Hold Fast

Now I would remind you, brothers, of the gospel I preached to you, which you received, in which you stand, and by which you are being saved, if you hold fast to the word I preached to you--unless you believed in vain. (1 Corinthians 15:1-2, ESV)

Location: Cochrane, Alberta, Canada

Tuesday, May 30, 2006

To Address Some Concerns (Part III)

I said previously that I would cover the whole question of tongues and SBC policy pertaining thereto in separate posts. However, if I don't just get on with the issue, it'll never get written, and so I've decided to just write one post about the question of charismatic gifts and my seminary choice. Next time I'll cover the women as pastors issue.

My attitude towards charismatic gifts today? In short, I haven't come to a settled theological opinion on the matter. I guess I'd be in the "open but cautious" camp described in Zondervan's "Are Miraculous Gifts For Today?" by Robert Saucy.

I have no desire to put God in a box. I do not see a clear Scriptural case for the outright cessation of miraculous gifts, and without one I must be open to the possibility of God's working in such manners. I've read both Reformed (e.g., Richard Gaffin's) and dispensationalist (e.g., John MacArthur's) cases for cessationism, and while they make many good points, I am not convinced. I have known personally people healed miraculously - but always in answer to prayer, and not through a human agent or "faith healer."

On the other hand, I am EXTREMELY skeptical of the alleged manifestations of the gifts I saw during my time in charismatic circles. I see no Scriptural reason to believe that tongues are anything other than interpretable human languages (how else could Paul have commanded an interpreter be present?) and, even more important, most of the charismatic churches I have personally experience utterly ignored Paul's instructions on their use in church (no more than three people, always with an interpreter, etc.).

And, I don't speak in tongues. I never have. I have never felt any desire to seek that gift - and I see Paul commanding us to seek higher gifts than tongues in the New Testament. In short, a Baptist education is not going to change my mind, or cause me any "cognitive dissonance."

With respect to prophecy, I am increasingly worried by the number of people I see - even in Baptist circles! - claiming "words from the Lord." To me, that is the claim of a prophet, and to speak in such a manner without being willing to stake one's life on it (that's the Deuteronomic test) is to treat the Lord's name far too casually. It risks breaking the commandment about taking God's name in vain.

And I do reject outright the idea common in charismatic circles - and championed by Wayne Grudem, among others - that New Testament prophecy is fallible. This would, first, render the whole New Testament questionable in terms of its accuracy (because the process of enscripturation is a form of prophecy, being inspired writing and speech); it would make any Scriptural test of a false prophet (such as that given in Deuteronomy) utterly useless; and it would remove the seriousness of false prophecy and allow untrue words to be casually dismissed as a natural consequence of the prophetic process. I find the arguments based on Agabus' alleged "wrong" prophecies untenable in much the same way as I am unconvinced about cessationist claims that 1 Corinthians 13 predicts the end of prophecy. In short, if there's prophecy today, it has to be perfectly accurate and its deliverer will be in absolutely no doubt about the message's origin - the same as it's always been.

(A short word, though, on the Southern Baptist International Mission Board's new policy for its missionaries. The IMB last year approved a policy forbidding any person who speaks in a "private prayer language" or who has been baptized in a church not holding to eternal security from being an IMB missionary. I find this policy reprehensible, because in my view the IMB is a servant to the churches, not their watchdog or master. It has no right to dictate to churches, who in Baptist ecclesiology have the right to nominate and recommend missionaries, what doctrinal standards must be met by their nominees beyond the statement of faith of the SBC, approved by those churches. And the Baptist Faith and Message is silent on the issue of tongues, and does not link the issues of eternal security and baptism - else it would require that Christians joining SBC churches from Pentecostal and other Arminian denominations be rebaptised. This it does not do, and so I share my friend's concern for the IMB's policy.

And, for that matter, so do many others in the SBC. I would not be surprised to see the policy eventually rescinded. After all, the present head of the IMB is on record as using a private prayer language. And though I disagree with him about that [see my comments on tongues as human language above] I support his right to hold that view in the SBC - because our statement of faith is silent on the issue.)

That's my short take on the charismata. Again, I'm not settled on the issue, and I think both sides are wrong in different areas, so I am open but very cautious. I believe that a pastor's primary preparation has to be in rightly handling Scripture, and not the charismatic gifts, and with that as my highest priority, I chose a Baptist seminary.


Blogger Brad Jones said...

I would not be so bold as to enter the issue of gifts and tounges without more study, i give you a hearty amen to your rebuke of the IMB. The church is the heart of missions. In fact the churches are the ones charged with the keys and the gospel for the world. Any mission agency is only legitimate so long as it respects the church and is her servant. THe IMB should not force the church's hand.

8:59 PM  
Blogger Brad Jones said...

i meant to say i "myself" would not be so bold..."but" i will at least give you...

if my comment looks like i am saying you shouldn't be so bold please remove it jeff

9:02 PM  

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