The complete text of this exchange can be found here for download for off-line viewing.
Back on 17 Oct 2013, Frank Turk issued an open offer to any Continualist/Charismatic who … Well, I'm not good at talking about myself in the third person. Let me restate what I said then:
The pervasive complaint has been that there's all this talk “about” Charismatics, and not talking “to” Charismatics.
Let's change that.
I am willing to sponsor a conversation with any willing, serious and sober charismatic here at TeamPyro in spite of my alleged hiatus. I can record it as a podcast, or we can do it via e-mail as a written exchange. My only requirements are these three:
1. There must be a limit. If it's audio, it must have a time limit –60 or 90 minutes. If it's written, some sort of content limiter like 10 questions each and a max word limit for responses and questions.
2. There must be fairness. That is: I expect that you will ask me clear and direct questions, and I will answer them; but when I ask you clear and direct questions, you must answer them.
3. It must be completely and totally unedited after the sound check is complete via audio, or after the initial establishment of terms is complete via e-mail. And here's the massive bone I'm going to throw in:
I am willing to concede, for the sake of this discussion, D. A. Carson's interpretation of 1 Cor 12-14, so that we are not squabbling over the hermeneutics of the issue. That is: since you want that passage to say, “well, of course the gifts will continue,” you got it, and there's a sober and serious person who agrees with you. I concede on that point–now let's talk turkey.
As a consequence, I did receive 5 or 6 responses to the open invitation. The most notable was Dr. Michael Brown who has since had a public debate with Dr. Sam Waldron on this topic
, and gave PhilJohnson some time on his own radio show
for this topic. Dr. Brown and I traded some e-mails, but I demurred when I heard he was going to talk to Phil. I think his interactions on this subject, and his forthcoming book (NB: which will not have a chapter in it from a cessationist) will be more than sufficient to understand where he’s coming from. I’m looking forward especially to his reporting on the demographics of the Continualist/Charismatic (hereafter: C/C) camp from a viewpoint of sorting out whether most in the C/C camp are “cautious” or something more enthusiastic and like what was denounced at the StrangeFire conference.
There were others who asked to be included, and frankly I have not had time to follow up with all of them. My hope is that I will be able to follow up one at a time with each of them.
The first that I have found the time for is Dr. Adrian Warnock. You’re all familiar with Adrian as he is literally world-famous and a published author. He blogs here, and this discussion took place over e-mail due to my own inability to find time to get the technology worked out in a suitable manner. If I am totally honest, I believe that the written exchange will be far more useful in this case so that it’s obvious to the reader whether and to what extend the questions involved are actually answered. The format for the discussion was this: each person asked the other five questions and had a final opportunity to respond to the replies; we expanded that after the first round of answers to provide for some follow-up or explanation. If it looks like the person asking questions is trying to give you whiplash, it's because the discussion moved, by design, to the next question. Adrian has asked me to improve the format to show where the “next question” begins, and I have made an effort to do that.
Adrian asks, Frank replies
Why do you think that John MacArthur appears to not be willing to discuss the charismatic issue face to face with a charismatic scholar, and seems to minimize or even deny the great good being done for the gospel by many in the charismatic movement? I am not only talking about Driscoll's invitation, but for example Justin Brierley's offer to have MacArthur or a representative on Unbelievable, and the decision not to include someone like Grudem to put the case for the alternative view at StrangeFire.
Answering for Dr. MacArthur’s motives seems more than a little presumptuous – and more than a little adolescent for you to ask it this way. To show you how unflattering the approach is, let’s consider the question turned the other way: what is Wayne Grudem’s motive, do you think, in never offering anyone on the opposite side of his Continualist views 20 or 30 pages in a future edition in his formidable systematic theology to represent their view there? Why doesn’t he recognize the centuries of good and great faith represented by the Cessationists who date back before Augustine?
The question ignores a cornucopia of good will and any reasonable approach to framing one’s own case in one’s own words, doesn't it? In the very least, one has a right to be wrong on his own – and it’s a right you demand to make your case in every attempt you make to establish it. In such a view of things, your question is petulant at best, and allows for yourself what you will not provide to others.
As to taking or making other offers, let me say this: you were very gracious to take me up on the invitation to dialog on the matter at hand, but look at my invitation for a second. Mine was not a calling-out of anyone specifically who ought to be the subject of my grief. Mine was an open invitation to anyone who thinks they have something to add to the conversation to (in fact) make a conversation of it. Part of the dust cloud here is that it seems that the Cessationists are painted as somehow insular or intransigent – so my goal was to simply let whoever will, come (as it were). I wanted to be free from the accusation of stacking the deck.
In the case of these other “invitations,” how many do you think contacted GTY first to check on Dr. MacArthur’s schedule or availability before making the public declaration of opportunity? If you can’t say since you don’t have first-hand knowledge of the matter, how about this: in what way would you invite someone – anyone – to your church or conference if you were serious and sober about having them – via Twitter and your Blog, or via private conversation first to make sure you were received in a serious an sober way?
These others should go and do the same.
Here are the answers to the things you have turned out, above, in order:
— Phil was on Dr. Brown’s radio show for an hour the Monday after the conference was over. If you think Phil needed more time, I think that was at Dr. Brown’s discretion, and he seemed to want to say more than Phil. You should time Phil’s contribution to that hour vs. Dr. Brown’s to find out what Dr. Brown intended to do in that time.
— You should contact Phil directly if you think your engagement with him will be more productive that Dr. Brown’s was. However, I think Phil has said everything necessary for GTY to say on this subject already.
— If you wanted to discuss Scripture further, you had 5 questions to me to do so, and Scripture cannot be referenced by you as a basis for any of these questions. Weeping about its absence now seems insincere at least.
— At last, your question: can we not share fellowship? Well, I guess that depends on you guys. Are the questions in-play here serious enough to be blasphemy or not? Does a cessationist commit the Unpardonable Sin or not? Are there miracles actually being performed today as in the NT, or not? It seems to me that you guys want to create your apologetic as if the dignity and deity of the Holy Spirit are at stake – until that’s actually the argument on the table, at which time we’re unloving to you for pointing out that if these are the stakes, you cats are in very serious trouble.
From my desk, I am willing to count you as a deeply-disturbed and deeply-confused person who has faith in Christ. Jesus can get you out of all the messes you guys get yourselves into. But you have to trust him and not your mistaken idolatry of things best called “providence” and “wisdom” rather than apostolic gifts.
For us to let Prostitutes and Publicans come to Christ, Adrian, we need to be willing to welcome those who are deeply damaged and deeply deceived in order that Christ will, as you say in your book, bring them to new life. In my view, your scheme to label things fallible and subjective as somehow divine and necessary is the same kind of thing as calling sex a hobby or a profession or becoming rich on the backs of the poor. It’s the same kind of damage – and the results are everywhere to prove it.
Are there some? Yes. Are they the majority? No – not even close. However: for the sake of discussion I’m willing to invert what I would document to be the ratio of crazy-to-conservative and say that 30% are crazy and 70% are conservative – but the crazies get all the press. I would do so only to give you a chance to make some kind of argument or point regarding a movement that is 30% crazy and 70% cautious.
In that answer, I have given you all the room you need to answer the companion question I have in my list of questions, and I look forward to your candid, sober remarks.
In fact, even if you don’t have time to take me up on this offer (and I do appreciate you are a busy man), I would love to make this same offer for all your readers. If any of them want to be introduced to a Bible-loving charismatic church in their area for them to make an honest and open visit to, I would be happy to try and get such recommendations between myself and my blog readers. I expect in most cases to be able to find a church that would challenge some of the cessationist assumptions that seem to be rampant at Team Pyro and in the comment section. What do you think Frank?
–Is John MacArthur a bad man on the inside? I say it’s adolescent to ask, and effective invitations to public people are usually done in an orderly way. Adrian’s response? Yes, but then what about Phil?
–Adrian asks if Charismatics are committed to the Gospel? I say no, but I am willing to say that only 30% of them are crazy for the sake of argument. Adrian’s response? Let’s not talk about facts: let’s create an experiential anecdote. Can I find one church that upends my assertion, and would I go there?
So to this end, I say this: no, I do not want an experience. I want the charismatic, who demands somebody talk to him, to talk to me. To participate in this conversation rather than in the one he seems to think he can have without me. I have met charismatics, and the more of them I meet the more I am certain they cannot possibly imagine what people think of them – not because they are so holy or Godly or on-fire for the Spirit, but because they are babblers who are so self-absorbed that they simply cannot even have a conversation with someone about what they believe.
Spurgeon rejected the idea of ongoing Apostolic, miraculous gifts. Saying he didn’t because he had some experiences of intuition or wisdom is like saying that there are more prophets in the past we ought to be looking for because they had words from God –but because they denied they were actually God’s words, we may have lost them. That is: we can’t really trust people to know if God spoke to them or not. If I were looking to score points, I’d say, “but of course, that’s actually how you frame modern prophecy,” but I am not looking to score points. I’m trying to answer this question in spite of its lopsided and (it seems) self-ignorant biases.
Spurgeon rejects your argument here. I’ll let him speak for himself about his own life and experience.
I believe God still gives these gifts even where people call them something else. Frank, have you had any similar experiences yourself, or heard about any in people you know personally, that would fall into a similar category?
To my personal experience, of course I have experienced the Holy Spirit. I am regenerate; I have experienced a lot of sanctification through my 20 years as a Christian and expect to experience more. Scripture has been illuminated to me. I see that I have gifts useful for the edification of my local church.
The problem with your question, however, is that is stands on one faulty assertion: that if I have experienced any of the ordinary outworking of the Holy Spirit, I have to concede all on-going extraordinary outworkings of the Holy Spirit. I don’t have to do any such thing – especially when they are allegedly presented to me for my personal “amen,” what I find is a list of hunches, anecdotes, oceans of people who cannot be accounted for, and not anything that looks even like the moment in Acts 3 when Peter and John healed the Lame Beggar – let alone Lazarus or Eutychus.
This, by the way, is how you try to make Spurgeon out to be some sort of Pre-Azusa Street Holy Roller: when he speaks of the work of the Holy Spirit – and means thinks like salvation, redemption, illumination, sanctification, holiness, and oneness with the body of Christ – you take him to mean all manner of twitchy exuberance. You think Spurgeon would endorse the so-called Charismatic ministries today? Or that Lloyd-Jones was somehow commending the Pentecostals when he was condemning them?
The problem is not that people are reticent in talking about their “experience of God. ” The problem is that people are engrossed by the idea that God’s relationship with them is entirely for their personal benefit and entirely subjective. The idea that most of us are beloved to God but are somehow less than Abraham or Moses or Paul in God’s plan for all things is, frankly, offensive to them. The idea that there is an ordinary experience of God – or better still, an ordinary Christian life – strikes them as horrifyingly dull.
There is not any lack at all for people yammering on about their “Experience of God. ” There is a lack of God-ness in that conversation which is more than a little arrogant and shallow. I’d be much more impressed by all that conversation if any of those people found out that when they met God, they were somehow undone by the holiness of Him and also humiliated by the act of condescension He had to make to allow the meeting in the first place. Unfortunately, I am certain you can’t name three people in the last 100 years who, after their “Experience of God” – meaning what you mean by it — turned out that way.
Frank, if I may ask you, are you familiar with the notion many Pastors have of a call to ministry? Do you agree that even for many who would not call themselves charismatic there is often a subjective sense of God compelling them to serve him? Doesn't that sound a bit like what the more moderate charismatics call prophecy?
That said, you are tossing out an experience which, if we look at it with any kind of objectivity, has consequences which are startling and dark. According to FASICLD, 50% of pastors would leave the ministry if they thought they could find other work, and 89% of them have considered leaving the ministry. Barna says 80% of pastors think they are unqualified for their ministry; 70% fight depression. 1500 pastors leave the ministry every month.
If your position is that somehow a lot of people “feel called” into ministry, my response is that if this is the way pastors are self-selecting into the ministry, the results speak for themselves. And those results, it turns out, look exactly like the kind of charismatic chaos the StrangeFire conference was pointing to in horror.
My response is this: since I accept Carson’s reading of 1Cor 12-14, I demand the real thing. I want prophecies which God has actually said – not guesses that are wrong about 95% of the time (a ratio worse than most business forecasting) or intuitions which cannot be validated or interpreted more-usefully than a horoscope. I want healing so clear and real that it causes the public officials to flog the men doing it because they are disrupting the peace – not rumors from the unwired third world or fortunate timings for lower back pain. I want to meet the people who received the word of God in their native tongue when the evangelist came without any knowledge of their language – not gibberish murmured in private that calls itself the tongues of angels.
The problem you face with me is that I know and love comic books, but I would never mistake them or their claims for real virtue, real adventure or real triumph. And let me tell you frankly: you cats are selling something which, at the end of the day, compares unfavorably to comics.
The reason, if I may run a little long here, is simple: the question is not merely a secondary matter. Look: one reason we reject Catholicism is over the fact (or lack of fact) regarding a miracle – the transubstantiation of bread and wine into Body and Blood. In the Catholic mind, anyone who rejects this miracle – which is performed every day – is simply out of line. They are comparable to Muslims in God’s economy of salvation. They can’t really be Christian because they cannot receive God’s work in the Mass. For them, because it is actually a miracle, it’s blasphemy to reject it – and if they are right about the Mass, they are right about the blasphemy.
For you, though, the idea of the truly-miraculous is merely existential. That is, it’s your thing, do what you want to do. My world as a cessationist is less because I think there are no miracles today, but it’s not so far gone that I can’t follow Christ. There’s nothing necessary about any of these miracles for the normal Christian life –unless I reject them as fraudulent, in which case they just make it better in some yet-to-be-explained way and my view is therefore substandard, unorthodox (in spite of being the prevailing view since the Nicene Creed was written). And that you do have an “experience of God” only makes your Christian life slightly better – and it’s only as much better as the actual experience. You didn’t get a Prophecy this week? No loss. I get a prophecy not quite true next week? No loss. As long as one is committed to saying they can or could be available, one has the 64-color set of Crayons rather than the cheap 8-color set Frank Turk is using.
My greatest problem with the “other side” of this argument is very simple: it cheapens the truly-miraculous. It sets the expectation for God’s work and action so low that Criss Angel is more exciting to experience than Prophecy or Tongues. And as signs of the resurrection, they have to make you wonder what kind of resurrection Christ had if the best the Holy Spirit can do today is Pat Robertson.
That doesn't hardly sound like faith in the God who promised a Savior at the beginning of the world and delivered him to us at exactly the right time. And it makes that kind of faith – faith in a God who keeps His word, and who is Creator and Sustainer of all things – into less-meaningful than playing games at a casino.
Frank asks, Adrian replies
The purposes of prophecy are defined as “upbuilding, encouragement and consolation. ” (1 Corinthians 14:3), these purposes do not seem to overlap significantly with the purposes of Scripture which are “for teaching, for reproof, for correction, and for training in righteousness” (2 Timothy 3:16). It seems prophecy takes the general word of God to all the World and applies it specifically to specific people at a specific time in order to give us the strength and the specific restorative word that we need. In my dialogue with Steve Camp (http://www. patheos.com/blogs/adrianwarnock/2013/11/strange-fire-dialogue-with-steve-camp/), he described occasions he had observed when preaching MacArthur seemed to be operating in exactly this way.
In the Scriptures prophecy also seemed to be strongly involved in prompting further missionary efforts (see Acts 13). Also, in Acts 2 we see that the Spirit is to be poured out on all flesh, and on everyone who God calls to himself, and a clear part of this in context is a broad distribution of prophecy. It seems that this to indicate that the relationship breach between God and Man has been repaired.
We do not enjoy the full benefits of a relationship with God before we meet him face to face (1 Corinthians 13) but we are all given the opportunity to “know in part and prophecy in part,” and to enjoy the sealing work of the Spirit in the here and now, which is described in Ephesians 1 as the deposit which guarantees the much greater inheritance that is yet to come (see Ephesians 1).
Essentially, the gifts are purposed to in a limited way manifest God’s tangible presence on Earth, giving us a foretaste of the enjoyment we will have of God’s presence in heaven. As such, the primary purpose is surely to inspire us to worship God in spirit and truth.
If those gifts were withdrawn in their entirety the Church would be infinitely poorer. But I am thankful that they have never been withdrawn. I believe that every true Christian experiences at least something of the touch of the Holy Spirit, even if at times we may not recognize it as such, or like Spurgeon, we may choose to call what happens to us by a different name. After all, Paul tells us that we are “not lacking in any gift” as we “wait for the revealing of our Lord Jesus Christ. (1 Corinthians 1:7) Yet, he also commands us to earnestly desire more of these spiritual gifts, a command that the Bible never rescinds. (1 Corinthians 14:39)
If any of those things were absent, the problem of being “infinitely poorer” becomes self-evident. I don’t see that sort of self-evident problem in our church where we have never had a charismatic incident. What do you mean, then, by calling a church like the one I attend “infinitely poorer?”
Why muddy the water? Why intentionally make this discussion less-clear?
Most people would agree that the Corinthian church was misusing the gifts as much if not more than some wings of the charismatic movement today. Yet Paul graciously says that that Church is a mark of his apostleship, and gently instructs and corrects them so that they could return to using the gifts more appropriately. Aside from a comment about some of them being sick because of the abuse of the Lord’s Supper, it seems that the church did not experience negative consequences, or at least not severe ones.
On the other hand, we see in Acts 8 that Simon the Magician receives a much more severe word of punishment, which surely must apply to some others who similarly abuse the gifts, “May your silver perish with you, because you thought you could obtain the gift of God with money!” (Acts 8:20). This account is uncomfortable reading when you consider some of the most extreme examples today, but even more concerning is Jesus warning:
“On that day many will say to me, ‘Lord, Lord, did we not prophesy in your name, and cast out demons in your name, and do many mighty works in your name?’ And then will I declare to them, ‘I never knew you; depart from me, you workers of lawlessness. ’” (Matthew 7:22-23)
But it is also too easy to quickly reject people, as we have precedent where some people who were condemned as being just another prosperity teacher, became much more committed to the gospel than it at first appears. Jesus warned us that the real wheat and the fake weeds will grow together. (Matthew 13:24-29). It is only the final judgment day that will reveal the answer to your question.
You know: as a Calvinist, I take a lot of grief from people who say that I am part of a faction which, globally, is off the rails. But I can push back on that because let’s face it: the heroes of the faith are overwhelmingly of a Calvinist stripe, and most Calvinists are not like the stereotype.
I don’t have to worry about being in the minority of a problematic group because I can know from facts that I am in the overwhelming (orthodox) majority. How can you defend your movement when you have no idea whether, for example, Conrad Mbewe is right about the statistics or not?
At times, there will need to be a rebuke specific false teachers, especially if they are part of a denomination or family of churches of which you are a part. Sometimes it may also be appropriate to warn the flock, particularly if it becomes known to you that a group of your people are being drawn after a certain heretical teacher.
But the most important responsibility is to build the local church that God has called us into, and make it a model of how church ought to be, a city on a hill that cannot be hidden.
Why should Dr. MacArthur or Phil or myself settle up with anyone over any issue if, as you say here, that the only responsibility people have is to their own local church? Put another way, why are you so bothered by the activity at Grace Community Church if in fact your answer here is really how you feel about your relationship with the greater body of Christ?
How do you make sense of that?
I do also believe that pastors who are more qualified than me should be reaching out in private to some over-enthusiastic preachers who are clearly gifted and influential, but lack wisdom, or indeed may be in significant error. Like a modern day Apollos there are many in need of a Priscilla and Aquilla to gently instruct them in the way of the Lord, so that far from being damaging to the Church, some of such people can become beneficial.
Your response, “If I was to attempt to do that job properly, there are so many crooks, crazies, and con-men that I would have no time for anything else!” is an example of why, at some point, somebody has to own the cat. You know: in the States, we have Denominations, and Conventions, and Conferences (TGC, T4G, etc.). In some sense, all of those have decided to be what D.A. Carson called “center bound,” which is his way of describing how to maintain orthodoxy without being a fundamentalist. So while in some sense it’s nobody’s job to make sure that Mark Driscoll didn’t endorse a heretic when he met with T.D. Jakes, when he did endorse a heretic he was removed from TGC and (though it’s not told this way) Acts29.
I admit what happened to Driscoll was a pitiful and toothless act, but somehow Crossway isn’t publishing his new books anymore. He’s not getting another shot at T4G or TGC or Piper’s pastors’ conference. Everyone knows what this means.
UPDATED: Off-line, someone has appealed to my conscience about the above statement now highlighted in YELLOW. This person says that my account is rumor and not the facts, and that he has first-hand knowledge that Driscoll is in fact welcome to return any time to the roles he has vacated in these organizations. If you review only the publicly-published documents about this matter, there's no question: my account differs from the one made by others who have merely wished Mark Driscoll well at a moment when his actions were under fire from many corners.
I would amend the statement, therefore, in this way:
I was never in the room when any of these people discussed these issues. There is no written termination of anybody over anything regarding Mark Driscoll except this statement from Carson & Keller about Driscoll's departure from TGC. In that respect, publicly there's no question that Mark Driscoll might return to TGC and T4G and Piper's pastors' conference any day now. I look forward to that day to vindicate him and to incriminate me — and also to incriminate those who gave me the information, above, in order to convince me that TGC had more starch in private than they did publicly when Mark Driscoll embraced a heretic in favor of the men who help him to have a stage in the first place.
Why is it that even D.A. Carson can find ways to stigmatize people who are out of center-bound orbit with him doctrinally, but you fellows in this situation in Charismania hide behind the idea that it’s nobody’s fault that Sub-Saharan Africa is a spiritual wasteland while at the same time demanding that all those heads be counted when you tally up your growth rates? Do you guys own the cat, or not?
As far as calling out certain ministries is concerned, I think that many of us simply do not want to become watchbloggers. But if you look at our conferences (see for example http://300leaders.org) I think you will agree that we tend to promote and partner with people who love the gospel rather than the extremists.
Adrian's concluding comments
Thank you for this opportunity, Frank. I am very convinced that charismatics and cessationists need to talk more, in order for us to at least understand each other, even if it is too much to expect us to agree! That’s why I wish that MacArthur or perhaps Phil would agree to a debate or a less formal discussion with a charismatic.
I do also accept that there are many godly Christians who do not accept charismatic doctrine but diligently pursue a relationship with Jesus. Actually I even believe that many of such people are actually experiencing some of the gifts of the Holy Spirit but calling them something else. All I really ask at this stage is that we recognize that each other really are brothers in Christ, and that as with issues like water baptism, we accept that many on the other side love God and his Word just as much as we do.
Frank’s Concluding Comments
What I enjoy about this exchange is that Adrian is such a blithe spirit – such a credulous fellow toward his fellow man, and especially his fellow charismatics. Live and let live, he says – well, unless we ask him whether or not the Apostolic Gifts are necessary. At point he makes it clear that “the Church would be infinitely poorer” if they were ever withdrawn, utterly negating his chummy wave to “Christians who do not accept charismatic doctrine. ”
I’ve said what I have to say here clearly. The rest is left to the comments.