Tuesday, November 22, 2005

My Oh My ...

It's been a wild few days. Blogging had to take a back seat to other activities for a bit. I've barely even had time to read my favs, much less make an entry.

Last week, I was reading about cessationism and reformationism. I started with Pyromaniac and worked links from there. What I got was discouraging, to say the least. Christians dissing other Christians, in the vernacular of West Texas, ain't perty. There's a lot of axe grindin' goin' on out there, folks. I can understand why some folks just skip it altogether.

I was getting pretty bummed as the week progressed, but then I went to church. Nice friendly people treating each other with kindness and respect, just like it's supposed to be. Nobody dissing nobody. Cool.

Gotta go.

Monday, November 14, 2005

Cessationism, once again

Oh, good grief! Inscrutable bailed on the whole debate. I think I stressed him out. I am sooo sorry! I did not mean to do that. That's not what I am about at all.

The debate, however, rages on over at Pyromaniac. Pretty interesting stuff, too. Phil states:


Now, before someone parrots the standard line, let me just say I realize that's still not an exegetical argument for cessationism.


Good. Now that we've gotten that out of the way! Let me expand a bit on where I am coming from.

I attend an inter-denominational church. Professing Christians of all stripes are welome members! This results in a group of people that must at all times maintain a profound respect for one another. Failure to do so could result in ripping each other to pieces over doctrinal issues. There is, like so many approaches to "doing church", good aspects and not-so-good aspects to it. We fellowship together because we love one another first, before our beliefs, at least that's the goal. Most times we achieve the goal, sometimes not. Such is life.

We try mightily to base everything that we do upon the inspired Word of God. We discuss doctrinal issues thoughtfully and respectfully. In some ways, it is the epitome of Christianity. In others, it results in watered-down written doctrine.

I have taught 1Cor 12-14 three times. I've taken a class on it at least three times. I've thought about it, ruminated upon it, and just generally tried to understand it. My conclusion is: those gifts must still be in operation. They may not be necessary in many parts of Western culture. Signs and wonders, after all, are primarily for unbelievers. If most folks, say where I live, are professing Christians, then why does there need to be signs and wonders? That, in and of itself, does not mean that they are not needed elsewhere.

I do not myself speak/pray in tongues. I have no problem whatsoever with those that do. Good on 'em. I do have a problem with those that say if you do not, you're not really Christian, and those that say those that do are part of some kind of loony bin twilight zone. If you are in either of these camps, in my opinion at least, you missed the over-arching point of 1Cor 12-14: there are many different tasks in the Body of Christ and many different people with many different gifts to perform those tasks. Get over it, we're all different.

Please understand, that I have spent far more time decrying the errant theology of the Word of Faith movement than I ever have cessationism. But I wasn't a blogger then, either. I see no reason to sweep my "intellect under the carpet" just because I enjoy a more demonstrative form of worship. I also do not see a reason for "dissing" those that want to worship quietly. Both are valid forms of expressing one's love for God. I do draw the line at worship services that are "not in good order". I just have no place in my life for rolling in the aisles and listening to people babble incoherently. Paul specifically warned against such, and if we are to consider the scriptures inspired, then we ought to listen, no?

I have had some wonderful experiences that people would consider "charismatic". I have also had a couple of experiences that were profoundly negative (although with paradoxically profoundly positive results). I think of spiritual gifts as simply part of the Christian gig. Somebody gets healed ... great! Move on please. Miracles can and do happen. In the Lord's brief ministry, I don't see Him making a big deal of performing miracles. Seems like He treats it as part of the job description, and expects us to do the same. But that is not license for charlitans to make windfall profits, or make up crazy crap and call it theology.

Prophecy

A lot of the controversy over at Pyromaniac seems to center on prophecy. Specifically, whether there is "revelation" today or all has been revealed through the existing Scriptures.

It seems like most folks regard the office of prophet as someone who foretells the future. The prophet is supposed to be some kind of divinely inspired soothsayer, incapable of making a mistake or telling a lie.

Yet, when I read the Old Testament, or even Jesus in the New Testament, I see the prophet calling people to repentance and warning of the consequences of continued sin. This task is far more important than seeing into the future. And for those instances when the future is foretold, is it not generally some aspect of Christ's coming the first time, or eventual coming the second time?

There is a guy in our church that I regard as having the gift of prophecy. He has a booming voice. When he calls the community to repentance in Christ, man folks listen. That's the prophet's job, not some Nostradamus that predicts stock market trends.

The cessationist would say the office of prophet passed from the earth long ago. However, in Revelation, aren't there "two witnesses" that prophecy daily? If the gift is gone, how are these two witnesses to appear? And what do they do when they appear? THEY CALL PEOPLE TO REPENTANCE!

Let me act as a prophet for a moment. We are tearing ourselves apart! We in the Church have adopted the ways of the world in that we feel it is ok to celebrate our differences instead of being unified. We are called to unity, not to ripping each other apart like the political culture of our day. Repent!

Let's have some common sense in the debate. Debating is ok and is fun, but let's do it in love. I liked the way Paul put it in Romans:


Do you have faith? Have it to yourself before God.
Rom 14:22a

Peace my babies.

Saturday, November 12, 2005

Cessationism Again

I have a few moments, a precious few, in which to post an entry. I am trying to hold a conversation with prolific writers when I don't have two seconds of "alone" time in which to do so. I'm not complaining, that's just the way it is.

Inscrutable answered my previous post here, and is continuing to do so. Good on him. It's good reading.

As I suspected, his scriptural argument revolves around an interpretation of 1Cor 13:10 that I believe to be errant. It involves interpreting the word "perfect" as "mature". Certainly the greek word teleios can and is interpreted in this fasion. However, in Greek, as in English, the same word can mean different things. I believe that teleios is a literary allusion for Christ as it is used in 1Cor 13:10.

I'm just a guy from Texas. Don't believe me? How about Eugene Peterson, author of the very popular modern rendering "The Message". He translates the passage as follows (any emphasis mine):


Love never dies. Inspired speech will be over some day; praying in tongues will end; understanding will reach its limit. We know only a portion of the truth, and what we say about God is always incomplete. But when the Complete arrives, our incomplete will be canceled.
1 Cor 13:8-10, The Message (c) 2002.

Notice the word "Complete" in the last sentence. I bold-faced it to make it stand out, but Peterson capitalizes it. Why? Because it is an allusion for Christ and His imminent return. It does not imply that charismata will cease at some indeterminent point in history when the Church attains maturity. That is an extra-textual rendering.

Now let's be fair. When reading some of Insrutable's more pensive posts about his experience with, as he terms it, "charismania", I got the idea that the Inscrutable One had abandoned the Holy Spirit altogether. He posts in relevant part:


"To this day I completely depend on the Holy Spirit to open up the Scriptures to me and to apply them to my sin-prone heart. Moreover, I depend on the Holy Spirit's ongoing help as I go about my day-to-day life, for it is He who brings Scripture to mind as I make decisions and deal with my sinful neighbors. The Holy Spirit is my constant companion as I run the Christian race."


Good on him. That's almost a classical descritption of the operation of the paraclete in our day to day lives. I'll not quibble. If he says it, I believe him. I got the wrong idea when he said that he had no need of the "small still voice" and scripture was sufficient alone. That statement made me think that the Inscrutable One had abandoned a personal relationship with the living God altogether.

Inscrutable also posted a link to his church's website, in which a position paper on cessationism is posted. I have not read it all, and after doing so may comment upon it. It's a free country, you can believe what you want. I just have scriptural differences with it. I also critique the color scheme. It is difficult for my eyes to read the low-contrast green on grey and it prints out no better. If you're going to post such a thing, why not make it easier for your audience to read? But that's just me.

I'm going to quit for the moment. It's my birthday, it's a beautiful, sunny 80 degree fall day in West Texas, and my little girl wants to play. So we're going to play in the leaves.

Later

Thursday, November 10, 2005

Cessationism

This last week I stumbled upon some bloggers that believe in cessationism, i.e., they believe that the "gifts of the spirit" or charismata, have ceased. It started here and here. The first link is to a pastor, the second to a computer programer up North. I read much of the the (in)Scrutable Observer's comments on what happened to him in the Charismatic movement. I was quite touched, really.

InScruatable was profoundly screwed up by the Word of Faith theology. He says that he ended up worshiping the experiences he was having, and needing more and more of it, like some sort of drug addict. His experience taught him that the gifts were not, in fact, genuine.

So, based on these experiences that produced negative fruit in his life, he rejects any gifts being in operation today. Apparently, something called the Reformed churches, doctrinally do the same. Indeed.

InScruatable states that he no longer has need of a "small still voice" because he now trusts the Bible.

Where InScruatable went wrong to start with is the so-called "Word of Faith" movement. It's looney tunes, in my opinion. It is fraught with questionable theology (or none at all), questionable televangelists, services that are not only not "in good order", but downright chaotic, and just general lunacy. InScruatable made the mistake of not testing the veracity of what he was experiencing against scripture. He swung so far out on the pendulum, that he slipped off. Then he gets back on, and swings way over to the other side, the side fraught with legalism. Again, he relies on experience, rather than scripture, to be his guide.

In the interest of fairness, let's look at the scripture most frequently quoted as "proof text" for cessationism:


8 Love never fails. But whether there are prophecies, they will fail; whether there are tongues, they will cease; whether there is knowledge, it will vanish away. 9 For we know in part and we prophesy in part. 10 But when that which is perfect has come, then that which is in part will be done away.
1Cor 13:8-10

The passage, tagged onto the end of one of the most beautiful passages about love in the Bible, seems at first glance to imply that at some point, perhaps after the apostolic age even, tongues and other gifts will cease. The key verse, however, is verse 10 that says "when that which is perfect has come ...." The greek word teleios is the word rendered "perfect" here. It has the connotation of "completeness", to bring to fruition. It also means "mature", especially when referring to a person. The meaning of the passage, to me at least is obvious: that when Christ returns we will have no need of these things. In other words, "when completeness has come" ... the gifts will cease.

Why do I interpret it so? Because the spiritual gifts are for edification, as Paul so eloquently states in 1Cor 12-14. Their purpose is for the edification, the building up, the witnessing to ... others. When Christ returns, it'll be a different game. Ok? Although tongues are for the edification of the speaker, the other gifts aren't meant for YOU, so quit abusing them!

The whole cessation of prophecy / tongues, etc, is extra-biblical, in my opinion.

Please, O please, quit throwing rocks at each other ... K?

Tuesday, November 08, 2005

Dusk Was Quickly Giving Way To Darkness ...

... as we rolled somberly down the highway. Dad was driving, Mom by his side. My Grandma was sitting beside me. There was no radio, no talking. Just the dull engine groan from our '62 Chevy station wagon. It was Grandma's time.

Dad pulled over, just before blackness set in. Grandma got out quietly. Hugs were had. She, now in her 80's, turned and fled away. Over the rocks not far from the road. Out into the night.

I followed. Over the loud complaints of my parents, I followed.

Over the rocks. Up and up and up. The chill of night stung my skin in anticipation. Eternity seemed like forever.

Finally, a castle. Monolithic, rising beyond my comprehension. I couldn't keep up with Grandma, the faster I ran, the faster she ran, as if pursuing something.

Now inside.

O My, the number of people. They're everywhere! Grandma almost flew up a distant stairway. How did she ... ?

"You're not supposed to be here" said a voice. I turned to face whoever it was.

"What's that you're wearing?" I queried him.

"Pumpkin", he said.

Through the throngs, I made my way to the staircase, only to find a man levitating glowing orbs of light. "What are you doing?" I asked in delighted amazement.

"Training" the reply.

"My Grandma ... where did she go?" He smiled a knowing smile and admonished me "you're not supposed to be here, you're not strong enough yet".

I started awake, breathing rapidly. That dream was over a decade ago, long before my Mom, Grandma, then Father passed away.

I mark another year off of my calendar this week. The pumpkin outfit is a year closer. Save me a spot, Lord. I'm stronger now.

Thursday, November 03, 2005

But he said ...



Snicker.