Monday, May 30, 2016

What Continues Today from Eras of Miracles? Thoughts on the Non-Charismatic Continuationism

When someone uses the word "continues" like I have in the title of today's post, he does refer to a theological ideology called "continuationism."  It brings the question, should we expect the same occurrences today that we read during eras of miracles?  When I say "eras of miracles," I'm saying the times when God intervened with miracles to confirm His Word to Israel.  They were signs and wonders performed by either prophets or apostles for the purpose of authentication of His message to the Jewish nation.  These eras include Moses and Joshua, Elijah and Elisha, Jesus, and then the Apostles.  One more era remains, the time of the Tribulation on earth.  Again then it will be Jews and again as confirmation of the Word of God.

The miracles of the era of miracles had a particular purpose for a particular people.  They were for Jews.  They were for validation.  They did not result in faith, because signs and wonders don't produce faith.  The Word of God produces faith.

Continuationism would bring those miracles, signs and wonders, into a non-era of miracles, not for confirmation of God's Words, and not for Jews, but for Gentiles.  If they are signs and wonders, they also have certain characteristics that fit the profile of miracles and signs and wonders during those eras of miracles.  A Lazarus is raised from the dead.  Astronomical events occur.  A blind man can see.  Jesus reattaches the ear of Malchus.  When people are healed, everyone is healed, regardless of faith.

The Charismatic movement does not fit the people, the purpose, or the profile for a continuation of the eras of miracles.  In other words, it is a fraud.  It's a lie.  It just isn't true.  The Father seeks those who would worship Him in truth.  The Charismatic movement is a lie, so it is false worship, not the actual worship of God.  It's a total impostor.  This evaluation is not intended out of unkindness, but out of a loving warning.

Some today would say that they are not Charismatic, but they are still continuationists.  Charismatics themselves reveal a less than biblical magnitude of signs.  They don't meet the scriptural test of a sign and wonder.  They are false.  The idea with the professing non-Charismatics is that they are in fact not Charismatics, and how you know this is because they have an even lesser significant stature of sign and wonder than the Charismatics.  This is what is supposed to make them legitimate.  Why? What is the point?

The obvious point today is that since men seek signs, those who give them signs will benefit in the short term from the impersonation of them.   Many times this does not take much manipulation. Emotion or lust stirring music very often is enough to fool people that something is happening.  To give people the impression that God is working in their midst, that they have special touch from or favor with God, they contrive a seen or event or scenario that looks like something supernatural occurred.  Sometimes something supernatural may have happened.  When they do these things, this also confirms, albeit in a phony way, that people should join with a group so obviously conjoined to God.  All the continuationism is about satisfying the appetite for signs.

On the other hand, the yearning for signs conveys a dissatisfaction with the sufficiency of the Word of God.  The Bible isn't good enough for the sign seekers.  I'm quite sure almost all of them would say God's Word is number one and really, really most important.  When 2 Timothy 3:16 says that it throughly furnishes anyone to every good work, it really does mean that.  The Bible is sufficient, but it also doesn't work like many people want it to.  They want more than what scripture either promises or actually does in people's lives.

God's Word is sufficient, but so is God's providence.  God's providence is hardly mentioned in my experience among independent Baptists or even unaffiliated Baptists, again, that I have heard.  If you are reading this, and you regularly mention providence, this isn't you, but consider whether it is you.  God works through His providence and it is supernatural, but He works those supernatural works through ordinary means.  God is good.  He heals.  He doesn't heal.  He does what He does and we need to trust Him.  God is doing so many good things at any given time, thousands, that should be good enough.  While we still sin, God keeps saving us.  During this non-era of miracles, we should trust His providence.  He's working.

The Charismatics have their prophetic utterances, where God reveals messages to them directly. There are their tongues of angels, where God speaks directly.  God also talks to non-Charismatic continuationists with the "still small voice" or the "divine call" among other means.  I've heard some say that God gave them an idea or "God told me" or "God gave me this message."  Sometimes when you are reading the passage they are preaching and you see that what they are preaching isn't in the passage, you understand what they mean when they say that God gave them that message.  I've heard that called, "Holy Spirit preaching."  You can't question Holy Spirit preaching because it is close to the level of divine inspiration.   God tells someone who to marry that is part of the "individual will of God."  I'm only mentioning these that I have written, but I've heard others. One of these revelations is very overt and claims Charismatic involvement, but the other doesn't want that association, even though it is continuing to receive revelation from God.  Both are continuationist in the same doctrinal category.

The Charismatics have their divine healings through faith and their healers.  The non-Charismatic continuationists have their prayers for healing that aren't often of the instantaneous variety, but are supernatural healing, that when it occurs, affords a significance that someone has some power or very powerful influence.  The when and how they occur have some strong similarities to Charismatic healings.  They are differentiated by very little from a healing sign or healing miracle.

The Charismatics have their variety of miracles, often very strange.  Some of them have to do with money in the realm of prosperity theology.  God gives incredible amounts of money for extravagant purchases.  The non-Charismatic continuationists have those too.  They very often have stories that might start with God telling someone to do something, he doesn't have money for it, God says He's going to give the money, and the person follows through without the money.  The money comes in, and it's all credited as supernatural.

The Charismatics have something they call power evangelism.  The non-Charismatic continuationists have their sort of power evangelism.  They either pray for evangelistic power or unction or just straight out pray that person or a crowd of people are saved.  This is akin to the Day of Pentecost.  Very often a crowd is gathered not through mysterious power, but the very understandable power of marketing and promotion, combined with a big event.  People pray for the big event that a large number of salvations might occur.  An emotional message is delivered and great numbers of professions are made through easy prayers.  It is chalked up to Holy Spirit power that is Pentecostal in nature.

One will not see the same sort of continuationism of the previous paragraph in every branch of continuationism, but it is common in many places to various degrees.  People have called the event or events described, revival.  These events might occur to varied degrees with some of the same qualities, again of assorted amount and intensity.  Just because someone is doing it less doesn't mean he's not doing it.  It's still there.

Just because someone doesn't participate in the Charismatic movement doesn't mean he's not a continuationist.  Both the Charismatic and the non-Charismatic continuationists are continuationists. Both are perverting biblical sanctification and Christian growth and the will of God.  Someone might say the Charismatic is worse, so the non-Charismatic is acceptable.  No.  Both are unacceptable.  Both are  a lie.  If this is going to change, we have to see and then admit that these are in essence the same.  We can't accept either.

Friday, May 27, 2016

Miracles Today: Yes or No? The Bible on Continuing Miracles

                Do miracles take place today—yes or no?  This blog post will not deal with the Biblical evidence for the cessation of the sign gifts (click here for more on that topic).  Rather, it will examine the question:  “Does Scriptural cessationism require the cessation of miracles today?”  What is the answer to that question?  Is the new birth a miracle?  Is sanctification a miracle?  Is an answer to prayer a miracle?  Is God’s preserving Scripture perfectly a miracle?  The answer to the question of whether miracles have ceased is “Yes—miracles do not occur today,” and also “No—miracles do occur today,” depending on the how one defines the word miracle.

                “Yes—miracles do not occur today,” because acts of God such as regeneration and the Holy Spirit’s work in sanctification can properly be designated supernatural, but not specifically miraculous.  The word miracle in the King James Version specifically refers to an act whereby God breaks the natural order and has the character of a sign.  The English word miracle in the Authorized Version appears in the following texts:  Exodus 7:9; Numbers 14:22; Deuteronomy 11:3; 29:3; Judges 6:13; Mark 6:52; 9:39; Luke 23:8; John 2:11, 23; 3:2; 4:54; 6:2, 14, 26; 7:31; 9:16; 10:41; 11:47; 12:18, 37; Acts 2:22; 4:16, 22; 6:8; 8:6, 13; 15:12; 19:11; 1 Corinthians 12:10, 28–29; Galatians 3:5; Hebrews 2:4; Revelation 13:14; 16:14; 19:20.  In all of these texts it refers to a sign and a wonder, not something that is certainly supernatural, such as the new birth, but is not a sign or wonder. 

                “Yes, miracles do not occur today” is also supported by the Hebrew and Greek words rendered miracle, although other words indicate that, in a different sense, it is legitimate to call an act such as regeneration a miracle, not simply something supernatural.

      Three words are translated miracle in the Old Testament: mofeth, ‘oth, and pala’. Mofeth appears 36 times (Exodus 4:21; 7:3, 9; 11:9–10; Deuteronomy 4:34; 6:22; 7:19; 13:1-2; 26:8; 28:46; 29:2; 34:11; 1 Kings 13:3, 5; 1 Chronicles 16:12; 2 Chronicles 32:24, 31; Nehemiah 9:10; Psalm 71:7; 78:43; 105:5, 27; 135:9; Isaiah 8:18; 20:3; Jeremiah 32:20–21; Ezekiel 12:6, 11; 24:24, 27; Joel 3:3; Zechariah 3:8).  It is predominantly translated wonder (25x), then sign (8x).  It is rendered miracle twice (Exodus 7:9; Deuteronomy 29:3).  The word is used of miracles such as the ten plagues the Lord brought on Egypt (Exodus 7:3; 11:9) or the miraculous rending of the altar at Bethel (1 Kings 13:3, 5) or the wonders God will perform in the Tribulation period (Joel 2:30) or God’s miraculously making Hezekiah’s sundial go backward ten degrees (2 Chronicles 32:24, 31).  It is also used of supernatural wonders done by false prophets (Deuteronomy 13:1-2).  The word is also used of Isaiah, Ezekiel, and others who, by their actions or in other ways, visibly typed or manifested the supernaturally given prophecies of the prophets (Isaiah 8:18; 20:3; Ezekiel 12:6, 11; 24:24, 27; Zechariah 3:8).  The miraculous, as mofeth, functions in character as a sign by its unique character, causing men to wonder.  All these instances—the large majority of uses, which include both texts where the English word miracle appears—refer to events that unquestionably pass beyond providence to match the limited definition of miracle consistent with the cessation of miracles today.  Indeed, the Theological Dictionary of the New Testament affirms that mofeth is “always connected with a miraculous occurrence” (Vol. 7, pg. 209, article on semeion).  Deuteronomy 28:46 and Psalm 71:7 constitute the only possible exceptions, where the word could apparently be used of what are evident signs of God’s working but which do not necessarily surpass the level of providence.  However, Psalm 71:7 affirms not that the Psalmist “is” a “wonder” or mofeth, tEpwøm, but that he is “as a wonder,” simply making a comparison.  Furthermore, the language of “sign . . . and . . . wonder” in Deuteronomy 28:46 recalls the judgments Jehovah put upon Egypt (Deuteronomy 4:34; 6:22; 7:19; 26:8; 29:3; 34:11), which were clearly miraculous.  While the Deuteronomic curses predicted by Moses in 28:46 certainly include awful providential judgments upon Israel, they will ultimately be fulfilled in the miraculous judgments upon unconverted Israel in the Tribulation period (which include the descent of the unconverted into hell), described in the book of Revelation with significant allusion to the Egyptian plagues in Exodus.  Consequently, there are no clear or certain exceptions to the pattern that mofeth points to a sign, wonder, or “miracle” in the narrow sense, a sense in which miracles have ceased today.

                ‘oth appears 79 times (Genesis 1:14; 4:15; 9:12–13, 17; 17:11; Exodus 3:12; 4:8–9, 17, 28, 30; 7:3; 8:19; 10:1–2; 12:13; 13:9, 16; 31:13, 17; Numbers 2:2; 14:11, 22; 17:3, 25; Deuteronomy 4:34; 6:8, 22; 7:19; 11:3, 18; 13:2–3; 26:8; 28:46; 29:2; 34:11; Joshua 2:12; 4:6; 24:17; Judges 6:17; 1 Samuel 2:34; 10:7, 9; 14:10; 2 Kings 19:29; 20:8–9; Isaiah 7:11, 14; 8:18; 19:20; 20:3; 37:30; 38:7, 22; 44:25; 55:13; 66:19; Jeremiah 10:2; 32:20–21; 44:29; Ezekiel 4:3; 14:8; 20:12, 20; Psalm 65:9; 74:4, 9; 78:43; 86:17; 105:27; 135:9; Job 21:29; Nehemiah 9:10).  The word is translated sign sixty times, token 14 times, and miracle twice (Numbers 14:22; Deuteronomy 11:3).  ‘oth usually describes unquestionable miracles, such as the plagues in Egypt wrought through Moses (Exodus 7:3; 8:23), or the miracles wrought in the wilderness journey from Egypt to Canaan (Numbers 14:11, 22), or the miraculous fire brought out of a rock by the Angel of the LORD (Judges 6:17), or the miracle of making Hezekiah’s sundial go back ten degrees (2 Kings 20:8-9; Isaiah 38:7), or the virgin birth of the Messiah (Isaiah 7:14).  The word is employed alongside mofeth of the supernatural works or prophecies of false prophets—their prophecies sometimes come to pass (Deuteronomy 13:1-2) but sometimes do not (Isaiah 44:25).  Like mofeth, ‘oth is employed, although not as frequently, of people that type or manifest supernaturally given prophecy (Isaiah 8:18; 20:3), as well as of actions that type or manifest prophecy (Ezekiel 4:3).  However, ‘oth is also employed of what is obviously less than strictly miraculous, such as the sign of circumcision (Genesis 17:11) or the celebration of the feast of Unleavened Bread (Exodus 13:9) or the Sabbath (Exodus 31:17).  It is used of the sign or token Rahab requested from the spies (Joshua 2:12) and of the twelve stones taken from the Jordan river and made a monument (Joshua 4:6), as well as other monuments (Isaiah 19:20).  It is used of the providentially guided answer of the Philistines to Jonathan and his armorbearer (1 Samuel 14:10), of the “signs of heaven” that the heathen feared in their pagan astrology but at which the people of God were not to be dismayed (Jeremiah 10:2), and of the ensigns of war of the ungodly (Psalm 74:4).  Thus, while ‘oth is very often a reference to what is in the strictest sense a miracle, broader uses are also present, and in that broader use of ‘oth for a “sign,” it still can take place today.

                When a specific event is designated a “sign and wonder,” employing ‘oth and mofeth together, reference is always made to the work of Jehovah, and the strictly miraculous is always in view:  Exodus 7:3; Deuteronomy 4:34; 6:22; 7:19; 26:8; 28:46; 29:2; 34:11; Nehemiah 9:10; Psalm 78:43; 105:27; 135:9; Isaiah 8:18; 20:3; Jeremiah 32:20–21.  Note that Deuteronomy 13:1-2 does not fit in this category, because it refers to a sign “or” wonder.  Isaiah 8:18 and 20:3 refer to the confirmation of miraculously given prophecy.

The verb pala’, which is usually rendered with a form of wondrous or marvelous, is also frequently used of the strictly miraculous (thus, the Niphals in Exodus 3:20; 34:20; Joshua 3:5; Judges 6:13 [the sole text where the word is translated miracle]; Jeremiah 21:2; etc.)—indeed, the verb is employed when the Lord distinguishes His wondrous and miraculous power, manifest in the Exodus, as superior to anything performed at any previous time in any nation before that period, indicating that Divine miracles of Exodus-like character were not performed constantly nor replicated by fallen angels.  For example, note:  “And he said, Behold, I make a covenant: before all thy people I will do marvels [pala’], such as have not been done in all the earth, nor in any nation: and all the people among which thou art shall see the work of the LORD: for it is a terrible thing that I will do with thee” (Exodus 34:10; in the Tribulation period, miracles will be in a class comparable to those of the Exodus, Micah 7:15).  The Niphal (a particular Hebrew verb tense) of pala’ is also frequently used for “wondrous works” that include both the miraculous and non-miraculous acts of God (cf. Job 5:9; 9:10; Psalm 9:2; 26:7; 71:17; 72:18; 75:1; 78:4, 11, 32; 86:10, etc.); the fundamental idea of the word is not in the strictest sense miracle, but an act that produces wonder in those who learn of it.  The Niphal is consequently employed of what is clearly not miraculous but is wonderful (Deuteronomy 17:8; 30:11; 2 Samuel 1:26; 13:2; Job 42:3; Proverbs 30:18; Daniel 11:36; etc.)  The miracle idea is not at all strong outside of the Niphal (Piel, Leviticus 22:21; Numbers 15:3, 8; Hiphil, Leviticus 27:2; Numbers 6:2; Deuteronomy 28:59; Judges 13:19 (an instance of the miraculous outside of the Niphal); 2 Chronicles 2:9; 26:15; Psalm 17:7; 31:21; Isaiah 28:29; Joel 2:26; Hithpael, Job 10:16).  The complete list of texts with the verb is:  Genesis 18:14; Exodus 3:20; 34:10; Leviticus 22:21; 27:2; Numbers 6:2; 15:3, 8; Deuteronomy 17:8; 28:59; 30:11; Joshua 3:5; Judges 6:13; 13:19; 2 Samuel 1:26; 13:2; 1 Chronicles 16:9, 12, 24; 2 Chronicles 2:9; 26:15; Nehemiah 9:17; Psalm 9:1; 17:7; 26:7; 31:21; 40:5; 71:17; 72:18; 75:1; 78:4, 11, 32; 86:10; 96:3; 98:1; 105:2, 5; 106:7, 22; 107:8, 15, 21, 24, 31; 111:4; 118:23; 119:18, 27; 131:1; 136:4; 139:14; 145:5; Job 5:9; 9:10; 10:16; 37:5, 14; 42:3; Proverbs 30:18; Isaiah 28:29; Jeremiah 21:2; 32:17, 27; Daniel 8:24; 11:36; Joel 2:26; Micah 7:15; Zechariah 8:6.

In summary, the Old Testament employs the terms mofeth, ‘oth, and pala’ to speak of miracles. Pala’ and ‘oth are used both for the strictly miraculous and for wonders and signs that are broader than a strict definition of miracle Mofeth, on the other hand, is always associated with the strictly miraculous; it constitutes a sign and wonder that is an evident breaking of the supernatural into the natural order.

The New Testament translates both dunamis and semeion as miracle.  The words teras, megaleion, endoxon, paradoxon, and are also related (cf. § xci, Synonyms of the New Testament, Trench).

                The noun dunamis is usually translated power (77x out of 120 uses); mighty work (11x) is the second most common rendering.  The word is translated miracle in Mark 9:39; Acts 2:22; 8:13; 19:11; 1 Corinthians 12:10, 28-29; Galatians 3:5; Hebrews 2:4.  When dunamis is used of miracles, it emphasizes the power or capability involved.  While the word is employed in senses where the performance of a miracle is not in view, in every such case a particular act is not under consideration (Matthew 6:13; 22:29; 24:29–30; 25:15; 26:64; Mark 9:1; 12:24; 13:25–26; 14:62; Luke 21:26–27; 22:69; Romans 1:20; 8:38; 1 Corinthians 14:11; 15:24; 15:56; 2 Corinthians 1:8; 4:7; 6:7; 8:3; 12:9; Ephesians 1:21; 2 Thessalonians 1:7; Hebrews 6:5; 7:16; 11:34; 1 Peter 3:22; 2 Peter 2:11; Rev 1:16; 3:8; 4:11; 5:12; 7:12; 11:17; 12:10; 15:8; 17:13; 18:3; 19:1).  When a particular act is specified with dunamis, the act in question is always miraculous.  Non-miraculous works are never clearly identified with dunamis.  Thus, the word is regularly used of the performance of miraculous acts (Matthew 7:22; 11:20, 21, 23; 13:54, 58; 14:2; Mark 6:2, 5, 14; 9:39; Luke 10:13; 19:37; Acts 2:22; 8:13; 19:11; 1 Corinthians 12:10, 28-29; 2 Corinthians 12:12; Galatians 3:5; 2 Thessalonians 2:9; Hebrews 2:4).  In other uses the word is clearly associated and related to the performance of miracles (Mark 5:30; Luke 1:17, 35; 4:14; 4:36; 5:17; 6:19; 8:46; 9:1; 10:13, 19; 24:49; Acts 1:8; 3:12; 4:7, 33; 6:8; 8:10; 10:38; Romans 1:4, 16; 9:17; 15:13; 15:19; 1 Corinthians 1:18; 24; 2:4–5; 4:19–20; 5:4; 6:14; 12:10; 15:43; 2 Corinthians 13:4; Ephesians 1:19; 3:7; 3:16, 20; Philippians 3:10; Colossians 1:11, 29; 1 Thessalonians 1:5; 2 Thessalonians 1:11; 2 Timothy 1:7–8; 3:5; Hebrews 1:3; 11:11; 1 Peter 1:5; 2 Peter 1:3, 16; Revelation 13:2).  (Luke 1:17 is a legitimate instance, despite John 10:41, where semeion, not dunamis, is employed.  The Baptist led many to miraculous regeneration—he led many to turn from disobedience to wisdom so that Israel could be prepared for the Lord, as Elijah also had done [cf. 1 Kings 18:39].  John’s work of bringing many to regeneration through his preaching as a prophet was a miracle as dunamis, but not as seimeion.).  The Theological Dictionary of the New Testament (ed. Kittel, pg. 230, Vol. 7) notes that “in the plural dunamis even became a technical term for ‘miracles’ in the NT,” an affirmation supported by the evidence (Matthew 7:22; 11:20–21, 23; 13:54, 58; 14:2; Mark 6:2, 14; Luke 10:13; 19:37; 21:26; Acts 2:22; 8:13; 19:11; 1 Corinthians 12:10, 28–29; 2 Corinthians 12:12; Galatians 3:5; Hebrews 2:4; 6:5—the sole exceptions are instances where dunamis does not refer to acts at all:  Matthew 24:29; Mark 13:25; Luke 21:26; Romans 8:38; 1 Peter 3:22).  The best argument against dunamis referring specifically to the miraculous would be the class of texts where the word is employed in association with Christian salvation, a category which is inclusive of sanctification and of bestowing spiritual gifts (Romans 1:16; 15:13; 1 Corinthians 1:18; Ephesians 1:19; 3:7, 16, 20; Philippians 3:10; Colossians 1:11, 29; 1 Thessalonians 1:5; 2 Thessalonians 1:11; 2 Timothy 1:7, 8; 3:5; 1 Peter 1:5; 2 Peter 1:3).  However, it is better to conclude from the existence of this category that regeneration is a miraculous work of Divine power and that the Spirit’s power in progressively eradicating indwelling sin in Christians, producing spiritual fruit, and performing other works associated with salvation is a similar work of Divine power, rather than a priori concluding that Christian salvation is non-miraculous, and from this a priori establishing a category, otherwise not clearly attested in the New Testament, where dunamis refers to non-miraculous actions.  The identification of salvation with the miraculous is clearly supported elsewhere in Scripture with texts that indicate that personal regeneration is in the same category as a work of Divine power with the transformation or cosmic regeneration involved in establishing the Millennial earth (Matthew 19:28; Titus 3:5; palingennesia) or the fact that both bringing into being a universe and bringing into being a clean heart are works of creation (Genesis 1:1; Psalm 51:10; bara’).  Furthermore, the identification of dunamis with the miraculous establishes that a Biblical miracle, as a work of God’s power, is not necessarily a rare event, for the exercise of Almighty power in sustaining the universe employs dunamis (Hebrews 1:3).  While God constantly sustains the universe, Scripture indicates that this is a miracle in the sense of dunamis.  Furthermore, while they are not able to replicate everything done by the Almighty, the powers of darkness can perform miracles (2 Thessalonians 2:9).

                The word semeion appears 77 times in the New Testament (Matthew 12:38–39; 16:1, 3–4; 24:3, 24, 30; 26:48; Mark 8:11–12; 13:4, 22; 16:17, 20; Luke 2:12, 34; 11:16, 29–30; 21:7, 11, 25; 23:8; John 2:11, 18, 23; 3:2; 4:48, 54; 6:2, 14, 26, 30; 7:31; 9:16; 10:41; 11:47; 12:18, 37; 20:30; Acts 2:19, 22, 43; 4:16, 22, 30; 5:12; 6:8; 7:36; 8:6, 13; 14:3; 15:12; Romans 4:11; 15:19; 1 Corinthians 1:22; 14:22; 2 Corinthians 12:12; 2 Thessalonians 2:9; 3:17; Hebrews 2:4; Revelation 12:1, 3; 13:13–14; 15:1; 16:14; 19:20), and is translated by a form of sign 50 times, by miracle 23 times, by wonder three times, and as token once.  The word is translated “miracle” in Luke 23:8; John 2:11, 23; 3:2; 4:54; 6:2, 14, 26; 7:31; 9:16; 10:41; 11:47; 12:18, 37; Acts 4:16, 22; 6:8; 8:6; 15:12; Revelation 13:14; 16:14; 19:20.  With the exception of a handful of texts where the word signifies “a visible mark by which someone or something is recognized” (Matthew 26:48; Luke 2:12; Romans 4:11; 2 Thessalonians 3:17), semeion refers to miraculous signs:  Matthew 12:38-39; 16:1, 3, 4, 24:3, 24, 30; Mark 8:11, 12; 13:4, 22; 16:17, 20; Luke 2:34 (Christ Himself is a semeion because of the miracle of the incarnation; cf. Luke 11:30; Isaiah 11:10-12); 11:16, 29, 30; 21:7, 11, 25; 23:8; John 2:11, 18, 23; 3:2; 4:48, 54; 6:2, 14, 26, 30; 7:31; 9:16; 10:41; 11:47; 12:18, 37; 20:30; Acts 2:19, 22, 43; 4:16, 22, 30, 5:12; 6:8; 7:36, 8:6, 13; 14:3; 15:12; Romans 15:19; 1 Corinthians 1:22; 14:22; 2 Corinthians 12:12 (Apostles have miracle-working power to validate their office); 2 Thessalonians 2:9; Hebrews 2:4; Revelation 12:1, 3, 13:13, 14; 15:1; 16:14; 19:20.  The powers of darkness can perform false signs or miracles (semeion); Matthew 24:24; Mark 13:22; 2 Thessalonians 2:9; Revelation 13:13-14; 16:14; 19:20.  “In the religious sphere, sēmeion has always meant a prodigy that is recognizable and provides proof for everyone. In the NT, it is a category of miracle, together with mighty works (dynameis) and wonders (terata, Acts 2:22; 2 Thess 2:9; 2 Cor 12:12; Heb 2:4); but it retains its value as a sign or demonstration” (pg. 252, Theological Lexicon of the New Testament Vol. 3, Spicq).  The semeion, unlike the dunamis, always refers to something specific and unique:  “If in face of the varied nature of NT usage a basic meaning can be laid down . . . this seems to reside in the fact that in a specific situation which cannot be repeated semeion states or indicates a possibility or intention or the indispensability of a definite human reference” (pg. 231, Theological Dictionary of the New Testament Vol. 7, Kittel).  Consequently, semeion is not used for works such as human regeneration and sanctification, as is dunamis.

                Thus, while a miracle as an act of God’s power (dunamis), is broader in scope than the strict definition of miracle as a sign, a miracle in the sense of semeion does support that strict definition.  The glorious and stupendous acts of God’s power in both the parting of the Red Sea and in raising a dead sinner to new life are miracles in the sense of dunamis; only the former is a sign-miracle, a semeion.

In conclusion, while there are words that designate miracles in the Old and New Testament that encompass ideas broader than the strict sense of a miracle as a sign and wonder, the strict sense designated by mofeth or a semeion, this strict sense has particular words assigned to it in the canon and has clear Biblical support.  Do miracles occur today?  In the sense in which the English of the Authorized Version employs the word “miracle,” the answer is “no.”  In the sense of the Hebrew word mofeth and the Greek word semeion, the answer is “no.”  In the sense of a few other Hebrew and Greek words, the answer is “yes,” although in those instances the KJV did not translate the words as “miracle.”  Do miracles take place today?  In the sense of a sign and a wonder, the answer is “no.”  In a looser sense, the answer is “yes.”

May God help us to think His thoughts after Him and be clear in our understanding and teaching about miracles.

A version of the study above is found as part of the analysis here.

Tuesday, May 24, 2016

Clarity As to What This Election Is About

Sometime after the two party conventions later this year, I'll write a post to give a full analysis of this year's presidential election, the strangest one in my lifetime.   The 92 Clinton-Bush-Perot was an odd one, as was Bush-Gore 2000 by the time it was settled by the Supreme Court.  This election is already more bizarre and with perhaps the greatest weirdness to come.

Almost everyone in America now knows Donald Trump's campaign slogan, imprinted in white, mediocre, plain, block font on the front of a tricycle red baseball cap, "Make America Great Again." Trump represents nationalism.  The left, either Hillary or Bernie, might contend, "When was America ever great?  America isn't great."  They represent globalism.

Trump says, "Someone's right and it is the United States."  Hillary and Bernie say, "No one's wrong and everyone is right in his or her or his/her own way."  Trump says, "Build the wall."  Hillary and Bernie say, "Open the borders."

I don't think the election is only about nationalism versus globalism, but that contrast reduces it, I believe, to its most essential quality.  More than anyone Trump touched that nerve with his message, one that resonates with many people.  Many other Trump issues are a corollary to the nationalism. We should trade in a way that benefits our nation first and use our military in a way that benefits America first.

This election is way more basic than whether someone is a constitutional conservative, Ted Cruz's calling card.  The United States was the United States before its constitution was written.  I love our constitution, so don't get me wrong.  I'm saying that there are issues more basic or fundamental than the constitution.  You could take our constitution to many other countries, which has actually happened all over, and give it to them, and it won't make them a great nation.  We have seen this again and again.  We can take our system of government to other countries and they don't become great.

Here's how fundamental this election is.  It's not about what will make America great.  I understand that Trump thinks he knows.  It is about whether America should be great.  One side says, no.  The other side says, yes.  

Trump says, we're better than everyone else.  The other side says, no culture could be greater than any other culture.  America was never great.  It said it was, and for a time thought that it was, but it wasn't.  Trump may not understand greatness, but he does know that we had it and have about lost it.

Where there is no absolute truth, you can't be better.  If no one is greater than anyone else, then borders don't matter.  You have no culture to protect.  It doesn't make any difference.  The future won't be very bright for a country that doesn't see a reason for its own existence.

This election is about two stark differences in worldview.  Only one is compatible with biblical Christianity and it isn't globalism.  Some remind us that conservatism isn't the same as nationalism.  That's true, but you can't be a conservative without being a nationalist.  If you don't have a nation, then there's nothing left to conserve.  If nothing can be better, than why conserve anything anyway?

Monday, May 23, 2016

The Malleability of Old Testament Narratives

Last week I wrote about a sermon I heard on audio from the Old Testament, one influenced by Keswick theology.  That message also reminded me of many I have heard from the Old Testament through the years that left me scratching my head. "Where did he get that?" I ask.  "I don't see that in the text."  "The cloud Elijah saw was the size of a man's fist.  A man's fist has five fingers.  The number five represents such and such, so the cloud is this."  All of that, versus, "The cloud was very small."

What doctrine and practice does someone cull from Old Testament narratives?  By narratives, I'm talking about the stories in the Old Testament.   A large percentage stories make up Genesis, some in Exodus, a little in the rest of the Pentateuch, gigantic amounts in the historical books, and some in the prophets.  A big chunk of the Old Testament is narrative.

When you read an Old Testament narrative, it isn't hard to figure out what is happening.  The actual story is easy to understand.   People will largely agree on what the narratives mean.  However, a lot of divergence, I've noticed, comes in the message people take from those narratives or how they apply.

Reading some deeper meaning into a narrative, making facets of the story mean something in a symbolic or figurative way, when figurative language isn't being used, allows for unlimited possibilities to spin out of a passage.  The Old Testament narratives beccome quite malleable in the hands of such allegorical interpretation -- gumby-like.  Out goes the point of the narrative and in comes convenient and desired personal opinion.

What occurs, when someone takes an Old Testament story into his own hands to form it into a unique, hidden or mysterious meaning, is that the clear impression that the preacher possesses a power above the listeners.  They can't ascertain that same meaning, because they just don't see it there.  Apparently he has tapped into an elevated condition of Holy Spirit involvement not readily or ordinarily available to the average Christian.  In Keswick thinking, he arrived at this superior spiritual state through above average desire.  He wanted it more and he paid the price.  Now he can do these things unwilling others cannot.  I like to say that he's breathing a kind of pure spiritual air.

The listeners must be conditioned to accept that such experiences occur.  Their preacher has advanced abilities, not because of study or preparation or application of the ordinary means of grammar and syntax, but because God tells him things -- not out loud, but in the "still small voice."  The same impressions also inform to build a new auditorium.  Part of why he can do this is because he's been "called," which was to him another subjective ecstatic-like experience.

Because scripture is being referenced, the sermon arrives with divine authority.  God gave him this message, even as he and others may have prayed that "God would give him the words to say."  Those applications are as good as God's Word because they came from a testimony of the Holy Spirit.  Whatever he is saying must be true because it is attached to scripture and declared as if it is in the Bible.  If the listener disobeys the preaching, he's as good as disobeying God.

IF someone can't treat the Old Testament narratives in the Keswick style, what's he supposed to do?  It seems that the preacher is limited in what he might preach. When Joshua's sun stands still, that testifies of God's faithfulness to His covenant with His people.  The world is not a closed system without supernatural, divine intervention. God works according to His will for certain eras using miracles as a confirmation of His Word.  This means, however, is not normative.  One should not expect the sun to stand still for himself.  No doubt God has power to remove mountains, but He functions for most of time according to the ordinary means of His providence.  This is not a lesser exhibition of God's work.  It brings Him equal glory to any sign or wonder performed in an age of miracles.

An important mindset for individual Old Testament narratives is to see them within the overarching biblical metanarrative, the whole story of the Bible, from creation to fall to redemption to consummation.  Also crucial are God's covenants:  Abrahamic, Mosaic, Davidic, and New.  Preaching must report what God says and only what He says.  We confine ourselves to only what is in the text.  We should not make doctrinal and practical conclusions not found in the passage.

The original authors of Keswick were Protestants, who were greatly influenced by spiritualized teaching, parallel to the allegorization of their covenant theology. Adding the dimension of an extra-scriptural work of the Holy Spirit expanded the possibilities of brand new meanings and new applications.  Roman Catholicism read in amillennialism that was systematized by the Protestants, justifying their state church.  Keswick became that approach on steroids.

Unaffiliated Baptists, who take up the Protestant tradition of the Keswicks, do not embrace their heritage.

Friday, May 20, 2016

Keswick's History: Keswick Theology's Rise and Development in an Analysis and Critique of So Great Salvation by Stephen Barabas, part 5 of 5

Consequently, despite the withdrawal of Robert and Hannah Smith and other expected speakers,[1] the first Keswick Convention took place, “acknowledging the debt [the speakers] owed to Mr. Pearsall Smith,”[2] and propagating the Higher Life theology of sanctification Mr. Smith had learned from his wife.  Despite “violent criticism and opposition . . . [such that to] identify oneself with the . . . Keswick Convention . . . [and] Higher Life teaching meant to be willing to be separated from the leaders of the Evangelical Church,”[3] including opposition by men such as Charles Spurgeon, Horatius Bonar,[4] and J. C. Ryle.[5]  For example, Dr. Bonar wrote:
One thing has struck me sadly in the authorized reports of the Brighton Conference—the number of perverted passages of Scripture; and this is really the root of the whole evil.  The speakers first disclaim, I might say, derived theology, and then they proceed to distort the Word of God. . . . I was grieved beyond measure . . . these perversions are part of the system.  It cannot stand without them. . . . One of my chief objections to the Perfectionst [Keswick] Doctrine is that it subverts the whole argument and scope of the epistles to the Romans and the Hebrews. . . . Have I written too strongly?  I don’t think so.  Years are now upon me, and I may claim to be entitled to speak; and . . . have this as my testimony before God and the Churches, that I know few errors more subversive of what the Bible really teaches, and of what our fathers of the Reformation died for, than this modern Perfectionism.  The thing now called holiness is not that which we find in Scripture, and the method of reaching holiness, by an instantaneous leap, called an act of faith, is nowhere taught us by the Holy Ghost.[6]
Mr. Battersby and Mr. Wilson decided to hold another convention.  “After that there was never any doubt that it should be held yearly.”[7]  Wilson and Battersby would not heed the warnings of the body of godly Bible-believing Christians in their day and reject Keswick; “the greatest Leaders and Teachers of Evangelical Truth thought it their duty to oppose to the utmost what they considered ‘very dangerous Heresy’” taught at Keswick and its antecedent Holiness Conventions, “a false doctrine of ‘Perfection in man,’”[8] but the Conventions were to continue, nevertheless.  Since that time “the Keswick message . . . [has been] carried . . . to almost every corner of the world”[9] and “its influence is seen to-day in every quarter of the globe.”[10]  In modern times, Keswick Conventions are held in many cities throughout countries such as England, the United States, Australia, Canada, Romania, New Zealand, India, Jamaica, South Africa, Japan, Kenya, and other parts of Africa, Asia, and South America—indeed, there are “numerous conventions around the world on every continent which are modelled on Keswick.”[11]  Likewise, Keswick theology appears in devotional compositions by men such as Andrew Murray,[12] F. B. Meyer,[13] J. Oswald Sanders,[14] and Hudson Taylor.[15]  Keswick’s teachings also impacted the Welsh holiness revival of 1904-1905,[16] “the German holiness movement, Foreign Missions, Conventions Abroad, the American holiness movement, the American Pentecostal movement . . . the Christian and Missionary Alliance . . . American fundamentalism . . . [and] English fundamentalism or conservative evangelicalism,”[17] as well as offshoots of Pentecostalism like the Health and Wealth or Word-Faith movement which “arose out of the classic Higher Life, Keswick, and Pentecostal movements.”[18]  Keswick has indubitably become extremely influential:
Keswick-like views of sanctification [were] promoted by A. B. Simpson, Moody Bible Institute[19] (D. L. Moody, R. A. Torrey, James M. Gray), Pentecostalism, and Dallas Theological Seminary (Lewis S. Chafer, John F. Walvoord, Charles C. Ryrie). Simpson founded the Christian and Missionary Alliance, Moody founded Moody Bible Institute, and Chafer cofounded Dallas Theological Seminary. Pentecostalism, which subsequently dwarfed Keswick in size and evangelical influence, is the product of Wesleyan perfectionism, the holiness movement, the early Keswick movement, Simpson, Moody, and Torrey. Dallas Theological Seminary, the bastion of the Chaferian view of sanctification, is probably the most influential factor for the [strong influence] of a Keswick-like view of sanctification in modern fundamentalism and conservative evangelicalism.[20]
The tremendous influence of Hannah W. and Robert P. Smith continues to this day.  Not only are their teachings being spread worldwide through the continuing widespread propagation of Keswick theology, but their message is the root of other forms of error and apostasy in Christendom, such as, most notably, the Pentecostal, charismatic, and Word of Faith movements.

See here for this entire study

[1]              Pg. 26, So Great Salvation, Barabas.
[2]              Pg. 26, So Great Salvation, Barabas.
[3]              Pg. 27, So Great Salvation, Barabas.  “Indeed, it was within the ranks of the Evangelicals that the hostility was most pronounced” (pg. 81, Evan Harry Hopkins:  A Memoir, Alexander Smellie), for “the whole holiness movement was subjected to violent criticism and opposition amongst evangelical Christians” (pgs. 31-32, Transforming Keswick:  The Keswick Convention, Past, Present, and Future, Price & Randall).
[4]              Pg. 87, “The Brighton Convention and Its Opponents.” London Quarterly Review, October 1875. 
[5]              Pg. 87, “The Brighton Convention and Its Opponents.” London Quarterly Review, October 1875. Ryle had a blessed and credible testimony to a genuine new birth:
In 1837 Ryle experienced his own conversion. First, Algernon Coote, a friend from Eton, urged him to “think, repent and pray”; then he heard the epistle one Sunday afternoon in church: “By grace are ye saved (pause) through faith (pause) and that not of yourselves (pause) it is the gift of God.” The succession of phrases brought full conviction to Ryle. “Nothing,” he said, “to this day appeared to me so clear and distinct as my own sinfulness, Christ’s presence, the value of the Bible, the absolute necessity of coming out of the world, and the need of being born again, and the enormous folly of the whole doctrine of Baptismal Regeneration” (pg. 573, Biographical Dictionary of Evangelicals, ed. Larsen).
Some Keswick apologists affirm that Ryle changed his mind about his criticisms of Keswick; however, all that actually happened is that Ryle, in 1892, led in prayer the Sunday after a Convention ended on the platform where the Keswick Convention had been in session the week before.  Ryle prayed during a meeting in which D. L. Moody, whose work Ryle commended, was speaking.  Ryle supported Moody, while he did not support the Keswick Convention.  The fact that Bishop Ryle would lead in prayer in a service where Moody was preaching by no means proves that he had become amenable to the Keswick theology, any more than the fact that he had preached at St. John’s Anglican congregation in 1879 before the Keswick Convention proves his endorsement of Keswick, whose meetings in the Keswick Tent he never frequented.  Consequently, affirmations such as that of Polluck that Ryle was a “foremost past critic” and his actions indicated that by “1892 . . . Keswick stood accepted by British evangelicals” is not supported by the evidence, at least in the case of Bishop Ryle (cf. pgs. 77-78, The Keswick Story:  The Authorized History of the Keswick Convention, Polluck).
[6]              Pgs. 88, 90, 93, “The Brighton Convention and Its Opponents.” London Quarterly Review, October 1875.
[7]              Pg. 27, So Great Salvation, Barabas.
[8]              Pg. 38, The Keswick Convention, ed. Harford. Cf. pg. 40.
[9]              Pg. 28, So Great Salvation, Barabas.
[10]             Pg. 30, Forward Movements, Pierson.
[11]             Pgs. 11-12, 37, Transforming Keswick:  The Keswick Convention, Past, Present, and Future, Price & Randall.
[12]             Murray gave “testimony to the . . . Lord, and what He has done for me at Keswick . . . [and] was in close fellowship with . . . the great Holiness movement . . . [and] what took place at Oxford and Brighton, and it all helped me” (pg. 177, 180, So Great Salvation, Barabas; pg. 448, The Life of Andrew Murray, DuPlessis).  Murray spoke “at Keswick . . . [in] 1895 . . . [and] for many years he led a similar Convention in South Africa,” where he was a minister in the Dutch Reformed Church (pgs. 177, 182, So Great Salvation, Barabas). Note the discussion of Murray’s theology in the chapter on him below.
[13]             Note the chapter on Meyer below.
[14]             Sanders acted as a “Keswick speaker” and “Chairman of the Upway ‘Keswick’ Convention, Australia”  (pg. 143, So Great Salvation, Barabas), advocating the second-blessing doctrine of “Wesleyan Perfectionism” (pg. 110, Keep In Step With The Spirit, Packer).  “Chambers used the language of Wesleyan entire sanctification,” having adopted “Keswick teaching . . . through F. B. Meyer” (pg. 49, Transforming Keswick:  The Keswick Convention, Past, Present, and Future, Price & Randall).
[15]             Pgs. 150-152, So Great Salvation, Barabas.  Hudson Taylor, who spoke at the Keswick Convention of 1883 (pg. 81, The Keswick Story:  The Authorized History of the Keswick Convention, Polluck) after discovering “the Exchanged Life,” held a partial-Rapture view, following the lead of Edward Irving and Robert Govett, as did D. M. Panton, Evan Roberts, Jessie Penn-Lewis, Otto Stockmayer, Watchman Nee, and many other advocates of Keswick theology and the Pentecostalism that developed from it.
[16]             Evan Roberts, co-laborer with Jessie Penn-Lewis and the center and leader of the Welsh holiness revival, was strongly impacted by the Keswick theology, as was Mrs. Penn-Lewis.  Note the discussion of Roberts and Penn-Lewis in the respective chapter below.
[17]             Pg. 341, Review by Ian S. Rennie of Keswick: A Bibliographic Introduction to the Higher Life Movements by D. D. Bundy. Wilmore, Kentucky: Asbury Theological Seminary, 1975, in the Journal of the Evangelical Theological Society 19:4 (Fall 1976) 340-343.  Barabas even records that “Mrs. William Booth,” the cofounder of the Salvation Army and leading woman preacher, second blessing perfectionist and continuationist, “remarked that Keswick had been one of the principal means of establishing the Salvation Army” (pg. 151, So Great Salvation, Barabas; cf. pg. 151, The Keswick Convention:  Its Message, its Method, and Its Men, ed. Charles Harford; pg. 20, Forward Movements, Pierson).
[18]             Pg. 64, Only Believe:  Examining the Origin and Development of Classic and Contemporary Word of Faith Theologies, Paul L. King.  Note also the trajectory from the Keswick movement to Pentecostalism and the Health and Wealth heresy in the discussion of A. B. Simpson and John A. MacMillan in the respective chapters below.
[19]             “From Northfield,” Moody’s annual conference, “Keswick speakers, with Moody’s backing, were able to penetrate further into American evangelicalism,” so that “in the 1890s Keswick was a significant force molding sections of the evangelical constituency in North America” (pgs. 56-59, Transforming Keswick:  The Keswick Convention, Past, Present, and Future, Price & Randall).  Moody’s “old friend F. B. Meyer” was key in bringing Moody’s ministry to the side of Keswick; “a Keswick speaker [was] . . . at every summer conference” at Northfield (pgs. 116-117, The Keswick Story:  The Authorized History of the Keswick Convention, Polluck).  Moody, with thousands before him, at the time Robert P. Smith was leading the Brighton Convention, asked the crowds to pray for a special blessing “on the great Convention that is now being held at Brighton, perhaps the most important meeting ever gathered together,” a public endorsement of Brighton that Moody pronounced on both the first and last day of the Convention (pgs. 47, 319, Record of the Convention for the Promotion of Scriptural Holiness Held at Brighton, May 29th to June 7th, 1875. Brighton: W. J. Smith, 1875).
[20]             Pg. 255, Keswick Theology:  A Historical and Theological Survey and Analysis of the Doctrine of Sanctification in the Early Keswick Movement, 1875-1920, by Andrew Naselli.  Ph. D. Dissertation, Bob Jones University, 2006.  Abbreviations employed in the source text for institutions have been expanded to give their full names.  In addition to Dallas seminary, the influence of Moody and Scofield on the spread of Keswick theology in fundamentalism is very significant:  “The return of the holiness teaching to America . . . i[n] [its] Keswick form, was . . . related to the work of D. L. Moody. . . . Moody . . . taught very similar views . . . [to] Keswick . . . and made them central in his work. . . . C. I. Scofield . . . eventually more or less canonized Keswick teachings in his Reference Bible” (pgs. 78-79, Fundamentalism and American Culture, Marsden).  D. L. Moody not only prayed for blessing upon the Higher Life meetings at Brighton during his evangelistic campaign in Convent Garden in 1875 (pgs. 23-24, So Great Salvation, Barabas) but also brought many Keswick speakers in who propagated Keswick theology at Moody’s conferences at Northfield:  “The visits of Rev. F. B. Meyer, and notably of Prebendary H. W. Webb-Peploe, of London, and Andrew Murray, of Wellington, S. Africa (who were at Northfield in 1895), and the late G. H. C. McGregor introduced into Northfield conferences the grand teaching of Keswick” (pg. 164, Forward Movements of the Last Half Century, A. T. Pierson.  New York, NY:  Funk & Wagnalls, 1900; cf. pg. 163, So Great Salvation, Barabas; pg. 6, Out of His Fulness: Addresses Delivered in America, Andrew Murray.  London:  J. Nisbet & Co, 1897).  The Keswick theology of Moody, Scofield, and their associates were in turn very influential in Pentecostalism (cf. pgs. 111-113, Vision of the Disinherited:  The Making of American Pentecostalism, Robert Anderson).