Wednesday, October 30, 2013

The Charismatic Movement and the Two-Thirds world

One claim about the Charismatic movement is that it has resulted in revival and renewal in churches especially in the Two-Thirds world (the primarily non-Western world). Phenomenologically, the claim seems to be true. "Dead" churches have been revived and renewed by the Charismatic movement as it spread throughout the world, resulting in renewed vibrancy and evangelism and witness. Yes, the Word-faith movement and the New Apostolic Reformation have shipwrecked the faith of many, but it seems on the surface that, at least in many parts of the world, the Charismatic movement has actually been a force for good.

It must be noted that where the Charismatic movement initially began, and where its growth has been. It began in the mainline churches in America, churches that were mostly apostate already. Its influence spread to the half-dead and dead liberal churches around the world, moving them away from Liberalism towards some version of Evangelicalism. The Charismatic movement has little if any influence on the churches that are the most biblical, the Reformed churches. That itself should give us some pause. Why is that so?

Now interpreting providence is always tricky, so obviously my view may not be right. One could of course interpret providence by stating that the origin of Charismatism is within apostate churches and its spread in other apostate churches proves that Charismatism is another form of apostasy, being derived from false doctrine. Or one can claim that the Reformed churches were "old wineskins" not able to "hold the new wine."

Coming from a Reformed perspective, and understanding the Gifts of the Spirit to be linked with the purpose for which they are given, which is for the foundation of the Church, it seems to me that one could very well hold to the fact that God does work through the Charismatic movement to reach the dead and dying churches, as using a crooked stick to draw a straight line. The Charismatic movement in some measure may have a bit of the foundation gifts only because of how far they have fallen. They are the condenscension of God in mission settings and in churches so far gone in darkness. In other words, the possible possession of the Sign-Gifts are a mark of immaturity and given for a time to aid believers in their dire need. The problem of course comes when the new believers grow and continue to think that the one or two exceptional manifestations ought to be normative for all time. The pursuit of experiences which God did not promise as normative may result in them going astray, or that they may later grow up and become cessationists.

Speaking from personal experience, I experienced the regenerating work of the Spirit in the church I grew up just as it was influenced by the Charismatic movement. The church I grew up in was a mainline Presbyterian church in Singapore, and thus much of the denomination is infected by Liberalism. I was a Charismatic and being young and naive, wandered towards the New Apostolic Reformation. In God's mercy, I was brought back and am now a cessationist.

So yes, I am willing to grant that God uses the Charismatic movement to reach people. But then, God also used Balaam's donkey, so being used by God proves nothing at all. I am willing to grant that God may in His condescension grant some measure of the Gifts temporarily, but ultimately they will not last. They are a sign of immaturity, and thus, as it is seen in church history, a more mature church will not receive them.

The Strange Fire conference and painting with a broad brush

One of the main critiques of the recently concluded Strange Fire conference is that John MacArthur and the Conference paint with a broad brush and thus tar everyone in the Charismatic movement including those that are more orthodox like Wayne Grudem and John Piper. Phil Johnson has spoken tangentially on the issue in his conference presentation Is there a baby in the Charismatic bathwater? here:

After the conference, Johnson addressed the issue of the broad brush in his blog article on the GTY website The Broad Brush here, making the claim that the orthodox party are covering up for their heretical friends, and thus questioning whether the brush was actually so broad at all since the difference between the orthodox party and their heretical ministry partners doesn't seem so great. The exact point being driven at is succinctly put forward in Tom Chantry's blog post that "any Charismatic belief engenders a lack of discernment, enabling the worst sort of Charismatic excess," a point confirmed by Phil Johnson:

So what are we to say about this? If the issue is the Charismatic movement as a whole, it is true that MacArthur is painting with a broad brush without sufficient nuancing and distinctions. If however the issue is how Charismatism results in little or no discernment, the conduct of Michael Brown and Sam Storms seems to go out their way to prove Johnson's point. Now, I do know Charismatic friends who warn against the charlatans in their movement. The problem is that they are nobodies in the movement. The leaders of the "Reformed Charismatics" like Sam Storms and Wayne Grudem have lent their credibility to heretics like Rick Joyner and Paul Cain. For those who claim to be more spiritual with the gift of speaking in tongues, their lack of discernment is rather telling I would say.

So in conclusion, if Phil Johnson's point is that Charismatism engenders a lack of discernment, the behavior of the "Reformed Charismatics" merely proved his point. In fact, I'm really interested to find any prominent Charismatic that actually warn against all of the charlatans associated with the Third Wave, including those less known like Randy Clark, John Arnott and Steve Hill.

Friday, October 25, 2013

DL: Dr. James White on cessation of the extraordinary charismata

In today's Dividing Line (Oct 24, 2013), Dr. James White helpfully interacted with the contents of the conversation of a caller calling in to Michael Brown on his Line of Fire show, as it deals with the issue of the Charismatic movement and John MacArthur's recently concluded Strange Fire conference.

Dr. White's manner of dealing with the sign gifts is definitely the way to go about doing it. More often than not, Charismatic (reformed or otherwise) treat the subject of the gifts atomistically, which is to say they isolate the question of the continuation of the gifts and deal with that question without situating the question within the larger context of redemptive history; within the whole issue of the purpose behind and function of the gifts. Those questions are not addressed holistically with the issue of the continuation of the gifts, but rather the Bible is treated ahistorically like a Systematics textbook just on THIS issue. It would really advance the argument if Charismatics can began to actually start addressing the Reformed Cessationist arguments instead of trotting out the same old rationale of there being no explicit mention of the cessation of the (extraordinary) charismata (I do note that some have tried, just not the rank and file "apologists").

Tuesday, October 15, 2013

The 1949 denunciation of the New Order of the Latter Rain (NOLR) by the Assemblies of God

The New Order of the Latter Rain (NOLR) is a restorationist movement from within Pentecostalism which veered sharply away from orthodoxy. It is the forerunner and ancestor of today's New Apostolic Reformation (NAR). In its 23rd General Council, the Assemblies of God rejected the entire movement as being unbiblical with an overwhelming majority of delegates voting to sustain the findings of the committee producing the report. The minutes of that General Council would thus be illustrative especially if one were to compare what it condemns to the current craziness in the NAR.

“The New Order of the Latter Rain”

Resolution No. 7 was read by the Chairman of the Resolutions Committee as follows:

WHEREAS, We are grateful for the visitation of God in the past and the evidences of His blessings upon us today, and

WHEREAS, We recognize a hunger on the part of God’s people for a spiritual refreshing and manifestation of His Holy Spirit, be it therefore

RESOLVED, That we recommend to the ministers of the Assemblies of God and to churches affiliated and associated with us, that we set our hearts to seek for a continued outpouring of the Holy Spirit founded upon the clear teaching of the Word of God, and be it further

RESOLVED, That we disapprove of those extreme teachings and practices which, being unfounded Scripturally, serve only to break fellowship of like precious faith and tend to confusion and division among the members of the Body of Christ, and be it hereby known that this 23rd General Council disapproves of the so-called “New Order of the Latter Rain,” to wit:

  1. The overemphasis relative to imparting, identifying, bestowing or confirming of gifts by the laying on of hands and prophecy
  2. The erroneous teaching that the Church is built on the foundation of present-day apostles and prophets
  3. The extreme teaching as advocated by the “New Order” regarding the confession of sin to man and deliverance as practiced, which claims prerogatives to human agency which belongs to Christ
  4. The erroneous teaching concerning the impartation of the gift of languages as special equipment for missionary service
  5. The extreme and unscriptural practice of imparting or imposing personal leadings by the means of the gifts of utterance
  6. Such other wrestings and distortions of Scripture interpretations which are in opposition to teachings and practices generally accepted among us

BE IT FURTHER RESOLVED, That we recommend following those things which make for peace among us, and those doctrines and practices whereby we may edify one another, endeavoring to keep the unity of the Spirit until we all come into the unity of the faith.

The motion was made and seconded that this resolution be adopted. After brief debate it was adopted with an overwhelming majority.

— Assemblies of God, Minutes and Constitution with Bylaws, Revised: The Twenty-Third General Counci (Seattle, WA: Assemblies of God, 1949), 26-7

Sunday, October 06, 2013

Disowning a homosexual son?

Whoever loves father or mother more than me is not worthy of me, and whoever loves son or daughter more than me is not worthy of me. (Mt. 10:37)

The homosexual activist group FCKH8 has recently published a letter by a grandfather to his daughter, who has disowned her son after he said he was "gay," and the news has since been picked up by news outlets. What are we to make of this news?

First of all, there is no context whatsoever given for why and how the woman disowned her son. We are not told why she disowned him (besides that he claims to be gay), whether she has tried to talk him out, or whether the son defiantly pursued his "lifestyle" despite the pleas of the mother. All we have is the spin by the homosexual activists that the woman, Christine, disowned her son Chad because he claimed to be a homosexual, which may or may not be the full case.

The questions therefore are (1) Are there grounds for a parent, any parent, to disown their child?, and (2) Does this meet the criteria for legitimate disowning?, and (3) Does the grandfather have any right whatsoever to write that letter?

The first question is an interesting one. But let's look at a few hypothetical scenarios. If a son were to leave his parents destitute, would that be grounds to disown him? How about if a son were to assault his own parents? What about selling the parents into slavery? I would guess that it seems to be the case that heinous crimes could merit possible disowning of children by their parents.

The question then arise as to whether this case provides sufficient grounds for the daughter to disown her son. Again, we are here not provided many details about the case. So it is possible that the daughter was wrong to disown her son. The bigger question however is whether it is possible for any parent to disown his or her child because of homosexuality, and to that I would certainly say yes.

It must be stated that homosexuality is a heinous crime against God. It is first of all, a sexual sin, and secondly, it violates natural law to a great degree. Homosexuality (together with pedophilia, beastiality and necrophilia etc) are considered extremely debased sins (cf Rom. 1:24-27), worse in degree compared to other sins like theft. Now of course, we admit that all sin is sinful before God. Yet there are graduations of sin. For example, it is definitely better to lust than to engage in rape, although both are sinful. Likewise, it is better to covet than to commit a robbery. The failure to understand that there are horizontal graduations of sin is what gives us the generic "evangelical" eisegesis of Mt. 7:1, and the false idea that no one can judge sins (yet ironically they judge the one who judges as committing a worse sin). It gives rise to the specter of the sinner coming before God and praying, "Dear Lord, I thank you that I am not a judgmental person like those Pharisees. I sin openly and proudly, since I know that your blood covers my sin, unlike those self-righteous, narrow-minded and bigoted people."

If parents are to be parents, they are to rear their children in the fear and admonition of the Lord (Eph. 6:4). Sin has to be reproved and discipline meted out. Homosexuality is a most grievous and wicked sin, and parents ought to discipline any child who moves in that direction. Certainly, discipline has to be meted out with compassion, but it is discipline nonetheless. But what if the child does not listen? The parent should probably continue trying and praying to God for his deliverance. But let's say all avenues have been exhausted. I would then suggest that the parent may have to apply the last measure of discipline: disowning their son/ daughter. Note that I am not saying that parents MUST do that, but they MAY do that. Disowning a child in this instance is analogous to excommunication in a church. Just as the family is like a little church, so likewise to a persistently rebellious child, the only way forward may be disowning the child, and handling the child over to Satan so that his soul may, in God's mercy, be saved. (1 Cor. 5:5).

Now, what is established is that the parent, after exhausting all available avenues, MAY disown their child. This does not necessarily be applicable in this particular case. What is established is that having a recalcitrant unrepentant child who has decided to become a homosexual is a legitimate grounds for disowning. This brings us to the issue of the grandfather.

A nuclear family unit is the basic family unit in Scripture. In Gen. 2:24, it is written that both the man and the woman will leave their families and become one flesh. This does not mean that suddenly, either the husband or the wife is cut off from their parents and have no obligations to them. What it does mean is that the new family unit is in itself subject directly to God. This is a change in the relation between parents to their married child, as compared to their relation with their unmarried child. As a family unit before God, the husband is to protect his wife, EVEN from his mother (her mother-in-law). Parental authority over their children functions in a similar paradigm. Parents have the primary responsibility to raise up and discipline their children, not the grandparents. This does not mean grandparents can't help, but they are not the parents and should not be. Grandparents are also not to usurp the parents' authority by contradicting express instructions given by parents. If parents tell their children, "No sweets before dinner," the grandparents should NOT insist on giving them sweets before dinner. Of course, such things do happen, but the point is: they shouldn't.

In this case, we see the grandfather is giving his daughter a dressing down regarding her decision to disown her son. Here is a blatant case of usurping of parental authority. The grandfather has absolutely no rights to tell his daughter how to parent; he has the same rights as any other person i.e. advice. Of course, what is more grievous is that the grandfather by his actions is promoting immorality. He has the right to take in the grandson, as he has the right to take in anyone off the street into his house if he so pleased. But to castigate his daughter for an action that he has no authority to dictate to her about, and then disown her for disowning his grandson, is preposterous. If he says that disowning is wrong, then he himself shouldn't disown his daughter, otherwise he would just be doing the exact action he claims is wrong. If however he says that disowning is wrong because he thinks that homosexuality is normal, then the problem is in his view of morality. By promoting homosexuality, the grandfather is promoting wickedness in his family. He is one of those stated in Rom. 1:32 who gives approval to those who practice wickedness. So besides his grandson, the grandfather is the one who brings shame upon the family, just as all homosexual activists who promote gross wickedness in the land do to their own families.

In conclusion, there is nothing inherently wrong with disowning a homosexual son or daughter. Parents MAY disown recalcitrant rebellious children; doesn't mean they should but they may. And if any Christian thinks otherwise, let him meditate on Mt. 10:37 and 1 Cor. 16:22, which reads: "If anyone has no love for the Lord, let him be accursed. Our Lord, come!" Fidelity to God requires privileging our love for God above all others including familial ties. Whoever does not do so, is not worthy of Christ.

Thursday, October 03, 2013

Mark Noll and his tirade against Creationism

In Mark Noll's book The Scandal of the Evangelical Mind, which is basically a New Evangelical polemic against elements deemed undesirable by the New Evangelicals (Who said New Evangelicals were irenic and tolerant?), Noll inveighed against a couple of issues chief of which are Dispensationalism and Creationism, seeing them both as symptoms of "anti-intellectualism." I must say it is amusing that a point in Noll's general critique is that these views are anti-intellectual because they are mocked by the establishment, which according to the Bible signifies nothing.

Noll tries hard to link Creationism with Dispensationalism, as if to smear the former by linking it with the latter. As with other evangelicals like Del Ratzsch (in this book The Battle of Beginnings), the systematic tarring of the YEC position began from attacking its history, linking it with the Seventh-Day Adventist movement. The problem however is that such is a logical fallacy of post hoc ergo propter hoc, as if temporary sequence implies logical consequence. The argument can be more plausibly made that non-YEC positions come into place post-Darwin, so does that mean that they necessarily are caused by Darwinism as a logical consequence? It is simply surprising that Noll the promoter of Evangelical intellectual thought would commit a logical fallacy right at the start.

In the book, Noll claimed that "Creationism could, in fact, be called scientific dispensationalism, for creation scientists carry the same attitude towards catastrophe and the sharp break between eras into their science that dispensationalists see in the Scriptures." (p. 195) In response, it must be mentioned that Scripture does speak of catastrophes, EVEN IF one discards the "inconvenient truth" of Creation and the Flood. Christian theology admits of the Fall, the Cross, the Red Sea Crossing, and the Second Coming of Christ. Aren't these all catastrophes in some sense? Or is Noll desiring to impose uniformitarianism upon Scripture too, so that all of Scripture have no catastrophes? Noll's argument therefore commits the fallacy of association. One wonders just how much of the history of interpretation of Genesis 1-11 does he know. When he claims that the YEC position is a novelty in the history of the Church, this only proves he has not read any commentaries on the passages by pre-Enlightenment exegetes on the issue.

The attack on the YEC position continues with Noll accusing its advocates of "Manichean attitudes towards knowledge about the natural world" (p. 196). One wonders what world Noll inhabits. His accusations of creationists as using Baconian induction is strange since none of the professional creationists affirmed their affinity with Baconian induction. In fact, the positivist, hypothetico-deductivist model of science embraced by most scientists today is already outdated. The 20th century has given us Popper's falsification model, Kuhn's scientific paradigm model, and Feyerabend's Dada-ist model. So, what world does Noll actually inhabit? Or is he attacking the YEC position based upon hearsay and conjecture, since he evidently didn't do a good job of representing them? Last I know, misrepresentation is not a virtue of scholarship, so here we have the irony of a historian misrepresenting his object of criticism, and calling them anti-intellectuals?! You should pardon me for not buying that type of inane reasoning.

As with many many people, Noll incessantly confuse "science" with "evolution." All those who reason like him in thought live in the pre-Kuhnian world, a world in which "science" is assumed to be this impersonal enterprise which scientists come and work in, and they are then "dragged" or led through the superior results of experimentation to embrace certain absolutely objective theories of fact "because that's what the experimental results objectively prove." Claiming naivete of creationists who, like the reviled Dispys, read only the "plain" reading of the Genesis account, Noll and those like him have fallen into a more sophisticated naivete regarding the nature of science, in their blindness to the paradigm(s) they function in. They unquestioningly bought into the entire naturalistic paradigm hook, link and sinker, seeing no qualitative difference between "historical science" and "normal operational science." Pressed, they might admit of quantitative difference between the two, just as critics of Kuhn's philosophy of science tried to do the same with Kuhn's category of "paradigmatic science" and "normal science," but the differences are merely quantitative of amount, instead of qualitative, of kind, which they actually are. Noll of course trumpets the "sophisticated" interpretations of Old Testament scholars like Bruce Waltke. Without going into the specifics of Waltke's argument, which Noll did not provide, the question is: Does anyone think Jesus or Paul would have held to such an interpretation of Genesis? None of them lived in an era in which there is such a thing as a fact/ value dichotomy. Postulating that Genesis might not be historical while claiming that it is useful for the ancients imposes upon the ancients philosophical, linguistic and semantic categories of which none of them would have a name for. The goal of biblical exegesis is to understand the meaning of the text in its original horizon as best as possible, not impose foreign categories into the text!

Noll's tirade against the YEC position is therefore, groundless. For a book that claims the terrible state of the Evangelical mind is a scandal, the parts of the book on Creationism is indeed a scandal of the "Evangelical mind."

Ominous Omen: Norman Shepherd

The Federal Vision did not drop out of the sky. Rather, when we peer back into time, we see the seeds of the Federal Vision already in the Shepherd Controversy. Once shrouded because of denominational politicking, the Shepherd Controversy has been revealed to the world through O. Palmer Robertson's book The Current Justification Controversy (Unicoi, TN: Trinity Foundation, 2003). Here are some choice quotes written by Norman Shepherd in 1978 at the height of the controversy, from his Thirty-Four Theses on Justification in Relation to Faith, Repentance, and Good Works:

20. The Pauline affirmation in Roman 2:13, “the doers of the Law will be justified,” is not to be understood hypothetically in the sense that there are no persons who fall into that class, but in the sense that faithful disciples of the Lord Jesus Christ will be justified (Compared Luke 8:21; James 1:22-25)

21. The exclusive ground of justification of the believer in the state of justification is the righteousness of Christ, but his obedience, which is simply the perseverance of the saints in the way of truth and righteousness, is necessary to his continuing in a state of justification (Heb. 3:6, 14)

22. The righteousness of Jesus Christ ever remains the exclusive ground of the believer’s justification, but the personal godliness of the believer is also necessary for his justification in the judgment of the last day (Matt. 7:21-23; 25:31-46; Heb. 12:14)

23. Because faith which is not obedience faith is dead faith, and because repentance is necessary for the pardon of sin included in justification, and because abiding in Christ by keeping his commandments (John 15:5, 10; 1 John 3:13, 24) are all necessary for continuing in the state of justification, good works, works done from true faith, according to the law of God, and for his glory, being the new obedience wrought by the Holy Spirit in the life of the believer united to Christ, though not the ground of his justification, are nevertheless necessary for salvation from eternal condemnation and therefore for justification (Rom. 6:16, 22; Gal. 6:7-9)