Archives For Evangelicalism

Like all people, I have a whole lot of memories.  Some of them are good, some of them are bad, most of them are lost in history, and some I cannot but remember (but won’t mention because they’re often quite incriminating of my own stupidity).  One of the ones that isn’t incriminating of myself (too much) comes from my days in Bible College.

I remember sitting in a class with my professor, studying a subject, and the topic turned to the bible in relation to a specific issue that apparently wasn’t around in Jesus’ day.  I was young, naive, and easily convinced when my professor taught the class that Bible doesn’t mention various subjects at all (i.e. anything that wasn’t around in Jesus day, like cell phones or stem cells or democracy) so we cannot help but go to the people who are the experts in that subject (psychologists, biologists, etc.) for an understanding of it.  At the time, that seemed somewhat reasonable since I knew that the Bible didn’t really talk about things like the internet, right?  I mean, there definitely was no internet in Jesus’ day, so I guess Jesus couldn’t have addressed it, right?

jesus_mac_stainedglass Continue Reading…

Today’s post is Part 4 of a series focusing on the gift of tongues. (Click here to view Part 1, Part 2, or Part 3.)

Tongues_Newspaper

In particular, we are considering the continuationist claim that tongues in the New Testament did not always consist of real human foreign languages. Wayne Grudem, in Making Sense of the Church, represents the continuationist position when he writes:

“Are tongues known human languages then? Sometimes this gift may result in speaking in a human language that the speaker has not learned, but ordinarily it seems that it will involve speech in a language that no one understands, whether that be a human language or not” (emphasis added).

In his book, The Beginner’s Guide to Spiritual Gifts, continuationist author Sam Storms echoes that same thesis, insisting that “Acts 2 is the only text in the New Testament where tongues-speech consists of foreign languages not previously known by the speaker.” Storms’ assumption is that, even in the New Testament, the majority of tongues speech consisted of something other than human language.

Storms marshals nine arguments to defend that assumption. We have already considered his first two arguments (in the previous two posts). Today we will consider a third.

Continuationist Argument 3: First Corinthians 12:10 states that there are different kinds of tongues, therefore not all tongues are human languages.

In 1 Corinthians 12:8–10 Paul writes,

For to one is given the word of wisdom through the Spirit, and to another the word of knowledge according to the same Spirit; to another faith by the same Spirit, and to another gifts of healing by the one Spirit, and to another the effecting of miracles, and to another prophecy, and to another the distinguishing of spirits, to another various kinds of tongues, and to another the interpretation of tongues.

Because Paul says that there are “various kinds of tongues,” continuationists assert that this means there are at least two categories of tongues speech: human (earthly) languages and non-human (heavenly) languages. Storms articulates the argument like this:

Note also that Paul describes various kinds [or 'species'] of tongues (gene glosson) in 1 Corinthians 12:10. It is unlikely that he means a variety of different human languages, for who would ever have argued that all tongues were only one human language, such as Greek or Hebrew or German? His words suggest that there are different categories of tongues-speech, perhaps human languages and heavenly languages.

Based on that interpretation, Storms believes 1 Corinthians 12:10 provides exegetical support for the notion that tongues can be something other than human languages.

So what are we to make of the phrase “various kinds of tongues”? Is Paul differentiating between two fundamentally different categories of tongues (as Storms and other continuationists contend)? Does this verse really distinguish between earthly (human) languages on the one hand, and heavenly (non-human) languages on the other? Continue Reading…

In my life I often have a conversations that quickly turn to spiritual things.  I was once talking with someone involved in a sort of “para-church ministry” and as we talked it came up that he was wondering if he was called to actual church ministry.  As I probed his doubts I realized that he didn’t actually know what it meant to be “called”, hence he was terribly confused about the whole situation.  As was the case with many young adults I talk to, there was no real understanding of the concept of “call” outside of an esoteric concept that it involved something you got from God (somehow) and was necessary to go into ministry (or at least that’s what you’re expected to say to people who ask).  He knew he needed to get it, but he wasn’t sure what it was or what it would look like when it arrived.

Nutella

I really feel sorrow for so many people who know that ministry is some form of a “calling”, but when pressed to the wall they’re not able to give provide a concrete understanding of what a “call” is or how in the world to know if they’re called.  Now I’m not exactly going to unpack the whole concept of “call” since Clint has generally done that quite wonderfully and Eric has addressed that in the specific avenue of discerning a calling to church-plant, and there’s no real need to re-invent the wheel.  Instead, I’ll just add a little something to the wheel!

WagonWheels

For anyone who has ever wondered about their calling (and I can think of several of my immediate friends who do, and far more who thought they once had a “call” and now are quite convinced that they never did), here’s the general gist of what I told that young man: Continue Reading…

What are believers today to think about the gift of tongues?

D. A. Carson asks that question in his book, Showing the Spirit. On pages 84–85, he writes:

How … may tongues be perceived? There are three possibilities: [1] disconnected sounds, ejaculations, and the like that are not confused with human language; [2] connected sequences of sounds that appear to be real languages unknown to the hearer not trained in linguistics, even though they are not; [3] and real language known by one or more of the potential hearers, even if unknown to the speaker. . . . Our problem so far is that the biblical descriptions of tongues seem to demand the third category, but the contemporary phenomena seem to fit better in the second category; and never the twain shall meet.

Storms_GuideAs Carson helpfully articulates, contemporary tongues “appear to be real languages . . . even though they are not.” By contrast, biblical tongues consisted of “real language known by one or more of the potential hearers, even if unknown to the speaker.”

But if biblical tongues consisted of real human languages (i.e. a real language known by one or more of the potential hearers), then how can modern continuationists advocate tongues-speech that produces nothing more than the appearance of language? (Those interested in Carson’s unique solution to this dilemma can find it here.)

In his book The Beginner’s Guide to Spiritual Gifts, author Sam Storms — like most continuationists — attempts to answer that dilemma by giving a list of reasons why he believes the New Testament gift of tongues did not necessarily produce real human languages. If he can show that biblical tongues were not always actual languages, he can demonstrate a precedent for the modern gift of tongues. We addressed his first reason in last week’s post. Today we will consider his second argument. Continue Reading…

February 27, 2014

SSM round-up

by Jesse Johnson

Yesterday I wrote about three obvious questions from the recent scrap about gay marriage. Today’s post is for those that have been sleeping for the past week and missed the controversy all together.  If you suffer from gay-marriage-controversy overload, you may have missed the newest twists and turns, which is a shame because you missed some really good writing.  Today I want to give a round-up of what others have written, and direct you to some of the better posts on this issue.

But first a little history: in the past few months gay “marriage” has been legalized in 17 states. Most of these saw marriage legalized by judges, and a few saw the turn at the ballot box. Since then there has been a tidal wave of additional lawsuits in the remaining 33 states that ban it. Every indicator is that those bans will fall as well.

In the meantime, some same-sex couples have sued bakers, photographers, and florists who have declined to provide their services to gay weddings. Denny Burk has a powerful article detailing one of those examples.  The gist is that the florist served a couple she knew to be homosexual for almost ten years, and she considered them to be her friends. They then asked her business to provide flowers for their wedding, she refused, and was reported to the state, who filed suit against her (I wrote about these cases here).

Continue Reading…

Plodding through the news this week has been an attempt in both Arizona and Kansas to pass laws that specifically protect business owners from being forced to sell their services to celebrate gay “marriage” ceremonies.

Some Christians have quickly distanced themselves from these laws (Andy Stanley, Jonathan Merritt, Kirsten Powers), while the media has shown that, as a general rule, it lacks even a rudimentary understanding of what is at stake here. The net result is that anyone who doesn’t have a firm grasp on the Bible’s teaching about this issue is being swept up in the tide of public opinion. So swift is the tide that even the senators who voted for the law in Arizona a few weeks ago are now publically renouncing their “yes” vote and asking the governor to veto it.

There are really three practical questions for Christians to wrestle through here:  Continue Reading…

In last week’s post, we introduced a series about the gift of tongues. Cessationists generally define the gift of tongues as the supernatural ability to speak authentic foreign languages that the speaker had not previously learned. Continuationists, by contrast, generally allow for the possibility that the gift produces speech that does not correspond to any human language. The question we are asking in this series is whether or not that possibility is biblically warranted.Pentecost_Acts_2

Does the Gift of Tongues Produce Non-Human Languages?

Most continuationists acknowledge that modern tongues-speech predominately consists of something other than human foreign languages.

Of course, some continuationists point to anecdotal evidence to claim that modern glossolalia (tongues-speaking) can sometimes consist of human languages. But even supporters of modern tongues, like George P. Wood of the Assemblies of God, admit the infrequency of such reported occurrences. After commenting on alleged accounts “where one person spoke in a tongue that a second person recognized as a human language,” Wood is quick to state: “Admittedly, such occurrences are rare” (from his review of Strange Fire, published Jan. 13, 2014).

Such occurrences are so rare, in fact, that continuationist claims about modern glossolalia producing real human languages remain unconvincing to everyone outside the charismatic movement (including both Christians and non-Christians). As we saw in the previous post, professional linguists (like William Samarin of the University of Toronto) who study glossolalia have concluded that it “fundamentally is not language.” D. A. Carson, himself a non-cessationist, represents an objective assessment of the evidence when he writes: “Modern tongues are lexically uncommunicative and the few instances of reported modern xenoglossia [speaking foreign languages] are so poorly attested that no weight can be laid on them” (Showing the Spirit, 84). Continue Reading…

baptism-photoYesterday, chatter arose over an article surrounding the ecclesiastical tactics of Elevation Church. Among other things, the report responded to a 2011 Elevation document called “Spontaneous Baptisms How-To Guide,” which lays out in elaborate detail how to engineer an explosive, revival-like baptism service in your church. For example, the guide says, “Included in this document is everything that we did to prepare the way for God to show up…So here’s how we activated our faith to pull off our part in God’s miracle.” It also instructs, “Fifteen people will sit in the worship experience and be the first ones to move when Pastor gives the call. Move intentionally through the highest visibility areas and the longest walk.”

Using their engineered approach, Elevation reports to have performed 2158 baptisms in 2011.

Engineered revivals aren’t anything new and neither is pneumatological pump-priming. It’s probably no exaggeration to say that every generation has seen this. And whether 2158 people were genuinely converted or not, or whether at Elevation or elsewhere, the issue is not, “did it work,” but, “is it faithful?” There are fundamental issues that need consideration.

Here are 10 thoughts on the idea of engineered revivals:

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We begin today’s post with a question: In New Testament times, did the gift of tongues produce authentic foreign languages only, or did it also result in non-cognitive speech (like the private prayer languages of modern charismatics)? The answer is of critical importance to the contemporary continuationist/cessationist debate regarding the gift of tongues.

Agnes_Ozman_Tongues

From the outset, it is important to note that the gift of tongues was, in reality, the gift of languages. I agree with continuationist author Wayne Grudem when he writes:

It should be said at the outset that the Greek word glossa, translated “tongue,” is not used only to mean the physical tongue in a person’s mouth, but also to mean “language.” In the New Testament passages where speaking in tongues is discussed, the meaning “languages” is certainly in view. It is unfortunate, therefore, that English translations have continued to use the phrase “speaking in tongues,” which is an expression not otherwise used in ordinary English and which gives the impression of a strange experience, something completely foreign to ordinary human life. But if English translations were to use the expression “speaking in languages,” it would not seem nearly as strange, and would give the reader a sense much closer to what first century Greek speaking readers would have heard in the phrase when they read it in Acts or 1 Corinthians. (Systematic Theology, 1069).

But what are we to think about the gift of languages?

If we consider the history of the church, we find that the gift of languages was universally considered to be the supernatural ability to speak authentic foreign languages that the speaker had not learned. Continue Reading…

When I was in high school, I took a class called “Western Civilization” from a teacher who was a Bahhai.  He was one of the smartest folks I had ever met up unto that point and was an aggressive skeptic of Christianity…well, he was more of an enemy of Christianity.  The class was called “Western Civilization” but was really an “Intro to ‘why Christianity is for idiots’ class”.  That class was brutal hard for me, as my teacher waged an assault against Christianity that had me in a flurry to find answers; answers to questions about everything from creation to eschatology.  That class is what got me into serious thinking about the scriptures and looking for answers beyond my youth pastor (who was more youth than pastor).

Mr. Relevant

Anyway, that flurry of study started me asking questions and finding answers, and I never stopped asking questions or finding answers.  Almost 2 decades later, I’ve learned a whole lot and changed my position on almost every point of theological understanding.  This may come as a shock to some of my readers, but I was once a tongues-speaking, egalitarian, panmillennial, allegorist who thought “conservative” was a synonym for “lobotomy” and thought that the pentateuch was the 5-pointed star associated with Satanism (no joke).  Along my journey from biblical idiocy to, well, less idiocy, I’ve developed a fairly firm set of beliefs about the nature of the Bible and hermeneutics, and I’ve become fairly aggressive about the importance of understanding scripture literally.

Continue Reading…