He was met with much of the Spirit of God

That line was originally from Maurice Grant’s biography of Richard Cameron.   I was reminded of it when reading Murray’s bio of Lloyd-Jones.  It was the summer of 1949 and Murray describes MLJ as going through “a complete agony of soul” (208).  MLJ even went so far to say he “was deeply conscious of the devil’s presence in his room” and felt “a sense of evil in the room.”

Then God ministered to him upon his seeing a page of [A.W.] Pink and the word “glory–instandly, ‘like a blaze of light,’ he felt the very glory of God surround him…The love of God was ‘shed abroad in his heart.’ The nearness of heaven and his own title to it became overwhelming certainties and, at once, he was brought into a state of ecstasy and joy which remained with him several days

MLJ goes on to describe similar experiences of the Puritans:

William Guthrie:  It is a thing better felt than spoke of. It is no audible voice, but it is a ray of glory filling the soul with God.”

Thomas Goodwin:  “There is light that cometh and over-powereth a man’s soul and assureth him that God is his, and he is God’s.”

Robert Bruce: “No sooner had a leapt upon my horse but the gates of heaven were cast open to me.”

Similar experiences are recorded by John Flavel and Christmas Evans.   Jack Deere asserts, though he admits he could not find documentation, that Lloyd-Jones’ The Puritans documents how Sarah Edwards was “transported across the room.”  I am currently looking for that documentation.  If it exists, it would be in Edwards’ works on revival.  It is  documented, however, that Sarah “lay prostrate for 19 days.”  The problem with the “transportation” claim is that sceptics like Perry Miller would have had a field day with it, and yet I don’t recall Miller making much of it (but then again, Edwards historiography has come a long way since Miller).

Two good cessationist responses to Strange Fire

I cite Doug Wilson with caution.  Few men have done more mischief to the Reformed faith, but this is a good article.  The next one is by a Fundamentalist Baptist.   They are both perceptive.  Exactly on what grounds can 90% of the Conservative Evangelical world criticize these guys for “strange fire” when nobody in this discussion even pretends to have a biblical view of worship (e.g., what God commands)?

Notes on Deere’s Surprised by Voice

This is not a simple endorsement of Jack Deere’s book.  I think it is problematic in a lot of ways.  It exhibits a woeful lack discernment and much of the exegesis is too simplistic.  Still, there was a number of insightful passages.

He makes the observation that Jesus’s power to work miracles was not merely because he was God, but noting Acts 10:38, and its apostolic interpretation of Jesus’s ministry, “How God anointed Jesus of Nazareth with the Holy Spirit and power and how he went around doing good and healing, because God was with him.

People on both sides might actually miss this, and Deere himself may not catch it, but this is an important Christological point.  Crucial to a Reformed Christology is the theologia unionis, the union between the human and divine natures of Christ.  This means Jesus’s human nature can never have the attributes of his divine nature, otherwise it would cease to be a human nature!   Deere draws the following inference:  “So even though Jesus was fully God, he took on the limitations of humanity in such a way that he did not heal, prophesy, or minister out of his own divine power.  But he did minister in power.  From where did this power come” (43)?  Deere’s use of Acts 10:38 and elsewhere suggests, quite rightly, that it came from the Holy Spirit.

 
Again, this draws upon a similar, yet another Christological point:  Reformed Christology does not confess that Jesus was fully powered with the attributes of the divine nature acting at all times (while this sounds shocking, this explains how Jesus wept, got tired, suffered, and admitted ignorance of the of the second coming, actions which cannot be properly predicated of the impassable deity).  In contrast to our Lutheran and Eastern Orthodox friends, we believe that Jesus received this power from the anointing of the Holy Spirit.  Reformed theology has always confessed this (cf. Francis Turretin, vol. 2, pp. 324ff).   Deere simply (whether he knows this or not) extends the inference.

Critical Suggestions for Charismatics

While I have defended some exegetical conclusions which favor the charismatic movement, there are a number of places where some adherents are heretical and dangerous.   The following list is not exhaustive:

  1. Sever ties with non-Trinitarians.   I am open to the fact that not all Pentecostals are Oneness Pentecostals.  I also grant that many people in their communions, Oneness or Trinitarian, probably can’t articulate why they (dis)believe in the Trinity.    That said, there is no way to justify communion with people who knowingly reject the Trinity. To commune with them is to share in their doctrine.

  2. Only God can determine how he is to be worshiped. I realize asking many charismatics to commit to the Regulative Principle of Worship is a lot to ask.  I think it is biblical to ask.  I would also kindly ask my Reformed friends to realize that it sometimes takes a while to come to a biblical understanding of worship.  Of course, God’s glory cannot be compromised, and God may indeed have to vindicate his honor, but wasn’t there a time when many of you did not hold to proper views of worship?  Indeed, much of what I have just written could be applied to the PCA instead of the Assemblies of God!

  3. As an addendum to the above, you need to regulate unbiblical or bizarre practices.   This can include public worship, but it can also include private worship.  Some charismatics of the more intellectual stripe quickly point out where many invididuals fall down on the floor “as though dead.”  Yes, we do indeed see that happening.  Further, one should hesitate to make categorical condemnations.  However, I must point out a few things: the falling down, to the degree it happens in the Bible. is something the Spirit of God does independent of human means.  In other words, we NEVER see people in the Bible lining up at the front of the church waiting for this guy to place his hands on them and “zap” them and they fall down.  Ironically, the regulative principle in the NT actually regulates a lot of spiritual gifts and practices.

Edit:  Scott Clark has linked to a noted Jamie Smith article on a Reformed Pentecostalism.  While I don’t agree with all of Clark’s conclusions, I share his concerns.  Smith comes very close to urging a syncretism of some Reformed practices and some (generally undefined) charismatic and postmodern practices.  My Scottish Puritanism comes out with a vengeance here, and for somewhat personal reasons. I am not advocating charismania.  I simply have a few exegetical conclusions which place me at odds with modern Reformed folk on one particular issue (though I am fully in line with much of the Scottish Reformation).  Smith suggests that for icons in worship we should have–I don’t know what they are called.   Think of those screens that can be placed on walls and change pictures and stuff), and instead of incense we can have exotic coffee!   Really, it can’t get sillier.

Proof that I am not a charismatic

I hope my recent posts didn’t give people the wrong idea.  The guy at Credo House has done a decent job in summarizing a lot of the issues.  Based on his criteria, I am nowhere close to being a charismatic.  He lists six criteria of what it means to be a charismatic by today’s standards.  I will interact with them.

1. Unusual attention given to the empowering presence of the Holy Spirit in the life of the believer

I don’t know what people mean by the word “Unusual.”  That I place a bigger emphasis on the Holy Spirit than, say, Bible Broadcasting Network, is true.

2. The tendency to seek and expect miraculous healings

I simply don’t have this tendency (and I have reason to want to).  I believe miracles are quite possible today.  I strongly dispute that it died with the apostles, but I also know that in God’s providence he has not seen to act this way in some cases of my life.  So there.

3. The tendency to seek and expect God’s direct communication (dreams, visions, experiences, personal encounters, etc.)

Nope.  Not me.  I believe that the Scottish Reformers overwhelmingly did so (even Banner of Truth conceded this point), but that is not how I seek God.  Martyn Lloyd-Jones has testified to this a few times and draws upon some Puritan experiences, of which I will discuss in another post.

4. Unusual attention given to the presence of demonic activity in the world

I do believe demons are active, more so than the typical bourgeoisie Presbyterian today.   That said, I don’t “pray the blood” over bush and tree to get the demon out.

5. Very  expressive worship

Again, these terms are very subjective.  In any case, I am moving more and more to psalm-singing, so I doubt I fit this profile.

6. Belief in the continuation of all the gifts of the Holy Spirit

I don’t necessarily hold this.  My position is that MacArthur’s position is painfully weak and can be easily debunked on biblical, historical, and logical lines. I say this with regard to the word of knowledge, prophecy, and miracles.   I don’t know what to think about tongues.

Piper’s lecture on Martyn Lloyd-Jones

Piper’s Talk on Martyn-Lloyd Jones

I’ve been largely critical of Piper for some years now. That said, Desiring God’s decision to put all of their audio online for free was nothing short of genius (and rightly makes all other “scholarly” websites look very bad and useless; good for DG). Because of that, I was able to listen to Piper’s talk on Martyn Lloyd-Jones “Passion for Christ-exalting Power.”

Pros:

I’ve listened to a fair number of Piper’s biography talks and while they are usually well-done, the one on MLJ is by far the best. Piper explicates Lloyd-Jones’s key ideas on baptism of the Holy Spirit, false ecumenism, the coming failure of Evangelicalism, and Spiritual Gifts. The part on spiritual gifts was the best. (I’ve long held the view that the typical arguments for cessationism are very weak. Note, I did not say that I am a charismatic. Nor did I say that the office of prophet and tongue-speaker is still binding today. I don’t think it is. Still, the standard argument, “That gift is past because we have the Bible” is a woeful non-sequitur.)

Piper spoke with much force and power, but he spoke in a more “down-to-earth” way. He was very frank with MLJ’s shortcomings, real and alleged. Piper’s further expositions of MLJ on spiritual gifts and baptism of the Holy Spirit were outstanding and very helpful.

Cons:

At the end of the talk Piper listed about five areas where MLJ failed to come to grips with his (asserted true) teaching on spiritual gifts. I don’t think Piper did a good job in critiquing them, though the criticisms were interesting.

  1. The first criticism was that MLJ overly qualified the cautions on exercising spiritual gifts to the degree that the average layman would not seek to exercise them. Maybe he did. On the other hand, and it must be said that neither Piper nor I know the exact context, the abuse of spiritual gifts is worse than the use and can sometimes border on demonic (see Fr Seraphim Rose’s criticism of Pentecostalism). When I was in college a lot of “charismatics,” under the guise of spiritual gifts, would roll on the floor, bark like puppy dogs, etc. MLJ’s cautions are well-heeded, contra Piper.
  2. Piper criticised MLJ for not having an all-night prayer meeting. Supposedly people were getting excited about revival and asked MLJ to organize an all-nighter. He said no. Piper thinks this was wrong. I’m not sure. I agree with Murray-MLJ-Piper on revival, but none of them pointed out that in the Reformed tradition, God works through the preaching and the sacraments. All-night prayer meetings have their place, but the importance is on preaching, since the latter is a means of grace.
  3. Piper criticized MLJ’s negative view on “new music.” Admittedly, neither Piper nor myself understand what kind of music MLJ rejected. I’m tempted to pull the RPW card and say, Well, what does Scripture say on it?”

 

Despite my criticisms of Piper’s criticisms in this post, I highly recommend the lecture.

The fallacy of canon-arguments against charismatics

First of all, while I am not a cessationist, neither am I a charismatic.  I believe with Fr. Seraphim Rose that much of the charismatic movement is likely communing with demons.  On the other hand, most of the Reformed arguments against the continuation of “uncomfortable” spiritual gifts are quite bad and are never challenged in the Reformed community.

The argument goes something like this:  We know longer need prophesy/tongues/healing/miracles because the canon is here, and that is God’s complete revelation to man.

Here are the problems with it:

  1. Historical-grammatical method says we must interpret scripture according to the historical setting of his original hearers.  The canon, however, is a later development and was foreign to the situation of the first hearers.  Therefore, it is illegitimate to bring in the canon in the argument.
  2. In any case, part of the canon assumes these spiritual gifts are still operative.   1 Corinthians 1:7-8 says, “so that you are not lacking in any spiritual gift as you wait for the revealing of our Lord Jesus Christ.   He will also strengthen you to the end.”

On face value the text seems to say that the Corinthian church will have all spiritual gifts (including the ones above) until the Second Coming.  That is indeed how I interpret the verse.    The cessationist can try one of two moves.  He can say that the revealing refers to the canon (which is absurd) or to the destruction of Jerusalem in A.D. 70.   The latter is a respectable view in Reformed circles–partial preterism.    Pp has several strengths to it but ultimately cannot be salvaged.  True, it takes time-references seriously and is able to provide rich, liturgical interpretations of Revelation.

On the other hand, even if I accept Pp as a legitimate position, even on Pp’s grounds what is the literary and logical connection between “tongues/prophecy” ceasing and Jesus’s revealing identified with the destruction of Jerusalem?  Further, how can one consistently say that some gifts (tongues, miracles) ceased but others (faith, teaching, helping, administration) are still on?   St Paul makes no distinction whatsoever?   Further, if I were a postmodernist or a Marxist, I could point out that the typical cessationist argument simply reinforces the bourgeoisie mentality (which it does).