Monday, November 18, 2013

Strange Fire: part 1



When I first learned of the Strange Fire conference all I knew was that it was a conference about the Holy Spirit. Since I have had some experiences with people deeply involved in deliverance ministries I thought a conference that looked at the doctrine of the Holy Spirit would be great. It would lay the framework for me to be able to discern rightly in various situations.  Only I found out a few months later it was a conference meant to expose heresies in the charismatic movement.  Still, not that it mattered as I had purchased my ticket, it would be helpful. It was not until a month before the conference that I learned that it would build a cessationist argument about miraculous gifts as well as expose some of the workings in the charismatic movement. Truth is. I had no idea there were two different views on the subject and as I was busy with work, school, and ministry, I didn't do much research before hand.

Going into the conference my view on the miraculous gifts was skeletal.  I understood signs and wonders to have been done to validate the message and messenger of the Gospel. I believed that tongues and miracles do happen not usually stateside but they are possible and do.  Prophecy I wasn't sure. I entered this conference skeptically because I know of instances, either personally, or via trustworthy testimony, of times when miraculous things have occurred and at that point my definition of cessationist was one who believes the Holy Spirit only converts and sanctifies.

There you have my background.

I was surprised at how Baptist service seemed. I loved that we sang hymns. We got our own spiral bound hymnbook from the conference. Be still my heart. I liked being with all of these other believers and meeting new people who will indeed get a Christmas card. The instant heart connection that comes with meeting other Believers is beyond words.

I was disappointed with the conference in that I felt like my head was swimming. Like I was thrown into a debate I didn't know existed, which is exactly what happened.  I wished that there had been more of a doctrinal study on the person and role of the Spirit.  Then an examination of some church history with regard to the topic. Lastly, armed with that information, an exposure of the heresy and exactly which aspect of the doctrine it opposes. This was all done to some extent but I am such a clear cut pattern girl, I wanted it further spelled out for me.  So structurally I was expecting and I think consequently would have liked a different approach to the topic.

As for what was said, I was very pleased. I did not think things were said in a contentious spirit or in an unloving manner.  Repeatedly various speakers said many of the men in the open but cautious or full continuationist camp are my brothers. I love them. Never did they say men who stood firmly on the true Gospel should be called to repent! Rather, they asked that they call the heresy in their own camp.   They also linked how such a view as continuation can lead to the heresy because it logically has the potential to undermine Scripture
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 Tom Pennington's definition and case for cessasionism helped me tremendously. Basically, what I concluded after that sermon/con message was that God does not gift people to be a prophet (foretelling), miracle worker, or to speak in tongues. Yet, God DOES do those things still. For example, I will not go to my pastor because he is gifted in healing and ask for him to lay hands on me so that I don't have cancer anymore or to rebuke a demon out of my left pinky toe BUT the Elders of my church might be called to pray and my ailment be healed OR God might just do it. My understanding of what a cessationist believes is consistent with what I came into the conference thinking. Apparently, I may have misunderstood the definition. Or so I gather since I have come from the conference and read articles here and there.

The argument that seemed most convincing for me was that of the authority of Scripture.  If indeed prophecy, new revelation, does happen the authority of Scripture in undermined in that it must mean that we have not been given all things that pertain to life and godliness.  The argument is that the Canon must not be closed because God is still giving us a new word. And since the three miraculous gifts go together, if prophecy must be done, so must the rest. Now, I have not explored the other side of the argument. No rebuttals have been read or listened to by me.

What am I thinking then?
  • that I am currently tentatively standing in the cessasionist camp.  
  • That I need to do greater study to know how the Canon can be closed and foretelling prophecy still happen. (This, btw, is my hang up. Foretelling prophecy, if they didn't all come together I would have no problems.) 
  • I also think that if we are going to say that they do happen, we need to be sure we are practicing them Scripturally but that is another post.  
So there you have it. My overall impression.

1 comment:

  1. Spiritual gifts are a funny thing. For me, I'm amused because people often associate spiritual gifts with human skills and talents (I know a bloke in class who thinks his "gift" is public speaking - I kid you not!). At the same time, folk often associate spiritual gifts with tongues, prophecy and healing (in which the former two I haven't experienced myself).

    Healing is something I've experienced on multiple occasions from a receiving end through intercessory prayer and the laying of hands. And no, I don't pay to be healed either. I can also say I've never fallen forward or backwards during prayers for a particular healing. I have only recently asked the LORD to confirm if healing is something of a spiritual gift that the Holy Spirit has given, but I'm not convinced. Some folk have felt power or anointing from me, when I've laid hands, whereas I've felt nothing, but there has been instances where I have participated in prayer for healing and by the grace of God, He worked wonders. His timing is different to our timing.

    I can say that my spiritual gifting isn't a charismatic one, but it's definitely from 1 Cor 12:8-10 of which I don't want to boast publically about, but tend to share privately of my experience of God and spiritual gifting, often with trustworthy brothers and sisters in Christ.

    I find it more ironic that our experience of God at work in our lives, or in the unique ways He reveals Himself or speaks to us directly, be it His voice, His Word, sign / miracle / healing, etc is charismatic... and yet when it comes to spiritual gifts, some folk want gifts that are considered charismatic, others don't.

    I take heart in the following passages of scripture knowing that the Spirit gives us a spiritual gift to use for the Kingdom of God, of which we are to test and practice.

    To each is given the manifestation of the Spirit for the common good. All these are empowered by one and the same Spirit, who apportions to each one individually as he wills. (1 Corinthians 12:7, 11 ESV)

    Curiously, I know of many folk and have dear friends who are continuationists, who have spoken into my life, of which I've tested in prayer and waited on / asked the LORD to confirm if it's His Word and His Spirit.

    I sometimes need to remind myself that God *can* use people in my life to speak to me, either to encourage / warn / rebuke me or offer Godly wisdom etc, or simply because I've missed out on hearing God myself through His Word or voice through the distractions of everyday life - that God genuinely has to use other means to get my attention.

    Overall, I too find the whole dialogue interesting, purely because I am neither a charismatic or reformed, but simply a follower of the LORD Jesus Christ.

    ~Richard

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