Tag Archives: Michael Patton

Another Series – Why I Am/Not a Charismatic

by Scott

It looks like Michael Patton is rearing up for another series on why he is not a charismatic.

He has posted one before, which you can find here. The interesting thing is that Marv and I already interacted with his first series. The two of us took turns, back and forth, engaging with the varying posts from that series. If interested, you can get a copy of our series in this PDF document: Response to Michael Patton’s “Why I’m Not Charismatic”.

In this newer series of posts, Patton is adding a new aspect to it. He will now look to interact with a continuationist (this is a helpful way in today’s world for engaging in theological discussion and debate). Unfortunately, he did not choose Marv and I as the continuationist proponents. He chose the well-known pastor and theologian, Sam Storms. That’s great, and we appreciate Sam Storms, for he has allowed us to post some articles at To Be Continued. I can only imagine Sam Storms will do a tremendous job, as he does briefly in this video.

So, check out the initiation of Patton’s new series at his blog, Parchment & Pen. But also keep in touch with our interaction at To Be Continued.

Interaction with Michael Patton

by Scott

Those who follow our blog at To Be Continued, you might remember that, back in the summer, Marv and I interacted with Michael Patton’s in depth series entitled, Why I Am Not A Charismatic.

At the time, we made a PDF document available, as Michael had previously done as well. Well, rather than the previous two PDF documents being posted – Michael’s and our’s – I am now posting one PDF document that incorporates both series into the one document. So, what you have in this new document is Michael’s part 1, followed by ours, Michael’s part 2, followed by ours, etc, etc, all the way through to the full 8-part series. I believe this will allow for a better reading flow and make it easier to follow our interaction with Michael’s series.

So, for those interested, here is the link to the one PDF document that incorporates both series into one easier to follow document: Response to Michael Patton’s “Why I’m Not Charismatic”.

Interaction With Michael Patton – PDF Document

by Scott

For those who have recently visited To Be Continued, you will notice that, yesterday, Marv and I completed our eight-part series interacting with Michael Patton’s own series entitled, “Why I’m Not Charismatic”. Michael Patton is head of Reclaiming the Mind Ministries, which offers many such things as The Theology Program, Parchment & Pen blog, and the Theologica discussion network. Marv and I are regular interactors with both his blog and Theologica.

If one is interested, they can view the full series of Michael Patton by clicking here, or you can download a PDF document of the series by clicking here.

For those interested, you can read our eight posts here at To Be Continued or you can download our PDF document by clicking on the link here – Response to Michael Patton’s “Why I’m Not Charismatic”.

Final Response to Patton’s “Why I’m Not Charismatic” (Part 8)

by Scott

With this post, Marv and I conclude our series in which we have interacted with Michael Patton’s eight-part series entitled “Why I’m Not Charismatic”. You can also download Patton’s series in a 22-page PDF file.

If you want to read previous posts, they are here:

Michael Patton’s final section in his series, section 8, is his concluding explanation as to why he is a ‘de facto cessationist’, meaning, he is a cessationist because there is not enough compelling evidence in his personal life as to persuade him otherwise. He still maintains God’s sovereignty as to overstep the experiential boundaries of his life. But, in all, this is simply where Patton finds himself.

I do not despise one’s experience shaping their theology. Though some might disregard experience altogether, I believe it is part and parcel to our faith, as I have shared here. But what I would challenge any cessationist, de facto or whatever, is that we acknowledge and allow for experience to shape our theology right across the whole body of Christ (I am not saying Patton would not allow this).

It doesn’t mean we should not judge our experience by Scripture, as well as those we are connected to who are responsible members of the body of Christ. But our experience many times helps us understand God’s revelation in Scripture. That’s how it was in biblical times and that’s how it has always been right down unto today. All Christian, cessationist or continuationist, need to allow for such.

There are a few things Marv and I have already dealt with that come up in Patton’s final section of the series. And, so as not to repeat ourselves, I only bullet point them and point to other articles for consideration (or re-consideration).

  • On God’s sovereignty and our responsibility with the gifts of the Spirit – read part 6 (point #1)
  • On the terminology of normative and expectation – read part 1 (point #2) and part 6 (point #2)
  • On the gifts ceasing in church history – read part 5, as well as this other article on the charismata in church history

But let me pick up two more comments of Michael’s and then I shall finish with some closing thoughts.

1) Healings and miracles as gifts and via prayer

Just as there can be so much confusion over such terms as sign-gifts, normative and expectation, here is another case where confusion can easily come about – the means by which healings and miracles are outworked in our human world. So I want to break down some things practically as I see them from Scripture and I hope they are helpful in giving us a more holistic practical theology in regards to things like healings and miracles.

Specifically, many cessationists like to hold to what I would say is a more dualistic view with regards to healings and miracles. They would typically argue something like what Patton has stated in his article:

Most healings and miracles I have seen come through prayer, not through a divine conduit with this particular gift. (italics mine)

Do you see the two varying means put forth in this statement?

I believe such a person would further argue that the first apostles, and some of the other early church leaders, were able to see healings and miracles through both of these means: 1) commanding the healing and 2) prayer. But, following the exhaustion of their purpose in confirming the gospel message in the first century, a healing could take place through the channel of prayer and seeing someone get well, even get well rather quickly. But to walk up to someone and make an authoritative command such as, ‘In the name of Jesus, be well and receive healing from the Lord of heaven of earth,’ well, that really does not happen much any more.

You see the difference being pointed out? 1) Prayer and 2) Authoritative command because one has the gift.

Thus, I think we can easily fall into the trap of viewing prayer in somewhat of an unhelpful way, something like that set aside time, with our eyes closed, whether privately or publicly, to ask God to intervene on our behalf. Something like that. So, by praying to God in this kind of way for a healing or miracle, it becomes distinguished from the more instantaneous command that we might read about in places like Acts (or hear of others sharing such stories today). A case and example is here:

6But Peter said, “I have no silver and gold, but what I do have I give to you. In the name of Jesus Christ of Nazareth, rise up and walk!” 7And he took him by the right hand and raised him up, and immediately his feet and ankles were made strong. (Acts 3:6-7)

Now, I know that my above description of prayer is a very basic and naive concept, one that Patton and many cessationists would typically deny as their specific definition of prayer. But my challenge is that, some kind of dualistic thinking has developed amongst many Christians with regards to healings and miracles and how they are exhibited within our human world.

Of course, healing can come through prayer, as we read in these well-known words of James:

14Is anyone among you sick? Let him call for the elders of the church, and let them pray over him, anointing him with oil in the name of the Lord. 15And the prayer of faith will save the one who is sick, and the Lord will raise him up. And if he has committed sins, he will be forgiven. (James 5:14-15)

And I suppose such statements below by Jesus will also cover the areas of healings and miracles:

Whatever you ask in my name, this I will do, that the Father may be glorified in the Son. 14 If you ask me anything in my name, I will do it. (John 14:13-14)

But I believe we confuse the situation when we don’t recognise all things as flowing out of prayer with God, or the relational communication we have with Him. For didn’t James also remind us:

Every good gift and every perfect gift is from above, coming down from the Father of lights with whom there is no variation or shadow due to change. (James 1:17)

Whether healing comes as a process (yes, it can be a process) or instantaneous, Jesus is still Lord of heaven and earth, and He is still the one we ask and rely on for healing. No matter if that is a set aside time of prayer with a gathered group or if it is out on the street as we interact with a broken (both physically and internally) world. We are in a place of desperate reliance upon God Himself.

Even if we want to divide healings and miracles into the two categories of instantaneous and non-instantaneous, both still ultimately come as a product of prayer communication and reliance upon God. And I suppose that anything we, then, command by the authority of Jesus would flow from the relationship we have with the Father as we listen to what He is saying (like Jesus in John 5:19).

I believe this prayerful focus and reliance upon God is going on ‘behind the scenes’ in places like this:

6But Peter said, “I have no silver and gold, but what I do have I give to you. In the name of Jesus Christ of Nazareth, rise up and walk!” 7And he took him by the right hand and raised him up, and immediately his feet and ankles were made strong. (Acts 3:6-7; the healing of the lame beggar at the Beautiful Gate)

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 4:31; this is not a healing but still quite miraculous)

But Peter put them all outside, and knelt down and prayed; and turning to the body he said, “Tabitha, arise.” And she opened her eyes, and when she saw Peter she sat up. (Acts 9:40; prayer and instantaneous healing, and here is an example of Peter’s command for a miracle following his prayer)

9The next day, as they were on their journey and approaching the city, Peter went up on the housetop about the sixth hour to pray. 10And he became hungry and wanted something to eat, but while they were preparing it, he fell into a trance 11and saw the heavens opened and something like a great sheet descending, being let down by its four corners upon the earth. (Acts 10:9-11; Peter went up to pray and had quite a miraculous vision and revelation)

5So Peter was kept in prison, but earnest prayer for him was made to God by the church. 6Now when Herod was about to bring him out, on that very night, Peter was sleeping between two soldiers, bound with two chains, and sentries before the door were guarding the prison. 7And behold, an angel of the Lord stood next to him, and a light shone in the cell. He struck Peter on the side and woke him, saying, “Get up quickly.” And the chains fell off his hands. 8And the angel said to him, “Dress yourself and put on your sandals.” And he did so. And he said to him, “Wrap your cloak around you and follow me.” 9And he went out and followed him. He did not know that what was being done by the angel was real, but thought he was seeing a vision. (Acts 12:5-9; a miraculous deliverance in response to earnest prayer)

Shall I keep going?

My point is that I think it unhelpful to put some healings and miracles over in one category called prayer and the rest in another category called instantaneous via authoritative command. Whether such is instantaneous or not, whether it happens at the command of a human vehicle in Jesus’ name or not, it all comes via prayer communication in the name of the Lord of heaven and earth, Jesus Christ.

While I understand the desire to designate healings and miracles in these two ways, these categories do get easily broken down at times, overlapping together, and all sorts of intertwining. And if we hold to these kinds of categories, as it seems Michael Patton and others do, I think we will 1) not be as prone to recognise the power of healings and miracles as God’s response to specific prayer times and 2) believe that healings and miracles no longer happen via an authoritative command in Jesus’ name.

The first instance is just as beautiful and powerful as the second, and the second instance still occurs today.

2) Relating to the closing of the canon

After hinting at this in part 7 of his series, Michael Patton revisits what he believes is a good analogy in explaining why he is a de facto cessationist. It has to do with how we, as evangelicals, believe in a de facto closed canon.

We believe the canon of Scripture is closed and should not be added to. This does not come about by really quoting any one particular verse or plethora of verses, but rather considering the theological ramifications with regards to the canon of Scripture (for evangelicals, the 66 books of the OT and NT) and its overall purpose. Christ is the full and final word of God’s redemptive and covenant revelation for humanity. Thus, our fathers long ago recognised that there is no need to add to such and, therefore, ‘closed’ the canon. To this, we would agree. Not to mention that this also allowed for greater protection against heresy.

Therefore, Patton believes this analogy is very helpful in considering the purpose of the ‘sign gifts’ (prophecy, tongues, healings, etc). Patton remarks:

I don’t think that one can make a solid case for the ceasing of the gifts from Scripture. However, I don’t think that one can make a solid case from Scripture for the closing of the canon. I believe that both of these issues are very similar. Could God add books to the Bible if it were his purpose? Of course. Could we cry “foul” and say “You cannot do that because our traditions and councils have said you cannot? No. We (Protestants) believe in the de facto closing of the canon. What does that mean? We believe in the closing of the canon because it, indeed, closed. It is a historical and experiential reality. God just quit adding books to the canon. Only after this does our theology step in and attempt to explain this by saying it closed because soteriological history was completed.

Yet, as you could imagine, I cannot agree with this kind of thinking with regards to the gifts of the Spirit (or one wants to call them ‘sign gifts’).

Though I am sure some will disagree, I think we can recognise that God’s revelation can be identified in varying categories. Interesting I say this, right? Because I just noted the insufficiency of the two categories many cessationists create with regards to the means by which healings and miracles are outworked in our human world. But I think identifying two categories or purposes of God’s revelation can be established.

I might identify God’s revelation in these categories: 1) redemptive and 2) non-redemptive. Or, those two categories might be too dubious for some, so maybe we should prefer these two classifications: 1) canonical and 2) non-canonical.

But what I am getting at is that every single bit of God’s revelation that has been given since the beginning of time has not always found its way into the canon of Scripture. It’s really that simple.

Now, we are assured of the God-breathed nature of the 66-book canon of Scripture. It comes to us as the word of God testifying to the Word of God, Jesus. But by no means does it contain all that God has revealed, communicated, spoken and done since the creation. If we think it does, we are simply misled.

God’s revelation has always continued on even outside the formation of the canon of Scripture, both when it was being written and since it was finished and closed. Not just in the ‘general revelation’ sense that we all agree with, like in physical creation or in the conscience of humanity (typically pointed out from Romans 1 and 2). But also in the specific sense of God’s purposes and what He is doing in the earth via His people. None of this would contradict the full summary of God’s revelation that we have in the Scripture. But, nevertheless, His revelation and deeds were not confined within the formation of our canon.

I will give you a couple of examples:

30 Now Jesus did many other signs in the presence of the disciples, which are not written in this book; 31 but these are written so that you may believe that Jesus is the Christ, the Son of God, and that by believing you may have life in his name. (John 20:30-31)

In his Gospel, John specifically took the time to record specific signs to help us believe that Jesus is the Messiah, the Son of God, and that by believing in Him we may have life. But he also tells us there were many other things, significant things, Jesus did. Those many other things were not any less a revelation as to who Christ is and God’s purpose through the gospel. But John specifically gave testimony to certain acts of Jesus and left out others. Think about some of those other acts Jesus did, which John did not record, that brought people to believe He was who He said He was. But thankfully we have a continuing testimony of what Jesus did, in John’s Gospel, the other three Gospels, and the rest of the New Testament.

Now, some will say – That’s the point! We have in Scripture what was necessary and sufficient, but we need no more.

No, that’s not the point. The point is that the Scripture gives what is sufficient. But, by no means, does this rule out any less that God was actively revealing and doing things to attest to who Christ was. That’s what John said. And that is how it was prior to the arrival of the Messiah and that is how it has been with the sending out of His body. I can almost bank on it that plenty of people came to know who Jesus was via things He taught and did that were not recorded in the Gospels, but nevertheless were extremely important.

Another favourite example of mine is found in 1 Timothy 1:18-19:

18 This charge I entrust to you, Timothy, my child, in accordance with the prophecies previously made about you, that by them you may wage the good warfare, 19 holding faith and a good conscience…

These words, these prophecies, were never penned in any part of Scripture, that we know of. Yet Paul makes it clear that these prophecies could be utilised in waging good warfare, as well as holding to the faith and a good conscience. Must have been pretty powerful prophecies!

And I don’t even think all of the words came from Paul. In 1 Timothy 4:14, we read that a gift was imparted to Timothy through prophecy and that this was done by the ‘council of elders’. Paul was probably there as well (see 2 Timothy 1:6), but it was highly probable that a few different people spoke forth the prophecies (notice the plural in prophecies).

Again, these prophecies were never recorded in Scripture, but they were worth holding onto. Timothy could actually live out the faith with greater strength by remembering these words of revelation.

And, if we are honest, we will truly recognise that every revelatory word spoken by a prophet, apostle, or any man or woman of God, did not find its way into Scripture. I don’t believe God ever planned it that way. Well, actually, I’m certain He didn’t plan it that way, even if I only had the two examples above.

Not to mention the plethora of prophets in the Old Testament that never penned a word, but were still actively speaking on behalf of God. Nor would Acts have recorded every single thing that the church participated in during the first century, especially noting that it mainly followed the activity of three apostles – Peter, John and Paul – and a few handful of others.

So, how does this relate into Michael’s analogy?

A closed canon of Scripture, as our measuring stick for our faith, does not point to the ending of God’s revelatory words and deeds. This is because the greater purpose of God’s revelation was not a canon of Scripture, though that was extremely important. The purpose of God’s revelation is to reveal who He is, His character, His purposes, and His plan to see His rule and glory expand across planet earth.

God’s revelation and God’s miraculous activity was never confined to our canon. So the analogy does not quite hold up. Instead, God has not only been desirous, but has actually continued to unveil Himself in accordance with the pattern that He has always revealed Himself. This is our constant and consistent God.

Closing Thoughts

Both Marv and I are extremely grateful for Michael Patton. We constantly interact with his blog, Parchment & Pen, as well as on the theological discussion network, Theologica, that he began just over two years ago. We have a deep respect for Michael and none of our interaction with his series should be seen as ‘cheap-shots’, but rather as a desire to interact with and challenge a man we do respect.

I personally appreciate Michael’s openness to all the gifts of the Spirit. I believe his interaction with the wider body of Christ has allowed for such, and this will allow for continued healthy discussion on the topic. I can only hope that one day soon we shall also see Michael encouraging and exhorting the body of Christ about the continued activity of the Holy Spirit in all the gifts of the Spirit. Until then……

Response to Patton’s “Why I’m Not Charismatic” (Part 6)

by Scott

Marv and I are currently working through a series in which we are interacting with Michael Patton’s eight-part series entitled “Why I’m Not Charismatic”. You can also download Patton’s series in a 22-page PDF file.

If you want to read our first five posts, they are here:

To be honest, I believe this is the most difficult section of Patton’s series with which I have had to respond. It isn’t so much that the difficulty comes on biblical and theological grounds, but what has happened is that the lines have become extremely blurred. On a more positive note, this could be a good thing for the sake of seeing continuationists and cessationists come closer and closer to agreement, moving towards greater unity in this particular area of our theology (which includes practical theology or orthopraxy).

But with section 6 of “Why I’m Not a Charismatic”, this becomes difficult for at least two main reasons.

  1. Agreement that, because God is sovereign, He can do the miraculous.
  2. Terms like normative, expectations and sign gifts.

Now, I am aware some of these things have already been addressed previously in some form or manner. But they keep coming up, these same underlying statements. And, so, hence why I am re-addressing them, but hopefully with some newer thoughts.

1) God Is Sovereign and Can Do Miracles

This is where the blurring of lines, or confusion, begins. For example, Patton lays out this well-known argument from more modern-day cessationism:

Folks, we all believe in miracles to varying degrees. If you don’t then you have departed from the historic Christian worldview and slipped into some variation thereof (something of the deist sort).

I identify this as a more ‘modern-day’ argument because I am not sure you would have heard too many cessationists some 50 to 100 years ago arguing this. They would have believed that God certainly did (past tense) the miraculous in biblical times during the three main clusters of Moses-Joshua, Elijah-Elisha and Jesus-the first apostles. But the purpose of such had been fully exhausted long ago with the completion of the New Testament canon.

But, today, as Michael reminds us, we all believe in miracles to varying degrees.

I would identify these types of statements as a ‘get out of jail free’ card. I am not trying to be nasty here, but I am trying to be real. When it comes to discussion around these issues, many modern-day cessationists will slap this card on the table as if to say, ‘Yeah, well we believe in those things as well. We believe God is sovereign and can do whatever He wills.’ And, thus, this should settle the matter.

Now we must respect a cessationist’s acceptance that our God is truly a God of the miraculous. This is a starting point. And you even have people now, like Patton, who say they are open to all the gifts of the Spirit. But there is still much confusion when you start digging deeper into their belief, especially the more practical distinctions.

But I believe the arguments like, ‘Of course God is sovereign and, so, He can do miracles whenever He wants,’ can serve as a smoke screen. I suppose both Calvinists and Arminians believe in God’s foreknowledge and predestination, since the words show up in Scripture. But how does this break down for both groups? A lot differently.

So, Patton even notes some differences between the continuationist and cessationist.

A continuationist/charismatic is one who believes that the so-called supernatural sign gifts such as tongues, prophecy, worker of miracles, etc. are normative for the church and that we should commonly expect people to be gifted with them.

A cessationist is one who believes that the supernatural sign gifts ceased after the death of the last Apostle or shortly thereafter due to an exhaustion in their purpose. Therefore, we should not expect such gifts in the church today.

Differences? Yes, though oddly Patton makes this statement later on:

Even most cessationists believe that God could gift anyone with the gift of tongues or prophecy at his will.

This is where some can be left with a furrowed brow of confusion. What do cessationists believe here? Can God perform and give such gifts? Does God do such? Or does He not?

So, it seems at this rate, anyone could play a ‘get out of jail free’ card with regards to our beliefs. ‘Well, if God is really God and can do anything He wants, then He will do A or B or Y or Z.’ Or how about, ‘Well if God is really God, then He could reveal Himself to me.’ Or finally, ‘If God wants others to know about Him, He could tell them.’

Goodness, this all sounds like we are moving towards Christian-agnosticism. But don’t let the clay stand before the potter saying, ‘Why have you made me like this?’ There is responsibility with our faith. We cannot just claim something of black ink on white paper, or black type on a blog. There is responsibility given to the believer.

Listen, I am completely convinced of the sovereignty of King Jesus and that our Father in heaven can accomplish anything He wants. Nothing can thwart His plans. Nothing! But that will never stand as an excuse for the saints to not pursue all that God has for us in Christ by the His Spirit.

So, with regards to miracles, healings, prophecy, etc, we can’t just sit around and claim God’s sovereignty and go about our business as if we have ticked (checked) all the boxes that are required. We can’t even simply tick the box that says, ‘I’m open’ (see more here). Many have been open to Christ. But following is a different matter.

2) The Confusing Terms

Ah, but here comes the clarification of the contention and difference, this from Michael’s own words:

A charismatic, however, believes that these are normative and that we should expect them. Did you get those two important words? Normative. Expect.

The words normative and expect can cause the two groups to talk past one another, and even people within the same group can talk past one another due to these terms. Now, I already addressed the word normative in my part 2, but I thought I would reiterate some things and share some more thoughts.

I believe the use of these terms can become just another ‘get out of jail free’ card. Why? Because each person has a different definition of what is normative and what is to be expected. But just as I was not willing to grant the first pass, I cannot allow this one either.

Cessationist and continuationist would both agree that the fruit of the Spirit are normative and to be expected. I’ve yet to hear anyone claim for their ceasing and I don’t expect to ever hear such. But do we always see the fruit manifested? Heck, there are even periods when we might say the fruit of the Spirit seemed quite foreign to a portion of the church. I’m thinking the period of the Crusades, I’m thinking of western expansion into places like Africa or North America (all in the name of Christ many a times).

But, guess what? These are still normative and to be expected, right?

There have been times when polygamy was acceptable, but the norm and expectation, from a biblical standpoint, was to the contrary. There was a time when indulgences and penance were acceptable, but the Christlike norm and expectation should have been different. There was a time when slavery was acceptable, but the norm and expectation was to the contrary.

Ah, but this is much different with the issue of miracles and healings. Is it? I know what Scripture teaches as the norm and expectation of the body of Christ. Christ’s body is to be all of Christ in all the earth.

Michael goes on to remind us:

However, there may be times in history when miracles do happen much more regularly. God moves in time at his leisure and has complete freedom. We dare not attempt to bind his freedom with an artificial theological position of our own systematic comfort. I believe that there are times in history and places where miracles do seem to become regulars. But, generally speaking, they are extremely rare. Too much expectation can set us up for disillusionment. Most people don’t get healed. Everyone stays dead. Christian’s bills sometimes don’t get paid.

Wow! Let’s just hand out an infinite book of passes, those ‘get out of jail free’ cards. We need a bunch here today.

This kind of thinking, this kind of theology, this kind of practical theology leaves us with a bunch of theory and absolutely no expectation. In theory, we say it could happen. But we walk around with no expectation at all. That is not too healthy, is it? We never step out in faith to pray for the sick, we never take the time to listen to God as if He might speak, we never step out to utter that which we believe God is communicating.

Sure, we might fail or miss it at times. You know, just as those in the cloud of witnesses could have and did miss it at times, and all those since. I’m not trying to throw out my own ‘get out of jail free’ card. This is simply the reality that God’s people can and do miss things. God speaks and we don’t realise it. God doesn’t speak and we think He does. I’ve prayed for people before with a faith that they would be healed, and they weren’t. I’ve not prayed for people at times because I didn’t want to deal with the disillusionment of another non-healed person.

But, as a friend wrote in a song – Our disillusionment is how we grow. But I still want to take steps of faith. And as we keep journeying in hearing God, we will become more and more sensitive to the words of the Father, looking to emulate the Son’s own reliance upon the Father (John 5:19).

So, with the particular words normative and expectation, I think they become unhelpful on many counts. If a continuationist speaks of all gifts of the Spirit being normative or that we should expect them, I am pretty sure most don’t believe this necessarily warrants that we each walk around every single day laying hands on the sick and seeing healing or receiving revelation that we stand up an prophesy publicly. I’m not sure this was the mindset of even the early church. Maybe, maybe not.

But the problem begins when we take a more individualistic mindset on these things, or only viewing things from the standpoint of our own local church. We forget that Christ has a body of believers spread right across planet earth, possibly reaching the 2 billion mark now, which Patton testifies to himself on his own blog. Even if that number were a bit high, and even if we sliced that number to only consider those who were truly pursuing Jesus, we would be left with a large portion of people interested in pursuing the things of God. And to think that Jesus might even do something without the express permission of His people.

But in our western mindset, we only think about our lives or our local church. Yet Jesus is Lord of a body that spans across all 24 time zones. I’m thinking that, though you or I might not see a miracle today, God is quite actively at work all across the world and these things are taking place on a daily basis. Remember, 2 billion Christians today.

And please don’t put this off to just third-world areas. Yes, there is a lot more regular testimonies of miraculous activity in places like Africa, India and China. I have plenty of ministry friends that can testify to such. But I almost vomit when I hear someone argue that, the reason this happens more regularly in the third-world is because the testimony of Christ has not fully spread to those areas nor are the Scriptures fully distributed in these places. Huh? What?

So if these people in the third-world spread the gospel a little more, receive more copies of Scripture and acquire more theological training, then the norm and expectation would then be to see the miraculous fade? Are we serious? This only resembles the age-old argument that these things pretty much faded sometime after John, the apostle, died and the New Testament canon was completed. It’s just more suitable for the modern day. Please give me a break.

God’s activity, the norm of His activity, is to do that which only He can do – to reveal Himself, to testify to Himself, to break in with the kingdom rule of God which brings salvation, righteousness, healing, revelation, faith, hope, peace, joy, etc. That is God’s activity from Genesis to Revelation, which includes us since Christ has not returned to marry His bride.

As to our expectation, well Jesus did teach that those who believe in Him would do the works that He did (John 14:12), which is not only tied to miracles or healings or prophecy, but does include those. Luke starts off Acts by telling us that, in his first book, he wrote to tell all that Jesus began to do (Acts 1:1), thus expecting more to continue via His Spirit-empowered body. And Paul says to earnestly desire spiritual gifts (1 Corinthians 14:1), even telling us to not despise prophecy (1 Thessalonians 5:20) and to not forbid speaking in tongues (1 Corinthians 14:39). And remember, Michael tells us that Scripture actually does not teach that these gifts will end.

So, if they are not to end, and we have so much encouragement to continue on in these things of Jesus, then let’s get on with lining ourselves up with the challenge of the God-breathed Scripture. Let us take the free-pass cards back off the table.

Normative – Yes, knowing that Jesus has a people spread across planet earth.

Expectation – Yes, according to the teaching of Scripture, which Michael affirms.

As for sign gifts, those who frequent To Be Continued will note that we are not huge fans of categorising certain gifts of the Spirit as sign-gifts. It’s a dubious category that cessationists have created to serve their own purpose. I am a little more benevolent than Marv in recognising that this sign-gift category might be semantically sustained. But, if so, there is still nothing suggesting that this sign-gift group gets chucked out or becomes rare as the church moved into the second century AD.

Still, so we don’t get too repetitive, and so I don’t go on and on, I point you to this post and this post to read more about the sign gifts.

So, of course, it is quite easy for both cessationists and continuationists to espouse their belief in God’s sovereignty and that He can perform miracles whenever He wants. That’s great in one sense, but not too helpful in another. Doctrinal statements consisting of white paper and black ink don’t lead to something being a reality in our lives. Rather, we are challenged to align ourselves with Scripture’s teaching, this being true even if what we see around us is contrary to biblical teaching. And Michael Patton believes Scripture teaches that these gifts will not cease.

So, what is the next step? I think Marv already gave some practical points to consider in part 3.