Wednesday, November 22, 2006

A Cover Song

I found a great cover of U2's Sunday Bloody Sunday by an up-and-coming solo artist.

Tuesday, November 21, 2006

Disturbing Psalms

I have been listening to the band Sons of Korah for the past few weeks. Stuart Briscoe got me listening to them. Well, okay, I don't actually know Stuart. But he started promoting them to his church, and that's why the guy in their church bookstore recommended them to me. But I would like to say that Stuart did actually stop by and say hi to the bookstore salesman while he was showing me the Sons of Korah CD, so I think that counts for something.

Each of their songs are taken from a psalm or portion of a psalm set to music. I really enjoy it, especially being able to appreciate some of the psalms in a new way.

So of course I start thinking about the "difficult" psalms. I bet Psalm 137 is not high on their list of psalms to set to music, I think. Verse 9 says, "How blessed is the man who takes your babies and dashes them against the rocks!" I'm sure this will be at the end of their list and it will be interesting to hear how they pull that one off.

So imagine my surprise when I bring home their Songs of Redemption CD from the Elmbrook library, only to find that Track 1 is Psalm 137! TRACK 1! Not only did they manage to pull it off, it actually became the anchor song for the entire album, setting up our need for redemption with a heart-cry from the Jewish exiles in Babylon. What really makes is come alive is the answer to this psalm in the final track (10), based on Psalm 126, about how the Lord did bring them back from captivity. That, of course, is the substance of redemption, when God redeems His people from captivity.

Nevertheless, I must comment on the fact that they did use a looser translation of verse 9. Instead of "dash[ing] their babies against the rocks," it is "destroy[ing] your progeny." So it gives a meaning sort of like, "You destroyed all that we have done and built, so someone will one day destroy all that you have done and built." A bit of a cop-out? Perhaps. I'm still amazed at how they took one of the most disturbing psalms in the Psalter and used it to really minister to me.

Tuesday, November 14, 2006

Continuation of the Apostolic Office

I originally wrote this paper for a course in missions, but reworked it for a Systematic Theology class. I included it as an appendix to a position paper on supernatural gifts of the Spirit. Also, see my continuing discussion of charismatic theology.

Contemporary Apostles
Gaffin provides four lines of reasoning that link the supernatural gifts to the office of apostle. If the apostolic office has passed away, then so have the gifts; if the gifts remain, so much the apostolic office. Though Gaffin’s four arguments are not all equally compelling, he has supported his overall case. As I have made a case for the charismatic view of supernatural gifts, I also contend that the apostolic office was never intended to pass away. Taylor states that “it is a linguistic quirk of history that the term for a missionary shifted from apostle to missionary.”
[1] The term “missionary” is not found in the Bible, but the Greek equivalent, found 80 times in the New Testament, is “apostelos.” From this, we get the term “apostle” and “apostolic.” Much of the current debate arises from a misunderstanding of the function of apostles and the creation of a new “missionary” office.
Wayne Grudem presents several arguments for apostolic cessation.
[2] First, the primary requirement for biblical apostleship was having seen Jesus, so there can be no modern apostles . Three main passages are brought as evidence of this requirement. In Acts 1.22, the replacement for Judas Iscariot was required to have been a witness of the resurrection. Paul implies the same thing in 1 Cor 9.1-2. Finally, in 1 Cor 15, Paul places himself on equal footing with the other apostles because he has witnessed the risen Jesus.
A second argument for the cessation of the apostolic office is that the apostles had the authority to speak and write the very words of God. Since the canon of scripture is closed, the apostolic office must now be obsolete.
[3] However the evidence that the apostles had this kind of authority is lacking. Grudem provides three examples. In Acts 5, lying to the apostles is equated with lying to the Holy Spirit. In 1 Corinthians 2.13, Paul asserts that his words were directly taught by the Holy Spirit. In 1 Corinthians 14.37 Paul says that the things that he writes are the Lord’s command.
Third, is the charge that anyone who takes the title apostle is probably doing so out of wrong motives. Only the arrogant would seek to apply the apostolic title to themselves.
Finally, Grudem notes that there was a non-technical usage of apostolos in the New Testament, referring simply to a messenger. This non-technical use differed from the primary use of the term, which was used to designate a special apostolic office. This non-technical usage may still be held today, though its meaning is somewhat different from the non-technical usage in the New Testament.
How shall we evaluate Grudem’s arguments? It seems appropriate to begin with an analysis of the way the New Testament uses the term, apostle. Out of 80 uses of apostle in the New Testament, 70 are found in Paul and Luke/Acts. The remaining ten usages refer specifically to the 12 apostles.
[4] Paul’s clearest passage on the subject of apostleship is found in 1 Corinthians 15.7-9, where he writes that the risen Jesus, “…appeared to James, then to all the apostles; and last of all, as to one untimely born, He appeared to me also. For I am the least of the apostles and not fit to be called an apostle, because I persecuted the church of God.” Several things are clear from this passage. First, there was a distinction between “Cephus (Peter) [and] the twelve,” and “James [and] all the apostles.” Paul does not limit the apostolic office to the original twelve apostles. For instance, Andronicus and Junia,[5] are named as apostles (Romans 16.7), though we know nothing else about them. Second, Paul seems to imply that he is not on equal footing with the twelve, but he is with the rest of the apostles. Third, Paul claims that he was the “last of all” to see the Lord, not that he was the last apostle of all.[6]
Luke, on the other hand, uses the term apostle quite often, but always in reference to the twelve. The only exceptions occur in Acts 14.4 and 14 where the term is applied to Paul and Barnabus. F.F. Bruce argues that Luke only uses the term here because he is quoting from another source, and his intention is that it be taken in the non-technical sense.[7]
From the perspective of a unified biblical canon, those whom Luke and the other biblical authors call apostles, Paul calls the twelve. Those whom Paul calls apostles are not called apostles in Luke (with the two exceptions already noted). So it is clear that the entire biblical witness reserves a special designation for the Twelve. Modern theologians, following non-Pauline usage, refer to the Twelve as Apostles (with a capital A). A second category is Paul’s non-technical use of apostle (with a small a). [8] The word apostolos was infrequently used before the New Testament period, and when it was, it was primarily for messengers sent by sea.[9] It is unlikely for the early Christians to coin a new technical use of the term only revive the non-technical usage in a small number of passages. Even if we allow this non-technical usage (apostle, small-a), Paul places himself (and James) in this category and not with the Twelve.[10] It is much more likely that there is no distinction between technical and non-technical usage, and the standard use was equivalent to our modern term missionary. Similarly, in Luke it seems likely that he made a decision as a writer to refer consistently to the twelve (and no one else) as apostles for narrative clarity.
If this is true, then there is no real distinction between apostle and missionary at all, and Jesus’ commission to the twelve was a missionary commission that applies to the entire missionary endeavor. There is no reason to believe that the apostolic-missionary office would ever “pass away”. It is notable that the same sort of reasoning used to deny the modern-day apostolic office was once used to defend our lack of missionary zeal – the apostolic mandate to reach the world with the gospel ended when the apostolic office passed away.
How, then, do we respond to the claim that one requirement for an apostle is having seen the risen Jesus? For the replacement of Judas, this was not the only requirement – he was also required to have been disciple from the beginning of Jesus’ ministry. These were fitting requirements to replace a member of the Twelve. Paul himself could not have met this requirement. This in fact, was probably the very kind of accusation that Paul had to respond to in 1 Corinthians 9.1-2. In chapters 8-10, Paul is building a case that we ought to lay down our rights in deference to one another. In chapter 9 he uses himself as an illustration of laying down one’s rights – the rights of an apostle to be supported financially by the community. He therefore takes verses 2 and 3 to briefly defend his apostleship: “Am I not free? Am I not an apostle? Have I not seen Jesus our Lord? Are you not my work in the Lord? If to others I am not an apostle, at least I am to you; for you are the seal of my apostleship in the Lord.” Nowhere does Paul make an explicit claim that an apostle is required to have seen the Lord. More likely, he is attempting to bolster his own claim to apostleship in order that the Corinthian church will continue to listen to him rather than being deceived by false teachings. In fact, Paul probably considered his encounter with Jesus to be the confirmation of his apostolic call, not a requirement for it.
In 1 Corinthians 15, cited above, Paul equates his sighting of Jesus with those of the other apostles. However we also noted that Paul was the last to see, not the last of the apostles in the sense that Mohammed claimed to be the last of the prophets. We must note that the apostolic office was will mentioned in the Didache (11.3-6) written as late at A.D. 150. That would mean that apostles continued to be sent out of churches for two, three, or even four more generations after Paul’s time.
Grudem’s second argument is generally the most troubling for evangelicals, who equate apostolic authority with scriptural authority. But this equation is misleading. No biblical text makes this explicit. In Acts 5, lying to the apostles is equated with lying to the Holy Spirit. However an examination of Luke’s understanding of the working of the Holy Spirit reveals that the Holy Spirit empowers the church corporately, not just the apostles. What is sinful is lying to the Spirit-empowered church represented by the apostles, not lying to the apostles qua apostles. In 1 Corinthians 2.13, Paul asserts that his words were directly taught by the Holy Spirit. But this argument cuts both ways. Paul is not here appealing to his apostolic authority, but to the fact the Holy Spirit inspired his message. By implication, the Corinthians should not listen to an uninspired apostle. In 1 Corinthians 14.37 Paul says that the things that he writes are the Lord’s command. But again, this is not an appeal to apostolic authority, but rather an appeal to authority outside of himself – the Lord’s authority. It is the content of the message rather than the position of the messenger that makes it true.
There are further problems with Grudem’s model of apostolic authority. The first is what to do with apostolic error (i.e. Peter, Galatians 2.11-14) or dispute (Paul and Barnabus, Acts 15.39). Second, this model only really works in hindsight, because the canon is closed. Traditionalists can argue for this position because it is a safe, unchangeable tradition. But there was a time in history when the apostles had not ceased to speak and canon was not yet closed. At that time the notion of apostolic authority was much riskier, especially to the traditionalist, because of the uncertainty of what they have not yet said. Third, even Paul claimed that it was his message, not his position, that made his words true (Galatians 1.8-9). Finally, five of the 27 books of the New Testament (almost 20%) were not written by apostles. On the other hand, only five of the 15 undisputed apostles
[12] (30%) wrote any portion of scripture. Scripture does not appear to be especially tied to apostolic infallibility.
What about the charge of wrong motives? While this may be true of some, the definition of apostle argued for here is one of function rather than status. The church does not need more “super-apostles” who exalt themselves, but she does need more apostolic missionaries who will lay down their lives for the Kingdom of God as Paul did.
Many men have functioned apostolically through history. A short list would include Augustine of Canterbury, Boniface, Martin Luther, Nikolaus Ludwig von Zinzendorf, John Wesley, Charles Finney, William Carey, and Hudson Taylor.
[13] While none of these men called himself an apostle, they all instinctively fulfilled the apostolic mandate. The modern apostolic movement can look to such men as spiritual fathers.

Barnett, P.W. 1993. “Apostle” in Dictionary of Paul and His Letters. Downers Grove: InterVarsity Press.
Bruce, F.F. 1988. The Book of the Acts, Revised Edition. Grand Rapids: William B. Eerdmans Publishing Company.
Grudem, Wayne A. 1994 (2000). Systematic Theology. Grand Rapids: ZondervanPublishingHouse.
Taylor, William D. 1999. Introduction to World Christian Missions tapes and notes from the Institute of Theological Studies course. Grand Rapids: Outreach, Inc.
Walls, Andrew F. 1999. “Missionary Societies and the Fortunate Subversion of the Church” in Perspectives on the World Christian Movement, ed. Ralph D. Winter and Steven C. Hawthorne. Pasadena: William Carey Library.

[1] Taylor 1999, lecture 11.
[2]Grudem 1993, 905-911.
[3] Idem, 60-67. Grudem agrees with Gaffin (1996), who then turns the argument against him to reject all supernatural gifts.
[4] With the possible exception of John 13.16, mentioned above.
[5] Or possibly the masculine name “Junias.” The Greek is not certain.
[6] Even his sighting of Jesus as “last of all” should probably not be taken in an absolute sense. Paul’s main point was not that it could never occur again, but rather that his testimony about the resurrection was valid because he too had been an eyewitness of the risen Lord.
[7] Bruce 1988, p. 271, n.7; p.276, n.36.
[8] Examples usually given include 2 Corinthians 8.16-24, referring to Titus and another apostle; Philippians 2.25, to Epaphroditus. John 13.16, seems to support this view, referring non-specifically to a person sent by a sender.
[9] Barnett 1993, p.45.
[10] The only other option is that Paul developed a third category between the technical Apostle and non-technical apostle. This seems unlikely, as there are no indications that Paul held to a ‘hierarchy of aposticity.’
[11] Walls 1999, p.234.
[12] Grudem admits Paul, Barnabus, and James.
[13] Grudem himself partially concedes this point. “Today some people use the word apostle in a very broad sense, to refer to an effective church planter, or to a significant missionary pioneer (“William Carey was an apostle to India,” for example). If we use the word apostle in this broad sense, everyone would agree that there are still apostles today – for there are certainly effective missionaries and church planters today… But there is another sense for the word apostle. Much more frequently in the New Testament the word refers to a special office, ‘apostle of Jesus Christ.’ In this narrow sense of the term, there are no more apostles today, and we are to expect no more.” (906) It is difficult to understand why it is acceptable to refer to William Carey as “the apostle to India” but not as “the apostle of Jesus Christ to India.” Whose apostle was he?

Supernatural Gifts of the Spirit

I just turned in a paper last night stating my position on supernatural gifts in the contemporary church. Thought I'd throw it up on the blog real quick. Any feedback you'd like to give would be great. I just cut and pasted, so I don't know quite how well the formating will come across. Also, check out my continuing discussion of Charismatic Gifts.

The doctrine of supernatural gifts is one of the most exciting and pastorally relevant topics in systematic theology. All evangelical theologians agree that these gifts were operative during the period in which the New Testament was written. Luke records several instances of healing, speaking in tongues, and prophecy in the book of Acts. John the Seer similarly gives some indication of the function and usage of gifts in the cryptic book of Revelation. Paul’s letters give us a window into the way early churches used the gifts, especially speaking in tongues and prophecy, though we can easily become frustrated by how much the window obscures rather than reveals. Clearly the supernatural gifts of the Spirit comprise an integral strand of the gospel story. But the question remaining is what relationship the supernatural gifts have to our contemporary situation, or more accurately, what relationship we have to the supernatural gifts.
In particular, the debate has centered around three main groups of gifts, both derived from the key text of 1 Cor 12.8-10.
[1] The first group is the revelatory (or word) gifts, which include prophecy and speaking in tongues, and often word of wisdom and word of knowledge. Speaking in tongues is the primary gift associated with the Pentecostal movement. Some later Pentecostal groups and especially charismatic groups placed a greater emphasis on prophecy. Among these groups, the word of knowledge functions very similarly to prophecy, where the recipient supernaturally obtains propositional information, and its most common usage is to call out various kinds of healings needed among a particular congregation so that people may come forward for healing. Similarly, a word of wisdom is viewed as a kind of supernatural revelation, but specifying a course of action rather than prepositional information. For instance, Solomon exercised the word of wisdom in his judgment between the two harlots (1 Kings 3.16-28).
The second group of gifts are the healing gifts, includes healing and discernment of Spirits. The focus of the healing gift is to effect physical healing. The focus of discernment is to effect spiritual healing through casting out demons.
A third group, less often discussed, are the power gifts, which include faith and miracles, such as walking on water or raising the dead. These have received less attention in the relevant literature because they are not as common in Pentecostal, Charismatic, or Third Wave churches, but are gaining more prominence in what are increasingly called New Paradigm churches.[3]
Finally, a closely related topic is whether the apostolic office continues today. I include a discussion of modern apostles in an appendix.[4]

One of the most vocal opponents of contemporary supernatural gifts is Richard Gaffin.
[5] His position may be called the Cessationist view. Standing firmly in the reformed tradition of B.B. Warfield and the early twentieth century Princetonian school, Gaffin presents eight reasons why supernatural gifts are no longer operative. Seven focus on the revelatory group of gifts. Four are related to the cessation of the apostolic office.
1. The healing and power gifts are specifically related to the apostolic spread of the gospel. The apostolic period ended in the first century, and therefore, so did the apostolic gifts (2 Cor 12.12, Heb 2.3-4).
2. The revelatory gifts were likewise only functional during the initial stages of the church age. Paul says in Ephesians 2.20 that the church has been “built on the foundation of the apostles and prophets,” and since the foundation has already been laid, the revelatory gifts no longer function (cf. Eph 3.5).
3. A consistent continuationist position is self refuting, for one must affirm the modern office of apostles, which necessarily means the canon of scripture cannot be closed. Yet all who deny the modern office of the apostle are no longer consistent, have at least partially affirmed a cessationist position. Moreover, there is no non-arbitrary reason for affirming supernatural gifts while denying modern apostles.
4. The revelatory gifts threaten the authority and sufficiency of scripture by effectively adding to the canon. Several defenders of modern prophecy see no distinction between Old and New Testament prophecy, which essentially affirms an addition to the canon.
5. Scripture gives no evidence that any New Testament prophecy should have less authority than scripture itself. A word from God always carries the authority of God. Those who believe in modern prophecy can no longer affirm sola scriptura.
6. Paul affirms that “when the perfect comes the imperfect [tongues and prophecies] will pass away” (1 Cor 13.8-14). In light of Ephesians 4.11-13, apostles will also continue until the perfection comes. Regardless of whatever else “perfection” may mean, tongues, prophecy, and the apostolic office must either continue together or end together.
7. The eschatological aspects of the church age do not require supernatural gifts to function throughout, but merely in the initial formative years.[8]
8. Charismatics cannot even affirm that modern charismatic gifts are the same gifts spoken of in scripture. Contemporary tongues are likely to be different from the New Testament gift of tongues. Similarly, no one is quite sure what a Word of Knowledge or Word of Wisdom even is.
Many evangelicals feel the cessationists overplay their hand by stating that God never gives supernatural gifts any longer. They instead opt for a sort of mediating position between the charismatic and cessationist positions. This view, most cogently articulated by Millard Erickson, may be called an Open Agnostic view.
[9] Four points of Erickson’s discussion seem particularly relevant:
1. It is difficult if not impossible to determine whether the contemporary charismatic gifts are the same as the Biblical gifts. No Biblical passages indicate that gifts would ever cease, and yet the gifts seemed to cease through most of church history.
2. Scientific studies have shown that at least some of the supernatural manifestations can be explained by other phenomena.
3. We must be cautious not to attribute the works of God to the devil instead, which amounts to blasphemy against the Holy Spirit (Mark 3.29).
4. Because God is Sovereign, He decides who receives gifts. Therefore, “we are not to set our lives to seeking them.”
A third position holds that supernatural gifts are not only operative today, but they should be the normative experience of contemporary believers. We may call this the Charismatic view.
[10] Wayne Grudem gives eight reasons for the validity of this view:[11]
1. Prophecy and tongues will continue through the church age because “the perfect” which will eliminate them in 1 Cor 13 refers to the second coming of Christ.
2. New Testament Prophecy is qualitatively different from Old Testament prophecy. It is neither infallible nor absolutely authoritative, and therefore does not constitute an addition to the canon.
3. Scripture does not limit supernatural gifts were not limited to the time of the Apostles.
4. Supernatural gifts are just as necessary in the present as the past: authenticating the gospel, demonstrating God’s mercy, equip people for ministry, glorify God.
5. Contrary to many cessationist arguments, miraculous gifts have been operative throughout church history.
6. The level of power of a gift is irrelevant to whether that gift is from God. Even if contemporaneous miraculous gifts are not operating as powerfully as in scriptural times, they are no less gifts from God.
7. Many charismatic churches are stronger in evangelism, purity of life, and love for the word, than their non-charismatic counterparts.
8. Non-charismatics need charismatics (and vice versa). Each part of the body has strengths that others can (and must) learn from.

In theology, as in so many other disciplines, where one starts determines where one ends up. I propose that the gospel is the best starting place from which to examine the arguments concerning supernatural gifts. Contrary to popular presentations, the gospel, or good news, of the New Testament is not a system for ‘going to heaven when you die,’ but rather the proclamation that Jesus is Lord.
[13] In theological terms, the gospel is about Christology rather than soteriology. Of course there are soteriological implications from the gospel, but there are just as important implications for all other areas of theology as well. Most striking is the way the Jesus’ lordship impacts eschatology, so that the Kingdom of God has been inaugurated in Jesus’ ministry but waits for a future consummation. In the current age we live “between the times”, experiencing tension between aspects of the Kingdom which are “already” and those aspects which are “not yet.”[14]
Scripture is univocal in ascribing supernatural ministry to the “already” of the Kingdom tension. Jesus declares, “If I cast out demons by the Spirit of God, then the kingdom of God has come upon you” (Matt 12.28). When John the Baptizer sent messangers to Jesus to question whether He was really the Messianic King he had been expecting, Jesus implies (to the reader at least) that His Sovereign Rule is part of the “not yet,” and instead pointed to His supernatural works as the “already” (Matt 11.4-6). In His ministry commission to the disciples He directed His disciples that, “as you go, preach, saying, ‘The Kingdom of heaven is at hand.’ Heal the sick, raise the dead, cleanse the lepers, cast out demons.” (Matt 10.7-8; cf. Mark 3.14-15, Luke 9.2) His instructions to heal and preach the inauguration of the Kingdom were not limited to the twelve, but applied to the seventy also (Luke 10.9). On the day of Pentecost, Peter quotes the prophecy from Joel to explicitly link the revelatory gifts to the last days, the period of the inaugurated kingdom (Acts 2.17-21).
In view of the gospel, the good news that Jesus is Lord and that His kingdom has been inaugurated in this age, the supernatural gifts must be operational today. Despite Gaffin’s protests to the contrary, his rejection of supernatural gifts amounts to neutering of the gospel and of the Kingdom. Even Erickson’s more open stance towards the gifts clearly does not go far enough. By way of analogy, it would be simply absurd to a similar Open Agnosticism to soteriology: “It is not possible to determine with any certainty whether the contemporary salvation of the lost is indeed a work of the Holy Spirit.” The gospel simply cannot be separated from the supernatural gifts.
Revelatory gifts are clearly not on the same level with biblical authority. The primary reason for this is that scripture is a covenant document.
[15] In ancient times covenants were made between suzerains and their vassals to establish a governing relationship. Under this model it is quite plausible that the suzerain may wish to communicate with his vassals after the covenant is made. Such communication would not be equal in authority to the original covenant document, though it would still carry the authority of the suzerain himself.
What of the contention that we cannot know if modern gifts are the same as those which functioned during biblical times? This boils down to an argument from experience. Charismatics seek to conform their praxis to their exegesis. We are simply doing our best to live in accordance with what the texts themselves say.
But the issue of the correspondence between modern and biblical tongues is worth singling for further examination. It is one of the most impressive gifts of the spirit listed in 1 Corinthians 12.8-10 for the simple fact that anyone with the gift is able to speak in tongues at will. By contrast, a non-tongues speaker will be unable to imitate the tongues speaker. Kildahl notes, “Most people can imitate a strange language for only a few sentences, then the easy syllables become obvious, and stammering and hesitation take the place of fluency… Tongue-speakers can go on almost endlessly in a fluid, easy manner.”
[16] Yet linguists claim, almost universally, that tongues are not true human languages based on standard linguistic criteria developed by Charles F. Hockett.[17] Samarin, for instance, claims that tongues only meet a portion of Hockett’s sixteen criteria for speech to be an actual language.[18] What is lacking is a conveyed meaning – or rather, a meaning that can be discerned. If tongues are in fact a “prayer language” which the Holy Spirit uses to make intercession when the petitioner does not know what to pray, as charismatics believe, then we would not expect to discern meaning any more than we would listening to a foreign language.
Arguments for Cessation or Open Agnosticism may seem more plausible when all is going well. But for the millions of believers in the pews who daily live with the pain of living in a fallen world the supernatural gifts are a pastoral necessity. Jack Deere explains the attitude he once held as a cessationist: “I didn’t need any healing miracles from God. My family and I had always enjoyed good health, and on those rare occasions when we needed a few stitches or a little medicine, our family doctors were more than adequate… I certainly didn’t need God to speak to me with any of those subjective methods he used with the people of the Bible. After all, I had the Bible now…”
In light of the evidence, not only do Charismatics have warrant for their beliefs, but all Christians have an obligation to pursue supernatural gifts within the context of local churches (1 Cor 12-14).

Deere, Jack. 1993. Surprised by the Power of the Spirit. Grand Rapids: ZondervanPublishingHouse.
Ferguson, Sinclair B. 1996. The Holy Spirit. Downers Grove: InterVarsity Press.
Grudem, Wayne A, ed. 1996. Are Miraculous Gifts for Today? Grand Rapids: ZondervanPublishingHouse.
------. 1994 (2000). Systematic Theology. Grand Rapids: ZondervanPublishingHouse.
Jensen, Peter. 2002. The Revelation of God. Downers Grove: InterVarsity Press.
Kildahl, John P. 1974. The Psychology of Speaking in Tongues. New York: Harper & Row.
Ladd, George.E. 1993 [1974]. A Theology of the New Testament, Donald A. Hagner, ed. Grand Rapids: William B. Eerdmans Publishing Company.
Nida, Eugene A. 1964. Glossolalia: A Case of Pseudo-Linguistic Structure. Unpublished.
Samarin, William. 1972. Tongues of Men and Angels: The Religious Language of Pentecostalism. New York: The Macmillan Company.
Wagner, C. Peter. 1999. Churchquake! Ventura: Regal.

End notes
[1] Cf. similar lists in 1 Cor 12.28, Rom 12.6-8, Eph 4.11, and 1 Pet 4.11.
[2] Most Pentecostals and charismatics have a trichotomist view of human constitution, consisting of body, soul, and spirit. Within this framework, one may add the gift of teaching or counseling, which each effect the healing of the soul. Because the teaching and counseling gifts are not particularly supernatural nor controversial, they will not be addressed here. Ferguson (1996, 89) sees these as the only gifts from Pentecost that may still be appropriated today, specifically when used ‘to be Christ’s witnesses.’
[3] See Wagner 1999.
[4] I have taken a substantial portion of the appendix from a paper I wrote for DE560, Introduction to World Christian Missions. I will not discuss baptism in (or of) the Holy Spirit in this paper because it is only a topic of internal dispute among the position I refer to as Charismatic.
[5] Gaffin’s major work (1974) is Perspectives on Pentecost: Studies in New Testament Teaching on the Gifts of the Holy Spirit (Phillipsburg: Presbyterian and Reformed). What follows is taken instead from Gaffin’s newer and more accessible essay, “A Cessationist View” in Grudem 1996, 23-64.
[6] See also Jensen 2002, 257-279.
[7] The view that the “perfection” of 1 Cor 13 is the canonization of scripture is widely recognized by all sides to be exegetically unsound. Note however Ferguson’s paraphrase, which makes this position more credible (1996, 227-8).
[8] Ferguson (1996, 223-4) notes that Charismatics cannot provide a theological reason for the historical cessation of the gifts.
[9] Erickson 1998 [1983], 892-897. The term “Open Agnostic” is mine rather than Erickson’s, who does not provide a name for his position. This position is called the “Open But Cautious” view in Grudem 1996, but this term seems bulky and imprecise. This view encompasses the majority of evangelicals today who are perhaps unwilling to either embrace or discount the charismatic experience.
[10] Though the term is not sociologically precise since it encompases the Pentecostal and Third Wave movements in addition to the charismatic movement. The differences between them are unimportant for a discussion on the frequency of supernatural gifts. The term is appropriate since the Greek charismata literally means “gifts.”
[11] Grudem 1994, 1031-46. I have reformulated Grudem’s list from a negative apologetic (defending against the attacks of cessationists) into a list of positive affirmations.
[12] Grudem especially cites the historical argument in Ruthven, Jon (1993), On the Cessation of the Charismata: the Protestant Polemic (Sheffield: Sheffield University Academic Press).
[13] Wright 2006, 91-2; 1997,39-62; Jensen 2002, 34, 45-63.
[14] Ladd 1993 [1974].
[15] Jensen 2002.
[16] Kildahl 1972, p.35.
[17] Greenberg 1963
[18] Samarin 1972. C.f. Nida 1964.
[19] Deere 1993, 15.

Wednesday, July 19, 2006

Debate on Theism

I just finished listening to a debate between Ray Comfort and Ron Barrier on the existence of God. An mp3 version is available at Thought I'd share just a few thoughts.

This debate is different from many others on the same topic. It is very entertaining, being waged at the level of references to pop culture and anecdotes rather than deep philosophical argument. Even their names convey something of the tone of the debate: one is a comfort to faith, the other a barrier.

I was more than a little disappointed with Ray's debate style. He recited his arguments word-for-word from his book, God Doesn't Believe in Athiests. He has had a lot of time to fine-tune his humor, so he was almost like an actor reciting lines. In fact Ray had almost no interaction with Ron outside of an introductory sentence at the beginning of each of his periods of speaking. His first rejoinder began, "Thank you, Ron for that. Food for thought." With that he proceeded to ignore everything Barrier had just said and presented a second section from his book, entirely unrelated to any of Barrier's points. I've seen debates where it seems the opponents were speaking past one another, but in this debate it did not matter one bit what Barrier had to say. Every one of Comfort's rejoinders were directly scripted from his book.

Nevertheless, for my money Comfort was the clear winner. Though he never really debated, he was at least clear and his points made sense. Barrier, on the other hand, was rambling and almost totally incoherent. To say that most of his points were non sequitors would be granting too much. Instead, it was difficult to even understand what point he was even trying to make. For instance, his first point is to appeal to what he calls the principle of environmental incompatibility, where his argument runs something like this:
All things require an environment, therefore God must have an environment.
Theists claim that God's environment is the Supernatural.
The claim that something is supernatural presupposes that one knows all known natural laws.
It is therefore a claim to absolute knowledge.
Huh? Sorry if I missed exactly how that leads to the conclusion that God must not exist. He jumps from point to point assuming that we will infer how he got there, though his mental process is far from clear. I couldn't agree with him if I wanted to.

I am about 98% sure that Ray had an intense prayer meeting beforehand and prayed something like, "Lord, confuse the argument of my opponent." Honestly, I'm not sure how helpful these kinds of prayers are. They make me think Comfort won the debate by being a better debater rather than having a better argument.

For a more philosophical treatment of the theism debate, I recommend God? A Debate Between a Christian and an Atheist, by William Lane Craig and Walter Sinnott-Armstrong. Both are strong debaters at the top of their game, and most of the relevant issues are covered in depth.

Tuesday, July 11, 2006

New Testament Historical Fiction

I just finished a great book for gaining a deeper understanding of the gospels, Shadow of the Galilean, by Gerd Theissen. It is a fictional narrative following an upper-class Jew in the first century as he seeks to find out information about various religious movements in Israel, culminating in a search for Jesus. Theissen is a well-respected critical New Testament scholar, and every chapter is intended to give the reader an insight into a particular aspect of the culture. Often those insights are particularly important for understanding the gospels because they are not intuitively understood from a twenty-first century perspective. For instance, he helps to show the humanness and motivation of the Pharisees, which is all-too-easily lost in modern gospel re-presentations (Mel Gibson, for instance). He also makes sure that the reader understands how Jesus' teachings have a deep political resonance when set in the context of the first century. The narrative format allows evangelicals to easily appropriate his insights into the gospels without stumbling over points Theissen thinks are inauthentic -- there is plenty of ambiguity which allows the reader to decide what does or does not seem authentic. I will not be able to read the gospels again without reflecting on the insights gleaned from this book.

Monday, May 08, 2006

Knowledge as a Map

My exams finished up today. I also had to turn in my final assignments. Thought I'd post an idea I came across as I was writing one of my papers. It is a shift in epistemology in recent scholarship. Rather than viewing knowledge as an unbiased description of the world, Kuhn, Polanyi, and others have argued that knowledge is like a map in that it is only a close approximation of reality. It can never possibly include all the information. Yet it can be judged by how well it helps to provide insight into reality itself. This view of epistemology can help us avoid pitfalls of arrogance in our quest for knowledge by reminding us that we will never be able to answer every question. And just as we have several types of maps (topographical, road, political, etc.) and several scales (just look at mapquest), there are all types of knowledge, none of which can lay claim to the whole truth.[1]

[1] I encountered this idea in Hiebert, Paul G. 1996. Critical Issues in the Social Sciences and Their Implications for Mission Studies. Missiology: An International Review XXIV: 65-82.

Friday, April 28, 2006

Sorting Through My Vocation

I am currently in a period of restructuring in my life. I approach school with questions already on the table – questions that are vital for me to have answered. I wouldn’t have had that sort of desperation had I gone to seminary straight out of college. I am also able to come with a greater measure of humility than I might have had before the church closed. I am more open to receive than when I “had all the answers.”

God has strengthened my call to vocational ministry. I was leaning toward academics with a view to become a professor until I started on this project. As I examined all the major events of my life, I saw that over half of them point toward vocational ministry but only one or two point toward professional academics. I have learned that I do not want to be in a ministry role where the goal is building a large church. I would like to change the world through ideas, especially writing.

On the day I repented for getting drunk, I received a prophecy from one of the elders in the church:
The Lord says, I am laying a deep, deep foundation in you, and I am driving pylons and I am laying things down deep to the bedrock of the earth in your heart. And there shall come a day when the building will be built upon these foundations. And the building will rise even to the height that
the foundations go deep. For I don’t intend to build on you just a small structure, I don’t intend to build on you just a little thing that requires very little foundation. But I require you to have deep foundations to the very bedrock of truth. And I require your deep foundations to the very bedrocks of true character. For I will build upon you structure. And I will build upon you a massive building, a massive edifice of your life for My glory, says God.

I asked the Lord in prayer, “Why are you going back to the foundations after you have already started building?” In one of those flashes of insight that come through prayer, I felt like the Lord responded, “I haven’t started building on you yet.”

I find that the foundations go much deeper than I expected. I find myself crying out to God for new keys that will unlock the prison doors in the lives of people.

Tuesday, April 25, 2006

My Early Ministry

After I graduated from college I was determined to move into ministry. I was faced with two options. I had been accepted into the M.Div. program at Bethel Seminary in Minneapolis. I had also been offered a position as the youth director at a church near Milwaukee. I met for counsel with the pastor of the church I had been attending while I was at camp. As he prayed for me, he said that he felt the Lord saying that both options were pleasing to Him and I could choose either one. I chose to take the position as youth director because of the impact I could have on the lives of the kids while I was being trained for ministry.

The senior pastor of the church became my mentor as I moved into leadership. The church had started a new leadership training school, offering classes in theology, church history, and preaching, among others. One of my job perks was free tuition so I took as many classes as I could. During this time I learned practical components of ministry from every aspect. In practical ministry, I found that the vision and dreams I had for ministry didn’t always turn out as I had expected. Kids were not getting saved in droves and mass revival did not break out, but the kids that we had were getting a solid foundation. They seemed to be excited about our youth meetings every week, so I considered that a success.

One summer night after I had been on staff for almost a year, I felt overwhelmed with a desire to go get drunk, so I drove to a local bar and made some new friends. After several beers I told them all who I was and what I did, and made a complete fool of myself. I was ashamed of my actions and did not tell anyone for several weeks until God finally convicted me. I told the senior pastor, who suggested that because I was on staff should consider repenting before the church, though I was not obligated. I chose to repent publicly, which was one of the most humbling things I’ve ever done. With the humility came a new freedom and maturity, which prepared me for my next phase. I was engaged a month-and-a-half later and got married the following February.

The senior pastor and I had talked many times about the excitement of campus ministry, so when my old campus pastor left the campus church to start a new church plant, my current pastor took his position and I joined him on staff. In the fall of 1999, I formed a discipleship group with three new freshmen. I joined forces with the leader of our local InterVarsity chapter, and another Christian with a heart for prayer, and the three of us started a monthly prayer meeting for all the campus ministers. God used this prayer time to break down barriers between ministries which had divided us for years.

On May 27th I was ordained as a pastor in the church. I preached an ordination message on Isaiah 36 and 37 on trusting God when it seems like He’s no where to be found. I learned that we had to put that principle into practice on several occasions when we thought we might have to close the church for financial reasons. But God was always faithful to come through for us, sometimes at the very last minute.

During this time I discovered N.T. Wright. I read somewhere that you should find one or two authors that really interest you and read all of their work. I was excited by Wright’s work because of his ability to hold his own as an evangelical New Testament scholar in the world of secular academics. All the bible professors I had met at the University were strongly liberal, and one was a professing atheist. I loved the idea of being able to “play by their rules and beat them at their own game.” Wright opened my eyes to a world of biblical scholarship that I didn’t even know existed.

In the summer of 2002, my pastor finally yielded to the financial pressures and left the church to pastor near Milwaukee again. That left me as the sole pastor on staff, or as I called it, the “soul pastor”. Although we had a good outreach that fall, we did not see as many students added as we had hoped. Nevertheless, we built some good discipleship groups, and had a number of exciting ministries happening in the church.

In February, I encountered four crises of faith. Outside of our local church, we found out that a missionary and close friend we had been supporting and working with in Costa Rica had taken advantage of several women that had come to him for counseling. Second, a good friend of mine, who had been sent out from our church to start a new church plant, became embittered towards us. After a big ordeal we severed ties and went our separate ways.

In our church, one of our key students suddenly disappeared. He had been on probation for a sexual offense in high school, but he had really changed when he joined the church and got born again. We found that his probation officer deemed him to be too much of a risk and revoked his probation. According to the original crime, he was sentenced to fifteen years in prison. I felt absolutely helpless to do anything.

Social workers interrogated one of the girls in the church to find out if she had been violated. The investigation showed that there was not cause for concern, but she revealed that her parents used spanking as part of their discipline. This brought their entire family under investigation, and her parents were accused of child abuse. They were faced with criminal trials and threats to take away their kids.

Meanwhile, the finances kept getting worse and worse. At the end of the school year in 2004, nearly half our members left the church. I commented at the time how amazing it was that every person that left did so on good terms. Even more amazing, we agreed with the reasons that most of the people had for leaving: graduations, new jobs, etc. It was as if God simply closed our church at the end of that school year. We hung on through the summer, but in September we finally closed the doors. The pastors of the other churches decided to take the burden of our $20,000 debt. I was finally free to go back to school for my M.Div., which I began in the spring semester of 2005 at Trinity Evangelical Divinity School. I am currently sorting through my theology and vocation.

Sunday, April 23, 2006

My Early Christian Challenges

When I returned to school after my first year as a camp counselor, I was just beginning my new walk of faith. I started looking for a good church to go to. My one requirement was that it had contemporary music. The only church I found was a charismatic church, a movement I knew nothing about. The pastor, Derek Miller, took me out to lunch and challenged me to let Jesus be Lord of my life. When I questioned him about what that meant, he quoted Jesus’ words in Luke 9.23-24, “If anyone wishes to come after Me, he must deny himself and take up his cross daily and follow Me. For whoever wishes to save his life will lose it, but whoever loses his life for My sake, he is the one who will save it.” Derek asked me, “Ryan, are you seeking to save your life, or have you lost it for Jesus?” That question prompted a week of intense soul searching. At the end of the week I committed to lay down my life for Jesus. Months later I would look back to that decision as the point where I was truly born again.

Just a few weeks after I started attending church, I received a personal prophecy that has been foundational in my life. We had a guest preacher who began calling people up after his message to give them a prophetic word. I had never seen anything like this before, and the first person he called up was me! He told me I was called to be a theologian, warning me that it would be easy for me to get puffed up on intellect. God gave me wisdom to challenge the vain philosophies of this world and that things that are holding people in bondage. “I sense you being able to do that… crying out to God, saying, ‘What is the key that would unlock this prison door?’ And it’s going to really challenge you intellectually… But the fruit of it and the reward will be well worth the price paid.”

When I look back on the next three years, I am amazed at how much God did in my life during those days. It was as if every week brought new insights and revelations about God. Most of my personal stories about “what it really means to be a Christian” come from this period. I was amazed at all the wisdom the Bible contained. I had already known the gospels pretty well, but suddenly I discovered the treasures that were kept in the rest of the Bible, especially the epistles.

God continued to stretch me when I moved in with three Christians from a non-charismatic, fundamentalist church. The four of us learned a great deal from each other, not the least of which was how to deal with conflict biblically. But we all had a sense of the profound unity we had in the gospel despite any doctrinal disagreements.

It seemed that God was always bringing up things in my life that He wanted changed. I remember three specific occasions. The first happened during church, which was meeting on Saturday nights. Derek announced that instead of meeting in the building, he was giving us an assignment to go hand out tracts, and we would meet back at the church when we were done. I had never passed out tracts, and I didn’t want people to think I was a weird religious type. My group ended up being Derek, and his wife, and me. I went with them and watched them hand out tracts, but I was not ready to do it myself. That night on my walk home from church I worked up the courage to give a tract to a convenience store worker. I was so excited that I called the pastor when I got home to tell him, “I did it!”

A second challenge occurred a few weeks later during worship. I was glad to have found a church with contemporary music, but I was not too excited about all this charismatic stuff: lifting hands in the air, shouting spontaneous praises, etc. That’s fine for them, I told myself, but I would not worship like that. But during one of the songs I felt the inner prompting of the Holy Spirit to lift my hands in worship. I was offended that God would ask me to do such an undignified thing. Then I remembered all the sin in my life that God had forgiven me for, and how undignified that was in His eyes. Yet here I was, unwilling to worship Him, the very thing I was created for. I went into the bathroom and locked the door so no one could see me. I repented before the Lord and lifted my hands in worship. As I did, I felt a flood of the power of God come over me. This was a crucial test of obedience for me.

The third challenge came when I started dating Rachel, who was beginning to dabble in witchcraft at the same time I was beginning to live the Christian life. I was somewhat of a nerd, so I had never had a girlfriend before. In just a few days I went from innocence in relationships to feeling totally defiled before God. At the end of the first week I came under such conviction before God that I broke down weeping before Him. I repented for being “unequally yoked” and broke off the relationship.

I believe challenges like these are important in every new believer's life. For me, they were crucial for preparing me for vocational ministry.

Saturday, April 22, 2006

Why I Became a Christian

I was born and raised in Iola, a small town of about 1000 people in central Wisconsin. I have only one sister, four years younger, and no brothers. We were raised in a good Christian home. I was baptized as an infant in the Catholic Church. My Dad was converted on October 6, 1979 when God spoke to him and freed him from a drinking problem. Outside of communion wine, he never touched a drop of liquor again. He started attending the local Lutheran church in town, and the rest of our family joined him after a little while. My Dad was my greatest hero, and I still admire him for his wisdom and achievements. Our family was very healthy. We spent lots of weekends together camping, and one night every week was “family night,” where one of us would get to pick an activity for our family to do together. We were taught that Jesus loves us and the Bible is God’s Word.
I prayed to receive Christ at a Christian magic show when I was about 10 years old, and reaffirmed that commitment the next summer at a 5-day-club run by a neighbor. I don’t remember thinking much about spiritual things during this period, but a survey in 6th grade had the question, “I would like to learn more about…,” to which I replied, “the Bible.”

I began to question my faith in High School, which coincided with an increase in sin and rebellion in my life, which, in turn, coincided with getting my driver’s license. One spiritual highlight occurred, however, when I attended the National Youth Gathering for the ELCA churches in 1991. Tony Campolo spoke during one of the sessions and challenged us to give our careers to the service of others rather than ourselves. For instance, a lawyer should represent the truly oppressed in society who cannot pay for good legal defense; doctors should go to the really needy areas of the world to serve. This call to service really resonated with me, and has continued to influence my decisions.

My questions continued to build, and I enjoyed talking about spiritual things with my peers. One of my friends said I had to talk to this guy she met named “Shadow.” He was an odd kid, a “goth kid” before there was such a thing. We talked about all sorts of things, from philosophy to the occult. Then he looked me in the eye and spoke a word, and suddenly it’s like I was no longer there. Instead, I had the sense of overwhelming remorse, the kind one feels concerning the horrors of the holocaust. I then felt an evil presence, laughing at the whole thing. Then suddenly it was over, and I snapped back to reality. I left as quickly as I could, and never saw Shadow again. During my greatest seasons of questioning, that encounter continued to drive me on because I knew for sure that an evil supernatural force existed; I hoped that all I had learned as a child about an all-powerful good force was true as well.

As I entered college, my Dad began praying daily for me. In the spring of 1994 I began to take bike rides out to a secluded spot in the woods to sit and think. In the silence of those moments, God began to influence me, drawing me to Himself. I was wrestling with a decision over whether to take a summer job in a Print Shop and use my free time to direct a play, or instead to take a position as a camp counselor at a Lutheran summer camp. To my own surprise, I found myself accepting the counselor position.

That summer God awakened something inside of me. I began the summer with the affirmation that I was just beginning to believe again. After twelve weeks leading kids in daily Bible studies, songs, and worship, my faith got from my head down into my heart. I ended the summer with a conviction of the Truth. The turning point came when people started asking me if I would come back the following summer.

“I’d like to,” I answered, “but I should really get an internship next summer so I can get a good job once I get out of college. But I’d really rather come back here because I’d rather minister to kids.” Then it dawned on me: if I preferred ministry for the summer, what would ever make me think that I would want something different for the rest of my life? That decision affected my entire destiny.

Thursday, April 20, 2006

Hunger and Scholarship

I started this blog yesterday with an explanation of the title. I spend way too much time wording it just right and it was very un-blog-like of me. Here's a go at it today.

Hungry is because I am intellectually and spiritually hungry. It specifies the basic attitude I hope to take towards my work - hungry for answers. I certainly don't feel I have all the answers, and I am usually turned off by those who think they do. Not to say that I have no answers, but I am especially cognizent of what I lack.

Scholarship is because that is what resonates with me right now. I began my Christian walk with an emphasis on the experiential over the intellectual. In the past few years my focus has shifted so that I am much more interested in the intellectual. My reading material of choice is 700-page books with lots of footnotes.

I am starting this post in an effort to get my writing out to a larger audience. Unlike my undergraduate years, I actually have something to say now. I would like to share them with more people than my proof-reader (my wife) and my professor. Any feedback will be greatly appreciated. I hope to submit some of these to journals for publication, though they will need a lot more work than I have given them so far.

I am not sure how to handle footnotes on a blog. Can I cut and paste from a document with footnotes into a blog post? Maybe I should attach them as Adobe Acrobat files? I'm not quite sure the best way to handle it. Can anyone offer advice?

Wednesday, April 19, 2006

First post

I spent a lot of time composing my first post and somehow it got lost. Had I been smart, I would have saved a copy on my computer, however...