31 July 2006

A quick beef

by Frank Turk

Well, I was reading Adrian Warnock’s last real post on the cessationist/continualist thing, and because I just can’t let Dan have all the fun, let me report that I read this from the meritorious Dr. Warnock:
I would love to challenge the TeamPyro guys . . . and the rest of us (including myself) — When was the last time you experienced such an impact of the Word of God brought to life by the Spirit of God?

Have you ever experienced the weight, and at the same time the lightness, of the presence of God when a truth comes to life that you feel you might (or indeed you actually do!) fall down laughing?

This experience of being overwhelmed by the vastness of the grace and love of God is one I believe is right to seek and to cry out to God for. Do you agree with that? Is it unfair of me to make the accusation that far too many of us — including those of us who claim to be charismatics — fail to seek experiences of God with sufficient passion? Could the weakness of our passions explain the weakness of our Christianity?
And let me come clean with something: I’m one of those guys who wishes that God would manifest something in the off-the-chain miraculous way that he did with Paul and Peter.

I admit it: I’d love that. In a way I covet that – because think of how stupid that would make Christianity debunkers look! Man, that’d be cool …

… which is exactly, I think, why God doesn’t do it all the time. That’s not a “turn with me to Scripture” argument – it’s a “confession of a lazy man who loves Christ” argument. I know God doesn’t want me to have a ton of faith in some at-best tertiary event relative to the Gospel because, as a lazy man, I’d point to that miracle instead of Christ to talk about my faith.

What a jerk I’d be if I had a real miracle on video tape!

Now seriously: Dr. Warnock is not that kind of jerk. But his challenge, above, does something almost as bad: it assumes that because the members of TeamPyro haven’t (yet) disclosed any of their most-intimate moments with God, they haven’t had any.

Personally, I think that’s a brash claim to divert away from the issue at hand – which is, what exactly is the charismatic thing good for if it is not specifically a revelation of the Holy Spirit which the believe ought to hang some kind of hope on?

If you’d like me to blog some of my most intimate experiences with God in His word, I’ll be glad to do that – I don’t do it now because it seems sort of exhibitionistic to me. But if that’s going to point the cessationist/continualist discussion back at the use of these gifts and whether we can trust them or not – and whether they are from God or some other source, be it man’s heart or something else – then I will be glad to do it.

Stay tuned.

"Tongues" across the water: response to Adrian, part three

by Dan Phillips, Blog Hog
The Story thus Far
I wrote about how "tongues of angels" is a red herring, when it comes to explaining the gift of tongues. Adrian replied, never saying what he thought about the premise of that post, but saying a lot about charismatics and cessationists. In response, I commented about how long Adrian's post was... then began an immensely longer, three- (no, four-) part reply. Part one was followed by part two, like a starving dog following a meat truck.

Which brings us to part three, wherein I respond to a series of Scriptures that burst forth from Adrian's gattling gun.

And we still don't know whether Adrian thinks that angels in their livingroom turn to each other and say, "Wah bobba loo-bop, ba-lop bam boom!"

Note about Comments

Nobody has to read any of these posts. Well, my poor wife, Valerie. But no one else! Okay, my oldest son, Matthew. But that's it! As to the rest of you, please don't bother to comment on this one, until and unless you've read Adrian's post and my three. Mine is a building argument. If I suspect you've overlooked this request, I count myself free to ignore you at least, or delete your comment, so as not to let the discussion be sidelined or mired. I will be Judge, Jury, and Delete-O Guy. I have the power, and I'm not afraid to use it. Just so we're clear.

Having said that—
Challenges from the book of Acts

Adrian swings this fish at my head:
Why does the passage Peter then [in Acts 2] quotes [from Joel 2] speak of the Spirit being poured out on "all flesh" in the "last days" if we cannot experience this? Are we now living in the days after the last days? If the gifts were only to authenticate the Apostles, why the wide extent detailed here?
Why does Peter speak of the Spirit being poured out? Because He was.

This really needn't be a very long answer. What is Adrian's point? Because some of the people on whom the Spirit was poured out on Pentecost spoke in tongues, everyone (or anyone) must do so now? Unless Adrian wants to paint God into the box of always having to do everything exactly the same way no matter what the developments of His plan, it's difficult to see what this has to do with our discussion.

Just answer this, Dear Reader: was God authoring Scripture then, by His outpoured Spirit? I'll help you: the answer is "Yes."

My next question: Is God authoring Scripture today, by His outpoured Spirit?

If you answer "No" to just that question, you grant the principle that there may be phases, chapters, movements, openings and closings in the unfolding plan of God. You have accepted the principle of cessationism.

If however any of you answer "Yes, the Holy Spirit is still authoring new Scripture today," then please (A) say so plainly, (B) tell us what books we need to staple to the backs of our Bibles, and (C) don't call yourself a "Reformed" Charismatic.

Adrian moves on:
How do you explain it when Peter says at the end of his speech that the promise "is for you and for your children and for all who are far off, everyone whom the Lord our God calls to himself" He is clearly referring to the same thing that they had experienced that day? Peter says (to quote the KJV) "this is that," and yet we are not allowed to experience that" according to the cessationist and in direct contradiction to Peter's universal promise.
Adrian doesn't actually quote the passage in Acts 2 at length. So I will. Here Peter quotes Joel:
"'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; 18 even on my male servants and female servants in those days I will pour out my Spirit, and they shall prophesy" (vv. 17-18)
That's the part Charismatics quote. And there you go: "this is that," last days, Spirit poured out, sons and daughters prophesying, visions, dreams, the whole nine yards. Therefore, tongues are forever! QED, right?

Well now, hold on. I seem to remember Acts 2 is longer than eighteen verses. Isn't it? What are the next two verses?
And I will show wonders in the heavens above and signs on the earth below, blood, and fire, and vapor of smoke; 20 the sun shall be turned to darkness and the moon to blood, before the day of the Lord comes, the great and magnificent day.
Okay, now; so if verses 17 and 18 must obviously mean that everybody will be speaking in tongues at every church meeting for the next twenty-plus centuries... doesn't it equally obviously mean that there must be signs in heaven and on earth, blood, vapor, all those special effects, at every church meeting, for the same duration? Yet I don't even remember those things happening on Pentecost, let alone for the last two thousand years. (I might also mention that tongues have never even been claimed to be a fixture of Bible-believing Christianity, from the second century until the twentieth.)

So maybe the meaning is not as self-evidently a slam-dunk for continuationism as bro. Warnock seems to feel?

But I note something else, as well. The Joel citation comes at the beginning of Peter's sermon, in vv. 17-21. But Adrian links that citation directly to the what comes at the end—in fact, after the end—of the sermon, in the babysprinklers' favorite verse: Acts 2:39.

Now, I'm no professor of hermeneutics, but when Peter says "This promise," shouldn't I ask "Which promise?", and not just assume that I know, or read in a favorite verse? Shouldn't I look at the immediately-preceding words to see if I find my answer?

If I do that, here is what I find: "Repent and be baptized every one of you in the name of Jesus Christ for the forgiveness of your sins, and you will receive the gift of the Holy Spirit." So the promise is that repentant believers will receive forgiveness of sins, and the gift of the Holy Spirit.

What cessationist denies that? Certainly not I.

Acts 2:39 is a challenge to the cessationist position only if every time I see "Holy Spirit," I must think "Oh, yes—tongues, prophecy, apostles, writing the Bible, stuff like that."

But if we go there, then we have a problem with the whole Bible. This verse says that every believer receives the Holy Spirit. But Paul says that not every believer, even then, was meant by God to be a prophet nor a tongues-speaker. Did that mean that not every believer received the Holy Spirit?

Also, Paul expressly says that tongues and prophecy were temporary gifts (1 Corinthians 13:8). After they cease, then—whether that's at the close of the Canon, or the return of Jesus, or the next Republican Convention—does every believer lose the Holy Spirit? Surely not.

Challenges from 1 Corinthians

Then we leap with Dr. Warnock to a totally different question:
What exactly is it about 1 Corinthians 13 that leads some to assume that the cessation of gifts is tied to the completion of Scripture rather than to the return of Christ?
Well, again, that's fundamentally simply answered. Let's quote the apostle. Here is my fairly literal translation of the Greek text:
Love never falls. Whether there are prophecies, they will be rendered inoperative; or whether there are tongues, they will cease of themselves; or whether there is knowledge, it will be rendered inoperative. 9 For we are knowing piecemeal, and we are prophesying piecemeal; 10 but whenever that which is complete comes, that which is piecemeal shall be rendered inoperative
So here Paul contrasts the piecemeal (to ek merous) with the complete (to teleion). What is it that Paul expressly says is piecemeal, or partial, at that time? Well, it isn't certainly isn't Jesus, or His return. No, Paul explicitly says that it is revelatory knowledge and speech (cf. v. 2). So what would be the complete thing, the complete element, that answers to the partial? Jesus? He's certainly not a neuter, and the phrase is in the neuter gender. The Second Coming? Awfully odd way to put it, wouldn't you say—"whenever that which is perfect, that perfect thing, the Second Coming, comes"?

No, I think if we didn't have a sectarian dog in this hunt, and just were thinking it through, the most obvious answer wouldn't be that hard to discover. Paul contrasts a then-present process of revelation, piece by piece (to ek merous), with the finished product (to teleion). The most natural answer, then, is the completed product of that piecemeal revelatory process. In a word, Scripture.


I'm sure a lot of people are madder than wet cats at this point. I am not demanding that anyone agree. (You should, of course; but I don't demand it [insert smiley face here].) But I do demand that you grant that I have answered Adrian's question head-on: "What exactly is it about 1 Corinthians 13 that leads some to assume that the cessation of gifts is tied to the completion of Scripture rather than to the return of Christ?" If you didn't know, now you do.

Not all cessationists take this view, of course. But I came around to it, reluctantly and meanderingly. But study of the passage has led me to hold it firmly and confidently. (Yes, I've read Gordon Fee's commentary. To say that I find it, and him, unconvincing, would be charitable.)

Here is an important aside about that phrase, "Reformed Charismatic." I'd think that a bare minimum of being "Reformed" would involve affirming the five sola's, agreed? And one of those sola's is sola scriptura. Does the Reformed Charismatic think that the process of revelation has been completed? If the first part of that label means anything, he should say "Yes." When folks like me challenge them on this point, in fact they tend to stamp their feet, beat their chests, turn purple, and insist, "Yes!"

Well, if revelation is complete, then why do they think that the to ek merous still dribbles on and on? Did the completion of the Canon mean anything? It is easy to see the purpose of scattered occurrences of genuine revelation before the Canon's completion; what would be the purpose of a low-level dribble after that completion? Is the modern dribble really revelation? If so, why hasn't the Bible gotten any bigger? If not... why is it so important, again? Is it low-level revelation? What in the world would that be?

More Adrian:
Why does Paul clearly state in 1 Corinthians 4:5 [sic; 14:5] that he wants them all to speak in tongues? Why, if tongues is only ever intended as a proof to the unbeliever would he want them all to do it? Why would he need them all to do it? At most, one or two would suffice to get the point across, and given the moral state of the church in Corinth, desiring still more people to speak in tongues seems almost irresponsible!
Why, indeed? What do you think the apostle means, Adrian? Do you think Paul actually is saying that he believes every one of them should speak in tongues? Do you think that Paul forgot that he had just said, in 12:30, that not everyone can or should speak in tongues, because the Spirit sovereignly apportions to each according to His will (12:11)? Do you think Paul means that they should all speak in tongues at the same time, even though he will forbid this in just a bit (14:27)? Is there maybe another possibility?

And besides, is the verse about tongues? I'm sure you've read the whole thing. It isn't about tongues at all, is it—except to make the point that tongues are inferior to prophecy?

Perhaps we're not taking Paul's tone correctly. He uses what is often a weaker volitional term, thelo. The ESV "I want you all to speak in tongues" rather puts Paul at odds with himself. Better to render "I wish," like the NAS, the NET, the NKJ and others render it. Because of their childish, schismatic divisiveness, perhaps the apostle is saying in effect, "Sure, it'd be nice if you all spoke in tongues: exercised correctly, it is a useful gift, and you'd have one less childish dividing factor. But what I really wish you would value is prophecy" (see the context).

And, back to our overarching topic, I really don't see any interpretation by which Paul is saying, "It is and always will be crucial to healthy Christian living that people babble incoherently like sugar-high toddlers, because it makes them feel good!"

Then Adrian grabs me by the collar, picks me up, and shakes me vigorously, demanding an answer to this:
Why, on the one hand, are we at liberty to ignore Paul's clear commands to the Corinthians to "eagerly desire spiritual gifts" and to "not forbid speaking in tongues" (1 Corinthians 14:39) when, on the other hand, we are expected to accept all of his other commands to local churches as applying to us today? If these two commands do not apply to us, which other of Paul's commands also do not apply? How are we then meant to decide which of Paul's commands we are going to obey and which we are going to ignore?
Well, I certainly apologize if I've been ignoring Paul's clear commands. It isn't my aim, I assure you. I appreciate Dr. Warnock's concern; it'd be a terrible thing for me to do.

Now... which "clear commands" was I ignoring, again?

Is it to "eagerly desire spiritual gifts"? How am I ignoring that, exactly? Am I to desire that I personally possess all the spiritual gifts? Surely not; Paul made clear that this is not our sovereign God's design, back in chapter 12. So if I haven't been given tongues, am I ignoring Paul if I don't seek to bend the Spirit to my will, and constrain Him to give me what He hasn't chosen to give me? Surely not.

So, does it mean that somebody always has to desire tongues, or prophecy? Well, Paul simply cannot mean that. He just finished saying, in so many words, that they are temporary gifts (13:8f.). At some point, they'll be gone. Are we still to desire them then, after they've ceased and gone inactive? Surely not. So, if Adrian agrees with Paul, then he must agree that, at some point, no Christian will be expected to desire tongues and prophecy.

If so, brother Adrian agrees with the cessationist.

We're only quibbling about when that point came, or comes.

So then again, is my sin that I am I ignoring Paul's command that I not forbid to speak in tongues (14:39)? But I've never done that in all my life. In fact, I have never known, read of, or heard of anyone who has ever forbidden anyone to speak in tongues. In fact, let me just round on all the pastors who read this blog and say: don't you dare forbid anyone speaking in tongues according to Paul's directions!

There, is that better?

Oh, but one more thing before we move on—I do have to note that the apostle never says that we should not forbid someone from interrupting a meeting so he can spout off a flood of gibberish, or babble, or nonsense, or babytalk. In fact, it is incumbent on every pastor to forbid behavior like this, since God is not a God of disorder (1 Corinthians 14:33).

What's more, we know that God wants every one of us to grow up (Ephesians 4:15), He wants us to mature (Hebrews 5:12-14), He wants us to put away childish things (1 Corinthians 13:11), He wants us to stop being babies (Ephesians 4:14), and act like men (1 Corinthians 16:13). And it's worth a note that Paul arguably associates piecemeal revelatory gifts with a childish state, that we should get beyond (1 Corinthians 13:11).

I'm very concerned that many professing Christians in general, and many Charismatics in particular, regularly ignore these clear apostolic imperatives. Will Adrian join me in admonishing ourselves, and all our readers, to grow up?


Now, I'm sorry, but I'm not sure I can make sense of this:
If tongues are always human languages and never unintelligible, what function did they serve in the churches and why would God use them to communicate a message to His people in some way? (1 Corinthians 14:5)
What's with the "if"?

Paul's church-historian travelling companion Luke certainly depicts tongues as spoken (not merely heard) known human languages (Acts 2:4-11). Adrian's fellow-physician, the good doctor Luke, was well-travelled throughout the churches, he knew Paul's teaching well, and he repeatedly used the same word that Paul used (glossa) to describe the gift (Acts 2:4, 11; 10:46; 19:6; cf. 1 Corinthians 12:10, 28; 13:8; 14:2, 4, 6, 9, 13, 14, 18, 19, 22, 23, 26, 27, 39). I have never yet seen glossa used in Greek literature to mean babble, or gibberish. Certainly it doesn't mean gibberish in Luke, and certainly Paul expressly rules out babble or gibberish as having any value for anyone (14:7-11, 16-19, 27-28). This creates a simply immense presumption that they are talking about the same phenomenon. It would require extraordinary, unambiguous, and explicit evidence to shift that presumption.

What's more, Paul expressly says that by "tongues" he means intelligible human speech, specifically in a foreign Gentile tongue. Where? Here:
In the Law it is written, "By people of strange tongues and by the lips of foreigners will I speak to this people, and even then they will not listen to me, says the Lord." 22 Thus tongues are a sign not for believers but for unbelievers, while prophecy is a sign not for unbelievers but for believers. (1 Corinthians 14:21-22)
Paul is citing Isaiah 28:11-12, which in turn may well echo Deuteronomy 28:49. Now, there is no honest, rational doubt that these passages refer to Gentile tongues, heard as a sign of God's judgment of the nation of Israel (cf. 14:22). The "tongues" Paul writes of are the "tongues" Isaiah wrote of, and those "tongues" are human, foreign languages. That is what Paul said.

What a relief, eh? Let Paul speak for himself, and all makes sense. We needn't shoulder the insurmountable burden of explaining why Paul and Luke, traveling partners, coworkers and friends, should write within less than a decade of each other, and use the exact same words to describe two totally different gifts. We needn't invent nutty rationalizations for why neither would pen a syllable of acknowledgment or explanation. We needn't fantasize wildly as to why Luke would knowingly contradict Paul, writing after he did, and knowing well of Paul's Corinthian ministry (cf. Acts 18). We needn't force Paul to contradict himself by ruling out any value to gibberish on the one hand, but charging God with imposing it on saints, on the other. We needn't adopt an insane hermeneutic—that an ambiguous verse or two should be used to controvert a pile of perfectly clear, unambiguous statements.


A "relief," I say—unless, I suppose, we've wed ourselves to an indefensible, traditionalistic interpretation. Unless we're committed to finding a way to "dumb down" Biblical tongues so as to accommodate their modern counterfeits. If we are so "wed," I think this would be one divorce that God would not only approve, but demand.

A brief sidestep to Romans 8:26

This is already a very long post, and I refuse to break it into two posts again. So let's skip to a few more that I think are more significant, and not repetitive. To wit:
If Romans 8:26 is not referring to praying in tongues, then to what exactly is it referring? "Likewise the Spirit helps us in our weakness. For we do not know what to pray for as we ought, but the Spirit himself intercedes for us with groanings too deep for words."
Simple. Paul means exactly what he says: the Spirit intercedes for us with prayers unspoken by us.

In more detail: Paul expressly says the Spirit's intercessary groans are "unspoken" (alaletois; "too deep for words" is a paraphrase, and a bad one at that). They are His intercessions ("the Spirit himself intercedes for us"). They are the Holy Spirit's prayers for us to the Father. They are not our prayers. That is what Paul says.

This would make another good "red herring" post. Why a verse which clearly speaks of (A) unspoken prayers, uttered (B) not by us but expressly by the Holy Spirit, ever was taken to refer to prayers (A) spoken (B) by us, is simply a marvel. Yet no one to my knowledge argues that Hebrews 7:25's revelation that Christ Jesus "always lives to make intercession for them" refers to any kind of prayer we make.

Back to 1 Corinthians 14

More Adrian:
What exactly does 1 Corinthians 14:9 mean if it doesn't mean what it appears to mean—"So with yourselves, if with your tongue you utter speech that is not intelligible, how will anyone know what is said? For you will be speaking into the air." It sure sounds like something unintelligible to me!
Paul is saying don't do this. Read the context. What is your question? Do you disagree with him, Adrian? I trust not.

Why does Paul speak specifically about praying in a tongue—"For if I pray in a tongue, my spirit prays, but my mind is unfruitful." (1 Corinthians 14:4 sic; 14])—if tongues are only ever human languages for the purpose of unbelievers hearing a message?
Again, this is something Paul is saying not to do. Would anyone suggest that Paul wants to be unfruitful—that is, to furnish no fruit, no benefit, to others? That cannot be. The apostle has expressly said that the purpose of all gifts is the edification and benefit of others, of the body of Christ (12:7; 14:26; cf. 10:24). Nothing in this verse even hints that Paul is contradicting his own flat-out and in-so-many-words statement that tongues are human languages (see above).

Why does 1 Corinthians 14:26 make clear that tongues are one of the gifts for building up the church if they are only ever real languages for evangelism?
As we've shown, Paul says that tongues are real languages. I'm not smart enough to argue with the apostle, so I'll let his flat statement guide my interpretation of anything that might be ambiguous. Paul also says that translated tongues can benefit the church. To my memory, I have never argued that they were only used for evangelism.

Why no "killer verses"?

Most importantly of all, if the Bible never intended that we get the impression that gifts are for today, why are there not any real "killer verses" to make it clear to us that this is not the case?
There aren't? I believe I've given and/or linked to several such verses, already.

Every description of tongues and prophecy in the Bible is a "killer" verse . Allow me to allude to our "standard of proof" discussion from the previous post. Every description of a real cat is a "killer verse" to anyone who wants to wave a snake around and call it a cat. Similarly, anyone who wants to babble and burble, and call it tongues; or pop off gauzy generalities or inaccurate predictions and call it "prophecy," is condemned and rejected by every Biblical description of the real, legitimate phenomena. No such widespread, well-documented phenomena as described in the Bible has ever characterized Biblical Christianity, from the second century to the present day. The charismatic movement has tried for one hundred years, and so far the best it has come up with is an attempt to redefine everything, covering up its consistent failure by trying to define down the Biblical exemplars.

And there is no Biblical explanation why this should be so—unless what Paul announced as future to him, in 1 Corinthians 13:8-10, is past to us.

Which, I submit, it is.

Dan Phillips's signature

29 July 2006

Worldliness: lax doctrine's first evil fruit

Your weekly dose of Spurgeon
posted by Phil Johnson

The PyroManiacs devote space at the beginning of each week to highlights from The Spurgeon Archive. The following excerpt is from "Restoration of Truth and Revival," an essay that appeared in the December 1887 issue of The Sword and The Trowel.

It is clear to every one who is willing to see it that laxity of doctrine is either the parent of worldliness, or is in some other way very near akin to it. The men who give up the old faith are the same persons who plead for latitude as to general conduct. The Puritan is not more notorious for his orthodoxy than for his separateness from the world.

Liberal divines do not always command the respect of the public, but they gain a certain popularity by pandering to prevailing tastes. The ungodly world is so far on their side that it commends them for their liberality, and rails at the orthodox as bigots and kill-joys. It is a very suspicious circumstance that very often the less a man knows of the inner life, and the less he even cares to speak of it, the more heartily he is for the new theology, the theory of evolution, and the condemnation of all settled doctrine.

Those who would have a blessing from the Lord must avoid all this, and determine to follow the Lord fully. Not only must they quit false doctrine, but they must receive the gospel, not as dogma, but as vital truth. Only as the truth is attended with living faith will it prove its own royal power.

Believers must also sweep the house of the leaven of worldliness, and the frivolities of a giddy generation. The evil which is now current eats as doth a canker, and there is no hope for healthy godliness until it is cut out of the body of the church by her again repenting, and doing her first works.
C. H. Spurgeon

28 July 2006

"Tongues" across the water: response to Adrian, part two

by Dan Phillips

This is part two of what was a projected three-part series begun here. Turns out it's going to be four, God willing. Adrian's thoughts and feelings are widely-shared, and he expresses them vigorously, so he's worth a solid interaction. I hope we can have some fun, I certainly am committed to keeping it friendly, but still we should have a contentful interaction. I'm sure when Adrian's tanned, rested, and feeling tip-top as I pray he will, I'll be in for a well-deserved and well-dished drubbing.

Or he'll try. < /tough-talk blustering bluff >

If you haven't read the first part, please start there, for truly Phillipses do not love to chew their cabbage twice.

Having responded to what I think is the heart, not only of Adrian's post, but of modern Charismaticism, I now move on to some of the specifics. In this post, I'll focus on the nature of evidence, and the burden of proof. Now back to Adrian Warnock.

A word about that man. You can learn more of him in the distant Tim Challies' interview, and you can even hear him preach. (Warning: he kinda preaches like a Charismatic. Also, I'm convinced that anything anyone says in a British accent automatically sounds 25% smarter -- so he's definitely got that going for him. Envious? Me? Never! That's why you never see any daft and balmy [correction: barmy (thanks, Libbie!)] Britishisms in my writing. It's sad that Adrian's so darned homely, too, poor man. We all have our crosses to bear.)

I'll say this clearly as I can. Adrian and I are both public men. My stuff has been dissected and shredded at atheist message boards, in charismatic blogs, and probably in a hundred other places. I'm sure it's the same for Adrian. Our public words are open for public discussion and debate and analysis.

I mean to continue to look unsparingly at what Adrian wrote. I'd be very saddened, however, if anyone misinterpreted my, erm, spirited disagreement with Adrian's words on this one topic, and this one specific position he has adopted, to translate to general overall disagreement, or specific animosity for him as a brother in Christ. I honestly have no doubt that, in personal conversation, we'd hit it off well, and that we'd find a host of shared truths we'd gladly proclaim and defend shoulder to shoulder.

Now, without further eloquence....

The Beloved Physician refers to "the notion [I'd say "observation" or "well-known fact"] that modern tongues are always 'gibberish,'" which he styles my "bold accusation." This is a "bold accusation" I picked up from speaking with a linguist years ago on the subject, and from my awareness of several studies in which linguists analysed modern "tongues." They consistently found in them none of the characteristics of language, let alone a known language. the "tongue" speakers generally took sounds from their own language, and made nonsense combinations.

Now, it is quite striking to me that Dr. Warnock says this (emphases added):
There are in fact stories circulating of specific cases where modern tongues were understood by someone in the meeting as literal human languages. I have never witnessed this, but have certainly heard from those who have.
Now, as I argue very briefly here, the Bible only knows one kind of tongues (more on this, next post, DV). That kind is supernaturally-acquired human languages. Yet Dr. Warnock says he's never witnessed that kind of "tongues." And that doesn't bother him? How many "tongues" has he heard ? One? One thousand?

So, Adrian has never yet seen the only phenomenon the Bible knows of as the supernatural gift of tongues -- yet he'll suffer none to suggest that tongues are not for today. What then shall we conclude? That tongues are for today... but nobody's ever seen them?

Well, to be fair, Adrian says he's heard "stories" about manifestations of supernaturally-acquired human languages. And yes, there are always "stories." Tongues, Bigfoot, genuine prophecies, UFO's, Elvis. I myself heard a story of a guy growing his eyeball back at a Kathryn Kuhlmann meeting. A friend told me he'd heard about it, somewhere, he thought.

Someone has always talked to someone who overheard about a speaker who told the tale of a friend who once heard of a missionary who....

And this is all in stark contrast to Biblical supernatural events, which were right out in bold daylight, in front of God and everybody. Biblical miracles left unbelievers stunned, gob-smacked, and searching for explanations. Modern counterfeits have that same effect on their advocates.

To stick with Acts 2, alone: the consensus of those present was not, "What's wrong with Barney?", but "Hey -- how did that pinhead Barney ever learn Tagalog?"

More troubling to me, Adrian isn't concerned if the genuine, only-Biblical-"tongues"-there-is cannot be found anywhere. He'll settle for whatever anyone wants to call "tongues," I guess, because he suggests that
even if Dan isn’t wrong, it is quite possible that we are in a period of time when only the beginnings of supernatural gifts are currently being given. These things seem, in my experience, to come in waves, and somehow the outpouring of God's Spirit does not seem to be constant. There are “times of refreshing” (Acts 3:20). Couldn’t the tongues we often hear today be almost like precursors to those which are more recognisable linguistically? I have certainly heard some that sound to an English-speaker's ear more like human languages than others.
First, though Adrian has by his own testimony never experienced the only gift of tongues the Bible talks about, he bases a theory on his "experience." Since he has said he has had no experience of what I define as Biblical tongues, I'm unsure what "experience" he has as a basis for this theory.

Beyond that, I'll tell you, friend Adrian, and Dear Reader -- that whole statement just really worries me. It doesn't bother Adrian if modern "tongues" aren't like actual Biblical tongues. He comes up with this idea about waves or phases --- but he has no specific Biblical basis to it. It may be clever. It may be inventive. But he's just making it up. Aren't we not supposed to do that?

The citation of Acts 3:20 doesn't help. Read it in context. This is part of a call to the nation of Israel, still, to repent and believe in Jesus as Messiah. How could Peter possibly have in mind far-future sub-Biblical semi-supernatural events as sort of a warm-up game for the "real thing"? What possible sense would that make?

Think about it. Pentecost had just happened. Surely if ever there was "a period of time when only the beginnings of supernatural gifts" were in evidence, that was it. And at that time, healers healed dramatically and undeniably, people spoke languages they'd never learned. Tongues were a current and happening event.

And how long had it taken the real real thing to happen? How many generations of waves of Christian preparation did it take? How purified did the Christian recipients have to become? How long had these Christians sought tongues?

Well, of course, they had not sought tongues at all. There was no preparation, as they were all caught by surprise. The original recipients in Acts 2 had no faith in tongues. They had never asked for tongues. They had done no preparation, no seeking. Tongues just happened. And not in a vestigial way, not a "warm-up act" of gibberish -- it was the full-bore, legitimate, verifiable/falsifiable article itself.

Except on an emotional level, it is very hard for me to understand this willingness simply to make things up. Ponder anew: here is a movement which calls people to give over control to some putatively spiritual power, to let it have control over their minds and bodies. If some hapless soul points out that the result is nothing like the Bible, comes the response, "Oh, well, nevermind -- maybe it's a warm-up act!"

So one must ask: how long will the Charismatic movement be warming up, then? How long have how many people prayed how many prayers to receive the gift of tongues, without one well-documented success of Biblical proportions? One hundred years of trying. One hundred percent failure. Scores of theories invented to rationalize the failure. That shouldn't concern us?

This isn't the way I read the manual. John famously says, "Beloved, do not believe every spirit, but test the spirits to see whether they are from God, for many false prophets have gone out into the world" (1 John 4:1).

Is it too much to ask a spirit whether Jesus has come in the flesh, if that spirit makes you feel good? What if you ask, and the spirit answers, "Maybe"? Shall we say that maybe this is just part of a cycle, a wave of spiritual renewal, and accept the spirit in the meanwhile? Perhaps, if we tarry and persist for another hundred years, it will eventually say "Probably"?

I spoke in tongues back in the seventies, I thought. But I kept studying my Bible. Studying the Bible eventually led me to be uncertain whether or not what I was doing was the same as what the Bible described. It felt good to me, it came out of love for the Lord. But if it wasn't what the Bible described, it wasn't real. If it wasn't real as judged by the Bible, I wanted no part of it. So I stopped until I could be sure. Eventually, I came to be sure. I never "spoke in tongues" again.

So in that connection, here's another puzzling thing my brother says:
I am still waiting for the cessationists to demonstrate from Scripture that all the miraculous gifts (with the exception of authoritative doctrinal revelation) have indeed stopped permanently and forever.
Well, why? What does it matter if we can "demonstrate" it "from Scripture"? We've already seen what happens when we do. An ironclad case can be (and has been) made from Scripture that tongues were always supernaturally acquired human languages. Confronted with that fact, and lacking any such occurrences today, Adrian says, "Oh, well. Maybe we're just kicking the football around before the real match starts!"

So one must ask, What is the standard of proof? If in this one readily-testable phenomenon the evidence simply don't matter, in the face of a willingness to "make it up" -- well then, what evidence could be agreed on as convincing?

Suppose the Bible had a verse that actually said, "After John dies, no more revelatory gifts!" Would that be good enough? But I can hear one saying, "Ah, but it doesn't say how long after John dies! 'A day is as a thousand years,' you know." And another, "I've never seen John's body... have you?" And on it could go. All of which minds me of the couplet:
A man convinced against his will
Is of the same opinion still.
Moving on, Adrian then says,
I have also not seen [cessationists] give good explanations regarding the experiences so many of us describe or the benefits that those who speak in tongues receive from them. If the cessationist is correct, then the charismatic is, by definition, either deluded or demonised!
My first, honest, non-sarcastic response to this confession was to wonder how many cessationist books Adrian has read, and which ones; and how many cessationists he's talked with. But never mind that for now.

The question is simply answered.

Suppose you say, "Oh, look! A cat!" And you point to a snake. So I go fetch a textbook that we both respect, and I read, "Cat: mammal, possessed of four legs, a tail, a head, lots of fur, and an insatiable appetite. Purrs when petted." Then I say, "That thing you're pointing at doesn't look anything like a cat. At. All."

What do you say? "Yeah, but maybe it's a furless, legless, reptilian cat who never purrs! Or maybe it's just warming up, and one day it will be a cat! You have to give me a good explanation of what it is, or I'll pick it up and call it a cat!"?

No, actually, I really don't have to. I've demonstrated that it isn't a cat. In so demonstrating, I have demonstrated that, if you do pick it up, you won't be picking up a cat. My work is done.

If, however, I keep looking through my nature guide, I'll find several things that are long and thin and wiggly. It might be a worm. It might be an eel. It might be a snake. What kind of snake, though? Maybe I can't identify the exact species of snake you're pointing at. But I know that there are various venomous vipers about, and that's reason enough to worry. I advise you that it's best not to pick it up until we're sure what it is.

Doesn't that make good sense?

But at any rate, even if you pick it up, and suffer no immediate harm, and report that it gives you warm emotions to hold it, I'm still going to insist that you not call it a cat. And particularly, if you are going to take a job as a veterinarian, and tell others how to acquire and care for animals, I'm going to urge you in the strongest terms to get your head straight about the differences between cats and snakes. You really could hurt somebody with your wretched advice.

Now, we'll look at a couple of the the specific verses brother Warnock adduces, because there are some similarities to what we've discussed thus far. Next week, DV, we'll look at some more.

Quoth the good doctor, emphases supplied:
Why does Mark 16 (even if it isn’t in the original autographs, but is instead an early addition to the text) say that those who believe will speak in new tongues; why is there no sense in these words that this experience is limited to the disciples?
There's that odd thing again: "Even if it isn't really in the Bible, you're obliged to explain it!"

My simple answer is, if it isn't in the Bible, I don't much care what it says. It matters if it isn't actually part of the Gospel of Mark! (I'm assuming that most readers are aware of the textual issues here.) So we really have to try to answer that question first -- and a deucedly hard question it is. Again, a mighty shaky foundation on which to rest a major doctrinal edificce.

But let's say the passage is genuine. If it is, I have another short answer.


The passage says that "these signs will accompany those who believe" (Mark 16:17). One of the signs is speaking in languages new to them. That happened. Please note carefully: the passage says that every believer would speak in tongues just as surely as it says every believer would forever speak in tongues -- which is to say never. And that is a very good thing, because the first statement would explicitly contradict 1 Corinthians 12:30, and the latter would contradict 1 Corinthians 13:8.

I'd further ask this. If this passage teaches that every believer in every generation would speak in unlearned languages, then it equally teaches that every believer in every generation would cast out demons, handle deadly snakes, and drink poison, and lay hands of healing on the sick (v. 18).

Would I be right in guessing that these do not all feature prominently in every service of Adrian's church?

Adrian's next challenge, the last for today:
Why, in Acts 2 when some heard the first outpouring of tongues did they say, “They are filled with new wine.” What was it about the disciples that made them seem drunk?
The short answer is, "they" didn't.

Let us read carefully:
And they were amazed and astonished, saying, "Are not all these who are speaking Galileans? 8 And how is it that we hear, each of us in his own native language? 9 Parthians and Medes and Elamites and residents of Mesopotamia, Judea and Cappadocia, Pontus and Asia, 10 Phrygia and Pamphylia, Egypt and the parts of Libya belonging to Cyrene, and visitors from Rome, 11 both Jews and proselytes, Cretans and Arabians--we hear them telling in our own tongues the mighty works of God." 12 And all were amazed and perplexed, saying to one another, "What does this mean?"
13 But others mocking said, "They are filled with new wine." (Acts 2:7-13)
They didn't say, "Why, they're drunk!" They said, "Good grief, these rubes are speaking our languages! However did backwater bumpkins like these guys ever learn to speak our native tongues?" That is what they said. And further, "All were amazed and perplexed, saying to one another, 'What does this [speaking in unlearned languages] mean?" (v. 12)

And then, off to the side, was a minority of mockers, who did what mockers do: they mocked. They did what stupid people always do -- they blamed others for their stupidity. Their ignorance bubbled out of their foolish mouths in a lowbrow, stupid joke. They didn't know a word of the dialects being spoken, so they made fun of the speakers.

That passage isn't hard to explain at all. Here is what is really hard to explain: why do so many of the leaky-canon set build their idea of tongues on what mockers say?

Thus far for today. Lord willing, more next week.

[UPDATE: this series was started in part one, is continued in part three, and concluded in part four.]

Dan Phillips's signature

27 July 2006

Back to bidniss

by Phil Johnson

y post on 17 July ended with these words: "At least three vital perspectives of Christ are given to us in this text, and beginning tomorrow, we'll take some time to look at each of them individually."

"Tomorrow" has now surpassed 10 days and the long gap between posts reminds me of James 4:13-15. Circumstances took me out of town for a few days this past weekend, and despite my best efforts, I am still not caught up with the stack of stuff that has been accumulating in my "to do" file since January. So I want to offer a hearty thanks to Daniel and Frank, who have kept the blog busy in my absence by posting brilliant artwork and picking fights with charismatics.

As much as I hate to interrupt Daniel's posts on the charismatic movement (that series will still resume tomorrow, Lord willing), we need to keep going with a different series that has been lingering for a long time—2 Corinthians 5:21 and the doctrine of justification by faith.

As I was saying. . .

This entry in the 2 Corinthians 5:21 series should be the least controversial of the entries to come. It features the first of three perspectives of Christ we're going to consider from that verse:

Christ as Sinless

hrist "knew no sin." Those words appear in the middle of the verse in most English versions, but the Greek text begins with that phrase. The utter sinlessness of Christ is the foundation for everything else Paul has to say in this verse. It is also the logical starting point for understanding the meaning of the whole text.

First Peter 1:19 echoes this truth. That verse speaks of "Christ, as of a lamb without blemish and without spot." As Hebrews 9:14 says, He "offered himself without spot to God."

Now, of course, as God, Christ was perfectly righteous, absolutely holy, and eternally immutable in all His perfections long before the incarnation. All the virtues of deity were His, and everything Scripture says about the perfect holiness of God applies to Christ. He is, according to Habakkuk 1:13, "of purer eyes than to behold evil, and [unable to] look [approvingly] on iniquity" of any kind.

But here in 2 Corinthians 5, Paul is speaking about Christ's utter sinlessness as a man. Christ was not only God, but He became a man. His humanity was not an illusion; He was a true man—God incarnate in human flesh. And when Paul says here that Christ "knew no sin," he is speaking, in this context, of Christ as our substitute, as a man—the perfect man, who lived His whole life spotlessly, in flawless obedience to the law of God, without ever once succumbing to temptation or defiling Himself with sin in any way.

The final Adam

Christ as a man did what Adam failed to do. He withstood temptation and rendered perfect obedience to every commandment of God. Scripture makes that very comparison of Christ to Adam in several places. First Corinthians 15:45, Paul writes, "The first man Adam was made a living soul; the last Adam was made a quickening spirit." In that verse, Paul is quoting from Genesis 2:7, where it says, "the LORD God formed man of the dust of the ground, and breathed into his nostrils the breath of life; and man [the first man, Adam,] became a living soul." "The last Adam [Christ] became a life-giving spirit."

In what sense was Christ like Adam? Just as Adam stood in relationship to the human race as our head and representative, Christ stands in relationship to the redeemed race as our head and representative. Again, by withstanding temptation, Christ did for us what Adam failed to do. That's why Paul says in Romans 5:19: "As by one man's disobedience many were made sinners, so by the obedience of one shall many be made righteous."

Adam was put to a simple test. He had only one command to obey, and that was the command not to eat of the tree of the knowledge of good and evil. He failed. By contrast, Christ's obedience was much more complex. He was "born under the law," according to Galatians 4:4, so the obedience required of Him included more than 600 distinct commandments—moral, civil, and ceremonial. But He fulfilled them all to the letter, from the beginning to the end of His life.

Hebrews 4:15 says "[He] was in all points tempted like as we are, yet without sin." In other words, He was put to the test and proven to be perfectly sinless, without any spot or blemish.

The fact of His sinlessness was testified to by multiple witnesses in His trials, just before His crucifixion. His enemies were desperately seeking a way to accuse Him. They looked diligently for anyone who could testify of any wrong that He had done. In the end they had to rely on the testimony of false witnesses who twisted His Words in order to justify false and trumped-up charges against Him. Even Pilate refused to render any verdict of guilt against Jesus, but after hearing all the charges and cross-examining Christ, Pilate said repeatedly, "I find no fault in this man" (Luke 23:4; John 19:4, 6).

Could Jesus have sinned?

A couple of hard questions always come up whenever the human sinlessness of Christ is under discussion. First of all, there's been a running debate among theologians for centuries over the question of whether Christ, as a man, could have sinned. Did He even have the potential to sin? Was there any possibility that he would succumb to temptation—and fall, as Adam did?

Some have argued that unless there was a real possibility that He might sin, His temptations were somehow unreal, a pretense, only a simulation of the temptation Adam faced, and unlike the temptations we face. (Every true Christian, of course, acknowledges that Christ did not sin, but some say that in order for His temptation to be meaningful, He must have had a real potential to sin.) Those who hold this position say he differed from you and me in that He had the ability not to sin. So He was subjected to temptation with an ability to say either yes or no, and He simply exercised His ability not to sin.

The other view—which I'm convinced is the correct view—is that there was never any real possibility that He might sin. But His moral perfection was such that sin had no appeal to Him whatsoever, and therefore no matter what Satan might have done, he could never, under any circumstances, have enticed Jesus to sin.

This debate has raged since medieval times. There are even Latin terms for the two different views. The first group believes Christ was posse non peccareposse meaning "able," and peccare, meaning "to sin"—posse non peccare, "able not to sin."

The second group says Christ was non posse peccare—"not able to sin."

By the way, you and me (and everyone born as Adam's offspring, inheriting both his guilt and his sinful nature) are non posse non peccare, "not able not to sin."

So there are these three possible moral states: posse non peccare, "able not to sin"; non posse peccare, "not able to sin; and non posse non peccare, "not able not to sin.

I believe strongly that Scripture teaches Christ was non posse peccare, "not able to sin." He is not able to sin for the same reason Adam's offspring is not able not to sin: our nature determines what we choose.

Christ's inherent righteousness is one of the attributes of His deity. His absolute hatred for sin is part of His eternal nature. He did not divest Himself of the attributes of deity in order to become man. Therefore He could no more sin than God could lie, and Scripture says plainly and repeatedly that God cannot lie (Titus 1:2, Numbers 23:19, and 1 Samuel 15:29).

Furthermore, Christ is immutable—unchanged and unchanging in His character, and the New Testament expressly declares this. Hebrews 13:8: "Jesus Christ [is] the same yesterday, and to day, and for ever."

There was nothing in Him that held any attraction whatsoever for sin. He hated sin as God hates it. He had none of the evil desires we have inherited as part of our fallen nature. Jesus could not be deceived, as Eve was. He would not yield to sin, as Adam did. In fact, although He was tempted—meaning that he was assaulted with enticements and inducements and arguments by Satan, Jesus said this about Satan in John 14:30: "The prince of this world . . . hath nothing in me."

Yeah, but . . .

What about this argument that Jesus' temptations weren't real unless He had the possibility to sin?

Look: you can put pure gold in a crucible and heat it to a white-hot temperature, and there is no possibility that it will be burned up, or that it will produce any dross. But the purity of the gold doesn't make the heat of the flame any less hot.

If anything, Christ's temptations were more intense, not less intense than ours, because He never sought relief from any temptation by giving into it.

He felt all the normal, non-sinful human weaknesses that you and I struggle with. Scripture says He suffered hunger, and thirst, and bodily fatigue, just like you and me. And He surely knew what it was under the pressure of temptation for the pains of those infirmities to be intensified.

In fact, that is precisely what Hebrews 4:15 says: "We have not an high priest which cannot be touched with the feeling of our infirmities; but was in all points tempted like as we are, yet without sin." He bore all the natural infirmities of human flesh and endured the pressure of temptation on the night of His betrayal to the point that His capillaries burst and His sweat was mixed with blood. But never, ever, did he have any attraction to sin or any desire for that which is sinful.

To say that there was ever any possibility of sin in Christ is to misunderstand the utter moral perfection of His character. I think it's a fairly serious error to imagine that Christ could have sinned, because it tends to diminish the truth of His deity. Christ was non posse peccare—not able to sin, and that is true because He was God incarnate, unchanging, perfectly righteous in and of Himself, with an eternal, immutable, and holy hatred of all that is unholy.

Does Jesus' life count for me, or just His death?

There's a second important debate about Christ's perfect earthly obedience. And it has to do with the question of whether His life, as well as His death, has redemptive significance.

Now we know that "Christ died for our sins according to the Scriptures" (1 Corinthians 15:3). "We were reconciled to God by the death of his Son" (Romans 5:10). In other words, his death bought our atonement. His blood was the redemption-price. That's what 1 Peter 1:18-19 means: "Ye know that ye were not redeemed with corruptible things . . . But with the precious blood of Christ". Again and again, Scripture says Jesus' death is what made atonement for our sins.

But is there any sense in which His life also had redemptive significance? I believe there is. Throughout His earthly life, Christ was acting as our substitute, so that everything He did as a man, He did on our behalf. And everything He did ultimately contributed to our redemption.

There's a reason why Christ did not simply take on the body of a human adult and visit earth for a weekend in that full-grown incarnate form, die, and then ascend to heaven. Would simply dying in human form, apart from living a complete human life, have provided the same kind of sufficient atonement for us? Apparently not.

Hebrews 2:14 says Jesus "took [partook of flesh and blood] so that through death he might destroy him that had the power of death, that is, the devil." So the ultimate purpose of the incarnation was redemptive. He became a man—partook of flesh and blood—for us, in order to "deliver them who through fear of death were all their lifetime subject to bondage" (v. 15). Notice (v. 16), He did not do this for angels. The angels who fell were condemned and sentenced without any possibility of atonement. But He became a man.

In fact, verse 16 says "he took on him the seed of Abraham." That's a reference to the Abrahamic covenant, which promised (Genesis 22:18) that "in [Abraham's] seed . . . all the nations of the earth would be blessed." Christ was that promised seed, bringing the blessings of divine grace and eternal salvation to people from every tongue and tribe and nation.

OK, you say, but that's still about His death, not His life. Verse 14 expressly says, "that through death he might destroy . . . the devil"

But look at verse 17-18: "Therefore, in all things He had to be made like His brethren, that He might be a merciful and faithful High Priest in things pertaining to God, to make propitiation for the sins of the people. For in that He Himself has suffered, being tempted, He is able to aid those who are tempted."

That is a sweeping statement that makes it clear that Christ had to live a full life as a man. His life—not only His death—clearly had redemptive significance. A full life of perfect faithfulness was essential to His role as a mediator between God and men. It was the essential proof that He qualified to be the spotless lamb of God to take away sin.

But it was more than that. Christ's whole life was a fulfillment of the principle of substitution we find in 2 Corinthians 5:21. Before we are done with this series, I hope to take up the issue of Christ's so-called "active obedience." Meanwhile, keep this principle in mind: Christ's life, and not His death only, contributes something vital to our redemption.

Scripture is clear (Hebrews 2:17) that Christ, in order to be the High Priest who offers atonement, "had to be made like His brethren [in all things]." So those who limit His atoning work to His death alone have an incomplete work of the atonement. Lord willing, we'll come back to that point in a future post and treat it in depth.

Whatever view you may take in the current debates over "active obedience," you must acknowledge that the perfect obedience Christ rendered to the law was essential to demonstrate and maintain His utter sinlessness. So His whole life, and not only His death, was redemptive.

That's the first perspective of Christ we see from this passage: Christ as sinless. Not only sinless God, but sinless God incarnate, so that He is a sinless man as well.

Phil's signature

HT: Stephen Hesselman

by Frank Turk



I also wanted to add (as an UPDATE) that the reason this particular blog is so cool is that we have the most creative readers on the blogosphere, with the exception of Angelz who's the pro-temp staff artist at aomin.org. Well, that and the fact that I am actually
* Captain America *

26 July 2006

"Tongues" across the water: response to Adrian, part one

by Dan Phillips

I can now add to my resume that I've been disagreed with, not only by name but by picture as well, and that on an international basis. My parents would be so proud!

Actually, it isn't at all the first time; but our friend Adrian Warnock "got all het up" over my post on the tongues of angels. My roughly 630 words provoked something like 2700 words of response from Adrian. I tremble at the thought of what these larger posts will bring down on my poor old head.

In doing me the honor of raking me over the coals in Christian love, Adrian, God love him (and I mean that), wanders pretty much all over creation. He brings in Spurgeon, Lloyd-Jones, MacArthur, Piper, African missionaries, the Toronto "Blessing," a dozen texts or so, and a crate-full of howler monkeys. Okay, I'm joking about the howler monkeys, but my point is I don't feel at liberty to interact with absolutely everything our brother said. However, since Adrian has done me the honor of coming at my position hammer and tongs, I mean to honor him with a return serve as to some of the statements he made. I only hope that my passion will be as clearly mixed with Christian grace and love as his was, while at the same time speaking as plainly, emphatically, and pointedly as he has done.

I propose three posts in response. In the second, I mean to give semi-rapid-fire responses to at least most of Adrian's text-based questions. In the third, I hope to present some concluding areas of agreement and disagreement.

In this the first response, I'll target what to me is not only the heart of Adrian's post, but of much of the Charismatic bypath. It is found among his final words in the post. It's long, but I want to quote it in toto:
Why do so many cessationists actually argue for the exact opposite of what Jesus Himself says in Luke 11 (see the whole context). Jesus ends the parable by saying, "If you then, who are evil, know how to give good gifts to your children, how much more will the heavenly Father give the Holy Spirit to those who ask him!" The cessationist has to deal with the fact that millions of people today have asked God for an experience of the Holy Spirit, and that in direct contrast to what Jesus Himself said, by definition, if cessationism is true, they have not received the Spirit, but rather something else. Where they have asked for the bread of tongues, they have been given the stone of foolish gibberish. Where they have asked for the fish of prophecy, they have been given the serpent of hallucinatory delusions worthy of a madman. This cannot be right, in my humble opinion, as it makes Jesus Himself into a trickster. At the very least, God should have given us clearer directions in the Bible to manage our expectations and help us ALL to realise that cessationism is the biblical teaching. This issue has clear implications for the doctrine of the clarity of Scripture. If Jesus Himself appears to tantalise these people with an offer to give the Spirit to those who ask and really means something very different to the gift of the Spirit we see in Acts, then surely He would have told us!
I see two critical problems in Adrian's reasoning here.

First, brother Adrian reads a great deal into the text. Our Lord simply asks, if rendered over-literally, "If therefore you, though actually being wicked, know to give good gifts to your children, how much rather will the Father who is from Heaven give the Holy Spirit to those who ask Him?" (Luke 11:13, emphases added). Adrian immediately leaps hither: "The cessationist has to deal with the fact that millions of people today have asked God for an experience of the Holy Spirit, and that in direct contrast to what Jesus Himself said, by definition, if cessationism is true, they have not received the Spirit, but rather something else." Then Adrian immediately goes to prophecy and tongues.

But what has Jesus said in this verse about tongues, or about prophecy? What did He say about any specific and particular manifestation or "experience"? Is there any chance that even one of Jesus hearers would have made the associations Adrian makes? Surely not.

Indeed, here as in other texts (as I'll show, DV), Adrian's proof proves too much.

If Adrian is going to read this passage as an iron-clad guarantee... well, the mind fairly reels with the consequences. This would have to mean that God, on Adrian's stated understanding, will always and ever give whatever specific spiritual manifestation everyone and anyone asks, on any occasion. Nor can we condition it on God's will, nor on our faith -- again, on Adrian's reading -- for our Lord mentions neither. Anything that happens after such a prayer can be charged to God. To fail to do so calls the perspicuity of Scripture (not our handling of it) into serious question.

If it's an ironclad and unconditional guarantee as presented above, then one request by any believer should ever and always result in any spiritual gift he names. God has to do as I ask, for His glory's sake.

Is God really at my command, to that degree? This seems to me to be one of several junctures at which the first word in the phrase "reformed charismatic" is the weaker of the two.

Now, we know that this has never happened thus in church history. Anywhere. Ever. Has anyone ever even taught this? Surely Adrian will deny that this is what he believes. Yet this is where his line of thinking necessarily leads from his way of handling the text, if followed out relentlessly.

Further, this way of dealing with the text plucks it right out of its place in the history of redemption. Did anything change in God's dealings with men, after the resurrection and ascension of Christ, and Pentecost? Ezekiel thought something would change someday (Ezekiel 36:25-27). John the Baptist surely thought something would change (Mark 1:8). John certainly thought something would change (John 7:39). John certainly presented Jesus as thinking something would change (John 14:17). Peter thought something did change (Acts 11:15). Does Adrian? When was that change? What was that change? Does the change at all inform how we handle texts placed before and after it? Does context have any meaning whatever?

This is a common mistake in charismatic thought. The Bible is read as if the great moments of redemptive history -- the descent of the Spirit, the closing of the Canon -- have no real implications. It is as if the Bible should be read as a mural, a large photo, instead of as an unfolding story with movements, climaxes, and openings and closings of acts (Hebrews 1:1-2).

What if we took Adrian at his word, though? His way of dealing with the text means that Jesus has made an unconditional guarantee to give any manifestation of the Spirit to anyone who asks. Jesus is responsible for everything that happens after I ask. If it isn't legit, then He (according to Adrian) is a trickster.

Well, then, let's say I think the Bible could use another book or two. For instance, it could use one that settles this whole Charismatic issue forever.

So what if I ask the Lord to give me the gift of prophetic, inscripturating revelation? What if I ask Him to write those books through me? What if I ask Him to send the Spirit to make me the author of the sixty-seventh book of the Bible?

Isn't Adrian bound by his own thinking either to accept my book, or conclude that the Lord is a trickster?

And what if the book I write after praying for revelation says that Charismaticism is a delusion? What a bind that would put Adrian in!

Or what if I asked for a tongue and an interpretation, said "Wobbedy bop," and interpreted it to mean "Tongues have ceased"? Wouldn't that, on Adrian's reasoning, be chargeable to Jesus' account?

"Oh, no, that's just stupid," someone will reply. "You'd be tempting the Lord. He isn't responsible for every lamebrained thing you do, just because you prayed before you did it!"

Which brings me to my second point.

The Lord is not responsible for every lamebrained thing we do, just because we prayed first.

You see, Adrian's handling of this text really leaves us with only one choice. I was going to write "two choices," but on reflection, Adrian leaves us only one. Everything that happens after we pray has to be of God, or Jesus is a "trickster."

This premise, a faulty one in my estimation, binds good folk like Adrian. It chains them to defend the indefensible, as surely as the Roman Catholic must defend every ruling and appalling error of his sect. Since manifestly nothing that the Charismatic movement has uniquely produced in the last 100 years has ever measured up to the Biblical phenomenon, we have to re-interpret the Bible to fit what is happening today. Because if it's all a fraud and a distraction, then Jesus is a "trickster." And since Jesus cannot be a trickster, we have to come up with some explanation that makes wanna-be manifestations legit. We have to define the Biblical phenomena down, to prop the modern phenomena up.

This is a big reason why Charismaticism is where it is today, the "twenty million people can't be wrong" argument. Can't they? Can ten out of twelve spies be wrong? Can the majority of the nation of Israel be wrong? Is truth settled by majority vote alone? Is that how we do exegesis -- people prayed A, and Z happened, therefore the Bible must mean theta?

I've done lots of stupid things, after praying. Can I bill them all to God? Wouldn't that be cool?

Well, no, if we force ourselves to think it through, it really wouldn't be cool. Sure, there would be the short-term gain of me being able to shrug off responsibility for all the stupid, foolish, and sinful things I've done after praying. But the long-term loss would be inestimable. In short, I'd lose the Biblical portrayal of God. God would be the author of my stupid and sinful behavior. He'd become a fickle imp, and prayer would become a good-luck charm at best, or a get-out-of-responsibility-free card at worst.

Of course, there is an alternative.

We can cleave to the Word above all and through all, and judge our experiences by it -- not the reverse. Is it not a judge of the thoughts and emotions of the heart (Hebrews 4:12)? Is it not forever settled in the heavens, far above the shifting vagaries of our experience, and the passing trends and fads of our culture (Psalm 119:89)? Is it not the means of my fellowship with the Father and His Son (John 14:21-23; 1 John 1:1-3)? Is it not my cleaving to the Word that proves the reality, or unreality, of my claim to be a disciple (John 8:31-32)?

So here's what I am seeing. In direct contrast to all Scripture precedent and command, millions of people have indeed (as Adrian said) asked for revelatory gifts. And not one of them has received anything like what is described in the Bible.

Is God to blame for that? Is God to blame, and the fact of the perspecuity of Scripture suspect, because of their persistence in something very different from what He Himself sets out in His Word?

I knew a pastor once, a man with very strong training in the Biblical languages and sciences. But he had a doctrine of the guidance of the Holy Spirit that led him to believe that he should pray for that guidance, and then whatever followed had to be of the Spirit. His sermons were bizarre, meandering, idiosyncratic affairs. A friend of his (!) likened the way he handled texts to a drunk staggering through a church. His people stopped bringing Bibles. They didn't really need them.

Once, a fellow-believer and I approached him, and shared our concern. We spoke out of genuine love, respect, and care.

"Gentlemen," he said, "before I preach, I ask the Holy Spirit to guide me. If I believed that He was not doing so, I would leave the ministry!"

This trump-card spiritual browbeating worked wonderfully for him at the time. Both of us were young Christians, and we were properly rebuked and appalled. We didn't want him to leave the ministry! We retreated, horrified and abashed.

Of course, the problem wasn't the Holy Spirit. The problem was this man, and his faulty doctrine of the guidance of the Spirit. But like the reasoning Adrian sets out, he had prayed, and so he had to conclude that whatever followed was of the Spirit -- or his whole structure would collapse.

The Charismatic movement is, in large measure, the result of applying that same procedure on a massive scale.

Let me put it more personally and individually still. I can, you know; for I write as one who once thought he was speaking in tongues.

Shall I reinterpret the Bible, to legitimatize my experience?

Or shall I stick with the Bible, and let it judge my experience?

I opted for the second choice. That is why I am an ex-charismatic.

[This series is continued in part two and part three, and concluded in part four.]

Dan Phillips's signature

24 July 2006

Red herrings: tongues of angels

by Dan Phillips

This will be the first in an open-ended and occasional series of reflections on cases where traditionalistic misreadings of passages have given birth to a lot of wasted time and (at best) fruitless effort.

My target this morning is the misuse of "If I speak in the tongues of men and of angels, but have not love, I am a noisy gong or a clanging cymbal" (1 Corinthians 13:1).

Anyone who tries to smuggle tongues into the current day has a huge and well-known problem. It's the whale in the TV room: the fact that modern "tongues" in no way resemble the Biblical phenomenon, excepting only that some folks put the same label to it.

Given the gap between Biblical phenomena of tongues, prophecy, and other related sign-gifts on the one hand, and modern wanna-be phenomena on the other, two major choices present themselves. One can frankly admit that what is happening today is at total disconnect with what the Bible says, and deal honestly with that fact; or one can in effect try in some way to redefine and scale down the Biblical phenomena to fit the anemic displays of our time.

A way to do the latter is to make the phenomena untestable, and therefore non-falsifiable. I speak a prophecy in the name of the Lord: "The Lord says that momentous events will happen in 2006!" Well... yeah. It would have to be a pretty tepid year for that "prophecy" to be falsified. In fact, "there will be no momentous events in 2006" might be a bit riskier.

Thus with tongues. Anyone who admits that Biblical tongues were always unlearned, supernaturally-acquired human languages puts himself in the arena of testability. "Tongues" can be (and have been) recorded, and evaluated by linguists. If they're known languages, as in the Bible, they can be identified.

So how is it explained that the widespread "gift" does not live up to the Biblical description of tongues as supernaturally-acquired human languages (Acts 2)? One dodge is, "Well, you see, it's an angelic language! Yeah... that's the ticket. That's why linguists discern none of the characteristics of human language in tongues, because they're... they're angelic, and nobody knows angelic speech!"

It's clever, it's creative, and it does have going for it that it at least does cite a verse in the Bible: 1 Corinthians 13:1. However, this fragile little coracle breaks up right at launch, shattered on two pretty large reefs:

First: Paul doesn't say he does speak in angelic languages. The syntax is hypothetical: "Suppose I should speak in the languages of men and of angels, but do not have love." A hypothetical constitutes a pretty poor platform for a major edifice.

Second: suppose tongues are angelic languages. What of it? Name one instance when an angel appeared and said,"Hoogada bagalalla boola, lalapnanda horishi-como! Badooya-bip sh-bop ba da bing! Ohhhhh hondala shondala palallamandaaaaaaa!" Never happened -- at least not in Scripture. And that's supposed to matter to us Biblical Christians, right?

No, very clearly, every time an angel appears, the issue is that he's terrifying, not incomprehensible or silly. Each canonically described angel speaks in perfectly understandable Hebrew or Greek.

This is why the common response to angelic appearances is terror, not head-scratching bafflement. The angels' way of saying "Hello" is "Do not fear." Never is an angel forced to slap his forehead and exclaim, "Oh, sorry! Silly me -- I slipped back into my native non-corporeal tongue again. So... Hebrew, is it? Is this better?"

So, Dear Reader, if your agenda is faithfulness to the Word above all, there's a Bridge Out sign on the road to explaining modern "tongues" as "angelic speech." It's a red herring. We'll have to look elsewhere.

If that isn't your agenda -- sorry. Can't help you.

Dan Phillips's signature

23 July 2006

Grace fully sufficient

A double dose of Spurgeon
posted by Phil Johnson

The PyroManiacs devote space at the beginning of each week to highlights from The Spurgeon Archive.

Sunday morning, a good friend reminded me of this excerpt from "Strengthening Words from the Savior's Lips," a sermon on 2 Corinthians 12:9, preached April 2, 1876, at the Metropolitan Tabernacle in London. It occurred to me that a double dose of Spurgeon would be a good way to begin this week:

"My grace is sufficient for thee: for my strength is made perfect in weakness."

   have often read in Scripture of the holy laughter of Abraham, when he fell upon his face and laughed; but I do not know that I ever experienced that laughter till a few evenings ago, When this text came home to me with such sacred power as literally to cause me to laugh.

I had been looking it through, looking at its original meaning, and trying to fathom it, till at last I got hold of it this way: "My grace," says Jesus, "is sufficient for thee, "and it looked almost as if it were meant to ridicule my unbelief: for surely the grace of such a one as my Lord Jesus is indeed sufficient for so insignificant a being as I am.

It seemed to me as if some tiny fish, being very thirsty, was troubled with fear of drinking the river dry, and Father Thames said to him, "Poor little fish, my stream is sufficient for thee." I should think it is, and inconceivably more.

My Lord seems to say to me, "Poor little creature that thou art, remember what grace there is in me, and believe that it is all thine. Surely it is sufficient for thee."

I replied, "Ah, my Lord, it is indeed."

Put one mouse down in all the granaries of Egypt when they were fullest after seven years of plenty, and imagine that one mouse complaining that it might die of famine. "Cheer up," says Pharaoh, "poor mouse, my granaries are sufficient for thee."

Imagine a man standing on a mountain, and saying, "I breathe so many cubic feet of air in a year; I am afraid that I shall ultimately inhale all the oxygen which surrounds the globe." Surely the earth on which the man would stand might reply, "My atmosphere is sufficient for thee." I should think it; let him fill his lungs as full as ever he can, he will never breathe all the oxygen, nor will the fish drink up all the river, nor the mouse eat up all the stores in the granaries of Egypt.

Does it not make unbelief seem altogether ridiculous, so that you laugh it out of the house, and say, "Never come this way any more, for with a mediatorial fullness to go to, with such a Redeemer to rest in, how dare I for a moment think that my wants cannot be supplied."

Our great Lord feeds all the fish of the sea, and the birds of the air, and the cattle on the hills, and guides the stars, and upholds all things by the power of his hand, how then can we be straitened for supplies, or be destitute of help? If our needs were a thousand times larger than they are they would not approach the vastness of his power to provide.

The Father hath committed all things into his hand. Doubt him no more. Listen, and let him speak to thee: "My grace is sufficient for thee. What if thou hast little grace, yet I have much: it is my grace thou hast to look to, not thine own, and my grace will surely be sufficient for thee."

John Bunyan has the following passage, which exactly expresses what I myself have experienced. He says that he was full of sadness and terror, but suddenly these words broke in upon him with great power, and three times together the words sounded in his ears, "My grace is sufficient for thee; my grace is sufficient for thee; my grace is sufficient for thee." And "Oh! Bethought," says he, "that every word was a mighty word unto me; as 'My,' and 'grace,' and 'sufficient,' and 'for thee'; they were then, and sometimes are still, far bigger than others be." He who knows, like the bee, how to suck honey from flowers, may well linger over each one of these words and drink in unutterable content.

C. H. Spurgeon