Miracles, Signs & Wonders. Who Needs'em?.
For starters, maybe WE do.
Boyd Luter has been putting up some posts about his personal Spiritual journey, from the cessationist end of the spectrum, towards the continuationalist end. I'll let you read that, if you so choose, rather than saying much about that, here. It is, after all, his story. But it did give rise to some thoughts in my brainspace, many of which are admittedly stolen from some books whose authors, and even titles, I've long since forgotten.
One thought: the gift of tongues has passed away. Now, my view of that gift differs from, apparently, everyone else in the known universe, so I'll reiterate it here.
First, I Corinthians 14:2 says, in the NIV, that "... anyone who speaks in a tongue does not speak to men but to God. Indeed, no one understands him; he utters mysteries with his spirit."
Speaks only to God. From my own experience, I think that tells me my spirit is addressing the Holy Spirit, without my having to think of some words to say. And that seems, to me, to be a good thing.
But how about that widely-held belief that the unknown tongues reported in Acts 2 were known languages with a gospel message? Well, for starters, I don't believe it. For several reasons:
- FIrst, there seem to have been 15 or 16 different languages ... actually dialects ... heard by the listeners. Ask yourself this: if you had a bunch of believers in a room (either 12 or 120, depending on how many you interpret as being there .. I lean to 120 as it would be hard for 12 to speak 15 0r 16 languages), what would you hear, standing outside? I seriously doubt you would say you would hear them (plural) speaking your language (singular). But that's what the listeners, who "got it", said. You'd more likely have heard an unintelligible uproar.
- Also, the mere fact that the listeners each heard all of them speaking one language tells me something other than discrete known languages was being spoken.
- Also, it doesn't make sense that God would institute the gift of unknown tongues, unless He also manifested the gift of interpretation; that seems to have happened to those who said they were declaring the wonders of God.
- Acts 2 is the only episode I know of in the Bible, where tongues occurred and there was an immediate description of what the speakers were doing (i.e. prophesying, praising, worshiping, etc). And it's described as declaring the "..wonders of God" (NIV). Nowhere else that I know of, is the substance of the gift described. UNLESS .. you include the 1 Corinthians 14:2 reference, which seems to support my theory. Might that all have been speaking only to God? You bet. Don't we do that when we praise and worship God?
- If that episode ... Acts 2 ... was evangelistic in nature, why did it take a follow-up sermon by Peter, to point them to Jesus, and their subsequent inquiry as to how to be saved, to get that message across?
- If, when the Corinthians got together for (what I guess we'd call) worship services, doesn't it make sense that folks who dominated the meetings expressing this "miraculous" gift in praise, would be called down and admonished to yield to those with a prophetic message from God? Those guys were living out what became the basis for much of the New Testament and they needed to hear from God, not just revel in praise.
- If tongues in that case was a prophetic message, why the instruction to cut it off at 2 or 3, and then let the prophets prophesy? That doesn't make sense, albeit I know God doesn't have to make sense to me.
- I know that gifts are given for the edification of the whole body and not just the "lone-ranger" recipient of the gift. But I also know that, when the gift of the unknown tongues manifests itself in my prayer life, my cognitive prayer becomes more meaningful .. in my mind at least, and wouldn't more "effectual fervent prayer" be edifying to the body overall?
Then you can add other miraculous manifestations of the power of God ... and I don't mean just the fact that it's a miracle of God when someone gets saved ... like healing, interpretation, words of knowledge or wisdom, etc.
So .. ask yourself if the church simply doesn't need that sort of thing any more. I mean, we have the canon of scripture, so why do we need all that mumbo jumbo, or unexplained moves of the Spirit? Well, I know it's the gospel that's the power of God for salvation, but that was written when there were tongues in evidence, and the tongues were a sign for UNbelievers, NOT for believers. Ask yourself if we need some signs for unbelievers today? If they showed something 2000 years ago, to unbelievers, wouldn't they show something to them, today?
Wouldn't they even show something to 10 million, or thereabouts, Southern Baptists who've gone missing in direct violation of biblical commands? And wouldn't they show something to pastors who feel more compelled to report folks who've been totally missing and unaccounted for, as being members, than to run the risk of upsetting some active members who are so proud of all their relatives who are still "members" ... despite no interest, or attendance, in years?
14 years, in the case of one family who moved 1000 miles away but were still on our membership roll, and included in our ACP all those years.
And how about healing? Is the church LESS in need of that, now, than 2000 years ago?
My pet theory is that "organized religion" want to be able to control itself. We CRAVE that Sunday Morning Bulletin, which says in detail what God is going to do in the services, and only rarely do we see God interrupt our well-rehearsed program with something direct from Him. It's a scary thing, I guess, to be "out there", depending on Him to come through; it's as if we won't know what to do if He doesn't, so we nail it all down in advance. And then, if we want to be radical, we'll "give the Holy Ghost permission to interrupt the service" if there's something He wants to do.
How arrogant .. to think He needs our permission. We can't give permission for anything we we can't prevent. And we sure can't prevent the Holy Spirit from invading our space.
We do, however, seem well practiced at discouraging Him from doing so.
Anyone remember this? "And they took offense at him. But Jesus said to them, "Only in his hometown and in his own house is a prophet without honor." And he did not do many miracles there because of their lack of faith." (Matthew 13:57-58, NIV)
Like I said ..we like to be in control. To be in some sort of "comfort zone".
How much faith does THAT take?
Personally I am delighted to be part of a local assembly that permits me to hold these views and yet teach Sunday School and have a prayer team of sorts. That evidences to me that FBC Pelham seems to have a handle on being Baptist. At least, until some "Lower-Ups" engineer a change in the definition, in which case we'll probably stand on the Preamble to the BF&M, and keep on keepin' on.
I know. Some are afraid we're going to get away from the Bible. Well, for a denomination (I know, I know) in which I've heard an SBC-paid Chaplain say "I don't believe all the Old Testament .. I can't believe a loving God would slay the prophets of Baal" ... and in which I've heard a well-respected Pastor preach a sermon entitled, and enumerating, "Five Things God Doesn't Know", I think we've already done that. Certainly more than we should, and assuredly when we forbid the speaking of tongues, and then rationalize away our actions in a manner remarkably similar to those, in Acts Chapter Two, who claimed that the folks first exhibiting that gift were drunk.
I guess what's happening in the SBC isn't so surprising after all.
Nor is what's happening in places they still believe God for what He's done in the past. Regardless of what our well-educated, well-presented, well-polished naysayers may claim isn't really happening.
Could it be that the "average SBC church" doesn't think it needs anything like that (miraculous manifestations)?
Or do they just not want it?