This is the conclusion of a three-part post, which starts here, continues here, and concludes... well, here. I'm mulling an afterword, but this is the main argument.
So how does Poythress get from Scriptural sufficiency to (what I argue is) Scriptural insufficiency? The way most good men and women go off-course: by inches. Something like this (again, I urge you to read Poythress):
- Biblically-described gifts/activities may be thought of as discursive and non-discursive
- Prophecy, with its visions and heard-voices, is an example of a non-discursive activity
- Modern "prophecy," with its feelings and leadings, is also non-discursive
- Modern "prophecy" is therefore analogous to Biblically-described prophecy
- It is a kind of the same activity, must be treated as a spiritual gift, and may bear the same name
Where is the crying need to invent errant gifts? Remember, in the apostolic church, inerrant gifts were already joined by fallible gifts. It isn't as if all the gifts back then involved prophetic inerrancy and apostolic authority, and now we have to explain how we can do anything in our day, because Scripture doesn't countenance it.
To be specific, the Bible already names pastors and teachers, exhorters, helpers and leaders, without any suggestion that their activities were inerrant products of binding, divine revelation. What is the argument demanding the insufficiency of the revealed lists? Are we really incapable of either describing what Christians legitimately do by using revealed categories? Why do we need to invent new gifts, new versions of the gifts that did involve binding, inerrant divine revelation? Where is the direct Biblical warrant for such proliferation of gifts?
And if there is no direct Biblical warrant, where is the necessity?
This progression makes for a cautionary lesson. Let me illustrate:
Gradualistic reasoning. One of my finest memories is of the day my dear (then-future) wife and I shopped for wedding rings together. We were in the Redondo Beach area, going through the jewelry stores. Later there was dinner overlooking the ocean, and a sweet nice time by the crashing waves. Terrific day, terrific evening.
I'd never thought ring-shopping could be fun, but this really was. We were pretty money-poor, so we began by looking at plain gold bands, which cost $X. But those $X rings were in a case right next to other rings. It was impossible not to see them. Looking from the bands to the other rings we saw that, for just $X+10 more per ring, we could have this attractive design on them. Cool! But, wait, just another $X+15, and we could have this beautiful touch... and then, at $X+25, this... and then at $X+75, this.... Before long, we were financially miles and miles away from our starting-point.
Finally my intended said, "You know, would we rather spend all our money on nice rings now and have nothing for our honeymoon? Or get basic rings now, have a nice honeymoon, and then upgrade in ten years? After all, the rings won't make the marriage."
Nice trick. Color me unconvinced.
Arguing that an inuitive hunch verbalized by a good Christian brother or sister is analogous to inerrant, binding, direct revelation from God to the extent that the latter may bear the name of the former, simply does not follow. A Frisbee may bear similarities to a pizza, but please don't try to serve it to me for dinner, with or without anchovies.
Though Poythress' article is over 15,000 words long, this would actually be an adequate refutation, if not a very satisfying one.
How so? Read Poythress, and you will see that his entire case breaks down thus:
- Scripture defines certain revelatory gifts.
- I, Vern Poythress, think some modern activities are kind of like those gifts, though not the same.
- "Kind of like" is close enough that we can call them by the same names, and are obliged to regard them as spiritual gifts.
At some point, I think sober heads are going to have to wake up and ask themselves why they keep trying to do this, why they keep making excuses for goofy ol' Uncle Joe. Is it because we like the faux-gift practitioners? Well, I like them too, a lot. But is that a good motivation for playing loose with Scripture, bending it to accommodate our friends' errors? Does such a thing serve God well? Does it adorn the Scripture? For that matter, does it serve the uninstructed, the gullible... or the ensnared?
I think not.