Faith vs. Gullibility; Wisdom vs. Skepticism
Showing once more that we have already answered the fatuous charge that cessationism is a variety of atheism.
(First posted 10 August 2009)
charismatic reader took me to task for using the word unverifiable to describe the majority of miracles claimed by modern charismatic faith-healers. That's the language of unbelief, he said. You are making a negative confession.
Extreme gullibility is not true faith, I answered. I have implicit faith in the Word of God. But when today's charismatic celebrities make fantastic or outlandish claims, it's appropriate to seek verification. After all, Paul cited more than 500 eyewitnesses who could substantiate the reality of Christ's resurrection. Why should I take modern anecdotal accounts at face value? Especially when someone with a questionable track record like Rheinhard Bonnke claims he raised an embalmed corpse from the dead and Pat Robertson promotes the story on The 700 Club. It's reasonable to scrutinize such claims with care instead of credulity.
I'm not offended. I can understand how my position might come across like that, and I realize there's a danger of stepping across the line into sheer skepticism. Jesus Himself did not indulge the curiosity of those who wanted Him to show them miracles as mere novelties. He refused to turn His ministry into a traveling show where miracles were done on stage to heighten the sensationalism. (Again, that sets him apart from Bonnke, Robertson, Hinn, and friends.)
But try to hear what I am saying. I don't for a moment doubt God's power to do miracles or to heal. I am not asking someone to do miracles just to put on a sensational show. I don't think it would be right to do that, and in fact one of my complaints against charismatic media figures is their tendency toward sensational on-stage shows, while desperate people are suffering in real wheelchairs at the back of the auditorium. I am saying, "Come off the stage and go to the back of the auditorium and heal some truly disabled people, if you really have the power to heal."
There is no record that anyone ever made such a challenge to Jesus. There was no need to make such a challenge. He did not need to prove that His miracles were genuine; they were obviously so. Furthermore, He healed people who were truly in hopeless straits, and He healed them all, with a hundred-percent success rate. Scripture repeatedly stresses this (Matt. 4:24; 8:16; 12:15; Lk. 4:40; 6:17-19).
We are supposed to test all things by the standard of Scripture, and since there is a such vast discrepancy between the kind of healings that are recorded in Scripture and the stuff we see on TBN, it seems not only fair to ask for authentication, but also I believe it is our clear duty. Too many of these healing evangelists have already been unmasked as charlatans. They are a stain on the church and a reproach to the name of Christ.
Remember, too, that we are also commanded to test all things (1 Thessalonians 5:21).
And God will indeed take care of him in His time. Nonetheless, we are still commanded to test all things. Consider this: if Peter had taken the approach with Simon Magus that you propose taking with Hinn and his ilk, the early church would probably have been overrun with charlatans, too. Or if Paul had taken such an approach with the Galatian legalists, the church might not have endured through into the second century.