Reacting To New And Powerful Spiritual Experiences New and powerful spiritual experiences often activate the fight or flight response. The result is over-reaction, division, fear and anxiety. I hope you can see that there is no place for angry, reactionary responses or panic stricken flight from strong emotions or unusual spiritual experiences. Flapping around wildly is not the correct response. Rather we need to analyze that emotion or experience in the light of Scripture holding to what is good and rebuking that which is evil. Discernment is a mastery response not a fight or flight response.
Because we are creatures and not the Creator we have a certain inbuilt dread and fear of the numinous. The old writers talk of “the dread of God”. The powerful and the spiritual evoke emotional reactions within us and those reactions are often immature. We become reactive and fearful unable to cope with emotions and experiences that are unfamiliar to us. Instead, when evaluating a new teaching or experience we should say “I’m a mature person with a good brain and I know the Scriptures fairly well, I’ll just sit back and watch, I’ll hold to the good bits I find here and reject the junk, I don’t have to fear what’s going on. I’ll pray for protection and discernment, stay within my boundaries and work it out as I go along.”
We can need to accept that we are complex creatures with complex emotions in a complex world created by a God far beyond our comprehension and that sometimes we will encounter things that rattle and disturb us. We need to accept the experience “as is” then evaluate it in the light of Scripture, holding to the good and discarding what is of evil.
Avoiding a black and white stance where its got to be “all of God” or “all of the Devil” is important. People who take black and white stances lump people into one category or the other and thus have very blunted discernment. This leads often to damaging evaluations and serious mistakes in judgment. Jesus never named an opponent or launched a personal attack against an individual Rather in every debate He found the good (do what the Pharisees tell you) and dismissed the evil (but do not do as they do). See Matthew 23:2,3
Lets apply this. Suppose you hear a sermon that is in major error what should you do? Leave the church and never return (flight) or talk to everyone indignantly and start a church split (fight) or seek a peaceful but powerful solution (mastery)? The person with a good biblical EQ would work out carefully what was incorrect and then talk it over with their pastor and if he or she did not respond would take the matter to other responsible leaders in the church in a peaceful and caring fashion.
To give a further teaching example how should we react to a false teacher like Bishop John Spong? A wise approach is to write against the wrong doctrine without attacking the person. We can defend the truth and expose the error without engaging in personal attacks or feeling overwhelmed by heresy. The emotionally competent Christian should never fight (do not resist him who is evil) nor should we flee (when you have done all, stand) rather we should demonstrate courage, self-mastery, integrity, power and competence when various challenging doctrinal situations arise.