Tag Archives: C. Micheal Patton

Building with a Full Deck? (Response to CMP, part 7)

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 seven.

 

Michael,

You admit to a history of deep-seated emotional bias against Continuationism (against Charismaticism,  really), but you insist you are all over that now.

You have weighed the Cessationists’ Scriptural arguments in the balance and found them wanting, correctly, I’d say.

You then offer up a subjective consideration of your personal experience, informed my some dubious expectations and shaky definitions.

You top this off with an argument from ignorance, based on selective evidence, ignoring contrary data, and out of all possible explanations you opt for the one that by an odd coincidence happens to correspond to your long-abandoned bias.  Go figure.

So, having laid a foundation such as this, you are now ready to build, it seems.

I don’t know, though.  At this point you loop back to some of the Scriptural arguments you previously said were underwhelming.  What, had they been pumping iron in the mean time? 

Just a few points in reaction:

1.  That whole “supernatural sign gifts” thing.  Not to repeat myself, but as I explain here, I really do call into question how valid that category is scripturally.  You post a chart in your part one, and then proceed to assume this concept for the duration of your series, but you never really derive it from the Bible.  Yet it controls your entire definition of “Cessationist.”

You understand, don’t you, that the fact that you choose to define Cessationism in terms of the sign gifts, doesn’t mean that Continuationism does or should.  I think Cessationism is wrong in part because the concept of “sign gifts” itself is spurious.

All “gifts” are empowered by the same Holy Spirit (1 Cor. 12:11, 28-29), but only some are “supernatural”?

Spiritual gifts in general are said to be God’s co-testimony to the gospel (Heb. 2:4).  So which ones are not “sign gifts”?

2.  You make a statement: “Everyone would agree that the work of Christ is not repeated over and over.” Well, yes, if what you mean is the finished work of Christ, His unique redemptive work.  However, you have here stumbled onto what I think is the main point you have missed all along.  In another aspect of Christ’s work, it certainly does continue—if you believe what Jesus says about it:

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. “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 14:10-12).

Note two things:

a. What you say about “sign gifts” Jesus says about His works: they confirm His words and help to build faith.

b. “Whoever believes” in Jesus will do these same works.

Jesus does not suggest that this is the only reason the believer is to do these works.  In fact we would do them as He did them:  because they are the Fathers’ works (v. 10b).  And this is the fruit that brings Him glory (14:13; 15:8).  When does that purpose get exhausted?

3.  You say you don’t find compelling evidence that all this continues. Well, that “whoever” in v. 12 does seem to me to indicate continuation through this age.  Does it not to you?  What about when Jesus brings this subject up again, saying that the power given through the Holy Spirit was for testimony “to the end of the earth”?  And if the power to do His works was because God was with Him (Acts 10:38), what could it mean for Christ to promise to be with us to the “end of the age” (Matt. 28:20). End of the earth, end of the age, does that sound like two generations?

4. You use the “no longer any need” argument.  Whose “need” do you have in mind?  If you are talking about God, “need” is not a relevant category.  God does not act out of necessity or need, but because He has willed, and according to His plan.  And if we believe Jesus’ words, it is a matter of God’s plan and His will that believers are to do the same works that He did.

On the other hand, if you are talking about our need, Jesus says—of this very subject—that without Him we can do nothing (John 15:5).  God’s need is 0%; our need for the empowerment of the Holy Spirit to do the works of Jesus is 100%. 

5.  Now to your specific Scriptural citations, Paul refers to the “signs” of a true apostle (2 Cor. 12:12).

“The signs of a true apostle were performed among you with utmost patience, with signs and wonders and mighty works.”

Now I think it is likely that the first use of “signs” here does not mean “miracles,” but simply “indications” (as the NIV takes it: “The things that mark an apostle…”).  But no matter, because we still have clear reference to “signs and wonders and mighty works.” 

It is not surprising that apostles would be marked out by, among other qualities, their wonder-working power.  I think they probably performed the works of Christ in fullness, that in others we would think of as individual gifts.  We know it was not only the apostles through whom these acts of power were manifested (Acts 6:8). At any rate, however, Jesus’ words are pretty clear: “whoever believes in me will also do the works that I do.”  Limit this “whoever” as much as you like, considering the way Jesus uses the phrase (ὁ πιστεύων εἰς ἐμὲ) throughout the Gospel of John, and these are not including the variations on the wording:

 Jesus said to them, “I am the bread of life; whoever comes to me shall not hunger, and whoever believes in me shall never thirst. (John 6:35)

Whoever believes in me, as the Scripture has said, ‘Out of his heart will flow rivers of living water. (John 7:38)

Jesus said to her, “I am the resurrection and the life.  Whoever believes in me, though he die, yet shall he live (John 11:25).

And Jesus cried out and said, “Whoever believes in me, believes not in me but in him who sent me (John 12:44).

6. Draw what implications you will from Eph. 2:19-22: “built on the foundation of the apostles and prophets” (v. 20), but the whole building, not just the foundation is the “into a dwelling place for God by the Spirit” (v. 22).  This takes us right back to one of the major themes of John 14-16, God dwells in the believer through the Spirit in order to bring forth His works:

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. (14:10).

In that day you will know that I am in my Father, and you in me, and I in you. (14:20).

Jesus answered him, “If anyone loves me, he will keep my word, and my Father will love him, and we will come to him and make our home with him.”  (14:23)

I am the vine; you are the branches. Whoever abides in me and I in him, he it is that bears much fruit, for apart from me you can do nothing. (15:5)

If you abide in me, and my words abide in you, ask whatever you wish, and it will be done for you.  By this my Father is glorified, that you bear much fruit and so prove to be my disciples. (15:7-8).

7.  Finally, you resort to Heb. 2:3-4.  Again, I have dealt with this passage at some length (here), but there are a few remarks that need to be made about your citation:

a. You make a point of saying the gospel was confirmed “to them,” but not “by them.”  Apart from the fact that the author asserts the former, though not the latter, he is talking to people who are unconvinced of the gospel,  those in danger of “drifting away” (v. 1), of “neglecting so great a salvation” (v. 3).  Jesus said those with faith in Him would do His works.  Are we somehow surprised if those lacking faith do not?

b. Recall that what is being said here is in regard to “gifts of the Holy Spirit” (v. 4) in general, not some subcategory of “supernatural sign gifts.”

c. I have to question your use of “seems,”  which apparently serves in lieu of actual logic:

“This seems to indicate once again that the supernatural gifts primarily served a confirmatory purpose, not simply a benevolent purpose.  (emphasis mine)

“It also… seems to suggest that these confirmatory gifts were already beginning to exhaust their purpose.”

“The writer of Hebrews and his audience (the “us who heard”), it would seem, did not possess these gifts themselves, but relied upon the witness and testimony of those who did possess these gifts.”

None of these statements are at all indicated by the passage.  As Jesus Himself said, the works He did back up His words, but these were not their main purpose, which was to glorify His Father.  The author here makes the same point: believe the words, or at least believe because of the works.  There is no indication whatever in the author’s words that the works Jesus prophesied and promised were not continuing and were not to continue.

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I’m not Charismatic, either, Michael. (Response to CMP, part 1)

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 one.

 

Michael,

Glad we could have this chat.  You know, Paul warns us against wrangling about words, but your first post was mainly geared toward setting some definitions.  So I think we’d better start with some of the terminology.

1. First of all, “Charismatic.”  Looks like we’re going to get tangled up there.  You seem to want to use this as a blanket term, the way I’d use “Continuationist.”  Trouble is, it isn’t a blanket term.  It’s a reference to a specific movement, circa mid-20th century, and adherents of that movement.  Now you might think it ought to refer to any non-cessationists, for etymological reasons, and you might even hear folk using it that way, but I can’t agree.

First of all, early in the 20th century the Pentecostal movement sprang up, and as far as I know they did not refer to themselves as Charismatics, even though they’d fit your definition. 

They had other distinctions, a particular doctrine about the baptism of the Holy Spirit, a second blessing.  Also they tended to found new denominations.  Mostly, I guess, because no one else would have them.  Anyway, at some point, a couple of generations or so later, their practices started to catch on among non-Pentecostals.  These people bought into the second blessing, baptism of the Spirit thing, with some modificatons, but stayed in their own denominations, and spread their understanding there.  They called themselves Charismatics.

Now, there are others who overlap with these people in terms of finding Biblical practices such as prophecy and healing… well, Biblical… Yet these people were never part of the Charismatic movement, and distance themselves from a great deal of the teaching and practice of that movement.  For example, they may not at all buy into the baptism of the Spirit thing à la the Charismatic movement.

So what do you call these people, who don’t self-identify as Charismatic, but are not Cessationist?  Well, Continuationist works well for me.  And that’s what I am.  (As if you haven’t already figured that out from our blog title.)

I understand that in part two you are going to refer to “Continuationism,” and you say “all Charismatics are Continuationists.”  And you should have said “not all Continuationists are Charismatics.”  But you didn’t; you said, “all continuationists, properly speaking, are charismatics (even if you must use a small ‘c’).”

Now, Michael, you had been going pretty well there, until then.  Maybe you can correct it on the next reprint.  (heh, heh, I know it’s an e-book…)

Look at it this way.  I hear a lot of people misuse the term “dispensationalist” as if it meant “cessationist.”  Now some people even think all dispensationalists are cessationists, which is also wrong.  But what if I decided, well, doggone it, I’m just going to use the word that way anyway.  So I say something like, “all cessationists, properly speaking are dispensationalists (even if you must use a small ‘d’).”  I mean, it does nothing, really, to the other guy, but it sure makes me look uninformed.  Just sayin’, Michael.

Nevertheless, I realize this is a bit unfair, since you’ve already written all your posts.  So anyway, I’ll read “Continuationist” when you say “Charismatic.”  But I might bring it up again.  Probably will.

2. The next word I want to bring up is “normative.”  That’s a great one.  I’m not sure I’ve heard anyone use it except a Cessationist (and by the way, I should disclose, I used to be one).  What does it even mean, anyway?  Does it mean the same as normal?  I google it, and I still can’t find anything that really fits in this context.  It’s simultaneously kind of an empty word and a loaded word.  Now, that’s hard to pull off.

Does it mean “something everyone should expect in his or her Christian life?”  I guess that would mean pastoring a church is not “normative.”  Does it mean when you see it happening, you don’t have to automatically assume it’s fake?  Well, I guess not, because you seem to believe in divine healing, and yet wouldn’t exactly call it “normative.”  Does it mean something God intended for the Church to be engaged in throughout the Church age?  Well, I think we’re getting somewhere with this one, but there certainly seem to have been ebbs and flows in history, for whatever reason. 

There was a period of time when for some centuries Israel had no prophets.  Does that mean prophecy wasn’t normative for Israel?  Or should we really describe historical oddities in a different way? 

3.  I love it that you define some gifts as ordinary and others as extra-ordinary.  Hey, here’s a question for you:  are the extra-ordinary gifts normative?  Heh, heh.  You picking up a hint of circularity there, Michael?  You practically say a Charismatic is one who believes the extra-ordinary is normative.  It’s kind of like saying X is someone who belives you can see the invisible or hear the inaudible.  It’s a great schtick, really it is, Michael. 

Only, yeah, you’re really begging the question by this “extra-ordinary” business.  It prejudices the discussion.  Similar ways to treat this are to refer to these as “dramatic” or “spectacular.”

The fact is, you’ve gotten yourself latched onto a faulty idea from the start.  Yes, God’s acts in our lives do often commend themselves as being of divine origin, unexplainable otherwise.  They do in fact, in a sense, make the invisible visible.  They call attention to the reality of God, his eternal power and divine nature, and such.  That is, they bring glory to him.  Yet what has that effect on someone maybe very, very ordinary.  It ought to be the case when looking at the starry sky, for example.  It’s something we experience when prayers are answered, divine timing, that sort of thing. 

But these aren’t characteristic of prophecy on the one hand and not of teaching on the other.  Or healing, but not encouragement.  When any of these are done in the power of the Holy Spirit, the extra-0rdinary, i.e. divine and not merely human, heavenly and not merely mundane, nature of these acts commend themselves.

4.  That brings us to supernatural.  Honestly, Michael, you are a teacher.  I suppose you avow the gift of teaching.  Anyway, I guess you see it as “normative.”  Yet it is not supernatural?

My goodness, your very faith is the gift of God given to you through the Spirit.  You can’t even believe in Christ apart from a supernatural act of God.  Cessationists are fond of saying conversion is the greatest miracle of all.  And so it is.  Yet, beyond that the obvious point goes missing.  Your ability to analyze, to express yourself, to persuade may all be “natural” abilities, but when you teach in the Body of Christ–I mean if you’re doing it right–you are exercizing the power of God through you.  Read Acts 1:8 for goodness sake. 

Michael there are no non-supernatural gifts of the Spirit, none.  To make that distinction for the so-called sign gifts is simply a failure to properly grasp what God is doing through his Body the Church.

5.  So let’s talk about “sign gifts.”  This is something of a personal bête noir for me.  I have a particular post just on that term.  I don’t need to repeat myself, or my other recent post on Heb. 2:3-4, but that verse states that God co-testifies to the gospel by the gifts of the Holy Spirit.  It doesn’t say sign gifts, some gifts or the extra-ordinary, non-normative, spectacular, or dramatic gifts.  In fact, it says through signs, wonders, various miracles AND gifts of the Holy Spirit.  May we not understand from the Word of God that any gift ministered by the Holy Spirit functions as God’s witness to salvation in Christ?

6.  I won’t  take issue with your definition of Cessationist.  You lay out some particular claims made by this perspective.  You make a lot of distinctions, categories, lists to help define this camp.  I’m sorry, Michael, but I find this truly a house of cards: revelatory, confirmatory, temporary, permanent. (Egad, there’s that monstrosity “pastor-teacher.” Don’t get me started!)  Ever feel your boxes are a tad artificial?  Hey, I don’t think your charts are normative.

Essentially, by your own description, you say Cessationists are those who make the following assertions:

a.  Certain spiritual gifts serve to (and have the purpose of) confirming the gospel, while others don’t.  [I’ve already spoken to this one.]

b.  There is no other (primary/significant) reason for these confirmatory gifts to exist apart from this purpose.

c.  The close of the Canon makes this sole purpose of these confirmatory gifts obsolete.

d.  Since they are obsolete, we know that God no longer performs them through His church.

But, Michael, there is not a single one of these propositions that is taught in the Bible.

Yet the ongoing Spirit-empowered ministry of the Body of Christ is present all through the New Testament:  The Upper Room Discourse (John 14-16), Acts, Rom. 12, 1 Cor. 12-14, Gal. 3:5, Heb. 2:3-4, and so on.

It’s there, but it’s obsolete, and should be understood to be such?  Is it like the Constitution of the U.S. the text of which still refers to senators as chosen by state legislatures, and still contains language about that deplorable 3/5 compromise?  Only we know when we read them they are no longer in force? 

So where are the amendments to the the New Testament, Michael?  Cessationists seem to be those who proclaim phantom amendments to our Church Constitution. 

All Continuationists are really saying is, old orders are good orders.