Category Archives: Rethinking spiritual gifts

Are miraculous spiritual gifts for today? part 4

Some examples of prophecy in the Bible to show that prophecy is completely from God, miraculous, infallible and authoritative, BUT not adding to Scripture:

1 Samuel 10.25: Samuel actually wrote the duties of the Israelite king in a book. It was probably an exposition and application of Deuteronomy 17. It certainly is not recorded anywhere in Scripture.

2 Samuel 12.1-12: Nathan prophecies to David, telling him a parable about a wicked rich man, so that David will be convicted of his sin with Bathsheba. The prophecy is obviously recorded in Scripture, but when Nathan said it (the actual prophetic event) he was not speaking Scripture.

Acts 21.10-11: the same would apply to Agabus’ prophecy. He was a prophet; he made an authoritative claim that came true. But he was not speaking Scripture. The prophetic event is recorded in Scripture.

1 Corinthians 12-14: the church in Corinth also had prophets who prophesied, though their prophecies are not found in our Scriptures.

What is the point here? It seems a bit naive to argue that prophecy cannot exist simply because the canon is closed.

At the same time, it cuts against the very nature of prophecy to say that present day prophecy is fallible, as Wayne Grudem might say. A thorough study of prophecy in the Bible shows that prophecy, much like we might conceive of true preaching, is the authoritative proclamation of God’s Word meant to convict, edify, comfort and exhort God’s people.

To Cessationists, please do not let bad Charismatic practices influence your interpretation of Scripture.

To Continuationists, please do not let a prosperity theology creep into your understanding of how God chooses to give certain gifts (i.e. more faith, more pursuit, more earnestness, etc. equals more miracles).

Are miraculous spiritual gifts for today? part 3

Michael Horton rightly disagrees with Wayne Grudem on the definition of prophecy:

Grudem believes that the kind of prophecy that is ongoing in the church is distinguished from preaching and teaching by being “a spontaneous ‘revelation’ from God…In my view, this interpretation introduces a definition of prophecy that is not consistent with its practice in the apostolic church. Nowhere is prophecy distinguished by its spontaneous quality.

What he rightly disagrees with is a flimsy distinction between preaching and prophecy. Surely there is more to the distinction than that.

However, I am guessing that Horton disagrees with the “spontaneous” factor because of present day practices in Charismatic circles. I cannot prove this; I just think this is so. I do think prophecy in the bible is spontaneous (a prophet receives a word from the Lord instantaneously). Every time God speaks to a Prophet, the Prophet was not pondering on what God might say. God just said it.

Perhaps the distinction between preaching and prophecy is better explained to be like the difference between a miraculous healing and ordinary surgery/medicine. I, personally, do not desire one over the other. God accomplishes both. One immediately, one mediately. When I pray for healing, I expect God to do either one. Is there something wrong with me for not desiring one over the other, but being equally happy that God is glorified in both? Same with preaching and prophecy.

Why do I believe prophecy could exist today? Because the bible does not tell us it would cease. Rather, it should be earnestly desired (1 Cor 14.1), it is speaking to people for upbuilding, encouragement, and consolation (1 Cor 14.2), and it builds up the whole church (1 Cor 14.5).

Why do I believe it is infallible? Because every single explicit example of prophecy is a direct word from the Lord, and God is infallible.

Why do I believe prophecy could be infallible and, yet, not be adding to Scripture? Because I think that is the nature of prophecy throughout the Bible. Next time, I will give some examples to prove that.

 

Are miraculous spiritual gifts for today? part 2

For background, there are two camps when it comes to miraculous spiritual gifts: cessationists and continuationists.

Cessationists believe that miraculous gifts, such as tongues and prophecy, have ceased with the death of the Apostles. God still does miracles, but the gifts of tongues and prophecy spoken of in 1 Corinthians 12 and 14 have ceased (hence, “cessation”).

Continuationists believe that miraculous gifts continue as God pleases. I consider myself a continuationist, but as will become clearer, I should probably be called a “constrained continuationist.” Probably everybody believes they are constrained by God’s Word alone, but to my knowledge no one else thought of that label yet, so I claim it.

Last time I established that present-day prophecy would not necessarily mean the canon of Scripture is open. Let’s examine prophecy a little further to see if that is true. Michael Horton wrote:

Paul treats prophecy (prophēteia) as preaching, which although illumined by the Spirit is (unlike the scriptures) un-inspired and therefore must be tested (1 Cor 12:29; 1 Thes 5:19-21).

I agree with this statement. I have come to the conclusion that the result of prophecy and the result of preaching in the Bible were the same. Both can be considered the Word of God proclaimed, intended to change people for God’s glory. Horton would seem to agree with that by comparing the two. That means, the prophecies Paul referred to were not on par with Scripture. Therefore, if someone had a prophetic word today, it would not be on par with Scripture.

That seems pretty straightforward to me. Next time I will join Horton in arguing against Wayne Grudem on the nature of present-day prophecy, but then perhaps find a way to disagree with both of them slightly.

Are miraculous spiritual gifts for today? A Reformed Baptist perspective

In light of last year’s Strange Fire controversies, this felt like a relevant topic to talk about (several months have passed since I first thought of posting this, sorry). A few years ago, Michael Horton wrote a great piece on the tension between the Reformed tradition and the relatively new Charismatic tradition. It is long, but you should read it here. If at least 50 people ask me to write a book on these issues, I will try to give it a more scholarly attempt in the future. For now, I will try to tackle his article piece by piece over several posts. There is a lot more I agree with him on than that I disagree with him on.

Let me put that last sentence in context: I am currently a continuationist (meaning, I believe God could give the spiritual gifts of tongues, interpretation, and prophecy to the 21st century local church). Michael Horton is a cessationist (meaning he believes God gave the gifts of tongues, interpretation, and prophecy only for the time of the Apostles). But on the issue of miraculous spiritual gifts (like tongues, interpretation, and prophecy), there is a lot more I agree with him on that that I disagree with him on. You’ll see, hopefully.

Here is a great paragraph by Horton, in challenging the views of men like Mark Driscoll and C.J. Mahaney:

There is much to admire in these men and their labors. I am not targeting these friends and brothers, but pleading with them—and with all of us—to rediscover the ordinary means of grace, ordinary ministry, ordinary offices, and to long for a genuine revival: that is, a surprising blessing of God on his ordinary ministry in our day. The false choice between head and heart, the Spirit and the Word, has been a perennial polemic of the radical wing of Protestantism. Mark Driscoll’s plea above reveals that dangerous separation of the Spirit from his Word. Only by assuming such a cleavage can one argue that Reformed theology ignores the Holy Spirit.

He was referring to a quote by Mark Driscoll, in which Driscoll accuses Presbyterians of often ignoring the Holy Spirit. I agree wholeheartedly with Horton on the false dichotomies that Charismatic believers pose.

I also agree with these statements:

Reformed theology is not just the “five points” and “sovereign grace,” but a rich, full, and systematic confession. It’s a human and therefore fallible attempt to wrestle with the whole counsel of God—in both doctrine and practice, soteriology and ecclesiology.

I think people should not call themselves “Reformed” if they are not in a Reformed church (or at least a church moving in that direction). Pastors cannot be personally “Reformed” but not try to reform the church. Church members cannot be personally “Reformed” while the pastors hate Reformed theology. The fundamental issue in the Reformation was the church! Thank you, Michael Horton, for clarity here.

Now just a quick note on where we start to have different trajectories. He writes concerning Ephesians 4.11:

Against both Rome and the radical Anabaptists, the Reformers argued that prophet and apostle are extraordinary offices, for a foundation-laying era. They are sent at key moments in redemptive history, and their writings are added to the canon of Scripture.

I agree that prophet and apostle are extraordinary offices. What is not clear from Ephesians 4, or the rest of Scripture, is that the office of apostle and prophet are to be equated with those whose writings are added to the canon of Scripture. I am not sure if that is exactly what Horton was saying or not. Clearly, the writings of Apostles and Prophets make up the canon of Scripture. But it is not clear that the 13 epistles of Paul are the only 13 letters he ever wrote, or that John never wrote anything besides John, 1, 2, 3 John, and Revelation. And not all the prophets and all the Apostles contribute to the canon. Those two offices cannot be equated with “writers of Scripture.” Again, I do not know if Horton was trying to argue for that, but confusion on this issue leads to the (what I think is naive) argument that “prophecy cannot exist today because the canon is closed.”

The canon is closed. But I do not think that means prophecy cannot then exist. Since Horton’s article then moves to examine prophecy, that will probably be what I do next.