Category Archives: Jack Deere

Jaws

By Marv

I see a screen in front of me. On it I see sin being committed. I know the details because the details are right there before my eyes–fellow believers acting in shameful and disgusting ways.

No this isn’t some kind of visionary experince–just the internet. You can have the same experience too, if you think you can stand it–by clicking on this link and reading Phil Johnson’s cyber-slander of Mark Driscoll. If you are so inclined you can join in the all-you-can eat sin-fest offered there. The waters are nicely chummed, and the jaws have not been idle.

I hadn’t planned to do a Pyromaniac hat trick (DP, FT, and now PJ), but the guys are on an anti-Continuationist tear–and are at it still, each of the Pyros seemingly trying to outdo the other in their Cesso fervor. I can’t even keep up with ‘em.

This one’s all about a five minute video, clipped and edited from an hour-long message on Spiritual Warfare presented in Februrary 2008, and specifically posted on Youtube by Phil Johnson, for the purpose of inflaming opposition to Driscoll. To ensure that viewers will treat it as scandalous, he qualifies the video as “extremely disturbing” and entitles his post, “Pornographic Divination.” In case his subtlety is lost on you, he is accusing his brother of a double abomination. Nice.

The center piece of the video is surely a one-minute description of what Driscoll presents as a visionary experience through which he had detailed knowledge of a woman’s unconfessed sin. Evidently the woman, along with her husband, had consulted Driscoll in regard to a spiritual problem, and because he believed the incident left a significant foothold for demonic oppression, he confronted her with the facts of the matter.

Now whether or not Driscoll leaves himself open to criticism over this story, Johnson’s labeling of the incident either as “pornographic” or “divination” is wicked–many times more sleazy than the putative scandal he attempt to construct from Driscoll’s words. And the subsequent comment thread once again demonstrates the power of a little blood in the water. “Fish are friends not food,” chanted the twelve-stepping sharks. Remember the ichthys? Identifying a brother in Christ. They’re not food either, chum.

But if you bite and devour one another, watch out that you are not consumed by one another. (Gal. 5:15)

It is difficult to know which part shocks Johnson more: the “pornographic” or the “divination,” but given his blitzkrieg of Cessationist postings of late, I’d venture to say the latter. He explains his objections in six bullet points, which I will address one at a time:

1. Johnson calls what Driscoll is doing “soothsaying.” Thus he puts Driscoll’s acts in the same category as a fortune teller consulting Tarot cards or a crystal ball, despite the fact that Driscoll is not “fortune telling” but in the main incident identifying a sin ten years in the past. Note that at this point it is not a matter of the specific content of Driscoll’s purported visions, but the mode of them. In this his aim is rather wide of the mark, since the activity which Driscoll is at least claiming to be engaged in falls within the clear Biblical description of prophecy:

But if all prophesy, and an unbeliever or outsider enters, he is convicted by all, he is called to account by all,the secrets of his heart are disclosed, and so, falling on his face, he will worship God and declare that God is really among you. (1 Cor. 14:24-25)

If pointing out specific sins, even sexual sins, through revelation by the Holy Spirit is “soothsaying,” Johnson indicts even our Lord:

Jesus said to her, “You are right in saying, ‘I have no husband’;for you have had five husbands, and the one you now have is not your husband. What you have said is true.”The woman said to him, “Sir, I perceive that you are a prophet. (John 4:17-19).

That the revelation behind prophecy can be through a visual experience is also perfectly Biblical, as on a large scale, the book of Revelation shows us.

The revelation of Jesus Christ, which God gave him to show to his servants the things that must soon take place. He made it known by sending his angel to his servant John,who bore witness to the word of God and to the testimony of Jesus Christ, even to all that he saw.Blessed is the one who reads aloud the words of this prophecy, and blessed are those who hear, and who keep what is written in it, for the time is near. (Rev. 1:1-3)

As does, on a smaller scale, Jesus’ vision of Nathanial.

Nathanael said to him, “How do you know me?” Jesus answered him, “Before Philip called you, when you were under the fig tree, I saw you.”Nathanael answered him, “Rabbi, you are the Son of God! You are the King of Israel!”Jesus answered him, “Because I said to you, ‘I saw you under the fig tree,’ do you believe? You will see greater things than these.” (John 1:48-50).

Johnson objects as well to Driscoll’s using the term “discernment” in regard to this activity, and he cites a couple of verses on “discernment” to show Driscoll guilty of “bad teaching,” saying that the Biblical “gift of discernment” is quite different from this. But what Driscoll is actually referring to is “discernment of spirits,” which he abbreviates simply “discernment.” Recall that this talk is over an hour long, and the clip is five minutes of this. There is certainly “discernment” which has nothing to do with evil spirits, but this does not negate the validity of discernment of Spirits.

Part of the confusion here is that the clip really is torn from context. The message is about “Spiritual Warfare,” dealing with demons who are oppressing people. This is where “discernment of spirits” comes in, and why Driscoll specifically deals with a past unconfessed sin. The aspect of “discernment of spirits” that is involved is determining why a person may be susceptible to demonic oppression. And the revelation that Driscoll refers to serves that function.

Whether the particular instances Driscoll cites are genuine or not, the practices he is teaching about in this video, discernment of spirits, revelation from the Holy Spirit, confronting another regarding sin, have a high Scriptural pedigree, the kind of actions engaged in by Christ and the apostles. Johnson’s charge is thus slanderous at best and perhaps even blaspemous.

2. Johnson next impugns Driscoll for his statement that in perceiving the Spirit’s revelation, he does not always see, hear, or understand clearly. This is based on the wholly spurious but frequently asserted notion that spoken prophecy in Bible times was inerrant as the Scriptures are. Deut. 18:15-22 is often cited as support that at least Old Testament prophecy was inerrant. Actually, the passage teaches precisely the opposite: while God’s revelation to the prophet is perfect, the prophecy spoken is subject to the prophet (1 Cor. 14:32). It ought to exactly equal to the Lord’s revelation, but it might not be. A prophet’s speech is not guaranteed as the Scriptures are. They have to be tested. This is exactly what Paul counsels in both 1 Thes. 5:20-21 and 1 Cor. 14:29. (Since I wrote this, Sam Storm’s excellent post on the subject has now appeared, and makes much the same point.)

One speaking on the basis of revelation, such as Driscoll describes ought therefore to voice conclusions tentatively. And this is precisely what he says he does in the video. He clearly states he does not “know” the details to be factual, but thinks they are. He then advises the person to verify the facts.

Incredibly, Johnson accuses Driscoll of accusing people of serious sins–on the basis of imperfect knowledge. Of course, Johnson does not claim perfect knowledge of Driscoll’s actions. If he contacted him directly prior to posting his screed, he does not indicate it. At least Driscoll advises verification. Johnson just forges ahead based on his own prejudice, and blasts the man before a potential audience of every living man, woman and child in the world.

3. Johnson criticized Driscoll for mentioning graphic details. Once again, he is evidently referring to the one minute section about the woman’s affair. “Salacious details” is the term Johnson uses. He does indicate the man “climbed on top,” but beyond this the details include hair and eye color, type of bedspread, and approximate year. It is about as “salacious” as your average PG movie love scene. By contrast, due to all the blood-letting, Johnson’s post and comment stream have to be at least PG-13.

He may have a point though, that this level of detail is unnecessary. Driscoll’s point, I take it, was to show that visionary revelation may be quite specific and accurate. Neither the video nor Johnson’s post tells us whether Driscoll’s description was accurate. Cessationists are wont to complain of contemporary prophecy and “words of knowledge” as being vague and insipid. Or else the putative prophet is merely engaged in cold reading. One of Johnson’s colleagues, Dan Phillips recently wagged that arguing for Continuationism was “self-refuting” since genuinely miraculous results ought to speak for themselves. So when a prophecy is vague many Cessationists complain of lack of verifiable detail. When it is anything but vague, it contains unnecessary information. If it turns out to be correct, it is a good guess. If it is beyond the power of a good guess… could it be Satan?

4. Evidently it is, Johnson suggests, because the Holy Spirit’s eyes are too holy to look on sin. Clearly, the least sin is perfectly abhorrent to the Godhead, and God cannot look on sin approvingly. But remember that the Spirit is sent to “convict the world concerning sin and righteousness and judgment.” (John 16:8). Are we to imagine that sexual sin is beyond His ken, or more repugnant than pride, malice, and strife? He empowers prophecy to reveal the secrets of the heart (1 Cor. 14:24). And, O gentle reader, if you are a believer, He indwells you. And you Mr. Johnson. Who will say that living in such places as your heart and mine He has not been witness to much more sordid spectacles?

Anyway, the Spirit of God, having inspired passages such as Genesis 19:30-38, Genesis 38, and others, can handle revealing the mundane sins of the flesh. (Again, since I wrote this I have another fine place to link to on the “lurid and crude passages of Scripture.” )

5. Johnson further reveals his prejudice in characterizing Driscoll’s statement as “whacko fringe,” cleverly changed to “whacko mainstream.” What? Is he encountering a ten-story Jesus? Is it about Christ’s face on a tortilla? What exactly is “whacko” about revealing the secrets of the heart through the power of the Holy Spirit to the glory of God and calling sinners to repentence?

What then passes Johnson’s imprimatur for a Continuationist? Muttering in tongues in one’s closet? A little prayer, a little oil? Saying pretty please to demons?

Johnson then rounds up some of the usual suspects, such as Toronto or Paul Cain, matters he seems to understand poorly–despite some curiously strong opinions–in order to besmirch his “theological betters” as his ilk would put it, such as Wayne Grudem, John Piper, Jack Deere, and Sam Storms.

6. Finally, calls Continuationism a “leaky Canon” and Continuationists loose cannons. Frankly, this shows him clueless, as Spirit-empowered ministry is no threat to the Canon or Scripture. He seriously misunderstands Sola Scriptura.

And while any contemporary ministry is weakened through the failings of the feeble human being engaged in it, Spiritual Warfare, discernment of spirits, prophecy and such are not unique in this, but are under the authority and scrutiny of Scripture. But so is theo-blogging.

And among the six yea seven things the Lord hates and are an abomination to him is “one who sows discord among brothers.” (Proverbs 6:19) (Ah, here‘s a nice link to Proverbs.)

In short the characterization of this short video as “extremely disturbing” or “pornographic” or in any way scandalous is seriously contrived, distorted, overblown.

Are there, though, any points of concern or question? Sure. Not for censure of Driscoll as an “out of control” charismaniac. I do get the impression such a conclusion is a “consummation devoutly to be wished.” So that this nigh-on four year old snippet can be puffed into a full-blown scandal, then well done thou good and faithful. Driscoll is an outspoken, and I have to say at least at times well-spoken advocate for Spirit-empowered ministry. He’s also (more than) a little “in your face,” having qualified hard cessationists at least as “worldly.” (Insert gasp here.) The Pyroids don’t seem to have taken this lying down. Naturally their recent flurry of post after post of anti-Continuationist lather is entirely unrelated to any hurt feelings over Driscoll’s mean and nasty name calling.

But the short video can serve as a springboard for instruction, not on whether or not to engage in Spirit-empowered ministry—that is a given—given by our Lord, but in how to go about it. What guidelines can we draw? This can be done by asking questions. Driscoll has no need for me to defend him. Indeed I know very little about him. I have not followed him at all, but have been positively impressed by some things he has said.

Still, this video opens the door to some questions, which might invite criticism in a few areas. So I will address the questions to him, that I would wish to ask if meeting in person. Not as an accusation, but as assistance in keeping the edges of the iron sharp and clean. And what I think may be good counsel to anyone in such a situation.

1. Have you resisted the temptation to be awesome? It was not always clear, since I don’t really know you, that you were not reveling at least a little in an image as one of the “big guys.” As you know, this has no place in this kind of ministry. So watch over your heart and guard it from pride in your abilities. Paul needed a thorn in the flesh to keep him from pride because of the visions. Will that be necessary in your case?

2.I don’t agree with your critics that what you related was “pornographic,” but at the same time, you have to be on guard against corrupted revelation. Visionary experience operates, I would suppose, on the same mental “equipment” as imagination, just as revelatory dreams operate in the space where normal dreams occur. I don’t absolutely know this of course, but if any bits of your own imagination—not to mention fantasy—can break off, as it were, and get mixed in with the revelatory content, you have to detect this and guard against it. I can’t tell you whether this has occurred. But a number of your viewers not only suspect this, but are convinced it is nothing but your imagination. Consider guarding against any misunderstanding—much less correct understanding—which would give opponents cause to blaspheme.

3.Do you consider that receiving revelation about someone is different from permission to share it with that person? In your story about the woman, the circumstances were not quite clear to me. I would be concerned about sharing that kind of material to or about a person in front of others, particularly the person’s spouse. I’m not sure from your sketchy account how the sequence of events transpired. It is to be hoped that such things are done with discretion, dignity, and tact. This five-minute clip did not go into discretion, dignity, and tact. Perhaps you do later in the presentation.

4. Dealing with issues of abuse and other instances when the subject was a child, it is important not to suggest or implant alien ideas that might be false but taken as reality, whether or not confirmed by the subject later. Again, this bit of video does not dwell on how you did, or on how one ought to go about this very delicate matter. Perhaps you do later. If not consider doing so in the future.

None of us is free from sin, and even our best efforts are tainted with our sinfulness. The Scripture tells us even our righteousnesses are as “filthy rags” (Is. 64:6). And if I were to spell out in “lurid” detail what that phrase actually means, I might be the next victim of the feeding frenzy.

The White Dove Inn

By Marv

Three theobros, friends, colleagues, agreeing on much, differing on some things, sitting around the studio in relaxed but intelligent banter–joined together with joy, but for a serious purpose. And the podcast is ours to enjoy, to learn, to be edified by. It’s great stuff. I keep thinking though–all it needs is Rod Rosenbladt periodically saying “That’s HUGE!!!”

(If you don’t have a clue what I am talking about check out this other worthy audio theofest.)

C. Michael Patton, dean or some such title of Credo House ministries is the indefatiguable superblogger of Parchment and Pen. I admit I came for Daniel Wallace, but I stayed for CMP. Within the last couple of years he has bared his soul more than a bit, particularly with regard to his contemplation of the subject of “spiritual gifts.” In a series of eight posts he explained “Why I am not  Charismatic.” Readers of To Be Continued will be familiar with it, as with our point by point response.

Back he comes, and not alone. For a new round the venerable Sam Storms partners with CMP to provide a balancing continuationist perspective. The whole shebang starts off with this podcast, featuring Michael, Sam, and a third voice Tim Kimberley. Three DTS-grad Okies. Now that’s balance, I must say (being an Oklahoma-born DTS grad myself).

Listen to the podcast, part of their Theology Unplugged series as a bit of an intro to the discussion. The meat will be the blog posts, however, and we already have the first two: an opening salvo by Patton “Why I am/not Charismatic: My Story,” not to be confused with Storms’ “Why I am/not Charismatic: My Story.”

First course: appetizers. We digest so you don’t have to.

First C. Michael Patton’s Story:

1. Raised in non- even anti-Charismatic soil (DTS-grad pastor) Michael experienced plenty to leave a foul taste in his mouth: a church split over “the gifts,” repulsive silliness and downright abuse, embarrassing excess at a pal’s church. Charismatics behaving badly: barking, flopping, issuing inane and insipid “words,” sealed the deal.

2. MacArthurism (“Are you now or have you ever been a member of the Charismatic party?”) loaded him with Bible-based proofs to match his mood.

3. So how did a guy like him end up at a place like UBSS, which he describes as a”Third Wave” Bible college? Open prophesying, unabashing tonguing, their name was Legion, for they were many. But with Grudem as the Systematic Theology? Harvard, Westminster, Cambridge, ETS pres, Calvinist–and Charismatic. Does not compute.

4. Since then voice after voice with theological and Biblical heft have articulated and explained a cogent, coherent Continuationist understanding: Fee, Mahaney, Piper, Moreland… (Time provented him from mentioning Scott & Marv apparently…)

5. Where is he now? Standing on the edge of the chasm–the Cessationist side, underwhelmed by the arguments that keep him there, but not able (willing) to make the leap to the greener grass on the other side.

6. It is a consummation devoutly to be wished, however. With loved ones who really, really needed healing–this one is personal.

And now for Sam Storms’ story:

1. Dallas Seminary and Believer’s Chapel: meat-lovers’ milieu both, and where folk not only think, but know the Charismatic wing is full of wingnuts. Now that’s a solid foundation for a future of Cessationism.

2. It was in Oklahoma where the wind came sweeping down the plain. While pastoring in Ardmore, he read D.A. Carson, and his Cessationist pseudo-foundation crumbled under his feet.

3. He came to the realization that the Bible taught Continuationism, but he remained embarrassed by the unsophisticated, overly emotional, underly intellectual crew he’d have to associate himself with if he went with the Bible instead of his background.

4. Yet he took the plunge. Preaching through Acts, and presenting a doctrinal study on the Spirit, he led his church not only in reading about the “stuff” but doing it. Somehow he managed the paradigm shift in his congregation without the whole thing blowing up in his face.

5. Catching up with Jack Deere, whom he had known at DTS, and who had made a similar journey, Sam was renewed in the gift of tongues he had known but came to disdain two decades earlier. He eventually found himself ministering at Kansas City Fellowship for seven years–more than a small step for a man from Believer’s Chapel.

6. After a brief stint teaching at Wheaton, he returned to KC and started Enjoying God Ministries. Today he is a pastor in OKC, where, like someone else, he spends his time proclaiming the kingdom of God and teaching about the Lord Jesus Christ with all boldness and without hindrance.

We are in for a remarkable discussion, with these two. Topics foreshadowed in the podcast include:

  • Terminology: Charismatic vs. Continuationist.
  • History: Through the centuries and three “waves” in the twentieth century.
  • Distinction from Faith Movement and Prosperity Theology.
  • What about the lingo: “sign gifts,” “normative”?
  • How serious should we take things: accepting? practicing? pursuing?

Is That What History Really Teaches Us? (Response to CMP, part 5)

By Marv

This post is part of a series responding to C. Michael Patton’s eight-part series at Parchment and Pen “Why I am Not Charismatic,” which is also conveniently available for download as a single e-book here. This is in response to part five.

Michael,

The unspoken premise behind your historical argument is that over the centuries the church has looked pretty much the way Jesus intended.  Really?  Anything that goes missing, then, is like the dog that didn’t bark, prima facie evidence that the thing has dried up at the source.  It is something that God just isn’t doing any more.  Once we start playing that game, however, it is difficult to know when to stop.

There are a number of ways to respond to your part five, “An Argument from History.”  As for your specific citations of Chrysostom and Augustine, Scott has countered these quite handily in an earlier post here.  Jesse Wisnewski makes a similar argument at Reformed and Reforming here, and also makes the observation here that it illustrates the fallacy of an argument from ignorance.  Then there’s the point that you take us on a snipe hunt for the elusive “supernatural sign gifts”, showing that if you set your definitions and expectations just right, you can be assured of coming up empty handed.  This is your own “glaring weakness” in commenting on about Jack Deere’s argument, where you say:

He equates evidence that the historic church believed in the miraculous with evidence that they were continuationists. You can’t equate the two without misrepresenting what is at stake.  The historic Christian church has believed in the miraculous, they have not believed in the continuation of the supernatural sign gifts, by and large.

On the contrary, Michael, I’m afraid it is you who have misrepresented the situation by insisting on your own minimalist definition.  Continuationism in the first place is not about “gifts” but that Jesus Christ:

…continues His work of glorifying His Father, building His Church, and advancing His Kingdom through the ongoing, vital and dynamic interconnection He maintains with those who are in Him, accomplished through the empowering presence of the Holy Spirit…

From my earlier post “What Continues?

This empowering presence is referenced in a number of forms such as prayer in Jesus’ name (John 14:13-14), the prayer of faith for healing (Jas. 5:15), and signs and wonders (Acts 4:30).  The phenomenon that this empowerment is parceled out through the different members of the body gives rise to the concept of “gifts” (1 Cor. 12:4).  Parallel terms here include “service,” (v. 5), “activities” (v. 6), “manifestations” (v. 7).  Elsewhere they are called “distributions” (Heb. 2:4, though typically translated “gifts”).

Isolating the term “gifts” only serves to distort the issue, particularly when pared down to the scripturally dubious category “sign gifts.”  This category serves as a nice sharp container where the used, hazardous and unwanted bits may be safely disposed of, but it is not only absent from church history, it doesn’t even appear in the Bible (more here.)  And I’ll have more to say as I respond to your part seven.

I want to take a somewhat different tack, however, in responding to your argument from history.  As I suggest in my first paragraph, the same kind of disappearing act occurs with other aspects of apostolic teaching, and I don’t think you, at least, would see these as evidence God is no longer doing that sort of thing.

1.  Salvation by grace alone through faith alone.  It is amazing how the sharp edge of this central apostolic truth goes blunt shortly after the death of the apostles.  The Shepherd of Hermas, for example (ca. AD 150), which is listed among the “Apostolic Fathers” proclaims that once you are baptized, you can sin and repent only one time (Mandate 4, chapter 3).  If this were true, we’d all be toast, of course.  Thank God for the butter of His grace!

We again pick up a clear understanding of grace with the Protestant Reformation, but what are we to say about the intervening centuries?  The truth wasn’t completely absent, but unmixed expressions of it are scarce for several centuries.  We now have some five centuries since the doctrine’s recovery, but do we conclude that in the interval God had withdrawn sola gratia?

2.  Believer’s baptism.  Speaking of baptism, I understand your ministry statement of faith is deliberately short and broad, but I think you personally hold to believer’s baptism by immersion, if I am not mistaken.  At any rate, I think this was the “normative” apostolic practice, but it did not fare so well in the history of the church.  Even the Protestant Reformation largely did not restore this, except in what some would designate as “fringe groups and cults.”  Some really do argue for de facto paedobaptism from the course of history.  Would you?

3.  Premillennialism.  Understand that I am directing this specifically to you, Michael.  A number of people will not agree with this point, including Scott, but it is given as an example.  I believe you hold that the apostolic hope was premillennial, but that this understanding disappeared for the most part early in church history.  It had a resurgence around the nineteenth century.  So in the sweep of history, it is not that different from the time frame you attribute to continuationism, which you say was not “in any way normative before the twentieth century.”

This historical premise is definitely used by some as an argument against premillennialism.  What about you?  Are you a de facto amillennialist?

So what do we really learn from history?  Don’t we end up proving a little too much if we take your approach?

These are just a few of examples.  You could probably suggest any number of reasons why particular doctrines or practices ceased to be “normative” over the years, without suggesting that God was “no longer doing that.”  Indeed, we ought to exhaust every other possibility before going with that option.  Ignorance?  Tradition?  Clerical status?  Biblical illiteracy?  Misunderstanding?  Distortion over time?  Fear?  Disbelief?  Poor leadership?  Politics?

The church is often likened to a ship.  Over the years wooden sailing vessels require periodic maintenance.  Their bottoms becomes fouled and their wood suffers from rot.  The barnacles need to be scraped off and the original woodwork restored.  Unfortunately, some of our ecclesiastical institutions of long standing over time became in many ways more barnacle than timber.

From time to time more extensive refits have been necessary. The best known is probably the Protestant Reformation, which largely focused on soteriology.  Today, I humbly suggest,  it is time for recovering apostolic pneumatology.

Semper reformanda.

Surprised by the Power of the Spirit – Book Review

by Scott

A few decades back, there were not many solid biblical and theological resources available on the Holy Spirit from a more charismatic or Pentecostal (or continuationist) perspective. But such has drastically changed in the past few decades with a plethora of resources on continuationism now available to Christians. Here is a short but solid list at my co-authored blog, To Be Continued.

One such continuationist theologian is Jack Deere with his book, Surprised by the Power of the Spirit. He also has authored Surprised by the Voice of God, which I hope to dip into one day in the near future.

Deere is an interesting case, and you will see this in the book as he shares his own story. He had been an associate professor of Old Testament at Dallas Theological Seminary (from now on DTS), which has been known for its cessationist position throughout the years. But, as Deere shares his story of moving from cessationism to continuationism, he tells of a phone call that changed his life forever. This phone call set into motion a chain of events that left him convinced that the Holy Spirit and all of His gifts are still available to body of Christ today.

In the end, Deere had to leave DTS, as his new found continuationist beliefs did not allow for him to stay within the confession of faith of the seminary. From reading the book, you get the sense that the parting of ways was not nasty, but I’m sure it was not easy for either sides – Deere or DTS. My colleague here at To Be Continued, Marv, can share more insightful thoughts about Jack Deere, as he had Deere as a professor at DTS and was also part of the Vineyard movement of which Jack Deere was also a part of as he worked closely with founder John Wimber for a time. But it seemed the parting of ways with the seminary was done respectfully, and I say that because I did not sense any animosity from Deere in the book, which is a great plus.

One of the things I liked about the book was that it included storied accounts throughout the book – Deere’s transition to continuationism and practical examples of the charismata of the Spirit in his own life and others. It wasn’t just theology. For me, I don’t need the theology. I am convinced of continuationism. Instead, I like to be encouraged with accounts of God’s power at work through the Spirit amongst the body of Christ. That is what stirs me most.

Still, for those who are unsure of the continuation of all spiritual gifts, or who may even be antagonistic to such, the theology in the book is solid, looking to be grounded first and foremost in Scripture. Thus, I think it worth a read for any continuationist or cessationist that is looking to faithfully interact with a continuationist perspective of Scripture.

A warning for someone who is more cessationist: I am confident you will find statements that you will not like. What I mean is that, at times, Deere does not butter things up. There are times when he makes very poignant and honest statements. I believe he feels he can make such statements because he was once a cessationist and can address what he sees as ‘holes’ in the cessationist view. I don’t say this in some ad hominem way, as I am aware there are some who have moved from continuationism to cessationism. Still, there are times when he is forthright with some of the cessationist arguments that I believe fall short of faithfulness to the biblical text.

For example, chapter 5 is entitled, The Real Reason Christians Do Not Believe in the Miraculous Gifts. He shares a few reasons why people do not believe in the miraculous gifts, but he points out one major reason: because they have not seen miracles in their present experience.

That is a major argument for cessationists. And the reverse would probably be true of most continuationists. One reason we believe they still exist is because we believe we have experienced and seen examples of such gifts of the Spirit. Interesting how our experience shapes our theology. We must recognise this. It’s not evil and ungodly. It’s a reality of every Christian (and non-Christian). I share more along these lines in this article and this article.

One of the things I didn’t fully agree with Deere about, which isn’t that major, came from chapter 5. He states that a false assumption of cessationism is believing that the apostle’s healing ministry was the same as the gift of healing. First off, he notes there is an assumption amongst some cessationists that the apostle’s could heal automatically, any time they wanted, at will. But that is far from even the biblical record.

But when Deere refers to the ‘miraculous gifts’, he is not just speaking of healings or miracles, but the nine gifts associated with 1 Corinthians 12:8-10. And because this text, and others, make it clear that these are distributed to the whole body of Christ, he would look to differentiate between the apostle’s ministry in these gifts and the body of Christ’s ministry. He specifically states:

‘The third thing I discovered is that, taken as a whole, the apostles are presented by the New Testament as the most gifted individuals within the church. Although I am sure the apostles received charismata, just as others in the body of Christ, the New Testament never describes their healing ministries with the term charisma. The miraculous ministry of the apostles is designated by the phrase signs and wonders.’ (p69, italics his)

This could simply be a case of appealing to silence, meaning that something must be true because the opposite is never stated in Scripture (hence, there is silence on the matter). Thus, because the Greek word, charismata, is never used in connection with the use of the miraculous gifts amongst the apostles, then their use of such must have been a different category. Again, I’m not sure this fully holds up.

Still, another problem is that non-apostles like Stephen and Philip were used in such miraculous ministries described as ‘signs and wonders’. See Acts 6:8 and 8:4-8. I would not exclude ‘signs and wonders’ from those who were not apostles. And I wouldn’t try and dichotomise the miracles and healings of the ‘normal’ body of Christ from the signs and wonders of the apostles. I don’t think it’s fully sustainable.

Another example is that Paul tells us he speaks in tongues more than all of the Corinthians (1 Corinthians 14:18). And, remember, Deere groups all nine gifts from 1 Corinthians 12 into the ‘miraculous gifts’ (see p68). But his argument is that the apostle’s use of these gifts is more connected to ‘signs and wonders’. Yet, within the Corinthians context, is Paul’s use of tongues that which is for the whole body, or that which is just for apostles, or both? Well, tongues can be utilised as a sign itself (see 1 Corinthians 14:20-25, though this passage has caused much discussion). So, I’m still not sure such a distinction holds up. But, in the end, this is not of huge consequence to the belief in and utilisation of all the gifts of the Spirit. Moving on…

Not only is the book a theological resource for a case for continuationism, but it is also a very practical help at times. Not just with storied accounts of healings or prophecies or words of knowledge, though those give great encouragement, but also with counsel and wisdom in regards to seeking God and the work of His Spirit, even within churches that are cautious or in cases where one would like to encourage their leadership to be open to these gifts.

The final thing I would like to point out is that, in his Appendix B, Deere takes time to address the issue of the existence of apostles today. Most who know me will know that I am an advocate for present-day apostles. I have written plenty in a series on this topic, of which I still have 2 or 3 more articles I would like to post. I also have preached on this topic before – you can download the messages by clicking here.

So I was interested to read his thoughts on apostles today. And, actually, Deere is not closed to the idea of present-day apostles. As a summary to the Appendix, he pens these words:

‘I do not know of anyone today whom I would want to call an apostle in the same sense that I would call Paul an apostle. I am not willing, however, to rule out this possibility, because I do not think the Scriptures rule it out.’ (p275)

This is where the discussion gets down to the nitty-gritty. If apostles exist, are they in the same vein of a Paul, John, Peter, etc? Or are they ‘lesser-than’ apostles? I believe apostles exist today. Would I say they have the same ministry-anointing as Paul? Not really. But I still believe apostles are people of authority, of revelation, who are foundation builders-layers, and who help equip the body of Christ in varying ways, helping us be an apostolic (sent out, mission-minded) people.

For those ‘on the fence’ with regards to the continuation of all the gifts of the Spirit for today, these thoughts on apostles today might cause one to immediately reject Jack Deere as a viable source to consider. But such should not be the case. This work is a solid biblical and theological case for contiunuationism, even if one rejects the idea of apostles today.

Deere is faithful to not only address the cessationist perspective on particular passages of Scripture and theology, but more importantly he is faithful to present a positive, biblical-theological case for continuationism. Hence, it’s not written as a slap to cessationists. Rather it is a signpost pointing to the ‘charismatic’ work of the Spirit amongst God’s people in this present age. Such was one major purpose of Pentecost.

Therefore, I recommend that continuationist, cessationist, and everyone in between look to interact with this book as they think through the validity of the continuing work of the Spirit in all his varying gifts for the body of Christ.

Coming Up Next Week

by Scott

As we have stated on our About Page, one thing we would like to provide is theological and biblical resources with regards to a positive case for continuationism. Thus, next week, I shall be posting some thoughts about Jack Deere’s, Surprised by the Power of the Spirit. It stands as a solid work, giving both biblical reasoning for the continuation of all gifts of the Spirit as well as providing real-life stories of situations in which these gifts were used.

Stay tuned……