Every Sunday, I will share a quote from something I’ve been reading. The hope is for you, dear reader, to share your thoughts on the quote and related issues and perhaps pick up some reading material along the way!
Scripture Reports Things that Didn’t Happen?
I finished reading Four Views on The Historical Adam recently, and it gave me a lot of food for thought. The only view which categorically denied the existence of an historical Adam was written by Denis Lamoureux. Regarding the reports of the natural world found in the Bible, he wrote:
God’s very words… in the [Bible] do not align with the physical reality in the Book of [Nature]. To state the problem more incisively, Holy Scripture makes statements about how God created the heavens that in fact never happened. (54, cited below)
I think it is pretty clear this is a highly contentious claim. Interested readers should read the book to get the full context, but basically Lamoureux was saying that some aspects of the physical world found recorded in Scripture do not line up with reality. What did he do with this statement? Immediately after this text, Lamoureux wrote:
So, to ask the question once more, “Did God lie in the Bible?” Again, my answer is “No! The Lord accommodated in the Bible.” (54)
In other words, his answer was that God accommodated to the scientific beliefs of the people in their time in order to convey spiritual truths.
It seems to me that this way out is questionable, and each of the other authors commented on it. Three quick issues I have are that the reading of the various texts Lamoureux cites do not support his claim; that the notion that God intentionally brought about recording of falsehoods in God’s Word requires a stronger answer than accommodation; and that although accommodation is a valid category, the linking of theological truths to specific claims about natural history makes the reading of accommodation in regards to Adam problematic.
What are your thoughts? Do you think there is accommodation in the Bible? Is accommodation a strong enough answer for the claim that God may have allowed false statements recorded in God’s Word? Are there other alternatives you prefer?
Denis Lamoureux, “No Historical Adam: Evolutionary Creation View” in Four Views on The Historical Adam eds. Matthew Barrett and Ardel Caneday (Grand Rapids, MI: Zondervan, 2013).
I was reading through the Zondevan Counterpoints series book, Understanding Four Views on Baptism recently and encountered the above quote. I admit that it caused me much confusion (I wrote on the margin: “Uh?”). First, I’ll admit I didn’t go looking through the New Testament to see if the claim was true. I’m just going to give John Castelein the benefit of the doubt and assume he’s right. Second, Castelein noted that “Churches of Christ” is not a denomination in the strictest sense and so there is diversity; but it seemed that his point was that they unified around this point. I also don’t know if this is true and will assume Castelein is correct (feel free to correct me if I’m wrong).
Okay, now to my point: even were I to grant that the NT does not authorize the use of musical instruments in worship, what does this mean? Think about it for a second. What else does the NT not authorize? I’m pretty sure there’s nothing in there about offering plates, displaying crosses in a sanctuary (or really anything at all about what a church may look like considering it was written during the time of house churches), playing Frisbee, or going on family vacations either. Does this mean all of these things may not be practiced? Certainly not. On the face of it, this appears to be an argument from silence: the NT doesn’t say we can, so we cannot. But of course that doesn’t follow.
Moreover, what of the multiple places in the Old Testament where the use of instruments in worship is clearly condoned and even encouraged? One may consider Psalm 33:2-3:
Praise the Lord with the harp;
make music to him on the ten-stringed lyre.
Sing to him a new song;
play skillfully, and shout for joy.
It seems to me that in order to argue that there may be no instruments in church, one must explicitly state that the Psalms may not apply to worship in Christian churches. For me, that’s a tough sell.
I’m curious to see whether there are positive arguments for this doctrinal distinctive. Let me know if you have encountered any and also let me know your own thoughts on the issue.
John D. Castelein, “Christian Churches/Churches of Christ View: Believers’ Baptism as the Biblical Occasion of Salvation” in Understanding Four Views on Baptism edited by Paul Engle and John Armstrong (Grand Rapids, MI: Zondervan, 2007).
The preceding post is the property of J.W. Wartick (apart from quotations, which are the property of their respective owners, and works of art as credited; images are often freely available to the public and J.W. Wartick makes no claims of owning rights to the images unless he makes that explicit) and should not be reproduced in part or in whole without the expressed consent of the author. All content on this site is the property of J.W. Wartick and is made available for individual and personal usage. If you cite from these documents, whether for personal or professional purposes, please give appropriate citation with both the name of the author (J.W. Wartick) and a link to the original URL. If you’d like to repost a post, you may do so, provided you show less than half of the original post on your own site and link to the original post for the rest. You must also appropriately cite the post as noted above. This blog is protected by Creative Commons licensing. By viewing any part of this site, you are agreeing to this usage policy.
I want to preface the following discussion by expressing the fact that I am by no means an expert in this area. I only recently finished reading Are Miraculous Gifts for Today?, which presents four views on the issue of miraculous gifts in the church now. The book is the only work I have read on the topic, and so my opinion should not be taken as that of an expert or even a moderately person. I am an interested party with virtually no backgruond in this area. I also want to note that I wish to express a desire to learn more and any interested readers should please comment and provide insights/corrections/concerns as they see fit.
Here, I will outline what I understand to be the four views on the topic (as outlined in the book–I am more than willing to concede there are likely more views), along with a few arguments and against each. After that, I will offer a brief analysis. I’m hoping that you, the reader, will help spur the discussion.
Before progressing, it is important to know what is meant by miraculous gifts. Essentially, these are the gifts outlined in various passages of the Bible. 1 Corinthians 12 is illustrative. It lists as spiritual gifts the following: speaking in tongues, prophecy, the gift of wisdom, etc.
One must note the issue of the “gift of healing.” What is the “gift of healing” and does it exist today? James 5:14-16 is integral to understanding what is meant by this gift.
Perhaps the most central issue regarding miraculous gifts is this: do they continue into today? A secondary, but still very important question is: if these gifts do continue, in what way?
Cessationism is the view that miraculous gifts essentially ended after the formation of the Apostolic Church. Richard B. Gaffin, Jr. defends this view. He clarifies his position by noting that he is not arguing that all gifts of the Spirit have ceased. Rather, the question is “not whether but which spiritual gifts continue today” (41). He notes that God may choose to miraculously heal persons, but expresses doubt over people being granted a specific gift of healing. His greatest difficulty lies with the “word” gifts such as prophecy, speaking in and interpreting tongues, and the like.
The problem with these sorts of gifts, argues Gaffin, lies in the question of the sufficiency and closedness of the canon. Suppose that prophecy does continue today. What level of authority should be ascribed to it? If it is truly the utterances of the prophet guided by God, he reasons, should we not grant such utterances the same authority as the Scriptures (47)? Gaffin notes that those who hold to the continuation of these gifts generally assert that prophecy may be fallible and thus should not be given the same authority as the canon. Gaffin responds by countering that the Bible does not seem to support the notion of fallible prophecy as a possibility (48-52).
Moreover, the gifts of the Spirit were intended for the Apostolic Church as signs of God’s special activity during that period (56-58).
Open but Cautious
The “Open but Cautious” view is championed by Robert Saucy. He expresses the view that the Bible does not make clear whether specific miraculous gifts continue today or not. Thus, he remains open to continuation of these gifts, but cautious in their application and use.
Central to Saucy’s caution is the argument that miraculous gifts are centered around specific times and purposes within salvation history. Thus, according to Saucy, miraculous gifts act as signs of God’s activity within very specific contexts. The Apostolic Era is to be considered unique, and the expression of spiritual gifts during this time should not be read verbatim onto the present era (100-102). Moreover, the Biblical evidence for periods of miraculous activity is “uneven” and “particularly concentrated at certain times,” specifically “that of Moses and the Exodus, the ministries of Elijah and Elisha, and Christ and the apostles” (103). Miracles are thus to be understood explicitly as a “sign” with a specific purpose in mind to “give credibility to something” (105). Miracles are used to “authenticate” specific individuals in times of need (108).
Saucy appeals to the history of the church to make his point. He argues that throughout the history of the church, there is little miraculous activity noted. Thus, although we should be open to the possibility that such gifts may manifest themselves, we should remain cautious of claims to that effect. Saucy concludes with a discussion of individual gifts and what the Bible teaches about them. Representative is his discussion of prophecy, which notes several clarifications regarding how it should be used and understood (including that it is to be done in an “orderly fashion” and that the content will be “edifying to the community”) (128).
C. Samuel Storms argues that miraculous gifts do continue today, but that the doctrine of “subsequence” should be rejected. Subsequence is the notion that after conversion, there is a “baptism in the Holy Spirit” which is initially experienced by speaking in tongues and manifests itself in various spiritual gifts (176).
Storms argues that cessationists misrepresent those who argue for continuation, for cessationists often appeal to the “infrequency” of the miraculous in order to argue against the notion of miraculous gifts. They argue that this demonstrates that such events are purely the actions of a sovereign God acting whenever God chooses. In contrast, Storms notes that God’s spontaneous action may indeed empower individuals and indeed that the intermittent nature of the practice of such gifts does not undermine their classification as spiritual gifts.
Storms further asserts that although miracles have indeed been used as signs, this fact does not allow one to reduce the miraculous gifts to being only signs and nothing else (188-189). Storms analyzes a number of major arguments for cessationism and finds them all wanting. In particular, Storms presses the notion that the Bible nowhere declares that the gifts found in the Apostolic period would have some cutoff time period.
Douglas Oss argues that defining Pentecostalism as a “second blessing” theology must clarify what they mean by “second blessing.” He notes that Pentecostals do believe that believers receive the Holy Spirit post-conversion as an empowerment for charismatic gifts. However, this filling is not part of salvation nor is it required for salvation. Instead it is part of sanctification: it is empowerment by the Spirit. Moreover, Oss notes that there may be several empowerments or “refillings” of the Holy Spirit, for there is diversity in the “manifestations” of the Spirit (242-243).
Oss traces the Biblical data and concludes that the Old Testament shows that there is both the “inner-transforming” work of the Holy Spirit and the “empowering” work located therein. In the New Testament, Oss notes that the Holy Spirit works to empower the believers with various manifestations of miraculous gifts.
The gifting of the Holy Spirit is initially observable through speaking in tongues, but again this is not required for salvation. It is merely the pattern of God’s gifting. First tongues, later other gifts, though this is not always the case or even a requirement (260-263). Oss appeals to Joel 2:28-32 to note that the last days will not conclude until Christ’s second coming and so we should expect giftings of the Spirit throughout the present era (266ff).
It seems to me that there is little warrant for arguing negatively that the miraculous gifts do not continue today. Gaffin provided no textual basis that I could discern for holding that when the NT authors speak of these gifts within the church, they intended to limit the gifting in their own era. Moreover, I think that Joel 2:28ff does speak of the current age, though some of it seems to be yet future. The future fulfillment left for some of the passage does not seem to imply that it should all be taken is “not yet,” however.
That said, Gaffin’s concerns regarding the authority and inspiration of prophecy should be rightly noted. The issue of the nature and authority of prophecy in the modern period is one which the other offers attempted to address, but it seemed to me they came up short in virtually every case. Moreover, some of the Pentecostal position seemed to be a bit off to me. Why even argue that speaking in tongues comes first, but then qualify that by saying that it doesn’t need to or that it may not always be the case? Would that not suggest that the pattern isn’t much of a pattern after all?
Storms in particular did an excellent job of showing the error of arguing that miracles in the Bible centered only around certain periods of time in which “signs” were needed. Although it seems clear that the Bible is a selection of time periods and parts of history, God’s miraculous activity is observable throughout much of the Bible. To argue otherwise, and to then build a framework for interpreting miraculous gifts for today (as both Saucy and Gaffin did to an extent) seems to be an overreach given the data.
Thus, I would say my position seems to be closest to a synthesis of Storms and Saucy. I think Saucy does not go far enough in his allowing for gifts of the spirit, but I think that Storms struggles with the notion of the authority of such continuing prophecy.
So what do you think of this issue? What is your position? Share your thoughts in the comments below.
Stanley Gundry and Wayne Grudem, editors, Are Miraculous Gifts for Today? with Richard Gaffin, Robert Saucy, C. Samuel Storms, and Douglas Oss (Grand Rapids, MI: Zondervan, 1996). (Image credit to this work as well.)
The preceding post is the property of J.W. Wartick (apart from citations, which are the property of their respective owners, and works of art as credited) and should not be reproduced in part or in whole without the expressed consent of the author. All content on this site is the property of J.W. Wartick and is made available for individual and personal usage. If you cite from these documents, whether for personal or professional purposes, please give appropriate citation with both the name of the author (J.W. Wartick) and a link to the original URL. If you’d like to repost a post, you may do so, provided you show less than half of the original post on your own site and link to the original post for the rest. You must also appropriately cite the post as noted above. This blog is protected by Creative Commons licensing. By viewing any part of this site, you are agreeing to this usage policy.