May 30, 2014

Authentic Fire Review: Chapter 4

by Fred Butler

Authentic Fire is Dr. Michael Brown’s book-length response to John MacArthur’s Strange Fire conference. Because of the importance of this debate, TheCripplegate is using every Thursday to respond chapter-by-chapter to Authentic Fire. You can find an overview of this debate, as well as links to the reviews for each chapter by clicking here.

afThe Genetic Fallacy and the Error of Guilt by Association

In his fourth chapter of Authentic Fire, Dr. Michael Brown interacts with what he calls the “genetic fallacy” argument and errors of “guilt by association.”

First, the “genetic fallacy” is the bogus claim made by John MacArthur and the Strange Fire conference that the charismatic and Pentecostal movements have been corrupt from the beginning. One primary example is MacArthur’s overview of Charles Parham, the scandal-ridden evangelist from Kansas who introduced the tongues phenomenon to 20th century American evangelicals.

While it is true that Parham was beset with personal problems and promoted bad teaching, he was not the originator of tongues.  Brown notes how there was a revival in India at least forty years before Parham and his congregations sought to speak in tongues.  That revival, led by one John Christian Arulappan, was reported to have had people praising God and speaking in tongues with interpretation [AF, 84-85].

Additionally, if one takes the time to read the history behind the Azusa Street revival, even though William Seymour had been discipled by Parham, the focus of the revival was the pursuit of holiness and salvation in Christ. Thus the picture painted by MacArthur focusing on Parham is misleading and inaccurate since tongues preceded his ministry and the fruits of the revival at Azusa Street was godly evangelism and holy living [AF, 89].

The same flawed thinking is also present regarding the roots of the Brownsville revival in Florida where Brown served for a number of years. It is claimed that Brownsville was sparked by Randy Clarke. He had been prayed for by Word of Faith evangelist, Rodney Howard-Browne, and then went on to start the Toronto laughing revival. Clarke in turn prayed for Steve Hill, the evangelist who brought the revival to Brownsville. Thus it is clear that the Pensacola revival has roots with the Word of Faith movement and Howard-Browne’s loony laughing revival. But the reality, says Brown, is that none of that is true. All the men involved with the Brownsville revival were solid Christians who were discipled by such good men as Leonard Ravenhill and David Wilkerson.

Brown also points out that this kind of “genetic fallacy” argumentation can cut both ways. For example, he notes that MacArthur is Dispensational and believes in a pre-trib rapture. However, Dispensational theology and the pre-trib rapture has its origins with charismatic Scottish Presbyterian minister, Edward Irving.  The pre-trib rapture came from a “prophecy” that Margaret MacDonald, a girl in Irving’s congregation, had about the church being rescued before the tribulation. Irving was also instrumental in starting a restoration of premillennialism in Scotland and Great Britain, and J.N. Darby, the principle architect behind Dispensational premillennial theology was heavily influenced by him.  Hence, argues Brown, John MacArthur has charismatic roots!

Brown also turns his attention to the “guilt by association” arguments that were raised against him before and after the Strange Fire conference. He begins by pointing out that many folks, including Phil Johnson who was interviewed on his radio program the Monday following the conference, found his affirmation of friendship with NAR prophetess, Cindy Jacobs, extremely problematic. Brown had written in passing on Facebook that he was a friend of Jacobs and considered her a “godly woman,” yet people took those words and attributed an affiliation with her that Brown says he doesn’t have. He isn’t part of the NAR movement, nor does he follow her ministry so that he can adequately comment upon her alleged “prophetic words.” The connection his critics make between him and Jacobs is no different than Strange Fire conference speaker, R.C. Sproul, and his connection to John Gerstner who wrote a book condemning Dispensationalists as heretics.  MacArthur is a Dispensationalist, does that make him a heretic and Sproul affirming a heretic, [AF, 95]?

Brown then shows how the genetic fallacy and guilt by association can be applied to the Protestant Reformation and the appeal modern non-charismatics make to the theology that was developed by the key Reformers, Martin Luther and John Calvin.

Luther, for instance, was a profanely vulgar man in his writings against his enemies. He was also known for pronouncing cruel things against the German peasants such as the necessity of the civil powers to whip, choke, burn, and torture them because of their obstinate ways. When the territorial lords used Luther’s words as reason to kill nearly 100,000 peasants, he was unrepentant that his writings were used to justify their murder.  But even worse was Luther’s incendiary language against the Jews. He basically called for their persecution and slaughter. Eventually, Hitler and his Nazi propagandists used Luther’s treatises against the Jewish people to incite German violence against them in November of 1938 at the start of the Holocaust.

Even though he may not have been as personally profane as Luther, John Calvin used his authority to turn Geneva into an oppressive, legalistic concentration camp. He also encouraged the prosecution of heretical dissenters, that even led to a few, including Servetus, to be executed for his false beliefs.

Certainly it would be unfair to judge the entire worth of the Protestant Reformation upon the personal failings of Luther and Calvin. However, the Strange Fire critics attack the charismatic movement according to one standard while defending the Reformers by another. They give men like Luther and Calvin a pass on their foibles, while condemning charismatics for lesser matters.

Concluding his chapter, Brown writes that in his zeal for truth and purity, MacArthur falls into logical error and faulty reasoning when he criticizes charismatics. Furthermore, he employs a double-standard that is not only unfair, but is also unethical according to Scripture. He implores MacArthur to abandon this erroneous thinking about charismatics and Pentecostals and recognize that there are millions of healthy, God-fearing, holy-living charismatic people who love Jesus and are having a worldwide impact for the cause of Christ, [AF, 115].

Analysis and Review

Theology, Fallacy, and Scandal

In principle I believe Brown is correct with his understanding of so-called genetic fallacies and guilt by association arguments.  It is ridiculous to say, for example, that “such-and-such a person took a couple of Bible classes at Harvard divinity school, and we all know how liberal and ungodly Harvard divinity school is, so nothing such-and-such says about NT textual criticism can be trusted.” That is the sort of simplistic, shallow thinking found in conspiracy-driven church history taught within a lot of independent, Fundamentalist circles.

However, in this particular instance I believe Brown has misapplied those fallacies to MacArthur. He has provided solid documentation that the roots of the modern Pentecostal and charismatic movements are extremely troubling, and I believe, as this series of reviews has shown and will continue to show, that Brown has a self-inflicted myopia to those errors, as well as to how those same errors flourish today.

It doesn’t really matter if later generations of Pentecostals live godly lives (Praise the Lord they do!). However, we can say the same thing about the morality of any misguided group. Mormons have an extremely disturbing history, yet the vast majority of them live exemplary lives of what would be perceived as “godliness” and “holy virtue.” Many Roman Catholics do as well.  For what it’s worth, we can even say the same thing about the most vehement atheist. Yet, in spite of their external display of virtue, there are practical ramifications with charismatic theology that negatively impact Christians, and it is not a logical fallacy to identify the root source of those errors.

For example, a few times in his chapter Brown comments upon the “sloppy theology” and “bogus biblical interpretation” [AF, 110] and the “too many scandals” among charismatic leaders [AF, 112].  He even commends MacArthur for not having any “sexual scandal” associated with him [AF, 114].  I find those comments rather telling.  They are illustrative of the fact that he recognizes that the overwhelming majority of the horrendously bad teaching and moral scandal that troubles the church today emanates from charismatic ministries. The reason for it has everything to do with the origins of their core theology.

Consider for a moment the terrible events that has played out at IHOP Kansas City during the last couple of years or so in which a young woman who was an intern at IHOP was found dead of an apparent suicide. As her death was investigated, the story started coming together that it may have involved her husband, a graduate of IHOP’s Bible school, ordering her killing to cover over the sexual perversion that was taking place at a Bible study he founded.

Just so that I am clear, I am not saying ALL charismatics are on the verge of starting a sex cult. The reality, however, is that what happened at that Bible study was due largely in part to the historical charismatic view of ongoing personal prophecies.  If individual Christians can receive a “word from the Lord” or some “vision” that is granted a special level of authority, who is to say that “word of knowledge” isn’t from God?  That perspective regarding God’s communication with Christians is not a minority view among charismatics and Pentecostals, but it is a belief that has been with the entire movement since its inception the last few hundred years.

Tongues of Men

Citing a review Craig Keener gave of the book Strange Fire, Brown implies that MacArthur’s presentation of Pentecostal origins is not only the faulty reasoning of a genetic fallacy, but it is also historically and factually inaccurate. He then tells a story about the manifestations of tongues taking place 40 years before Agnes Ozman allegedly spoke in tongues at Parham’s church.

But contrary to both Keener and Brown, if one reads carefully his chapter detailing the events surrounding Parham [SF, 19-28], MacArthur wasn’t saying that modern tongues originated with Parham and his group.

shakersIt is certainly true that various heterodox and pseudo-Christian groups practiced for a number of centuries what is better identified as “ecstatic speech” that has been falsely designated the biblical gift of tongues. Historian Allan Anderson, who Brown cites for the background to the tongues event in India, writes in his book An Introduction to Pentecostalism that Roman Catholics, Quakers, the French Cevenol revivalists, the American Shakers, the Pietists, and even the Moravians practiced “tongues.” But again, those groups were on the extreme fringe of evangelical Christianity and were never considered solidly orthodox if at all.

The point of reviewing Parham’s background is to show that in spite of his later rejection by the entire North American Pentecostal movement and the various scandals and theological heresies that marked his life and ministry, his teaching about tongues had a major impact upon modern era believers. Even Anderson writes,

But there can be no doubt that it was probably Parham more than any other person who was responsible for the theological shift in emphasis to glossolalia as the ‘evidence’ of Spirit baptism in early North American Pentecostalism [Anderson, 35].

It is hardly committing a “genetic fallacy” to point out this historical saga to readers and show how Parham’s theological heresies and idiosyncrasies influenced the majority of 20th century Pentecostals and their views of tongues.

The Apple-Orange Fallacy

appleorangeIf Brown is going to level the charge of genetic fallacy against MacArthur, it would be helpful if he used some accurate comparisons. Instead, he makes what I call an apple-orange fallacy drawing together unrelated subjects to make his point.  In this case, he takes to task MacArthur’s Dispensational pretribulationalism claiming that it has roots with charismatic Presbyterian Edward Irving who allegedly had a major influence upon J.N. Darby.

There are a couple of problems with that comparison, however.

First, Brown takes his information from notorious anti-pretribber, Dave MacPherson whose revisionist history has been answered soundly by Thomas Ice, see HERE and HERE. Larry Crutchfield, who wrote The Origins of Dispensationalism: The Darby Factor, notes that while Irving and Margaret MacDonald are the most frequently named as the source for the pretrib rapture, others name Jesuit priest Pierre Lambert as well as another priest, Francisco Ribera as the source [Crutchfield, 202, f.n.154].  No one considers the fact, as Ice shows, that Darby developed his pretrib rapture views from his own personal study from the Word of God apart from any outside influence. That is not to say he was correct; but his views stand and fall upon the legitimacy of his exegesis of the relevant passages.

More importantly, however, is that the doctrine of the pretribulational rapture does not, in and of itself, produce the level of theological error that classical Pentecostalism has with its understanding of tongues. I don’t know of any pretribulationalist who would say that a belief in pretribulationalism is necessary for salvation or is evidence of the second baptism of the Holy Spirit. Oh, I imagine we could conjure up someone from somewhere, but pretty much every Dispensational pretribulationalist I have ever met (my church is full of them) has never taught such a thing.

sneetchesBut if you read the official doctrinal statements from the Assemblies of God or the Pentecostal Church of God, tongues is essential for the Christian experience, especially as a physical evidence that the person has received the baptism in the Spirit. Even Brown’s home church teaches this view about tongues. Extending their teaching about tongues out to the logical conclusion, that would mean all non-Pentecostals who have never “spoken” in tongues would be second-class or second-tier Christians who have never really experienced the Spirit’s work in their lives.

Luther and the Jews; Calvin and Servetus

Time and space do not allow me a full response to Brown’s use of Luther and Calvin as examples of MacArthur’s double-standard when he criticizes charismatics. Besides, there are others who have written much better than I have on those matters. James Swan has a good number of online articles answering the various charges against Martin Luther and his vitriol toward the Jews, and Banner of Truth published a brief article documenting the Calvin and Servetus affair. There are probably a number of other good ones I am unaware of at the moment.

Keep in mind that no one is giving Luther a pass on his works against the Jews. Certainly not MacArthur and the other speakers at the Strange Fire conference. The generations of Lutherans who have followed him have historically rejected his attitude.

Honestly, I thought this was a totally unnecessary and petty section in Brown’s book.  If faithful Lutherans today encouraged Antisemitism, he would have a point. It would also be true of any Calvinist who was involved with state sponsored executions for heresy.

My response when anyone raises the objection about Luther and the Jews or Calvin and Servetus is to ask, “Would salvation be monergistic and by faith alone if Luther had never existed?” “What does Ephesians chapter 1 mean if Calvin had never existed?” In those instances, the impact those men had upon reclaiming biblical truth for the Christian church far outweighs their alleged personal scandals. But that is not the case for the vast majority of charismatic leaders both historically and currently.

One of the more ridiculous comparisons Brown raises in this chapter is that of the late Fred Phelps. Brown opines that the folks in the SBC never call out Phelps, a fellow Baptist, so why should he call out all the wacko and cultish charismatics? I can agree that Phelps may gather a lot of attention to himself, but he has zero influence. No one in the SBC bothered to call out Fred Phelps because there are no church plants happening within the SBC who are Westboro Baptist clones. Furthermore, Fred Phelps was never asked to come speak at some of the largest SBC churches in the convention nor was he a keynote speaker at various SBC conferences. That cannot, however, be said about the bizarre elements within charismatic churches and denominations. The crazy stuff happening out of Bethel Redding is penetrating deeply into evangelical communities around the world.

Concluding Thoughts

jacobsBrown believes he is being unfairly associated with individuals within the charismatic movement who have troubling ministries. He feels that his passing remarks of affirmation of Cindy Jacobs as a “friend he believed to be a godly woman” in response to a comment he received on Facebook have been blown way out of proportion. He spends a couple of pages attempting to place his “friendship” with the NAR prophetess into proper perspective [AF, 94-95]. His critics have attempted to make pathetic “guilt by association” connections in the same fashion as classic independent Fundamentalist do with their so-called principles of secondary separation.

But I find it unsettling that he doesn’t understand the gravity of his passing remarks. When I first raised Brown’s Facebook affirmation of Jacobs in a response article to some of his early criticisms to the Strange Fire conference, I linked to a video of Jacobs claiming that she miraculously multiplied 3 loaves of stale bread to feed 3,000 people at a church in Colorado Springs in the same fashion Jesus fed the 5,000. She then goes on to claim donations she received “miraculously” increased from the time her people counted them after the service to the time they deposited them in the bank.

The question I have is simple: Is she telling the truth? I would think that out of a congregation of 3,000, there would be people who could come forth to verify her story. I am even curious as to which church in Colorado Springs that “miraculous” feeding took place. If she is not telling the truth (and for the record I believe she is a liar), then she, in my opinion, can hardly be considered a “godly woman” and has disqualified herself from any pulpit ministry. (I won’t get into the fact that she is a woman preacher to begin with). Godly people don’t make a habit of constantly lying (1 John 2:21).

Michael Brown is involved with extensive ministry training people in discernment and apologetics. While he may want to downplay his affiliation with Jacobs, the reality is that her braggadocios lies of the miraculous gush forth from the lips of all kinds of charismatic leaders on a weekly basis, claiming such things as going to heaven or being transported to other countries or having the angel Gabriel personally anoint someone to be a prophet.

When a guy of Brown’s stature offers the passing praise of someone like Jacobs as a godly woman whom he considers a friend, it raises flags for those who are familiar with her antics. To dismiss such concerns as being the fallacy of guilty by association passes along a conflicting message to those who are influenced by his teaching, while leaving folks like myself wondering about his discernment.

Fred Butler

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Fred is a graduate of The Master's Seminary, and currently serves as a coordinator at Grace To You, the media ministry of John MacArthur.
  • Very interesting. I had a charismatic neighbor who insisted that if I hadn’t spoken in tongues I wasn’t a Christian. But I put more weight on what J. Vernon Magee said. He had many pentecostal friends but he didn’t speak in tongues. After that I didn’t feel threatened by this neighbor.

    • Link Hudson

      Usually, those who teach that are not part of the Charismatic movement (by which I mean a movement that started among ‘mainline’ churches in the 1960’s.) They are typically Oneness Pentecostals. Most Pentecostal denominations are Trinitarian. About 8% of denominational Pentecostals are Oneness, though. Beliefs associated with Oneness Pentecostals are, of course, rejection of the Trinity, the belief that “Jesus’ name baptism” is required for salvation, and that anyone who is saved will speak in tongues. Not all Oneness believe exactly that, but those beliefs are common among those groups. They split off from the larger Pentecostal movement around 1918, if I remember right. Oneness folks split from the Assemblies of God and started the United Pentecostal Church. In the US, they took the term ‘Apostolic’ which had been a word for the Pentecostal movement, though in the UK and South Africa, certain Trinitarian Pentecostal groups use the term ‘Apostolic’.
      I don’t know of any Trinitarian Pentecostal or Charismatic demoninations that teach that you aren’t saved if you haven’t spoken in tongues.

      • Fred Butler

        Let’s try to stay focused on what I wrote. Go back and read my paragraph highlighting the doctrinal statements of the AoG, Pentecostal churches of America, and Michael Brown’s church. Is tongues a sign of spirit baptism? Is tongues essential for the Christian experience? Where is such things even taught in the Bible?

        Now you may want to say the idea of speaking in tongues to be saved is only found in the cultic versions of Pentecostalism, but that is not the testimony I am hearing from the typical charismatic/Pentecostal in the pew who struggles with not speaking in tongues and has to fake it a lot so as not to be looked down upon as a second-class believer.

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  • Lois

    How weary this all seems to me. Have you looked out the window of your world lately and, seeing someone stumble (as you will), run out to catch them, help them up, acknowledge their unique and wonderful self, then sent them on their way without ever mentioning your name? The heart of the matter is so utterly simple; So utterly profound. Peace to you.

    • Fred Butler

      Honestly. I thought your comment a bit odd. What relevance does it have to anything I wrote here? I take that you think this discussion is pointless and silly. A time waster that misdirects people to the more important things of life. But it isn’t weary when the souls of men are at stake and there is a need to inform them as to the truth. In a manner of speaking, I am catching that stumbling man and helping him out.

  • Harry

    So the argument is: Peter calls Jesus out on being wrong about his crucifixion. Jesus says get behind me Satan. Therefore, we should not read any writing from Peter because the foundation of his theology was driven by Satan.

    Have I got this argument correct?

  • Link Hudson

    From what I’ve read, the Catholic Apostolic Church movement that grew out of the church Irving pastored had a different idea of what it meant to be premillineal or ‘milinerian’ or whatever they called it, that didn’t correspond to common views on eschatology. I think Darby and Irving may have gone to some of the same meetings on end times topics, if I recall correctly. I wonder if Darby’s anti-Charismatic stand was in response to that movement. I wouldn’t be surprised. I’ve read that Darby had read the book by the French Anti-Reformation author who had a similar eschatology. I don’t see how anyone can get a pre-seven-year tribulation out of the Bible. It seems to be an assumption read into several passages. ‘Not appointed unto wrath’ seems to be the strongest argument. I don’t see how it squares with Jesus returning to give the church rest when he comes to execute judgment on the wicked and be admired among them that believe in II Thessalonians 1.

    The comment about Ephesians 1 and Calvin is a good point. If Calvin taught a Biblical truth, it’s in the Bible. But the same is true of spiritual gifts. If the Bible teaches that the Spirit gives gifts like prophecy, tongues, healing, etc. as He wills, then the Bible teaches that. It is in I Corinthians 12. The Bible teaches that there are true prophets and false prophets. Jesus endorsed the idea of receiving a prophet in the name of a prophet. He said He would send prophets. But he also warned of false prophets. Would a full-blown false prophet go to a cessationist church to present a false prophesy? That would be hard. He might try to do that in a church that believes in the operation of the gifts. The true church had to deal with false teachers creeping in during the first century too. The presence of false prophets among those who affirm that the I Corinthians 12 gifts are still around gifts is not evidence that these gifts are not still around. The first century churches had to deal with false prophets, and they believed in these gifts.

    As far as calling someone a liar for claiming that God multiplied food, that’s a fundamental difference in world view between someone who believes God does miracles (or does them through human agency) in this day and age and someone who does not. If someone gives a testimony at church that he needed $355 dollars more to pay his rent, he prayed, and he got a check in the mail for $355 from a friend as a blessing the day the rent was due, I suppose the story could be a lie, but I wouldn’t dismiss it out of hand. If I knew the man to be a liar, I might be extremely skeptical. But if I didn’t know him, that would be the kind of thing I might accept as likely to be true. God does things like that all the time. God answers prayers of the saints. That is consistent with scripture.
    If someone claims that God multiplied food, what reason have I to assume that person is a liar? Isn’t it an awful prejudice to have against a brother or sister to assume a claim of God doing something miraculous must be a lie? The Bible specifically shows that God multiplied food on two occasions in the New Testament and even in the Old Testament. If God demonstrated His willingness to do such things in the past, how could I say He would not do such things nowadays? Shouldn’t cessationists who allow for the idea of God answering prayer and doing miracles according to His own will allow for this?

    The Bible commands “Quench not the Spirit. Despise not prophesyings. Prove all things. Hold fast to that which is good.” When it comes to prophesyings, we are specifically forbidden by scripture to despise the gift. If someone claims to have heard from God, and you dismiss it out of hand, isn’t that despising prophesying? Having a set of elaborate theological arguments for despising prophesyings doesn’t justify one in doing so.

    Wouldn’t the same type of reasoning apply to despising miracles? I Corinthians 12 teaches against dismissing another believer with a different gift as unneeded, saying, “I have no need of thee.” We should not have this attitude toward miracle workers.

    I’ve heard of Cindy Jacobs. I don’t know much about her. If Brown doesn’t like the NAR, I can see why he would want to distance himself. But why should he automatically consider her a liar if she claimed that God did miracles. The Bible establishes the fact quite well for us that God does miracles.

  • Link Hudson

    On the idea of considering people liars for claiming miracles, testimonies can stretch our ability to give people the benefit of the doubt. But I wonder if some people considered those who gave testimony of what they saw Jesus did considered them to be liars, too.

    I met a preacher from Papua once who claimed to have been raised from the dead. He said his wife kept people away from his body and said the Lord was dealing with him, and he rose from the dead after a year. I can’t say the man is lying (or mistaken about what really happened.) He could be. Or he could be telling the truth. I believe God raises the dead, so it would be foolish for me to assume the man was lying just based on that.

    I know a preacher from Papua also, a part of a kind of Baptist denomination, endorsed to me as a disciple by a respected American evangelical missionary who was instrumental in winning tens of thousands to Christ when the people group had a mass movement to Christ. The native preacher said he had taught a Bible study of several men who were former brain cancer patients who’d been healed after he prayed for them. They all knew each other from the brain cancer ward. The men converted from another religion and had all been to Mecca. I could say the man was a liar, but I believe God heals. The Bible teaches God heals.

    It would be foolish for me to call people liars based on these things because I’ve seen some amazing things. I went to a Christian school in 8th grade. A 9th grader had visibly crossed eyes. An evangelist came to the church we both went to and laid hands on people. There was a crowd there. I saw him walk a woman out of a wheelchair but didn’t know about her condition beforehand. (It was a mega church and there were lots of guests that night, too.) The 9th grade girl was healed the next day. She said it happened after he laid hands on her. Her healing was very, very obvious, visibly obvious, and she didn’t need her Coke-bottle glasses anymore. I’ve known other people who were healed of various things.

    I’ve also witnessed a number of specific prophecies and words of knowledge that make manifest the secrets of men’s hearts. Prophecies aren’t just trite platitudes. Some are scriptures run together to make a message, usually to the congregation. I’ve also had prophecies to me as an individual that touched on specific details, the kind of thing that’s hard to chalk up to coincidence. I’ve seen a lot of prophecies and words of knowledge that are extremely specific. And there are those times I’ve gotten a word of knowledge about someone that the other person verifies, or someone else prophesies about the same word of knowledge I got. I’ve had a couple of friends over the years who talked about having an interpretation to a tongue, but someone else gave the same word before my friend could. (In one case, he didn’t know what was going on. He said he had these words come to him after the tongue, and someone else gave that as an interpretation.)

    There are also those cases where one goes to a church and receives a prophecy, and then goes somewhere else to a totally different crowd and gets the same prophecy. Sometimes it’s bits and pieces of the prophecy that are the same. I’ve had that happen to me, too.

    Prophecies aren’t always vague statements about ‘a new thing’ or ‘shifts in the spirit’ or things like that. Some are obviously supernatural. The same is true of healing. Healing isn’t always someone with WOF theology ‘pretending’ to be healed or that someone else is healed because that’s how they think faith works. Sometimes the healing is very obviously real.

    Peter talked about a ‘more sure word of prophecy.’ We can talk about experience. I’m sure there are people on the forum who could talk about their experiences with things they perceive to be faith, and their experiences with people not being healed. But what is really important is what the Bible teaches. And the Bible does teach that the gifts certain people label ‘sign gifts’ are given as the Spirit wills. Paul wrote to the Corinthians, “so that ye come behind in no spiritual gift, waiting for the coming of our Lord Jesus Christ.” The gifts he would discuss in that epistle included tongues and prophecy. II Timothy 3, is used as a cessationist prooftext. Yet it is obvious that the gift of prophecy continued because inspiration continued on to chapter 4 and even to the book of Revelation, and continues after the close of the book to the two witnesses. II Timothy 1 tells Timothy to stir up a gift in him through the laying on of Paul’s hands. Surely the gift was to endure for longer that it took for Timothy to write two chapters.

    The important thing is that the Bible teaches us that these gifts are real, teaches against despising others who have different gifts, teaches us to value various gifts through other members of the body, gives commands to churches to allow gifts like prophecy– commands that imply the presence of such gifts and that activities during our meetings incorporate such gifts in an orderly manner.

    • Fred Butler

      Link writes,
      On the idea of considering people liars for claiming miracles,
      testimonies can stretch our ability to give people the benefit of the
      doubt. But I wonder if some people considered those who gave testimony
      of what they saw Jesus did considered them to be liars, too.

      We know from the testimony of the NT, the miracles performed by Jesus and by the apostles were met with firm opposition. The difference was that the critics witnessed the miracles; they saw them happen. Rather than saying it was a trick or an illusion, they attributed the miracles to Satan. They didn’t doubt what they saw, because it was undeniable, but they did doubt the source.

      In the case of the examples I provide, I would never give them the benefit of the doubt. Jacobs, for example, along with all of her NAR pals, boast openly and unashamedly that they do amazing miracles. The problem is that no one sees them, or what they “see” is not really a miracle.

      The modern day healers and so-called signs&wonders performers come no where near doing the level of miracle working power that was recorded in the NT with Jesus and the apostles.

      Of course, far away examples in distant lands in the backwaters of the jungle are usually provided, but if miracles and healings are prevalent among God’s people, then they should happen here where they can be witnessed first hand. I mean, the primary purpose of miracles is so that people can see them and believe on Jesus. They were never designed to be locked up behind church doors or behind the canvas of tent revivals, but were to be done in the public square where people would see. No where in the world is this happening. Again, anecdotal stories are provided from Nepal or India, but if miracle workers are a gift to the church, they should be working mightily here in Time Square or downtown Seattle.

      • Link Hudson

        Hi Fred,
        Thanks for responding. People who saw the miracles of Jesus knew something supernatural was going on. But there was one case where the Pharisees interviewed a blind man and even his parents. They had difficulty believing the miracle took place or were trying to find a way to disprove it. They did not just admit that it had happened.

        Many of the ancient Jews believed God could do miracles, that people could see angels, and things of that nature. The Old Testament contained plenty of these things, and the beliefs of the Pharisees were influential on the masses. Pagans believed their gods could do all kinds of things and believed in magical sort of things. The reason so many people in those days would automatically accept that miracles were real and not just illusions was worldview. The ancient Greeks probably used magnets in the temples to make idols seem to jump together. A few centuries later, in Egypt, Greek pagan priests would use a steam engine to open temple doors, apparatuses to make idols appear to speak, fake thunder machines, and maybe even technology to make a chariot float.

        If you showed this to an American who grew up watching Scooby Doo, he’d want to know where the ropes or magnets are. If you show someone who believes in magic and gods these things, he may think the gods are doing it.

        And if you show an American who doesn’t believe in miracles a true miracle, he may attribute it to a magician. There is a whole genre of people who go out on the streets and other places to minister to the sick. There was a video like this posted on a forum, and one brother who professed faith in Christ said the person who put the video together was a magician because people were saying pain left and other health problems were healed when he laid hands on them and commanded healing in the name of Jesus.

        I know I’ve seen at least one video like this set in Time Square.

        Someone who posts a YouTube video could be an illusionist. But if he posts a genuine healing, people whose world view will not allow for such things will likely consider it to be an illusion.

        I wouldn’t say that there was one purpose for miracles, but I would agree that people believing in Jesus is one of the key purposes. Hebrews shows that signs, wonders, and gifts of the Holy Ghost were present when the Gospel was first preached among the readers. Many of the accounts of miracles among the Gentiles in the book of Acts show that they were done when the Gospel was first introduced. Paul sought to lay foundations where foundations had not yet been laid, and from Jerusalem round about unto Illyricum, with signs and wonders, he had fully preached the Gospel of Christ. He was doing miracles in new territory for the Gospel.

        Shouldn’t we expect to hear about more and more amazing miracles in areas where the Gospel is first introduced? I’ve heard a bit about some of the introduction of the Gospel to different people-groups in Papua. One of the missionaries there said a tribe opened up to the Gospel after he laid hands on a two-year-old who had drowned and the boy came back to life. Yes, it’s a far away place, but isn’t that where we might expect to hear of more of such things?

        But getting people to initially believe in Jesus is not the ONLY purpose of miracles. The working of miracles is listed among spiritual gifts given ‘to profit withal.’ In that section, Paul ties spiritual gifts in with members of the body ministering to one another. So we should expect some miracles in churches in non-evangelistic settings, too, based on what we read in scripture.

        Like I said, I don’t know that much about Cindy Jacobs. I’ve seen clips of her and know what she looks and sounds like, that she rights on intercession and prophesies. Some NAR sources seem to have a really loose idea of apostleship, and I don’t agree with it. But could God do a miracle for someone who holds to a belief like this, or answer a prayer? I wouldn’t think a loose definition of apostleship or would mean God wouldn’t do miracles through people or answer prayers. If I can believe that God can heal a cessationist in an out-of-the-ordinary way from a medically incurable disease in answer to prayer, why couldn’t I believe that someone could have a loose idea of apostleship and be healed in response to prayer or do or witness a miracle? I would think a cessationist inclination would make miracles less likely, since miracles and healing are associated with believing God for such things in scripture.