Turkish De-light

By Marv

Do not quench the Spirit. Do not despise prophecies, but test everything; hold fast what is good.  (1 Thes. 5:19-21)

Is there any book of the Bible we could do without? For example, would Christian doctrine suffer from the omission, say, of Proverbs? What about 1 and 2 Chronicles? Aren’t they largely redundant, not to speak of some tiresome genealogical material? And Revelation–apart from that curse thing–what if it were just to disappear completely, instead of having to be Docetized into docility as so many are wont to do?

While we’re at it, what animals could we vote off the island? Whole classes, perhaps. Got to go with reptiles, I think. I’d be sorry to say goodbye to the cute gecko who sells me insurance, but to get rid of snakes…! Insects, maybe: no cockroaches, fire ants, hornets. No butterflies either, but I’d get soon over it.

How about colors? I’m not overly fond of orange. Sunsets would be the losers, but how practical are they anyway?

Fortunately, authority in such matters have not been given over to the likes of us. What God has given–what He has provided by the good pleasure of His will–exists for His own purposes and according to His manifold wisdom.

The apostle was speaking on a particular subject, but his words must certainly have a general application:

For everything created by God is good, and nothing is to be rejected if it is received with thanksgiving (1 Timothy 4:4).

If this principle holds in regard to foodstuffs, how much more does our Lord mean us to receive His bounty in regard to the vital interworking among the members of Christ’s body? Paul instructs us in no uncertain terms in this regard:

But as it is, God arranged the members in the body, each one of them, as he chose. If all were a single member, where would the body be? As it is, there are many parts, yet one body. (1 Cor. 18-20)

Who of us will venture to say that God has chosen ill? No one, surely. Or we should hope. And what are these parts, specifically, that the apostle is referring to? He gives us a few examples:

For to one is given through the Spirit the utterance of wisdom, and to another the utterance of knowledge according to the same Spirit, to another faith by the same Spirit, to another gifts of healing by the one Spirit, to another the working of miracles, to another prophecy, to another the ability to distinguish between spirits, to another various kinds of tongues, to another the interpretation of tongues. All these are empowered by one and the same Spirit, who apportions to each one individually as he wills. (1 Cor. 12:8-11)

The Spirit wills. God chooses.

What about me? Don’t I get a vote? Well… no, in fact. We have not been consulted. We only work here.

Still, isn’t there quite a bit of this we really could do without? Can we not have a perfectly healthy church while making some strategic omissions from this list? Let’s say in my opinion some of these “gifts” have outlived their usefulness, are now more cumbersome than useful, more problematic than practical. Are these–less desirable bits–really necessary?

Well, I’m sure I don’t know, but I do have the Word of God to guide me:

The eye cannot say to the hand, “I have no need of you,” nor again the head to the feet, “I have no need of you.” On the contrary, the parts of the body that seem to be weaker are indispensable, and on those parts of the body that we think less honorable we bestow the greater honor, and our unpresentable parts are treated with greater modesty, which our more presentable parts do not require. But God has so composed the body, giving greater honor to the part that lacked it, that there may be no division in the body, but that the members may have the same care for one another. If one member suffers, all suffer together; if one member is honored, all rejoice together. (1 Cor. 12:21-26).

Is it too much of a stretch to conclude that if we cannot say “I have no need of you” that we do have need? Perhaps the Spirit was wise after all in willing, God in choosing.

How comes then Mr. Frank Turk of Pyromaniacs with his Open Letter to Mark Driscoll, which is a response to Driscoll’s Resurgence video post Four Points of the Movement (highly recommended), in which Driscoll attributes (hard) Cessationism to “worldliness.” In Mr. Turk’s open letter he responds with  a series of affirmations and denials? Observe, please, how many times and in how many different ways he can say “I have no need of you.”

I deny that this work [the personal action of God the Holy Spirit for the life of the Church] necessarily includes speaking in tongues (as in Acts 2 as well as in so-called “private prayer langauges”), healing the sick or raising the dead by explicit command, prophecy in the sense that Isaiah and John the Baptist were prophets, or any other “sign-and-wonder”-like exhibition. That is: I deny that these actions are necessary for the post-apostolic church to function as God intended. (emphasis mine).

Now a number of misconceptions are evident here as shown by his use of such words as “exhibition,” but from Paul’s list quoted above, Turk explicitly says “I have no need of you” to gifts of prophecy, healing, working of miracles, tongues. Lest we misunderstand:

I deny that this activity [“signs and wonders”] is common, normative, necessary, or in the best interest of God’s people to been seen as common, normative and/or necessary. God in fact warns us against seeking signs rather than the thing signified repeatedly in the OT and NT. (emphasis mine)

Not “in the best interest of God’s people” is Turk’s evaluation. Paul, on the other hand says “To each is given the manifestation of the Spirit for the common good.” (1 Cor. 12:7). Whose advice shall we take here?

What about “common” or that magic word “normative”? Let’s say we take it above even the apostle’s pay grade for some indication of how common we ought to expect works of power to be:

Truly, truly, I say to you, whoever believes in me will also do the works that I do; and greater works than these will he do, because I am going to the Father. Whatever you ask in my name, this I will do, that the Father may be glorified in the Son. (John 14:12-13)

These are the words of our Lord, in His farewell address on the eve of His crucifixion. The works in question are those overt acts of God’s power that achieve the Father’s goals, under His authority, in the Spirit’s power, and engender faith in those who see:

Do you not believe that I am in the Father and the Father is in me? The words that I say to you I do not speak on my own authority, but the Father who dwells in me does his works. Believe me that I am in the Father and the Father is in me, or else believe on account of the works themselves. (vv. 10-11)

Do not miss Jesus’ stated goals of our doing His works: “that the Father may be glorified in the Son.” (13)

Just a word about Mr. Turks reference to “sign seeking.” In the body of his open letter he proclaims himself to be well versed in “what actual Cessationists believe.” Evidently, this includes one very hackneyed and spurious misapplication of Matthew 16:4, which I have pointed out elsewhere falls more to the charge of Cessationists than Continuationists. Far from requiring miracles to overcome disbelief, we may join with the early church in their well-received prayer:

And now, Lord, look upon their threats and grant to your servants to continue to speak your word with all boldness, while you stretch out your hand to heal, and signs and wonders are performed through the name of your holy servant Jesus.” And when they had prayed, the place in which they were gathered together was shaken, and they were all filled with the Holy Spirit and continued to speak the word of God with boldness. (Acts 4:29-31)

Apparently, God was pleased to do so, even if Mr. Turk would rather not:

 I deny that explicitly-supernatural outworkings, or events the Bible calls ‘signs and wonders’ (e.g. – Acts 2:1-11, Acts 3:3-7, Acts 5:1-11, Acts 9:32-35, etc.) are either normative or necessary for the on-going life of the church.

I would have thought this included the “word of knowledge,” but then Mr. Turk makes a negative assertion which would seem to require omniscience on his part to make:

I deny that there is any man alive today who is gifted to perform miracles as Christ and the Apostles where gifted to perform miracles.

I will not presume to point to such a person either, though by our Lord’s own words in John 14:12, if I believe Jesus Christ, I ought not strongly doubt that He knew whereof He spoke.

How are we to account Mr. Turk’s denials, which–not to put too fine a point on it–would seem to run directly contrary to the Scriptures, apostolic authority, and the teaching of the Lord Jesus Christ?

In the topsy-turvy world of Ray Bradbury’s Fahrenheit 451, firemen no longer put out fires but start them. What are we to say of this world, which sees a “Pyromaniac” with no qualms against quenching? Farbeit from me to resort to Driscoll’s W-word, but it seems to me that the Church really does need all the good gifts that the Father has chosen, the Son promised, and the Spirit willed, since there’s still some “world-tilting” to do.

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22 responses to “Turkish De-light

  1. the thing is Marv, he does have a point which neither you nor the original poster have addressed ….
    the only gift that is now widely known and available is ‘tongues’ … and not the tongues of Pentecost in Acts at that, as these were real languages.
    For the rest, we don’t see miracles like those of Peter and Paul … and “prophecies” and “words of knowledge” are just as likely (or even more likely) to be wrong as right.

    In fact, the gift that is really promoted is that of tongues, and there is a strong tendency to lift this gift to a prominence that echoes the Corinthian church, which is why Paul wrote to them, putting into place strict guidelines as to their use in public meetings. However, Paul’s instructions are either ignored or explained away – and they are quite plain …. so how can the continuance of gifts and the ignoring of Paul’s instructions be taught from the same scripture passage?
    It is questions like these which leave so many, who like me are open, but looking for real answers at a loss.
    Then, of course, there is Benny Hinn et al ….. all of whom are not disowned by the Charismatic movement at large.

    sadly
    Dinah

    • Hello, Dinah, Thank you for reading and especially for commenting. I’m an Oz fan, too. Or is it Aus?
      I’m afraid I have to disagree with you though. “Tongues” is not really a big factor in this thing. It seems to be more a focus or Cessationists than Continuationists. Or me at least, since I don’t speak in tongues. You may be right that we don’t see miracles like those of Peter and Paul. IF that is true, why is it the case? Because God has stopped doing these, or some other reason? What does the Bible tell us about this? As far as I can tell it in no way supports the idea that God has had any intention of withdrawing his power in these gifts from the church. On the contrary, I think it rather clearly indicates we should expect these.

      It is really not different from the case with prayer. As far as I know no one is Cessationist in regard to prayer. But the things the Bible seems to say about prayer and the things we experience are two different things. And where are the prayers like Peter and Paul? There’s a disconnect somewhere, and it is on OUR end, I think.

      Anyway, one constant irony is that Cessationists continually charge Continuationists of not paying attention to Scripture, but I hardly ever hear any REAL Scriptural argument for their position. I just get a lot of what about these guys who do X or Y? Well, I agree, if the Bible says don’t do X or Y, don’t do it. Those guidelines. Absolutely. Or else, as I say somewhere, they try a two word “argument”: Benny Hinn. Pheh.

      Bring on the Bible, I say.

  2. Marv, have you ever spoken with tongues? even once?

  3. The reason I ask is because my church experience as an adult has been with Oneness Pentecostals who teach that speaking with other tongues is the initial evidence of a believer receiving the Holy Spirit. Some pentecostal preachers believe and teach that one should speak in tongues (pray through) everyday as a prayer language. I’ve spoken in tongues on two separate occasions since I first believed. Both times occured within the first year of conversion and not since though I’ve sought God fervently concerning it.

    I understand that this teaching is not generally accepted by the believers at large. I’ve spoken to many and discussed this subject many times in online forums and I haven’t found a convincing biblical argument to disprove the initial evidence doctrine. The conversion of the Samaritans in Acts 8 is one of the major sticking points for me because they believed the gospel but did not receive the Spirit at faith since they waited for Peter and John to come and lay hands on them. I conclude there must have been some generally accepted outer sign when a believer received the baptism of the Holy Spirit.

    I’ve been following the discussion between CMP and Sam Storms closely. Reading their blog posts and listening to the unplugged recordings in anticipation of them discussing this subject in particular. I’m curious as to your thoughts about the doctrine of initial evidence? Why do you believe it is a false doctrine and how do you explain the believers having to wait to receive the indwelling Spirit of God?

    • No, I don’t see that taught in the Scriptures anywhere. This whole issue has a lengthy history, coming out of Holiness circles, prior to the beginning of the Pentecostal movement. The concept was a second blessing that–and I’m sure I won’t state this correctly–empowered the believer beyond ordinary ability–for personal holiness. They were looking for this, and when in these circles tongues phenonmena broke out, in 1901, then on a wider scale in 1906, these were enfolded into this concept. I don’t think we would ever come to their conclusion just from reading the Scriptrues about tongues.

  4. Carol –

    I know you are discussing these things with Marv, but thought I might share some thoughts, if you don’t mind.

    I actually have done an 8-part series on tongues here at To Be Continued. I actually want to post a couple of more articles to tie up loose ends on the series. You can find the series in the categories drop-down box on the right side bar of the blog here.

    My first article specifically touched on the idea of tongues being the initial evidence of the baptism of the Spirit. My main thrust is that it is probably too narrow to say tongues is the initial evidence alone, but that when the Spirit comes upon, falls on, baptises, or someone is filled (Luke uses many terms in Acts), that what ‘normally’ happens is that there is some response of Spirit-inspired speech of all types – tongues, prophecy, bold proclamation of the word, praise. I think this is a fuller and better approach to topic.

    Of course, I believe Marv would not agree to a ‘second experience’ but that the baptism of the Spirit is given to all believers at conversion. I suppose he would approach the Samaritans in Acts 8, then, as more part of a transition period of seeing the gospel moved out from Jerusalem/Judea (Acts ch2) to Samaria (Acts ch8) to the Gentiles (Acts ch10), and thus a delay of the baptism of the Spirit is not something we should normally expect. But I don’t know if I fully represent Marv’s position. I know many a cessationists, or even many charismatic-continuationists who believe all receive the baptism of the Spirit at conversion, would argue more around these lines.

    I, on the other hand, am open to a second ‘reception’, for I believe Luke’s focus in Acts is on a baptism/filling of the Spirit for empowered service, whereas Paul tends to focus on the reception of the Spirit for conversion and adoption as sons and daughters. Knowing that Paul and Luke have differing foci, I believe that when we read Acts, we can allow for subsequent ‘receptions’ or a subsequent baptism in the Spirit for a Spirit-empowered service-ministry outside of salvation-conversion.

    • Hi Scott,

      I’ll take a look at your first article on tongues and get back to you with my thoughts.

      It’s not only the Samaritans reception of the Spirit sometime after faith that makes me hesitant to change my belief in the initial evidence doctrine but also Paul received the Spirit days after he met Christ on the road to Damascus in Acts 9. Not to mention Paul’s introductory question to the disciples in Ephesus if they had received the Spirit when (or since) they believed. That statement in and of itself is redundant and superfluous if a believer receives the Spirit at faith. It seems the early church, as seen in the book of Acts chapters 2, 8, 10, and 19, expected something, an outward sound, as evidence of the new believer receiving the gift of the Holy Spirit. I really don’t see ‘subsequent receptions” of the Spirit indicated in the book of Acts when it comes to a believer initially receiving the Spirit for the very first time.

      Let me give your article on tongues a read and get back with you.

      • CarolJean –

        I agree that there are plenty encounters in Acts to suggest a subsequent reception of the baptism of the Spirit (as you mention, chs2, 8, 9, 19). But I might argue that Luke is focusing in on a reception of the Spirit for empowering, also with charismata, not a reception for initiation-conversion. That is Paul’s main focus. And I think there are sufficient pointers that something will be spoken from the mouth when such an empowering/baptism/filling comes into the life of believers.

  5. Marv –

    Since you weren’t around when I was posting my series on tongues, maybe you can catch up on my thoughts, for I know we will differ on a couple of points – mainly about the ‘initial evidence’ stuff, though I broaden it beyond tongues into all types of Spirit-inspired speech. And I also argue that all can pray in tongues.

    Maybe you can check the posts out.

    • Scott, I’ll go through them. I think the “baptism” is an intial act by which we are placed into the Body of Christ. Fillings can occur many times. I can’t say for sure what is actually happening each time. I don’t particularly think that there is a “initial sign” for this baptism. Filling, I wouldn’t necessarily say has an “initial” evidence–but it seems to show up in some kind of behavioral evidence. That seems to be the point. At Pentecost these people were not only “baptized” (Acts 1:5), but they were “filled” (Acts 2:4). That’s when they started speaking in tongues. But there’s Acts 11:16 to be considered too.

  6. Marv –

    I think the “baptism” is an intial act by which we are placed into the Body of Christ.

    I think this is a theology that comes by forcing Luke into Paul’s specific theological perspective. They have different emphases and we must allow for them to carry those different emphases. I share more in this article. I also believe you are putting too much emphasis on 1 Cor 12:13, which could be translated not as a ‘baptism IN the Spirit’ of being included in the body but a ‘baptism BY the Spirit’ into the body. But there is plenty of debate here. That is why I think it is better to look at the different emphasis of Lukan and Pauline pneumatology.

    At Pentecost these people were not only “baptized” (Acts 1:5), but they were “filled” (Acts 2:4).

    But this is where Luke uses multiple terminology to focus in on one major event of empowering for service. For Luke, there is not always a distinguishing difference between baptism or filling with the Spirit. He speaks of being baptised in the Spirit, filled with the Spirit, the Spirit coming upon, receiving the Spirit, the Spirit falling, etc. They all normally refer to the one empowering event in the two volumes of Luke.

  7. Scott
    Do you not believe that the Holy Spirit actually makes a person a believer? …
    Also, there is that passage in John after the resurrection, where Jesus breathes on the disciples and says “Receive the Holy Spirit” …. but are you saying that they did not receive the Spirit until Pentecost?
    Then there is D.L.Moody (for instance) … ?
    I have come to the conclusion that to be Christian is a growing thing (not to be saved, that is a different thing) … and that from the point of becoming God’s child we grow in our experience of God’s grace and power.
    So the Spirit comes, at various times and in different ways – His aim is to conform us into the image of Christ.
    joy!
    Dinah

  8. Dinah –

    Do you not believe that the Holy Spirit actually makes a person a believer? …

    Yes, of course. But I also believe that Luke’s pneumatology, in both his focus on Christ in his Gospel and in the early church in Acts, is to focus on the empowering of the Spirit, not conversion-initiation.

    So, hence, Christ would ‘receive’ the Spirit (or the Spirit would come upon Christ) at his water baptism, all to accomplish the Spirit-empowered Messianic mission given. This by no means negates that Christ already had the Spirit as the divine Son of God. But this was a subsequent empowering reception. It was kind of a model of what Luke would focus in on in Acts.

    So you ask: Also, there is that passage in John after the resurrection, where Jesus breathes on the disciples and says “Receive the Holy Spirit” …. but are you saying that they did not receive the Spirit until Pentecost?

    There are a lot of ways to approach this. A lot of discussion has gone into this. Was this John’s version of Pentecost? Or was it something earlier in the life of these disciples, a kind of conversion reception of the Spirit, and then they would receive an empowering at Pentecost. It is not easy. But again, I believe no one can have the life of the Son without the Spirit of the Son. But that is a Pauline focus. The Lukan focus in Luke-Acts is that of a subsequent reception of the Spirit (maybe even multiple times) for empowered service.

    This article might be helpful in considering a fuller Lukan pneumatology as a bit of a different focus from Pauline pneumatology. Maybe one day I’ll post a fuller series on the baptism/empowering of the Spirit as found in Luke.

  9. thanks Scott … I have downloaded the article and will read it with interest.
    The only danger, as I can see, is pitting one piece of scripture against another, especially when one seems to ‘prove’ the point we are trying to make.
    In my opinion, what we must do is to see how all Scripture fits together, even when it is difficult.
    I believe that we must have the Spirit … or we cannot believe in God, and Scripture is just words … as Paul so clearly says in Romans, if we don’t have the Spirit of God then we are not children of God at all.
    I also believe (and know from personal experience both my own and that of others) that yes, there can and perhaps even should be, subsequent fillings of the Holy Spirit. I think it is part of our being transformed into the image of Christ as well as being given to perform the tasks God has called us to.
    in Christ
    Dinah

  10. Dinah –

    The only danger, as I can see, is pitting one piece of scripture against another, especially when one seems to ‘prove’ the point we are trying to make.

    I am not interested in ‘pitting one piece of scripture against another’. But what I also recognise is that all 4 Gospels have quite different emphases and foci when compared with one another. They are not at odds with one another in the bigger picture. But Matthew, Mark, Luke and John focus on different things to make different points. We have to allow Matthew to speak as Matthew and not force his words into John or Luke or Mark.

    I believe the same is true with Luke and Paul’s focus on pneumatology. Ultimately, Paul focuses on the reception of the Spirit at initiation-conversion and what that means to be in Christ as sons and daughters of God. Luke has a very focused purpose on the reception (baptism, filling, etc) of the Spirit for empowered service (which also focuses on the inclusion of the charismata). They are not at odds with one another, but they still are highlighting different things. We need to allow Luke to speak as Luke rather than force his pneumatology into Paul.

  11. Scott

    you said “We need to allow Luke to speak as Luke rather than force his pneumatology into Paul.”

    agreed …. I think it is legitimate to consider the differences between what was a special time in the purposes of God … i.e. the coming, life, death, resurrection of Jesus, as well as the birth of the Christian church – which is what Luke describes

    Whereas, Paul’s letters (as well as the other letters in the NT corpus) speak about living as Christians in the new churches that were established around the Roman empire.

    I liked your article, but I had reservations about some of it.

    I think, that while all scripture is given for our instruction, yet each genre must be read as what it is. We must be very careful taking doctrine from narrative, and it is not always easy to distinguish between what is descriptive (i.e. what happened at that time) and what is prescriptive (i.e. applicable at all times and in all places). We have to be aware of our tendency to pull out what suits our own position (and both sides are guilty of this).

    in Christ
    Dinah

  12. Dinah –

    I think, that while all scripture is given for our instruction, yet each genre must be read as what it is. We must be very careful taking doctrine from narrative, and it is not always easy to distinguish between what is descriptive (i.e. what happened at that time) and what is prescriptive (i.e. applicable at all times and in all places).

    I am aware of this argument, but I am also weary of it. The Scripture is ultimately a narrative. Most of it comes to us as narrative. We know so much of how to live like Christ because of the narrative Gospels. We can know so much how to walk and live like the early church from that which shows us how they lived and walked. I am aware there are certain things that can’t be packaged. And that is what I am about. I don’t look at Luke’s narrative in the Gospel and Acts and say, ‘It must happen this way.’. But I am very, very aware that Luke is teaching us something. He wasn’t simply telling a story to tell a story. What happened in Acts mirrored the life of the Messiah in his Gospel, hence he was saying something is important here for how we are to live as the church of Christ.

    And I would also make us aware that not every ‘prescriptive’ thing is binding for all time. But that is another day, another post. Actually I will be posting up an article, probably on Saturday, that touches on this topic.

    Oh, that we would let Luke be Luke – a theological historian who is teaching us something, and that we don’t have to force his pneumatology into a Pauline pneumatology. 🙂

  13. Scott

    But the thing is, it never should be Paul against Luke and vice versa … when we think like that we forget the Holy Spirit’s work in providing us with the Bible. We have the books we have because God in His wisdom chose them for us.
    The other thing to consider is this … if Luke is not telling the story of the Messiah and the birth of the Church – in what sense is he a historian?

    We must rather, allow both Luke and Paul both to say what God wanted them to say (or it wouldn’t be recorded for us), and then prayerfully consider how all of it applies to us and to the church now.

    However, if all narrative is prescriptive … then should we only meet in houses? Have unpaid pastor/teachers? – or in other words, have church exactly as Luke (and Paul) describe it? …. so you see, even you choose which parts of the narrative you think apply and which don’t.

    I am not trying to be argumentative here, but still trying to get my head around it all.

  14. Dinah –

    I never said we should put Luke and Paul against one another. I said let us allow Luke to be Luke inspired by the Spirit. If we allow Luke to be Luke and not Luke to be Paul, we will have a more robust understanding of the Spirit. Just like we have a much more robust understanding of Christ when we allow Matthew to be Matthew, Mark to be Mark, etc.

    Luke is communicating history, but it is didactic history. Luke did not write simply to tell a story. He wrote to teach within that narrative framework, just as the writer of Genesis or Joshua or Judges or 2 Samuel or Ezra or the Gospels did. They were undoubtedly teaching. The same is true of the inspired Luke.

    When a framework has been laid out in Luke’s 2 volumes, the latter mirroring the former, especially with noting the pneumatological patterns between the two, then we need to bear this in mind as we form a full pneumatology. I am not convinced some of the things Luke said are straightforward dogmatic commands. But there is a pattern laid out in the life of Messiah and the early church that speaks something about the reality of the empowering of the Spirit and the charismata of the Spirit. We need to take note, learn and respond appropriately.

    And so, noting what Luke is highlighting, mainly about the empowering of the Spirit for service (with charismata), I believe we can allow for the baptism-empowering of the Spirit subsequent to salvation-conversion and it not impede on what Paul emphasises that we receive the Spirit at salvation-conversion to be sons and daughters of God in Christ.

    I’d encourage you to check out Roger Stronstad’s book, The Charismatic Theology of St. Luke. It is only about 100 pages, but is excellent and touches upon these points. I know – so much recommended reading from me. 🙂

  15. ah, another for my collection 🙂

  16. Pingback: Jaws | To Be Continued…

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