When we want water, we go into the kitchen, turn on the faucet, and water comes out of the spout. When we have all we want for the moment, we turn off the faucet. When we want more, we repeat this same simple procedure.
Faucet theology works in an analogous way. When we want the Holy Spirit, we turn on the faucet of prayer and expect all the Spirit we want. When we are satisfied for the moment, we ignore the Spirit, as we do the water in the pipes, until we want more.
Like all false theologies, we can find verses in the Bible which seem to support this one. During his Sermon on the Mount, for example, Jesus himself says, “Ask, and it will be given to you; seek, and you will find; knock, and it will be opened for you” (Matthew 7:7, English Standard Version, here and following). To the seventh church of seven, Jesus also wrote, “‘Behold, I stand at the door and knock. If anyone hears my voice and opens the door, I will come in and eat with him, and he with me’” (Revelation 3:20). At first glance, both these verses seem to support faucet theology: like the water in the pipes, Jesus is always there; if we need some help, we have only to turn on the faucet by asking or opening.
Like all false theologies, this one ignores other relevant biblical verses. To the first church of seven, Jesus wrote, “‘But I have this against you, that you have abandoned the love you had at first. Remember therefore from where you have fallen: repent, and do the works you did at first. If not, I will come to you and remove your lampstand from its place, unless you repent’” (Revelation 2:4-5). In other words, if they did not repent, they might continue to exist but would no longer be an assembly of God.
Around 720 BC, the ten northern tribes forming the Kingdom of Israel were swept from history. Having long abandoned Yahweh, Yahweh finally abandoned them. Shortly before they disappeared, Yahweh had this to say to them: “Behold, the days are coming,” declares the Lord GOD, “when I will send a famine on the land—not a famine of bread, nor a thirst for water, but of hearing the words of the LORD” (Amos 8:11).
We live in such a period of sustained silence today. Fifty years ago, Jacques Ellul put it this way in his book, Hope in Time of Abandonment:
At the opening of Church meetings, of ministerial, regional or national councils, at the opening of the working sessions, one always begins with ‘prayer.’ Very often the Holy Spirit is invoked. I believed in it for a number of years and prayed fervently—then finally one has to succumb to experience. Our passive deliberations, our mediocre decisions, our petty psychologies, our meetings which are a deadly bore, our false problems, our serious concern for questions which do not exist, our inability to go ahead joyously and out in the open, our secret churlishness and our feigned composure, our justifications and our paralysis—it all bears irrefutable witness that the Holy Spirit is not there (135).
The faithful witness of Christians and Church has only continued to decline since then.
Certainly God may respond lavishly to all we ask. Of course, at any given moment, Jesus may be just waiting for us to open up and let him in. But faucet theology is false. The relationship of God—Father, Son, and Holy Spirit—to us, and of us to God, is a dynamic one. Right now is one of those times, spoken through Amos, in which God is silent. God isn’t waiting for us. No begging and opening, nothing we can do, will make any difference today. Right now, God is silent, so thousands of churches continue to exist but no longer as assemblies of God. Thousands of others which once existed have already disappeared. Right now, we have to wait for a new unconditioned initiative on God’s part. We have to wait in the same way that God’s people had to endure God’s silence until God himself sent John the Baptist to prepare them to receive his son. May he come soon.
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