Tag Archives: C. Michael Patton

Defining “Charismatic”

By Marv

The conversation continues over at Parchment and Pen, between Cessationist C. Michael Patton and Continuationist Sam Storms. The current round aims at definition of terms, particularly asking the question: “What Does it Mean to Be Charismatic?” Each one has proposed a theory and definition, first Patton, then Storms.

Patton proposes a spectrum (graphically a wedge), in which the main players fall into the following range:

1. Hard Cessationists: These establish a category of “sign gifts” with which to box and then toss certain gifts described in the Bible. They employ Biblical and Theological arguments to demonstrate that these were always temporary, their limit being perhaps the close of the Canon or the death of the apostles.

2. Soft Cessationists: These are similar to (1) but do not object to reports of Acts-like activity from the mission field. This is what I call “long ago or far away.”

3. Continuationists: These see in Scripture (a) no indication that any gift is temporary, and (b) affirmative indications that they are ongoing. They are understood to be multi-purpose, not narrowly confined whether as a Canon stop-gap, a gospel frontier tool, or the particular property of the apostles.

4. Charismatics: These are exactly as (3) but whereas, apparently Continuationists approve passively, Charismatics pursue actively.

Evaluation:

This scale has merit, and reflects an accurate observation of the realities on the ground. The labels are problematic, however. It may be true that a theoretical, but non-practicing approver of the ongoing activity would self-identify as a Continuationist, as he/she affirms “continuation”–but would reject the label Charismatic. On the other hand, many who passionately pursue these gifts would self-identify as Continuationists, and might or might not identify with Charismatic. This is because Continuationist is a broader, more generic term. It would include Pentecostals, Charismatics, Third-wavers, and some who fall in none of these camps. Calling Patton’s category number (3) by the name of the entire set in which his (4) also falls entails a semantic error. Better to balance each side with two kinds of Cessationists on one side and two kinds of Continuationists on the other. Hard and soft? Perhaps. Passive and active? Hmm. Probably not. What this difference is does need to be further defined.

Storms picks up on the concept of pursuit, à la Paul’s exhortation of earnestly desiring the gifts (1 Cor. 14: 1, 12, 26, 39), as a key distinguishing criterion. Accordingly he sees six categories:

1. Those who don’t know what to think of the whole issue, Biblically, theologically, historically. Under this circumstance, these cannot be reasonably expected to pursue the said gifts.

2. These believe that the Sciptures positively affirm the continuation of the gifts in question. Paul’s injunction then is binding on the conscience.

3. These believe the Scriptures positively affirm the cessation of the gifts in question. Paul’s injunction is thereby obsolete, moot, and null and void for today.

4. These do not believe the Scriptures positively affirm the cessation of the gifts in question, but hold the opinion that they have ceased on other-than-Scriptural grounds or at least within a penumbra of Scriptural teaching. This puts them in the position of disregarding an explicit Scriptural injunction on the basis of rather less than explicit Biblical warrant to do so.

5. These for whatever reason hold the opinion that certain gifts mentioned in the Bible have continued while others have not. The corresponding response then would be to pursue those that have continued and not those that have not.

6. These hold either that the gifts in question possibly continue or definitely continue, and yet they do not pursue them actively. Storms points to this postion as a sin of omission.

If I understand him correctly, Dr. Storms would apply the terms Continuationist and Charismatic interchangeably to category (2), which is where he places himself.

Having distinguished the terms, he further characterizes what it entails to be Charismatic/Continuationist, as power in Christian experience and ministry and divine immanence and relational imminancy.

Evaluation:

I am not sure whether his classification system focuses on what each class actually do or what they should do. But this may simply be my reading of his meaning. In general, his basing his schema on pursuit is a helpful one, as it does seem to be–in both his and Patton’s treatments–a sine qua non of what it means to be a Charismatic. Of course, we here at To Be Continued… place ourselves in category (2) along with Dr. Storms, and so we are more likely to align with his understanding.

I would like, in summarizing, to underscore and develop briefly the important point that Sam Storms makes at the end of his post. I do not know whether he would specifically agree with me on this, but one of the reasons I prefer the term Continuationist to Charismatic is that etymologically Charismatic has to do with the concept of “spiritual gifts.” My contention is that while “gifts” is certainly a Pauline term for the particular way empowered ministry is distributed in the Body, a better center of focus for this aspect of Pneumatology is Christ’s own teaching that the Church would continue His Spirit-empowered minsitry in the same way He did it, between Pentecost and the Parousia. Talking about this gift or that gift tends, in my perception, to marginalize the topic, almost as if it were an optional add-on to the basic package, which some take and others leave.

Quite the contrary, may I suggest that Pentecost brought the church a specific connectedness, a plugged-in and turned-on direct line of communication with the Father and Son through the Spirit. That we are meant in all things, to function on-line, with constant input and output of information and power, seeing and hearing what the fallen world is blind and deaf to, acting as agents under authority–is integral equally to sanctification, communion, worship, evangelism, prayer, and the overt manifestation of divine power seen in the various “gifts.” Divine imminance, relational intimacy, ongoing revelation, miraculous ministry, efficacious prayer, passionate devotion to our Lord are descriptions of what ought to be pursued by a disciple of Jesus Christ, because they are descriptions of the manner of life and ministry of Jesus Himself.

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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.