29 July 2010

Vern Poythress and the modern sorta-gifts (Part Three)

by Dan Phillips


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):
  1. Biblically-described gifts/activities may be thought of as discursive and non-discursive
  2. Prophecy, with its visions and heard-voices, is an example of a non-discursive activity
  3. Modern "prophecy," with its feelings and leadings, is also non-discursive
  4. Modern "prophecy" is therefore analogous to Biblically-described prophecy
  5. It is a kind of the same activity, must be treated as a spiritual gift, and may bear the same name
But where is the direct Biblical warrant for basing anything significant on that inferred division? Do not Biblical prophecies include quotations from previous texts? (Hint: they do.) Where is the direct Biblical warrant for extracting the essential identifying characteristics of a gift, and dignifying the resultant activity with the name God gave the genuine gift? It is as if one were to discard the weiner and still insist that what was left was a "hot dog."

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."


The problem with inching away from Scripture. Poythress' article is an example of just that kind of creeping gradualistic thinking. Poythress thinks that, if we're going to buy the $X+1 ring, we might as well go ahead and get the $X+1000 ring.

In effect, Poythress starts out with A: the apostolic gifts were revelatory, inerrant, binding; the Canon is closed and sufficient; such gifts are no longer in operation. Then he says, "From that explicit teaching of Scripture, it is only a short step to inference A, which is not explicitly Scriptural, but which sees that one might argue that there are different mutations of the same gift, starting off at near-identity, but soon ranging far afield. Once we grant A, it will become easier to step to A+1, then A+25 and A+95, further and further away from explicit Biblical teaching; at which point just another few leaps, and we end up here, at A=Ω. This all leads us to see that it's okay to call non-A 'A,' and obligatory to respect it equally with A."

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.

So in sum, I am tempted to refute Poythress' entire argument simply by saying "Yes, well, I don't think contemporary gifts are significantly analogous to apostolic gifts," and leave it at that.

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:
  1. Scripture defines certain revelatory gifts.
  2. I, Vern Poythress, think some modern activities are kind of like those gifts, though not the same.
  3. "Kind of like" is close enough that we can call them by the same names, and are obliged to regard them as spiritual gifts.
See? So if one can say (as I do say) "I don't think it's valid to take that step; instead, I think we should let Scripture name what it names, and be both content with that and bound by that naming," then he's done.

Think of it in any other sphere. A flashlight is like a sun, no? Both give light in dark places. There you go. So, let's call a flashlight a "sun."

But no, we can't do that. A sun has defining features which set it apart from flashlights. There is a reason why we have two words, and don't trade them back and forth willy-nilly.

As I see it, this is just another good brother's goodhearted but mistaken attempt to "Clinton down" the real gifts, to spray-paint a false veneer of respectability to modern counterfeits so as to save them from embarrassment.

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.


Conclusion: case closed!

Now let's see who's been paying attention.

At this point you, Dear Readers, will divide generally into two main categories.

First category will be those persuaded by my argument, and unconvinced by Dr. Poythress. To many folks in that group, I will have at least sketched the outline of a withering, devastating critique of Poythress' position, and you basically agree with me. Case closed.

Second category would be comprised of those who still feel that Dr. Poythress is right. Perhaps you'd argue, as many do, that the Bible does not claim to give an exhaustive list of spiritual gifts. You see analogies between modern, more-intuitive phenomena (if orthodox) and Biblical apostolic, revelatory, inspired, binding gifts. You think it's valid, for that reason, to apply the same names to the modern activities.

Well then, my argument still must prevail.

How so?

You do not feel I have mounted a withering, devastating critique of Poythress' position. I understand that.

But does not my case contain many of the characteristics of a withering, devastating critique? Wouldn't honesty force you to admit that my argument is... hm, what's the word?... analogous to a withering, devastating critique of Poythress' position?

Surely.

Well then, if you think Poythress is right, then I demand that you apply his reasoning and call my argument a withering, devastating critique of Poythress' position. And I demand that it be worked into any theology of the gifts.

If he's right... then I'm right. Or analogous to being right. Which, since Dr. Poythress does not want to "get bogged down in disputes about terminology," amounts to the same thing.

There y'go.

Case closed.

Part One
Part Two

Dan Phillips's signature

157 comments:

greglong said...

DJP,

You did a terrible job on this post.

(Please consider this comment to be analogous to saying "You did a great job on this post" because you'll notice I used the word "job".)

Trevor said...

Dan,

Great series. I especially liked your *analagous* reasoning in your conclusion.

A few questions for discussion:
- (To over simplify the question...) What spiritual gifts are going on today?
- Dan, is your biggest beef with Poythress his essential incorrect nomenclature in dealing with spiritual gifts and then asserting something *is* x when it is not? I guess I am trying to see if this is really Poythress naming things badly.

I agree with you BTW.

- Trevor M.
"IT'S A TRAP!!...the analogus gifts, that is."

Robert said...

I guess what I am curious about is if anybody has read this and considered it in line with postmodernism. I only really thought it about that this morning as I read your post. I certainly think that this is pomo thought creeping into the church and it scares me that people would take up with (and defend) this type of argument.

Another thing that really bothers me is that people seem to give little creedence to the idea that demons have power and can perform their own little signs, too. And if we're going to talk about things being analagous, well where does that leave us? Surely any signs and wonders worked by dark powers (as far as God lets that go - they are not autonomous) would be analagous to signs and wonders others work. BUT they have different sources and different objectives. I don't think that can be ignored, but that is just my humble opinion.

Paul said...

LOL.

I'm with Trevor... I don't remember Poythress saying that everyone's obliged to call things spiritual gifts (maybe he did, I can't remember but you've got to remember his views on linguistics, fuzzy definitions and all, and that spiritual gifts could mean more than one thing).

Do you agree that there can be intuitive speaking of God's truth, as well as deductive? If so, what do you want to call it? I've no problem with not calling it prophecy but it's just an English word. Also, if it is edifying, and empowered in any sense by the Holy Spirit, then is it not some kind of spiritual gift?

As an aside, for the same reasons, I'm often unconvinced by Pyromaniacs posts that use "scripture calls it this, therefore we must use always use language in the same way" type logic. Do you appropriately rebuke 95% of systematic theologians for using the word "sanctification" unbiblicly?

Paul said...

For clarity, my LOL above was genuine, as I love the way you took the reasoning at the end of the post.

Tom Chantry said...

So. You really should have let someone "blow up the thread" earlier, because reading half of your first post and firing off a bunch of half baked opinions would be sort of analogous to reading your entire series and posting thoughtful interactions. It makes no difference! I knew you were wrong to close comments, I just didn't know why!

DJP said...

Chantry, if I had favorite commenters, you'd be among them.




(I do, and you are.)

DJP said...

Paul - Do you agree that there can be intuitive speaking of God's truth, as well as deductive? If so, what do you want to call it? I've no problem with not calling it prophecy but it's just an English word. Also, if it is edifying, and empowered in any sense by the Holy Spirit, then is it not some kind of spiritual gift?

To the second sentence, I have an idea: why not call it "intuitive speaking of God's truth"?

To the rest, please read parts two and three of this series, particularly focusing on the portions between "by Dan Phillips" and my picture. When you do, you'll find that I respond at length to those issues.

Robert said...

Paul,

I guess the problem is the perspective you take when defining something as edifying. If you ask all of the folks down here around Houston that go to Lakewood (where Joel Osteen preaches) if they were edified during his speeches (I can't honestly call them sermons, myself), I am sure that most of them would say yes. If you look at his teaching, though, you can see that most people are not being edified, truly.

I don't see how somebody can be edified by hearing people speak in words that can not be understood (thus, Paul's instructions for interpretation) or prophecies that are errant. I was hesitant to go there, but I am strongly convicted that Scripture shows that spiritual gifts are indeed for edification of the church through serving others.

Tom Chantry said...

OK, seriously.

What Poythress has done here is fairly basic. First, he has redefined a number of terms in ways that no one in the history of the church ever defined them before. Second, he has blurred distinctions which have a certain value. I don't just mean distinctions between terms, but between theologies. It is useful to understand that some Christians believe in ongoing revelation while others do not, but Poythress has blurred that distinction by redefining "prophecy" in a way which neither cessasionists nor non-cessasionists ever have. (And, incidentally, in a way that the pre-charismatic Puritans never did either, although they co-opted the term prophecy for their own purposes, having taken it for granted that biblical prophecy had ceased.) So, terms are redefined and distinctions are blurred, which puts us where? In a muddle. It's very hard to criticize the Christian who says, "God told me," which opens the door to the whole flood of charismatic and pentacostal excess.

What is frustrating about dealing with Poythress is the how - how did he accomplish this? First, he used a lot of technical sounding theologico-speak which dresses his argument up in respectable, quasi-Reformed robes. Second, he does it all in the name of peace between Christians. If we just define away our differences, we will be at peace.

What has done is essentially promote a form of logical relativism in which opposites are really the same thing if you just look at it from a different perspective. How he has done it is especially insidious, because he has made relativism appear both charitable and orthodox.

So far, DJP, I imagine I'm saying pretty much what you thought. Only here's the rub: I would have expected nothing else from Poythress, because well-disguised relativism is what Triperspectivalists do. They redefine terms, they blur distinctions, and they dress up everything in very intelligent and Reformed sounding language. At the end of the day, they deconstruct every traditional Reformed position which they choose to investigate, and chaos reigns.

Robert said...

Sorry, I should have made a clear split between the thoughts of the two paragraphs in my last post. I am not saying that Lakewood is analagous with churches exercising various sign gifts...outside of trying to define the perception of being edified.

Jugulum said...

I've got a couple comments. I'm mostly on same page about how we should evaluate Poythress's argument (more in a sec). On the other hand, it looks like you mischaracterized one piece of his argument, unless I missed something.


I've had analogous thoughts to Poythress's, without the step of applying the label "spiritual gifts". I've had these thoughts while serving & praying at my local church, which is charismatic. I look at what people call prophecy, and how they talk about seeking to grow in the prophetic, and what they actually mean by it. I've looked at, "What are you praying for the Spirit to do through you?" And most of it is something that I most certainly want to pray for: That the Spirit would grant me insight as I pray for people, that I would speak the truth from God that they most need to hear, that they would be built up and encouraged and comforted. That's the substance of what they're actually pursuing.

I'm not convinced that's what the NT calls "prophecy", but I most certainly want the Spirit to work through me in this way. I can unite with them in this easily, as long as we aren't claiming "The Lord says". And as long as they recognize that the Spirit is still working whether the insights came seemingly spontaneously ("non-discursive") or through our reflection & study ("discursive").

What I haven't done in the past is use the term "spiritual gift" here. I pray for the Spirit to work, yes, but I didn't quite think in that category.

So as I went into reading Polythress's argument, I was wondering:
1.) How will he handle the question, "Should we call it prophecy?"
2.) If he doesn't claim, "We should call these things prophecy", how will he ground the idea of treating them as spiritual gifts at all?

So Dan, I'm with you that these are the questions we should be asking, and we shouldn't accept vague, squishy answers.

More in a bit.

Deb said...

Thank you DJP. Great series, once again.

and re: Chantry's #2 comment:
Amen! Well-stated.

Paul said...

I guess errant prophecy can be edifying in the same way as errant preaching. You test both with scripture and you hold on to the good.

DJP - although you wrote at length in part 2, I fear it may be all words and "signifying nothing". Would you like to tell us why we must use the same words as a particular English translation of the Bible uses, always in the same way as that translation of the Bible uses them?

I personally don't care for calling it prophecy, or a spiritual gift anyway. But if someone uses the term, and I understand that they don't mean it in the same as the Biblical sense, then all is well.

I know lots of women other than my wife. But not in the sense of Gen 4:1. Perhaps I better start saying "I have relational knowledge" of them instead, lest I use the same language as the Bible but in a different sense. Stupid example, I know, but is this really a three-part series of blog posts saying we can't use language in any sense other than a particular Bible translation's use of it?

I get that you don't think they're sufficiently analogous, and that Poythress is doing the gradualist thing, and that's bad. Fine, but it doesn't seem to me that you have a problem with "intuitive speaking of God's truth", which makes me wonder why this is such a big issue. Why not just talk about words?

Now with the Poythressian suggestion that everyone should call it prophecy, if he says that (which I don't recall but assume I'm wrong about), I say nonsense. I'm perfectly happy for you or anyone else to call it intuitive speaking of God's truth. If Poythress says you've got to call it prophecy, I agree that the argument is insane, and also see why it merits a 3-post blog series.

I do, however, look forward to a multi-part discussion of why the TRs in the PCA are insistent on only ever using 'justification' in the forensic 'at conversion' sense and not in the 'by works', final judgment sense (which it is used for at times in the Bible).

Apologies that my words come across more rabid than I actually am on this.

Finally, Tom Chantry is right that triperspectivalists can end up squishing everything together. Relativism is a bad description for it, though because they are clearly absolutist in their understanding of truth - it's just fuzzy and squishy. A better term, I think, would be epistemological modalists.

I wont trinitarian epistemology (you could say perichoretic), which is not too different to triperspectivalism, but with concrete order and relationship. eg. Jesus is the only way to the Father. There's no value in saying, like an imaginary triperspectivalist could, that, in a sense, because Jesus is in the Father, and the Father is in Jesus, that the Father is the only way to the Son.

Seeing the escalation in the length of my comments, this'll be my last. No need to answer my questions, but I most probably won't answer rebuttals either (for time's sake).

David said...

What popped into my mind after I read all three posts:

I Can't Believe It's Not Butter!

Great series, Dan.

Jugulum said...

My second comment:

Briefly, Poythress set aside the question of the term "prophecy", and made his argument in the form: Whether or not modern phenomena should actually be called "prophecy", they are spiritual gifts. They are fallible, Spirit-worked non-discursive phenomena (of use to the church) that work similarly to apostolic prophecy (without being inspired). That's similar to preaching, which is a fallible, Spirit-worked discursive phenomenon.

But you said that "everything depends" on whether we're willing to go along with Poythress in taking the leap of applying the term "prophecy" to modern phenomena. And that's the step he explicitly said he wasn't going to make--he set it aside, because either way, he thinks they're still spiritual gifts.



Some quotes, to highlight the contrast.

He said,
" it may or may not be appropriate to call them by the same terms as those used in the New Testament. Rather than get bogged down about disputes about terminology, I move directly to a consideration of what the modern gifts actually do within the framework of Diagram 3."

Then later, when talking about Gaffin & Grudem, he said that if Gaffin is right, then:
"What charismatics call “prophecy” is not really the “prophecy” mentioned in the New Testament. Rather, it is a fallible analogue. It is really a spiritual gift for speaking fallibly through nondiscursive processes. It contrasts with preaching, which is a spiritual gift for speaking fallibly through discursive processes.

Modern nondiscursive processes with circumstantial content are in a sense not really analogous to inspired biblical prophecy. But they can function positively in the service of the Spirit, just as does circumstantial content through discursive processes."

In other words, if Gaffin is right, then it's not prophecy, but it's still a helpful spiritual gift.

But you said,
"More specifically, Poythress assumes we have the right to (A) take revealed gift-name labels, (B) affix those labels to non-identical activities, then (C) demand that those non-identical activities [1] be accepted as legitimate, under the revealed gift-names, and [2] be worked into actual theologies."

He did argue that those non-identical activities are spiritual gifts, but not that we should label them "prophecy".

Did you misread him? Or did I miss something?

Tom Chantry said...

Paul,

The point is not (as I see it) to use words only in the way the Bible uses them, but rather to try not to redefine words as their own opposites - not just because we're trying to be faithful to Scripture, but because we want to have rational discussion.

If everyone in the Christian world means by "prophecy" something that is inspired by special revelation from God, to redefine "prophecy" as something else is not helpful to conversation - unless the goal is to blur all distinctions so that everyone can just "get along."

And I'm sorry, but that's the equivalent of relativism.

If I start saying, for instance, that I'm a "presbyterian" in that the Bible speaks of elders (presbuteros) and my church has elders, I may be using the term as I understand the Bible to be using it, but I'm not using the term "presbyterian" the way that everyone in Christendom uses it.

I would suggest that such a redefinition of terms is not at all benign, but destructive to rational communication.

Jugulum said...

My second comment:

Briefly, Poythress set aside the question of the term "prophecy", and made his argument in the form: Whether or not modern phenomena should actually be called "prophecy", they are spiritual gifts. They are fallible, Spirit-worked non-discursive phenomena (of use to the church) that work similarly to apostolic prophecy (without being inspired). That's similar to preaching, which is a fallible, Spirit-worked discursive phenomenon.

But you said that "everything depends" on whether we're willing to go along with Poythress in taking the leap of applying the term "prophecy" to modern phenomena. That's the thing he explicitly said he was going to set aside.



Some quotes, to highlight the contrast.

He said,
" it may or may not be appropriate to call them by the same terms as those used in the New Testament. Rather than get bogged down about disputes about terminology, I move directly to a consideration of what the modern gifts actually do within the framework of Diagram 3."

Then later, when talking about Gaffin & Grudem, he said that if Gaffin is right, then:
"What charismatics call “prophecy” is not really the “prophecy” mentioned in the New Testament. Rather, it is a fallible analogue. It is really a spiritual gift for speaking fallibly through nondiscursive processes. It contrasts with preaching, which is a spiritual gift for speaking fallibly through discursive processes.

Modern nondiscursive processes with circumstantial content are in a sense not really analogous to inspired biblical prophecy. But they can function positively in the service of the Spirit, just as does circumstantial content through discursive processes."

In other words, if Gaffin is right, then it's not prophecy, but it's still a helpful spiritual gift.

Jugulum said...

(continued)

But you said,
"More specifically, Poythress assumes we have the right to (A) take revealed gift-name labels, (B) affix those labels to non-identical activities, then (C) demand that those non-identical activities [1] be accepted as legitimate, under the revealed gift-names, and [2] be worked into actual theologies."

He did argue that those non-identical activities are spiritual gifts, but not that we should label them "prophecy".

Did you misread him? Or did I miss something?

DJP said...

Paul - I guess errant prophecy can be edifying in the same way as errant preaching

Saying "errant prophecy" is like saying "works-based salvation by grace alone." But I think you'd know that, and have the answer to the rest of this comment, if you read parts two and three.

Johnny Dialectic said...

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.

I do think you make a compelling case here, Dan. I don't find it proper to call this an "intuitive gift analogus to..." That seems to be trying to force more recognition of authority on these matters than is warranted.

Grudem, OTOH, posits that these could be seen, instead, as analagous to what even Reformed cessationists would call the "illumination" of the Holy Spirit, which preserves the sufficiency of Scripture. That seems more acceptable to me.

Jugulum said...

Last thought: Your closing shot only works if you're right that Poythress wanted to apply the term "prophecy" to modern phenomena.

But he didn't. He argued that the modern phenomena meet the actual definition of "spiritual gift", so we should call them spiritual gifts.

Note: I don't think he did a thorough enough job of fleshing out the definition of "spiritual gift" and establishing that modern spontaneous insights fit the definition. He should have gone more into 1 Corinthians 12.

But that's the form of the argument he made--hardly a denial of Scriptural sufficiency unless you assume (which you didn't try to establish) that the NT intended to give a list of the spiritual gifts, as opposed to a definition with examples.

Tom said...

Dan's conclusion is simply ... classic.

Paul said...

Tom- sure, but now we're moving onto the wisdom of using terms one way or another and whether it is deceptive, etc. That is an important one, but with the charismatic stuff- the problem is that we're way past that point. You're presbyterian example is a good one, and I think it's a good thing that we don't call your church presbyterian (or a pedobaptist church 'baptist' because it also baptises adults). The thing is that a very large number of people who love Jesus are already calling a bunch of stuff prophecy, and English doesn't at the moment have a good word that would allow everyone to distinguish between what they do (words which can be Biblical and edifying) and how the Bible uses the term.

Paul said...

"Errant prophecy" - errant being a qualifier on the word prophecy. I have read all three posts and saying read again does preclude the possibility that you haven't communicated very well. I have also read your own blog post on the topic of comments.

On your profile you call yourself a "Calvi dispie bapto gelical".

But Calvin was emphatically not a credobaptist. By your logic in this post, you can't use "bapto" as a qualifier to "calvi". So no using "reformed baptists" or "calvinistic baptists" in the future then.

Robert said...

The danger is that Poythress is saying that because something is analagous to something else that we know is good and right, that it must be good and right, too (just maybe not perfect/divine). The RCC breaks bread and drinks from a cup, so that is analagous to communion in any other church, right? Joel Osteen, Kenneth Copeland, Benny Hinn, etc., all say a verse or two from Scripture and then speak for a time on their thoughts from that verse. So that is analagous to a sermon by Piper, MacArthur, Dever, etc. Poythress has already fallen down the slippery slope in his own argument, but once you take it to its logical end, it is doomed.

This is the same type of watering down that has led to movements like ECT. And I'm sorry, as somebody who converted out of the RCC to get away from their heretical teaching, I'm not willing to entertain ANY argument that uses that type of thinking/logic. And I don't think we can state the danger of that strongly enough.

chrisstiles said...

To re-iterate what Jugulum says above - by analogy Dr Poythress does not imply equivalence. Taking his parallel of teaching vs scripture, he could hardly be accused of considering the Collected Sermons of Pastor X to be equivalent to the Book of Hebrews, or something.

On the other hand, the anecdotes he relates unintentionally show how problematic this can be in practice.

For instance, here is a working example. It relates the experience at the youth conference and lead church of one of the large 'Reformed Charismatic' groups (allegedly non-whacky).

http://bit.ly/c2kd4w

Frank Turk said...

I would like to posit that Chantry in analogous to a good commenter, but we should accept him just the same.

Also: 26 comments before 9 AM central is pretty respoectable, giuven that no one has yet tongue lashed you for quenching the spirit.

Last of all, Poythress is a Presbyterian, and he makes a LOT of choices in the "X+1+1+1" category -- seemingly-reasonable inferences. Then suddenly we're baptizing babies. Sheesh.

Mike said...

You like potato and I like potato,
You like tomato and I like tomato
Potato, potato,
Tomato, tomato,
Let's call the whole thing off...

:p

Paul said...

But, if you've seen Poythress' argument, there are limits to how his analogous system works. Everything that goes on nowadays (since, Poythress argues, we're out of the apostolic age) is to be tested by scripture. The only difference between the sort of modern-day 'prophecy' he's talking about and modern-day preaching is the process it took through the speaker's brain.

You could argue that intuition can't be used by God, but that causes more problems than it solves. It would be fair to say that intuitive speaking is more likely to get things factually, and simply wrong. Nevertheless, either way, the words are to be tested by scripture, as with sermons, exhortations, rebukes, reproofs, and so on.

michelle said...

Paul - I think what Dan was getting at is that the Bible knows no such thing as "errant" prophecy. It's a contradiction in terms biblically speaking. In that sense, you are redefining the term prophecy to make it fit the practice you are describing. That is dangerous.

If the English language does not have a term that properly describes such practice, it is not wise to take a term that has a clear biblical meaning and redefine it to fit that practice. That's the whole point from my point of view.

Dan - Please correct me if I'm wrong, but I do believe that's what you're meaning.

Matt said...

You say there are two categories of response. But I must emphatically say that there are, in fact, three. I agree with your analysis of Poythress' arguments. They are weak and unbiblical. However, I very much disagree with your position regarding Spiritual gifts.

In your second post, you essentially said that anyone who believed that the Spiritual gifts continue today was not "respectable", and yet, I find the arguments for the cessation of the gifts to be extremely weak Biblically.

Let me start off with a disclaimer: I am not a Charismatic. I do not and have not spoken in tongues, nor have I, to my knowledge, exhibited the "sign" gifts. I am not trying to defend the dogma of my denomination (I currently attend a conservative Baptist church). My concerns are entirely based on scripture rather than experience.

The main and "strongest" argument for cessation is in 1 Corinth. 13.

Love never ends. As for prophecies, they will pass away; as for tongues, they will cease; as for knowledge, it will pass away. For we know in part and we prophesy in part, but when the perfect comes, the partial will pass away.
(1Co 13:8-10 ESV)

The argument is that the perfect has come -- the cannon of scripture is complete -- so therefore prophecy has ceased. But this completely ignores verse 12.

For now we see in a mirror dimly, but then face to face. Now I know in part; then I shall know fully, even as I have been fully known.
(1Co 13:12 ESV)

We still only know in part. We will not be perfect until we see God "face to face". Do we believe that knowledge has passed away?

The other common passage for support for cessation is found in Hebrews.

"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, whom he appointed the heir of all things, through whom also he created the world."
(Heb 1:1-2 ESV)

It doesn't explicitly say that there will not be any more prophesies, but that God has now spoken to us directly through Jesus Christ. But it did not end there. God sent His Holy Spirit to continue to guide and teach us.

That's it. Those two passages are all that support the view of the cessation of the "sign" gifts, and yet its proponents speak with such a swagger and dismissive tone, you would think an entire book of the Bible was dedicated to this doctrine.

Matt said...

(continued)


What concerns me the most is that this doctrine completely ignores the commandment of Paul to the Thessalonians.

"Do not quench the Spirit. Do not despise prophecies, but test everything; hold fast what is good."
(1Th 5:19-21 ESV)

Further, it comes dangerously close to the sin that Jesus warned about:

"Truly, I say to you, all sins will be forgiven the children of man, and whatever blasphemies they utter, but whoever blasphemes against the Holy Spirit never has forgiveness, but is guilty of an eternal sin"--
(Mar 3:28-29 ESV)

So, does believing that prophecy can exist today mean that I do not believe in the sufficiency of scripture? Well, I suppose that depends on what you mean by "sufficiency". I think it is good to look back to the Old Testament as an example of how to view prophesy.

The Law was given in the Torah. It was complete. It was sufficient to demonstrate the holiness of God and reveal His will for their lives. But the Old Testament did not end with the first five books of the Bible. God used the prophets to expound upon the law, to issue warnings of judgement, and to remind the people to repent. The prophesies did not issue new doctrines or violate the law that God had set forth.

Why is it so hard to believe that this does not happen today? Are not many of the great writers and preachers of the past our modern day prophets, speaking from the word of God and warning of coming judgement. Quite frankly, there are times when it seems that the Calvinists have elevated Calvin's writings to the level of God-inspired scripture.

Do I condone the actions of the charismatic movement? When they are in line with scripture, yes. But the fact is that the vast majority of the current charismatic movement are in clear violation of scripture. Much of it is demonic (the Toronto "blessing", for example). But does that mean that we should despise all prophesies? "Do not despise prophesies, but test everything."

We dare not run to the extreme of denying the power of the Holy Spirit out of reaction to the abuses of the charismatic movement. I have heard too many people make categorical statements against all visions and dreams, for example, when God is clearly using visions and dreams to call His people out of Islam and to Christ in the Middle East. Is this a demonic activity because it doesn't add up with our pet dogma (with its weak exegesis), or is God continuing to work through the Holy Spirit to transform lives? If we say that what the Holy Spirit has done is demonic, have we then blasphemed the Holy Spirit?

Jugulum said...

Paul,
"You could argue that intuition can't be used by God, but that causes more problems than it solves."

Keep in mind: Dan didn't argue that. Remember his comment earlier:

"To the second sentence, I have an idea: why not call it "intuitive speaking of God's truth"?"


The issue is how to classify intuitive, "non-discursive" speech--whether it should be viewed as a spiritual gift, or as prophecy specifically. Not whether it can be used by God.

Paul said...

Michelle - I wholeheartedly agree. The point is only that it's too late. English translations of the Bible use the word prophecy. So do millions of Christians for modern-day intuitive speaking. I say that we might as well use the word prophecy, with the qualifier "errant" rather than attempting to budge charismatics off the word. That's much more peaceful and realistic a target than trying to make them say "intuitive speaking" or change the bible translations to use a different word.

DJP said...

chrisstiles, your reading of Poythress is simply not accurate.

When Poythress says "Hence it may or may not be appropriate to call them by the same terms as those used in the NT. Rather than get bogged down in disputes about terminology, I move directly to a consideration of what the modern gifts actually do," he is saying (A) that the "gift" may be called prophecy, but (B) he doesn't want to get bogged down in quibbling about the facts or the truth of the matter.

Which was the main burden of the series. It may not be called whatever we want, it does matter, and it does make a great deal of difference.

DJP said...

Frank Turk — exactly right. Thanks for pointing that out. Perhaps the earlier series of fudges made this one easier.

Paul said...

Jugulum - that quote was meant in response to Robert rather than Dan - and I'm accusing neither of thinking that. I should really have said "One could argue".

Chris H said...

DJP,

It must be hard for you to go through life leaving no room for the Holy Spirit....

tsk, tsk.

(I kid. I just wanted to get one of those in there early)

DJP said...

Michelle — dingdingdingding! Exactly right, dead-center. Thanks.

michelle said...

Paul -

Okay - but what does our "English" Bible *mean* when it uses that term prophecy? It does not mean "intuitive speaking of God's truth". So - if that's what we're doing when we say we are "prophesying", according to Scripture, we are not in fact prophesying.

Just because we use the term incorrectly now does not mean we should assign our incorrect meaning to the biblical term. We should rather seek to correct our perception to match Scripture.

Jugulum said...

Dan,

If you're going to repeat that, I'm going to say again:

When he talked about Gaffin, he explicitly said that if Gaffin is right, then the modern phenomena are not prophecy.

He didn't say, "We should call it prophecy." He set that question aside--because he argues that it's a spiritual gift whether or not it's "prophecy".

DJP said...

Matt - almost completely off-topic.

Are not many of the great writers and preachers of the past our modern day prophets, speaking from the word of God and warning of coming judgement

Answer: No, they are not. They are not recipients of direct, unmediated, inerrant, morally-binding revelation. Read the posts, please.

Jugulum said...

Correction to myself: When he discusses Gaffin, he explicitly says that it's not what the NT calls "prophecy"--and he doesn't say "but it's OK to call it prophecy".

If I'm missing where he said that, please, someone point it out.

Paul said...

Michelle- Correct- we don't want to import foreign meanings of prophecy into the Biblical text. Nor do we want to elevate modern "errant prophecy" to the status of biblical prophecy. but using the same three english syllables doesn't mean that you are making them equivalent (particularly if you add 'errant' on the front). Four Candles and Fork handles share three syllables (thanks Two Ronnies), but we don't need to say that one use of them is wrong and should be stopped.

Phil said...

Don't hate me Dan but your post has an application to a problem I have no satisfactory answer to, and I wouldn't mind help. I hope to get help without diverting your excellent thread.

I find your logic compelling and impeccable. But the dichotomists argue against the trichotomists using the Uncle Vern method: soul is similar to spirit, therefore soul is spirit.
I don't know where to come down on the debate but I do know that you have demonstrated the complete weakness of this argument method which is the mainstay of the dichotomous view. What are we then left with if we demolish the dichotomous view?
I suppose another way to look at it would be to say that both on and off topic comments are comments, therefore this is analogous to an on topic discussion point and should be left standing.

michelle said...

Paul - I think we're talking past each other. What I'm pointing out here is we cannot use the word "errant" and "prophecy" in the same sentence. That is foreign to the Bible. Those three english syllables have a particular meaning to them that make them a little more important than the words "Four Candles and fork handles". If we agree that the Word is our plumbline for how we should live as Christians and conduct ourselves, we would do well to be precise in our meanings of such important terms. We do ourselves no favors by avoiding making that distinction simply because Charismatics will flinch if we do.

Please know - I lived in the Charismatic world for the first half of my Christian life. So, I understand how hard it is to let go of certain practices that are sacred to the Charismatic bent. I am not speaking from a non-sympathetic stance here. And I am not hung up on the English word itself - I am hung up on the *Biblical meaning* of that english word. We *must* consider that if we value the Word at all.

Matt said...
This comment has been removed by a blog administrator.
DJP said...

Matt really, really wants this thread to be about cessation/continuation. It isn't. I've said so; being the author of the piece, and a blog administrator, you'd think that my saying so would be persuasive... but I guess not.

So I say it again, and I point to Rule 5. We've talked about cessatio many times, I'm sure we'll talk about it again.

This isn't about that per se. If this topic doesn't interest you, move on, no hard feelings, really.

But it isn't a meta for debating cessation/continuation per se.

I don't think I'm stuttering.

Matt said...
This comment has been removed by a blog administrator.
DJP said...

I'll also delete responses to Matt on continuation, leaving his first two and my response as the beginning and end of that topic per se on this thread.

To clarify: my post has a lot of assumptions that I don't argue, none of which is the topic of the post per se. I exist, you exist, God exists; Jesus is Lord, the Bible is His inerrant Word, it binds us, the 5 Sola's — and the cessation of apostolic, revelatory gifts.

Poythress is formally acknowledging the sufficiency of Scripture and cessation. It's what he does after that which is the focus of his essay, and my critique.

Hope that's helpful.

If it isn't, I've got this buzz-saw, which is analogous to a scalpel, and I'm not afraid to use it.

Matt said...

DJP,

Fair enough. Sorry.

Robert said...

DJP,

Thanks...and sorry. I knew it was off-topic before I responded.

Back to Pythress, I don't see defend how worm around things the way he does. I agree with michelle that the word errant disqualifies something from being prophecy.

DJP said...

It's all-good, Matt. I'm sure that topic will come up; then blaze away.

Paul said...

Michelle -

I have had an element of charismatic background but if you were a member at my church you wouldn't think it. There's certainly no hang up with me about not having a gift recognised, that sort of thing. If someone tells me they've had an image, a word of knowledge, etc. then I put on my sceptical face straight away.

Just in reply to a few things you said:

"What I'm pointing out here is we cannot use the word "errant" and "prophecy" in the same sentence. That is foreign to the Bible."

I assume you mean "may not". Is it foreign to the Bible in the sense "1. it doesn't appear in the Bible" or in the sense "2. it is prohibited by the Bible"?

If 2, then we certainly may not use it in that sense. If 1, there's a leap of reasoning going on, even if we're talking about the original Greek and Hebrew words. But we're talking a word that's been translated into English. It's difficult to say we 'may not' - although we may, due to wisdom, say it's a bad idea. But that position is perfectly comfortable with calling it inerrant prophecy. We do this kind of thing all the time with language, like the phrase Reformed Baptist. Reformed theology is paedobaptistic... that's part of its meaning. But reformed baptists is still a useful term, even though it self-contradicts.

"If we agree that the Word is our plumbline for how we should live as Christians and conduct ourselves, we would do well to be precise in our meanings of such important terms." - which is why 'inerrant prophecy' works as a term. Otherwise you actually cede all the ground around 'prophecy' anyway.

"And I am not hung up on the English word itself - I am hung up on the *Biblical meaning* of that english word. We *must* consider that if we value the Word at all."

I don't quite get what you mean here, and appreciate that I may have posted some redundant stuff above. One problem is that 'prophecy' has lots of definitions, and lots of aspects to those definitions. Prophets 'speak for God'. Where preachers are speaking God's truth (faithfully), there is a prophetic role going on. God's people are similarly a nation of priests... but we don't have to protect the meaning behind the word priest by restricting it to guys who sacrificed animals around the temple. The Bible itself uses words with double/analogous meanings.

Jugulum said...

Dan,

I'll make one more attempt at a simple comment, and leave it at that if no one addresses the point--you're apparently applying Rule 1.

Poythress said this:
"Hence it may or may not be appropriate to call them by the same terms as those used in the NT. [bold added]"

Do you think he subsequently said, "It is appropriate to call them by the same terms"? Where did you read "We'll go ahead and call them by the same terms regardless"?

Oliver said...

Questions: first, was NT prophecy the same as OT prophecy?
Second, does NT prophecy continue today?
Third, is what the charismatic movement presents as prophecy the same as NT prophecy?

It is easy to show that NT prophecy (as mentioned in 1 Corinthians 12-14) is not the same as OT prophecy. No one is ever told to judge the OT prophets to determine whether or not they are speaking by the Spirit. Instead, the prophets' words are to judge their hearers. But Paul says that we are to judge NT prophecies (1 Cor 14:29). NT prophecies are certainly revelations from God (14:30), but quite clearly not of the same status as OT prophecies or apostolic writings, because none of them are preserved for us, except one or two of the prophecies of Agabus. Furthermore, Paul wants everyone to prophesy. So NT prophecy is different from OT prophecy. What is it for? It is for building up the church, and since this letter is addressed to a particular church, it is reasonable to assume that that means the particular church the prophet is in, not the church as a whole. If it were the latter, we would expect to see scriptural examples of it, but we do not. So that immediately limits it. It cannot be for doctrinal revelation (which needs apostolic authority); therefore it must be for guidance in a specific situation (and 14:24 indicates one such).

Does NT prophecy continue today? There is no biblical reason to think it does not. It is part of the spiritual toolkit for building a local church, so it is going to be needed as long as there are local churches. Cessationists would have us believe that Paul wrote 3 chapters in 1 Corinthians, and the Spirit preserved it for us as inspired scripture, which would have no relevance beyond the first century. How likely is that?! And their whole position is built on a misuse of 1 Cor 13:10, which obviously refers to Christ's return and our freedom from sin, not to completion of the canon.

However, the modern charismatic movement presents, as prophecy, messages which have plainly proved false or trivially useless. These seem to have a great deal to do with the egos of leaders. The so-called apostles strut around making pronouncements and decreeing things in the name of the Lord, and no one wants to ask why these pronouncements are so plainly wrong. Think of Gerald Coates prophesying volcanic eruptions in New Zealand that never happened, or of Wagner and Joyner endorsing Todd Bentley just before his whole "ministry" fell apart when he was found to be an adulterer -- as if he wasn't an obvious fraud long before that. But there is no evidence that anyone ever tests these so-called prophets.

So the answer to the third question is that the charismaniac prophets are fake. However, we should expect to see genuine prophecy being used for the building up of the local church, provided that all the congregation are willing to take seriously their responsibility for testing what is of the Spirit and what is not.

Oliver said...
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Oliver said...
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Tom Chantry said...

Frank,

I view you with something analogous to love as one who is something analogous to a brother, so we're cool, right?

I agree with you and Dan completely that paedo-baptism results from X + 1 + 1 etc. However, I would also point out that Presbyterians as a whole are known for their strong stance against the sort of quibbling that Poythress is using here to blur the distinction between cessasionism and continuationism. I have to conclude that Presbyterianism is not the culprit.

I remain convinced that the real culprit here is an epistemological framework in which everything can mean anything - provided you look at it from a different perspective. And that's not Presbyterianism - it's Triperspectivalism.

Matt said...

I am trying to address the question you asked: namely, "why they keep trying to do this, why they keep making excuses for goofy ol' Uncle Joe?" This, I think, is truly the key: why does he feel the need to do this?

What I see is someone who does not want to let go of the cessation doctrine but is trying to reconcile Paul's exhortation to desire prophecy and to not despise them as well as evidence of "revelatory" spiritual gifts being used to the glory of God around the world. Consider the Middle East. God is currently using visions and dreams, something a cessationalist would reject, to draw His people out of Islam and to a saving faith in Jesus Christ. This has been confirmed to me by many sources with different denominational backgrounds in several countries. What are we to do with these revelations whose validity is confirmed by their transformed lives and their shed blood as they lay down their very lives in the name of Jesus Christ?

What Poythress is trying to do is fix the out-of-plumb wall by taking boards to the side to make it look straight instead of moving the wall to be in line with God's truth.

DJP said...

Oliver, you're off-topic, since Poythress (I think) and I both grant the identical nature of OT and NT prophecy.

But I'll leave your single comment, with this response: you're completely wrong. It is exactly the same gift. You're completely mistaken in saying that OT prophecy was not judged; learn from Deuteronomy 13 and 18. The word is expressly defined in the OT, and never redefined in the NT. It is the same.

Beyond that, what an absurd argument would that be? "Messiah has come! Everything He does is better - better mediator, better promises, better covenant... well, except prophecy. It used to be inerrant and binding, now it's erring and trivial... but never mind! Besides that, everything's better!"

michelle said...

Paul - to your question regarding not being hung up on the word per se but the meaning of the word. This goes to the whole point of Dan's posts and my original response.

Let me see if I can clarify without sounding too ridiculous: We have translated a particular word from its original language to an English equivalent. We must ask ourselves: what does this word mean, not only in the language we have selected to translate to, but also in the original language and context from which we translated. Specific to this word prophecy: what does Scripture mean when it uses this word. That is what is important.

Your argument was as follows:

"but using the same three english syllables doesn't mean that you are making them equivalent (particularly if you add 'errant' on the front). Four Candles and Fork handles share three syllables (thanks Two Ronnies), but we don't need to say that one use of them is wrong and should be stopped."

My statement was a response to this argument. If I use the term fork to refer to a spoon, then I'm using the term wrongly because that's not what it means! I don't care about the letters used or their order, or how many syllables are in the word - what does it mean, and am I using it to explain reality correctly? If not, I need to stop using it that way. That's what I'm getting at.

To your first question: I would answer that I am speaking in terms of #2. Read Deuteronomy 18:14-22 and explain how NT prophecy should not be held to the same rigor. Is there biblical warrant to argue that we should define the spiritual gift of prophecy any differently? If there is, then I would be willing to amend my stance on this point.

I am not speaking here from the perspective of the Charismatic practice - I am speaking from the vantage point of Scripture and if that practice lines up with Scripture. If it does not, we would need to do one of 2 things: 1) If it is valid "practice" in and of itself, don't jettison it, but also do not utilize incorrect terminology to describe it; 2) If it is not valid, jettison it.

mikeb said...

Phil, you said But the dichotomists argue against the trichotomists using the Uncle Vern method: soul is similar to spirit, therefore soul is spirit.

Most dichotomists do not use an "X+1" argument to support their position. They use proof texts to show where soul + spirit refers to the same thing, taking into consideration the historical background (hendiadys, etc) . From what I see, Porthyress is not saying any texts support his view, but is reasoning "outside" the Scriptures.

It's interesting you bring up the trichotomy vs. dichotomy here, as 99.9% of trichotomists are charismatic, and for good reason too!

Mike Riccardi said...

Dan, I really appreciated this series. When I saw the Poythress article originally linked at JT's, along with the enthusiasm with which he promoted it, I thought, "Huh, I wonder if there's a response to it." I think you did a great job; thorough, while effectively getting to the point. So thanks for your labor. And honestly, I have a hard time even understanding where people can disagree. It strikes me that one would have to have an agenda to simply set aside the weirdness of analogy = identity thing.

So, thanks again.

Frank Turk said...

Tom, we are totally something analogous to cool. In fact, I have a cartoon someplace that explains the whole thing ...

... and I agree formally about presbyterians, but they still deserve the needling for wetting babies.

Mark B. Hanson said...

Dan,

What I see in Poythress is, at root, a plea to place "nondiscursive" gifts on the same footing as "discursive" gifts in the modern church.

The main problem I have with this is that there is no nondiscursive way to test a nondiscursive gift - whether we emulate the Bereans and verify the Pastor's (discursive) ermon against the Scripture, or check the content of Clara's (nondiscursive) prophecy against Scripture, we are still testing against a discursive measuring stick.

But the nature of a nondiscursive, fallible "revelation" is very different from that of a discursive, fallible sermon or Sunday School lesson. The latter claim to be a direct exposition and application of the Scripture; the former are - what, exactly? Guidance in something God has not revealed in Scripture? Words from God himself to us? (I note here that whenever I hear interpreted glossolalia, the interpreter invariably begins with "my people", as if God is speaking).

Since many nondiscursive revelations have at their heart things not specified by the Scripture (should I travel here, should I marry her, etc.) the Scriptural sieve is quite wide. Unfortunately, too wide to help us tell the difference between God's revelation and our own feelings and desires.

DJP said...

There y'go, Mark. Thank you, great points.

I have more to say, but it probably is worth a post of its own. So: thanks!

Paul said...

Michelle - thanks for your comment.

The thing is, there is not the same widespread understanding of 'prophecy' that there is with fork and other words.

We can lecture charismatics on the meaning of the word prophecy all we like and we'll get nowhere. Or, for the sake of having a discussion with them, we can add 'errant', for clarification. After all, those who think modern day prophecy is inerrant are a minority (at least in circles I travel in).

Your argument would work if the Biblical definition of prophecy was simply "inerrant". If that were the case, I would be saying "errant inerrancy" I have no intention to dispute whether all prophecy is inerrant in the Bible, but at the least it holds many further meanings- speaking for God, some predictive element, covenant lawsuits. Saying errant prophecy means that you're bringing those other elements of meaning with the explicit clarification that you're not using it the same way as scripture.

There is, of course, errant prophecy in the Bible (or what do false prophets do?). If prophecy cannot mean anything other than inerrant, then the Bible is excluded from using the phrase "false prophet". But it does, because it understands that false is a qualifier on the word prophet.

In summary, people are trying to say that 'errant prophecy' can't be used as a term, because all prophecy, by definition, is inerrant.

I have shown that there is errant prophecy (false prophecy, to clarify) so there is more to the word prophecy than inerrant. This remainder is what the phrase 'errant prophecy' draws upon, so that it makes sense, in the same way as 'reformed baptist', 'pro-choice republican' or 'well-written blog' make sense.

There is no Biblical mandate to use words exclusively in the precise way they are used in the Bible. Neither is there a restriction on using a translation of the Bible in such a way.

There is a wisdom issue on the best language to use going forward. Maybe 'errant prophecy' isn't the best thing to call it, but it's far shorter, more descriptive, and better understood than the phrase 'intuitively speaking God's truth'. So I continue to defend Poythress's view that it may or may not be acceptable to call it prophecy.

Jugulum said...

Mark,

"(I note here that whenever I hear interpreted glossolalia, the interpreter invariably begins with "my people", as if God is speaking)."

Which is particularly interesting, given that in 1 Cor 14, tongues-speakers are talking to God (14:2), not relaying messages from God. (And in Acts 2, they were "telling in [the crowd's] own tongues the mighty works of God.") If the interpretation is a message from God, how could it be valid?


On the rest--Did you read Poythress's section 8, "Commands"?

Tyler Wallick said...

Props DJP. The non-cessasionists of all stripes and colors have always perplexed me. The NT is clear what the gifts were and why they were present. There is no biblical basis to even remotely think they are still in existence and believe in the sufficiency of Scripture.

I have always said this when talking about the issue - "I believe the NT is clear that the apostolic gifts have ceased. However, I will immediately change change my mind should someone actually and publicly raise someone from the dead, put a limb on someone w/o one, heal a dying person COMPLETELY and INSTANTLY, or speak to a group of people of different languages and they all instantly understand in their own language. Oh, and also - should someone call fire down from the heavens, I'm in.

michelle said...

Paul - Thanks for your response. I probably should bow out of this, at least for now. I sure hope my boss doesn't see me doing this all morning! (sheepish grin)

I will close with this:

You stated: "I have shown that there is errant prophecy (false prophecy, to clarify) so there is more to the word prophecy than inerrant."

It is clear we have two definitions of the term prophecy. From a biblical persepctive, you cannot properly speak of prophecy if it is "errant". Again, a contradiction. Given the passage I gave you from Deut. 18, is it valid then to call "false prophecy" a "spiritual gift" given to us by the Holy Spirit?

I agree with you that there is disagreement on this. But I am still looking for a reasoned, biblical argument that negates the instruction of Deuteronomy 13 and 18 and thereby changes the nature of prophecy as defined by the Word of God.

Bear in mind - I was one of those Charismatics that was lectured about such things and was ulitmately won over by the reasoned argument against this Charismatic practice. I came to the point where I could no longer defend it from Scripture without completely redefining the Scriptural terms. Hence, the reason for my opposition to the line argument proposed by Poythress.

Robert said...

Michelle,

Good point...I was just about to say that the Bible doesn't talk about errant prophets, but it sure talks a good bit about false prophets/prophecy.

Mike Riccardi said...

Arguing that "false prophecy" is still "prophecy" borders on the ridiculous. It's like saying "non-prophecy" is still a kind of prophecy.

A "false god," for example, is not really, in any sense, God. It's something that someone is making out to be God, when it really isn't.

Same thing with "false prophecy." It is not, in any sense, prophecy. It's something that someone is making out to be prophecy, when it really isn't.

Matt said...

Tyler,

You said, "Oh, and also - should someone call fire down from the heavens, I'm in."

While I know you were trying to be funny, you should consider the following passage in light of what you said:

"It performs great signs, even making fire come down from heaven to earth in front of people, and by the signs that it is allowed to work in the presence of the beast it deceives those who dwell on earth, telling them to make an image for the beast that was wounded by the sword and yet lived."
(Rev 13:13-14 ESV)

The key is and has always been to test the spirits, test the signs to see if they are from God.

"The coming of the lawless one is by the activity of Satan with all power and false signs and wonders, and with all wicked deception for those who are perishing, because they refused to love the truth and so be saved."
(2Th 2:9-10 ESV)

It can be debated whether or not the Holy Spirit continues to work as He did in the NT today, but the command to test everything remains. This is the problem I see in many cessationists: they grow lazy from lack of practicing discernment. Since the sign gifts are no longer around, we can just simply ignore all such activity as being pagan and move on. But the problem is that someday, we will see signs and wonders. Will we in that day be able discern that they are not of God, or will we be wowed into compliance by the "power of God"?

I do not think we were meant to just dismiss all prophecies out of hand, but to develop our discernment through faith, study, and observation. It seems safer to just through up barriers and walls to partition off the dangerous areas, but is that not what the Pharisees did with their additional traditions and laws?

Robert said...

Matt,

If I, as a cessationist, see such signs, I don't have to test them. That is just my conviction. Now, I do have to test teaching, preaching, etc., to see if they line up with Scripture. And if you think that is being lazy, you must not hear many people preach or teach.

Matt said...

Robert,

I do not mean to imply that preachers or teachers are lazy. That does indeed take a great deal of work. It seems like 80% of what you learn in preparation ends up being cut out because of time.

What I am saying is that I believe we are becoming spiritually lazy. We have not honed our spiritual gifts of discernment. We do not even see how many people around us are demonically oppressed or even possessed. Do we really think that demonic possession ended at the end of the New Testament? It is no wonder that most of today's youth do not believe in the existence of Satan; we do not believe it as evidenced by our actions rather than our doctrinal statements.

I have been studying through first and second Timothy, and one thing I find interesting is that Paul emphasizes character before doctrine. That is not to say that doctrine is not important -- it certainly is -- but let's face it, anyone can say the right things. Just look at Christian music. There are many bands that say the right things in their lyrics, maybe even in their interviews, but when you actually look at their lives, their real fruit is revealed.

Our weapons of discernment have grown dull. We check off our doctrinal list (TULIP? check. Baptism? check) instead of looking at the heart and the fruit. We dismiss brothers and sisters in Christ because of doctrinal differences despite the fruit in their lives and embrace heartless and hate-filled men because their doctrinal statement matches our own.

It is an interesting thing that throughout the New Testament, the actions of the heart are much more emphasized than the letter of the law, and yet we often go the other way. Why? Because the letter is easier to judge by than the heart much like math is a lot easier to judge than art.

I fear that we have written off the spiritual gifts not so much because of doctrinal support but because it is easier to do and allows us to trust in our study methods rather than to live in a more dangerous world that requires constant faith and dependence on God for guidance through His word and by the Holy Spirit.

Joshua Peterson said...

Maybe Grudem can edit a written debate between you and Poythress, put it into book form, and call it "Are Analogous Gifts for Today?"

DJP said...

LOL @ Joshua

I'm sure it would have some of the characteristics of a best-seller... while perhaps lacking others.

Robert said...

Matt,

I am not referring to preachers and teachers, but to the congregation. We have to listen and then judge what is being taught. This article is a good case in point. Dan went through and showed how the argmuent is flawed. That took a lot of work to read through the article and then refute it.

And if we better be careful if we're judging fruitfulness of ministry. I'll save that for another discussion, though.

Chuck said...

DJP-

I was already with you on this one, but thanks for spelling it out in plain language. Hopefully Benny doesn't use this series as an excuse to bust out his Holy Ghost Machine Gun; tomorrow's Friday and I don't want to have to track down all those random pics/stories/atrocities myself.

threegirldad said...

Paul wrote:

[F]or the sake of having a discussion with [Charismatics], we can add 'errant', for clarification...I have shown that there is errant prophecy (false prophecy, to clarify)..."

Please suggest to the Charismatics in "your circle" that they use the phrase "false prophecy" rather than "errant prophecy" (since, of course, the phrases are equivalent in meaning), and let me know their reaction. I already know how the Charismatics in "my circle" will respond (similar to Michelle, I grew up Pentecostalism).

Mark Patton said...

DJP's illustration about the hot dog made me laugh and hits home. My six year old daughter doesn't like hot dogs, so when that's what's one the menu, guess what she eats...just the bun. Guess what she calls it? A hot dog. My eight year old son likes to chime in and remind her that she is really not eating a hot dog, but just the bun. Why? Their sibs and like to fight. One time I tried to (teasingly) convince my son that it was still ok to call it a hot dog, but he got this really puzzled look on his face and wanted to know why it could be called a hot dog if the most important part of the hot dog was missing. I think he asked if it was ok to call anything that is bread a hot dog. My eight year old gets it.

Frank Turk said...

I am sad that DJP's post doesn't have 100 comments yet.

It will never get to 300 at this rate.

Tom Chantry said...

We're too busy going well past 200 comments on your thread dissecting your position and demonstrating that it is analogous to something false.

(This comment is on-topic; it included the word "analogous.")

DJP said...

Patton, you may be building a little bitty Charismatic there! My arguments will have no effect!

Oliver said...
This comment has been removed by a blog administrator.
DJP said...

Oliver still disagrees.

I am sorry if I was unclear, but "off topic" means we're done with it in this thread. Perhaps in another post, we're reinvent that wheel, and you can argue that it's not really a wheel, or wheels have changed, or whatever, at that time.

DJP said...

FrankI am sad that DJP's post doesn't have 100 comments yet.

It will never get to 300 at this rate.


[I feel that] Justin's working on a post titled "No, wait — THIS is the bestest-ever post on the gifts!!!" Then, when Challies posts his "Yeah!!!!" — isn't it just like those guys to pour on the exclamation-points? — we'll pass 300 like a tortoise on the roadside.

Tom Chantry said...

[I feel that] Justin's working on a post...

Uh Oh. Dan's doing something analogous to prophecying.

(Sorry, I know the joke's getting old; that will be my last version of it.)

Tom Chantry said...

Or maybe it's not old. Simultaneously DJP posts the exact same joke on another thread.

Still, a promise is a promise.

witness said...

I keep checking this thread only because I am hoping Russ the "Reformed Charismatic" will chime in.

Oh Russ, where are you?!?

witness said...

Rats!!! He probably won't show because of all the ungodly, antiBiblical, self-righteous hypocritical blasphemy of yesterday's post.

:(

DJP said...

You're absolutely right. I hadn't thought of Russ. Should have.

Spreading lighthearted joy and sunshine and puppies elsewhere, I can only assume.

Mark Patton said...

Dan,
You have no idea. My sweet little girl only likes the "fast songs," can't sit still while they are playing, and constantly is talking in a language I can't understand. Silly bandz what?

As to stay on topic, thanks for the heavy lifting. Had to read three posts several times because I'm slow like that, but the work was worth it.

Jugulum said...

Dan,

So, I noticed your refuse-to-read-commenters post at your blog, and I'm wondering if you were seeing my comments that way. Your second pet-peeve category, I mean--people who ask questions & make arguments that you addressed in your post, and then they insist that you essentially rewrite it in the comment section.

Is that the case?

If so, are you specifically thinking that I failed to read the last 6 paragraphs of your first post? (Starting with "Poythress tells cessationists that...") I know you discuss the "calling by the same name" issue there, along with Poythress's reference to Richard Gaffin.

If that's the case:
1) I thought I was responding to what you said, not ignoring it or missing it. I was trying to say, "Your interpretation doesn't work, because ___."
2) I could offer a more direct interaction with what you said in those 6 paragraphs--point to the individual sentences I was disagreeing with.

If it's not that, then I do wonder whence springeth your disinterest in addressing this point, but that's your prerogative. C'est la vie.

I do hope others will read & consider those comments, though. (Like Mike Riccardi. Mike, I'm saying Poythress didn't argue that analogy = identity.)


A general suggestion to everyone: Go back and read the section starting with, "But should these nondiscursive cases even be called “gifts” of the Holy Spirit?", along with the following 8 paragraphs.

candy said...

I am not going to add to this with great theological points, but only to say that I used to go to charismatic churches. I prayed and really wanted a Reformed Charismatic church to be raised up in my area. We gave up and drove an hour to a Reformed Baptist church. Eventually, the hymns and teaching give me everything I ever could have hoped for and more. I receive a "Word" in season every time I sing a hymn, stand in reverence for the reading of scripture for the service, and when immersed in my personal devotions. When I receive the teaching of God's Word, I receive so much more than I could have by a vague word of prophecy that I would have hung onto for hope instead of the actual Word of God. I have grown into, and now appreciate, the sufficiency of the Word. Not to say that I discount the times when someone shares a scripture for me that pertains to my circumstances, that just happens to apply to my situation. I take it as a due word in season, and don't turn it into a mystical experience. ijust realize it is a word from a mature brother/sister who has discernment.

Jugulum said...

One slightly related thought:

I greatly appreciated it when Poythress used the "discursive/non-discursive" categories to rebuke a a certain destructive charismatic tendency:

"Some charismatics may think that because the basis is more personal, more private, more intuitive, it is also more “directly” the work of the Spirit, hence less subject to error than the other processes. But we have already observed that such thinking is clearly in error. The Gospel of Luke is no less inspired than Revelation.

[...]

Of course the Holy Spirit works in ways that we cannot fathom. But he also works through means, such as our knowledge of Scripture, a knowledge that he himself has produced (1 Cor 2:10-16). From the human side people use primarily discursive or nondiscursive processes. But this human description does not contradict the fact that the Spirit is working. (Again, think of the example of the Gospel of Luke and the Book of Revelation.)
"

I'm going to use the Luke/Revelation contrast in the future. It's a great, straightforward correction to the idea that "spontaneous==more Spiritual, but planned & studied==more fleshly & human-dependent".

Jugulum said...

candy,

"I take it as a due word in season, and don't turn it into a mystical experience. ijust realize it is a word from a mature brother/sister who has discernment."

Not mystical, but still Spiritual.

That's the point I was talking about--that something doesn't have to be "mystical"/spontaneous/whatever for it to be spiritual. The Spirit is at work in that kind of mature discernment. (In Poythress's terms, the Spirit does work through discurive means.)

drmack said...

Dan Dan you're the man! Great post. Very encouraging. I live in the Charismania capital of the north (Homer AK)and am surrounded by self proclaimed "gifted" Christians. I previously and prophetically posted Poythress' article and also disagreed with his conclusions (just a few days before you did). It's like we're AP's or something. (Analogous Prophets). Hoping some of my Charismatic friends take the time to read your posts.
peaceout brah,
dm

Mike Riccardi said...

Jugulum,

Just to be clear, are you saying that Poythress didn't argue that contemporary "prophecy" is in some way analogous to Biblical prophecy, and therefore should be called prophecy?

DJP said...

Candy, I also think you're a little less... prickly on the topic than you may once have been?

(c;

Mark B. Hanson said...

Jugulum -

I phrased my comment on glossolalia the way I did because I, too, am convinced that the Scripture indicates that tongues are upward - praise to God - rather than downward.

In other words, I believe that Scripture rejects the modern notion that tongues + interpretation = prophecy.

If I test an interpretation by what Scripture says about the content of tongues, every interpretation that claims to be God speaking to us is false.

[Sorry if this drifted a bit too off-topic. By this I want to reject any analogous relationship between modern (public) tongues and Scriptural glossolalia.]

Jugulum said...

Mike,

Almost.

He did argue "contemporary 'prophecy' is in some way analogous to Biblical prophecy", and he did argue that it should be called a spiritual gift. (Though see the 8 paragraphs I mentioned--the analogy shows up, but he doesn't argue "If I can make an analogy to a spiritual gift, then this is a gift, too.")

He did not say it should be called prophecy. He specifically, explicitly didn't take that step. He said that even if Gaffin is right (i.e. prophecy was infallible, and it ceased), the definition of a spiritual gift still includes the thing charismatics are talking about. He said that the question of whether it's appropriate to apply the term "prophecy" ends up making little "practical difference".


And as I noted above, part of his use for the analogy was to rebuke a certain error that some charismatics make.

Mike Riccardi said...

OK, but I still think it's wrong-headed to not explicitly say, "It should not be called prophecy, because prophecy is something else."

To suggest that it may or may not be called prophecy is irresponsible, because if someone decides that it may be called prophecy, then that's arguing analogy = identity, and that's a bad, unbiblical argument.

So, he's not necessarily arguing that analogy equals identity, but he's also not necessarily not-arguing that, and even saying it wouldn't matter if you did argue that.

Feel me?

trogdor said...

Only 105 comments? No Russ the Reformed Charismatic (tm)? Buh?

Since these things are analogous, shouldn't we fill in the analogy, SAT-style? Here's my first attempt:

'Errant prophecy':Prophecy::drinking arsenic:eating bacon

Joey Phillips said...

As a reformed charismatic (yes I am I promise) I want to say this was my favorite anti da gifts article by Dan. Mostly because its the first one I pretty much agreed with (not the given assumptions, but the logic of his dismantling of Poythress.)

The last couple paragraphs were hilarious. Very good.

David J. Houston said...

Great posts! However, I would like to correct Chantry on his comment that multiperspectivalism is a disguised form of relativism. The whole idea behind perspectivalism is that there is a real truth that can be 'seen' from multiple perspectives (normative, situational, experiential) whereas relativism is the idea that the 'real truth' is the perspective (an idea that is rather difficult to express coherently for obvious reasons...). You'll know that the former is quite opposed to the latter!

Also... what's wrong with baptizing babies? Doesn't water help babies grow? :P

DJP said...

I'm just surprised there's been nothing like how could we buy wedding rings when dogs are starving in the street in Boofwhackistan?

Tom Chantry said...

Thanks for the correction, David. Of course, I have a long history of dealing with multi-perspectivalism. What it accomplishes is to redefine terms and blur distinctions. It is practical relativism, in that it allows Presbyterians in otherwise sound denominations to say that they hold to the confessional standards but to mean the exact opposite of what the standards say.

David J. Houston said...

Unfortunately, you're right about that, Tom. The analogical tomfoolery that DJP has pointed out is exactly the reason why we must be extremely careful when invoking analogy in our reasoning.

Robert said...

Wow...no additional posts overnight? I can't believe this didn't get the same attention as the cartoon. I guess I still have great concern that Justin Taylor (and many who commented on his post) was so heppy to endorse the premise postulated by Poythress with the analagous topics. I can kinda get the motivation, but ends don't justify the means. Especially when the results aren't real (this argument doesn't bridge the gap between cessationists and continuationists - let's face it, only one group can truly be correct on that topic)...otherwise we should all just go and start following the purpose driven models for building up churches.

DJP said...

Good reminder, Robert: authorial intent. Either Paul meant, by "prophecy," what Scripture defines as prophecy (direct, inerrant, morally-binding revelation), or he did not.

A whole avenue I didn't pursue is how Poythress' way of arguing here seems to peck away at the Law of Non-contradiction.

Frank Turk said...

I just want to point out that the cartoon thread is still outpacing the "DaGifts" thread.

Maybe we have juts convinced everyone who matters that continualism is too fraught with problems and they have chosen a more moderate path. Because those Charismatics are know for their circumspection and tendacy toward moderation, yes?






Just sayin'.

Robert said...

Thanks, Frank. I needed a good-hearted laugh to kick off my weekend. So should we expect a continued trend for your posts with 400+ comments next week? That might be considered analagous to numerical growth in "purpose-driven" churches...

witness said...

Frank don't you think you should share the comment count with Dan since you piggy-backed off his post?

Like give him the ones where his original post is mentioned. I'm just thinking "be fair."

Rhology said...

But does not my case contain many of the characteristics of a withering, devastating critique? Wouldn't honesty force you to admit that my argument is... hm, what's the word?... analogous to a withering, devastating critique of Poythress' position?

Shaking my head in admiration. That, sir, is fine stuff.

DJP said...

Frank, thank you for your concern.

However, this comment-thread has many of the characteristics of a 1000+ comment thread.

And in the spirit of Poythress, we could say that it may or may not be appropriate to call it a 1000-comment thread, and refuse to get bogged down in things like comment-counts.

So, I deem it a 1000+ comment thread, and demand that it be included in any count of the longest meta's, ever.

witness said...

Never mind Frank... Dan doesn't need it.

witness said...

Dan I have read through and read through again your link to Poythress and I can't seem to find where he might explain God's purpose or motive for giving, as he puts it, noninspired intuitive gifts.

I mean he says things like this:

We cannot dictate beforehand that discursive gifts or nondiscursive gifts must always be dominant, that they must be the outstanding characteristic of every Christian community. For the Lord “gives them [gifts] to each one, just as he determines,” not as we determine (1 Cor 12:11).

So do I even understand him correctly that God gives discursive gifts and nondiscursive gifts?

DJP said...

Well, he categorizes prophecy's dreams and visions as nondiscursive.

The larger question — well, one larger question — is: where is the pressing need to call these modern activities "gifts" and work them into theologies? If they're "spiritual gifts," and if we don't need explicit Biblical authority for calling something a "gift," then why isn't everything a "gift"? Why isn't great timing in joke-telling a "spiritual gift," or why isn't making a great pot of coffee a "spiritual gift," or why isn't knowing which trout fly to use a "spiritual gift"?

witness said...

But he thinks even the errant ones are gifts from God? if that is the case what is God's reason for giving them?

Frank Turk said...

I would comment but something analogous to Coca-Cola has spewed out my nose.

DJP said...

Hee hee.

Mission Accomplished.

Robert said...

I have the same issue. Why would/how could God give something flawed? That is as unbiblical as it gets to me. That seems to get into altering the nature of God, right?

Paul said...

witness - preaching is also a gift from God. Preaching is also errant.

Errant (in this conversation) does not mean "full of errors" - it means not 100% guaranteed from God.

Theologians only claim inerrancy for the original manuscripts of the Bible. Our modern copies and translations are excellent at reproducing those manuscripts faithfully, but we don't guarantee the inerrancy, say, of the ESV Bible. So the ESV Bible is errant. Nevertheless it's useful and a good thing from God.

Robert said...

Paul,

I am thinking that you mean the application of the gifts is errant. The problem that I think many people have is that applying prophecy errantly seems a hard thing to do. Something is divinely revealed...unless you change what is divinely revealed, how does it become errant? I would say that none of the prophecy from the Bible (excluding false prophecy)had/has that problem.

DJP said...

Here's the thing: prophecy is definitionally inerrant. neither Poythress nor Grudem gets to mess with that, though they do in different ways.

Pastor/teaching, exhorting, helping — none of these involved inerrant, direct revelation. So the exercise was and is erring. It isn't the nature of those gifts to guarantee inerrant communication, as it is with prophecy, etc.

witness said...

But I would never say my sermon is from God. On the other hand I hear the TBN crowd saying "This is a word/dream/vision/prophecy from God!"

So when their stuff fails proving its errancy my question comes up... why did God give them an errant prophecy?

Paul said...

And I'm not happy (and I don't think Poythress is either) for people errantly, intuitively speaking in this manner, to say that it is from God. So we share that concern.

I've been arguing that we can call this phenomenon 'errant prophecy'. I think this is a legitimate use of the word prophecy. It is not definitional nonsense (like square circle) because the Bible describes another practice as false prophecy. The word 'false' qualifies the word prophecy, stripping it of its 'inerrant' meaning, but the term still makes sense. Similarly the phrase 'errant prophecy' uses the word errant to strip the inerrant meaning from prophecy. If what is spoken is false (it doesn't turn out to be true, it contradicts the Bible, etc. then it is false prophecy). But someone could just as easily say something intuitively that is completely true.

DJP said...

...and as has been pointed out to you patiently and at length a number of times, Paul, that's a really bad and really unnecessary idea.

Call it "false prophecy," or something else. It isn't prophecy.

Ted Bigelow said...

Thanks a lot for waiting, Dan.

Like, you totally left me alone, dude, when I dissed Poythress' article in the comments section of JT's blog the day it came out.

Nah, seriously - thanks for the clear article and caring so much about biblical revelation. You're a great blessing.

Ted Bigelow

DJP said...

Sorry Ted. Justin's a great guy, his blog's a great blog... but his meta is sometimes just one of the most discouraging places in the world, innit?

Rob Bailey said...

The decisions I make on a daily basis are not always the right ones. When I realize that is case, I go back to Scripture. There is no situation I have ever encountered that is not addressed by God's Word. I have encountered many trials; emotional, spiritual, physical, financial, relational, and just plain old wisdom issues. Never has there been any of them that is not either directly or in principle that was not found in the cannon of Scripture. What is the purpose of the desire to find "new prophesy?" There is an underlying problem to this whole issue.

As far as spiritual gifts go, I have heard it argued that the most important part of spiritual gifts is the person exercising them to the benefit of the local church. The body.

Brian Roden said...

Tyler wrote:

" or speak to a group of people of different languages and they all instantly understand in their own language."

This statement sounds like you interpret what happened on the Day of Pentecost to be a miracle of hearing. The miracle was not that the Jews visiting from all over the Roman Empire "instantly understood in their own language." It was that the disciples were speaking in languages they had never learned.

Mark B. Hanson said...

To pry the can of worms open farther, I am surprised that no one has mentioned Acts 2:17-18 - "'And in the last days it shall be, God declares, that I will pour out my Spirit on all flesh, and your sons and your daughters shall prophesy, and your young men shall see visions, and your old men shall dream dreams; even on my male servants and female servants in those days I will pour out my Spirit, and they shall prophesy....'"

Discursive or non-discursive prophecy, visions, dreams? Errant or not?

Then, now or later?

I'll just duck out now before the shouting starts.

Carlo Provencio said...

sometimes I wish you guys would use regular english that regular people like myself could understand! But that's my fault I guess! Reading this post was like reading a text book for scientists.

Jacob said...

DJP delivers some 0wnership on the topic of spiritual gifts. Nicely done!

The word verification for this post was "miracal". Make of that what you wish. :)

David Wayne said...

Dan, I think it was in your first post you mentioned that you couldn't find any critical interaction with Poythress, is that right? That surprises me. Back some time in the 90's I went to a seminar on apologetics with Bill Edgar from WTS-Philly at a local church in FL. I guess this piece by Poythress had come out recently because we discussd it and Dr. Edgar said that the WTS thought, it was a good and interesting argument but they all, I took that to mean the other profs at WTS, disagreed with him. So I am surprised that there hasn't been some critical interaction with him in the Westminster Journal or JETS or somewhere.
I do agree wholeheartedly with you here. I am very prejudiced for Poythress ordinarily but here I think he missed the mark.
In deference to him I think we could cut him some slack and say that he is arguing according to the principle of good and necessary consequence. I wholeheartedly agree that some things in Scripture are known through good and necessary consequence, but I also understand that this begs the question of how do you define what is good and what is necessary. As a good card carrying presbo I think the doctrine of infant baptism arises out of good and necessary consequence, but I know my baptist friends would say that it is neither good nor necessary.
In this case I think that whatever deductions that Poythress has made here are neither good nor necessary. By definition prophecy is a word from God. If it is from God it cannot be errant.
I would be happy if people would just say "I've got a hunch God may be leading me in this direction," or "I think God is doing this and such." I'm not even opposed to considering some of these hunches under the doctrine of providence - God governs all of His creatures and all of their actions, maybe sometimes he guides them through hunches and impressions. But those can never be in the same class as prophecy and I am with you here - I think Poythress just bungled the meaning of all the words here.
In my own (fallible, non-revelatory or prophetic) experience it seems to me that when people claim that "God told me this and such" they are usually trying to add spiritual weight to their own ideas and impressions. If they just said "I think we should do this," that's not near as impressive as "God told me this."
Anyway, I'm rambling, sorry to take up so much space, but I think you are spot on here.

DJP said...

Carlo, I'm sorry. I don't ever mean to come across "hoity-toity," unless it's in self-parody or just for fun.

Is there any part in particular you'd like me to re-word or sum up?

DJP said...

David, I think your conclusion — the part that comes after the infant-baptism part — is dead-on. I totally agree. Want to tell me your opinion, your hunch, your intuition, your feeling? Bring it, I'm happy to hear it and factor it in. "I've got a bad feeling about this" often means something worth considering, that a lot of subliminal red lights are flashing for good reason.

Thanks for adding that.

Mesa Mike said...

Paul wrote:
"I've been arguing that we can call this phenomenon 'errant prophecy'."

At best, I'd call it pseudo-prophecy. Calling it 'errant prophecy' legitimizes it as some lesser kind of actual prophecy, but it is nothing of the sort.

Stefan said...

When I was...oh, 18, 19, 20...I thought "intuition" was the key to some higher truth...some mystical force in the universe. (I was also into what little I knew of Jungian-type thinking at the time.)

It's rather disheartening to encounter someone like Poythress (of whom I've admittedly read very litte, but who I assumed is a thoroughgoing biblical scholar) to describe "prophecy" (in anything like the biblical sense of the term) as "non-discursive."

Regardless of the position one may take on dreams or visions, prophecy in the Bible is absolutely discursive: the very Word of God, given by God to prophets in verbal form, after He has called and instructed them in verbal form, for them to relay to their intended audience in verbal form.

As for Revelation, yes, John had a vision on Patmos that was clearly rich in visual imagery (such that 1915 years later, the Bride of Christ still can't agree on what it means), but even here, isn't the essence of it verbal in nature? The letters to the seven churches; the verbal effusion of praise "to Him who sits on the throne and to the Lamb"; the words of judgment against Babylon; and the ominous words in chapter 22, from Jesus Christ's own lips, regarding His imminent return; not to mention the invitation that immediately follows from the Spirit and the Bride for the one who is thirsty to come and "take the water of life without price."

Regardless of how we may interpret John's visions, the warnings to the churches are clear, the promise of Christ's imminent return is clear, and the open Gospel call is clear...because they are all articulated to us in verbal form, heard by John, written down in Greek, and translated into English for us.

Stefan said...

Also (come to think of it), in the two most vision-filled and cryptic books of the Bible—Daniel and Revelation—there are angels who explain in words what certain things in the visions mean, and which the writer has relayed to us.

DJP said...

Additionally, Stefan, the only form of those visions and dreams that we possess — that God made sure was preserved — is the verbal form. Good observation.

Deb said...

David Houston wrote: "The whole idea behind perspectivalism is that there is a real truth that can be 'seen' from multiple perspectives (normative, situational, experiential) whereas relativism is the idea that the 'real truth' is the perspective (an idea that is rather difficult to express coherently for obvious reasons...). You'll know that the former is quite opposed to the latter!"

Except when perspectivalists place the scripture in the category of normative, making it only one of the perspectives used to arise at the truth, which is what I have seen many teach. By doing so, they state that "real truth" is unknowable, and that we must use all three perspectives in our epistemology to arrive at our 'best' (analogous) understanding of "real truth', therefore placing experiential and situational alongside the normative (scripture).

I think, in an analogous sense, that is the problem DJP has highlighted.

Jason said...

What about Agabus in Acts 21? He prophesied about what would happen to Paul, yet we know he wasn’t 100% accurate? Is this an example of an “analogous to Biblically-described prophecy”? Agabus prophesied that the Jews would bind Paul, yet it was the Gentiles that bound him. The Jews were trying to kill Paul, not trying to take him captive and hand him over to the Gentiles.
If this isn’t an example of what Poythress says is an ‘analogous to biblical prophecy’, what is it? Are we to consider Agabus a false prophet, or just someone with a good hunch? What is a little frightening for me is that Acts tells us, “Thus says the Holy Spirit, 'This is how the Jews at Jerusalem will bind the man who owns this belt and deliver him into the hands of the Gentiles.'” If this is a wrong prediction, is this a transcription error that some scribe inadvertently inserted the phrase ‘thus says the Holy Spirit.”? or worse the HS was wrong. Help.
They way I’ve dealt with this passage in the past, is that the Holy Spirit spoke to Agabus, yet Agabus didn’t accurately deliver the message 100% right. Is that an accurate view, or am I missing something?

DJP said...

You're missing something.

But please see my 8:27 AM, July 29, 2010 comment. Yours is a decent question, but off-topic. Maybe another post.

Robert said...

So Dan...would Poythress say your impropmtu semrons were analagous to Peter preaching at Pentecost?

I almost posted this comment on today's thread, but felt it might have strayed off-topic a bit much.

halo said...

DJP:

I'm a bit late in the game, but I have a question for you:

I am inclined to agree that genuine prophecy in both the OT and NT is inerrant. (I say 'inclined' because I am not sure about Agabus). I am not at this time persuaded by Grudem that NT prophecy is fallible (have not read his book yet though, just the bit in his ST).

BUT I do not see how this makes any difference because some of the examples Poythress and numerous others give are inerrant prophecies - they come to pass 100% like what was intimated in the prophecy and do not contradict scripture. So what is wrong with allowing those?

Also, what do you do with the following verse which intimates that even genuine prophets can get it wrong:

1Cor14:29:

Let two or three prophets speak, and let the others weigh what is said

If they are 'prophets' why do you weigh ('judge' KJV, 'pass judgment' NASB) what they say unless they can be wrong?

So understand me - I am saying that all genuine prophecies are inerrant, but that not everything given as a 'prophecy' is a genuine 'prophecy', and that is why we have to test all prophecies, even ones given by 'prophets' themselves (1Cor14:29).

I would be interested to hear what you would say to that approach.

Thanks.

halo said...

So basically, some modern prophecies (the inerrant ones) are identical to the kind of prophecy in the bible, so we should not just dismiss it all.

But there is a need for testing and weighing supposed 'prophecies' (1Cor14:29; 1Thess5:20-21) to check that they are the bona fide inerrant ones.

What can be wrong with this approach?

DJP said...

All decent questions, and I'm tempted to respond, but all except one are off-topic for this series, which assumes that prophecy in the NT is the same as the OT.

What your questions miss is that Poythress is trying to invent a category for errant, non-binding prophecy as a legitimate spiritual gift on a par with Biblically-described gifts; and he lays foundation for calling what is not prophecy "prophecy." So if you want to say that his little stories are proofs that that gift is extant, then (A) you must require that everything calling itself "prophecy" be tested by that standard, and (B) must apply full church discipline when it doesn't.

For myself, as I think I said in the first post, anecdotes aren't a big factor in exegesis for me, other things being equal.

DJP said...

No, I think there are no ongoing prophecies. As I've argued in other posts, I think the gift served its purpose, the Canon is closed, we have sufficient witness to Christ and God's will in it with no need for supplementation.

halo said...

Fair enough, I think your condition (A) is fine, and perhaps so with (B) except that it does not seem to me that Paul had this kind of discipline in mind when he was talking about weighing/judging prophecies, which I think is because a sincere believer can very well just offer a prophecy up in a humble attitude of 'this might not be a genuine prophecy but I think it probably is' and then they are not absolutely claiming 'this IS the Word of the Lord'. I would agree that people who do indeed do that and then get it wrong should be subject to your condition (B) though.

One more note on a comment you made:

anecdotes aren't a big factor in exegesis for me

I'm not sure exactly what you mean to imply with this but I sometimes think 'anecdotes' or (more fairly) credible real-life stories are unduly dismissed. It is true that exegesis should not be experience driven, but it is surely a benefit when exegesis makes sense of credible real-life stories.

Some forms of cessationism leave people who have experienced a miracle or a genuine prophecy with no plausible answers at all, when a fair reading of the scriptures themselves would not do that (although you would disagree).

Thanks for your response though.

DJP said...

...a sincere believer can very well just offer a prophecy up in a humble attitude of 'this might not be a genuine prophecy but I think it probably is' and then they are not absolutely claiming 'this IS the Word of the Lord'.

If so, then this would be completely disanalogous to genuine prophecy.

halo said...

I thought you may say that. You believe not only that 1) genuine prophecy is inerrant, but also 2) that the person who receives genuine prophecy unmistakably knows that it is from God.

I think premise 2) is very debatable from texts in the NT and OT. For example, Samuel heard the audible voice of God twice but thought it was Eli speaking at first. Also Paul's admonitions to believers (1Cor14:29 and 1Thess5:20-21) most naturally indicate that some genuine believers can be mistaken in thinking that theirs are genuine prophecies.

But that is another debate.

DJP said...

Disanalogous. Samuel was in no doubt that he heard a voice external to himself, there was no "this might just be me." The other verses don't really serve to overturn the whole of Scripture on prophecy and yes, we are afield.