TeamPyro Sock Puppet (TPSP): Well, Frank, nice work again.
Frank Turk (FT): Yes, thanks much. It always seems to get easier as I get older. Maybe I'm actually just coming into a stride. I have to admit: DJP has to take some of the credit here. The hashtag #CharismaticismInFiveWords was a fantastic way to simply riff on the phenomenon.
TPSP: Well, so you say. Did you really think your contribution "Hello Darkness My Old Friend" was at all kind or helpful?
FT: Since you ask, yes. Yes I did.
TPSP: Well, what did you mean by that exactly? Don't you think it deserves more than a little explanation?
FT: What I thought was that I had said plenty in the last two weeks about the whole mess -- linking to my central complaint about these people who think the Holy Spirit's primary work in the world is to entertain us. That complaint, for those too lazy to use the internet, is this: they can't demonstrate that these activities are necessary for the life of the church. They can assert and imply it. They can act as if anyone who denies such a thing has blasphemed God for doubting that snake handlers and double-talkers are of the same ilk as the apostle Paul who was beaten and jailed for silencing a demon (Acts 16 for those without the gift of having read the NT), or of the same kind as Peter who had no earthly possessions but proved his mercy to the lame man by telling him to get up and walk (Acts 3 for those without the gift of Children's VBS songs).
But: they can't demonstrate that these things (which causes a burning in their bosom when they are questioned) is necessary for the life of the church.
TPSP: What do you mean by that? Why should they bother?
FT: What I mean is this -- when the church in Crete was in trouble, Paul sent Titus to them to set things right. In sending him, he gives Titus a laundry list of things to do to set things right: establish elders who are godly men, faithful to the message of the Gospel; silence the wicked and evil beasts, rebuke the story-telling, and teach people how to teach each other how to adorn the Gospel. He gives the same message to Timothy -- preach the word, in season and out of season. He gives the same message to the Corinthians who are, to some extent, ignoring him in spite of having believed the Gospel he brought them: when in doubt, go back to the thing of first importance, which is the Gospel. In order to overcome strife, divisions, chaotic worship, idolatry, sin present in the body, and so on: the Gospel is the solution.
What is startlingly absent in the NT is any reliance on using the apostolic sign gifts to straighten people out. You know: Peter struck Ananias and Sapphira dead for lying about their offering. That looks to me to be a fairly-straightforward method of church discipline -- if that's the norm. If the elders in my church could strike people dead for lying about that sort of stuff -- and be infallibly accurate since it was actually the grief of the Holy Spirit doing the work and not some guy in an effects booth in the loft conducting a spot-check -- I'll bet things like rumors and spitefulness would receive a sober dose of repentance Yet Paul doesn't prescribe church discipline that way to anyone. Peter doesn't either. In fact, the mode of church discipline is rather lacking in supernatural firepower and rather robust in things less fantastic and other-worldly like talking to people, exhorting people, forbearing with people, and in the end either reconciling with them or turning them out due to unrepentance in spite of having less-than-perfect prophetic visions of their soul state.
In my view of it, these special effects that these people are so enamored with are utterly unnecessary for the life of the church due to the lack of Scriptural accountability and direction for them. In the one place Paul does talk about them extensively, he says plainly that people who are longing for ecstatic events will likely scare off unbelievers and are in fact immature, missing the better way which is Love.
But: I remain open to the question. If they can demonstrate how Scripture tells us that these gifts are not merely a happy side-effect but in fact a central and necessary thing for the life of the church, I'm all ears. Please bring it -- please explain it to me, and I'll roll over tomorrow, barking like a dog or whatever the next move of the Spirit requires.
TSPS: Don't you think that raises the bar quite high? Aren't you doing what Jesus condemns the Pharisees for -- demanding that God shows you a sign?
FT: No. In fact, not at all ever.
Follow me here: while I have a gigantic sympathy for DJP's request that somebody show us one person who has actually been healed on-command, or one prophecy of any meaningful scope which came to pass for the glory of God after the apostolic age, I'm ready today to stipulate every angelic syllable of tongues spoken and every ingrown hair expressed out by the power of God. You can have all your experiences at face value because God forbid you be wrong about how you feel about the way you act.
My objection is simply that every bit of it is utterly irrelevant.
See: a biblical survey of miracles shows them to be God's way of making a point about His plan in history as it crosses a necessary milestone. He ordains a miracle when the path forward to the cross is further enlightened in the OT, and then again in the NT, culmination not merely in the Death of Christ, but in (as Paul values so much) the Resurrection of Christ. Then: the Apostles are personally sent (Paul last of all) to take the message from Israel to all the world, and commit the final word from God on the subject (cf. Heb 1:1-4) into Scripture and deliver the faith once for all time to the saints.
But: miracles and wonders and sign gifts are not are the normative way the church needs to operate. You know, when Paul writes to Timothy he doesn't say, "the aim of my charge is fire and power and an anointing of seven McGuffins." He doesn't send the church down a path where it's waiting for the next fantastic flame of fire to set down in their midst. He sends them after joy, peace, patience, kindness, goodness, self control -- and love.
He sends them into the real world where the Holy Spirit does something more important than melting the faces off the Nazis who open the Lost Ark. He sends them out to be ambassadors of God, preaching repentance.
TPSP: So you do believe in the Holy Spirit? You think he's necessary for the church, yes?
FT: Yes, of Course. I have to believe John 13-15. I believe in the Holy Spirit -- Dan does, too.
TPSP: but not a Holy Spirit who does Miracles?
FT: yeah, now you're making me angry. It's been a few years since I posted the standard affirmations and denials of the run-of-the-mill cessationist, so here they are for reference:
I affirm that Reformation theology requires the personal action of God the Holy Spirit for the life of the Church.
I deny that this work necessarily includes speaking in tongues (as in Acts 2 as well as in so-called "private prayer langauges"), healing the sick or raising the dead by explicit command, prophecy in the sense that Isaiah and John the Baptist were prophets, or any other "sign-and-wonder"-like exhibition. That is: I deny that these actions are necessary for the post-apostolic church to function as God intended.
I affirm that miracles happen today. No sense in prayer and believing in a sovereign God if he's not going to ever be sovereign, right?
I deny that there is any man alive today who is gifted to perform miracles as Christ and the Apostles where gifted to perform miracles.
I affirm that God is utterly capable of, and completely willing, to demonstrate "signs and wonders" at any time, in any place, according to his good pleasure and for his great purpose.
I deny that this activity is common, normative, necessary, nor is it in the best interest of God's people to been seen as common, normative and/or necessary. God in fact warns us against seeking signs rather than the thing signified repeatedly in the OT and NT.
I affirm the real presence of the Holy Spirit in the church of Jesus Christ as Jesus said He would be present in John 13-15.
I deny that this means that all believers or even all local churches will be equipped with apostles called and equipped as the 12 and Paul were called and equipped. A telling example is the role of apostles in delivering Scripture to the church.
I affirm that the normative working of the Holy Spirit in the life of the church begins with conviction of sin and regeneration, and continues through sanctification, and through the outworking of personal gifts (e.g. - Gal 5:22-23, 1 Cor 13:4-7) for the edification of the (local) church.
I deny that explicitly-supernatural outworkings, or events the Bible calls "signs and wonders" (e.g. - Acts 2:1-11, Acts 3:3-7, Acts 5:1-11, Acts 9:32-35, etc.) are either normative or necessary for the on-going life of the church.
I affirm the uniqueness of the office of apostle in the founding of the church.
I deny the necessity of apostles for the on-going life of the church.
I affirm that leadership in the church is a task wholly-empowered by the Holy Spirit to men meeting the scriptural qualifications, and that the objectives of this leadership are wholly-defined by the Holy Spirit explicitly through Scripture and implicitly as the gifts of leaders are applied to a real people in a local church.
I deny that church leadership is like business leadership -- that is, a system of techniques that have outcomes measurable by secular metrics of success -- and further deny that merely-competant management processes yield the fruit of the Holy Spirit
If in that you can find me somehow relegating the Holy Spirit to something other than what the Bible says He does to us and through us and for us, then you can lay on with the side-eye regarding whether or not I think God the Spirit is necessary for the church.
TPSP: So to sort of close the loop on something you said above, how do you them justify saying that Charismaticism in 5 words can be summed up as, "Hello Darkness My Old Friend?"
FT: That's a good catch. Thanks for following that up.
When I said that, I meant this: I think people following their emotions around to the next big anointing are benighted in at least one significant way. I think they are stuck on the internal rush of things which are utterly peripheral to seeing Jesus as the Light of the World, and are therefore stuck in a bizarre kind of darkness of the soul. They aren't grumpy and fussy like us Calvinists -- unless, of course, you point out that Todd Bentley was a fraud, and Paula White is a fraud, and Joseph Prince is a fraud, and Benny Hinn runs a finishing school for frauds, and Paul Cain was a fraud, and Annie Semple McPherson was a fraud, and on and on. They are stuck in a darkness which, as long as it is warm and wet, they don't mind sitting in it. There's a phrase in Danish about that which I won't translate, but as soon as what they are sitting in gets cold and clammy, they are looking for the next big warm and wet -- not the actual progress of the soul to sanctification.
So: Hello darkness my old friend.
TPSP: So you think the hashtag was a good approach? Overall?
FT: Well, it's Twitter. You have to gauge the method by the medium. Should DJP have rather posted a series of TwitLonger pieces on the faults of Charismatics and their theology so he was fully nuanced and well-measured? Should that have been the trend?
What I think is this: when the so-called serious and sober Charismatics start policing their own and teaching their followers that one of the real gifts of the Spirit is discernment, and we don't charm the Holy Spirit by being gullible any more than we grieve Him by being critical of people using His name to get rich, I'll be more worried about being nuanced toward them. I don't think it's unkind in the least to tell someone, however sincere, that they are at best being undiscerning and sloppy -- and at worst, they are actually harming other people with gullibility and spiritual chaos.
TPSP: how about we clean up a few items quickly to close here as a sort of speed round. I'll give a topic or concern, and you give me the 50-word response.
FT: So, like Twitter?
FT: I'm not bothered.
TPSP: There are a lot of credible men who are committed Charismatics.
FT: I'd say that their commitment to Charismaticism -- especially their silence and acceptance of the rampant hooliganisms in the movement -- calls into question the rest of their track record. Their otherwise-orthodox views don't make their approach to this stuff somehow rubber-stamped for acceptance.
TPSP: Just because there are abuses of Charismaticism doesn't mean that we throw the baby out with the bathwater. We don't abandon marriage because some marriages are bad, do we?
FT: That goes back to the question of necessity, doesn't it? We don't abandon marriage because, it turns out, it is necessary for the church and for society. We do what God commands for marriage because it is necessary. At some point, you have to compare apple to apples -- and to make this the same sort of apples, you have to prove it's necessary. Scripture does not develop or expound on daGifts the way it does marriage.
TPSP: Nobody is willing to sit down and talk to us Charismatics like we are adults with a legitimate theological viewpoint.
FT: When you start acting like you're serious and deal with the rampant abuses in your camp -- not incidental stuff but the stuff in every city in the US where your views are deeply wrapped up in Prosperity preaching and Word of Faith, not to mention the shysters who grow rich telling these lies about their spiritual powers -- we'll be glad to take it to the next level.
TPSP: I know this is true because it happens to me.
FT: That's a backwards existential hermeneutic -- backwards as determined by how Scripture tells us to interpret the world and what happens to us.
TPSP: And at 10 pages in WORD, I think that's a wrap.
FT: Yeah, nice work. Thanks for taking the time.