Cross or Resurrection 6: New Life After Pentecost

Pentecost, by El Greco (1600)In this series on what is determinative for the Christian life I will move on past John the Baptist and past the life and teachingthe death on the Cross, and the Resurrection and Ascension of Jesus, to look at the coming of the Holy Spirit at Pentecost, and at how some Christians put an unbalanced emphasis on this.

It will be no surprise that here I am referring to Pentecostals, and to their successors in the Charismatic Movement. For many centuries the practical implications of the coming of the Holy Spirit, and especially the supernatural gifts which he gives, had been neglected in churches. These gifts were put back into use by the Pentecostals in the early 20th century, and in the second half of that century started to be practised in established denominations, as well as in numerous independent charismatic churches which would not label themselves as Pentecostal.

Whatever one might think of the more spectacular charismatic gifts, I hope my readers would agree with me that it is wrong to focus on them as the centre of the Christian life, especially if that leads to a neglect of Jesus Christ. In the past some Pentecostals have made speaking in tongues the determinative mark of a good Christian, but I am happy that that is no longer typical. Others in the charismatic movement have been accused of putting too much emphasis on healing, even though in most cases they see this at least in principle as glorifying Jesus and bringing people to him.

Less controversially, it is largely but not only in the Charismatic Movement that a new emphasis has been found on ordinary Christians living the Resurrection life. This is a biblical emphasis:

Since, then, you have been raised with Christ, set your hearts on things above, where Christ is, seated at the right hand of God. 2 Set your minds on things above, not on earthly things. 3 For you died, and your life is now hidden with Christ in God. 4 When Christ, who is your life, appears, then you also will appear with him in glory.

Colossians 3:1-4 (NIV)

The implication here is that Christians should move on from focusing on the sinful old life which they have died to, and instead live the new life for which they have been born again. But the danger comes when people presume that they have already reached the perfection of Resurrection life, that they are already reigning with Christ in his perfect kingdom. This view was widespread in the Corinthian church, and Paul responded to it with cutting irony:

Already you have all you want! Already you have become rich! You have begun to reign—and that without us! How I wish that you really had begun to reign so that we also might reign with you! 9 For it seems to me that God has put us apostles on display at the end of the procession, like those condemned to die in the arena. … 13 … We have become the scum of the earth, the garbage of the world—right up to this moment.

1 Corinthians 4:8-13 (NIV)

Clearly the Corinthians had gone too far in claiming to “reign”. Paul brings them back to reality by calling himself “the garbage of the world”, a point not about his sinfulness but about how people treated him. His life was not always the victorious one which some were claiming to live; he was often “hungry and thirsty”, and even “brutally treated” (v.11). He wanted to teach the Corinthians that the Christian life, following God’s call, would often be like this.

Yes, as Christians we have been raised with Christ. But we are still living in an in-between world. The kingdom of God is breaking through into it but is not yet fully established. And it is only within that kingdom that we can reign with Christ. To the extent that we are not surrounded by that kingdom, but are in a world that is under the control of the evil one (1 John 5:19), we can expect to struggle and suffer. If we retreat from that world into a Christian bubble, we are insulated in part from that struggle. But while there may be seasons for such retreat, the Christian calling at least for most people is to take the kingdom of God out into the world, and to risk the suffering which may come as we do, while expecting in the long term to see Jesus Christ bring the victory.

Continued in Cross or Resurrection 7: Jesus is Coming Soon.

Do we really need a Charismatic Reformation?

J. Lee GradyScot McKnight reposts an article by J. Lee Grady, in Charisma News, It’s (Past) Time for a Charismatic Reformation. As the article is in honour of Reformation Day tomorrow, Grady offers a set of theses, not 95 like Luther’s (which McKnight also posted today) but a mere 15. These theses (don’t try to say that too quickly!) are directed at today’s charismatic church, which, he claims, needs a new Reformation. He writes:

I am no Luther, but I’ve grown increasingly aware that the so-called “Spirit-filled” church of today struggles with many of the same things the Catholic church faced in the 1500s. We don’t have “indulgences”—we have telethons. We don’t have popes—we have super-apostles. We don’t support an untouchable priesthood—we throw our money at celebrity evangelists who own fleets of private jets.

Well, Grady certainly has some hard things to say. But who is he saying them to? Is he perhaps attacking a straw man? I won’t go through all his theses, but to respond to some of them:

  1. Which charismatics really treat the Holy Spirit as “an “it” … a blob, a force, or an innate power”? Maybe some people do try to manipulate him, but are they really charismatics?
  2. Which charismatics have dramatic experiences but do not test them against Scripture? But while it is true that “Visions, dreams, prophecies and encounters with angels must be in line with Scripture”, we must be careful not to reject ones that don’t accord with our preconceived interpretations of Scripture. And if the test here is supposed to be that the church mustn’t do anything not explicitly described in the Bible, then that rules out most of the things that ANY church does.
  3. Who really blames everything on demons? Maybe some blame too much on them, but overstating one’s case does not help such theses to be accepted.
  4. Does anyone really believe that we can win spiritual battles just by shouting at demons? But surely it can be a legitimate part of the persevering prayer which is needed.

Now I can in general agree with the rest of the 15 theses. But I still wonder if the abuses that Grady points out are genuine or widespread. Of course where these abuses are found they need to be stopped. But the problem with Grady’s article is that it suggests that the charismatic church is in a far worse state than it really is. Thus he plays into the hands of its enemies, who can easily misunderstand Grady as suggesting that these abuses are characteristic of the charismatic movement as a whole.

However, I can entirely agree with Grady’s final thesis:

15. Let’s make the main thing the main thing. The purpose of the Holy Spirit’s anointing is to empower us to reach others. We are at a crossroads today: Either we continue off-course, entertained by our charismatic sideshows, or we throw ourselves into evangelism, church planting, missions, discipleship, and compassionate ministry that helps the poor and fights injustice. Churches that embrace this New Reformation will focus on God’s priorities.

Yes, this kind of charismatic Reformation is what we need today.

Anabaptists: Pioneers of the Charismatic Movement

Anabaptist Dirk Willems saves his pursuerIt seems that the early Anabaptists should be acknowledged as forerunners of the modern charismatic movement in the church. Thanks to a Twitter link by Alan Knox to an old post of his Things I Didn’t Learn in Baptist History Class, and to Jon for his post History of Speaking Up In Church, I found some interesting but little known information in the Wikipedia article on Anabaptists (links and footnotes deleted):

Charismatic manifestations

Within the inspirationist wing of the Anabaptist movement, it was not unusual for charismatic manifestations to appear, such as dancing, falling under the power of the Holy Spirit, “prophetic processions” (at Zurich in 1525, at Munster in 1534 and at Amsterdam in 1535), and speaking in tongues. In Germany some Anabaptists, “excited by mass hysteria, experienced healings, glossolalia, contortions and other manifestations of a camp-meeting revival”. The Anabaptist congregations that later developed into the Mennonite and Hutterite churches tended not to promote these manifestations, but did not totally reject the miraculous. Pilgram Marpeck, for example, wrote against the exclusion of miracles: “Nor does Scripture assert this exclusion…God has a free hand even in these last days.” Referring to some who had been raised from the dead, he wrote: “Many of them have remained constant, enduring tortures inflicted by sword, rope, fire and water and suffering terrible, tyrannical, unheard-of deaths and martyrdoms, all of which they could easily have avoided by recantation. Moreover one also marvels when he sees how the faithful God (who, after all, overflows with goodness) raises from the dead several such brothers and sisters of Christ after they were hanged, drowned, or killed in other ways. Even today, they are found alive and we can hear their own testimony…Cannot everyone who sees, even the blind, say with a good conscience that such things are a powerful, unusual, and miraculous act of God? Those who would deny it must be hardened men”. The Hutterite Chronicle and The Martyr’s Mirror record several accounts of miraculous events, such as when a man named Martin prophesied while being led across a bridge to his execution in 1531: “…this once yet the pious are led over this bridge, but no more hereafter.” Just “a short time afterwards such a violent storm and flood came that the bridge was demolished”.

Holy Spirit leadership

The Anabaptists insisted upon the “free course” of the Holy Spirit in worship, yet still maintained it all must be judged according to the Scriptures. The Swiss Anabaptist document titled “Answer of Some Who Are Called (Ana-)Baptists – Why They Do Not Attend the Churches”. One reason given for not attending the state churches was that these institutions forbade the congregation to exercise spiritual gifts according to “the Christian order as taught in the gospel or the Word of God in 1 Corinthians 14.” “When such believers come together, “Everyone of you (note every one) hath a psalm, hath a doctrine, hath a revelation, hath an interpretation,” and so on..When someone comes to church and constantly hears only one person speaking, and all the listeners are silent, neither speaking nor prophesying, who can or will regard or confess the same to be a spiritual congregation, or confess according to 1 Corinthians 14 that God is dwelling and operating in them through His Holy Spirit with His gifts, impelling them one after another in the above-mentioned order of speaking and prophesying”.

What I find interesting here is the clear evidence that the early Anabaptists were not only forerunners of the current organic church movement (Alan’s main concern) but also forerunners of the modern charismatic movement. This can be seen in their emphasis on prophecy, speaking in tongues, and miraculous healing. The phenomena of “falling under the power of the Holy Spirit” and “contortions” are reminiscent of the Toronto Blessing, one of the more recent expressions of charismatic renewal. And the reports of raising the dead remind one of Todd Bentley‘s claims.

The early Anabaptists were not the only Christians in their time to exercise the gifts of the Spirit. For example, in his book Surprised by the Voice of God Jack Deere has a chapter showing that the early Scottish Presbyterians practised prophecy. Even John Calvin may have spoken in tongues. But these gifts seem to have been more prominent in Anabaptist spirituality than in that of the other churches emerging from the Reformation.

The charismatic gifts soon fell into disuse among almost all these Protestant groups, including the Anabaptists. We have to accept that some of these charismatic Anabaptists went “off the rails” with outlandish prophecies, especially those linked with the misguided attempt to establish a theocracy at Münster. As a result prophecy got a bad name, and even the Anabaptists backed off from using the gifts. It was left to the Pentecostals of the early 20th century to rediscover this aspect of spirituality, and for the charismatic movement of the late 20th century to make these gifts again acceptable in many denominational churches.

Today’s church has a lot to learn from the early Anabaptists, who were so shamefully treated by most other Christians in their time, and who are still so often misrepresented. Here is yet another aspect of their spirituality which needs to be recovered for our days.

“Miracle babies” pastor to be extradited

Pastor Gilbert DeyaThe BBC reports: ‘Miracle babies’ pastor to be extradited to Kenya:

An evangelist who claimed to have created miraculous pregnancies through prayer is to be sent back to Kenya to face child abduction charges.

I wonder, did Pastor Gilbert Deya really claim to have created something? Or did he claim that God did something in response to his prayer, and were his words misrepresented by a sub-editor?

The report continues:

Infertile or post-menopausal women who attended his church in Peckham, South London were told they would be having “miracle” babies.

But the babies were always “delivered” in backstreet clinics in Nairobi. …

“The couple went to Africa, came back into the country with a child that the authorities found out was not theirs through a DNA test.”

Pastor Deya’s response:

The miracle babies which are happening in our ministry are beyond human imagination.

It is not something I can say I can explain because they are of God and things of God cannot be explained by a human being.

Well, God can do miracles like this, and if he creates a baby it doesn’t have to have its parents’ DNA. After all, on the orthodox Christian understanding of the Virgin Birth Jesus must have had different DNA from his single biological parent – but, as I argued a few years ago, there may be more to that story than meets the eye.

But the evidence in this case seems to suggest that the babies in fact came from Kenyans unrelated to the childless couples. The child abduction charges are arguably not serious because the real mothers were very likely willing to give up their children for adoption, although clearly the legal formalities were not completed. What is serious, although perhaps not technically criminal, is the way in which Pastor Deya apparently deceived people into believing in miracles.

I know some of my readers here think that I believe too easily in claims of miracles made by preachers and evangelists. What I have always said is that we should look for evidence, and that if none is available either way we should not reject the claims of our Christian brothers and sisters or call them liars. In this case, however, there does seem to be clear evidence of deception. And so it is right that the minister be discredited, and be punished for his criminal activities.

Proud to be a Montanist and a Jim West heretic

TertullianJim West writes about me:

he loves being a Montanist, a heretic.

Yes, I am proud to identify myself with the Montanists, a much maligned prophetic movement in the early church, but one which was never formally declared heretical. The great Church Father Tertullian joined this movement, while remaining a member of the Catholic church.

I am also proud to join such luminaries as Rick Warren, Rob Bell, Joyce Meyer and, yes, Todd Bentley in the admittedly not very select band of those Jim has publicly called heretics.

But I am confused. Not so long ago (well, it is three years) I wrote that Jim West endorses Todd Bentley, in the following words (but the quote is from Jim’s now deleted old blog):

I had intended to take a break from blogging about Todd Bentley. But I can’t resist this quote, which appears to be genuine, from Jim West:

you can learn as much from benny hinn and todd bentley as you can the ‘fathers’ (with the singular exception of Jerome …)

So Todd’s and Benny’s teaching is as valuable as that of the “Fathers” of the church? Why, I thought I was praising Todd rather highly in comparing him with Jesus and Paul, but I was only saying that he was trying to follow their example. I would never have dared to compare Todd’s teaching with that of any of the respected theologians of the church. But Jim West seems to value Todd and Benny above such towering figures as Tertullian, Origen and Chrysostom. High praise indeed!

Surely Jim can’t have changed his mind about Todd?

But since Jim also calls me “a dilettante of the first order”, why hasn’t he given me a Dilly award?Dilly the Dilettante

How to quit smoking, in the Name of Jesus

Smith WigglesworthI came across an interesting snippet about how to quit smoking through the name of Jesus, – or perhaps more accurately, how to get others to quit through this name. These words are from a report written in 1915 by the famous Pentecostal evangelist and healer Smith Wigglesworth, on his 1914 ministry trip all around the USA and Canada. The snippet is interesting partly because it reveals an understanding of evil smoking is, from long before it was recognised as a major cause of cancer.

Wigglesworth writes:

A young man came to me to be delivered from nicotine poisoning through cigarettes which was wrecking his nerves, and he had tried all means to be free. By faith I cast out this evil power in the Name of Jesus. Oh, if we knew the power of the Name, what it means, and how God intends to honour the simple faith in the Name.

Millions around the world are still trapped by smoking, knowing that it is ruining their health and wanting to give up, but unable to do so. Neither human willpower nor chemical remedies can help many of these people. But Wigglesworth named this trap for what it is, an evil power, and invoked the name of Jesus. He alone has the power to deliver anyone from this and every other power of evil and bring them into the freedom of new life following him.

Smith Wigglesworth's own picture: leaving New York

Smith Wigglesworth's own picture: leaving New York

It was many years later that this same Smith Wigglesworth gave the prophecy which I previously discussed on this blog.

George Warnock, Latter Rain Pioneer

George H. WarnockI have heard quite a lot, recently as well as longer ago, about the teachings of George Warnock. He is best known for his 1951 book The Feast of Tabernacles, which is featured by Wikipedia among others as one of the main sources for the controversial charismatic teachings about Latter Rain and the Manifest Sons of God.

I had thought of George Warnock as a person from church history. So I was a little surprised but very pleased to discover that he is alive and well and living in his native Canada, or at least he was in 2007 at the age of 90. I also discovered that he has a personal website, which includes complete texts of all his writings, which “may be copied and pasted, reprinted and distributed – without charge.”

It seems from his biography on that site that George has spent most of the 60 years since he wrote his book working as a carpenter. He offers some interesting Reflections Along the Way, which explain why he did not continue to be involved in the Latter Rain and Charismatic movements.

This George is not to be confused with Adrian Warnock’s son, born in 2007, who may in the future take after his father and the older George as a Christian author, but is a bit young for that at the moment. I don’t think the Canadian George is related either to Adrian or to to the Methodist minister blogger Dave Warnock.

The Feast of Tabernacles: The Hope of the ChurchGeorge Warnock’s website includes the text of his 1951 book The Feast of Tabernacles: The Hope of the Church, with a preface by the author from 1980. I have only skimmed the book, and I will not attempt to defend all of Warnock’s exegesis. But in many ways it seems ahead of its time, a forerunner of the charismatic teachings of the last 20 years or so. Here are some extracts:

The Church of Christ is literally filled with carnal, earthly-minded Christians who sit back in ease and self-complacency and await a rapture that will translate them out of the midst of earth’s Great Tribulation at the beginning of the Day of the Lord. To this generation of world-conformers God speaks in no uncertain terms: “Woe unto you that desire the day of the Lord! to what end is it for you? the day of the Lord is darkness, and not light.” (Amos 5:18). In the vast majority of evangelical circles we are taught that any moment all God’s people shall be caught up, raptured, to be with the Lord in the air–to escape the Great Tribulation which soon shall visit the earth. It is not true. The saints shall be “caught up” all right; but “every man in his own order.” (1 Cor. 15:23). What that order is does not concern us right now; but the fact remains, we are nowhere taught that the saints are going to escape the hour of Great Tribulation by way of rapture. …

Sudden cataclysmic judgments shall fall upon the earth, the ungodly shall be “taken” suddenly as in a “snare,” but the righteous shall be “left” in a place of safety. (From Chapter 6, The Blowing of Trumpets)

This is exactly what I have been saying.

Then, apparently outlining the teaching on the Manifest Sons of God:

We are sure of this, however, that the Church is being robbed of her glory in not knowing that there is rapture for her even now, while waiting for Rapture, and there is resurrection here and now while we wait for Resurrection. There is no doubt whatever that God holds many secrets for future revelation concerning the order of events and the nature of the Resurrection. But in this we are confident: before this cherished rapture or resurrection takes place, there is to arise a group of overcomers who shall appropriate even here and now their heritage of Resurrection Life in Jesus Christ. God has placed His only Begotten at His own right hand in the heavenlies, until all his enemies have been placed under His feet. (Ps. 110:1; 1 Cor. 15:25,26.) There He shall remain, in obedience to the Word of the Father, until there ariseth a people who shall go in and possess their heritage in the Spirit, and conquer over all opposing forces of World, Flesh, and Devil. We are not inferring that the saints will go about in glorified bodies. But we are speaking of the saints reaching out and appropriating even here and now in their earthly temples the very Life of Christ, of entering into their heritage in the Spirit, of participating in the Melchizedek priesthood and kingdom, and of living the very spotless, immaculate life of the Son of God Himself in virtue of His abiding presence within. (From Chapter 14, The Feast of His Appearing)

Warnock goes on to suggest that these “overcomers” might be preserved from physical death, but avoids making this a definite teaching. He perhaps gets a bit carried away when he describes how “They shall be completely triumphant over all the powers of darkness that are arrayed against them”. But it seems clear that he is teaching, as I do, that this overcoming life is not for a select few but for any believer who lays hold of it.

I wonder, how many of the people who use the phrases “Latter Rain” and “Manifest Sons of God” as brushes to tar their fellow believers with have actually read books like George Warnock’s? If they did, they might discover that these doctrines are not major demonic deceptions, but good biblical teachings, which may at times have been exaggerated by the over-enthusiastic, but remain important for God’s purposes today.

Patton: not yet a Charismatic

Well known blogger C. Michael Patton of Parchment and Pen, who is associated with the conservative and dispensationalist Dallas Theological Seminary, has written an interesting long post explaining Why I am not Charismatic (originally several separate posts, also downloadable as a short “e-book” PDF). TC Robinson posted a summary and response to Patton, which interestingly has generated more comments than Patton’s original post – including some from me.

Patton has clearly moved on from the old cessationist position of dispensationalists and most conservative evangelicals, that the true biblical charismatic gifts have ceased and that any such manifestations seen today are false and of the devil. Indeed that was more of less his personal position. But he has changed his views quite significantly, to the extent that he can now write:

I don’t think that one can make a solid case for the ceasing of the gifts from Scripture. …

I believe the same about the gift of prophecy, tongues, and other supernatural sign gifts. I believe they have ceased because they ceased in church history (as I argued) and I, personally, have never experienced them. Therefore, I am a “De Facto Cessationist.”

Thus his argument comes down to one of experience, his own and that of many, but not all, through church history. The issue becomes even more clear when he writes:

I have also said that one of the primary reasons why I am not charismatic is because I have never experienced such gifts in a way that would compel me to believe that these gifts, as they are expressed today, are legitimate.

A common complaint made by cessationists against charismatics is that they base their theology on experience rather than the Bible. But here Patton is doing exactly that to make his cessationist point: arguing from his own experience, or lack of it, to make a point which he accepts he cannot prove from Scripture. And of course this is his experience because his own Christian life has, I suppose, mostly been in cessationist circles where no opportunity is given for open practice of these gifts.

It seems that Patton’s position at the moment is something like “charismatic gifts are not something I personally want to exercise”. But that is not a tenable position. It is interesting that while he refers to 1 Corinthians 12 and 13, he completely ignores chapter 14, which is the key chapter in the Bible about charismatic gifts. And it is there that we find clear apostolic commands:

Follow the way of love, and eagerly desire spiritual gifts, especially the gift of prophecy. … Therefore, my brothers and sisters, be eager to prophesy, and do not forbid speaking in tongues.

1 Corinthians 14:1,39 (TNIV)

This leaves no room for a middle way. Gifts like prophecy and tongues are not optional extras in the Christian life, which some can ignore in their personal lives and forbid in their churches if that is their personal preference. They are a normative part of church life, even if not of every individual’s Christian life. If they were not seen in most historical churches, that is because the leaders of those churches disobeyed these apostolic commands.

Patton concludes:

I am not Charismatic. I am not necessarily cessationist either. I am, right now, a de facto cessationist who lives with a high expectation that God is going to move in the way he will. I hope that I am always ready to follow.

Thus we conclude, de facto.

Patton has perhaps embarked on the same journey which Jack Deere also embarked on while at DTS, which led him into a full-blown charismatic position. Clearly Patton has not yet moved nearly as far as Deere. But we can hope and pray that he and the rest of his DTS colleagues will keep moving in the right direction, as God leads them, and eventually find the full biblical truth about the charismatic gifts.

Raised with Christ: Review part 7

This is now part 7 of my review of Adrian Warnock’s book Raised with Christ, which I started herepart 2, part 3, part 4, part 5, part 6.

Chapters 15 and 16, which have been written as one long chapter, are central to the book in that they take it beyond theoretical teaching to show the effect that the resurrection should have on the lives of Christians. Here Adrian teaches that we, his readers, should have a relationship with the risen Jesus, including assurance that God loves us and an experience of the Holy Spirit.

Adrian illustrates this in terms which his intended readership can appreciate, with examples and quotations from older Puritans and from recent Reformed writers. He shows how these people rejected dead orthodoxy and experienced a real relationship with Jesus. He rejoices that

In recent years in many churches there has been a coming together of a love of the Bible and a desire to know God personally. (p.205)

In all this Adrian navigates skilfully through the various controversies connected with the charismatic movement. He avoids one issue:

Unfortunately, over the last few decades the controversy about whether or not the gifts of the Spirit are for today has largely obscured the more fundamental question – are Christians today able to experience a truly personal relationship with Jesus? (p.196, emphasis in the original)

But later on Adrian tackles head on the issue over terms like “baptism with the Holy Spirit”, “sealing with the Spirit” and “receiving the Spirit”, arguing against many conservative evangelicals that all of these refer to an experience which may follow conversion. With the help of quotations from John Piper and Martyn Lloyd-Jones, he thoroughly demolishes the arguments that Christians fully receive the Holy Spirit at conversion and that his primary role is to bring people to faith. Rather, he argues, receiving the Holy Spirit is a conscious experience, and may come after someone starts to believe. He writes that

Jesus died in order that we might taste heaven even here on earth. That is the role of the Spirit when we are aware of him at work in our lives. He is a gift, or foretaste, given to believers until the day comes when we are finally reunited fully with Christ. (p.219)

(Oddly, no mention here that Jesus rose again.) Christians who have received the Spirit

have been given a tangible awareness of God’s love and empowering presence as a reality in their lives. (p.221)

This seems to be what Adrian means by having a relationship with the risen Jesus. He is not denying that

Becoming a Christian is actually a secret act of the Spirit in regenerating us and joining us to Christ and imparting faith to us. … However, … it would be wrong for us to insist that we have experienced the Spirit in all his fullness automatically. (p.223)

He then points out the danger for all believers of thinking that they “got it all” in the past, whether at conversion or at some subsequent experience, with the result that

we miss out on the repeated times of blessing and refreshing that God wants to pour out on us. (pp.223-224)

So, he says, we should ask the Holy Spirit to come on us and fill us.

In the course of his argument Adrian manages to make the same mistake that I pointed out here in a preacher at my own church. He writes:

… faith in God (which from Ephesians 2 we know is itself a work of the Spirit) … (p.215)

No, Adrian, Ephesians 2 does not teach this. That is clear from the Greek, but even your favourite ESV doesn’t actually say quite this. Read what I wrote. Now you may be able to get this teaching from elsewhere in the Bible, perhaps even from Galatians 5:6 which I have been discussing (see the long comment thread), but not from Ephesians 2. This of course illustrates the danger of offering authoritative written teaching without a proper theological education.

In chapter 17 Adrian points out that

We did not accept Jesus to selfishly enjoy all the benefits of salvation. We have a job to do. (p.227)

That job is “Our Mission from the Risen Jesus”. Part of this is described as “to be full of God”:

Many of us seem to show by our conversations that we are more excited about the latest iPhone than we are about Jesus. … As we become excited about Jesus and begin sharing him with others, we will receive still more joy and satisfaction from him. (pp.227-228)

While much of what Adrian writes about mission is standard evangelical material, he does bring in the resurrection:

When called to do so, we can undertake brave projects that are so large, we will need miraculous assistance to complete them. What shall we do that would be impossible if Jesus was not alive? … Because the tomb is empty and Jesus is on the throne, we will also be victorious irrespective of what is happening in today’s world. (p.229)

Adrian then starts to “explore the changes that Jesus’ resurrection can make to our local churches” (p.233): joy in our meetings; love seen by outsiders; works of mercy; and we will no longer be ashamed of the gospel. He closes the chapter with a reminder that it is the risen Jesus who sent us out, who “provides the power we need to equip us for service” (p.235), and has promised to be with us for ever.

Concluded in Part 8.

Calvin spoke in tongues

The great Reformer John Calvin “may have spoken in tongues”, according to Ben Witherington, in an article in Christianity Today to which TC Robinson links. (Actually more or less the same article was published online in July this year, and noted by Brian among others.) The evidence seems to be that “one morning he woke up and found himself speaking in lingua barbaria.” Witherington refers only to a half remembered article, which, he writes,

went on to speculate that Calvin may have spoken in tongues!

Perhaps it is safer to use the word “speculate”, but what else could this lingua barbaria have been? But I wish someone could find the original article “in Gordon-Conwell’s newspaper”, or the letter from Calvin from which these words are taken.

Meanwhile in another article in the same issue of CT Roger Olson writes:

Calvin was no charismatic, but he was closer to it than some Reformed people readily admit. At least one does not read much about the crucial role of the Holy Spirit in their own interpretations of Calvin’s theology. This Arminian, raised Pentecostal, deeply admires and enthusiastically applauds the attention Calvin himself gave to the Spirit by basing even the authority of the written Word on the Spirit and his work.

At the same time, of course, Calvin also warned against basing any truth claims about God on ecstatic revelations claimed to be from the Holy Spirit. This is a relevant warning against modern-day prophets who say things like, “The apostle Paul would be surprised if he knew the things the Spirit is teaching today.” According to Calvin—and I agree with him—the Spirit does not reveal new truths; the Spirit and the written Word are interdependent and inseparable.

I agree too. But this sounds a bit like a straw man argument: how many people are really saying things like “The apostle Paul would be surprised if he knew the things the Spirit is teaching today”? If this is Olson’s definition of “charismatic”, then neither Calvin nor I are charismatics, but then nor are most of the well known charismatic leaders, who are very careful to teach that “the Spirit does not reveal new truths”, especially not “truth claims about God”, but only applies the old biblical truths to new situations and individuals’ lives.

Yes, we charismatics may agree with the words of John Robinson, surely no charismatic, in his farewell sermon to the Pilgrims leaving for America on the Mayflower:

I Charge you before God and his blessed angels that you follow me no further than you have seen me follow Christ. If God reveal anything to you by any other instrument of His, be as ready to receive it as you were to receive any truth from my ministry, for I am verily persuaded the Lord hath more truth and light yet to break forth from His holy word.

It is the task of the Holy Spirit to bring out this “more truth and light”, but only what is already in the word of God. And, even though Robinson went on to criticise the Calvinists of his day who “stick fast where they were left by that great man of God” (rather like some Reformed Calvinists today!), Calvin would surely have agreed with his sentiments.