Friday, October 25, 2013

Responding to Steve Hays' Well-Poisoning Arguments Once More


Ed DingessYou will reply that you personally don't know of any faith healers to whom we can turn for healing. Have you ever witnessed an indisputable, certified genuine miracle? One for which there were no natural explanations?
LessingMiracles, which I see with my own eyes, and which I have the opportunity to verify for myself, are one thing; miracles, of which I know only from history that others say they have seen them and verified them, are another. I live in the eighteenth century, in which miracles no longer happen. The problem is that reports of fulfilled prophecies are not fulfilled prophecies;that reports of miracles are not miracles. 

The purpose of this blog is to provide a very simple and short response to Steve Hays' argument regarding whether or not we cessationists are justified in demanding proof that miracles workers exist before believing the claim that they actually do exist. Perhaps Hays has really misunderstood this assertion. My argument, while it makes the same conclusion as my cessationists friends, takes a somewhat different path. I reject the claim that miracle-workers are continuing to operate in the Church on the ground that no one has offered proof to the contrary. Hays thinks this debate can be confined to exegesis. In truth, so do many cessationists. I respectfully disagree. I think the best argument moves from empirical observation to exegesis and back again. The bottom line really is quite simple. If Steve Hays wants us to believe that there are still miracles workers in the Church, all he needs to do is provide some proof, some sort of evidence. That evidence has to be credible. I have heard and read many charismatics report that miracles are happening but in every case where those reports were actually investigated, the evidence simply did not support the claims in the reports.

I have had my own family members visit these men: men like R.W. Schambach, Ernest Angsley, and R.W. West. They have been prayed for and proclaimed healed at the conference. But the healings never happened. My grandmother passed away with sugar. Another family member passed away before she was 40 with breast cancer after having been proclaimed healed. Fred Price broke his foot and hobbled around for months in a cast just like the rest of us.

So here it is in a nutshell. Reports of miracles contained in Scripture, in fact, any event in Scripture comes to us with impeccable testimony that is irrefutable. We do not test nor question it because it is the witness and testimony of God Himself. Therefore, I accept the testimony of miracles from Scripture. I dare not put God’s word to the test. I think Gotthold might take a fundamentally different approach. So much for being soul mates. Steve’s Christian kindness precedes him. He is such a respectful debater.

Scripture is not merely a historical record of what happened at that time. It is much more than that. Those events are part of God’s revelation for a reason. Our personal experiences are not! The nature of extra-biblical history is fundamentally different from biblical history. If Steve Hays does understand this, then that is would explain his inability to understand our argument.

I want to be clear that I am not arguing that God does not or cannot perform miracles or heal the sick should He will to do so. I am not even arguing that God is not doing this today. If Hays thinks I am, then he sorely misunderstands my position. I am contending that I have no good evidence to believe the Pentecostal Charismatic idea that miracle workers and healers are active in the body of Christ today. That is my argument. My argument is based on empirical and exegetical proofs even though I emphasize the lack of empirical evidence as the greater obstacle for accepting the claims.

Now, let’s follow Steve’s argument to its logical end. If we are under obligation to believe there are miracle workers, where does Steve draw the line? Do we have to believe everyone who claims to be a miracle worker or claims to have the gift of healing? When some guy claims to have raised the dead, over there, far away, are we really supposed to just be amazed and take him at his word? If the answer is yes, then we just surrendered the biblical mandate to test those who claim to be God’s messengers but are not. If the answer is no, then the next question is by what standard can we determine the genuine from the false. Why is it a bad practice for Christians to demand that miracle-workers be tested and verified? After all, they are in the public spotlight professing to represent all that is Christianity. It seems to me that we should want to ensure that their claims are legitimate if for no other reason than the credibility of the Christian community is at stake.

At the end of the day it is really easy to verify legitimate and credible reports of miracles. If I were Pentecostal and I had been diagnosed with an illness or I had been blind and now I was cured, you better believe that I would be providing verifiable documentation of it to anyone who asked without flinching. I would not be offended if someone asked for the evidence. I would be all too happy to prove to them what Christ had done for me. After all, this would be a great opportunity to give them the gospel. But for some reason, Steve Hays and others seem to think we should just naively accept these accounts without question. Hays even places them on par with Scripture. Moreover, they are offended and we are criticized because we think it prudent to examine such incredible claims just to be sure the integrity of the Christian community remains intact. Hays’ position that accepting the miracle claims of Scripture logically means that we cannot question modern miracle claims is just plain silly. There is simply no other way to say it. Why Hays thinks it is a bad practice for us to demand verification for these claims so that the Church may be protected, as far as I am concerned, remains a mystery.

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