other parts of Scripture. Bits of Athanasius, bits of John Donne's sermons, and listening to sermons on-line have all been part of this process.

Most recently I have been listening to sermons by Mike Gunn, pastor at Harambee church in the Seattle area and previously a co-founding elder of Mars Hill. Mike's sermons were actually the most helpful for me to listen to in the last few months and it has been a bittersweet experience. It has been exceptionally sweet in that Mike has approached the Psalms in a way that has helped me appreciate them as scripture that is useful for instruction, encouragement, and correction. His preaching helped elucidate the passage in Ps 51 I mentioned was a point of struggle for me. He also did a great job differentiating beween Elohim and Yahweh in interpreting the significance of Psalm 19 as a description of general and particular revelation of the nature of the one true God.

It was just a bit bitter and not just sweet, though, because it forcefully reminded me how pathetic Mars Hill has been in the last decade in not going through the psalms at all and in its leadership feeling free to rebuke the congregation for failing to sing well to the Lord without attempting to make any teaching that might have helped remedy that particular issue. If you're going to complain about your flock not singing to the Lord and never provide any teaching to help rectify that it redounds back to you, which is too bad.

On the other hand, it is good that Tim Smith and not Driscoll preached at least two sermons from the Psalms because Driscoll has no gift for poetic imagination. If Mars Hill will grow in its appreciation and use of the Psalms it will be because other leaders at Mars Hill make up for Driscoll's decade-long weakness in that branch of biblical literature. Not that anyone is asking for my advice but my suggestion would be that Mike Gunn's sermons are a reminder of the reality that the body of Christ is manifold in its members and where Driscoll and Mars Hill have been pathetic and anemic on the Psalms there are other churches in Seattle that are very, very strong in preaching and teaching from the Psalms and I have been blessed to hear such teaching.

I find it encouraging that Tim Smith admitted from the pulpit he had the same dismissive attitude about David's teen-age girl-seeming heart that I did. It helps me to realize that there was no chance that Mars Hill teaching on the Psalms would have been in any way useful to me in attempting to reform my own understanding of the biblical genre. I have had to go out on my own and take up resources in my own search. This has been good as in the end there is no substitute for your own quest to follow Christ. I had become lazy and thought that Mars Hill teaching would or should cover some things. This doesn't mean Mars Hill as a whole has not utterly failed with respect to teaching from the Psalms up until Tim Smith's two sermons, just that as I wrote earlier, a church may not be responsible for a problem while doing nothing to help it just as a pastor's wife who lets herself go isn't responsible for her husband's sexual immorality but she has not helped the situation any. Mars Hill may, by extension of Driscoll's analogy, be the lazy dumpy pastor's housewife who let herself become some blimp. :) Of course you're supposed to love the wife you have NOW not just the wife in the wedding picture but that's another topic and one I don't particularly care about just now.

No, my concern of late has been to reform my understanding of the Psalms, to appreciate them as expressions of legitimate emotions people feel in their struggles with God. The very psalms I found myself most skeptical about and simply unbelieving about are the psalms I have come to most appreciate, the laments. Sure, I could agree with Tim Smith that a lot of the laments are self-centered laments but we're sinners. Tim is right to note that the preferred Mars Hill approach to someone going through what David went through would be to say stop your whining, grow a pain, man up, and just plow forward. David doesn't do that. He whines ... and whines ... and whines ... and goes off interminably about how God has forsaken the covenant and broken His promises and forgotten Him. Wow, David would have been kicked out of Mars Hill years ago for bitching so much about how tough his life was. Couldn't he see everything that happened to him was a result of his not being man enough to admit to his sin? Actually, yeah, but Absalom was still doing terrible stuff.

Now my path to changing my perspective about the Psalms is still very much a process but alongside the consideration of the Psalms I have, if you have read this blog for a year or so (as if!) you will see that I have also spent a huge amount of time considering the history of Israel as instruction to God's people. To make a very uncomfortable point I have come to see my own failure to appreciate the Psalms as symptomatic of and synergistically reinforced by the failures of my church community over the last eight years. In other words my failure, having served on a ministry that answered questions on behalf of pastors at a church whose name you need not guess, demonstrated that I myself exemplified the failure of the leaders to address an entire genre of biblical literature just as that failure on their part also failed to correct my own weakness in the genre.

This isn't a case of either it's all my fault and doesn't reflect on Driscoll and the others or that it's all their fault. No, guilt and praise are shared in God's people. God praises the leaders and led alike and chastizes them alike for the same kinds of failures. So my failure to appreciate the Psalms reflected poorly on Mars Hill just as Mars Hill's total failure to teach from the psalms for a decade reflected poorly on me. It is this aspect about guilt and responsiblity that I see so few people for or against Mars Hill recognizing, which is why I have obviously spent such a monumental amount of time considering just that. The man with the speck in his eye and the man with the beam in his eye are both still unable to see.

It is popular to say that you must remove the beam from your eye so that you can help the man with the speck but many of us are more likely to justify ourselves or our party by saying, "Yeah, I have a speck in my eye but I don't have a beam." Jesus' rebuke to us is the same, you cannot see as you should and need to have your sight restored. Jesus isn't establish a relative sense of righteousness in the plank and speck even when people apply it that way. It is popular to say that something is a plank/speck issue without realizing that to frame it as a plank/speck issue you are admitting that you, too, hvae blinkered vision and cannot see as you ought. How many Christians who invoke that saying to tell someone else they are wrong consider that implication of the invocation?

At a church where the lead preaching pastor said he doesn't understand grace I'm less and less surprised Mars Hill was unable to help me come to an appreciation of the Psalms. Given the often truncated definition of what is truly masculine promoted most of all by Driscoll and to a lesser degree by others a man with the emotional highs and lows of David simply doesn't preach at Mars Hill. It's alo poetry of an ancient and obviously foreign type. Mars Hill is a church great at propositional truth statements and immensely weak in poetry. No surprise. Driscoll spent a lot of time seeing wifely strip teases and holy blow jobs in Song of Songs. He's not the poetic type which is why his sermons on poetry can be weak while his preaching on epistles and wisdom literature can be incredible. For his sake the Gospel of Luke, with its songs and narratives the defy reduction to sapiential bullet points, can't come soon enough. I'm going to risk saying something that will greatly annoy people and say that Driscoll should have stopped being a chicken and gone into Luke four years ago instead of 1 Corinthians. A church that is all about Jesus should get back to Jesus. 1 & 2 Peter is a step in the right direction, though.

I have been grateful for Mike Gunn's sermons on the Psalms, very grateful. They have reminded me of the kind of preaching Driscoll stopped doing a couple of years ago, possibly after getting a few book deals. If he comes back to being a pastor instead of a denominational leader who writes books from home and then goes on tours telling people how to plant churches like he did when all he has is a gift from Christ that may not be replicated ... well, it may be a bit much to hope for that.

I am glad Tim Smith preached from the Psalms. I am also glad that he admitted he had to change his attitude about the Psalms. If one of the pastors at Mars Hill, the worship pastor no less, admits he had a wrong attitude about the Psalms and his attitude was literally the same basic problem I had then it is helpful to me. It helps me to realize that I need to keep moving forward drawing on help from the resources God gives me that, in this case, have come from almost everywhere except Mars Hill. As the old folk saying has it, in the land of the blind the one-eyed man is king. Mars Hill has been blind to the Psalms and so have I been blind to them. So if pastors and teachers outside Mars Hill have one eye to bear on the subject then I listen to their teaching.

It sounds like the kind of overstatement I often disliked in the Psalms but I have continually struggled to recognize that something rudimentary called emotions play a giant part in life. I distrusted the Psalms because they invite us to read them and to take up those emotions as our own, to share in them or to let the Psalms correct us. I was so eager to only read that which revealed the voice of God I had no desire to acknowledge the voice of man and yet in the Psalms that paradox must be borne in mind at all times. Perhaps this is a failure evangelicalism and fundamentalism have had in America for generations. This has to be the inerrant word of God and everything it says is divinely inspired and true and exactly what that means in the Psalms can be explained later because we have another epistle to get through. :)

Having read Noll's book The Civil War as a Theological Crisis I have come to a renewed appreciation of how reductionist thinking and simplification have gotten American evangelicals into plenty of trouble. Some of my friends and associates have said that a big culprit in this is Calvinism, which drains the faith of all of its mystery. I don't think that Calvinism is necessarily the problem as certain kinds of Calvinists who are not content to articulate what the mysteries of the faith are but are dead set on ensuring that everyone can and must talk about the mysteries in the same way while avoiding any kind of creedal language (Piper? Driscoll? Maybe). A Calvinist like Stott or Wright (yes, he considers himself a Calvinist) don't have these problems because they're Anglican.

Now because I am a composer one of the ways I have decided to work out a continuing reappraisal and reformation of my thoughts and feelings on the Psalms, the renewal of my mind about them more or less, is to compose settings of the Psalms I can sing when I'm home. I have so far managed to set 1, 19, 100, 116 (in paraphrase), 133, and 137 to music. Composing settings for the text requires me to consider the emotional and theological content of the psalm. Composing also requires my heart and mind alike to meditate on the nature of the psalm before and as and after I have set a text to music. In order to adequately paraphrase a text I have to dig into it and understand it before I work on the music. Things like structure and the flow of ideas become paramount.

The discovery I made during my setting of Psalm 19 was that as I looked at the Psalm it became intuitively clear that the first half of the text dealt with general revelation through the creation, while the second half dealt with special revelation of God's name and character through the Torah. As a Christian I see this distinction as extending to the Word and my setting of Psalm 19 reflected that by replacing "Law" with "Word" because as I understand the scriptures they point to Christ, who is the Word. As I do not know Hebrew I did not realize that the Elohim/Yahweh distinction carries through the text of Psalm 19 yet as I set the psalm I began to discover that reflecting on it and setting it to music I had instinctively made the distinction as a Christian that Christians would see in the different designations for God in the psalm. God was nice to me and I made a lucky guess. :)

This is a long path and will last the rest of my life. There is a sense in which reconciling myself to the wild emotional swings of the Psalmists is a reconciliation I must make with my own emotional life, something I have often preferred to live at quite a remove from. Having been in a church culture that has had the man-up mentality I also realize that it has been easy to take a disdainful approach to emotional considerations and to alternate that with an obsessive preoccupation with them because there has not really been much of a balance on those issues.

This leads me to consider that I am symptomatic of and a consequence of problems in the community I have been part of. It is too easy for us as individual Christians to look to the group and impugn them for failure without considering how our own sin is representative of the sins of the community whether in deed or heart. It is this that I am most convicted of considering the eight or nine years I have spent with a particular church, having seen its highs and lows, having seen its strengths and weaknesses. And this applies to the group as well.

It can be easy to look at an individual and decide that he or she has sinned in a way that reveals their wicked heart without considering how the community condones or approves of or encourages particular weaknesses. We do not live in a society that really grasps shame or guilt. Guilt is the opportunity for a confession through a book deal and shame is an opportunity to be on a reality TV show. I don't mean to say like others that we have a culture of victimhood, that is too easy. No, I am saying that we are rarely awareof the synergistic effect of our sin with the sins of others.

Particularly as I have been at Mars Hill close to a decade I can see how former members might blame the community without recognizing their part in it just as I myself could easily suppose there is a culpability to the group that I am somehow exempted from. Yet it can go the other way, too, and that there are things a group or individual are responsible for that the other is not directly responsible for. The Psalms provide an opportunity for the confession of and the identification of individual as well as collective guilt and are written in such a way that both elements of confession of sin are prominent.

There is an element about the psalms pertaining to enemies that I might want to set up another post about.

Montanistic gnosticism in Protestantism?

http://principiumunitatis.blogspot.com/2009/02/gospel-and-paradox-of-glory.html



Bryan Cross has written that Michael Horton wrote a book In the Face of God, which he considers a great antidote to the tendency toward Montanistic gnosticism in evangelicalism and Protestantism. Being a Protestant, of course, I became curious to find out what this referred to. Plenty of evangelicals refer to things they don't like as gnostic and appeal to artificial dualism. Well, rest assured the vast majority of Protestants don't refer to Montanism and the closest thing a Protestant would come to getting any clue what it was without digging into church history would probably be reading a Dostoevsky novel. So, rest assured my Orthodox and Catholic comrades, I may be Protestant but I at least managed to hear about this term before Bryan Cross' reference to Montanism caught my eye. I just hadn't really considered what was meant by it. Had other fish to fry like getting a job and paying rent and the like.



However, I DO have a Pentecostal background and so I'm curious about variations of gnosticism that don't simply amount to Protestants labeling something as gnostic that they don't like such as on-line discussion forums about theology. :) In the last ten years I have found it to be a wonderful and absurdly hypocritical double standard that some Christians can speak, even with some qualification, against internet theologians discussing theological points but rationalizing a kind of "videology" in which it is disembodied to talk theology on a discussion forum in which all people are members of a church and yet it is not disembodied to have live video feed of a pastor where the same thing happens in effect but is merely one way in which a sort of evangelical equivalent of a papal pronouncement hapens.



http://www.geocities.com/metaphysics8/Apostolicity.html



The notion that one could send oneself, appealing directly to the Holy Spirit and bypassing the authority of the Apostles or those whom the Apostles had appointed, is a form of Montanistic gnosticism; it is a gnostic revision of 'apostolicity'.



Of course no Protestant would describe his or her calling as bypassing the authority of the apostles or those whom the apostles had appointed as gnosticism. But, for the sake of argument, if deciding you had a mystical experience in which you were called to be an apostle on the basis of no authentication other than your own personal experience and take on the Bible ... then I suppose at that point you could be described by any Catholic or Orthodox as a Montanist.



This statement in the article seems to put the case more strongly:

Jesus warns of gnostic revisions to apostolicity when He says, "yet if another comes in his own name, you will accept him." (John 5:43)



In other words, the argument is that literally any Protestant minister would be considered by this line of reasoning a Montanistic dualist. I don't see that Cross goes in this direction as such but, even as a Protestant who has a background in a Pentecostal church that veered into Latter Rain theology I can appreciate the need to articulate a concern about a Montanistic variation of gnosticism. Most people tend to define gnosticism more by way of its dualism than by way of its appeal to the need for special and exclusive knowledge that others cannot verify. If we go more toward this second definition of gnosticism than Montanistic gnosticism becomes easy to see in the calling of a variety of Protestant ministers, not least because a Protestant minister could appeal to a Holy Spirit experience which is in essence impossible to verify.



Arguably we cannot verify the word of God to call Abraham. At some point we must take on faith that things happened which occurred millenia in the past that we will never see. This is true not only of the life and death of Christ,w hom we have not seen, but also of Abraham, the father of the faith in terms of physical, human ancestry in this age.



I'm enough of a Protestant that I do believe God calls people to serve Him and that the Spirit enables people to serve in the cause of the Gospel. Yet I can appreciate there is cause for doubt that all who SAY they are called are necessarily called. There are, no doubt, possibly fraudulent ministers and ministries in the Catholic and Orthodox fold that despite the best efforts of church leadership flourish for a time ... but I also suspect that the odds of a Catholic or Orthodox ministry failing at the level of a Mike Warnke ministry in terms of fraud is low. I'll be honest and reflect my potentially great ignorance and say that it would seem that Mike Warnke type frauds in ministry seem the unique provence of Protestantism, while corrupt priests are, as it were, everywhere and no one gets to wag their fingers too much.



But, since I have not made any secret about having spent years at Mars Hill here in Seattle, would not Driscoll's account of his own calling be considered by Catholics or Orthodox the acme of a Montanist gnostic experience? Did pastors and teachers at Antioch Bible Church confirm his calling? That wouldn't count to Catholics or Orthodox of course, but there is a sense in which even among Protestants the gist of the calling experience would have to be considered self-authenticated or authenticated by the co-founding pastors Mike Gunn and Lief Moi. I'm not arguing that Driscoll isn't called but considering that when other streams of Christianity consider that Montanistic gnosticism is bad and that we must have some limit on how much some guy can show up out of nowhere and say "God told me to do X, Y and Z" so that people don't simply appoint themselves apostles little a or big A and start telling people how things should be.



As I have spent time reading Mark Noll's The Scandal of the Evangelical Mind I have come to realize that in many senses Driscoll, as much as I find many things to admire about him, embodies the continuation of the scandal of the evangelical mind Noll wrote about. Not on purpose, obviously, but in his populist approach appealing to what he considers to be common sense and having an activistic mission to reach the young men so that they will love Jesus, get jobs, get married, and make babies there is in essence a social mission to "redeem culture" in a way that resembles the last century of the evangelical status quo. It's no wonder the emergent/emerging experiment happened at the time that it did. I don't see that there's anythign new or innovative about it but it can look new to people who lack the necessary history.



I have not forgotten to work on more of the series in response to Anderson but I believe that examining the "scandal" of evangelicalism may be helpfully considered from other perspectives, particularly perspectives in Christianity that are not even evangelical. If someone were, say, to decide that Mark Driscoll was a destructive and damaging influence on today's young people (Macarthur's apparent take on Driscoll) as a Protestant Macarthur has no leg to stand on questioning the appropriateness of Driscoll's calling. Protestants HAVE to affirm that within some limits the concept that a person with the Bible and the calling of the Holy Spirit can go and be whatever he or she says God calls him or her to be. As Michael Spenser put it, Protestants finally don't WANT to solve the question or problem of authority. This could explain why on the blogosphere it seems that Protestants spend more time ripping on each other for compromising the Gospel than others, at least in my experience. People at Slice of Laeodicia don't have much else to do except say that other Protestants are somehow heretical and that God has given them a mission. It may be a Montanist mission with no verification other than their own egos and flawed reasoning ... but what is that to them or their fans? How would we know?



In other words, using Driscoll as an example, I have noticed that one of the central problems critics may have of him who identify themselves as Protestant is that there needs to be a lot of work done to establish a platform from which to say he is somehow errant in his teaching without doing so in a way that eviscerates the foundation of their own calling or training. It would amount to a he said God said vs he said God said or she said God said. Some of the people over the years who have been most critical of Driscoll (and I would not count myself one of them, for the record) have been even shakier than Driscoll on the subject of ecclesiology or the consideration of calling to ministry.



To attempt to imagine how this would look to Catholics or Orthodox where do Montanists get off calling other Montanists Montanists? If all the Protestants define their calling as some special calling moment by the Holy Spirit that no one else on earth can possibly verify but accept as an article of faith then at what point can you legitimately say someone else who makes such a claim can't make it while you can? Obviously by implication the scandal of evangelicalism from this tradition is that it exists at all rather than that it doesn't.



It seems as though the application of "if another comes in his own name you will accept him" is stretching things a lot, even in principle, when applied to Protestants. You could by that line of reasoning potentially apply it to Paul himself, which some nuttier types do. Apostolic witness to the validity of a ministry does seem important, and vital ... but the epistlemological problem seems common to us all. It is by faith that we accept that Yahweh made the worlds and that by Him we exist.



I say all this because I realize that in many respects what a Catholic might call a Montanist appraoch to identifying spiritual authority is something I have had in my life. Catholics would without hesitation have identified my mother as a Montanist of a peculiarly intense variety if by Montanist a person were to mean someone who believes God has identified them as having a particular or unique authority to speak in certain situations. In the more literal and historic definition of Montanism I would say very few people are Montanist the way the original name-bearers were. That is one of the many slippery things about references to doctrinal or heretical terms. Just as Protestants love to dub things "gnostic" that may not reflect key aspects of gnosticism so Catholics may love to dub things Montanistic that may not reflect more than one or two elements of the long-ago labelled heresy.


I have been told in various "prophetic" settings that God has a big call on my life or that I was called to ministry befoe I was born. I don't believe any of that stuff now, not if by that people simply meant that I would be a pastor or an evangelist or having some formal connection to a church and through that I did some kind of ministry. I served in a few capacities in ministries at Mars Hill for about five years before I got burned out but if the people who prophesied over me in my Pentecostal days thought I was called to serve in an important ministry roll I don't rally see that that happened. Serving where I can isn't the same as the kind of mega-future prediction stuff that has happened in charismatic/Pentecostal circles.

Over time I have come to appreciate the value of denominations. Mars Hill has become a denomination, the very thing Driscoll used to preach against. As a denominational head Driscoll has essentially become everything he preached against circa 2002-2004. He has no idea what is going on at any of the campuses he ostensibly preaches at but rarely visits. He makes a lot of decisions on teaching and writes books and, given Jared Wilson's observations about what Driscoll has said about his schedule, Driscoll is basically a stay-at-home dad who writes his sermons and books from home to help his wife raise their family. Since he is the bread-winner this apparently makes being a stay-at-home dad okay. It's only sinful to be a stay-at-home dad if the woman earns more money than you do based on a mishandled 1 Timothy 5, I guess.

Now I do happen to believe God called Mark Driscoll to ministry but the charge of Montanistic gnosticism from non-Protestants seems worth considering. It is in some sense the truest application of gnosticism, in that gnostics believe that you have to attain true, special, secret knowledge God directly reveals to you and not necessarily to other people. Paradoxically the entirety of Mars Hill's formation could be thought to be based on one guys' Montanistic gnostic experience. No one else was a witness to God's telling Driscoll he should marry Grace, plant a church, and train young men. Of course, Cattholics can't explain why Moses or Abraham weren't ALSO Montanistic gnostics! The epistlemological problem just won't go away and it is, after all, a question of faith.

For me what might seem questionable or problematic about Driscoll's own testimony about himself was that Mike Gunn and Lief Moi were on board. If the church had just been Driscoll's baby I wouldn't have joined. Driscoll's character flaws were and are far too easy to observe to warrant joining the church God told him to plant.

In fact it was the witness of Mike and Lief's participation that was able to persuade me that Driscoll was not coming in his own name, even when early preaching indicated to me that Driscoll's good news was a "ploughing a counterculture" that was nothing much more than a Jesus-approved middle-class whitebread suburban American dream in which people married, bought homes, and built families to "redeem culture" for Jesus. Obviously I have grown skeptical about that, more so than when I first attended Mars Hill. It's not that family or suburban life are bad ... it's that I'm at a stage in my life where I am reassessing everything about my walk with Christ. Obviously I put a lot into the unique calling claim of leaders at Mars Hill. I staked a lot on that, too much it now seems. Let's just say that I trust enough in the goodness of Christ to trust He has a purpose in Driscoll's actions, words, and character bad and good alike, but that I am not sure where the future leads.

My own gnostic problem, if you will, is that I want to know what I'm getting into. Mars Hill essentially promised that. The goals and ambitions and beliefs and expectations were all spelled out. Even when those changed over time they were spelled out. Driscoll wasn't always a Calvinist and eventually he became a calvinist of the sort who would joke that Arminianism and Pelagianism are really pretty much the same if you look at them. That isn't quite the Driscoll people hear preaching now, is it? He was the sort of fellow who around 2001 and 2002 would say that guys have expiration dates and if they don't get married by 30 funky things happen to them. Thanks, Mark, I appreciate that. :) This will tie in to part 7 of the still in-progress series.

I have been a Christian pretty much my whole life. I couldn't say I have been a particularly great Christian but I have been a Christian. I have read me plenty of Schaeffer and Lewis and some Bonhoeffer and Augustine and Piper and Wright and Noll and Guyon and Fee and Nee and Stott and Packer and a variety of other Christian writers. Of course I have also read the Bible most of my life and there is no book that I keep coming back to as I have come back to the bible. Okay, The Brothers Karamazov is a book I revisit every so often and I read The Right Stuff a dozen times but in the end the Bible is the book I love most and struggle the most to understand because it is the book that points toward Christ. However bad I may often be Christ is, I remind myself, the purpose of life and the source of life.

The older I get the more I realize how many idols I have clung to. One of those idols can be the uniqueness of the calling of spiritual leaders of guys like Driscoll. You could insert your favorite preacher or teacher in there. This doesn't invalidate the call of the spiritual leader so much as provide a rebuke to you for placing them in a position, even for a moment, in which you trust in their calling as equivalent to Christ installing that person. For Catholics and Orthodox apostolic succession clears things up. There is a visible institution through which the torch can be passed or the ability to preach and teach is given. Protestants, obviously, don't have that in any formalized sense. I think that the calling of Abram should remind us that this is a step of faith ... yet the physical lineage of Abraham still served its purpose as an identifier of who was in the family of God.

I may be Protestant but I do appreciate the challenge of the question that is asked on the issue of Montanistic gnosticism--are you really called by God to do this or that just because you say so? If I have found in my life that Pentecostals telling me I'm called to marry this woman or to be in that ministry isn't true even when they have claimed implicitly or explicitly that the word of the Lord has come to them, then surely a person would understand that there are times when I hear people sy "God called me to do this or that" and I find myself asking, "Really?" It's not meant out of disrespect. When you grow up in a denominational background where Jim Bakker's sex and money scandals happened, when you attend a church where the leader didn't balance the calling account he had with his cessationism in practice it's the kind of blatant inconsistency and contradiction that is impossible to reconcile. Even now that some consistency has been attained it doesn't mean there is a total certainty about things. I am not sure that total certainty is part of the deal now.