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Extracurricular Activities — January 25, 2014
[B]eginning with Pentecost and continuing throughout the book of Acts, whenever the Spirit is poured out on new believers they experience his charismata. There is nothing to indicate these phenomena were restricted to them and then. Such appear to be both widespread and common in the NT church. Christians in Rome (Rom. 12), Corinth (1 Cor. 12-14), Samaria (Acts 8), Caesarea (Acts 10), Antioch (Acts 13), Ephesus (Acts 19), Thessalonica (1 Thess. 5), and Galatia (Gal. 3) experience the miraculous and revelatory gifts. It's difficult to imagine how the NT authors could have spoken any more clearly about what new covenant Christianity is supposed to look like. In other words, the burden of proof rests with the cessationist. If certain gifts of a special class have ceased, the responsibility is his or hers to prove it.
Over the years I've become convinced that some of the so-called charismatic gifts are no longer given and that they aren't a regular feature of life in the church. I am thinking particularly of the the gifts of apostleship, prophecy, tongues, healing, and miracles (and perhaps discernment of spirits).
Why would anyone think that some of the gifts have been withdrawn? I will argue that such a reading fits best with Scripture and experience. Scripture takes priority over experience, for it is the final authority, but Scripture must also correlate with life, and our experiences should provoke us to re-examine afresh whether we've read the Bible rightly. None of us reads the Bible in a vacuum, and hence we must return to the Scriptures repeatedly to ensure we've read them faithfully.
Throughout history people have been awed and thrilled by retellings of their culture's creation story.
Aztecs would tell of the Lady of the Skirt of Snakes, Phoenicians about the Zophashamin, and Jews and Christians about the one true God—Yahweh. But there is one unfortunate group—the children of atheistic materialists—that has no creation myth to call its own. When an inquisitive tyke asks who created the sun, the animals, and mankind, their materialist parents can only tell them to read a book by Carl Sagan or Richard Dawkins.
But what sort of story are they likely to find? Should they be told, as famed astrophysicist Stephen Hawking claims in his book The Grand Design, that "the universe . . . create[d] itself from nothing"?
So why is Bart Ehrman good for the Church? Because he is helping to shake those of us from a super conservative (should I say ‘fundamentalist’) evangelical background out of some indefensible positions. Christianity rises or falls on whether Jesus was raised from the dead leaving behind an empty tomb, not on the inerrancy of the New Testament. If anyone tells you that the Bible must be 100% reliable in order for Jesus to have been raised from the dead...have a good chuckle. That’s ridiculous. That’s like saying that if a modern day journalist is slightly incorrect in their reporting of something that took place that it mustn't have actually happened. Please. We can do better than this brittle fundamentalism.
But suffering is a teacher. And, among other things, the Woodiwisses drew a few lessons, which at least apply to their own experience, about how those of us outside the zone of trauma might better communicate with those inside the zone. There are no uniformly right responses, but their collective wisdom, some of it contained in Catherine’s Sojourners piece, is quite useful:
- Do be there
- Don't compare, ever
- Do bring soup
- Do not say "you'll get over this"
- Do be a builder
- Don’t say it’s all for the best or try to make sense out of what has happened
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