Category Archives: continuationism

How Firm a Foundation is the Argument from Ephesians 2:20?

By Marv

Ephesians 2:20 is a verse sometimes cited in support of the assertion that prophecy has ceased–which in turn serves as partial evidence for a more general cessationist position. One problem I’ve had writing on some verses relevant to the cessationist controversy is that I have difficulty seeing an actual basis for argument in the text. I don’t want to say that cessationists’ use of this verse gives proof-texting a bad name, but I am frequently amazed at how cessationism seems to create straw men in defense of it’s own positions.

What I mean is that the argument based on this verse is so weak that I am surprised when cessationists bring it up. The reason I say it is weak is that it requires a string of questionable inferences to get from A to B. A chain with nothing but weak links is manifestly a weak chain, one I wouldn’t care to place much trust in, if I were you.

The verse reads as follows:

…built on the foundation of the apostles and prophets, Christ Jesus himself being the cornerstone… (Ephesians 2:20)

The basic idea in the cessationist argument is that if prophets are said to be a component of the “foundation” that their function is limited to an initial stage of construction–a stage now completed–and therefore should no longer be expected to be present. It is, I suppose, satisfying to the already convinced, but is impeachable at multiple stages.

First inference: Paul is referring to contemporary–New Testament era–prophets.

If Paul is referring to the respective authoritaties in the Old Testament, the prophets, and the New Testament, the apostles, then the verse has no relevance to the question of people prophesying in the church. This understanding enjoys a healthy degree of probablity, in view of the context in which Paul is describing a new unity composed of formerly distinct elements:

 …at one time you Gentiles in the flesh…were at that time separated from Christ, alienated from the commonwealth of Israel and strangers to the covenants of promise… (Ephesians 2:11-12)

…that he might create in himself one new man in place of the two… (Ephesians 2:15)

It is reasonable then that Paul would be presenting a combo platter, one from column A and one from column B. I actually think this is what is going on, though I do not purport the sampling of data I have cited is sufficient to demonstrate it–only to put into question a cessationist use of the verse.

I should say something at this point about Grudem’s argument on this verse, which in my opinion misuses the Granville Sharp rule. I have to admit I had thought he had long since retracted this argument, since being better informed on the grammatical point by Daniel Wallace. However, though he edited his text to reflect Wallace’s objection, he does stick with it. I think he takes the wrong tack here, the grammar being against it.

To recap what is involved, in Greek, when two nouns share a single article it forms a structure like one box containing two objects. If–and only if–those two nouns are singular, this forces identity of referent, both nouns necessarily indicate the same entity. This does not work if the nouns are plural. And in Ephesians 2:20 the nouns are plural.

Paul’s two-objects-in-one-box grammar does seem to be consistent, however with his both-are-now-together theme:

 And he came and preached peace to you who were far off [Gentiles] and peace to those who were near [Jews]. (Ephesians 2:17)

Furthermore, Paul could well have in mind, by metonymy, the authoritative writings of the two eras, summarized as “the prophets” for the Old Testament, and “the apostles” for the New Testament. This is similar to other phrases which refer to the Scriptures.

  • the Law and the Prophets (Acts 13:15)
  • the Law of Moses and the Prophets and the Psalms (Luke 24:44)
  •  the teaching and to the testimony (Isaiah 8:20)

One objection to what I suggest is the order of the nouns, that if Paul meant the Old Testament prophets and New Testament apostles he would have said “prophets and apostles” (i.e. chronological order) rather than “apostles and prophets.” I don’t think this is necessarily so from a psychological viewpoint. True, if he’s picturing a historical timeline, he’ll likely say “prophets” before “apostles.” But if he’s picturing his image of a temple with a foundation, he could well be starting at level and working down: this level is the apostles and below them the prophets. Basement and sub-basement, still a natural order.

Second inference: that the metaphor of the foundation implies that prophecy is not used in further building.

Let’s grant for sake of argument at this point that Paul did have in mind people prophesying in the church. The cessationist argument extrapolates from a metaphor. Certainly, Paul would mean that prophecy is foundational to the church. Is it a valid implication of this metaphor that prophecy is only foundational and not useful for building beyond the foundation? What does Paul himself say?

He uses the imagery of foundation and building elsewhere as well. In Eph. 2:20 the word for “built on” is the verb epoikodomeo, the basic word oikodomeo “build” with the prefix epi- “upon.” Note that a different prefix occurs with the same basic form two verses later (v. 22): sunoikodomeo= sun “together” + oikodomeo “build.”

In him you also are being built together into a dwelling place for God by the Spirit.(Ephesians 2:22)

We see similar language in 1 Corinthians 3:

 According to the grace of God given to me, like a skilled master builder I laid a foundation, and someone else is building upon it. Let each one take care how he builds upon it. For no one can lay a foundation other than that which is laid, which is Jesus Christ. Now if anyone builds on the foundation with gold, silver, precious stones, wood, hay, straw— (1 Corinthians 3:10-12 ESV)

Each instance of “builds upon/builds on” is epoikodomeo (likewise v. 14). Note also that the metaphor varies. Here Christ is said to be the only foundation, with nothing about apostles or prophets being part of the foundation, as in Eph. 2:20, where Christ is said to be the cornerstone. A metaphor is a metaphor, and serves its purpose in its context. Is there some reason to take Eph. 2:20 as the definitive description? Such an all-encompassing description of reality that we can draw inferences of cessation from it?

Two chapters later we find similar language making a related point.

 And he gave the apostles, the prophets, the evangelists, the shepherds and teachers, to equip the saints for the work of ministry, for building up [oikodome]the body of Christ (Ephesians 4:11-12)

from whom the whole body, joined and held together by every joint with which it is equipped, when each part is working properly, makes the body grow so that it builds itself up [oikodome] in love. (Ephesians 4:16)

And in the same context:

Let no corrupting talk come out of your mouths, but only such as is good for building up [oikodome], as fits the occasion, that it may give grace to those who hear. (Ephesians 4:29)

Does Paul mean to say that prophecy is limited to foundation laying or does he recommend it for continued building? He makes himself clear on the subject elsewhere:

The one who speaks in a tongue builds up [oikodomeo] himself, but the one who prophesies builds up [oikodomeo] the church. Now I want you all to speak in tongues, but even more to prophesy. The one who prophesies is greater than the one who speaks in tongues, unless someone interprets, so that the church may be built up [oikodome]. (1 Corinthians 14:4-5)

The impact of these verses is often obscured by the rendering “edify” in some translations, but this is simply an anglicized form of the Latin aedificare, which means “to build,” like its Greek cousin oikodomeo, with both figurative and non-figurative uses. But at the very least 1 Corinthians 14 calls into serious question the limitations purported for prophecy based on Eph. 2:20.

Third inference: that the metaphor in Eph. 2:20 takes precedence over other Scriptural statements.

I have in mind chiefly Acts 2:17-18:

And in the last days it shall be, God declares, that I will pour out my Spirit on all flesh, and your sons and your daughters shall prophesy, and your young men shall see visions, and your old men shall dream dreams; even on my male servants and female servants in those days I will pour out my Spirit, and they shall prophesy.

But also:

Pursue love, and earnestly desire the spiritual gifts, especially that you may prophesy. (1 Corinthians 14:1)

and

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 Corinthians 14:24-25)

as well as

For you can all prophesy one by one, so that all may learn and all be encouraged (1 Corinthians 14:31 ESV)

Not to mention this pretty important statement:

 “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. (John 14:12)

Where’s the controlling center to be? In the one metaphor of Ephesians 2:20? Why?

Fourth inference: if prophecy has ceased, being foundational, it is reasonable to suggest that other gifts have ceased.

I’m not saying this one would be asserted in a careful argument, but I can testify to hearing Eph. 2:20 being tossed out as evidence for cessationism in general, though strictly speaking it refers only to apostles and prophets.

It certainly is not from this verse that we learn of the cessation of the gifts tongues, healing, miracles or any of the usual suspects. In fact, if anything the verse would imply that all other gifts continue. If the foundation consists of apostles and prophets, then everything else, including tongues, healing, and miracles are by definition non-foundational. They are building material. The verse then–if we grant the basic premise–is a subtantially useful one for the continuationist perspective.

In point of fact, whereas the foundation of the church is a solid one, Eph. 2:20 makes a poor foundation for a cessationist perspective. It simply cannot support the weight put on it by some who draw from it inferences without logical basis. Let each man be careful how he builds. The wise man does not build upon sand.

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Pneumatica according to Matthew

By Marv

Note: “Pneumatica” is a term taken from 1 Cor. 12:1 and 14:1, intended in this series as a general term for Spirit-empowered ministry and its particular manifestations. This series aims to examine how different New Testament writers present this aspect of the Lord’s plan for His Church.
 

Kingdom authority

The gospel according to Matthew presents Jesus as the anointed King. It begins by recounting His royal heritage (1:1-17) and continues with Herod’s jealousy toward the One  “who has been born king of the Jews” (2:2).  When He begins His public ministry, He proclaims “the kingdom of heaven is at hand” (4:17).

Not surprisingly then the people see that He “was teaching them as one who had authority, and not as their scribes” (Matthew 7:29).  Authority (exousia) is a key term in Matthew to characterize Jesus’ standing, His teaching, and in most evident way His power over nature, disease, death and demons. Leave it to a member of the occupying force to get it with crystal clarity, when most of Israel missed it:

But the centurion replied, “Lord, I am not worthy to have you come under my roof, but only say the word, and my servant will be healed. For I too am a man under authority, with soldiers under me. And I say to one, ‘Go,’ and he goes, and to another, ‘Come,’ and he comes, and to my servant, ‘Do this,’ and he does it.” When Jesus heard this, he marveled and said to those who followed him, “Truly, I tell you, with no one in Israel have I found such faith. (Matthew 8:8-10)

Another kind of occupying force understood Christ’s authority all too well, as the demons themselves had to beg to be commanded by Him (8:31).

Jesus Himself explicitly linked His authority over sin to His exercise of acts of divine power:

 But that you may know that the Son of Man has authority on earth to forgive sins”—he then said to the paralytic—“Rise, pick up your bed and go home.” (Matthew 9:6)

Note how Matthew expresses the reaction of the crowds:

 When the crowds saw it, they were afraid, and they glorified God, who had given such authority to men. (Matthew 9:8)

“To men” he writes, not for a moment minimizing that Jesus Christ is Himself God, but pointing out that as the anointed King expressing the kingdom of heaven on earth, He was Man–the epitome of man: the Son of Man–under the authority of God. He exercised authority because He was a man under authority given to Him.

Disciples as Deputies

“Men,” plural, also because in the Father’s plan, Jesus not only received authority, He deputized others with His authority:

 And he called to him his twelve disciples and gave them authority over unclean spirits, to cast them out, and to heal every disease and every affliction. (Matthew 10:1)

He taught His disciples not only to understand and pass on His teaching, but to do the works of power that He was given authority to do (as He would later make explicit in John 14:12). This was essential to what it meant to be a disciple:

 It is enough for the disciple to be like his teacher, and the servant like his master. If they have called the master of the house Beelzebul, how much more will they malign those of his household. (Matthew 10:25)

He assured them in acting as men under His authority, they would resemble Him in power, but also would face the same opposition from hostile elements. Why would they also be called “Beelzebul”? Because Jesus’ disciples exercise overt spiritual power, as He did. His enemies could not deny the power, but attributed it to Satan (9:34), not to the authority of God, not to the kingdom of heaven.

This first mission was practical training for them, an arrangement of  limited duration–and of limited scope. It foreshadowed and prepared them for a more vast and ongoing mission later, but for the moment, His instructions were:

Go nowhere among the Gentiles and enter no town of the Samaritans, but go rather to the lost sheep of the house of Israel. And proclaim as you go, saying, “The kingdom of heaven is at hand.” Heal the sick, raise the dead, cleanse lepers, cast out demons. (Matthew 10:5-8)

How they knew how to do all this, Matthew does not tell us. But they were disciples (mathetai), learners. In addition to learning from Jesus, and seeing His example, He was now having them learn by doing. The trip was not an end in itself, but preparation for what they would be doing after He would leave. Though His instructions were, then and there, to remain within Israel, it would not always be so limited, as He made clear they would eventually “be dragged before governors and kings for my sake, to bear witness before them and the Gentiles” (Matthew 10:18). Thus the plan was not for the twelve alone, but for all the other disciples after them–until the time of His return:

 Brother will deliver brother over to death, and the father his child, and children will rise against parents and have them put to death, and you will be hated by all for my name’s sake. But the one who endures to the end will be saved. When they persecute you in one town, flee to the next, for truly, I say to you, you will not have gone through all the towns of Israel before the Son of Man comes. (Matthew 10:21-23)

They were told–and since we too are disciples, we are told–to rely on the Spirit of God–to communicate both to us and through us. Pentecost would enable what He says here. Note that “extrabiblical revelation” is not merely allowed–it is commanded:

 When they deliver you over, do not be anxious how you are to speak or what you are to say, for what you are to say will be given to you in that hour. For it is not you who speak, but the Spirit of your Father speaking through you. (Matthew 10:19-20)

Faith as an expression of authority

John would later tell us “whoever says he abides in him ought to walk in the same way in which he walked” (1 John 2:6). No one can claim to have done this more literally than Peter, who is the only human apart from Jesus we know to have walked on the water. He did it poorly, to be sure, but he did it. And he understood enough that this was possible–but only possible–as a man under authority:

 And Peter answered him, “Lord, if it is you, command me to come to you on the water.” He said, “Come.” So Peter got out of the boat and walked on the water and came to Jesus. (Matthew 14:28-29)

Authority. Remember? “I say to one, ‘Go,’ and he goes, and to another, ‘Come,’ and he comes, and to my servant, ‘Do this,’ and he does it.”

Authority is a key to Spirit-empowered ministry. Power is a function of authority, and authority a function of Jesus specific command through the Holy Spirit. A man under authority, even He did only and all He was commanded and authorized to do (John 5:19; 14:10). He was always listening. He means for us to be always listening, as the Spirit has given so that Jesus would speak to us, command us, through Him (John 16:14-15).

And this is foundational to faith as Jesus means it, obedience to a specific command, and confidence in that command to empower obedience where He has commanded it, because the authority is God’s. He showed us this with an extreme example, followed by an even more extreme teaching–which He means His disciples to take seriously:

In the morning, as he was returning to the city, he became hungry. And seeing a fig tree by the wayside, he went to it and found nothing on it but only leaves. And he said to it, “May no fruit ever come from you again!” And the fig tree withered at once.
 When the disciples saw it, they marveled, saying, “How did the fig tree wither at once?” And Jesus answered them, “Truly, I say to you, if you have faith and do not doubt, you will not only do what has been done to the fig tree, but even if you say to this mountain, ‘Be taken up and thrown into the sea,’ it will happen. And whatever you ask in prayer, you will receive, if you have faith.” (Matthew 21:18-22)

Understand, He means we can remove a mountain not if we simply feel like it and somehow “have faith” in the power of prayer, but when acting as “one under authority.” He expects us to believe that even a mountain goes if we say go, if He has commanded us to do this–and we have confidence in the power of His authority. Remember again, this clear understanding of authority is the “faith” he saw in the centurion.

Lest we miss it here, Matthew brings us back to understanding authority in the next verse. Jesus’ authority is from heaven–the kingdom of heaven–thought the leaders of the Nation missed it:

 And when he entered the temple, the chief priests and the elders of the people came up to him as he was teaching, and said, “By what authority are you doing these things, and who gave you this authority?” Jesus answered them, “I also will ask you one question, and if you tell me the answer, then I also will tell you by what authority I do these things. The baptism of John, from where did it come? From heaven or from man?” And they discussed it among themselves, saying, “If we say, ‘From heaven,’ he will say to us, ‘Why then did you not believe him?’ But if we say, ‘From man,’ we are afraid of the crowd, for they all hold that John was a prophet.” So they answered Jesus, “We do not know.” And he said to them, “Neither will I tell you by what authority I do these things. (Matthew 21:23-27)

The irony, and also the mystery of God’s plan is that the Nation–whose legitimate King was Jesus–did not recognized His authority, for the most part. Their rejection, however, was an effective cause of the kingdom of heaven spreading to the nations, the gentiles.

Authority and the nations

So whereas He sent his twelve disciples out on a limited mission to “only the lost sheep of the house of Israel,” the ongoing mission given to His disciples has no such limitation. Like that first mission, however, Jesus sends out His disciples as people under authority:

And Jesus came and said to them, “All authority in heaven and on earth has been given to me. Go therefore and make disciples of all nations, baptizing them in the name of the Father and of the Son and of the Holy Spirit, teaching them to observe all that I have commanded you. And behold, I am with you always, to the end of the age. (Matthew 28:18-20 ESV)

Those words, the great commission, are so familiar, that we might miss how they fit into Matthew’s gospel and its themes.

  • Jesus, the Son of Man, under authority, sends out his disciples under authority. He thus wants them to have full confidence in the power of His authority, preaching the good news and doing the works He trained them to do, such as healing the sick, casting out demons. This is just what the first disciples did, as we see in the book of Acts.
  • He wants them to continue the work among the nations, which He began within Israel. This is what the first disciples did, as we see in the book of Acts.
  • He wants his disciples to make more disciples, who will then following His instructions, make yet more disciples. As disciples, they will also do His work, under His authority, in His power.
  • This is a mission well beyond the lives of the first disciples, the apostles, not in any way dependent on their lifespans, as disciples are self-replicating. All of them, all of us, are people under authority, and He wants us to understand, believe, and act on that authority, as the apostles did.
  • He assures them–and us–that He is with us, not meant as some kind of  sentimental reassurance–but as an assurance of His active presence, ongoing communication through the Holy Spirit, His continuing to do His works through us, in the power of His authority. And this, Jesus says, continues “to the end of the age.

Extraordinary Gifts

by Scott

Recently, I have seen some banter around the blogosphere which argues against the idea that the Spirit giftings of 1 Cor 12:8-10 should be considered any more special than other gifts mentioned elsewhere in Scripture, at least those found in places like Rom 12:6-8 or not too far along in the 1 Cor 12 passage, mainly some of those found in vs28-30. This argument normally flows from the cessationist sector, or those who believe these specific gifts are either not normal for today or have ceased all-together.

I actually understand the desire to keep all gifts on a kind of level ground, not making any of them more important than others. Quite like we want to steer clear of any two-tiered Christianity with the have’s on one side and have not’s on the other. This has unfortunately been created by some of our brothers and sisters in Pentecostal and charismatic circles. I know and it saddens my heart.

If anything, we are all one in Christ, as Paul argued adamantly in Gal 3:26-29.

But while I agree with this underlying focus and emphasis of non-continuationists on the importance of all gifts, I do want to clarify some things that come from the Pentecostal and charismatic circles of why we might emphasise the extraordinary nature of those gifts found in 1 Cor 12:8-10. Continue reading

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.

Two Levels of Revelation

by Scott

Continuationists believe God is still speaking today, not only through His overall leading and direction via Scripture and other such means, but even through actual direct and revelatory words. These revelations can come in various manners – prophecy, words of knowledge, words of wisdom, visions, dreams, etc. – but God is still communicating and speaking directly today. He never desired anything less.

But what gets easily leveled against continuationists, from a more cessationist camp, is the idea that such revelation would no longer be needed knowing we now have the completed revelation of God in Jesus Christ, which is, of course, summarised in the full canon of Scripture that now includes the New Testament. This revelation in Christ is the final word and no other such revelation is needed. And we now have the testimony of a full biblical canon to confirm this.

Well, to be honest, I believe partial agreement should exist here for those on both the continuationist and cessationist side. Continue reading