31 July 2006

A quick beef

by Frank Turk

Well, I was reading Adrian Warnock’s last real post on the cessationist/continualist thing, and because I just can’t let Dan have all the fun, let me report that I read this from the meritorious Dr. Warnock:
I would love to challenge the TeamPyro guys . . . and the rest of us (including myself) — When was the last time you experienced such an impact of the Word of God brought to life by the Spirit of God?

Have you ever experienced the weight, and at the same time the lightness, of the presence of God when a truth comes to life that you feel you might (or indeed you actually do!) fall down laughing?

This experience of being overwhelmed by the vastness of the grace and love of God is one I believe is right to seek and to cry out to God for. Do you agree with that? Is it unfair of me to make the accusation that far too many of us — including those of us who claim to be charismatics — fail to seek experiences of God with sufficient passion? Could the weakness of our passions explain the weakness of our Christianity?
And let me come clean with something: I’m one of those guys who wishes that God would manifest something in the off-the-chain miraculous way that he did with Paul and Peter.

I admit it: I’d love that. In a way I covet that – because think of how stupid that would make Christianity debunkers look! Man, that’d be cool …

… which is exactly, I think, why God doesn’t do it all the time. That’s not a “turn with me to Scripture” argument – it’s a “confession of a lazy man who loves Christ” argument. I know God doesn’t want me to have a ton of faith in some at-best tertiary event relative to the Gospel because, as a lazy man, I’d point to that miracle instead of Christ to talk about my faith.

What a jerk I’d be if I had a real miracle on video tape!

Now seriously: Dr. Warnock is not that kind of jerk. But his challenge, above, does something almost as bad: it assumes that because the members of TeamPyro haven’t (yet) disclosed any of their most-intimate moments with God, they haven’t had any.

Personally, I think that’s a brash claim to divert away from the issue at hand – which is, what exactly is the charismatic thing good for if it is not specifically a revelation of the Holy Spirit which the believe ought to hang some kind of hope on?

If you’d like me to blog some of my most intimate experiences with God in His word, I’ll be glad to do that – I don’t do it now because it seems sort of exhibitionistic to me. But if that’s going to point the cessationist/continualist discussion back at the use of these gifts and whether we can trust them or not – and whether they are from God or some other source, be it man’s heart or something else – then I will be glad to do it.

Stay tuned.








25 comments:

Taliesin said...

Good points, as the Bible shows that miracles did not serve to turn people to Jesus in His person, but for the miracle.

One example is in the Gospel of John where I'm amazed (again) at how fleeting the impact of a miracle seems to be. Jesus feeds the 5000 and next day they find Him because they are interested in being fed. When He tries to refocus them on spiritual matters they ask Him what sign He's going to do to prove who He is (John 6:1-31). Hello? Five loaves, two fishes, 5000 men (who knows how many women and children) - what more do you want?

So if God did a miracle in our midst, would it really change our lives?

centuri0n said...

Tal --

I think there's an important fact in all of this: there's no question that, for example, on the day of pentecost the miracles served to prove the faith of many.

But was it the miracles which made men believe, or was their belief itself a miracles among the signs and wonders?

Listen: I honestly believe in the work of the Holy Spirit in an express and perpetual way -- on the hearts of men. The "second birth? pheh," which is implicit in the non-cessationist position really bothers me because it places the "tongues of angels" as the sine qua non when in fact the change of heart, the effectual calling of the Holy Spirit is in fact the point.

I know, I know: nobody has openly said "second birth? pheh." Least of all, Adrian Warnock. I just don't get the fixation on tongues or prophecy or what I was supposed to eat for lunch when, for example, I need the Spirit's help to tame my vicious tongue in English.

Carla said...

"… which is exactly, I think, why God doesn’t do it all the time. That’s not a “turn with me to Scripture” argument – it’s a “confession of a lazy man who loves Christ” argument. I know God doesn’t want me to have a ton of faith in some at-best tertiary event relative to the Gospel because, as a lazy man, I’d point to that miracle instead of Christ to talk about my faith."

Bingo.

I can't say that all charismatics are this way, but the church I used to be a part of was definitely experience-driven. The basic understanding was, that if you hadn't experienced one of these larger than life emotional/spiritual/profound experiences, either you 1. hadn't had one (and likely lacked faith) or 2. simply were not as devoted as you should have been.

There was a lot of pressure there to conform to the whole "experience" of the Holy Spirit then also testify of what He was doing in your life (to encourage others to have these kinds of experiences).

I couldn't keep up, I just wanted to study my Bible and figure out what I was supposed to be doing/saying/thinking as a new believer.

Kim said...

No, Frank, I don't want to read about your personal moments with God. I think I'll let you have those all to yourself.

I've often wondered if part of the wish to have certain "experiences" doesn't often come to some because of their tempmerament. I've never desired to have any such "experiences" but that doesn't mean I don't have passion. I have a great passion for my family, for teaching the word of God, for my children. But I don't have to go looking for "experiences" to know that. Yet, there are clearly others who feel they need to have them.

Gavin said...

How would you define an experience of God?

In Adrians quote - it appears that Adrian restricts an experience of God to only some sort of emotional high.

I would much rather God to control my tongue and temper and give me a more Christlike character than give me an emotional high. That is the kind of experience of God that I am always seeking.


(God may yet do a miracle in our midst. Example: When Adrian returns from holidays he is going to read all these posts on tongues. The Holy Spirit will convict him of sin for attributing a lot of charismatic nonsense as works of the Holy Spirit. Then Adrian will repent, renounce the charismatic movement - leave new frontiers church and join the Metropolitan Tabernacle ;-) )

David B. Hewitt said...

Frank, that was excellent.

Indeed, I got the same impression when I read Dr. Warnock's quote. I don't remember ever falling down laughing when God has impressed upon me a powerful spiritual truth, but there have been some wonderful moments with my Heavenly Father of great joy, often accompanied by a tear or two.

I also agree with you on the issue of needing the Spirit to "tame [our] vicious tongues in English." I've never been one to cuss, but I've been unusually harsh lately for some reason... May God forgive me, rebuke me, and correct this awful attitude that's been plaguing me.

Thank you for being part of the instrument that God used to remind me of that, and to drive me to prayer and repentance once again. :)

SDG,
DBH

Jim Crigler said...

1. I had an experience of laughter just yesterday when I was reading Doug Wilson's chapter on Irresistable Grace in After Darkness, Light, a small volume of essays dedicated to R.C. Sproul. (This also serendipitously ties back to Frank's mention of Effectual Call.) Was it holy laughter? You decide: D.W. (who once called Frank "that young man" when thinking about Frank's exploration of the early church fathers' writings on baptism) wrote, "Birth is another irresistable process. As writers in another time would have said, the present writer was born in 1953. I do not recall being consulted about this in 1952, and I have it on good authority that this is because I was not there."

2. Frank wrote, "what exactly is the charismatic thing good for if it is not specifically a revelation of the Holy Spirit which the [believer] ought to hang some kind of hope on? [emphasis added]" If we don't watch out, this could actually lead to Phil's picking up of the previously hijacked thread on personal revelation. I'm waiting for specifics on deviations from Scripture that Gothard and Blackaby attest to personal revelation ...

Garry Geer said...

Let me approach this from a slightly different angle. How does experience tie in with our sanctification? How does such experiences as being discussed transform us so that we are like Christ?

I think that our desire for experience, may in part, be a desire for a watershed moment in our sanctification. We desire a magic bullet, or an epiphany. This is not to say that God does not grant that sometimes, but the majority of the time sanctification is a sea change. It happens over time, composed of hundreds of small decisions. Most of the time we don't know that change has happened until well after the fact.

Gummby said...

If you’d like me to blog some of my most intimate experiences with God in His word, I’ll be glad to do that – I don’t do it now because it seems sort of exhibitionistic to me.

Sort of a "Here's where I'm at right now...with God."

Mega dittos from the Rock.

I know God doesn’t want me to have a ton of faith in some at-best tertiary event relative to the Gospel because, as a lazy man, I’d point to that miracle instead of Christ to talk about my faith.

But in fairness to Dr. Warnock, Baptists do have their own version of an experience, right? Walking the aisle. And, in its own way, it is no less an experiential exercise than the other (though there tends to be more weeping than laughing).

Rusty said...

Excellent post!

sparrowhawk said...

That is exactly what Adrian is doing: Pointing to Experience to validate truth claims and the ability to really know God. Henry Blackaby does the same thing in Experiencing God. How 'bout that: Continuals and Southern Baptists do share things in common.

Sojourner said...

Frank, I'm irked with you and I'm not even a Pyro. I'll tell you why that this aggravates me, since I know you're probably wondering.

1. The sort of thing that Dr. Warnock appeals to here is a death-trap to spiritual health.

Who in the world thinks that they have been 'intimate' enough with God lately? If we are judging our faithfulness by how often God tickles our emotional funnybone, we will be a most miserable people indeed. And what does this lead to? I believe that it leads to a legalistic slavery wherein we seek to offer up works to God so He will do something to us to make us "feel" Him.

2. It irks me because God IS being intimate with me even when I'm not thinking about Him.

Here are a few set up points.

a. He died for me while I was a sinner.

b. Before forming me in the womb, He had plans for me.

c. When I read the Scripture this morning, God was working whether I felt moved or not.

d. Today, God has ordained things to come to pass in my life that will ultimately conform me to the image of His Son, even if I didn't cry or laugh in my quiet time...or even do it.

This brings me to proper emotion and affection. I am moved by what I just wrote. I am moved, yes, because I neglect God, and yet He has never for a nano-second neglected me. If this is what Dr. Warnock means, then I'm on board with that. But if he means that I have to read and read words until a page until I finally move the Holy Spirit to bless me, then I'm irked about that in a way that is more irksome that blabbering gibberish.

Mike Y said...

Frank,

Great post! And I think you summed up what I was feeling too. Whether or not God wants to manifest himself a particular way is quite up to him. But what's the purpose.

I keep hearing about these gifts with the purpose of edifying the practitioner. I find zero examples of this in scripture. And Paul had to be given all sorts of afflictions just to keep him humble. When was the last time you heard someone pray for boils or runny eyes?

I know I would certainly decrease in humility if God ever did such a thing for me. All of a sudden I'd be carrying a picture bible. See, here's an illustration of me...

Anyway, I'm growing increasingly content if God just happens to take just one of the awkward things I might write or say and use it to help someone.

Again, great post and thanks for not overwhelming us with a ton of quotes.

Sojourner said...

See how weird the English language can be? I'm not irked with you in the sense that I'm irked at you. Rather, I am irked along side you. I am further irked at my inability to communicate in known tongues.

Steven Dresen said...

I'd say we're wrong on all sides. The real root of all this fighting is that we don't have communion with God, before you puff yourself up and say that you do read these two quotes by Jonathan Edwards about his communion with Christ and the Holy Spirit, the see if we really have that in the church today:

Once, as I rode out into the woods for my health, in 1737, having alighted from my horse in a retired place, as my manner commonly has been, to walk for divine contemplation and prayer, I had a view that for me was extraordinary, of the glory of the Son of God, as Mediator between God and man, and his wonderful, great, full, pure and sweet grace and love, and meek and gentle condescension. This grace that appeared so calm and sweet, appeared also great above the heavens. The person of Christ appeared ineffably excellent with an excellency great enough to swallow up all thought and conception ... which continued as near as I can judge, about an hour; which kept me the greater part of the time in a flood of tears, and weeping aloud. I felt an ardency of soul to be, what I know not otherwise how to express, emptied and annihilated; to lie in the dust, and to be full of Christ alone; to love him with a holy and pure love; to trust in him; to live upon him; to serve and follow him; and to be perfectly sanctified and made pure, with a divine and heavenly purity. I have, several other times, had views very much of the same nature, and which have had the same effects.

I have many times had a sense of the glory of the third person in the Trinity, in his office of Sanctifier; in his holy operations, communicating divine light and life to the soul. God, in the communications of his Holy Spirit, has appeared as an infinite fountain of divine glory and sweetness; being full, and sufficient to fill and satisfy the soul; pouring forth itself in sweet communications; like the sun in its glory, sweetly and pleasantly diffusing light and life. And I have sometimes had an affecting sense of the excellency of the word of God, as a word of life; as the light of life; a sweet, excellent life­giving word; accompanied with a thirsting after that word, that it might dwell richly in my heart.

troutdude said...

Can't other things be moved besides emotion? It would seem to me that when the Holy Spirit convicts me, my will and character change. I may not laugh at that prospect, but I need Him to keep doing that sort of work in me!

SolaMeanie said...

Mind if I throw in a few remarks here? I generally avoid disputes between charismatics and Pentecostals (yes, there is a difference), and non-C-Ps, but this particular thread highlights something really important.

Jesus said that an evil and adulterous generation seeks after a sign. (No, I am not calling Adrian or charismatics evil and adulterous. I am talking about a larger issue Jesus is addressing). When we look at how the children of Israel responded over time when God directly manifested Himself and some pretty awesome miracles, we should ask whether we are any different? Given human nature, even the miraculous becomes passe after a while.

Look at the signs and wonders performed by the Apostles. They certainly confirmed the Word by these signs, but I don't think the signs were the centerpiece of their ministry. The Word of God was the centerpiece. So much emphasis gets placed on having these sign gifts. Although it isn't said directly, the implication is that the Christian life isn't as fulfilling, powerful or exciting without them. Why are we so bored with Scripture? Aren't the little miracles God grants us every day sufficient? The fact that I can draw breath each day is a miracle in and of itself.

I don't mean to say that God cannot perform anything miraculous. In fact, while I have LOTS of differences with my charismatic brothers and sisters, it seems to me that those arguing against the gifts do so more from a historical perspective than what is actually in the text of Scripture (and I am open/teachable on this question). I did fellowship at a Pentecostal church for several years, and while the one I was at was considerably more formal than the TBN-style charismatic free-for-all, I still saw things that did not in my mind jive with Scripture. So I walked away from it all and am much more comfortable in the Reformed camp.

I should also point this out as to the so-called "Holy Laughter" movement. I cannot think of anything in Scripture that justifies such behavior. Some of the more extreme stuff reported a few years back included people barking like dogs. If true, it ought to raise a big red flag, because the only time a human being manifested animal behavior in Scripture was either demonic or in divine judgment.

I really think we need to stop running to the latest fad out there, and stop searching for some heady experience we can have without popping Vicodin. If we immerse ourselves in Scripture, hiding the Word of God in our hearts and walking with God in true fellowship (including prayer), we might be amazed at some of the experiences He brings our way. Some of them might even be in plain English.

Phil Johnson said...

For the record, every experience I have is an experience of the presence of God. Seriously.

That even applies to the kind of stuff I posted about today. God is at work even in life's irritants. And the glorious thing is that He is using them for my good.

I have often said I think the root of our charismatic firends' itching after miraculous experiences is a deficient understanding of divine Providence.

Selah.

Bunyan said...

Your note reminded me of 2 Corinthians 12:1-10. Paul evidently had quite an experience to tell, which he refused to do for fourteen years. He gives the reason why in 12:6. Then he adds another experience, which was no way pleasant, which he wanted not to experience, but by which he finally found an even better experience of the abiding grace of God on his life to persevere.
JOhn

donsands said...

Good thoughts in the post and comments.

I agree with Phil, that our Lord's sovereign hand is constantly upon His elect.
Isn't everything called by God to work for our good, the elect, those who love the Lord. Rom 8:28

I love to laugh. I love to watch the Three Stooges with my grandson and laugh.

I love to get together with friends and have some wholesome fun.

I also like to gather with the body of Christ as they did in Acts 2:42

SolaMeanie said...

Phil,

You have my deep sympathies not only for the technical issues (give me my old Royal manual typewriter any day), but also for the ants.

I note that in your post following mine, you used the word "irritant" together with what I am considering a Freudian typo:

"charismatic firends' itching"

Note the juxtaposition of "firends" (fire ants?) with "itching."

This invasion of insects must be a much larger problem than you are revealing. Perhaps one of biblical proportions?

Anyway, the sympathy vibrations are very strong. I am scratching and squirming even as I type this, and will soon go hunting for a tube of cortisone.

centuri0n said...

I have this feeling that this post and its meta are going to irritate Dr. Warnock more than telling him his affirmations of gifts subverts the theology of Scripture.

Sam H. said...

I would love to challenge the TeamPyro guys . . . and the rest of us (including myself) — When was the last time you experienced such an impact of the Word of God brought to life by the Spirit of God?

Have you ever experienced the weight, and at the same time the lightness, of the presence of God when a truth comes to life that you feel you might (or indeed you actually do!) fall down laughing?

I seek these "experiences" in a tangential, if not serendipitous way. I.e., I don't seek the experience, but I seek God out in His Word. Just today, my bride and I were studying Heb 1--and I was absolutely floored by it. Even felt joyful, as we interpreted and worked to understand God's Word. I didn't seek the "experience", we were seeking His face through His Word. The study and the resulting realization of the enormity and result of the truths brought great joy. I did not need a new revelation, just the Spirit's illumination. Thanks be to God that His Word and His Spirit are sufficient!

Rob Steele said...

Seems to me that comparing personal encounters like A.W. wants is like comparing circumcision scars (How many stitches did you get?) The focus is on the wrong thing. Paul didn't seem to think it was a good idea to dwell on them (nth heaven, vission of surpassing glory, etc.) Still, A.W.'s description is pretty moving.

Taliesin said...

Frank,

The "second birth? pheh," which is implicit in the non-cessationist position really bothers me because it places the "tongues of angels" as the sine qua non

What this reminds me of, not just with Pentecostal/Charismatics but even with "two-stepper" holiness people, is the emphasis on a major "sanctification" event. Which can (but does not always) lead away from a daily exercise of learning to walk in the Spirit. This, by itself, doesn't mean the position is wrong, but is a warning for those that would hold to that view of the Christian life.

I would love for there to be one (or two) more cataclysmic event in my life that means I wouldn't struggle with sin anymore. But in my reading of Scripture, that event is crossing the River Jordan and entering the Promised Land.