Tuesday, June 18, 2013

Mark Driscoll and John MacArthur’s Strange Fire Conference

My favorite pastor, whose church I am not a member of, John MacArthur, is hold a conference in October on a subject that deals with Pentecostal theology. (My favorite pastor is my pastor, Rob Tartaglia) The name of the conference is rightly called, “Strange Fire.” I wish my I could be there to hear all the wonderful teaching that will take place. Alas, I must wait for the Shepherd’s Conference in March. At any rate, it seems this conference may have, and I underline may have, provoked a sermon or two by Mark Driscoll, the young and restless, new Calvinist (so-called) pastor over in Seattle.

In this sermon, Driscoll intends to answer three very direct questions about the “gift of tongues.”
"Can every Christian have the gift of tongues? Does Mars Hill Church believe that the gift of tongues is for today? And what happens when the private use of tongues goes public?"
Read more at http://www.christianpost.com/news/cessationists-are-wrong-about-speaking-in-tongues-says-pastor-mark-driscoll-95341/#qsKkwRf0x2EsECzT.99 

Driscoll then does the right thing: he sets the criterion by which we can know if we are right or wrong on the subject. This is always important and often neglected in conversations like this. The Christian Post reports,

Before diving into his responses, Driscoll insisted that the only way to know who may be "right" or "wrong" about speaking in tongues was by studying the Scriptures — and "not by taking our experience and making it normative."
Read more at http://www.christianpost.com/news/cessationists-are-wrong-about-speaking-in-tongues-says-pastor-mark-driscoll-95341/#qsKkwRf0x2EsECzT.99 

The very first question concerns the criterion itself. Is this argument like other theological arguments where truth is actually confined to the realm of the abstract? I have dealt with many charismatics who would love to keep this argument in just that location. But this question is not limited to abstract theological points of view. This argument necessarily involves human experience. It involves claims that may be tested empirically as well as theologically and that seems to be one of the components that is always missing from the discussion and it seems to be absent in Driscoll’s argument as well.

Driscoll argues that 1 Cor. 13:8-10 refers to the second coming of Christ, and not the completion of the canon. Now, whether the traditional cessationist argument holds here, is, in my opinion completely irrelevant to the discussion. The reasoning is faulty and inconsistent. The first point Paul is making is that godly love, not spiritual gifts, is the sine qua non of the Christian experience. Secondly, the gifts have a temporal purpose and are subordinate to the Christian ethic. The Corinthian focus was misplaced and it was Paul’s goal to help them regain a godly perspective and to mature and grow in the faith. Presumably, a godly focus is not one that emphasizes spiritual gifts, but rather, godly living, godly fruit!

The gifts of the Spirit mentioned in Corinthians should not be viewed as a package deal. This is the first error that non-cessationists make. The assumption is that all these spiritual gifts will end “en toto” at some point in time. I believe that argument is fallaciously based on the assumption that the gifts should be viewed as a complete package. There is no reason to draw such an inference or make such a conclusion exegetically speaking. The gifts could theoretically pass off the scene at different points in time, even some future time in relation to Paul and the Corinthian believers.

Secondly, Paul is not suggesting that these gifts will exist when Christ returns, even if that interpretation holds to begin with. He is merely saying that if these gifts exist at the arrival of the perfect, they will be done away with. The point is not about how long the gifts will operate in the Church. If that is what one thinks 1 Cor. 13 is about, they have sorely missed Paul’s point. The Greek εἴτε is a conditional. This is not insignificant, but I rarely see commentators take it seriously.

Notice verse 8 deals with the hypothetical conditional that if there is prophecy, and if there are languages, and if there is knowledge, they will all be done away with. Then in verse 9 he makes a very clear statement: our prophecy is imperfect and our knowledge is imperfect, but soon enough that will not be the case. It seems that Paul’s point is that we should emphasize those things that are eternal that will last, as opposed to those things that will not, things that are clearly temporal. When the perfect comes, the partial will cease to exist. And if prophecy exists when the perfect comes, because it is partial, it will cease as well. But that statement does not infer that prophecy will exist when the partial arrives. That is an unnecessary assumption that has no exegetical or even logical support as far as it goes.

A quick illustration that serves to support my argument is the ministry gifts placed within the church. Pentecostals argue that apostles are still active in the Church as well as prophets. This specious argument is based on Eph. 4:11. As it goes, God put apostles and prophets in the church and the church is still here, so then it follows that so too must these offices be. But many non-Pentecostal continuationists would strongly disagree with this reasoning. However, they fall into the exact same line of reasoning in their argument for the continuation of the gifts. There is no single biblical passage that says that the office of the apostle is no longer operating. That does not mean that we must conclude that it is. If it is reasonable to argue that apostles and prophets no longer operate within the church even though Scripture has not explicitly stated they do not, then why must we accept that sort of argument in order to reject the continuation of certain gifts? I fail to see why the one and not the other. Clearly, this way of arguing is logically inconsistent.

The better response for those who argue for the continuation of the first-second century spiritual gifts is located in a right understanding of those gifts from the beginning. From there, we move to ask the question, the empirical question that asks, is what we see today the same thing they experienced then. I do not argue from a solely exegetical perspective. I combine clear exegesis with empirical proof that no one seems to be really speaking in biblical tongues or on a genuine healing campaign or routinely working miracles as part of their ministry. What we see today is not the tongues of Scripture. What we see in these healing, and miracle crusades are not at all what they claim to be and we have proven it repeatedly. This is not a debate that is confined to abstract theological concepts. This is one where we can join theology and experience together and test the truth of the claims from what we see in Scripture with what we see in modern this phenomena.
Modern tongues, made popular beginning in the Methodist revivals of the Appalachian Mountains in the late 19th century and exploding at Asuza Street in Los Angeles in 1906 are not the miraculous languages witnessed in the ancient church. I was converted in a Church of God in those very same Appalachian Mountains that are my home even though I left years ago. I speak not purely from the standpoint of someone trained in theology, but from an abiding intimate experience as well. The tongues spoken in these circles are not languages. They are unbroken syllables thrown together rapidly in belief that the person is being moved by the Spirit. The entire experience has no miraculous elements whatever. It is based on some mystical experience that serves to prove nothing and only serves to reinforce the self-deception nature of the human mind.

The same is true with regard to healings and miracles. I do not debate Pentecostals on this subject. I simply require they get in my car, we go to the hospital, and they can do their debating there, healing the sick, opening blind eyes, and yes, raising the dead. It is an interesting phenomenon that over the course of the years, even though I have had several conversations with men and even women who argue this way, and have extended this offer, not one of them has actually taken me up on it. In fact, I can’t remember any occasion where my opponent did not become extremely frustrated and angry that I insisted we settle this the old-fashioned way, on the streets, where the rubber meets the road. If their understanding the Scripture is right, and they are being honest in their argument, then they should be able to demonstrate healing and miracles powers as well as real genuine miraculous tongues that are actually languages. If they cannot do so, my unapologetic response is put up or shut up. They are, after all, the ones making all these boasts about the power of God operating in their lives, their churches, their ministries. The response is simple: show me!


  1. Just a thought in regard to your closing statement. Has it ever occurred to you that Jesus said it's wicked generation that seeks after a sign? Or perhaps you'll recall Herod who desired that Jesus preform a miracle to validate himself? I applaud you for your devotion to scripture and the integrity thereof, however, to challenge someone to get in the car and go "heal" someone is tantamount to my asking you to "show me" who the elect are. I'm not elevating my experience to the level or scripture and I do indeed take what is preached to the word as the bar for truth. I'm not suggesting that everything that goes on in every Pentecostal church is of God any more than I would make the claim that everything that goes on in a reformed church is of God. I do think however, that God can still preform miracles if he chooses to. I've personally seen things that would meet the biblical criteria for being labeled as miracles--not the least of which is someone being truly born again. To reduce the validation of the ministry of the Holy Ghost to a parlor trick to satisfy you're encumbered mind is a dangerous thing brother. I'm sure this won't be posted, in fact I'm not even sure it will ever reach you--so in closing I have this to say: If a man were given the bible and the bible alone and were to read it you would have to have a conference to convince Him that God doesn't still do miracles. Just a little food for thought.

  2. When these claims of the miraculous prove undeniable, like those of Christ and the Apostles, and they are certified miracles, only then will I reconsider my position. Until then, these men should shut up about healings and miracles because they look foolish and they make Christianity look foolish.

    My article NEVER said that God cannot or even does not perform miracles if He so chooses. Work on your reading habits please. My article denies the pentecostal assertions that 1. Healers and miracle workers are present today. 2. That tongues (miraculous ability to speak a language) are still present in the church. 3. That prophets and apostles are still offices operating today.

  3. Hey, I appreciate your challenge to call people to living out their theological claims. I think we're just beginning to see people have faith enough to not believe in the power of God to move in these ways today, but to actually believe it to happen right here, right now in their own lives. So I imagine many of those people you debated with were somewhere in the middle of that continuum.

    I would balance your challenge, however, with a challenge to you. I don't know you, but it seems to me that many cessationalist (if indeed, you are one) tend to have not had to rely on the Spirit for these kinds of gifts and miracles. I come from a rough background so theology alone or mere civilized Christianity wasn't enough. I had nothing so I needed what only the miraculous power of the Spirit of God could do.

    Same with the third world: many believers there don't have access to hospitals or wealth so they rely on God moving miraculously. I think there's a reason the charismatic movement started in the West with poor people of color and generally has an opposition made up of white, middle-class folks.

    As far as your comment about healers/miracle workers being active today and making a distinction between that and when God heals somebody - I think most within the Pentacostal movement would say that it is God doing all the healing, but some have faith for it. And that's a Biblically sound assertion.

    Lastly I'll say this, orderly worship is good. But what I've found within even much of the most charismatic circles is people who are just as dumbfounded by weird outpourings of the Spirit as anyone else. But they realize that they genuinely are seeing people's lives changed for Jesus, seeing healings happen before their eyes and are having existential encounters with the Lord, like many in the Old and New testament, rather only studying Him. I've heard some say, "I think only 60% of what happened in such and such revival was authentically from God. But I'll take that over a place that doesn't believe God to do anything."

    Oh I guess one more personal thought: It's actually the Lord speaking to me audibly and Him miraculously moving in my life that led me to be more theologically Reformed. It was His power. Not mine.

  4. Interesting perspective.

    However, using the approach of your final paragraph would require you to discount the validity of the ministry of Paul, for example. He left some sick, and encouraged others to pursue a practical remedy to an ailment.

    Continuationists do not claim to heal every person who is sick. That is a straw man, pure and simple.

  5. They claim all one needs is faith. They claim healing is provided for all in the atonement. Therefore, they should be able to heal the sick and raise the dead whenever they want. Or does their faith vary like the ebb and flow of the tide? Up one day, down the next. Loud mouth arrogant men who say a lot and NEVER EVER do anything. Produce one resurrection...just one...It seems to me that with all the bloviating and bragging someone would be able to give us something more than words and books. Empty faith!

  6. I find it difficult to read these comments because there is so much anger from both side. I thought this was a Christian forum but the attitude and the words spewing out are sarcastic and filled with anger. I suppose one can say it's a righteous indignation...

    When secessionists talk about healing, they think people with the gift of healing can heal everyone. Where do you get that? Finding and using the most extreme cases to support the secessionist view to me is just as faulty as charismatics saying if you have gift you can heal everyone and anyone. Jesus himself did not heal everyone. In fact, he left many waiting at Simon Peter's mother-in-laws house and left to the next town. But Jesus did heal those who came to him the previous night.

    Since Jesus said, he only did the things the Father told him... i am assuming healing were done in the same way... directed by God, healing people whom God has directed! That is my understanding of the gift of Healing... you pray for healing not because you can, but because He told you to.

    Why is there such a division on things of the Holy Spirit when it is so evidently presented in the Bible... but my point is regardless of where you stand.. let us use words and expression with desire to understand not to condemn. Blessings.

  7. Well...once again...if healing is provided for ALL in the atonement and all that is required is faith, then everyone should be healed. What is your argument against this view? Either healing is provided for in the atonement or it is not. Both the Assemblies of God and the Church of God make this assertion in their statements of faith. I was a pentecostal when I was young. I am intimately familiar with what they say. Jesus called false teachers vipers. Paul scolded them harshly as did Peter. False teachers are a scourge to the Church and especially those who teach the greed gospel of charismatics.

  8. I will accept your challenge, but rather than a hospital lets go to a mall or a Walmart. There are lots of sick folks at any public gathering that need a miracle and not a pill. I regularly see people healed when I pray for them as I go about my daily business. Some dont get immediate healing, but they all are thankful that they received the love of Jesus in a tangible way. My name is Cary Voss from Victoria, Texas. You can email me at GodsElect@mail.com.

  9. When Jesus was on this earth even He did not heal all who were sick - so what makes you think that someone with a gift of healing would do any different? In my opinion, someone - if they truly had a gift of healing - would do it the way Jesus did. Pure obedience. Jesus only did what He saw the Father doing. This is why not everyone was healed - it was God led. God chose to heal some and God chose not to heal others. Plain and simple. Besides that... One of God's names is Yehovah Rapha - the God who heals. It is in God's nature to heal - not just physically, but His chief aim is to give us new hearts and make us new creations. Any time God does something physical it is a sign pointing to what He wants to do in us Spiritually. Restore, make new. IMO

  10. IMO - if a gift of healing is real then why would anyone think that a person would heal more than Jesus - even He didn't heal everyone. In fact, He only did what He saw the Father doing. Pharoah tried to "make" Jesus perform a miracle just out if mockery. God is not in the business of putting on a show just for you. He is in the business of reconciliation. Signs are meant to point you to the inner work God wants to do in your life - make all things new... become a new creation - in Christ. It's not just a show. IMO


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