02 September 2008

The Wily Continualist

by Frank Turk

Just a brief post today in the same series as this one and this one, and if you haven't read this one especially, don't comment in the meta. I recognize my usual approach to blogging is really to drop 5 pages into the bandwidth and people find that a little strident, so I'm trying to do 1-pagers on this topic to keep the virtual violence at a minimum. I failed to the tune of 2.5 pages today, so I apologize.

What I have said so far is that we agree on more than we disagree on, and that one particular advocate of the continualist view makes a pretty broad error in his refutation of the cessationist view.

But here's the thing: this same advocate, from whom I have learned more about the faith than I could count in a brief blog post, has also said this:
When Paul and Barnabas reported to the Council in Jerusalem, it says, “All the assembly fell silent, and they listened to Barnabas and Paul as they related what signs and wonders God had done through them among the Gentiles.” ...

Now what about today? Should we be expecting the same miraculous confirmations of our witnessing today? My answer is yes, but not in the same measure that the apostles experienced this miraculous power. The reason I say yes is that I don’t see any compelling reason given in the New Testament that God has declared a moratorium on miracles. But I do see lists of miraculous gifts for the church (not just apostles) in 1 Corinthians 12:8-10. So I think God intends to bless his word and his people with miracles in our day—extraordinary works of divine power that go beyond the laws of nature.
This is the same man who, when arguing against the cessation of miraculous gifts, said (as we noticed last time):
The miracle working power of the apostles was only PART of what authenticated their authority. If the only thing that set the apostles apart as authoritative and true was their signs and wonders, then false prophets could claim the same authority and truth, because Jesus and Paul both tell us that false prophets will do signs and wonders to lead people astray.
My first thought there is that you can't have it both ways -- either the miraculous signs are given "to bless his word and his people", or they are likely to "lead people astray".

If I were a wily continualist, I would say, "cent, that's reductionistic -- because we know that false teachers can use the actual Gospel truths to lead people astray. For instance, good works are historically a place where people are derailed from faith in the actual Gospel of grace, and you would never say that therefore we should abandon good work, would you?"

No, of course I would not say to abandon good works: I would say don't worship them; don't pretend that your good works are your ticket to heaven. But I would say that the New Testament unequivocally says that those who are born again in spirit materialize something in the flesh, something in this world which shows they are bought by Christ -- and by discernment, we ought to be able to tell when someone is putting on a show of good works for the sake of deceiving, and when someone is working out their faith with fear and trembling.

And this same logic ought to stand up when it comes to the alleged gifts. That is, if someone claims to be working in the Spirit, performing signs and wonders in the name of Jesus Christ, we ought to be able to know whether they are false prophets or fellow workmen in the Gospel.

But here's the thing: because I don't believe what they say is happening ever happens, it shouldn't be up to me to spell out the criteria for discerning a Benny Hinn from a D. Martyn Lloyd-Jones. In fact, I would say that the last guy who tried to do such a thing was, in fact, Martyn Lloyd-Jones -- and even John Piper would admit that Dr. Lloyd-Jones was far more cautious in practice than his various writings might indicate.

So my point here is that making unclear distinctions like the somewhat-confusing ones, above, doesn't make the continualist case any more convincing. It seems, in fact, to make it all the more slippery -- which brings me personally to the place where I need some actual apostolic help in sorting the problem out.

And I'll come back to that next week.







76 comments:

Daryl said...

Cent,

Excellent points.

I have occasionally heard the continualist position put forward in a cautious way but what I have also found, both in my experience and in watching others around me, is that using the manifestation of "gifts" as a measure of someone's standing with God or general spirituality is far too easy a thing to fall into.
I did it myself, I see it done now.

I realize that in itself is not a solid case against the gifts but it troubles me still.

You are right to say that we need some actual apostolic help in sorting this all out because that slope is far too slippery for any of us to maintain a solid grip once we're on it.
Perhaps some have, I don't know, but I've also seen that Mr. Piper noted that distinction between Lloyd-Jones' writing and practice, and it is telling. I think Mr. Piper would also fall into that camp.

Somethings are easier said than done, and for the continualist, acknowledging the gifts in a balanced way seems to be one of those things.

I look forward to your next posting.

Daryl said...

Too add to that...

My question relating to the quote you used would be this:

If we should expect miraculous confirmations to our witnessing, then why not in the same measure as the apostles?

That seems to me to be ceding to much ground for continualist to maintain his position.

Rick Frueh said...

There are two things I have not seen:

** I have not seen any visually authenticated signs and wonders that transcend any natural explanations.

** I have not seen any clear teaching in the New Testament that those supernatural phenonmenon have ceased dispensationally and could never occur today by the will of the Spirit.

Chad V. said...

There is absolutely no evidence from scripture what so ever that the measure in which miraculous signs are shown will be less or change in any degree at all. This author, says he can find no clear teaching for the cessationist position but then proposes a position which has even less scriptural evidence than the one he's trying to refute.

Robert said...

You wrote "I don't believe what they say is happening ever happens."

To which "what they say" do you refer? That the gifts continue, that miracles still happen, or something else? Thanks for clarifying.

Frank Turk said...

Now Robert:

I have already said this in our little series

[QUOTE]
My opinion is that a "cautious" continualist and a "cautious" cessationist have way more in common that they have in contention. They agree that prayer is efficacious; they agree that God is the giver of all good things; they agree that the Christian has a privilege to ask God for his needs; they agree that we should rejoice when God supplies those needs.
[QUOTE]

The difference between the Cessationist view and the Continualist view is that the Cessationist doesn't deny the miraculous current-work of God -- the Cessationist is not a Deist -- but he denies what the Continualist would affirm: that in some way, the administration of miracles is tied to particular gifting(s) in the church, and some people in the church have those giftings as a continuation of what Christ did when He was in His earthly ministry.

Does that help?

Jugulum said...

So you're saying, in a nutshell, "Continualists need to speak & teach with greater clarity on how to exercise discernment"? I agree.

I think everyone should wholeheartedly agree with this:

"And this same logic ought to stand up when it comes to the alleged gifts. That is, if someone claims to be working in the Spirit, performing signs and wonders in the name of Jesus Christ, we ought to be able to know whether they are false prophets or fellow workmen in the Gospel."

Amen and amen. And for a current point of application: We ought not be left to wring our hands in puzzlement when looking at something like Lakeland. We ought to be able to look at the teaching & the fruit--the good ol' Jonathan-Edwards-style signs of the Spirit--and exercise discernment. Some charismatics did so; not nearly enough. (Which tells me that the charismatic movement is at least as ill as the evangelical movement at large.) Whether we judge yea or nay, we ought to be able to exercise discernment.

"So my point here is that making unclear distinctions like the somewhat-confusing ones, above, doesn't make the continualist case any more convincing. It seems, in fact, to make it all the more slippery -- which brings me personally to the place where I need some actual apostolic help in sorting the problem out."

Agreed on the need for help...But why should that affect how convincing the case is? Isn't the slipperiness present, regardless of whether any gifts have ceased? I mean, either way, this problem was around in apostolic times, right? Oughtn't we assume that Scripture is sufficient to guide us here, too?

I can see an alternative: To say that in apostolic times, they had the living authoritative apostles to tell them what's what. Almost like a Magisterium to help with the difficult task of interpretation. That would be a peculiarly Catholic approach. No, I'm confident that Scripture could guide us here, even if the sign & revelatory gifts actually have ceased. So I don't see how this problem affects the persuasiveness of the case.

But that does still leave the task of clearly articulating how we ought to approach signs & prophecy with discernment. Speaking as a tentative continualist--I'm still studying, but that's where my conclusions are going--that's the major question that I have. What does real, Scripture-taught, Spirit-filled, Spirit-led discernment in these matters look like? It's a set of problems that holds me back from embracing charismatic practice.

DJP said...

I was going to say something like this, but found that Chad V had already said This author, says he can find no clear teaching for the cessationist position but then proposes a position which has even less scriptural evidence than the one he's trying to refute

Indeed: "Should we be expecting the same miraculous confirmations of our witnessing today? My answer is yes, but not in the same measure that the apostles experienced this miraculous power"

So, in other words, "Yes, but actually no."

GOT it.

Pastor Jody said...

Cent,

I am a recently "converted" Calvinist who pastors a pentecostal church. It is through blogs like Old Truth, Truth Matters, and Pyros that I have learned so much about what has been misrepresented to me over the years, that is the doctrines of grace.

I greatly appreciate you commment about about "cautious continualist" and "cautious cessationist". I feel that way as well.

I am a continualist. I feel the gifts are for today. But I also feel they are vary rare compared to what most "pentecostals" make them to be.

Though this is my first comment, I read Pyro daily. I have learned so much. You guys keep up the good work.

Jugulum said...

P.S. I say that I'm a tentative continualist--but actually, I'm not convinced that we should expect people in the church to have a gift of being able to heal or work miracles on command.

But that's related to a confusion I have about the apostolic gifts of healing, too. When I read Paul talking in his letters about people who were sick, I wonder, "Did he just decide not to heal them? Or did he not really have a gift of healing on command, either?"

A guess: Maybe when the apostles healed with authority, it was in response to a particular work of the Spirit giving them the confidence that God did intend to heal.

And I can imagine how that gift could continue today--when and where God gives it. And it doesn't seem too far away from a cautious cessationist position, either.

Daryl said...

Dan and Chad,

Exactly right. Having a pretty much entirely Charismatic family I'd love for the continualist point of view to be true, it would make parts of life easier.

But, cessationist arguments aside, I find the continualist arguments far more compelling AGAINST what they are trying to prove than for.
That tells me something.

The Blainemonster said...

Would not the warnings found in Scripture regarding counterfeit signs and wonders such as 2 Thessalonians 2:8-10 imply two things: That there would be GENUINE signs and wonders continuing into the last days and ALSO that believers must be cautious as well as self-controlled so as not to go overboard in the seeking of signs and wonders, instead leaving that up to the perview and prerogative of the Holy Spirit? (How's that for a run on?)

-from a "cautious continualist"

Jugulum said...

blaine,

Maybe 2 Thes. 2:8-10 implies that we ought not be miracle-chasers.

But I don't see how it implies that authentic gifts will continue. It just says that the lawless one will come "by the activity of Satan with all power and false signs and wonders".

Think of it this way: Would Paul have to change his wording if he had taught cessationism elsewhere? Is there anything in his wording that doesn't fit with cessationism? I don't see anything.

Jugulum said...

One more thought on miraculous & healing gifts. (Frank, I'm not sure if this is getting too far off-topic. If you'd prefer tighter focus on your post's thesis, just say so.)

When I look at James 4:13-16 ("Instead you ought to say, 'If the Lord wills, we will live and do this or that.'") and James 5:13-16 ("the prayer of faith will save the one who is sick") together, I start to wonder.

I don't see how "the prayer of faith" or any spiritual gift can mean that we don't need to humbly say, "If the Lord wills". I don't see how we can suppose that any of us--including the apostles--would have been given the right to direct the Spirit, such that they don't have to say "If the Lord wills, this will happen". And since acquaintances of the apostles did get sick, it doesn't seem that the apostles exercised healing at their own will.

So that makes me think: If "the prayer of faith" ever means "perfect confidence that God will heal", then it only avoids the charge of arrogance if it is a confidence that is bestowed by God--and only sometimes does He do so. It can't be a confidence that we have the power to call up within ourselves.

Pastor Steve said...

I think we need to realize that miracles authenticated the message really more than the messenger (although obviously included). Without completed revelation it was important to have some way of determining whether the message was from God or not. Miracles did that.

Now how do we authenticate someone's message as being from God? We simply compare what they say with Scripture. Miracles as a gift are now no longer needed since Scripture is the test of authenticity.

Frank Turk said...

blainemonster --

[1] You need a better avatar. Consider this one.

[2] Let me say specifically that your point is extremely well taken by me. The question is if the contemporary continualists would speak to the actual problems of people who abuse their views. Openly reject the excesses -- which includes, btw, rejecting what appear to be signs and wonders when those who proffer them are frauds.

Jugulum said...

So, Frank, then you have two concerns:

1.) That continuationist leaders clearly articulate how to exercise discernment in these matters.

2.) That continuationist leaders clearly demonstrate how to exercise discernment, with particular people, with particular excesses & abuses & falsehoods, when such problems come up in the body of Christ.

That a fair summary?

Jugulum said...

Steve,

So, you think that in the apostolic times, miracles did the job of authentication, as opposed to now, when Scripture itself does the authentication?

So was the Bereans' proverbial Scripture-searching unnecessary? If it was necessary, why have the miracles, too? Were the OT Scriptures perhaps less effective at self-authentication? Were they insufficient to authenticate the gospel, so that we needed both?

It seems to me that the authenticating miracles weren't exactly necessary in the apostolic times, either.

Frank Turk said...

Jug:

In a word, yes.

And before the other side of the fence starts saying I am calling them to be the cow-punching Texas Rangers of the Evangelical frontier, let me distance myself from that call in particular.

I'm re-reading Dr. Piper's Brothers, We are Not Professionals, which is a great, convicting, heart-grasping call to faithful Gospel ministry. What a great gift for your pastor if you can give it to him in love and not as an accusation that he's a spiritual flop.

Everybody with me?

That book represents what Abraham Piper (son of said Doctor) has sort of identified as the right balance for criticism. It speaks to issues as "not [problem] but [solution]" which is not merely complaining or scolding but offering constructive input to fix a problem.

Here's my question: How many books are written from a charismatic perspective which take this approach to abuses in that community? If one problem in the church today is a lack of clarity about the Gospel, one of the causes of that lack of clarity comes from the charismatic enthusiasm for a kind of experience. If it is necessary to say, "this is actually the Gospel" (and it is), it is also necessary to say "but this is not the Gospel: this is a distraction from or a corruption of the power of God to save."

Johnny Dialectic said...

"Now what about today? Should we be expecting the same miraculous confirmations of our witnessing today? My answer is yes, but not in the same measure that the apostles experienced this miraculous power."

So where is the gauge to "measure" when it is "authentic"? What standard do we use to judge when something is "confirmation" or not?

stratagem said...

Frank: I suggest you occasionally post an article written in glossalalia, to show that you are culturally sensitive to the non-cessationists among us. It would be a nice gesture, and you wouldn't have to give much thought to it, since you wouldn't even know what you were writing about.

Pastor Steve said...

Jug:

The context of your Berean reference is very clearly that Paul was speaking to Jews (Acts 17:10) and that those Jews were analyzing whether Christ really was the Messiah based off of the Old Testament scriptures that Paul was showing them. In this case, analyzing the Old Testament Scripture was possible and led these Jews to believe in Christ as the Messiah.

As these apostles traveled not everyone knew of them and their miracles would authenticate them as being true apostles to their new audience as well as bolster the new revelation they were giving.

2 Corinthians 12:12 The signs of a true apostle were performed among you with all perseverance, by signs and wonders and miracles.

Jugulum said...

Frank,

Oh, amen.

I've witnessed a great fear of being labeled "heresy hunters". There's a bad approach that we should avoid, but that just means we need to learn how to do it right! In truth, in love, in grace, in wisdom, in solid Christ-centered conviction, in Scripture-saturated words that the Spirit will use to grow us into maturity: The renewing of our minds manifesting in the image of Christ.

As to your question about books, I'm not sure. Some of Sam Storms' books are attempts at that. I haven't read Moreland's Kingdom Triangle yet, but from what I've heard, it might be one. I've heard a fantastic sermon from C. J. Mahaney overviewing 1 Cor. 12-14, but I don't have the link handy. (This sermon looks like it might be similar.) Otherwise, I know of various charismatic books that I haven't read--by Jack Deere, John Wimber, etc--but I have no idea whether they do what you're asking.

Jugulum said...

Another nutshell: If charismatics don't like how it's done in Charismatic Chaos, we should point people to how we think it ought to be done.

Jugulum said...

Steve,

I agree--and I don't think I have quite a solid grasp on the role that the apostles' miracles did play in authenticating them. So I want to be cautious in what I say here.

But I could say the same things of missionaries today: They may go places where people know neither them nor the Scriptures. Miracles today could play the same function they did for the apostles.

You can say "but now we have the completed canon"--but that's when I go to the questions I asked.

(This doesn't argue that sign gifts do continue--I just don't think your argument against them works.)

Stefan said...

Nobody's replied to Pastor Jody yet?

Pastor Jody:

Welcome aboard!

DJP said...

I think we're all trying to work out a tactful way to find out if "Jody" is a girl's name.

Stefan said...

Well, you can click on his name and see a picture. Looks like a dude to me.

Stefan said...

I mean, here's a pastor in a Pentecostal church who's giving his testimony that he's recently come to accept the doctrines of grace, and thanking you guys for this blog.

DJP said...

I keed! I keed!

(I think the picture's blocked at my work)

Don't go all Canadian on me!

Stefan said...

Too serious?

MarieP said...

Bentley's supposed conversation with God should have made people run away since the very beginning:

"'Lord, why can’t I just move in healing and forget talking about all that other stuff?'" He said, 'Because Todd, you got to get the people to believe in the angel.' I said God, 'Why do I want people to believe in the angel, isn’t it about getting the people to believe in Jesus?' He said, 'The people already believe in Jesus, but the church doesn’t believe in the supernatural.' The church has no problem believing in Jesus, what we don’t believe in is the supernatural. We don’t believe in angels, we don’t believe in the prophetic, we don’t believe in what’s going on, and I’ll tell you what, we need to have an awakening."

from the "Defending Contending" blog

Acts 1:8- "But you shall receive power when the Holy Spirit has come upon you; and you shall be witnesses to Me in Jerusalem, and in all Judea and Samaria, and to the end of the earth."

MarieP said...
This comment has been removed by the author.
Stefan said...

Mariep

I've seen this "we need to have an awakening" line in a few completely different contexts now, from different pastors in different denominations, but usually seeming to mean the same thing: "preaching Christ and Him crucified is not enough—we need something more!"

Not to be confused with genuniely praying for a revival in the community....

Stefan said...

(Of course, just preaching Christ and Him crucified would be a thousand times more than many churches are getting now....)

Solameanie said...

Well, there was the male Jody Powell, who was Jimmy Carter's press secretary if memory serves me correctly. There was also "Buffy and Jody" from the old show "Family Affair."

So there can be male Jodies.

Chad V. said...
This comment has been removed by the author.
Chad V. said...

Blainemonster

2Thess2:8-10 I don't think can support the idea that miraculous signs will continue until the end of the last days. All it says is that the man of lawless one will perform signs and wonders after the power of Satan. It says nothing about him competing with true signs and wonders. In fact no passage that refers to the lying signs and wonders or false Christs or the antichrist ever mention anything about true signs and wonders being performed at the same time.

Chad V. said...

Pastor Jody

Long time no see. Good to see you again. Finally I can put a face to the name.

MarieP said...

Stefan said:

"(Of course, just preaching Christ and Him crucified would be a thousand times more than many churches are getting now....)"

AMEN! Romans 1:16- "For I am not ashamed of the gospel of Christ, for it is the power of God to salvation for everyone who believes, for the Jew first and also for the Greek."

Jugulum said...

Chad,

That strikes me as a bizarre hermeneutic. You don't give any reason for expecting that it Paul would almost certainly mention such competion. Maybe I would expect it if Paul had in mind an Elijah-and-the-prophets-of-Baal showdown, but that's not the same as "the sign gifts sometimes still occur".

Chad V. said...

jugulum

I don't see what's so bizarre about my hermeneutic. Blainemonster had said that he thought the text implied that true signs and wonders continued. I said that the text says nothing to that effect. It only says that the lawless one will perform signs and wonders.

It's never a good idea nor is it good hermeneutics to build a position based on implication. Lots of errors are arrived at that way. Take this for example;

Many who believe that a Christian can lose his salvation base that on statements like "the one who endures to the end will be saved." Matt 10:22. They argue that the possibility of losing one's salvation is implied by Christ's words here. They are wrong. Nothing of the sort is implied and it does not say that if you fail to persevere you will lose your salvation.

If we take 2 thess as blainemonster has suggested we fall into bad hermeneutics and we will draw false conclusions.

Jugulum said...

Ah. I agree that the verse doesn't teach that signs/miracles will continue. I thought you were saying it implied they won't. Which looked like a weird implication to draw.

Tom Chantry said...

I think we're all trying to work out a tactful way to find out if "Jody" is a girl's name.

"Pastor Jody" is a much appreciated brother known to the regulars at the former Old Truth site. And why be tactful. When he first entered the conversation over there, someone posted a comment to the effect of "Dude, are you a guy or a girl?" He took it with grace and good humor.

Rick Frueh said...

"Cautious continualist"

I like that. It seems the "sign gifts" have ceased. But the Scriptures do not clearly predict that. Cautious, measured, thoughtful, contemplative, reserved, and confused continualist. :)

Pastor Michael said...

I don't see 2 Thess 2:8-10 making the case that genuine signs and wonders continue, but Revelation 11:3-6 seems to. (If you're not a Preterist, that is.)

Strong Tower said...

"A guess: Maybe when the apostles healed with authority, it was in response to a particular work of the Spirit giving them the confidence that God did intend to heal."

zackly. So too with the sign gifts. So too with our salvation. It is not blind faith to which we are making an appeal. But the appeal of a clean conscience. We do not approach the throne of grace with trepidation but boldness, so also the gifts of the Spirit are tastifully laddled with the confidence of the knowledge that it is indeed him. So, for a tongue to occur it is not, "I wonder if this is real, or if I should speak" but one knows without doubt that it is true. A tongue given in church will always be met with an interpretation because the same Spirit works all and in all. Surely he knows if there is an interpreter before he urges one to speak in a tongue? And so too he will not leave any speaker unconforted without that knowledge.

Faith prayers are of two types. And we always pray according to knowledge. If we do not know that someone will be healed we pray if it is your will, full of the knowledge that we don't know and full of the knowledge that God will answer no matter the future. If we know, we pray full of the knowledge that we know and with full knowledge that it will happen. To speak before you know the end of the matter is the way of the fool, I've heard.

As to the apostolic authority, I think it is important that when there is a question, that we wait upon God for the authority. As James insists, God will give the answer, but if a man is not sure, double-minded, he should not think he will be answered. Now, we do not have a Paul roaming around turning over people to Satan. And if anyone has the gift of discernment of spirits, it is news, because that would dispel the doubts as to the source of the miraculous. It would still leave us short on the common. For fools often open their mouths and utter all kinds of indiscernibles and others claim the discerment of spirits and are frought with errors in behaviors and doctrine. In the end Paul warned all that he would come and set it all straight.

It would seem, that unless the authority is in place, we are much wiser to approach it with the greatest care. Would God send a miracle worker without such discerning? Well, maybe for a season, but it is impossible that the elect should be long deceived, right? Doesn't the Scrpture call Him the counselor, the leader into all Truth? Then it seems that if he is operating in some miracle worker, or operating in some way out of the ordinary, he is not going to leave men without a Peter to stand up and say, "This is that."

But maybe, its just a tangled chaos that we are expected to muddle our way through?

Daryl said...

" As James insists, God will give the answer, but if a man is not sure, double-minded, he should not think he will be answered."

As pertains to the giving of wisdom. The "man being sure" thing I mean. I see no evidence that answered prayer demands absolutely not doubting.

Just to be clear...

Jugulum said...

daryl,

I don't think James meant "asks without doubting that he will receive what he asks for"--because "I don't know whether God will grant my request" isn't "unstable" or being "driven and tossed by the wind".


strong tower,

The one thing that makes me hesitate about my articulation of "the prayer of faith" and gifts of healing & miracles is this: I'm not sure that it encompasses the "authority" that Jesus gave the 12 disciples to heal in Matt. 10:1.

Daryl said...

Jug,

I agree, I just think that verse only applies to the seeking of wisdom.

Jack said...

This isn't hard. Even a continuationist can say in response to a miracle claim is (politely), "Can you prove it?" Miraculous healings are impossible to fake. They also have a pattern. The absence of normal medical treatment (medicine, therapy, and so on). The absence of lengths of time. The completeness of the cure.

Third hand accounts about something that allegedly happened to someone else don't count as proof. The reliability and sensibleness of the person describing what he saw does count, just like we rely on the reliability and access of the Gospel writers to base our trust in their trustworthiness.

I don't believe that Satan ever heals anybody; and I don't believe the Bible says anywhere that he can or does. Satan only steals, kills, and destroys. I'm not saying that he can't causes supernatural phenomena, like apparitions, ectoplsmic "smoke" effects, creepy psychic effects (one demon tells another demon what color your cat at home is, and so makes the possessed person look like they have ESP). But if Satan could actually work signs, he would be doing it all the time; and yet you never see anything.

And I consider 99% of the stories you hear from foreign nationals to be telephone-game-type fables.

But gullibility, and a refusal to really test anything, seems to be a crucial prerequisite for being a Charismatic Christian.

Frank Turk said...

I think the "prove it" retort smacks of modernist assumptions and anti-supernaturalistic biases.

We DO NOT deny that God can and does do the miraculous. He saves spiritually-dead men. After that, healing cancer is a -little- thing.

I think a better retort which puts the same problem in biblical perspective is "why did God do that miracle?" In the Bible, we can see why God does the miraculous -- He doesn't do things in a corner and He doesn't do miracles like random firecrackers. God does the miraculous for revealed purposes.

If we can't see the revealed purpose of a miracle, I think there's a clearer reason why we should hold it in a light of scepticism: it's a pointless sign.

Think about the implications of a sign without a thing signified.

Mesa Mike said...

Matt. 10:1 is closely followed by Matt. 10:5, in which Jesus tells his disciples, “Go nowhere among the Gentiles and enter no town of the Samaritans, but go rather to the lost sheep of the house of Israel."

If the continualist wants to use Matt. 10:1-8 as his authority to heal the sick and raise the dead, then I guess he is only going to concentrate on applying such miraculous deeds to Jews.

Rick Frueh said...

There are no more blinded eyes being opened by the gift of the Spirit through a believer. There could be but there are none that pass Biblical muster. However there are some wonders.

Joni Erickson Tada is a wonder. Elizabeth Eliott is a wonder.

On John and Charles Wesley's first missionary trips to America they were in the company of approximately 50 Moravians on the ship. Wesley was very impressed by their humility and servanthood. During the last week of the 3 month journey, everyone was holding a worship service in the ship's hull. There was a great storm and everyone but the Moravians seemed nervous.

As they sang the last of the closing hymns, a loud and horrible crash was heard on the deck. Everyone began to yell and the women and children began to scream and weep. Several men made their way to the deck and came back reporting the main mast has broken and crashed upon the ship's deck.

John Wesley notes in his journal that the Moravians never moved and continued to sing God's praises as if nothing had happened. After they closed the service with a season of prayer, Wesley went to the leader and asked why no one, even the women and children, had shown any fear. The Moravian leader told Wesley that all of them had committed their lives to Christ and they were His to do with as He pleased. They were not afraid. Wesley's life was drmatically changed by this event.

That, my friends, is a genuine wonder.

Chad V. said...

Pastor Michael

I don't believe Rev 11:1-3 teaches the continuation of signs and I'm not a preterist in the sense that I believe that all of what's in the book of Revelation has already happened. I'm an amillenialist and I already gave an amillenial view of what Rev 11 says in the string on the previous post in this series so I won't repeat it all here.

Nevertheless, if we look at the Revelation from the futurist perspective all that we can concluded from Rev 11:1-3 is that there will be two specific people who will be granted the power to perform miracles. That's it, just two. You could not conclude that they are available to the church in general. So no matter how you view the Revelation to John it cannot support the idea that the church in general will continue to perform signs and wonders until the return of Christ.

Susan said...

(Aside: Frank, why should we complain about the Coyote at all? As a child I rather liked Looney Tunes, even more than Disney toons.)

Susan said...

(I just realized why. Ha ha Dan. But it's not that bad, Frank.)

DJP said...

It's wonderful, Frank! I love it!

Wish I could do that.

Daryl said...

Rick Frueh,

I don't always agree with you but on this thread man, your speakin' my language.

I fully agree, I myself am guilty of often overlooking the signs you've noted. I don't get that, I have 5 kids, most of whom have professed Christ, all of whom love their mom & I. I get to watch them grow and learn. Wonders all 5.

Your mention of Joni Tada...my word, if coming to love her paralysis because of what it has done to her relationship with God isn't a wonder, what is?

Thanks Rick.

Clint said...

Frank,

"The question is if the contemporary continualists would speak to the actual problems of people who abuse their views. Openly reject the excesses -- which includes, btw, rejecting what appear to be signs and wonders when those who proffer them are frauds."

I think that is a great point. There is far more responsibility on the part of "continualist" leaders (I thought it was continuationist...but 5 syllables is always better than 6), than on cessationist leaders. I have found that neither the cautious continualist (which I am one) nor the cautious cessationist have any real idea what the real thing looks/should look like. I come from a very charismatic bible school that has wallowed in Corinthian-like excess...so the real thing can get elusive.

1 Cor. 2:2,
Clint

Strong Tower said...

As pertains to the giving of wisdom. The "man being sure" thing I mean. I see no evidence that answered prayer demands absolutely not doubting.

Just to be clear...

Just to be clear, we are asking for wisdom to understand. Beside that, not isolating the admonition from "Every good and perfect gift comes down from the Father of Lights" seems to me to put prayer without doubt in the ball park.

My point was simply that God always answers prayer, perfectly. If he graces you with exactly what tomorrow will bring, then a prayer offered in that kind of faith is predictive. The other kind of prayers we offer in faith in the fact that God always will do what is right. But, a man who doubts that is unstable in all his ways. In either case, whether he knows the future or doesn't, if he doubts the goodness of God, why would he ask the Father for bread if he thinks he might get a stone?

I stand by what I said.

What is it that the sign signifies is a great question. Is it approval of the message, approval of the man, demonstration of the presence of God? Does it demonstrate prophetic truth signifying not what's happening, or what will, but rather what was spoken in the past by the Prophets, namely the the Gospel?

Clint said...

One thing I have never had one great answer to is this:

Who, from direct Scriptural references, can assert that God has sovereignly decided that miracles do not glorify the name of Jesus anymore?

Daryl said...

Clint,

It's a little disingenuous to word your question the way you have.

Remember, the cessationist position is not that miracles have ceased. We are not anti-supernaturalists. We believe God heals and does wonders.

The question is not whether the specific gifts in question do not glorify Jesus anymore. The question is whether the Spirit gives those specific gifts anymore.

apologies said...

[tongue-in-cheek]
"Dr. Lloyd-Jones was far more cautious in practice than his various writings might indicate"

Maybe ML-J was an early "Charismatic with a seat belt on"... hmm sounds familiar, i just can't 'mark' the context(ualisation) where I've heard it before :)
[/tongue-in-cheek]

Al.

Micah said...

I recently posted on xenoglossalia at my site... it was a quickie, but it summarizes my thinking on this subject since leaving charismaticism about 10 years ago. radongas(dot)blogspot(dot)com

Frank Turk said...

Clint said:

[QUOTE]
Who, from direct Scriptural references, can assert that God has sovereignly decided that miracles do not glorify the name of Jesus anymore?
[/QUOTE]

I dunno, Clint -- from direct Scripture references, can you prove that you personally are saved? I mean, are you mentioned by name?

Because I can demand that as a criteria for admitting you are saved. I think it just doesn't make that good criteria.

Instead, I think it is far more theologically-helpful to perceive the use of signs and wonders as a consistent work of God even from the time of Moses, and recognize that there's nobody today who's doing what Moses, Elijah, Isaiah, Micah, Peter and Paul were doing -- which is delivering for the first time the revealed will of God.

Pastor Michael said...

Frank,

I’d like to respectfully disagree a teeny bit with your last statement, that Elijah, Isaiah, Micah, Peter and Paul were delivering for the first time the revealed will of God. Yes to Moses, Peter and Paul, because they were inaugurating covenants. Elijah and Isaiah, however, were calling the apostate people of their time back to faithfulness in the existing Mosaic covenant and invoking the prescriptions of Deuteronomy 25-28. Their authority to do so was attested to by the miraculous. (At least that’s the way I see it.)

Might the parallel for today then be signs and wonders attesting to the authenticity of a reformer in a time of great apostasy from the New Covenant? What might this look like? Why not Team Pyro calling down fire!

Before you clown me, I’m not kidding or mocking here. I see you folks as voices calling people of the New Covenant to faithfulness to it. Now John the Baptist, who called for both faithfulness to the existing covenant and pointed to the new one coming, “did no miracle”; so you might not either. But if anyone would, it would be someone with a message like yours.

Chad V. said...

Pastor Micahel
Elijah and Isaiah gave new revelation. They prophesied direct revelation from God. That;s why they're called prophets. Their is no more revelation. The canon is closed.

The Blainemonster said...

Jugulum, Chad V., et al...

I wholeheartedly agree that drawing doctrinal conclusions from implication is faulty and dangerous. That's certainly not my intention in looking at the passage in 2 Thessalonians. I'll try to state it again, but it will probably sound the same: Scripture warns that FALSE signs and wonders will appear in the last days...makes sense to me that GENUINE signs and wonders will be around as well. Otherwise, why are we not just warned to beware of ANY signs and wonders.

IDK, but perhaps the stronger argument would be that there doesn't seem to be any Scriptural evidence that these kinds of gifts have been shut down completely.

And thank you, Frank, for taking my point. Quite an accomplishment, since I'm not sure I expressed myself clearly.

Pastor Michael said...

Chad V

I agree concerning the canon being closed. Declaring old truth is sufficient. I’m not so sure, though, regarding the possibility of confirming signs and wonders accompanying said truth. I appreciate your approach to events in the Revelation 11 as described in your referenced blog article, but if the two witnesses indeed are representative of the church, what does the author mean by attributing to it (them) the power to perform acts reminiscent of Moses and Elijah?

At the very least I don’t think heavily strapped in continu-whatevers are wacko for thinking the canon speaks of such things. (And thanks to Frank for doggedly noting how very much the two restrained camps have in common.)

Chad V. said...

Well, all of that is Old Testament typology. Rev 11 lists specific kinds of wonders which all typified God's wrath against sin, idolatry etc. It's simply a further representation of gospel truth being declared. It is the gospel that tears down false religions and spiritual forces. It's all based on Old Testament typology.

I really recommend Hedricksen's commentary on Revelation called More Than Conquerers to any one who really wants to at least understand a position other than the typical Dispensational one. Also, if you go to Kim Riddlebarger's blog he has a whole series on sermons on Revelation that are in PDF form that you can download for free and read as time permits.

Clint said...

Frank, you side-stepped an opportunity to give direct Scriptural references for the reason God has decided that Jesus would not be glorified by continued supernatural gift-giving of the Holy Spirit.

So, you can honestly assert that you know the intentions of the Sovereign God...and they don't involve miraculous gifts anymore? (And you've determined this because it "makes sense"?)

You're Western reasoning power is absolutely amazing--at the cost of Scriptural fortitude.

Frank Turk said...

Clint --

| Frank, you side-stepped an
| opportunity to give direct Scriptural
| references for the reason God has
| decided that Jesus would not be
| glorified by continued supernatural
| gift-giving of the Holy Spirit.

No: what I did was identify the failure of your demand for a proof text. You're demanding a proof text for my position. My position is that Scripture doesn't give a date for our planners for the end of signs and wonders: it tells us the circumstances under which God does use signs and wonders.

Your position merely wants signs and wonders to be the common sign of the presence of the church; mine says they are reserved for God's explicit and unique work. There's no dodge -- except in what you say below.

| So, you can honestly assert that you
| know the intentions of the Sovereign
| God...and they don't involve
| miraculous gifts anymore? (And
| you've determined this because it
| "makes sense"?)

No: what I can say with some certainty is that I know God is not giving any new special revelation, so I suppose that God is also not just showing off for the fan boys -- that we aren't to seek after signs like the Corinthians did, or the Pharisees did, but that we are to instead take it for granted that long ago, at many times and in many ways, God spoke to our fathers by the prophets, but in these last days he has spoken to us by his Son.

Further, you have implied that I think it has to "make sense" when in fact I have repudiated the "prove it" retort in this very thread.

The fact is that you are the one who will only accept a specific proof of a specific type -- you are the one looking for enlightenment/western style "proof" for something.

My reasoning comes from the narrative of Scripture as it is presented, not from a syllogism or the need for an explicit command. In that, your next comment is utterly ridiculous:

| You're Western reasoning power is
| absolutely amazing--at the cost of
| Scriptural fortitude.

There's nothing "western" about admitting that God has a history. There's nothing "western" about admitting that God has always, if we believe Scripture, not acted capriciously or without special revelation to actually reveal the purpose of the miraculous.

What's "western" is the frankly-churlish demand that unless God explains something in so many words -- and with the words we would personally accept to understand it -- we won't give up a childish fascination with something that isn't happening anyway.

Go back and re-read my previous posts on this subject. I haven't denied that God is God, or that He will answer prayer: I deny that the signs of an apostle, a prophet, or Christ are present today -- nobody can command healing with a word and know for certain it will be done.

Have a nice day.

Frank Turk said...

Pastor Michael --

| I’d like to respectfully disagree a teeny bit
| with your last statement, that Elijah,
| Isaiah, Micah, Peter and Paul were
| delivering for the first time the revealed
| will of God. Yes to Moses, Peter and Paul,
| because they were inaugurating covenants.
| Elijah and Isaiah, however, were calling
| the apostate people of their time back to
| faithfulness in the existing Mosaic
| covenant and invoking the prescriptions of
| Deuteronomy 25-28. Their authority to do
| so was attested to by the miraculous. (At
| least that’s the way I see it.)

They were delivering Scripture, Pastor Michael. Special Revelation. In a highly-technical sense, you are right about the covenantal referents. But Isaiah was delivering what YHVH was saying in the same way Moses was delivering what YHVH was saying.

That, specifically, is my point.

| Might the parallel for today then be signs
| and wonders attesting to the authenticity
| of a reformer in a time of great apostasy
| from the New Covenant? What might this
| look like? Why not Team Pyro calling
| down fire!
|
| Before you clown me, I’m not kidding or
| mocking here. I see you folks as voices
| calling people of the New Covenant to
| faithfulness to it. Now John the Baptist,
| who called for both faithfulness to the
| existing covenant and pointed to the new
| one coming, "did no miracle"; so you
| might not either. But if anyone would, it
| would be someone with a message like
| yours.

That's very, um flattering? I guess? I wouldn't go that far. In the best possible case, we're like Titus or Timothy -- men who will teach faithfully what has already been given. And we don't need a sign gift to do that.

Thanks, tho: that's quite a vote of confidence. And it would take an actual sign gift to clown you here at TP because Phil won't implement Haloscan. :-)

Strong Tower said...

Oh, I don't know. I think clowning is definitely a miraculous sign. And then there is the awesome soveriegnty of banning. Kinda like Peter's pronouncement upon Andy and Safire.

Frank Turk said...

Be advised, btw, that I am closing this thread around lunchtime today.