Sunday, February 12, 2012

Sunday Inquiries: #4

The philosophical battle between cessationists and continuationists (wikipedia has a decent article on the meaning and difference between the two>> here), is an overly complex, pedantic exercise.

As for me, the question is pretty darn simple.

Obviously, miraculous, 'charismatic' gifts of the Spirit were in full display during the first century of the Christian church. The Book of Acts speaks immensely to it, as does Paul's own words on numerous occasions.

It can be easily established that God has given, at times, supernatural gifts to his children through which He displays His power and edifies His church. This is a New Testament reality.

No Biblical text states that the times of the gifts of the miraculous are over. For me to jump onboard cessationism, I would need to see this concept explicit in Scripture. Furthermore, for those who hold rigidly to a classical form of cessationism, they must work to disproof and speak against every single apparent experience of a charismatic gift, no? As a whole, since Scripture doesn't speak to the end of gifts, the burden of proof rests on them.

Although I have seen with my own eyes spiritual gifts abused and/or faked, I am one ever inclined to embrace the Good Ghost's active and punctual involvement in the lives of His servants. He's a Ghost, after all, of course He's going to be esoteric and difficult to define and comprehend!

So -- if we establish that the charismatic Gifts of the Spirit remain with us today, where do we draw the line?

We, and I count myself foremost among these participants, think spiritual gifts and actions as things which are always about building up the good and restoring relationship and bearing in reconciliation.

But we have two very prominent New Testament cases that point to something else. Certainly it is fair to say that Peter and Paul are the two main human protagonists that the Book of Acts periscopes in on; both of them commit miraculous actions that we could characterize as CURSES.

Ananias and Sapphira
Acts 5:1-11

This relatively well-known story tells of how a church-y couple sell their home and lie about the amount they are giving to the church. Ananias lies, and Peter calls him out, exclaiming, "Ananias, why has Satan filled your heart to lie to the Holy Spirit... Why is it that you have contrived this deed in your heart? You have not lied to men but to God." The very next verse states, When Ananias heard these words, he fell down and breathed his last. 

Okay, maybe one could make the claim that Ananias merely had a heart-attack, or that God struck him dead directly --- that it was not done through the will of Peter. But then Sapphira comes tip-toeing in. When she too lies to Peter, he lambasts her with his response. "How is it that you have agreed together to test the Spirit of the Lord? Behold, the feet of those who have buried your husband are at the door, and they will carry you out." 

The text continues: Immediately she fell down at his feet and breathed her last.

Again, perhaps Peter merely had foreknowledge of her death. He may have not been the conduit through which God doled out his justice. But the story ends on a strange note. Verse eleven states cleanly, And great fear came upon the whole church and upon all who heard of these things.

Elymas the Magician
Acts 13:4-12

Paul and Barnabas are in Cyprus. They come across this magician fella, who apparently is against the Word from the outset, trying to convince the Proconsul to turn away from the truth. The scripture specifically refers to Paul being filled with the Holy Spirit when he blasts the little man, boasting, "You son of the devil, you enemy of all righteousness, full of deceit and villainy, will you not stop making crooked the straight paths of the Lord? And now, behold, the hand of the Lord is upon you, and you will be blind and unable to see the sun for a time." Paul is not mincing words here, and his aim clearly is to deflate entirely Elymas' efforts to stop the spread of the Gospel. Blindness for a period, apparently is the device that will fetch the needed results.

The story continues according to Paul's plan: Immediately mist and darkness fell upon him, and he went about seeking people to lead him by the hand. Then the proconsul believed, when he saw what had occurred, for he was astonished at the teaching of the Lord. 

Paul's indictment on Elymas followed by the sudden blindness upon the man clearly served a direct purpose; Elymas' efforts to convince the Proconsul away from Paul fails. The Gospel is spread as folks are "astonished" at God's story.

Likewise the sudden deaths of Ananias and Sapphira bring a certain new fear and respect for God and His eminently active Spirit amongst the brethren of the church.

So yes, the judgments of these supernatural outpourings from Peter and Paul served very concrete purposes, but nevertheless the question is still begging to be inquired:

Have our Christian leaders been given the authority 
to curse and blight for the sake 
of the unhindered continuance of the Gospel? 

Is supernatural cursing a spiritual gift?

1 comment:

  1. A very good question indeed...
    "I curse you in the name of Jesus" has such a horrible ring to it... ughhh.
    Hard question.