Showing posts with label Spiritual Gifts. Show all posts
Showing posts with label Spiritual Gifts. Show all posts

Tuesday, May 23, 2023

Absence of Evidence and Evidence of Absence

“As for prophecies, they will pass away; as for tongues, they will cease; as for knowledge, it will pass away. For we know in part and we prophesy in part, but when the perfect comes, the partial will pass away.”

Absence of evidence is not evidence of absence.


The End of (Certain) Spiritual Gifts

Most scholars believe Paul wrote the words quoted above somewhere between AD54 and 55. All Christians can agree he is saying that certain spiritual gifts will cease to exist at some then-future date. The questions much disputed among believers boil down to when and why. Some people say tongues, prophecy and other gifts like them have already ceased. Others argue Paul is saying they will cease at the end of the church era when Christ returns. Perhaps, but if so, why not mention the cessation of teaching, service, hospitality, administration and the other gifts we still see on display in our churches?

Sunday, January 08, 2023

Between Boredom and Bedlam

The pendulum swings. Even Christians are not inclined to be creatures of moderation, it seems.

At one end of the arc, believers sit docilely in pews being entertained. Assuming the pastor is not merely a well-packaged platform presence of minimal substance and that he genuinely possesses a spiritual teaching gift, he is the only one who gets to exercise it. At best, the performance holds our interest. At worst, we find ourselves constantly checking the time.

At the other extreme it’s a bit chaotic and unpredictable: men and women “share”, digress, pontificate, tell stories and interrupt each other to such an extent that impartial observers would be hard pressed to distinguish between spiritual gifts, natural impulses and mere gleeful enthusiasm at the opportunity to actually DO something in the church for once.

Few churches find the sweet spot between hierarchy and anarchy, between boredom and bedlam.

Thursday, March 31, 2022

Why Are We So Unsatisfied?

A few days ago I offered readers a chance to comment on the subject of their level of satisfaction with their church experiences. To say the least, response was underwhelming. We had plenty of readers of that post, but none who took us up on our offer.

Two possibilities follow: (1) readers are so content with their church experiences that they have no point of contact with the article, or (2) readers do not feel comfortable speaking on this subject.

Friday, June 18, 2021

Too Hot to Handle: A House Divided

In which our regular writers toss around subjects a little more volatile than usual.

Immanuel Can: Tom, I don’t know if you’re aware of this, but a division seems to be forming within the Christian community generally, and within some local churches as well, over the issue of what we all should have done about the government’s lockdowns. In some cases, the debate is becoming quite heated. One side says “the powers that be are ordained of God”, and that as a duty to love our neighbor, all Christians should be very thorough in obeying the government’s dictates. The other side points out that love of neighbor is the second commandment, not the first, the first being to love God above all, and that all Christians have a duty to “obey God rather than men”.

Tom: Actually, I’ve written extensively about that very subject here and here, and I’ve recently been enjoying a few of the more radical “first commandment” folks online. As you point out, both sides have their scriptures.

Wednesday, August 19, 2020

Resetting our Defaults

If only it were as simple as pushing three keys ...
What does your church do on Sunday mornings?

I’ve been thinking about platform ministry. Each church has its own default set of practices observed week after week (with the exception of churches that meet in living rooms and basements and don’t have platforms) and, other than in the case of brand new churches, the choices that go into how teaching and preaching get presented are rarely conscious ones. They are more often the result of time, tradition and imitation of formats perceived to be successful in other churches.

Friday, December 13, 2019

Too Hot to Handle: Made for More of What?

In which our regular writers toss around subjects a little more volatile than usual.

Tom: Immanuel Can is sending me bad things again. And I’m not entirely sure how to respond. This time it’s Moody Publishers’ “Post Sunday”, in which Moody extols one of its new releases. This one is a Hannah Anderson special in which the author holds forth on the “lameness” of the church. Okay, I can’t stop there: the church is lame (according to Hannah) because she has crippled herself. In the words of Ms Anderson, we have failed to equip “Bible women” because we “don’t have a vision for how God could use them for His glory.”

Help me out here: what are “Bible women”?

Monday, May 27, 2019

Anonymous Asks (42)

“How do we minister if we are already in a Christian school?”

Outside of the modern religious and political contexts, the word “minister” simply means “agent” or “assistant”. More importantly, when we find the word “minister” used in the Greek New Testament, it has an established meaning which translators have replicated inconsistently in English.

That meaning is “servant”.

Tuesday, March 06, 2018

Opportunity and Desire

One of Chuck Snyder’s readers shares a not-so-unusual problem:

“I believe the Spirit of God is upon me to teach the Word of God with love, accuracy, patience and discernment to a lost and hurting world and to all who hunger for the truth. Several years of schooling and formal study took place in order to prepare and to show myself approved. Now, in my home church, I am given every job and project under the sun to be responsible for, except ‘teaching the Word of God.’ ”

I hear this sort of thing all the time: “My church doesn’t let me use my spiritual gift.”

Tuesday, November 07, 2017

What Does Your Proof Text Prove? (6)

Postmillennialist Doug Wilson on God’s purposes:

“Future catholicity is set before us in the New Testament (Eph. 4:12-13), and anyone who kicks at that is kicking against God’s revealed purposes for the history of the church. Peter [Leithart] and I agree on the eventual reunion of all believers. It is just that Peter thinks it should have happened by now, and my best guess is that we are looking at another couple thousand years, right on schedule.”

Future catholicity. The eventual reunion of all believers.

Really? Is THAT what the apostle had in mind?

Thursday, September 21, 2017

A Fragile Basket

Jamin Goggin says when today’s celebrity pastors get caught sinning, churches collapse, whole conferences evaporate and large numbers of Christians are deeply wounded.

And Goggin maintains the real problem is us:

“The church has embraced a form of power that is antithetical to the way of Jesus, and her pastors stand on the front line of this destructive reality.”

Now, he’s not wrong here. Perhaps he doesn’t go far enough, but I think he’s on to something.

Tuesday, September 12, 2017

God on the Hot Seat

Cheryl Schatz on the subject of calling God to account:

“So the question we need to ask is, should we call God to account for gifting women in areas that men say God has ‘disallowed’ or ‘disqualified’ women from using their gifts for the benefit of all?”

Now we all trust Cheryl’s answer is going to be no, right? I mean, the idea of calling God to account for anything at all is actually pretty funny, and it’s especially odd to see a professing Christian use the phrase. After all, those who make the public claim that it is God who created and God who sustains them ought to be the first to recognize our relative place in the universe.

Saturday, September 02, 2017

Seven Reasons I Don’t Believe You’re a Prophet

Compared to the supernatural, real life can be pretty tedious.

I still recall vividly my childish frustration with the bits of C.S. Lewis’s Chronicles of Narnia books that take place in WWII-era England. I wanted the Pevensies to hurry up and get through the magic wardrobe, or climb up on the picture frame in Eustace Scrubb’s bedroom, or for Eustace and Jill Pole to open the mysterious door in the stone wall behind the gym at their boarding school, or just go ahead and use whatever method they were going to use to travel to the land of talking beasts, dwarves, witches, giants and who-knows-what; the place where all the truly exciting things were happening. England was drab, grey and uninteresting by comparison.

I think some people feel pretty much the same way about the Christian life. They keep hoping for something a little zippier to come along.

Sunday, August 20, 2017

Why Are We So Unsatisfied?

The most recent version of this post is available here.

Tuesday, August 08, 2017

Did or Didn’t

Who are you, and what’s your job in the Body of Christ? Do you know?

When you and I confessed faith in Jesus Christ from the heart, God saved us, and the Bible says he saved us with certain objectives in view. Those objectives were both general and specific. Unless we were saved in the last six months, I think we should probably know something about that.

Hey, if you don’t have a clue, it might be time to give the subject some thought.

Thursday, February 23, 2017

Perception Is Not Reality

Perception can be fantasyland
My former boss used to love to say “Perception is reality”. All he meant by it, I think, is that it’s important in business to consider how our actions appear to others. That’s certainly a relevant concern when your income depends on your ability to convince people to buy stuff, but it’s not quite what the person who coined the phrase intended to convey.

The line has been attributed to eighties political strategist Lee Atwater. I dislike it thoroughly: communication is tough enough without deliberately eroding the meaning of words. Our general failure to apply our critical faculties to aphorisms like Atwater’s simply accelerates the disintegration of language into meaningless babble.

I’m not kidding. Hey, we’re talking about the nature of reality here.

Tuesday, November 01, 2016

Rare In These Days

Northern hairy-nosed wombats are rare.
What was ubiquitous at one time and in one place may be exceedingly rare in others. This may be a bad thing, or a good thing ... or just a thing.

The writer of 1 Samuel notes that in the days before Samuel was called, “the word of the Lord was rare ... there was no frequent vision”.

Now, the Holy Spirit is not for a moment suggesting that the people of Israel lacked necessary direction from God for their lives, or that it was impossible to please God because nobody had the slightest idea what he wanted.

Not at all.

Monday, July 04, 2016

The Gifts Yesterday and Today

Why are the spiritual gifts we observe in the book of Acts so much more impressive and obviously supernatural than the gifts we observe today? Why do some of the gifts on Paul’s ‘gift lists’ in Corinthians and Romans appear to be missing or underutilized in our churches?

If you’ve been reading the last two days (here and here), I’ve done my best to rule out A.W. Tozer’s chief culprits: unspirituality and bad teaching. These are certainly problems we may observe in many gatherings of Christians and of which we always need to be careful. I do not believe, however, that they are primarily responsible for the apparent dearth of gift in modern Christendom.

Sunday, July 03, 2016

Where Did Those Gifts Go?

Yesterday I tried to establish that of the eighteen spiritual gifts listed in Romans and 1 Corinthians, at least half seem to have gone missing in our churches somewhere in the last two millennia.

Most Christian commentators agree this is at least partially true. We may argue about how to recognize the various supernatural abilities on the Holy Spirit’s gift list and about the nuances of a few of the Greek terms Paul uses. But in the end, most Christians acknowledge that unless we describe the gifts of tongues or prophecy very differently from the way we see them occurring in the book of Acts, or wildly dilute the concepts of miracles and healings, some of the Holy Spirit’s gifts are unaccountably absent today.

Very well then, let’s do some accounting.

Saturday, July 02, 2016

Missing in Action

How many gifts of the Holy Spirit are listed in the New Testament? I suppose it depends on the criteria you use.

Whatever your standards for inclusion on the gift list, and whatever your final gift count, you will surely notice that several factors complicate our application of these familiar passages of scripture to the church today:
  1. In many instances the exact nature of the gift and how we might expect it to show itself are not precisely spelled out for us;
  2. We no longer have apostles in the sense the word is used of the Twelve;

Monday, April 18, 2016

The Author of Confusion

Paul Mizzi is an evangelical pastor on the largely-Catholic island of Malta. His essays on various aspects of the Christian faith may be found on the website Truth for Today.

Malta got a visit from the apostle Paul in the first century that included a number of miracles of healing (and undoubtedly the preaching of the gospel to go with them). But despite the fact that Malta has had apostolic testimony for two thousand years, the structure and function of their evangelical churches today seems to have more in common with that of North American denominational Protestantism than with that of the church of the New Testament.

In Paul Mizzi’s church the distinction between clergy and laity is very well defined.

Thursday, October 15, 2015

“In the Church” and In the Body

The church meeting is not the church.

Let me say that again: the church meeting is not the church.

You would think that Christians who have already succeeded in grasping the biblical distinction between “church” and “church building” would grasp this further distinction intuitively, and it may be that on some level we get it. But if we measure knowledge of any truth by the number of Christians who are living it out daily in a practical way, my suspicion is that some of us have missed the boat.

Friday, August 28, 2015

Wednesday, June 10, 2015

Between Boredom and Bedlam

The most recent version of this post is available here.

Wednesday, April 29, 2015

Do We Need More Church Meetings?

Christians love the church of Acts 2.

Now they’re not wrong about that. The church in Acts 2 is certainly lovable. It looks, at least potentially, like a solution for many of the world’s societal and culture-related ills. It looks like a community steeped in the teaching of Christ and demonstrating practically the various spiritual truths about which he told the world.

It looks, to nick the words of someone or other, like a foretaste of heaven.

Saturday, April 18, 2015

Trained or Gifted?

A few posts back I promised to try to answer the question How can we recognize teaching gift?

In one sense the title of this post represents a false dichotomy: why not be both trained AND gifted? In fact, many gifted men are trained, whether in Bible schools, seminaries or less commonly through private mentoring, or discipling. Still, there is a distinction to be made between what can be supplied by a seminary (good study habits, recognition of logical fallacies, general principles of homiletics, familiarity with Greek and Hebrew, etc.) and what can only be supplied by the Holy Spirit of God.

It is the latter set of qualities I’d like to consider.

Sunday, April 12, 2015

Decently and in Order [Part 2]

The New Testament is not laid out like a textbook or reference manual.

If we’re honest, many of the conclusions generally drawn about first century church order and the way the early Christians conducted themselves when they met together are based on a verse or two here and there and the occasional example. Some things are very clear; others are mainly inference and supposition.

Saturday, April 11, 2015

Decently and in Order [Part 1]

The Bible is not a textbook.

Some people treat it like one, but even a cursory look reveals it’s considerably more complex than that. It is a collection of history, poetry, ancient law, prophecy, doctrine, personal letters and more. Despite the fact that it is a compilation, the Bible is somewhat systematic in the sense that there are lessons taught consecutively from Genesis to Revelation that build on what has already been established. That should not surprise us if we believe it to be divinely authored. The final few books (from Romans on) are perhaps the most pointed and direct in addressing how the reader ought to respond to it.

But its format is not “textbook-y” in the least.

Monday, December 22, 2014

Resetting our Defaults

The most recent version of this post is available here.

Monday, November 10, 2014

Why Are We So Unsatisfied?

The most recent version of this post is available here.

Saturday, September 27, 2014

Marketing Christ

Jeff Goins’ guest post at Beyond Evangelical asks “Should Christians Sell, Market, and Promote Products & Services?”

If you guessed he’s coming out strongly in the affirmative, congratulations. He says:
“There are basically two ways to pursue a creative calling as a Christian.

First, you can go into vocational ministry (as I did for seven years) and ask people to support you. This takes time and it may include some awkward conversations, pledge drives, or capital campaigns.

Second, you can get a job or go into business for yourself and support yourself that way. In your free time, you can volunteer your time at church, go on mission trips, and give discretionary income to ministries and causes that you believe in.”
Only two ways? Not exactly. He goes on to suggest another possibility:
“The third way is this: If you have a gift, a talent, or skill that the world needs, you can and should offer it people in exchange for money. If you have value to offer, you should let people pay you for it.”