26 March 2007

Voices in our Heads

by Frank Turk

Before you start reading this, let me be clear that I am writing this to Christians in general, and to a particular set of Christians specifically, and in that, I am assuming they have a basic facility with the arguments and/or doctrines included. Therefore, I haven't peppered the text with Scripture citations. Some of you will find that a gross sin of omission. Be forewarned.

Those who check out my blog know that I have already taken a poke at Adrian Warnock over a John Piper link he wanted someone at TeamPyro to talk about, and I thought that was enough because, frankly, I don't much enjoy the cessationist/continualist discussion -- not just here at TeamPyro, but wherever it springs up.

It seems like red meat, doesn't it? You'd think a guy like me would love to get out the steak knife and the fork, get the grill exactly the right temperature, sear the subject on both sides until the middle is hot but not yet less than crimson, and then even without a salad or baked potato dig in with gusto for the warm, salty pleasure of the hot, red meat of doctrine that the cessationist discussion regularly turns up.

Yeah, well, if that discussion ever turned into a real debate where neither side misrepresented the other, I'd be in. Until that day, I'm going to speak to the scope of the matter at hand and so be it. For the record, Dan is concerned that he never has misrepresented the continualists, and he probably has not, but as I read all the exchanges, I am sure they do not think this is true. If that's a topic that needs more meat on the bone, take it to the meta.

Adrian sent this e-mail to TeamPyro about the Piper "Taste and See" essay "The Morning I Heard the Voice of God":
Hi Guys
I think this Piper article on hearing the voice of God deserves a response from you guys. (just in case you have missed it tho I know Dan has commented over at Tim's I have a link in my most recent blog post here at my blog).

There is some interesting discussion going on as a result with both charismatics and cessationists trying to claim Piper as "one of their own" from this post. I think we are in danger of missing his point. Would be fantastic if you too could link to this Piper article from pyro, would love to see what you and your readers feel.

God bless

Adrian
Well, we did that a long time ago (4 days ago, which is like 172800 seconds ago in blog years), and I have done it again in this post, so if that's all we're looking for, done and Done.

But that's never enough, is it? Adrian has added this spicy PS:
PS this is what I said in the comment section of mine, Tim's and Justin's blogs- when I realized that people seem to be reading this in very different ways. I didn't want to say anything in my actual post that would spoil the surprise element of the way in which Piper writes this article...

For me, I think that Pipers article has a lot to say to those of us on both sides of the cessationist fence. To the charismatic he is saying "Listen, God really does speak thru the Bible - you better make sure your experiences of Him are rooted in His Word and that you find Him through His word the Bible" To the cessationist he is saying "Listen, God really can speak personally to you in a way you can experience - you better make sure you allow His Word to really affect you".

We have all done God a disservice in our thinking by attempting to divorce His Spirit from His Word. We were always meant to experience God in powerful ways through His Word. God's Spirit takes the word He inspired and makes it living, active and personal to us as individuals today in the 21st Century.
Listen: Amen. I said last week at my blog that the AWANA method of studying the Bible is no good -- not even suitable for children -- and Adrian spells out the reason here well: We were always meant to experience God in powerful ways through His Word. God's Spirit takes the word He inspired and makes it living, active and personal to us as individuals today in the 21st Century. To my knowledge, there are no honest cessationists who would say otherwise -- and if there are, they had better get serious about actually reading their Bibles rather than waving them around as if the Bible was a flag or a big foam "We're #1" finger or something.

I am personally teaching a class in a Baptist church right now called "Word of God, Speak" in which my foundational premise is that the Bible can speak to you personally -- even if it isn't talking about where you should eat lunch today, or which shirt you should wear. There's no question that there's power! power! wonder-working power! In word of the Lord (yes, I know that's not what the revivalist hymn says; I'm taking liberty with a hymn, not with Scripture), and everyone who takes the Bible as God's singular word agrees on this. The question, unfortunately, is if Dr. Warnock is willing to concede that this is what guys like John MacArthur and James White believe. They believe it -- concede that they do.

Adrian goes on:
I fear that the average intellectual student of the bible will have found Piper's experience to be totally alien. In fact I fear that even many of us that claim to be charismatic do not regularly - if ever - have the level of genuine experience of God speaking to us that Piper here describes as routine for him. It is no wonder Piper preaches like he does when he has regularly encountered the person of God in this way. This article is not really about the charismatic issue, ...
Again: amen. In spite of nearly-universal agreement among the men who agree that the Bible is God's singular word on the subject of how we experience God in Scripture, I would agree that a lot of people -- people who fancy themselves apologists even, or even people who just sit in a pew -- never experience God's word as the personal revelation of God.

The question, of course, is "why?" If this is God's word, as the atheist might object (and does if you give him a second breath), why isn't it so obvious and why doesn't it speak to every man the same way, making God real and present and worthy of praise?

That, I am afraid, will require more than one blog post to answer, but to give an unsatisfying (and therefore a tease to prompt you to come back) answer, I'll agree that it has something to do with God's Holy Spirit and leave it at that. Look for more on that in the future.

But that said, Adrian says more than even that:
... although when he is reading aloud for his mp3 available on his site, he adds the following words which I have bolded below:-
OK -- now, Dr. Warnock is hard upon a specific point here, and he's right: Dr. Piper says something more in the MP3 than he does in the scripted text (and to help you out, I have loaded that MP3 up at archive.org, which has become my newest internet friend. The Piper audio can be found here, and you should visit Desiring God radio just because it is good for you).

Here's how Dr. Adrian cites the text:
What makes me sad about the article is not that it isn't true or didn't happen. Don't put me in that category. What's sad is that it really does give the impression that extra-biblical communication with God is surpassingly wonderful and faith-deepening. All the while, the supremely-glorious communication of the living God which personally and powerfully and transformingly explodes in the receptive heart through the Bible everyday is passed over in silence." - John Piper
Which is fair enough, right? No sneaky ellipses or anything. But here's how Dr. Piper reads the section in question:
This is why I found the article in this month’s Christianity Today, “My Conversation with God,” so sad. Written by an anonymous professor at a “well-known Christian University,” it tells of his experience of hearing God. What God said was that he must give all his royalties from a new book toward the tuition of a needy student. What makes me sad about the article is not that it isn’t true or didn’t happen. Don't put me in that category. What’s sad is that it really does give the impression that extra-biblical communication with God is surpassingly wonderful and faith-deepening. All the while, the supremely-glorious communication of the living God which personally and powerfully and transformingly explodes in the receptive heart through the Bible everyday is passed over in silence.

I am sure this professor of theology did not mean it this way, but what he actually said was, “For years I’ve taught that God still speaks, but I couldn’t testify to it personally. I can only do so now anonymously, for reasons I hope will be clear” (emphasis added). Surely he does not mean what he seems to imply—that only when one hears an extra-biblical voice like, “The money is not yours,” can you testify personally that God still speaks. Surely he does not mean to belittle the voice of God in the Bible which speaks this very day with power and truth and wisdom and glory and joy and hope and wonder and helpfulness ten thousand times more decisively than anything we can hear outside the Bible. Sure, surely he doesn't mean that

I grieve at what is being communicated here. The great need of our time is for people to experience the living reality of God by hearing his word personally and transformingly in Scripture. Something is incredibly wrong when the words we hear outside Scripture are more powerful and more affecting to us than the inspired word of God.
Now, seriously: everyone knows John Piper is a continualist. He is an advocate of daGifts -- even if it's a qualified advocation. So that's not in contention here. But what Dr. Warnock tries to do is make Dr. Piper into a sort of broad charismatic when in fact Dr. Piper is not so much broad.

Yes: he believes that God can and does speak to the individual believer and moves the hearts of men to do stuff. But his point in this essay is that the far more powerful, and more authoritative, and more substantive experience of hearing God is found in Scripture.

The context of his statement is a reaction against the article in Christianity Today which seems to say that the only way we can make the testimony that God speaks to us today is if we hear a voice saying, "that money doesn't belong to you". Piper dismisses that idea plainly.

And in that, the charismatic has to scramble to the one emboldened sentence to say, "but... but... but... John Piper believes that God speaks to us individually!" Yes, well, nobody says he thinks otherwise. The problem for the charismatic is that Piper rightly cloaks that non-normative event in the necessary and normative event of hearing and experiencing God through the words of the Bible in English. Surely he doesn't mean only English, but he certainly means to say, "you don't need to learn Greek and Hebrew to hear God's voice".

And in that, again I say "Amen". Amen! What's at stake here is if we are first using God's precious gift of Scripture to seek Him and find Him, not whether some voice in one's head is the voice of God.

Since this is 3 pages single-spaced now, let me end up this installment with this: when you pick up the telephone and you hear a voice on the other end, can you know who it is if you have never really heard that person speak before? So how can you know if that voice in your head is God's voice if you have never listened to Him say what He's been saying since Paul and Peter were in short pants?

I'm sure this will require the meta. See to it.









41 comments:

Highland Host said...

Just yesterday I was talking with a pastor in a cessationist Church, and he INSISTED to me that a mere letter-religion is nothing, that we must have a religion of the Spirit.

Highland Host said...

PS. The pastor in question is also a cessationist.

Adrian said...

OK Frank,

Thanks so much for interacting with this article a bit more thoroughly than simply posting a link and telling people to read it to the end rather than have a heart attack!

Ironically, you have not in my view fairly represented me in what I was trying to say here! (For the full text of my comment on Piper's article see the comment section of this post on my blog)

I am NOT trying to claim that Piper is a charismatic in the "typical" way. He is far from that. I really don't see how my pointing out his extra words in any way twists what he said - I didnt quote the whole context simply because that context is there in his originl article for all to see. For the record I agree with the points that Piper makes- at least as I understand them!

I do not however believe that he himself was doubting the veracity of that professors experience or denying that it could have happened the way he said it did.

No, Piper's beef with the professor is simply that his article as it is written appears to Piper to deny the communication of God thru the scriptures or at least downplay that.

Also, at the beginning of the piece I think you are referring instead to my highlighting of the Warren quote which I mentioned earlier in the week as I was interested in your take on that. (By the way, although I never answered your challenge on that I agree that Warren's approach to using multiple translations as he chooses is not at all helpful!)

Onto the far more important point of the way in which God intends for us to experience his personal communication thru the Bible. Frank, perhaps I have been misrepresenting non-charismatics all these years, but frankly I never seem to hear them talking about their experiences of God the way Piper does in this article. I also rarely hear even a grudging admission that "it has something to do with the Holy Spirit".

The closest I have ever seen to an acknowledgement of the work of the Spirit in a conscious experiential way to assist us in our understanding of the word from a cessationist was MacArthur at the TG06 conference. Please show me other similar discussion if it exists.

Piper straddles this debate rebuking people on both sides of the fence in my book.

Adrian said...

One more thing. If you are interested in the role of the Spirit in Bible Interpretation you really ought to read the following quote from Dr Fountain's article The Holy Spirit and Hermeneutics.

Then ask yourself which of the options Fountain gives you believe, then read his whole article. He makes the point almost no one really discusses what role the Spirit has in revealing the truth of scripture to us.

Turretinfan said...

Did I read correctly that Piper views God's voice in Scripture as more authoritative (and more powerful and more substantive) than God's voice in other contexts?

-Turretinfan

Carla Rolfe said...

Hi Adrian,

you wrote "perhaps I have been misrepresenting non-charismatics all these years, but frankly I never seem to hear them talking about their experiences of God the way Piper does in this article. I also rarely hear even a grudging admission that "it has something to do with the Holy Spirit"."

Well, I read John Piper's article, and I really enjoyed it. Unless I missed something critical, what I read him to be affirming was that the voice of God he 'heard' was the same voice of God we have access to via the written word, with the one obvious difference, that the Holy Spirit truly opened it up for him in a very personal way.

If that's not what he intended to say, then my apologies for misrepresenting him or misreading the article. If that is what he was saying, then you haven't been reading enough of us non-charismatics because many of us routinely discuss our experiences with God in this way.

Just thinking outloud.

John Hollandsworth said...

What moved me about Piper's post which I elaborated on my blog yesterday was (1) God can't speak to you through Scripture if you don't know it (Do YOU know Psalm 66 like Piper does? I don't) (2) God can't speak if you're not taking time to hear (3) God is sovereign through all of it, whether you're cessationist, continuist, or "just not telling"

centuri0n said...

Adrian --

Wow -- you must have been waiting up late to make sure you read this before it got cold! :-)

Let's clear out the things we can agree on:

[1] We agree that Dr. Piper is not a "typical" Charismatic. In fact, we agree on the way in which we agree that he is not typical.

[2] You're right -- I was on about the Warren quote and not the Piper essay earlier this week. But again -- we agree that the Magic 8-ball translation of the Bible is not good.

[3] What Dr. Piper transparently laments is the anonymous professor's failure to either communicate or perceive the real, active work of God through the Scripture which every believer must receive.

But that said, there are a few places we still have some spare parts to deal with.

• I don't think Dr. Piper was doubting the veracity of the experience of the anonymous professor from CT. I don't think I said that Dr. Piper was doubting that -- in fact, I thought I went to great lengths to say there's -no question- Dr. Piper is an active-gifts kind of guy.

• If you want someone like, well, me (to use a present but lesser example of the type) to say, "I heard God speak to me in my mind as I read 1Cor 10 yesterday," look here. This is the language of hearing God's voice without attributing my experience to a continualist experience of personal revelation.

Now, why don't I (or any of the people who would camp on this side of the river with me) go so far as to say "I heard God's voice in my living room this morning"? It is because we are seeking to avoid a very obvious confusion on the part of any given reader. There's no question -- none -- that the Scripture is the very words of God.

And listen: it is also enough for me. Which leads me to this:

• Dr. Piper is also passionately lamenting that the experience of hearing God speak is relegated only to some private experience -- particularly (some would say exclusively) in Charismatic circles -- rather than being primarily seen and sought out in the Scripture.

And in that, you should read Dr. MacArthur's book Unleashing God's Word in Your Life: How to Effectively Study and Apply the Bible, which makes it clear that prayer is an indispensible part of fruitful Bible reading. Now, if you're going to scan that book to find a statement like, "and God will speak to you in an audible internal voice", you won't find that -- but you will find that Dr. MacArthur is a firm proponent of the vitality and the present necessity of hearing God in Scripture. You could also look at the GTY web site here to see Dr. MacArthur speak very directly about the active presence of the Holy Spirit in the church, particularly in Scripture.

What really bothers me about the controversy, unfortunately, is that somehow this essay by Dr. Piper is being used by people to try to prove how much he is on "their team". Piper isn't picking a side in this essay -- except the side of Christ. It seems obvious to me that Adrian is right in saying that he gives a word or two to both sides of the c/c debate, but that his primary concern is the devaluation of Scripture in the (a-hem) mind of the church.

So there you have it. Play on.

centuri0n said...

T-Fan:

Yes, I think that's what he says -- especially if you read his stuff at DGM on the modern manifestation of Prophecy.

Yes, I don't like it either -- but I don't think it takes him off the daily reading list.

centuri0n said...

HH:

Did this "cessationist" pastor mean that we have to obey the Spirit first and the Bible second? That's what "they" usually mean when they say that -- these guys who spill cooperative blood over inerrancy and private prayer languages but receive personal revelation from God about whether or not to run for SBC president.

If that's not what he meant, I'd like a little more context.

Turretinfan said...

Centui0n,

If I were to strike from my reading list everyone with whom I had the slightest disagreement, even this honorable blog would not be read by me!

I was simply seeking to make sure I am reading correctly, since I am prone to jump to conclusions.

-Turretinfan

Phil Johnson said...

Highland Host: "Just yesterday I was talking with a pastor in a cessationist Church, and he INSISTED to me that a mere letter-religion is nothing, that we must have a religion of the Spirit."

Centurion: "Did this 'cessationist' pastor mean that we have to obey the Spirit first and the Bible second? That's what 'they' usually mean when they say that"

See, here's the thing: If a cessationist says that to me, I'll say amen, because (if he's a thoughtful cessationist) I can be sure he means simply that unless the Spirit energizes and enlightens your Bible study, your teaching, and all your religion, then your religion is vain--even if you read enough of the right books to espuose an orthodox-sounding doctrinal statement.

We'd all agree with that, I think.

But when a non-cessationist starts talking about Word and Spirit, and how useless the dead letter is apart from the living Spirit, you can never quite be sure whether he's actually denigrating the importance of Scripture in favor of his private revelations, or whatever.

Piper's an exception to that general rule. He's one non-cessationist who seems to get it. He nailed it in that article. Did y'all not notice? I linked that piece in the right sidebar on the day it was published last week, prolly before Adrian even saw it, with these words in boldface: "John Piper heard God speak! And I know this is true, because I got the same message!"

centuri0n said...

I was grinding SBC axes in the meta, Phil. Sorry.

Adrian said...

Phil
Thanks for your intervention. You have no idea how much comfort it gives to an old-timer like me to just see the third person of the trinity acknowledged in any way- sometimes I think certain people believe in a twinity rather than a trinity!

I wonder would you include me in that august company of charismatics who "get it" about the primacy and sufficiency of scripture? I may be wrong but the impression I get from Frank's shrill tone at least in the original article is he definitely wouldn’t.
Look, can I put it more plainly than this: to me prophecy today is NEVER about new doctrinal revelation. It is rather intimately connected to this very process that you seem to accept occurs - ie the Spirit illuminating and personally applying truths found in the scriptures to us in a conscious experience of the person of God.

The only distinctive that I would hold to (which I believe Piper would agree with) is that modern prophecy can also include specific fallible impressions that are in no way doctrinal or binding and are certainly totally inferior to scripture.

I have to say I am looking for more than a mere acknowledgement of the theory that the Spirit interprets scripture to us. I want to EXPERIENCE personally the Spirit doing this much more frequently in a way that is as thrilling as the way in which Piper describes it.

I thank God that Piper's experience is not alien to me, but the way he has written his article it sounds like his experience of God speaking through the scriptures is both more intense and more frequent than mine.

Am I the only person who read that piece not as a bit of argument for or against the continuation of the gifts but as a challenge to seek after the experience Piper was speaking about of meeting and hearing from God experientially in the bible?

DJP said...

For the record, whatever Dr. Piper thinks, I certainly do doubt the interpreted experience the bold, nameless would-be prophet relates in CT—for every reason I've explained over and over again here and at my own blog.

centuri0n said...

"Shrill tone"?

You see: I told you I don't like this discussion, and this is why.

I had a post on this topic tomorrow, but I'm just going to walk away.

Adrian said...

Frank
I am sorry if you walk away. I would hope that we can actually TALK about this - at least in terms of how we believe the Spirit works in us to help us understand the bible. I used the words "shrill tone" because it seemed to me that you were reacting strongly empotionally to what I hadnt actually said a bit in your post.

Perhaps I was wrong.
I like to think we could at least understand each other a bit better if we speak about these things.

Darel said...

(In a rare moment...)

Why are these ... disagreements always seem to remind me of Paul's continual exhortation to "know Christ". That the daily life of the Christian is founded on knowing Christ. ( shocking, I know )

We talk circles around each other about whether you mean an audible voice or some kind of distillation of Scriptural knowledge. And neither of those things is where we are, if we are Christians. So instead of talking about the thing itself, that is knowing Christ, we talk all around the edges of it.

And people like me get all whiny about it because we think on the one side that someone is telling me that unless I have seen a vision I'm missing something important, or that if I follow a Spirit-inspired course of action that isn't itself explicitly spelled out in so many words in Scripture that I'm some kind of heretic. So we ( I ) end up being rude and demeaning to people when we ( I ) really shouldn't be, since we ( I ) should be more forgiving about these kinds of things and let it just slide of our ( my ) backs. It's just so frustrating to hear people who can't just be straight about it, instead of realizing that the keys are contained in "we have this mind that is in Christ".

DJP said...

Adrian, perhaps one of the two single things you seem to want to din into our heads is the place of emotions in Christian living. Yet you object if Frank feels (and writes) strongly about the supremacy of the Word of God in Christian living, and the need for a personal encounter with God through that word? Are those bad emotions?

Frankly (—pun noted, but not intended), I can't make sense of attributing a "shrill tone" to Frank's article.

centuri0n said...

Adrian:

one of us introduced the description of "shrill tone" about the other side; the other talked explicitly about the Piper article and the substance of what Dr. Piper said.

I have already posted what I was going to post here tomorrow at my own blog because, I am sure, you will find it "shrill" as well; it makes clear -- in no uncertain terms -- why the continualist position falls apart quickly. The irony is that I think we agree on a lot more details than you are willing to admit -- and that we disagree on only one or two significant details which are a function of receiving what Scripture says about the believer who is not an Apostle.

There's nothing shrill about my original essay: it's tough on the Charismatic position, but that's not new to TeamPyro; it's liberal in its use of graphics to make editorial statements, but again that's hardly new to our venue. And the thing which really puzzles me is that I agreed with almost all of your e-mail -- were those parts "shrill"?

It is the somewhat overly-sensitive response that this topic always receives from the continualist side (and the goofy over-over-reaction of the nearly-naturalistic anti-continualists which also will spring up if we let this go on too long) which sours me on this discussion.

Here's my line in the sand: show me in Scripture one example of a person who got a non-binding (that is: non-inerrant) revelation from God which was not a punishment, and I'll be glad to continue this discussion. Or show me where Dr. Piper is advocating for something other than the real presence [a loaded term, I am sure] of God in scripture which any cessationist would agree with, and I'll be glad to re-engage this.

But if we are going to start with, "you're shrill" and work our way to something else from there, I have no interest.

Fair enough?

Jerry Wragg said...

Adrian –
You said,

“…the Spirit illuminating and personally applying truths found in the scriptures to us in a conscious experience of the person of God.
The only distinctive that I would hold to (which I believe Piper would agree with) is that modern prophecy can also include specific fallible impressions that are in no way doctrinal or binding and are certainly totally inferior to scripture.
I have to say I am looking for more than a mere acknowledgement of the theory that the Spirit interprets scripture to us. I want to EXPERIENCE personally the Spirit doing this much more frequently in a way that is as thrilling as the way in which Piper describes it.”

It seems to me that the rub is here:

When you get these “impressions”, you want to see them as the Lord’s personal direction in your life BEFORE IT UNFOLDS (your “modern prophecy”). Whereas, I simply interpret inner-impressions (strong of otherwise) in two ways:
(1) POSSIBLY GOD’S DESIRE FOR ME. You want to be able to tell others that God is speaking His future (immediate or distant) will to you for each moment BEFORE IT OCCURS (which apparently makes you feel “the Spirit [is] doing this”). I’m content to watch life unfold, looking back at how His divine purposes were leading. Strong inner convictions may be clear as to God’s specific plan for me, or they may only reflect a measure of the general direction He is leading. But for me, I can only claim to objectively “know” His leading via the explicit and implicit statements in scripture, leaving all strong subjective impressions in the realm of what He “could” be doing in my world.
(2) SPIRITUAL CONVICTIONS DEVELOPED OVER TIME THROUGH SUBMISSION OF MY HEART TO SCRIPTURE.
In fact, I’ve spent my entire Christian life dynamically experiencing the personal leading of the Holy Spirit through the renewing truth of scripture. What makes it personal if not a voice in my head? Simple: Truth! Objective, outside-of-me Truth! Not like that which comes to my mind---the subjective sensations of my own heart. The Spirit wrote it, I’m commanded to entrust myself to it, and He promises that AS I OBEY He is personally working in and through Me (i.e. a living, vital experience of the Creator’s will). Paul makes this crucial point in Philippians 2:12-13. We are to proactively obey God’s word unto sanctification because it is through that very means by which God is working in us “both to will and to work for His good pleasure”. In other words, I KNOW WITH ABSOLUTELY CERTAINTY (before and after strong spiritual impressions) that God is, in fact, directing me WHEN I AM HUMBLY SUBMITTING TO HIS WILL AS GIVEN IN HIS WORD (the ultimate “up-shot” of Piper’s article).

As I try to grasp the issue from your side, I get the idea that until you “know for certain” that God is giving you personal direction for your next move, His written truth just isn’t dynamic and personal enough. Moreover, back to a question you don’t seem to ever answer: How (or why, for that matter) would you ever “check” your personal impressions against scripture since the apparent God-designed intent of personal “impressions” is to give direction that is exclusively for Adrian and not found in the general principles of scripture?

Seeking to “know”,

Jerry

Adrian said...

OK Frank, I am going to take your word for it that you weren’t trying to be shrill. Funnily enough I have re-read your post and it doesn’t sound as shrill to me any more - perhaps another case of my faulty interpretation of online communication. Sadly there is a lot of angst about this article from all sides - which perhaps shows Piper wasn’t so far wrong.

To me I think Piper hits the nail on the head for BOTH sides of the cessationist debate. I think he is describing in really emotional, passionate terms a genuine EXPERIENCE he had of God mediated thru the bible. The problem is that I am not too sure that either side of the so-called "great divide" find that particularly comfortable. After all, people on your side are "supposed" at least according to people on my side to be intellectually focused, emotionally stunted, and relate to God as though he was a long-dead hero of a historical novel you are studying at college. And on my side, at least according to people on your side we have blank pages filled with new inerrant prophecies we have heard at the backs of our bibles (if we even own a bible still less READ it)

I think Piper is saying God wants to meet us relationally and experientially thru the bible, which to be honest is one of the main points I am trying to make with my blog these days and ought not to be terribly controversial to anyone!

Now to your specific points, which I am going to take in reverse order. As far as the second is concerned:

As far as John Piper goes, in this article in the paragraph I quoted initially do you agree that he in effect accepts that the professor's experience was at least potentially a valid one?

If you want a direct quote - how about this one:

"..under this definition of the gift of prophecy it was probably the gift of prophecy last Sunday when I pointed to downtown Minneapolis and said (apart from what was in my notes), “A Bible study on the 36th floor of the IDS Tower with well-to-do business men is not mercy ministry, but it is crucial and valuable and necessary.” A woman came up to me after that service with joy in her face saying that she was visiting this morning and just that week had had a meeting with well-to-do businessmen on the 36th floor of the IDS tower about a ministry possibility and she came hoping for encouragement in the venture. She took it as an encouragement from the Lord." Which is taken from the first link posted on Piper's blog in response to the recent debate following his article. Incidentally, for those unaware of it this article also describes Spurgeon's revelations.

As far as the first one is concerned:-
Verses that suggest prophecy may not always be 100 percent inerrant and/or suggest that prophecy should not always be enscripturated are as follows:-

Paul claims that he himself could only prophesy "in part"
1 Cor 13:9
Nathan the OT prophet got it wrong when speaking to David about the temple and was not stoned
2 Sam 7
Philip's daughters prophesied but their words are not in Scripture
Acts 21:9
Agabus the NT prophet got details of Paul's arrest wrong
Acts 21:10-11, 32-33
Other NT prophets correctly identified the danger to Paul in Jerusalem but incorrectly urged him not to go (and their words are not in Scripture)
Acts 21:4
Paul prophecied that death would result from his voyage to Rome then that it wouldnt!
“Sirs, I perceive that the voyage will be with injury and much loss, not only of the cargo and the ship, but also of our lives.” (Acts 27:10)
"Yet now I urge you to take heart, for there will be no loss of life among you, but only of the ship" (Acts 27:22)

Passages which point to other prophets and prophetesses whose prophecies were not enscripturated:- 1 Samuel 10:5, 10, 11, 12, 19:20, 24, 28:6, 15; 1 Kings 18:4, 13, 19 , 20; 1 Kings 20:35, 41, 22:6, 10; 2 Kings 2:3, 17:23, 24:2; 2 Chronicles 18:9, 20:20, 24:19; Ezra 5:1; Jeremiah 7:25; Hosea 12:10; Matthew 2:23
.

Phil Johnson said...

I love it when someone thinks Frank is more shrill than me.

Skillz, I tell you.

Criminal skillz.

centuri0n said...

Here’s what I said to Dr. Warnock:

Here's my line in the sand: show me in Scripture one example of a person who got a non-binding (that is: non-inerrant) revelation from God which was not a punishment, and I'll be glad to continue this discussion. Or show me where Dr. Piper is advocating for something other than the real presence [a loaded term, I am sure] of God in scripture which any cessationist would agree with, and I'll be glad to re-engage this.

And here’s his reply, with my annotations:

| Now to your specific points, which I
| am going to take in reverse order. As
| far as the second is concerned:
|
| As far as John Piper goes, in this
| article in the paragraph I quoted
| initially do you agree that he in effect
| accepts that the professor's experience
| was at least potentially a valid one?

The question –is not- whether Dr. Piper is advocating that there are valid experiences of God apart from Scripture. I have repeatedly admitted that he thinks there are. The question is whether his view of how we experience God in Scripture differs in some way of substance from the view of the cessationist.

Dan, Phil, Me, the people branded as “Truly Reformed” – we do not deny that God communicates directly with the believer in Scripture, and then through the power of the Holy Spirit. We believe that. Phil is on-record as agreeing explicitly with Dr. Piper’s essay previously linked. Of the three of us Pyros, (pecadillo notwithstanding) I am probably the most emotive and (as my wife says) “European” in expressing some kind of relational, emotional chord to God in Scripture – but that hardly makes me Charismatic, and it hardly disqualifies Dan and Phil as men who connect with God in the reading of His word.

Dr. Piper’s view of Scripture here is not controversial, and that is precisely the point of my question/challenge: we would all agree that man has access to God directly through the Scripture. If there is something which Dr. Piper is communicating above that in relation to Scripture, then please tell me what that is.

| If you want a direct quote - how about
| this one:
|
| "..under this definition of the gift of
| prophecy it was probably the gift of
| prophecy last Sunday when I pointed
| to downtown Minneapolis and said
| (apart from what was in my notes),
| “A Bible study on the 36th floor of
| the IDS Tower with well-to-do
| business men is not mercy ministry,
| but it is crucial and valuable and
| necessary.” A woman came up to me
| after that service with joy in her face
| saying that she was visiting this
| morning and just that week had had a
| meeting with well-to-do businessmen
| on the 36th floor of the IDS tower
| about a ministry possibility and she
| came hoping for encouragement in the
| venture. She took it as an
| encouragement from the Lord."
| Which is taken from the first link
| posted on Piper's blog in response to
| the recent debate following his article.
| Incidentally, for those unaware of it
| this article also describes Spurgeon's
| revelations.

Yes: I agree John Piper believes in prophecy. I disagree that this is any kind of example of prophecy. Whatever one may wish to call this event – and I would never, ever imply that it didn’t happen – it lacks two things which I would say are required to call something “prophetic” in the sense that is meant here:

[1] It was completely unintentional by any party. Dr. Piper admits his statement was ex tempore but makes no admission that he felt compelled or guided to say such a thing.

[2] It lacks the Biblical criteria of validation. By that I mean that prophecy generally comes in two parts, “thus saith the Lord,” and “by this sign you shall know”.

| As far as the first one is concerned:-
| Verses that suggest prophecy may not
| always be 100 percent inerrant and/or
| suggest that prophecy should not
| always be enscripturated are as
| follows:-
|
| Paul claims that he himself could only
| prophesy "in part"
| 1 Cor 13:9

That’s an interesting interpretation – doesn’t the context point not to prophesying in an “non-inerrant” manner but in fact to prophesying is a “shadows and types” manner? That is, isn’t Paul saying that prophecies ought to be the foreshadowing of truth and not merely the “take it or leave it” random chattering (if we can speak that way) of God?

| Nathan the OT prophet got it wrong
| when speaking to David about the
| temple and was not stoned
| 2 Sam 7

Holy Mackerel, Dr. Warnock. You’ll have to say more than that for me to say anything meaningful about your statement. What, exactly, did Nathan “get wrong” in 2Sam 7?

| Philip's daughters prophesied but their
| words are not in Scripture
| Acts 21:9

No, Philip’s daughter’s prophecies are not recorded in Scripture. The question is if they were not binding for some men. Here’s what I mean as that may not have been clear in my original comment:

Peter was told by a vision to go visit the centurion Cornelius (Acts 10). Did Peter have the option to not go see this man, or did he have an obligation to go see him? That prophecy was private and binding on Peter, but not on you and me. It was for him -- in the same way, btw, that Samuel’s prophecy for David to be King was binding on David.

The question is not, “is this statement Scripture”: the question is whether or not the statement makes the same type of claims (even without the scope of all believers) as a broader prophecy.

That said, how can you tell me whether what they said was binding or not if their words are not in Scripture? I take the fault for not being more clear (I was still thinking of the post at my own blog as I typed this last comment), but consider it: your argument is, “we don’t know what they said, so that’s what we can base our doctrine on.” That doesn’t sound like a great practice to me.

| Agabus the NT prophet got details of
| Paul's arrest wrong
| Acts 21:10-11, 32-33

You’re saying Paul’s hands and feet were no bound? Luke reports he was bound “with two chains” – and Agabus said Paul’s hands and feet would be bounds. I’m wondering: how did they bind men with chains in those days?

| Other NT prophets correctly
| identified the danger to Paul in
| Jerusalem but incorrectly urged him
| not to go (and their words are not in
| Scripture)
| Acts 21:4

The Bible doesn’t say they were incorrect to warn Paul – and it seems that they were right that there was danger in Jerusalem for him. Because that’s the implication, given the context, isn’t it? No that Paul disobediently went to Jerusalem, but that going to Jerusalem would be dangerous to Paul and he went in spite of warnings.

| Paul prophecied that death would
| result from his voyage to Rome then
| that it wouldnt!
| “Sirs, I perceive that the voyage will
| be with injury and much loss, not only
| of the cargo and the ship, but also of
| our lives.” (Acts 27:10)
| "Yet now I urge you to take heart, for
| there will be no loss of life among
| you, but only of the ship" (Acts
| 27:22)

Again, I find your hermeneutic interesting. Certainly the second part there is a prophecy received from an “angel of God” – but the first part is Paul reacting to the decision to sail during a specific time of the year. It was hazardous to travel by sea that that time of year – the winter.

| Passages which point to other
| prophets and prophetesses whose
| prophecies were not enscripturated:- 1
| Samuel 10:5, 10, 11, 12, 19:20, 24,
| 28:6, 15; 1 Kings 18:4, 13, 19 , 20; 1
| Kings 20:35, 41, 22:6, 10; 2 Kings
| 2:3, 17:23, 24:2; 2 Chronicles 18:9,
| 20:20, 24:19; Ezra 5:1; Jeremiah 7:25;
| Hosea 12:10; Matthew 2:23

Again, I point out that the question is not whether the statement ought to be enscripturated: it is whether it is binding upon someone or not.

I’d tread lightly in saying that Prophecy doesn’t really mean “infallible statement of God”. That road looks more like a dead end to me.

centuri0n said...

That's why you keep me around, Phil: I make you look good.

:-)

Connie said...

As a former charismatic I am very much enjoying this post and subsequent comments--helps me understand how some consider themselves to be "reformed charismatic". I STILL haven't been able to reconcile that in my understanding and experience.

jigawatt said...

Cent:
You see: I told you I don't like this discussion, and this is why.

This conversation is getting a little heated. Let's change the topic to one we all agree on, like eschatology.

Adrian said...

Frank
The 2 Sam thing is that Nathan tells David to go ahead and do what was on his heart. Surely David would have expected that advice to have been inspired by prophecy? If nothing else that verse proves that when prophets spoke outside of their revelatory moments they are as fallible as you or me - something few seem willing to admit about Apostles in the New Testament but I digress.

As far as prophecy goes, if it is infallible and binding surely it should be added to the bible- hence my point about non-enscripturated prophecy.

I think that perhaps some of the other examples can be argued either way - I am sure tho that you can see the discrepancies in the details betweem the Agabus prophecy and its fulfillment (which many have argued might be explained by Agabus seeing a vision but slightly misinterpreting exactly who would do the binding and handing over)

Also, it is prophecies and not the prophet that are to be tested in the New Testament. That simply MUST mean that the prophecy itself is fallible.

I also cannot see any other way that for prophecy to be fallible if the Joel prophecy about EVERYONE having the Spirit and prophecy being so widespread is true (lets not forget we don’t live in days AFTER the end times!) Surely God cannot mean that we all get to write the bible!

Am a bit confused about your Piper point. I don’t THINK we are in any disagreement about the fact that the Spirit interprets scripture to us. What I am not clear on is how conscious you feel we can expect to be of that help.

Perhaps we should be focusing on how the Spirit helps us understand the bible - which is I feel much more important than whether he can drop "impressions" in our mind - which we report fallibly. What do you think of Andrew Fountains article on Holy Spirit and hermeneutics anyone?

No one has yet answered my other question - have I satisfied you yet that I am truly a sola scriptura man?

Jerry, I actually think that the way I handle impressions is not so very different from your "Number 1" I would never conclude that God was telling me to do something based purely on a single prophetic impression. Inspired common sense, the wisdom of others, circumstances, and a wealth of other things are involved in consideration of how I may feel God is leading me.

I do sometimes have impressions that relate more directly to a biblical principle - for an example of that in the past I did share one in my story part 4 (I must finish that story some day!)

Finally, guys, its not just emotion I am after. It is a real relationship with a person. It is to Know Christ. Yes we do that thru the bible, but to me the role of the Spirit in revealing Jesus to us is critical - and incidentally is primarily about how we experience the Bible.

Why does Piper preach the way he does? It is precisely because instead of spending his hours getting hot under the collar over theological matters he encounters God in the bible as a real person he can relate to and commune with.

I want more of the kind of experience Piper describes. Am I wrong to desire that?

Jay said...

Sometimes I think all the confusion over the Spirit's role in the life of the believer is because the Spirit himself is a lot more concerned with drawing attention to Christ than himself.

Jay said...

"Why does Piper preach the way he does? It is precisely because instead of spending his hours getting hot under the collar over theological matters he encounters God in the bible as a real person he can relate to and commune with."

Actually, his encounters with God in the Bible as a real person probably make him spend hours "getting hot under the collar over theological matters."

Jerry Wragg said...

I see your point, Adrian. But when you say that you desire a real relationship with Christ through the Holy Spirit, I believe that you already have every bit of such an experience WITHOUT needing some internal, sensory impression. To read, understand (by the Spirit's illumination), and submit to the word of God IS to vitally abide in Jesus Christ.
And why is it that if you're not speaking merely of "emotion", you nonetheless refer to Piper's preaching as an experiential sine qui non because he "encounters God" and truly "communes" with Him? How do you quantify these encounters with God if not by some apparent visceral expression?
Over a lifetime, I've heard the finest men of God open the word, and other than different outward levels of passion, they all deeply know and walk with God. What's the objective difference in Piper that causes you to see a more personal walk with Christ rather than the unattractive linear approach from which you recoil?

HeavyDluxe said...

I'll chime in here, albeit briefly and with no clout brought to the table.

I would think of myself as Reformed. I affirm both the five solas and TULIP, so that counts for something right?

I would call myself a Reformed continuationist because, to date, no one has shown me a convincing case from Scripture that the 'miraculous gifts' were intended to cease. History is rife with abuses of the miraculous gifts - but people also abuse the Bible, the sacraments, and a myriad other things. Abuse of a something doesn't invalidate that thing.

If it did, all you SBCers should put down your beer after all.

Emotional ecstasy must never be allowed to ascend to an idol, I'll grant. But can we at least agree that's not always what every continuationist is trying to cheer for? The fact is that we all better have some emotional investment in our faith. Emotion is not the ground for our faith, mind you. But if in our best moments our hearts are not 'warmed' with a sense of the majesty, beauty, grace, love, goodness of Christ then I think we need to take stock.

HeavyDluxe said...

Jerry said: How do you quantify these encounters with God if not by some apparent visceral expression?
Over a lifetime, I've heard the finest men of God open the word, and other than different outward levels of passion, they all deeply know and walk with God. What's the objective difference in Piper that causes you to see a more personal walk with Christ rather than the unattractive linear approach from which you recoil?


I think this is critical... I heard a Tim Keller quote recently in which Dr. Keller was responding to someone's criticism of how 'dispassionate' he was in his preaching. He said, paraphrasing from memory, that "we ought not judge the passion someone feels by the outward manifestation of emotion". In other words, Keller is just as passionate and perhaps even as emotional as Piper, though they are certainly not emoting the same way.

I know that I had, for a long time, a bent to be able to pursue Christ like some specimen on an coroner's table. I was cold, academic, and perhaps 'right' in my understanding.

However, if that's all there is - right, precise knowledge without some emotional response - I think we're in danger of the faith of demons or those "Lord, Lord" people.

Jerry Wragg said...

Heavydluxe -
Honestly, I've never even considered "how" I should "feel" in my walk with Christ. Ever since God reached into my dead heart and gave me life I've continued to deepen in the "true knowledge of Him who called [me]", resulting in power over sin, richer gratitude, stronger faith, passionate praise, and sincere love for others.
As it relates to EXPERIENCING the living Christ through the Spirit, Paul, in Ephesians 3:14 – 5:21, focuses almost entirely upon mind renewal and true character change rather than any emotional or sensory perceptions.
3:14-19 – Being strengthened by the Spirit in the inner man results in a deep and abiding conviction about truth (v18) and a real experience of Christ’s love that goes beyond mere facts (v19), which leads to the fullest experience of God. How do I “sense” it is happening? When I experience Christ’s love through me toward others.
4:4-16 – The gifting of the Spirit serves to mature our understanding and strengthen faith (vv12-13), so that we discern error (v14), grow in Christ-likeness (v15), and serve the body (v16).
4:17-23 – Being taught in Christ by the Spirit (v21) renews the mind in “righteousness and holiness of the truth” (v24).
4:25-32 – The Holy Spirit in us is grieved (now there’s a real, personal relationship dynamic) when we speak lies, sin in anger, take from others, use words that tear down, and harbor unforgiving thoughts and attitudes. None of the above experience in the Spirit drives us to pursue a “sense” or “feeling” of His working in us. When we are deeply loving Christ and humbly obeying His truth, every thought and deed is being controlled (sensorily, viscerally, dynamically, personally) by the Spirit. It’s interesting to note that being “filled” with the Spirit results in spiritual service toward others (5:18-19), humility and gratitude (5:20), and greater obedience (5:21).
What’s my point? Almost invariably, when the Spirit’s vital work is expounded in scripture, we don’t see an emphasis upon a subjective, inner-assessment of whether He’s doing anything. The reason is that when you and I obey, we know instantly that the Spirit is at work because without Him we would be powerless. Sanctification is not something I “feel” (even though as my convictions about truth deepen, my emotions will reflect a wide-range of affectation), but rather something I “know” as the Spirit works in and through me, so that whether I “sense” Him or not, I need only look at the objective results of a renewed mind and character vividly portrayed in scripture.

In fact, even in texts where a subjective inner witness of the Spirit is mentioned (Rom.8:12-17), the context is obedience (vv12-13), bold conviction from a Spirit-produced desire for intimacy with the Father (v15), and a willingness to bear the reproach of Christ because we are spiritually “convinced” of our new life in Him (vv16-17).

Jim Crigler said...

Thanks for picking this up and facing the hijackers down in advance.

Jim Crigler said...

Re: AWANA.

So is there something better our churches should be considering?

FreedfromBondage said...

Centurion, DJP, Phil, etc.

I would hope that you have some type of express, written permission rights to use copyrighted graphics, characters, and themes on your web-blog. It's hardly an acceptable practice for those who proclaim the name of Christ and His Word, to be thieves and felons. Don't you think?

Phil Johnson said...

freedfrombondage:

Two words: "Criminal skillz."

All joking aside, we do take copyright and trademark rules seriously here, as much as we reasonably can. The legal definition of what constitutes "fair use" is very broad when it comes to satire and parody. That's how publications like Mad Magazine can legally lampoon characters, trademarks, and story lines that would otherwise be protected by copyright or trademark laws.

To make sure we are above reproach, however, we operate with a simple, inviolable principle here: If someone credibly claiming to be a copyright owner ever objects to our use of an image challenges our right to publish a graphic, we remove the image no questions asked.

In photos and straight-up images where no obvious parody is intended or no other fair-use claim could reasonably be made, we use only public-domain images or photographs we ourselves took.

Only once has anyone challenged our use of an image. She was a goth princess who was also a satanist and model who objected to the fact that we had used her image on a graphic that purported to be a Christian magazine. She didn't want to be associated with Christianity in any way. We removed and remade the graphic in question, and everyone lived happily ever after.

FreedfromBondage said...

Whew! Thanks for the fill-in, Phil. ;) Your "simple, inviolable principle" of use eases my mind of not having to cease my LSD addiction, and string of serial murders. :) Because as you said, "If someone credibly claiming to be a copyright owner ever objects to our use of an image challenges our right to publish a graphic, we remove the image no questions asked"...doesn't that simply mean - As long as we don't get caught by certain people. Well, I hardly think Peter Jackson, or the execs at Paramount will be stopping by this blog any time soon, so I guess you're right...let's just do things we shouldn't until we get caught, or credibly challenged. I would bring to your attention that you seem to only be following Voices in your Head, rather than what is truly right and ethically decent. Let us not convince ourselves that right is only defined by what we can 'get away with'. Peace.

Phil Johnson said...

"Bondage:" "doesn't that simply mean - As long as we don't get caught by certain people?"

No. Note the reference to "fair use," which is a legal term anyone who knows the first thing copyright law would recognize. My argument is that what we do with graphics here is perfectly legal.

BTW: I have a simple rule of thumb that has a bearing on your observations. I don't take legal advice from someone who thinks there's a kind of moral equivalence between serial murder and the the "fair use" principle governing copyright issues.

FreedfromBondage said...

Yes, you are probably correct. Even though the sarcasm seems to have been transformed into an offensive device, I guess I shouldn't try to express a need for moral ethics within Christianity to a Good-Fella-Calvanist sporting a Dwayne Johnson Eyebrow in his GIF. Thanks for taking the time and typographical effort to prove a point. I truly, and honestly appreciate it. Peace.