The home video market has drastically changed the manner in which we experience entertainment. In former days, an evening’s entertainment required a collective setting amidst dozens of similar consumers, all clamoring for satisfaction from a shared encounter with the art form on display. Whether the entertainment would be labeled good or not hinged largely on the collective response. In fact, I might find myself enthralled by the performance, but temper my expression of pleasure if those around me didn’t view the event similarly. Conversely, if everyone around me applauded wildly, I might wonder at my own ignorance for any ambivalent feelings I might have otherwise possessed.
Today, one need not file into a massive auditorium to experience the same genre. But viewing the entertainment in my own private setting manufactures a completely different experience. I am not jostled by the press of others, nor do I find myself swayed by their interpretations or reactions. At the same time, I cannot benefit from their collective insights because the only response in the room is my own. The next day’s comment on my experience runs the risk of being countered by a wiser or more vocal majority.
One might refer to the difference in these experiences as a matter of perspective. That difference, however, seems more pronounced than a matter of mere vantage point. The entire event feels different because the arena of focus and presentation is fully distinct. It’s with that same sense of diversity of focus that I view Paulin-Campbell’s presentation of discerning of spirits. But, while a charismatic approach to the subject of discernment conjures images of the proverbial apples-to-oranges comparison, I am convinced we will find both fruits—Ignatian and charismatic approaches to this topic—quite tasty.
01. A Crowded mirror
Among charismatics, the issue of discernment of spirits often draws a crowd. Now we needn’t liken or limit the focus to a dusty tent where a microphoned seer identifies and rebukes a plethora of evil intenders in the spirit realm. The issue of discerning spirits is, however, more often a corporate idea for the charismatic.
In the Apostle Paul’s listing of those ways in which the Holy Spirit equipped the Church (1 Corinthians 12), the charismatic sees community and the Spirit’s need to inform that community with direction and information not otherwise available. Indeed, Paul’s focus was the correction of Corinth’s abuses in their collective settings. As such, the gifts distributed by the Spirit are often deemed to have that same community focus. For a people who find meaning and life-altering reality in public experience over introspection, the experience of determining the nature and source of influencing spirits drifts toward the external or even the environmental. The atmosphere of the moment, the experience, the reality of God’s presence is more often a group encounter where evil seeks to hinder and good bids the hesitant to enter in. Surely the individual impact is measurable and significant, but the focus is more often concerned with evaluating the properness of other expressed gifts or protecting the right work of God’s Spirit in the room as a whole.