Before launching into today's topic, let me mention a few links. Bob Estes is a physicist and former atheist, now a person of faith. He's a super-thoughtful blogger on the subject who, along with this post--which explains his journey into and out of atheism--presents an engaging exchange of posts with bloggers on the "friendly atheist" site. Fun reading, if that's your interest.
Also I had probably my most enjoyable radio interview yet with Debbie Chavez, who has an internet show. She's cheerful and chatty and seemed to have read the book enough that she could engage in some fun give and take. Her archives, where you'll find my interview, also have conversations with folks like John Eldredge.
I should probably keep a permanent posting here on these stages of faith that M. Scott Peck proposed in Further Along the Road Less Traveled and that I talk about in my book. I suspect they'll be a recurring theme here. In brief, the theory is that in an ideal world we'd all progress concurrently through certain emotional and spiritual stages. But most of us get stuck along the way. Stage 1 he defines as criminal and would correspond to being a toddler. Folks here end up in jail or in power. Stage 2 he defines as rules-based, and would correspond to being perhaps 6 or 7 when you want to please mom and dad. Peck argues most churches fit here, helpfully explaining the rules of life, of being a good or bad person. Stage 3 he defines as rebellious, which corresponds to being a teenager. Here you question why the rules you've been taught are actually the rules of life. University cultures might typify stage 3, along with secular culture. Stage 4 he calls mystical. Here you recognize that what you were taught in Stage 2 might well be true, but in a much different, less-certain, more open-ended way that throws you back on a living, guiding God.
The posts at notreligious have bandied about whether the Lakeland Revival fits into Stage 4. On the one hand, if it' s not mystical, what is? Clearly we're dealing with a communicative, active God here. On the other hand, by and large the preaching fits into conventional, conservative Pentecostal culture, which would seem a neat fit into Stage 2. On the other other hand, many Stage 2 Christian leaders have criticized Todd Bentley and others there for what some might regard as their out-of-the-box thinking.
Perhaps we shouldn't care. People are getting healed and encouraged to find more fervor in God, so what's the possible beef with that, whatever alleged "stage" the meetings might fit? And fair enough.
I have more-detailed conjectures on how Todd Bentley might fit into this paradigm...but somehow writing them down seemed priggish and pointless. Maybe the bigger point is that Stage 2 and Stage 4 can coexist nicely in settings where God's spirit is encouraged. It seems to me we never want to do anything other than celebrate when the power and presence of God is evident. And we also don't want to let what some might regard as defiantly Stage 2 trappings rob us of this experience of God. If both stages are at work, it seems in our interest to find what's Stage 4 and receive it and celebrate it.
A final note from Marlster, commenting at notreligious.org:
Interesting to link Lakeland to Scott-Peck-stages. Seems like the criteria for stage 2 is outside (getting someone to follow beliefs) and stage 4 on inside (living values from the inside). ...So where does Lakeland fall? Hard to say but I get the same comments from folks who watch it every night: we want more of that intensity in our life (good) but we need all of you other church folks to comply (social reinforcement needed) otherwise we get frustrated and keep going to conferences to get our fix.