Tuesday, August 08, 2006

Everyone's talking about it: Pentecostalism

It seems like everyone is talking about it today: tongues, prophecy, and healing. I've never had more people want to talk about these issues than in the recent months. The movement is growing. World missions is dominated by Pentecostals. Why? Why all the recent interest? I believe it is because people are looking for God in the wrong places. The Bible has become an old, dusty book on the shelf. "The authority and sufficiency of the Bible? Nah. We've got tongues! We've got miracles!"

Its no wonder our society has forgotten what faith really is (Hebrews 11:1). The spirit of the Luke 16 "rich man" seems to be getting ahold of America's churches. Need evidence of miracles? Don't go to the Word of God where hundreds of miracles are irrefutably displayed; just go to Africa! Its all happening there! After all, why wouldn't God want to show off? It truly saddens me at the state our church is in.

You may not be one that wants to get into this issue. I understand. If people had not come to me with these questions and if those closest to me were not involved, I might have never looked into it. But its here. If you haven't been exposed, just keep steppin'. Its right around the corner.

But there is hope. The two-thousand years of church history is a testimony to God's faithfulness. When error prevailed, God won. Truth always wins, even if only one person affirms it. But please don't misunderstand me, I believe that the church today has bigger fish to fry such as Evolution, humanism, Mormonism, Islam, etc. But I do believe that the seeds of Pentecostalism can lead to grave errors, such as an ultimate denial of Biblical authority in the name of emotionalism.

Recently, a Charismatic brother in the Lord, Gavin, posted a response to my Pentecostal article. It was quite the lengthy response, but I do believe he has brought up some points that many of us in the church don't think about too often. And because they were so representative of the many errors that Pentecostals hold to, I felt the need to post it for all to see.

The book of Joel and Acts say concerning prophesy,

And it shall be in the last days, saith God, I will pour forth of my Spirit upon all flesh: And your sons and your daughters shall prophesy, And your young men shall see visions, And your old men shall dream dreams: Yea and on my servants and on my handmaidens in those days Will I pour forth of my Spirit; and they shall prophesy. Joel 2:28,29 & Acts 2:17,18

It is therefore clearly established in scripture that in the last days the people of God are going to be prophesying. I have not yet met a Christian today that wont quickly agree with me that we are in the last days but if that is true you must accept the truth that as the Day of the Lord draws nearer His people are going to be walking in prophecy.
This was not concluded in Acts either because in Joel the coming of the Lord immediately follows. (Joel 2:31,32) So a believer that is true to the scriptures if forced to admit that the closer we get to the coming of the Lord the more the Spirit of the Lord we be poured out and the people of God will be prophesying

Translation: "Last days, Spirit poured out, sons and daughters prophesying, visions, and dreams, equal tongues forever!"

Its very interesting to me how Charismatics rarely quote the rest of the passage. Perhaps its because it doesn’t support their viewpoint? I’m not one to judge motives, but I can say that the rest of the passage greatly affects the outcome of this interpretation. So let’s see what the rest of the passage says:

"And I will show wonders in the heavens above and signs on the earth below, blood, and fire, and vapor of smoke; the sun shall be turned to darkness and the moon to blood, before the day of the Lord comes, the great and magnificent day." (v. 19-20)

Ok, so if verses 17-18 means that every Christian will be speaking in tongues for the next twenty-plus centuries, then it must equally mean that there must be "signs from heaven and on earth, moon to blood, darkness, etc." for the next twenty-plus centuries. Yet, I don’t recall those things happening at Pentecost, let alone for the next two thousand years. Gavin, you need to be consistent in your exegesis. You can’t claim verses 17-18 without verses 19-20. If you do, then the burden of proof is on you to tell me why I should believe that verses 17-18 are happening but not verses 19-20.

But why assert that just because tongues and prophecy occurred in the early church, that it must mean that it should occur today on the basis of this verse? Could it not be that they had a specific purpose back then (Heb. 2:3-4) that is no longer needed?

As for the "last days," that is going to depend on your eschatology. Some would say that Acts 2:17-20 was completely fulfilled on Pentecost, except for the "day of the Lord." They say this because of the fact that verse 20 says that these things will occur before the day of the Lord. The text doesn’t say how long before. It could have been 100 years or 2000 years. And I’m not going to get into eschatology. But it seems to me that you are saying, "Well, people are speaking in tongues and prophesying today, therefore we must be in the last days!" But what if all the "tongues” and “prophesy" we see today are all a counterfeit? Is that not possible? Could Mark 13:21-23 not apply?

But my point is, we don’t know when these "last days" are. They could be in 2,000 years. So, there is no way I can conclude by any stretch of the imagination that we can know that we are in the last days. Now, you can appeal to events that are happening today and tell me, "Look! Increased lawlessness! Israel as a nation! Its all falling into place!" Well, you could be wrong. We are fallible (especially with eschatology) and we can’t use our experiences to interpret the Word. That’s called eisegesis. So let’s find texts that are a little more conclusive that don’t rely upon you eschatological viewpoint.

You said, "if God is still giving divine revelation, then we need to write down and include every modern prophecy in the canon of Scripture. Why? Because its Gods Word! If someone is giving a thus saith the Lord today, then why should that be any less Gods Word than what is revealed in the Bible?" However the gift of prophecy is not for the establishment of doctrine; We have the scriptures for that. The bible is the only authoritative Word of God. However the gift of prophecy has nothing to do with canonizing scripture. In 1 Cor. 14:3 the apostle Paul clearly tells us what the purpose of new covenant prophesy is; But he who prophesies speaks edification, exhortation, and comfort to men.
The gift of prophecy is the Lords love manifested to His children to build them up and strengthen them spiritually. He does this through believers that are sensitive to feel His heart for others, speak out of that love. Paul then gives us an example of what that should look like operating in the New Testament church in 1 Cor. 14:24,25.

Gavin, I don’t see how you could have possibly missed this. But because you did, let me clear it up to prevent further misunderstandings: I wasn’t referring to "forth-telling" prophesy, as if I don’t believe we should speak "edification and comfort" to other believers. I was referring to the "for-telling" prophecies of new, divine, revelations. Obviously, giving a "thus saith the Lord…" outside of Scripture is far different from encouraging another believer through what God has already revealed in His Word. So, please, answer this for me: Is God still speaking in the form of new revelations outside of Scripture? Why or why not?

Concerning being slain in the spirit I will defiantly agree that there is a lot of hokey stuff in many American churches, some of which is nothing more than emotionalism. But I say American church because, Mike, Christianity overseas looks a lot different then it does in our comfortable, Sunday morning, seeker sensitive church services we have here in America.

I remember the first time I heard from a missionary sent to the ancient Aztec tribes in the jungles of Mexico. He told us stories about the power of witchcraft that the witch doctors still operate in that would make your blood curdle. But he also told us of the power of God that the believers there walked in. He told us about the day the Lord sent something like tornados of the manifest glory of God into a meeting that was flinging people into walls and the hours they spent laying on the floor unable to move because of the heaviness of the glory around them.

Ok. Please tell me. What does this have to do with a biblical worldview? Getting "flung" into the walls and hours spent unconscious on the floor unable to move?? I’m sorry, but that is simply absurd; IF it even happened. Why is it absurd? Because it has nothing whatsoever to do with a Biblical worldview! Nothing at all.

Now, think about what you just said: "He told stories about the power of witchcraft that would make your blood curl…people were getting flung into walls and lay on the floor unable to move." Do you see a connection here? Could it be that the witchcraft and "flinging into walls" might be coming from the same source? Could it possibly be that these ridiculous happening in the "name of Jesus" have more to do with the occult than with Scripture? I’m sorry brother, but I just can’t take this seriously.

He spoke of the multiple healings, dead raisings, people set free from demonic oppression, and many other stories that simple Aztec Christians are walking in the jungles of Mexico.

Yea, stories are nice. For every person you know that has "experienced" a dead person being raised, I can probably find you 5 more who have seen Bigfoot and UFO’s firsthand. Someone has always talked to someone who overheard about a speaker who told of a tale of a friend who once heard of a missionary who…

And this is in complete contrast to what happened in the Bible, which were right out in bold daylight, in front of God, your mom, sister and brother (figuratively speaking). Biblical miracles left unbelievers completely stunned, dumbfounded and looking for explanations. My point: you don’t think I’ve heard stories like this before? I’ve heard them many a times. I was involved in the Pentecostal church. I know what supposedly happens overseas. But please, you can’t just expect me to believe everything you say because you know someone who saw something. Evidence, please. Medical records. X-rays. Documentation. Scripture to substantiate your claims! I judge all experience on the basis of Scripture. That is my source for truth. Brother, if you are deriving your truth from what others or even what you yourself have experienced, then you are on very shaky ground.

So if Jesus is doing those kinds of things in the jungles of Mexico I personally have to be careful about what I judge to be or not be God in churches here.

Judge on the basis of…what? How am I supposed to respond to that? Why should there be any question that it isn’t from God? Just because it was done in Jesus’ name, I’m supposed to believe it?

The Lord is the same yesterday, today and forever.

And….so….umm….your point? God must act in the exact same way, with no changes, no new covenants, no new promises, throughout the entire history of the universe? John the Baptist never spoke in tongues. Jesus never spoke in tongues. Does this mean that Hebrews 13:8 is wrong? Maybe i'm just missing your point.

"In the days of Solomon the priests couldnt stand to minister because of the glory of God" (2 Chronicles 7:1-3).

And this has exactly what to do with your "witchcraft" examples above? Absolutely nothing. And did you notice that in 2 Chronicles, those same priests were in control of themselves, able to worship the Lord in saying, "He is so good! His faithful love endures forever!" So, what relevance does this have to do with being flung into walls, being knocked unconscious, unable to move, talk, or use any of your voluntary organs???

And the apostles were accused of being drunk after being filled with the Holy Spirit in Acts 2:13. So Im careful about judging what is and isn't God.

Accused by whom? You guessed it. Mockers. And what do mockers always do? They mock. They did what stupid people always do—they blamed others for their stupidity. They didn’t know a word of the dialects being spoken, so they made fun of the tongues speakers. And so I must ask: why are you building your theology on what mockers say?

Jesus said, "Blessed is he who is not offended because of Me." Matt 11:6. He said this to John the Baptist, the one who was sent to prepare the way of the Lord. If John the Baptist can be offended by the actions of the Lord then I certainly can be too. I choose to apply Gamaliels wisdom found in Acts 5:38,39.

"And now I say unto you, Refrain from these men, and let them alone: for if this counsel or this work be of men, it will be overthrown: but if it is of God, ye will not be able to overthrow them; lest haply ye be found even to be fighting against God."

In other words there are more important things to be giving are time and attention to then manifestations. If its the Lord great, if its not let God handle it.

So, does this mean that we should not confront false doctrine and sharpen our fellow believers with the Word of God? Is that not what we are commanded to do? And are we not to test all things against Scripture?

Mike I know that you are a student of His word, but let me encourage you to be a student of history as well, especially before you jump to the conclusion that you, do not believe that any modern healer has the gift of healing. I would encourage you to study the lives of John G. Lake, Maria Woodworth-Etter, A.A. Allen, William Branham, John Alexander Dowie, Kathryn Kulman, Aimee Semple McPherson, and Smith Wigglesworth. These men and women of God walk in true documented power of healing. For example Spokane, Washington was recorded as the healthiest city in America during the years John G. Lake was living and ministering there. All these men and women of God walked in power from the Lord and led many to our savior and healed multitudes through the power of His spirit. Some of them ended up making very bad mistakes in their lives and ministries but they were human. The point is, was that it was real, documented and verified but the worlds press of that day.

Maria Woodworth-Etter- Ah yes! The “trance evangelist, voodoo priestess!” The woman who supposedly remained frozen for three days? All according to and verified by who? Benny Hinn and Kenneth Hagin? What? And not to mention the fact that she was a false prophet, which to me, has a huge effect on her credibility.

A.A. Allen- The same Allen who’s one dollar bills turned into twenties time and time again? The same Allen who lied in claiming to have been kidnapped, knocked unconscious, and had liquor poured down his throat, rather than take responsibility for his actions in driving drunk? Now, I’m not one to condemn someone for their errors. But I can’t take Allen’s claims as legit if he’s a documented fraud and liar.

William Branham- Gavin, this man was a heretic. He denied the Trinity as a doctrine of Satan, made the most extremely erroneous false prophecies you could ever imagine, used hand spasms to detect sickness, and held that Eve had sex with the serpent to conceive Cain. Why in the world would I believe that this man would posses the gift of healing?

Smith Wigglesworth- If "heal cancer by punching-cancer-victim-in-the-stomach" has anything to do with the New Testament gift of healing, then please let me know.

Kathryn Kulman- Kulman was tested by Medical doctor Willian Nolan, who wrote about Kulman in his book Healing: A Doctor in Search of a Miracle. Nolan found absolutely no evidence that Kulman healed anyone. In fact, Nolan attended one of Kulman’s healing services. The wheelchair patients who were "cured" left the service still confined to their wheelchairs. He also noted that those who came with withered limbs and liver cancer left with withered limbs and liver cancer. He wondered why only arthritis and bruise victims were among those healed? Its no wonder to me; Kulman did not have the New Testament gift of healing.

I don’t have time to go over any of the other names mentioned such as Lake or Dowie. The fact that you cite heretics and frauds to convince me that God is still empowering believers with the gift of healing just leaves me scratching my head. And Gavin, the fact that you view these people as "men and women of God who walked in power from the Lord" leaves me with nothing but serious concern for the fact that you can’t tell the difference between a bible-believing Christian and a heretic. And I don’t mean that as an insult. I just hope and pray that you aren’t following the false teachings of these men and women.

Please dont base your theology of the gifts of the spirit by what you watch on Christian television. I can't stand to watch that stuff because even when its the Lord its frequently so dramatic and overplayed.

I don’t. I base my theology on the Word of God.

When you said, "If modern healers truly posses the New Testament gift of healing, why are they so often confined to their sanctuaries or TV studios? Why are they not in the hospitals healing people? Why do modern healers not heal people with crushed skulls, or replace lost limbs, or children with third degree burns on 99f their body? Why are AIDS victims not being healed?" My heart screams for the same thing too, but you jump to the wrong conclusion by throwing out the gift of healing for today.

Gavin, you are avoiding the issue. In my blog, I cited Scripture after Scripture in dealing with the issue of healing. Why not deal with the text? Why not deal with the points I brought up, with this being only one of them (which you didn’t answer)? For instance, did the NT healers have a purpose in healing? Did not the open canon not have any implications on the dispersion of the gifts?

Mike, when you said "If the church has no living apostles, prophets, tongues-speakers, or miracle-workers, what does it have? Where is its glory? Where is its power? The power and glory of God has been revealed to us in his Word. Everything that we need to know about God has been revealed. If you want miracles, go to the Bible. There are hundreds of recorded miracles. Why look any further? Does Gods Word need any further confirmation?"
You have to admit that it an extremely weak argument; that because we now have the bible all the gifts of the spirit, the office of the apostle, and the prophet have ceased to exist?! Well were did they go then? When did they leave?

Gavin, where and how did I ever give the impression that “all the gifts of the spirit” ceased? Obviously, I was talking about the miracle gifts; not gifts such as serving, teaching, encouraging, etc.

But again, if you read my blog, I stated very clearly that the miracle gifts ceased because they no longer served their purpose. I am well aware that this makes many Charismatic’s blood boil. And the reason so many don’t understand the cessationist’s position is because the Bible is read as if the great moments of redemptive history--the descent of the Spirit, the revealing of new doctrinal revelations, the closing of the canon--have no real implications. Its as if the Bible should be read as a huge photograph instead of an unfolding story with movements, climaxes, openings and closings of events and acts. Should these not have some implications as to whether or not the miracle gifts are for today? If they are for today, why not be consistent like the Mormons and claim that God is revealing new doctrinal revelations as well as the continuous giving of the miracle gifts? They would be asking you the same question I’m now being asked: "Why did the giving of new doctrinal revelations cease to exist? Where did it go? When did it leave? Why did it leave?" So, Gavin, please tell me. Does the closing of the canon not have any implications upon the cessation of the gifts?

And he gave some to be apostles; and some, prophets; and some, evangelists; and some, pastors and teachers; for the perfecting of the saints, unto the work of ministering, unto the building up of the body of Christ: till we all attain unto the unity of the faith, and of the knowledge of the Son of God, unto a fullgrown man, unto the measure of the stature of the fullness of Christ. Eph 4:11-13

Here we see that the Lord has given His church Apostles, Prophets, Evangelists, Pastors and Teachers until we all attain unto the unity of the faith, and the knowledge of the Son of God, unto a full grown man, unto the measure of the stature of the fullnest of Christ. If you think that the church today has attained to the measure of the stature of the fullnest of Christ.that is a bold claim. Furthermore why did the Lord just choose apostles and prophets to be done away with. What? The Lord only will allow us to have evangelists, teachers and pastors? Mike it doesnt make any sense.

Yes, it does make sense. And don’t quote 4:11-13 without quoting 2:19-22:

Consequently, you are no longer foreigners and aliens, but fellow citizens with God's people and members of God's household, built on the foundation of the apostles and prophets, with Christ Jesus himself as the chief cornerstone. In him the whole building is joined together and rises to become a holy temple in the Lord. And in him you too are being built together to become a dwelling in which God lives by his Spirit.

But first, lets deal with 4:11-13. The problem with your interpretation is that it assumes that there are true apostles and prophets in the church today, which I strongly disagree with and can substantiate Scripturally. And another problem is that your interpretation forgets that the influence and teachings of both the apostles and prophets did not cease with their death, because the church today continues to be ministered by their writings.

Now, let’s deal with 2:19-22. The text says that the church is "built" on a foundation. The Greek uses an aorist passive participle, which would translate as "having been built." It refers to a complete, past action. To say that today we must continue to build "the foundation" of the apostles and prophets would not only be a misunderstanding the text, but it would be taking a step backward, not forward!

So the question is, how many times does one lay a foundation? If one is continually laying a foundation, how will the house be built? The answer is obvious; the church would be trying to lay a foundation that was laid two thousand years ago! Maybe this explains why the Mormon church is as deceived as it is. They are trying to build again what was already established.

The restoration of the office of the evangelist didnt come about until the 1700s when men like Wesley and Whitefield started referring to the evangelical ministry. And they were shunned for claiming to be evangelists. Could that not be what we are seeing today?

No sir, because no man today can claim the apostolic office. The foundation was laid two-thousand years ago. The house is being built. Furthermore, no man alive can claim the authority that the New Testament apostles claimed. If you want to get into that, then please show me: on what basis can any man claim the apostolic office today?

The idea that the Bible is the fullness of God to all believers and that all supernatural power ended when the church got the bible is equally absurd.

Gavin, if this is what you really think, then you have no idea what cessationists believe. NO cessationist has ever said that "supernatural power ended when the church got the Bible" or anything even remotely close to that. In fact, if you had read my blog, you would have noticed under the "healing" section that I agreed that God is still performing miracles today. Where did I ever leave the impression that God is no longer supernaturally involved in His creation?

I believe that the Bible is the greatest gift to mankind ever given (other than the Jesus blood). It is a lamp to our feet, light to our path. With it we are strengthened, encouraged, corrected, and develop a greater understanding of the God we are serving. But Hebrews 4:12 says the Word is Alive! Jesus is the Word of God, the Word of God is a Person. If we read the bible and it doesnt lead us into a living relationship with the Word Himself, the bible becomes just a book. And the bible itself is packed with the supernatural power of God, If the bible has been given to reveal the Lord and His ways to us, then how can you separate the power of God.

Amen! No dispute there! Just a question though: just where did I deny any of this?

There are no scriptures in the New Testament that speak of the gifts of the spirit and the offices of the apostle and prophet dying off when we get a bible. NONE.

Its interesting how Jehovah’s Witnesses will say similar things about Jesus’ deity: "There are no scriptures in the New Testament that speak of Jesus being God! NONE!" And when you show them John 8:58, you get "oh, that was just referring to Jesus being alive before Abraham. That doesn’t mean he was actually claiming to be God." In the same way, if the Bible said, "All the miracle gifts ceased when John died," you would have continuationists running around saying, "Ah! But it didn’t say how long after John dies! A day is like a thousand years you know!" and you’d have others saying "I’ve never seen John’s body…have you?" And on and on. I don’t know who said it, but it reminds me of a saying,

"A man convinced against his will is of the same opinion still."

But what would it matter to you if I demonstrate my case "from Scripture?" I’ve seen over and over again what happens when I do. For example, let’s say a rock-solid case can be made (which has been) from Scripture that tongues were always human languages. And when confronted, and lacking any evidence of genuine occurrences today, some just say "Oh, well maybe we’re just kicking the football around before the real match starts!" But my case still stands: you have dealt with very few of the issues raised in my blog. I dealt with the reasons for the cessation of the miracle gifts. And until you deal with those, I see no reason to repeat them here.

And the scripture that people use in 1 Cor 13:10 is so far of a stretch its ridiculous. And the fact that someone would base their entire walk with God and form their entire theology off of one ambiguous verse like 1 Cor 13:10 is equally absurd.

I don’t know of any cessationist who bases his entire argument off this verse. But other than that, I agree. And I would disagree with any cessationist or continuationist who would use a verse such as this that has nothing to do with the cessation of the actual gifts.

I on the other hand could fill up 5 pages of nothing but scripture saying that if I walk with the Lord and follow His commandments I will do the things that He did.

Oh, really? Does this mean that...I’m not walking in the Lord because I’ve never raised someone from the dead or healed anyone? What’s strange is, you cited heretics and frauds earlier, which you claimed to have worked amazing miracles. Yet, you claim that you have to walk with the Lord and follow His commandments to do the things He did? Which is it?

And no one will ever be able to convince me that, because I have a bible now I can't confront a demon possessed person and rebuke it or I can't lay hands on a friend dying of cancer and pray for the Lord to heal them. Have I seen them yet? I have seen a little, but my heart is set to walk in the fullnest of the Kingdom of God.

Gavin, please. Do you really believe that cessationists don’t think you should rebuke demons (which should be extremely rare at any rate) or pray for healing? This is just pure emotionalist, Gavin. Why not deal with the texts that I raised in my blog? You cited only one text that has any relevance at all to the issue of the continuation or cessation of miracle gifts, which is somewhat ambiguous and dependent upon your eschatological viewpoint. Does the Charismatic not have more Scriptural support for their position? If so, then why appeal to the emotions, false prophets, heretics, and second-hand experiences to build your case?

1 comment:

Joanna Martens said...

I've heard about wigglesworth and his crazy encounters with satan...