Monday, November 21, 2011

Missional, Charismatic, and Reformed?

Over on Driscoll's The Resurgence website, pastor PJ Smyth has written a short write-up regarding the Driscollite unique blend of ministry distinctives. It seems that the inclination to combine the three ministry distinctives of "missional," "charismatic," and "reformed" continues. However, are these really biblical, and are they really compatible?

Missional?

Let us look at the first distinctive: missional. The term itself has various shades of meaning, but we will focus on its understanding and use in the Reformission movement. According to Smyth, "missional" begins with the understanding that "Jesus came to [the] earth as a missionary and he commissioned us to follow his example." Another synonym for this distinctive is the term "incarnational." What are we to make of this term? First of all, they are in error in claiming that Jesus came to earth as a missionary. Jesus' mission was to die on the cross, not to proclaim the Gospel everywhere. Jesus did call people to faith in Him, but more often than not, Jesus concealed the Gospel in parables (Mt. 13:13-15) and such a concealment is judgment upon a nation and people who do not respond in faith to His miracles. Jesus as an intrusion of the last days even proclaimed that certain people are reprobates and not His sheep (Jn. 10:26). Do these actions strike us as something a missionary should do?

Jesus came to inaugurate His Kingdom. As God and Savior, He is unique in this aspect. When Jesus spoke in parables, and when He for a moment revealed the secret decree of God that His opponents then are reprobates, He is functioning as the King of glory, with these actions being a foretaste of the Last Judgment when all will be laid bare. Missionaries are NOT kings or the King. They are not inaugurating the Kingdom of God but proclaiming it. They are not privy to the secret decree of God in exposing the reprobate status of reprobates. As such, missionaries are not to preach to people in parables. They are not to conceal the Gospel message as a judgment upon people.

Jesus was not a missionary but a King and a suffering servant. We are therefore not to be "missional" but "mission-minded." We witness the Gospel to the world, not like Jesus as Jesus did not do so, but as those sent out by the King we serve, like the Apostles and the early church.

Charismatic?

If there is one thing that truly irritates me, Smyth misrepresents Charismatism and non-Charismatism. It is reprehensible that Charismatics go around claiming that they believe in the presence and power of the Holy Spirit, as if they are the only ones who do so. Similarly, spiritual warfare in the biblical sense is not peculiar only to Charismatics, neither is the link of sickness with the Fall nor that God heals.

The fact of the matter is that Charismatics add to the biblical teaching on the presence and power of the Holy Spirit an under-realized ecclesiology and an over-realized eschatology. By the former, we mean that the Charismatics have an immature view of the Church as if she is still in the same infancy stage of the apostolic Church. Ignoring the fact that the Gifts of the Spirit have a purpose ordained for them, they insist on the continuing gift of tongues, interpretation of tongues, foreknowing prophecy, words of knowledge etc as the ordinary (as opposed as extra-ordinary) reality of the Church. They ignore the fact that the Church has matured with the closing of the Canon and thus the completion of the function of the sign gifts in general.

On the latter, we mean that the Charismatics believe that the blessings of the last days have already come to a great extent if not has come and is coming with the immanent millennial earthly kingdom. Thus, we have Charismatic healers who are more certain that God will heal people when they pray than God Himself. We have Charismatics who are so thirsty for the presence of God that they seek spiritual experiences outside of Scripture, not realizing that on this side of heaven, Christ is absent from the earth and His presence in this age is only mediated by the Holy Spirit through the Word written (Holy Scripture), the Word preached (exegetically sound sermon), and the Word performed (sacraments). Thus, we have Charismaniacs who see "visions" (of their own delusions) and see the "glory-cloud" of God, seeking by such experiences to drag Christ down from heaven to earth. Yes, more biblical Charismatics do denounce such antics, but one wonders upon what basis they can do so, since such flows logically from their over-realized eschatology.

Charismatism therefore is in error, and should not be embraced by the Church.

Reformed?

As a Reformed Christian, most definitely I think the Church should be Reformed. But what does the Reformission movement think of the word "Reformed"?

As we can see from the article, the word "Reformed" is defined as the "mainstream tradition of Christian theology that acknowledge the sovereignty of God in and over all things." One wonders then if Smyth and the others Driscollites think that Lutherans and Barthians and others should be included under the term "Reformed," since both of these groups also "acknowledge the sovereignty of God in and over all things," at least formally. I mean, Karl Barth not only claims to be Reformed, but he also denies infant baptism, which should be a plus point for the mainly baptistic Reformission guys!

Such a reductionistic definition of the word "Reformed" shows the utter ahistorical nature of the Reformission and the YRR movement(s). "Reformed" is defined by the Reformed Creeds and Confessions, not just an acknowledgement of the sovereignty of God and the embrace of TULIP. It is then no surprise that Smyth can claim to be "Missional, Charismatic and Reformed," for his understanding of what "Reformed" means is indistinguishable from mere Augustinianism. To be truly Reformed however would sound the death knell to this synthesis, for being Reformed means that one embraced the whole of the teachings of the Reformed Creeds and Confessions which proscribe Charismatism (cf WCF I.1).

Conclusion

In conclusion, the Reformission synthesis is unbiblical and ahistorical. We agree with Smyth's point that we should remain God-centered, and not only God-centered but Christ-centered, Spirit-led and Word-founded. But we disagree with Smyth's beliefs and synthesis as they are none of these.

2 comments:

DrV said...

Ephesians 4:11-13

"And He gave some as apostles , and some as prophets , and some as evangelists , and some as pastors and teachers , 12   for the equipping of the saints for the work of service , to the building up of the body of Christ ; 13 until we all attain to the unity of the faith , and of the   knowledge of the Son of God , to a mature man , to the measure of the stature which belongs to the fullness of Christ ."

Can you honestly say the church has "matured" to this level? If we still need evangilists, pastors and teachers, what textual proofs allow you to delete apostles and prophets?

What scripture can you cite stating the "sign gifts" had a particular function for a particular time that has passed?

DrV

PuritanReformed said...

@DrV:

Well, I did not say that the church does not need apostles, prophets etc. I don't know if I have mentioned it in other contexts, but basically your question presuppose that we need actual living apostles and prophets today in order to have apostles and prophets.

The Christian Church has apostles and prophets today and everyday. They are the 12 Apostles (or 13 or more) of the New Testament and the Prophets of both the Old and New Testaments. These are the apostles and prophets of the Church which are for us today and everyday.

The Church is one Church throughout the centuries. I am not surprised that many Charismatics see this passage and think that we should have modern-day apostles and prophets, because they do not see themselves as part of the historic universal ~2000-year old Church of the Lord Jesus Christ.

As for the sign-gifts, it's a complicated topic, but you can start at Heb. 1:1-2.