Sunday, August 27, 2006

Being Salt of the Postmodern Earth - part I

In his book, Beware The Naked Man Who Offers You His Shirt, Harvey McKay says that he can walk into any factory, no matter how poorly run and no matter if it's on the verge of bankruptcy, and find something that is being done right and learn from it.

What does it mean for a Christian to be able to approach all ideas, whether they arise from an individual or from a culture or whether they arise within the church or outside the church, with the same approach that Harvey McKay takes toward poorly run factories? What is at stake in regard to Christians doing this or not doing this? In order to begin to answer these questions, a "doctrine of revelation" and a "hermeneutic" of ideas and culture needs to be clarified.

These past four weeks, through the "wet cat" series and in the "Hearing the voice of God, refracted" post, I have been simultaneously criticizing the cessationist doctrine of revelation and clarifying a continuationist position on revelation according to the following "doctrine of revelation".

  1. God has provided the "revelation of Scripture", the truths that are specific to His Kingdom through the prophets, apostles and Jesus that are laid out in the Bible canon.
  2. This canon of Scripture is a map, an outline to the Kingdom of God. It is not the whole picture down to the last detail. When Jesus says in John 16:12-13, "I have much more to say to you...", he is speaking to all believers through to the present day, and not merely to the apostles and not merely to those before the establishment of the canon.
  3. As God has provided Scriptural revelation, God is continuing to provide two other forms of revelation: a) "low-level" revelation of truths and wisdom that elaborate on and clarify the understanding and application of Scripture in believers, manifested in encounters that believers have with the Holy Spirit and manifested in the accumulation of church wisdom and experience and b) the ongoing general revelation of knowledge about the nature of creation through any and all who apply their mind and intuition. This is manifested in ideas that people arrive at including the accumulation of philosophical vocabulary and scientific knowledge.
  4. The Spirit of God is continually communicating to believers to increase our wisdom and understanding of Scripture and to make the truth of Scripture specific to our circumstances for the purpose of our growth and edification. The truth of "low-level" revelation and the general revelation of knowledge is intended to complement, elaborate on and enhance Scriptural revelation and is intended to be useful for our growth in wisdom and edification.
  5. God allows crises to occur, both to individuals and to societies as a means to draw people into deeper relationship with Him and to grow people in new aspects of wisdom. It is in the application of our minds, as believers, to engage God in the mystery that these crises present to us that the Spirit meets us to grow us in wisdom and character.

From these principles is derived the following doctrine of the ongoing general revelation of knowledge:

  1. God is the God of truth. Any truth that exists in the world, in any form that it is expressed, is owed to God.
  2. God allows imperfect humans to be the ones to express the ideas that attempt to convey some piece of the truth
  3. While God has entrusted the church with the truth of Scriptural revelation and the "low-level" revelation that elaborates on it, life is complicated and contains many aspects of truth that God has used and continues to use non-Christian people to arrive at. Non-Christians, while they do not have the sanctifying and redeeming power of the Holy Spirit empowering them to have the faith that justifies, never-the-less retain something of the image of God and something of the glory of God. It is through this image of God that the general revelation of knowledge operates through them.

From this doctrine of general revelation is derived this hermeneutic of ideas and culture:

  • The expresser of an idea can either be an originator or a perpetuator of an idea, and can be an individual or a group large or small.
  • Ideas have arisen to answer valid questions and to confront real crises, even as the ideas are often flawed. To confront the untruth that is contained in an idea, one must first confront the crisis that the idea was created to try to address.
  • Ideas can be spoken or unspoken, direct or indirect. Ideas can be manifested in art, culture, trends, fashion, etc... Ideas can arise from within the church or can be exported into the church from the wider culture.
  • If an idea contains both truth and untruth, any extent to which it is true must be attributed to God working through the idea expressor. Any extent to which the idea is false must attributed to ignorance and/or motives of the idea expresser that fall short of the glory of God.

It is with a sound doctrine of revelation and a sound hermeneutic of ideas that a Christian is equipped to approach any idea in the way that Harvey McKay approaches a poorly run factory, learning from any grains of truth that exists in an idea without also adopting its falsehood. What is at stake in this is the very nature of how Christians approach their relationship with God and how they approach ministry. Ideas, as blends of truth and untruth, gain their power because they exists as answers to valid questions and crises. It is only in confronting this reality with a sound doctrine of revelation and a sound hermeneutic of ideas that Christians are equipped to minister with power and relevance.

The need to confront crises by carefully extracting truth from the midst of untruth is a ministry principle that is applicable in all forms of ministry. In a successful missions endeavor, where the Gospel bears fruit and takes deep root in a culture, it is the result of the missionaries having applied the hermeneutic of ideas as outlined above to properly understand the culture and the crises within the culture that they are missionizing. This same basic hermeneutical principle is also the basis of successful therapy. When a person is struggling with bad thoughts and/or temptation, there is often a kernel of truth within the temptation that the person needs to confront in order to overcome the problem. There is a specific reason that lies in the heart, life and memory of the person as to why the problem has the bondage that it has. When this reason is uncovered by a hermeneutical application of looking to extract truth from the midst of untruth, the person is aided in their ability to "take their thoughts captive" and is able to begin to overcome the problem.

When Christians do not carefully separate the truth from the untruth in the sundry ideas that have been arrived at and are being arrived at in postmodern society, the untruth in any idea gains power and influence because it is connected to the truth in that idea. Here, the truth in an idea finds its only "voice" in postmodern society as something that is connected to the untruth. This unforunate result happens when Christians do not apply a sound doctrine of revelation and a sound hermeneutic of ideas to their practice of evangelism and discipleship by:

  • fighting culture wars by relying on smug, snarky remarks, political phalanxes and an attitude of "circling the wagons"
  • dismissing the mysterious and creative workings of the Holy Spirit in the church and in the culture at large, dismissing any "emergence" out of hand without testing it carefully for truth and untruth
  • treating the Gospel as a "Christ formula" that does not need to be contextualized to times and places
  • promoting doctrines that over-ride the teachings and practice of Jesus
  • acquiescing to aspects of postmodern culture without carefully vetting them, assuming that postmodern culture is too complicated to be taken captive or that aspects of postmodernism need to be uncritically adapted to church practice in order for the church to be relevant and "seeker-sensitive".

It is by applying a sound doctrine of revelation and a sound hermeneutic of ideas that a Christian is equipped to avoid these pitfalls and give "voice" to the truth in any idea within the context of the Gospel. It is by finding and clarifying the truth in the sundry ideas of postmodern society that a Christian is able to "hear the voice of God, refracted".

This act of carefully clarifying the truth and the falsehood in an idea serves purposes for both believers and unbelievers. For believers, it serves to edify them with added wisdom and intimacy with God, as they are better able to identify and confront the crisis in their midst that that idea was created to address. For unbelievers, it serves to invite them to embrace a different approach to the crisis. For these unbelievers, the power that is claimed by the untruth in the idea as a "voice" to the truth in the idea is weakened as a Christian gives an alternative "voice" to the truth by presenting the truth in the context of the Gospel. It is this act of Christian "deconstruction" that is part of what it means for a Christian to be salt in the postmodern earth.

With the understanding that God allows crises to occur to grow people in wisdom and intimacy with Him, God allows flawed ideas to occur in church and in society at large in order to invite Christians into a journey of seeking to untangle the crisis that these flawed ideas have arisen to confront. In this context, the Christian understands that it is his/her role to apply heart and mind to listen to God and receive His wisdom in order to properly clarify and contextualize the truth of the Gospel that specifically addresses the crisis that has presented itself in the form of a flawed idea. It is this liminality of listening to God and custom tailoring the Gospel to confront the crises that present themselves that is the essence of how Jesus conducted his earthly ministry.

It is the fruit of a Christian being engaged in this process that he/she is able to engage in a form of evangelism with postmodern people that is oriented around inviting them into dialogue about the crisis and not merely presenting them with a Christ formula. This Christian is also able to engage in a dialogical form of discipleship with other believers who are also in the midst of the crisis. It is the fruit of this dialogue that the power of the untruths in flawed ideas begins to be weakened throughout the church and throughout the culture at large.

Sunday, August 20, 2006

Commentary from a wet cat part III

I write these blogs as a discipline that I believe God has called me to, to articulate some aspect of my thoughts every week, regardless of who reads it. I write this with an eye for the long haul, to clarify these ideas in more elaborate writings later. These past couple of weeks I've been picking on Dan Phillips at Pyromaniacs. Lately, whenever I'm trying to think of what to write, I can always count on Dan to get my back up about something. It's good though, God bless him. Reading TeamPyro stuff forces me to think through and clarify my own positions on matters.

Of course, confronting Dan's writings isn't just about confronting Dan. It's about confronting the beliefs of many Cessationists who believe the same things. Working through these ideas on my own blog, I can present a thorough rebuttal for any and all to see that is more integrated than any comment that I could make on Dan's posts at the Pyromaniacs site.

As for these "wet cat" posts, if anyone thinks that they contain any non-sequitors or have mis-represented Dan's positions or his attempts at exegisis in any way, please feel free to let me know. You can comment here or e-mail me at or communicate it any way that you wish. Take your time.

This post is continues my commentary on Dan Phillips posting at Pyromaniacs on June 31st entitled "Tongues" accross the water: response to Adrian, part three where Dan, the cessationist rebuts Adrian Warnock, the continuationist. Again, Adrian's comments are in blue, Dan's in red and mine in black.

Here is an important aside about that phrase, "Reformed Charismatic." I'd think that at 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 face 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?

Because the "Complete", the "Teleon" is not the canon:

Here is the full text of 1 Corinthians 13:8-12 (NIV)

Love never fails. But where there are prophecies, they will cease; where there are tongues, they will be silenced, where there is knowledge, it will pass away. 9 For we know in part and we prophecy in part, 10 but when perfection comes, the imperfect disappears. 11 When I was a child, I talked like a child, I thought like a child, I reasoned like a child. When I became a man, I put childish ways behind me. 12 Now we see but a poor reflection as in a mirror; then we shall see face to face. Now I know in part; then I shall know fully, even as I am fully known.

To correctly interpret this passage, one must understand that it is presented as a package. Paul did not chop it into verses -- that was done much later. In this passage 1) prophecies ceasing 2) tongues silenced 3) knowledge passing away 4) seeing face to face 5) knowing fully, even as Paul is fully known are 5 "effects" that will occur when the complete/perfection comes. Paul inserts his contrast of how he was as a child vs. how he is as a man to be a metaphor to describe our present condition -- the condition that we have exising in an era before we experience these five effects. Notice the part about "then I shall know fully, even as I am fully known". Who is the one who fully knows us? To fully know, even as one is fully known is to encounter God with all barriers to His reality completely removed. Paul is talking about the full realization of the Kingdom of God.

Did the completion of the Canon mean anything?

The New Testament canon is the compilation of the writings of the first century community of apostolic witnesses. Yes, Paul counts as a witness having been specially commissioned and having been in direct contact with Jesus living disciples. The point of the canon of Scripture is to outline the structure of our grace, our salvation, our discipleship, our sanctification -- to know what these should look like in our relationship with God and to know what temptations to avoid.

Scripture does not provide all of the details for every decision that lies before us. The Scripture points to a day-to-day guidance of the Holy Spirit for this. It is within the province of the canon of Scripture that the Spirit provides revelations that are designed for specific individuals and specific communities by way of convictions, dreams, visions and words of knowledge.

These do not add to the canon. They fulfill what is written in the canon. "Sola Scriptura" means that Scripture is the only map and the only outline, and there is not other outline that adds or alters the outline of Scripture. Sola Scriptura also means that Scripture over-rides any other text or truth when the two compete. Sola Scripture does not mean that Scripture operates apart from the ongoing leading of the Holy Spirit.

It is easy to see the purpose of scattered occurences of genuine revelation before the Canon's completion; what would be the purpose of a low-leve 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 important, again? Is it low-level revelation? What in the world would it be?

The canon lays out the key points of our relationship with God --what should look like, how it should function, what it is based on, examples of those who got it right and got it wrong. Yet, for us, here and now, there is still the relationship with God to be had, and there is still the tranformative work of the Spirit in our lives to be done. For example, If Jesus calls us in his great commission to "make disciples of all nations", and I, in prayer, sense one day a leading from God to make disciples of the people in Los Angeles, the leading that I have received and my follow-through on that leading is part of the fulfillment of the great commission. In this example, Spirit has revealed to me a particular application of a particular part of Scripture with particular clarity that has a particular purpose for me in a particular time of my life. It is "low-level" revelation because it operates beneath and within the outline, the map of truth provided in the canon.

More Adrian:

Why does Paul clearly state in 1 Corinthians 4:5 [sic; 14:5] that he wants all to speak in tongues? Why, if tongues is only ever intended as 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 ge 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 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 carefully, it is a useful gift, and you'd have one less childish dividing factor. But what I really with you would value is prophecy" (see the context).

Paul says in 1 Corinthians 14:5 that prophecy is greater than tongues because it edifies the whole community instead of just the individual. If one were to combine the gift of interpretation with the gift of tongues, then the package of the two together would thus benefit the whole community and would thus be equal to prophecy.

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!"

1 Corinthians 14:4, Paul says that the gift of tongues is edifying for the individual that has it. "Suger-high toddler babbling" is Dan's idea of tongues, not Paul's.

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 the 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 so we 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 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.

It is true that we are a body with many parts and that no one person will have all the gifts. The point of 1 Corinthians 12 is that we should not act like we don't need those who have gifts that we don't have -- including, by the way, those with the gift of tongues. Paul is saying in 1 Cor. 14 that we should each desire the "greater gifts" because having them is a good and edifying thing.

As for bending the Holy Spirit one's will, desiring the gifts is a far cry from demanding them. While one should not operate with restless dissatisfaction at having been given certain gifts of the Spirit and not others, it is, nevertheless, a good thing for one to desire more of them.

So, does it mean that somebody always has to desire tongues, or prophecy? Well, Paul simply cannot mean that. He has 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 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)

"Arguably" is a key word here. If you interpret the "complete"/the "perfect" as I do in 1 Corinthians 13:10, then Paul associates the relevatory piecemeal state as a state that we are now in, in history. The child-to-man metaphor is a description of our present state, where Paul is saying that we will put aside knowledge when it is rendered inoperative in like manner that we put aside our childish ways when we became adults.

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?

Clear imperatives? Yes, it is true that other Scriptures speak of us "growing up" in our discipleship in different contexts. But what does "growing up" mean to Dan in this context?

Because Dan has interpreted 1 Corinthians 13 the way that he has, speaking in tongues, to Dan, represents a childish state that the church was supposed to grow out of with the completion of the canon. Dan is transferring this idea of child-to-man to our present day discipleship saying that it is our growth as individual Christians to grow into a mature understanding of Scripture as interpreted to mean that tongues passed away with the canon. Dan is saying "in so many words" that it is our growth as disciples to grow out of speaking in tongues.


Now, I'm sorry, but I'm not sure I can make sense of this: If tongues are always human languages and never unintelligible,

A big if

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). Adrians'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 described in Greek literature to mean babble or gibberish. Certainly it does not 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 an 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?

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 judgement 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.

Paul is not making a direct equating of the gift of "tongues" as necessarily being foreign human languages. If you read this 1 Corinthians 14 passage carefully, the only point that Paul is making is that it is a sign of God's judgement on people for them to receive the Word in a language that they don't understand. Paul is saying that, when believers in the Corinthian church gather together, if someone speaks in tongues without interpretation he is speaking "judgement" on his fellow believers.

That is why Paul continues in 1 Corinthians 14:23 to say (NIV)

So if the whole church comes together and everyone speaks in tongues, and some who do not understand or some unbelievers come in, will they not think that you are out of your mind? 24 But if an unbeliever or someone who does not understand comes in while everyone is prophecying, he will be convinced by all that he is a sinner and will be judged by all"

An unbeliever will think that Christians are out of their minds if he sees that they are "speaking judgement" on each other in this manner. That is why Paul goes on to say in 1 Cor. 14:27 that the gift of tongues, at church gatherings, should be accompanied with interpretation, another gift.

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, travelling 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 acknowledgement or explanation. We needn't fantasize wildly as to why Luke would knowlingly 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.


Sigh. Paul says in 1 Corinthians 14:2

For anyone who speaks in a tongue speaks not to men but to God. Indeed, no one understands him; he mutters mysteries with his Spirit.

That seems like a clear unambiguous statement that tongues are spoken to God, not to men and that no one, including Gentiles with foreign tongues, understands him. It takes a tortured hermeneutic to think otherwise.

Dan's argument is that Luke uses glossa in regard to human languages, therefore, if Paul uses glossa, he must also be referring to human languages, so as to not contradict Luke. The problem is that this interpretation contradicts 1 Cor. 14:2. Here is a breathtakingly simple way to deal with glossa that does not contradict 1 Cor. 14:2.

The word glossa is for intelligible speech. Period. It can be intelligible human speech -- intelligible to some humans, or it can be intelligible holy speech -- intelligible only to God and intelligible to humans only with the accompanying divine gift of interpretation.

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.

Modern counterfeits? Dan's argument is as much from present observation as it is from his interpretation of Scripture. Dan doesn't consider it necessary to test the various manifestations of tongues in the present day to see whether they are divine or not, since he has already arrived at the idea that they are not.

When Dan says that he does not forbid tongues "according to Paul's directions", the only tongues that Dan considers to be according to Paul's directions are intelligible human languages like those at Pentacost. Dan does not believe that the gift of divine languages ever even existed, let alone exists today.

Dan has thought his way into denying both the gift of divine languages and the gift of their interpretation as being valid gifts. It is for this reason that Dan, through what I'll assume are the best of intentions, violates Paul's command to value all of the gifts as they are manifested in the body of Christ.

A brief sidestep to Romans 8:26

This is already a very long post, and I refulse 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 that 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. This 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 Hebrew's 7:25 revelation that Christ Jesus "always lives to make intercession for them" refers to any kind of prayer we make.

The question is twofold: a) are the prayers of the Spirit unspoken by Him or merely unspoken by us? and b) what is our relationship with the Holy Spirit as this happens?

If you back-track a little to Romans 8:15-16, Paul says,

For you did not receive a spirit that makes you a slave again to fear, but you received the Spirit of sonship. And by him we cry, "Abba Father." 16 The Spirit himself testifies with our spirit that we are God's children.

Here Paul is describing the mechanics of how the Spirit interacts with our spirit.

A little later in Romans 8:23, Paul says,

...Not only so, but we ourselves, who have the firstfruits of the Spirit, groan inwardly as we wait eagerly for our adoption as sons, the redemption of our bodies.

By the same mechanics as in Romans 8:15-16 that we testify "Abba Father" as the Spirit testifies through our spirit, so too do we groan as Spirit groans through our spirit as we eagerly await our adoption as sons. In both cases, the Spirit is working to lead us to the goal of being God's fully realized sons (and daughters).

Continuing on to Romans 8:24,

For in this hope we are saved. But hope that is seen is no hope al all. Who hopes for what he already has? But if we hope for what we do not yet have, we wait for it patiently. In the same way, the Spirit helps us in our weakness. We do not know what to pray for, but the Spirit himself intercedes for us, with groans that words cannot express.

In other words, in the same way that we are waiting patiently for our adoption, the Spirit is waiting there with us, helping us in our weakness to wait in hope.

With the same mechanics that a) the Spirit testifies through us that we are sons, and that b) the Spirit enables us to groan for our adoption as sons, the Spirit meets us in our weakness so that He can guide us out of our weakness. Here, he guides our emotions to reflect His movement in us and intercession for us, which we experience as our unspoken groans.

In time, as the Spirit grows us and matures us, the Spirit, who knows what he has been intercessing on our behalf to the Father all along, reveals to us the substance of His intercessions. As this happens we grow in hope and in wisdom and grow out of our weakness.

Conclusion: In regard to this passage, while we do not participate in the prayers of the Holy Spirit through direcly speaking His words, we do participate in the process of feeling His work within us as groans. While this is not "tongues" per se nor is it in any way limited to tongues, it is an apt description of the edification that is happening to a believer while one is speaking in divine tongues that he/she doesn't understand.

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.

In regard to the gathering of believers, Paul says to do this, but only with an interpreter (1 Cor. 14:27).


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.

No. If you read 1 Cor. 14:14 carefully, Paul says that those with tongues should pray for the gift to be able to interpret them.

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).

First, while praying in tongues has no direct, in the moment, fruit for Paul's mind, it doesn't mean that it is entirely unfruitful. Paul has already said that it is edifying in 1 Cor. 14:4. As for tongues being only human languages -- that idea is only in-so-many-of-Dan's-words.


Why does 1 Corinthians 14:26 make it 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 statment 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.

If tongues is a divine language, according to 1 Cor. 14:2, then interpretation is a super-natural gift, not merely an endeavor that one can arrive at by linguistic study for the purpose of translating at church.

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 no 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.

If you follow my argument that a) the "complete" has not yet happened and b) the "dribbling on" of low level revelation is God filling out the details in our lives of the map that was outlined in Scripture, then you are in a position to "test the spirits" and not merely dimiss them out of hand as Dan has.

Missionaries and sundry other believers who sense or hear from God to go plant a church, to confront a church about an issue, or who have a vision of seeing a community healed and or of people being brought to Christ and who bear fruit as they follow upon that leading are part of the "dribbling on".

The prophecy, dreams and visions being described here may not be on the same scale of revelation as the apostles, but that is why they are "low-level" revelations -- they still represent the Spirit moving to fulfill His promises contained in the Scripture canon, as He helps us in our weakness while we yet see through a mirror darkly.

It is Dan's tendency to treat any of these leadings with supreme suspicion rather than test them carefully, case-by-case, that goes hand in hand with Dan's interpretation of Scripture. On this basis, Dan dismisses them out of hand as "gauzy generalities", "innaccurate predictions" and "babble and burble".

If you think that there just might be more to the leadings that the saints throughout church history have understood as being the Spirit's leading, then Dan's in-so-many-words-killer-verses aren't so killer.

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.

Three points: 1) The leadings that I have described above have characterized Biblical Christianity and the lives of great saints throughout all of church history that have borne fruit. 2) The experience of the gifts is by no means limited to the "charismatic movement" of the last 100 years. 3) No one is trying to "define down" the Biblical exemplars, rather, we are trying to live up to their example and enjoy the relationship with God that they outlined.

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.

I have more to say on why this is absurd, but I'll save it for another day.

Saturday, August 12, 2006

Commentary from a wet cat part II

This is part 2 of my commentary that critiques Dan Phillips, the Cessationist, as he attempts to rebut Adrian Warnock, the Charismatic Continuationist. This is an exerpt taken from Dan Phillip's TeamPyro posting on July 31st entitled "Tongues" accross the water: response to Adrian, part three as a rebuttal to the same posting by Adrian Warnock on July 25 entitled Sufficient Grace and Efficient Grace: Spurgeon, Tongues and the Toronto Blessing.

Dan's words are in red, Adrian's words are in blue and mine are in black.

Adrian swings this fish at my head:

Why does the passage Peter then [in Acts 2] quotes [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 whom the Spirit was being poured out on Pentecost spoke in tongues, everyone (or anyone) must do so now?

Of course not everyone "must" speak in tongues. There is no indication from the text that the Spirit being "poured out on all flesh" is limited to tongues or that the "last days" is limited to Pentecost.

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: 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.

Of course, if one defines Cessationism so broadly that it merely refers to the belief that we are in a dispensation wherein the canon of Scripture has been completed, then we're all Cessationists. Since none of us in this debate contend that new Scripture are being written, the real question in contention is whether the only purpose of the Holy Spirit being "poured out on all flesh" was to authenticate the Apostles in order to create the canon. Here, Dan is not recognizing that this question is a topic for debate that he must continue to try to prove, rather, he has assumed that his answer to that question is already beyond debate. It is already an axiom for Dan that the only purpose of the Holy Spirit being made manifest was to authenticate the Apostles to create the canon of Scripture. That is why the only way that Dan can reconcile the idea that one is a "Charismatic" is if that same Charismatic also believes that the Holy Spirit is moving and writing new Scripture. Dan does not allow for the possibility that one could be a Charismatic who believes that the Holy Spirit has had a purpose for "being poured out on all flesh" beyond creating the canon.

A "Reformed Charismatic" believes that the "irresistable grace" of 5 points Calvinism is grace that involves the experience of the Holy Spirit here and now in conjunction with the written Word. The "Reformed Charismatic" does not believe that the written Word, which was written in the first century and codified into a canon in the fourth century, is the sole key to our sanctification. Instead of carefully clarifying the issues that are at stake in this debate, Dan wants you, Dear Reader, to be so taken with the ridiculousness of stapling books to the Bible that you don't stop to notice what he has failed to clarify.

Adrian moves on:

How do you explain it when Peter says that the end of his speech that the promise "is for you and 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 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 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 will prophesy" (vv. 17-18)

That's the part Charismatics quote. And there you go: "this is that," last days, Spirit poured our, sons and daughters prophesying, visions, dreams, the whole nine yards. Therefore, tongues are forever! QED, right?

Forever? No one has said anything about forever. The question in this debate is over what, exactly, comprises the last days.

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 a 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...

Not everyone must be speaking in tongues. There is much more at stake here than just tongues. It is the question of the Spirit's movement and our relationship to the Holy Spirit in general.

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?

Blood, vapors at church meetings, cute.

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 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?

Here, Dan has assumed that one must "obviously" interpret this Scripture from Joel in such a way that these two events --1) the Spirit poured out on all flesh and 2) signs and wonders in earth and heaven -- will happen concurrently. Based on this interpretation, Dan says that anyone who claims this Scripture as the basis of their experience the Holy Spirit must also claim the concurrent experience of signs and wonders on earth and in heaven. Since A) Peter claimed this Scripture to proclaim Pentecost and since B) there were no signs and wonders in the heavens at Pentecost, perhaps there is another way to interpret this Scripture.

It is possible that the "and" that separates verses 17 and 18 from verses 19 and 20 is separating two different aspects of the last days. In this interpretion, verses 17 and 18 refer to the last days in the broadest sense from Christ's death and resurrection onward, while verse 19 and 20 refer specifically to the apocalypse. In this interpretation, Joel's prophecy is condensing two related aspects of time into one relevatory vision of the future.

This "condensing" is actually a common feature of Biblical prophecy. For example, Jesus, in his Olivet Discourse description of the last days (Mark 13:37) includes the destruction of the temple mount. His olivet discourse prophecy was partially fulfilled in 70 AD. with the fall of Jerusalem. His same Olivet Discourse prophecy contains elements of the last days that we have yet to encounter.

Since the Apostles experienced the Spirit being poured out on them and on those whom they proclaimed the Gospel to but did not have wonders in the heavens at that exact time, we can surmise that these two aspects of the last days --1) Spirit being poured out and 2) signs and wonders on earth and in the heavens-- do not always need to be coincided hand-in-hand as happening at the exact same time.

Since Dan is open to the idea of different dispensations, phases, chapters, etc..., allow me to clarify what is at issue. Are we Christians operating in a dispensation that has:

a) no signs and wonders on the earth and in the heavens,

b) no more writing of the canon of Scripture, and

c) no more experience of the movement of the Holy Spirit?

Or, are we in a dispensation that has:

a) no signs and wonders on the earth and in the heavens

b) no more writing of the canon of Scripture, and

c) continuing movement of the Holy Spirit to accomplish things in our hearts beyond writing the canon of Scripture?

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 what comes at the end -- in fact, after the end-- of the sermon, in the baby sprinkler's 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 on of you in the name of Jesus Christ for the forgiveness of your sins, and you will be receive the gift of the Holy Spirit." So the promise is that repentant believers will receive the forgiveness of sins, and the gift of the Holy Spirit.

What cessationist denies that? Certainly not I.

Since both Cessationists and Charismatics believe that repentant believers will receive the Holy Spirit, the real question remains -- what is the "gift of the Holy Spirit"? This can't mean the same thing to both parties.

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."

So, when considering the Holy Spirit in the present day, if I am:

A) OK with tongues, believing that they serve an edifying purpose for the individuals who have the gift and an edifying purpose for a community of believers when they are interpreted and

B) OK with dreams, visions and leadings that elaborate on God's revealed truth and make His direction specific to persons and communities without adding to the canon, and

C) Don't think that everyone must have these gifts equally, since we are a body with many parts, and

D) Believe that those ever-important fruits of the Spirit have something to do with the gift of the Holy Spirit that has been poured out on all flesh and has been received into the hearts of repentant flesh,

where do I fit in? Am I a Cessationist too? The problem with Dan's argument is that he wants the Cessationist tent to seem larger, more welcoming and more reasonable than it actually is. Dan wants you, Dear Reader, to not notice that he has not actually confronted the question whether the Holy Spirit can have an active role in the lives of believers beyond facilitating the canon.

If you get past the large, welcoming, reasonable tent that Dan has portrayed, what Dan is really saying is that it is the Cessationist position that the writing-of-the-Bible-canon-prophecy-tongues-dreams-experiences-of-the-Spirit-being-poured-out-on-all-flesh is an indossulable package. According to this logic, since we can't be writing the canon, we can't experience the Holy Spirit in any manifestaion of Him 'being poured out on all flesh".

But if we go there, then we have a problem with the whole Bible.

Only if you operate on an understanding of the Holy Spirit according the Cessationist position that Dan is claiming.

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?

No. We are a body with many parts. No one is arguing that everyone must have the gifts of the Spirit equally. Again, there is a much more substantive question -- what does it mean to in partake of the gift of the Holy Spirit to bear the fruits of the 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 faily literal translation of the Greek text:

Love never fails. 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 certainly isn't Jesus, or His return. No Paul explicitly says that it is relevatory 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 wound'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.

There is another "natural" interpretation. Paul is describing an era where the thing that the relevatory words point to will be so obvious that one will no longer need relevatory words to point to it. When Paul says that knowledge will be rendered "inoperative", it will be rendered "inoperative" in the way that you won't need to "know about" a long lost friend when that long lost friend returns and is sitting in your living room.

In this interpretation, the "complete" or the "perfect" is the full perfect realization of the Kingdom of God. Paul is neutering the "perfect" to emphasize, in this verse, the result of the Kingdom of God and not specifically the source per se. This is not saying that Paul doesn't care about the source. Rather, Paul is simply examining the Kingdom of God as we experience it existentially, from our vantage point. Paul is highlighting the completeness of the Kingdom to contrast it with the incompleteness of God's Kingdom as we now experience it. When Paul says that "our" knowledge and understanding is piecemeal and incomplete, it is incomplete because we are operating in a time when our experience of the Kingdom of God as believers is incomplete.

When the "complete" and "perfect" happens, the truth will be self-evident enough that you won't need knowledge, prophesy, tongues, et. al to point it out. You won't need these things because the Kingdom of God will be so perfectly realized that it will no longer be merely visible "through a glass (mirror), darkly" when we shall see "face to face" (1 Corinthians 13:12). The perfect knowledge of God and His Kingdom will happen when we see God face to face and not merely through the mirror in the dark. Here, Paul is employing "Plato's cave" type imagery to describe our present reality in relation to our understanding and experience of God.

If Paul is "knowing piecemeal" and Paul is the completer of the Canon aside from the other books of Scripture written by apostolic contemporaries in the latter part of the first century, are those who are no longer seeing "through a glass darkly" and no longer "knowing piecemeal" those readers just after the Jewish Christian community diaspora of 70 AD? Those just after the council of Nicea in the 4th century? The few New Testament books, if any, that were written without Paul's knowledge do not provide all that much more knowledge about the Kingdom of God than that which Paul was equipped with for his ministry.

If, rather, the complete realization of the Kingdom of God is the "complete" that Paul is referring to, the completion of the canon of Scripture is the merely the complete codification of apostolic knowledge. The Scripture is not "knowledge made inoperative" when the complete comes because it is still knowledge that we desperately need. It is this knowledge that we won't need as "knowledge about" when God and the fullness of His Kingdom is revealed to us in concrete, tangible fullness at the end of history. Until then, the teachings of Paul and his description of our condition as those who "see through a glass darkly" still applies to us.

If a Cessationist were to try to split the hairs of my argument to say that "complete codified knowledge" in the form of Scripture has replaced the imparting of knowledge in the form of gifts--i.e. prophecy, tongues, words of knowledge, etc..., that cessationist would still be left with the fact that we are not in an era when knowledge is inoperative. For this reason, 1 Corinthians 13 cannot be the argument for Cessationism in the way that Dan has tried to make it one.

If Dan interprets 1 Corinthians 13 to mean that we live in such a state of completeness that we no longer need the daily guidance of the Holy Spirit in all of the ways that the Holy Spirit chooses to manifest himself, then Dan has thought his way out of believing that he is living in the reality that Scripture, according to Paul, says that he is in.

It is in understanding that we live in an era of the incomplete, seeing through a glass darkly, that we understand that we, in our weakness, do not even know what to pray for. It is in coming along side us in our weakness that the Holy Spirit guides us to make the decisions that place us where the Holy Spirit can best work in our hearts. It is this here-and-now guidance of the Spirit that is the act of unfolding His promises to us in Scripture, not the act of adding to the Canon. As the Holy Spirit guides us and tranforms us to have the fruits of the Spirit, we experience the gift of the Holy Spirit that we have been given. While not every person needs to have all of the gifts of the Spirit, and not all of the gifts need to be manifested all of the time, it is by no means out of the realm of Scripture for God to continue to use those gifts for our edification and guidance until that day when we see God "face to face". To deny this would be to truly "paint God into a box."

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 the Scripture rather than to the return of Christ?" If you don't know, now you do.

I'll grant that I now know how "some" create a problematic doctrine out of this 1 Corinthians 13 8-10 passage. That is why I am a "wet cat" who is compelled to weigh in on this debate.

Saturday, August 05, 2006

Commentary from a wet cat part I

This week's post is based on an exerpt of a debate between Adrian Warnock, a charismatic and Dan Phillips of Pyromaniacs, a cessationist. This is an exerpt of Dan's post on August 2, 2006 entitled Tongues on the water: response to Adrian part fourth AND LAST which is a response to Adrian's post on July 25, 2006 entitled Sufficient Grace and Efficient Grace - Spurgeon, Tongues and the Toronto Blessing. The part Dan's post that I am featuring is the part that comes just after Dan has outlined his area of agreement with Adrian, that Christians should have a vibrant emotional aspect to their faith. The exerpt that I am featuring and commenting on is Dan outlining his disagreement as to what is the correct approach to Scripture and to one's relationship with God to arrive at these emotions.

In another of Dan's postings in this debate series with Adrian, he refered to those who may be offended by his ideas as being "madder than wet cats". Well, I don't know if "mad" is the word that describes me, but I do feel compelled to vigorously respond to Dan, so I guess I do consider myself in the "wet cat" category. Here, Dan's commentary is in red, Adrians comentary is in blue, and my commentary is black.

Areas of Disagreement

Did you note what Adrian says we need to do?
Here is the good doctor's prescription once again, edited, emphases added:

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 what a truth comes to life that you feel 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 with God with sufficient passion? Could the weakness of our passions explain the weakness of our Christianity?

We should "seek" and "cry out to God for" experiences. It is not a caricature to say that Dr. Warnock sees experience and feelings as the goal to be sought, the testing-point for spiritual reality.

There's the rub. And there is a major point of divide. Charismatics tend to be very feelings-oriented, very experience-oriented, to the point where reasoning and debating can be very frustrating. "A man with an experience is never at the mercy of a man theory," an Assembly of God elder once said to me.

And so a Charismatic approaches this problem that Adrian and I basically agree on by focussing directly on stimulating the emotions, and causing experiences. Do we feel joyless, far from God, dry, cold? Then do things that make you feel joyful and warm.

Dan is twisting Adrian's words here. Adrian is not calling us to directly stimulate the emotions of an experience with God as an act of human effort. Adrian is calling us to seek God in a way that the impact of his truth yeilds the force of such encounters. The work of directly stimulating emotions as an act of human effort is very different from the act of properly seeking God. Here, there are two errors that can occur:

A) seeking the joyful feeling as a thing to be grasped, trying to drum up feelings on one's own strength

B) being stimulated to joy by the word, based on an understanding of the Word that after the canon was established in the fourth century via the Holy Spirit, the Holy Spirit was not to be heard from or experienced again

What avoids both of these errors is to invite the Holy Spirit to help us in our weakness to know what to confess, what to do, and where to go in the present time. The fruit of that prayer will be the guidance of His conviction in our hearts. The fruit of following through on that conviction will be the joy of faith in action and obedience.

How many Charismatic services feature words like, "Reach out your hands, and receive that blessing that God has for you"? Or, "I believe God has a special blessing for you right now. Just reach our, now, accept it...I feel the Spirit moving, don't you? Just feel Him now, open yourself up and feel Him moving in our midst." Smacking of the "purest" Finneyism -- as if bodily postures cause spiritual reality.

Emotions are a guage to our spiritual health and relationship with God. Emotions are a very important guage that we to be mindful of as we seek God in the manner that I have outlined above. That was Finney's point. Those who miss it slander Finney.

If you've been to many Charismatic services, you don't need me to go on. You could fill in gaps yourself--how the music is geared and chanted to excite the emotions directly, the preaching aimed at working directly on the emotions, the bodily choreography devised to create a mood and a feeling. It's sheer psychological manipulation, though in many cases no doubt with the best of intentions.

I was at a very famous "moderate" charismatic church service in the seventies, with unbelieving coworkers, to watch a friend get baptized. What was their reaction to the genial chaos and tongues and prophecy? One unbelieving young lady said, "I can sort of understand it, since I'm into chanting, too."

Is that what the Bible says? The goals are right: worship, joy, rejoicing, gladness, awe.

But are those things commonly held out and sought in themselves?

For the joy set before him, Jesus endured the cross, despising the shame. Jesus did pursue joy as a goal, directly. What he did not do was treat it as a thing to be grasped on his own. Rather, he A) sought the clarity of conviction in the garden of gethsemene, asking directly for the Father's specific direction and B) followed through with that conviction in action that resulted, ultimately, in his joy. As Jesus calls us to pick up our cross daily, it is this pattern that he laid down for us to follow, as he is the author and perfector of our faith both in creed and in daily practice.

I often read exhortations by plea or example to "Seek Yahweh" (Deuteronomy 4:29;1 Chronicals 16:10, 11, 22:19; Psalm 105:4; Isaiah 55:6 Amos 5:6 etc...). I can't think of any to seek an experience of the Lord, or feelings about the Lord.

The Shamah says to love the Lord your God with all your heart, soul and strength (and mind as Jesus added to the Shamah later). The "heart behavior" that the Shamah calls us to involves having emotions of affection towards God. It is toward this end that David invites the Lord to search him and test his heart and know his anxious thoughts so that the Holy Spirit can lead him (Psalm 139:23).

It is God who replaces hearts of stone with hearts of flesh (Ezekiel 11:9.) Here, "flesh" is a metaphor for the emotional experience of affection towards God, which is the pleasing "heart behavior" that the Shamah calls us to.

And seeking the Lord is hard work.

The word suggests study, concentrating, effort, devotion, sacrifice, focus. You don't giggle, vibrate or emote your way into it. It may flow from enthusiasm, but the act itself is hard work.

Seeking the Lord is hard work. But the success of our seeking depends on how we understand seeking. To seek properly, we need to get help in our seeking directly from the Holy Spirit, since we, in our weakness, do not know what to pray for. That is why we must submit our hearts daily so that the Holy Spirit can reveal His leading to our hearts.

There is an aspect of hard work involved in seeking God in this way. There is also an aspect of God helping us. While seeking, there will be times when we work incredibly hard and there will be times when it feels easy -- when we do "emote" into it as we feel the Holy Spirit's power directly. To use surfing as a crude analogy, it takes effort to get on the wave and stay on the wave, even as the force of the wave that pushes you forward is not your own force.

But many Charismatics "hard work" means "grim, joyless, dispassionate toil." It needn't be that at all. I have a favorite lake in the Sierra that is off the trail, and that literally can't be seen until you're within a hundred yards or so of it. Getting there is hard work -- but it's joyous, it's exhilarating, it's a blast, it's more than rewarding. (And the fishing is always great!)

This brings us, I think, to the heart of it all. We're wrong if we divorce emotions from faith.

But we're just as wrong if we substitute emotions for faith, or seek them instead of faith.

"Faith," I read, "comes by hearing and hearing by the word of Christ" (Romans 10:17). Further, "We walk by faith, not by sight" (2 Corinthians 5:7). If you can see it-experience it, feel it, touch it--we're not talking about faith.

What is the peace that passes understanding that keeps you in the knowledge and love of Christ? Paul did not equate that experience and other experiences of the Spirit's leading in our hearts with sight in the concrete sense of seeing with our eyes. Paul is contrasting faith with the concrete need to with one's eyes, as the world does.

Because faith is "the assurance of things hoped for, the conviction of things not seen" (Hebrews 11:1). It is if we believe that we "see the glory of God" (John 11:40) -- not the reverse.

Dan is mixing together two arguments A) that belief is the pre-requisite for feelings and experience -- i.e. the experience of "seeing the glory of God" and B) that if one experiences God, the experience cannot be faith, since experience is a form of sight and faith cannot be sight.

In regard to argument A), assurance and conviction are rooted in some emotional aspect of God's leading. When I say "rooted", I do not mean that these convictions are wholly emotional. Rather, they are "trans-emotional", wherein the emotions are connected to the thoughts and vice-versa. The question is whether that leading of God is the direct act of the Holy Spirit here and now or whether the written Scripture, established in the fourth century, is acting as a proxy for the Holy Spirit in the present time.

In regard to argument B), Steven saw Jesus at the right hand of the Father while he was being stoned. It would be ridiculous to say that he did not have faith in that moment. It is these moments of sensing clarity that are part of our faith. They are fore-tastes of God's glory that we enjoy on our journeys of faith as we see "through a glass darkly". While we cannot seek these experiences as things to be grasped, it is only proper to cherish them on our journeys of faith as part of the confirmation of God's presence and leading in our lives.

But the Charismatic wants to feel so that he can believe. He wants to see, to touch, to experience, so that he can believe. And so, while talking a great deal about walking by faith, he puts himself out of the realm of faith, Biblically defined.

Cessationistically defined. We do not feel so that we can believe, in the idea that our feelings are always the horse that pulls the cart. But it is important to recognize that feelings and thoughts are connected. Our feelings are the fertile ground of our thoughts, along with our memories and subconscious. What we feel is a part of what we think. As Jesus said, it is from a man's heart that his words and his actions spring from (Matthew 12:34). If one does not feel love toward God, somewhere in there, one has a thought problem and not merely a feeling problem. The question is, what is the relationship with God that resolves this problem.

If Adrian believes in God enough to ask God for his heart to behave according to how God has commanded His heart to behave according to the Shamah, Adrian is asking God the way that the man with the possessed son asked Jesus, "Lord I believe, help my unbelief".

But fellow cessationist friend, before you nod too smugly, consider this. If we have this faith the Bible talks about, what is the result? Does it bear fruit? None answers this better than Peter:

(you) who by God's power are being guarded through faith for a salvation ready to be revealed in the last time. 6 in this you rejoice, though now for a little while, if necessary, you have been greived by various trials, 7 so that the tested genuineness of your faith--more precious than gold that perishes though it is tested by fire--may be found to result in praise and glory and honor at the revelation of Jesus Christ. 8 Though you have not seen him, you love him. Though you do not now see him, you believe in him and rejoice with joy that is inexpressible and filled with glory, 9 obtaining the outcome of your faith, the salvation of your souls. (1 Peter 1:5-9)

Notice that Peter talks about being guarded by God's power. God is working actively in the hearts of those who have faith in Him. It is God's active power guiding us to know the truth that is contained in His written Word. It is not the written Word acting sans the direct involvement of God's power. This is the big, big divide that separates the relationship with God that I am describing and the relationship with God that Dan is describing.

The Holy Spirit working on our minds and emotions is the power of God that is guarding us to have the faith.

Feelings are significant symptoms. I say "significant" -- not "reliable" nor "unambiguous." One may be depressed due to unconfessed sin (Psalm 32:3-4), exhaustion (1 Kings 19:4), a host of other reasons, or no apparent reason at all. But if there is no godly love, joy, peace, or hope in one's life--that can't be good. Where does one go?

The answer-- we use our feelings as a guage. In using them as a guage, we ask God to reveal to us what the matter is so that the Holy Spirit can help us in our weakness. The Holy Spirit then communicates to our hearts what it is that we should confess, pray for, think about, lay on the altar, etc... As we seek God and follow through on His specific leading, our hearts are transformed.

The Charismatic goes in search of the feelings themselves, the experiences. He does what he must to whip them up. If he has them, it means he is near to God. The cessationist by contrast may grimly purpose to do without those fruits of the Spirit, to do without joy and hope.

Both are wrong. All those feelings and experiences are what we would be enjoying if we really believed the Word. So their feebleness should not move us to grit our teeth and soldier joylessly. Nor should they move us to fly off in frantic pursuit of the latest and greatest emotional jolt, with its inevitable thralldom to the law of diminishing effects.

Again there is another way besides A) trying to whip up feelings as things to be grasped and B) the cessationist idea of the Spirit having stopped moving when the canon was established in the fourth century.

It is to seek the Spirit who is still making Himself known to us via directly working on our hearts. We need the Holy Spirit for us to know, here and now, which aspect of the written Word is most relevant for us to meditate on in any given moment. We also need the Holy Spirit to replace our heart of stone with a heart of flesh so that we can live love the Lord with all our heart, sould, mind, and strength. Here, the Holy Spirit and the Scripture operate together in the present moment to make this happen. The cessationist believes that the written Scripture alone is the key to this transformative process.

(cf. 1 Samuel 3:21). The Spirit gave the Word, by which God begins and nourishes (1 Peter 2:2) our spiritual life of faith.

The Holy Spirit continues to nourish our hearts directly to replace our hearts of stone with hearts of flesh. That is what the written Word is for-- to point to the "heart behavior" that we should have and to point to the Holy Spirit who will transform it. Here, the heart is the "heart" in the Hebrew idea of being the seat of emotion, will and intellect -- each buttressing the other. That is why God's ministry to our hearts via the peace that passes understanding is not an irrational experience. Rather, it is a "trans-rational" experience that we know in that part of our pre-articulate knowing, is God's supernatural ministry in and to our hearts.

The charismatic, equating feelings and experiences with the presence of God, is reluctant to subject those experiences to Biblical criticism. The stakes are high to him. That is why he is likely to be unmoved by any Biblical consideration brought in this entire series.

He is unmoved by the cessationist attempt to wipe clean the emotional aspect of knowing God from the act of having faith. Jesus says in John 15:11, "...and my joy will be in you...". This joy is not Jesus' joy by proxy of the written Word 2000 years later, operating in us after Jesus said it. Rather, it is Jesus' joy, who is alive here and now, operating here and now in us and through us. It is his here-and-now-joy manifested in our joy here and now.

You see, if he loses those experiences, he feels he will lose God, and intimacy with God. Walking by faith (not by sight/experience/feeling) is repugnant to him. So he may become a feelings- junky.

Not if he has a mature understanding of feelings as part of the spiritual experience of God. St. John of the Cross wrote about this in regard to the dark night of the soul. C.S. Lewis wrote about the cyclical nature of feelings in the life of a believer.

But the cessationist may just as surely make the false equation between being fact-filled and being Spirit-filled. His cool personal distance and detachment is no more fragrant to God than the charistmatic's strange wildfire.

The fault of both is defective faith. The answer for both is robust faith, glorifying faith. The remedy for both is in the Word of God, which creates, sustains, and directs our faith.

At least Dan and I have the same goal-- a robust Spirit-filled faith. The difference lies in what is means to be "Spirit-filled". To Dan, it means being joyful on account of what the written Word says with the understanding that the Holy Spirit provided the written Word and then was silent after the 4th century.

It is my argument that being Spirit-filled means being filled with the truth of the written Word operating in conjuction with the Holy Spirit working in one's heart in the here and now. Which raises a gnarly question-- What is the Word?

Is it:
A) the chapter/verse of Scripture alone
B) the truth of Scripture made specific to me as the Father is speaking to the Spirit to speak to me (JOHN 16:13)

To do justice to this question would require another full essay at least. For now, I will say Jesus is the Word, according to John, and Jesus gave no indication that his promises in the Gospel of John would end in the 4th century with the adoption of the canon. If such a momentous thing as the cessation of Jesus' promise of the Holy Spirit's direct guidance of us were going to occur with the adoption of the canon, Jesus would have said so. The Word, As Jesus intended it for us is B). It is the Pharisees who treated the Scripture as A), and were not guided by the Spirit in their attempts to understand and apply it.


So to answer brother Adrian directly: Yes, the word of God has resonated with me emotionally, intimately, personally--many times. And no, this hasn't happened nearly as much as it should, as it would, were my believing grasp of the Word more fulsome, hearty, bold, robust, and lively.

What exactly was happening when the Word of God resonated in Dan? Was that resonating the direct act of the Spirit in the here and now? Or was Dan's spirit responding to the Spirit who had stopped acting in the 4th century after the canon was established?

But I cannot accept the invitation to address the manifest lask in my Christian life by casting aside the Word for the pursuit of experiences. Freedom will not lead me to truth, and thence to genuine discipleship and the Word. It is by continuance in Christ's Word that I prove to be a genuine disciple (student), learn the truth, and am set free (John 8:31-32)

It is by the power of God helping you to apply the written Word in the very behavior of your heart that makes you a genuine disciple. The written Word calls us to use our feelings as a guage. If I am not feeling a certain way, the answer is not to seek a feeling high as a thing to be grasped. The answer is to call upon God for God's specific direction for me, which He will communicate to me through a thought that has a feeling dimension to it in the form of a conviction-- a conviction that I now have courtesy of His power working in me. This is the truth of the written Word in action in my present life. The Holy Spirit has enabled the canon of Scripture to exist so that it can be a general guide whereby the Holy Spirit guides us in the specific "go here, there" that is our direct relationship with God that will transform us. To read the written Word at the expense of understanding this is to, sadly, miss the point.

So in turn I appeal to my brother Adrian. Carefully and diligently put your feelings and experiences to the test of the bright white light of the Word. Already a couple of faulty experientially-born areas have been suggested. What won't pass muster, won't help either of us towards God.

Leave off seeking after experiences of God, and seek God by His Spirit-breathed Word.

Let us not leave off seeking to have our hearts transformed by the Spirit whom His Spirit-breathed written Word points to and promises to us.

Our experiences divide us. His Word can unite us.

If you do not get the role of experience of God's transformation and the role of the Holy Spirit, you won't be operating on the same view of what and who the Word is.

The End.