Friday, October 18, 2013

Brown v. Turk

Frank Turk offers an equivocal comparison:

Dr. Brown obviously belongs to the school of Charismatics who think that their cautious and pious version of the movement represents most practitioners, but it doesn't by a longshot.  Let's assume for a second (and this is a mightily-generous assumption) that all the US congregations of the AOG, the Apostolic Church, COG and COGIC, International Foursquare, and International Pentecostal Holiness are all wholly and fully inside what someone might call the "cautious Charismatic" camp.  That is: let's say they never have anything happening inside them that looks like barking like a dog, or prayer for healing that looks like a slap fight, or preaching which equates personal prosperity to the objective of the Gospel, and they never have a substantially-false prophecy which harms anyone.  According to ARDA, a generous headcount there is 5 million people.
Globally, TBN reaches 100 million people.  In Sub-Saharan Africa, there are over 500 million sociologically-Christian people (PEW research says 517 million)-- and of that number, 15% self-select as "Pentecostal." (source: ARDA)  That's 75 million Charismatic adherents who, frankly, are not as cautious as Dr. Brown are.  My suggestion here is that it turns out that the cautious fellows have, for so long, merely sighed heavily when someone is exposed as a fraud that now they are in the tiny minority of people in their own theological camp.

Problem with that comparison is that it really involves a distinction between the laity and Bible scholars or theologians. Yes, I expect many or most lay charismatics are less cautious than Keener, Fee, Turner, Twelftree, &c. 

Needless to say, it's easy to parallel that with other lay/"expert" comparisons. A good theologian will have a more refined formulation of the Trinity or the hypostatic union than the average layman. A good commentator will have a more accurate understanding of Romans or Ephesians than the average layman. A good Christian philosopher will have a more sophisticated grasp of the cosmological argument than the average layman. So Turk's argument boomerangs on lay cessationists. 


  1. I suspect that the a large portion of Evangelical Christians would define the doctrine of the Trinity in modalistic terms. I don't know how many times I've seen this in private conversations with Christians, Bible study leaders, and even in printed and audio/visual media.

    For example, Keith Green's biography No Compromise does so using the three states of water analogy (if memory serves correctly). One time I even saw actor Robert Conrad (of The Wild Wild West fame) try to defend the non-contradictory nature of the Trinity on Bill Maher's old show "Politically Incorrect" by using the analogy of how one man can be both a father and a son at the same time. Even Hugh Ross sometimes describes the Trinity in modalistic terms. I wrote their organization and they claim Ross understands and agrees with the orthodox understanding of the Trinity. Yet, he continues to use the analogy of how a 3 dimensional being could poke three fingers into a 2 dimensional world and its inhabitants would see three circles/rings.

  2. Since the Trinity is a notoriously difficult doctrine to conceptualize and few if any analogies come close to approximating its nature, it seems to be a bad case example to make your point. Many people probably use these poor analogies yet affirm basic abstract propositions regarding the Trinity.

    1. It works just fine to make my point since I didn't base my argument on analogies.

    2. MSC, maybe your post was in response to mine. I made the comments I did to try to support Steve's point that laymen in general don't have their doctrinal formulations as refined as trained theologians, pastors, apologists etc. That's to be expected. I didn't mean to imply that these people were necessarily non-Christians. For example, I believe Keith Green was and is a genuine Christian who is now in heaven. That's even though he may have had a faulty understanding of the Trinity while here on earth. The apostolic fathers' and the ante-Nicene fathers' understanding of God, Christ and the Holy Spirit were often faulty too (some more than others). I don't they they were necessarily all unsaved either. I suspect many of them were saved.

    3. My point was there is a certain degree of incomprehensibility in the doctrine of the Trinity that even the most orthodox scholars suffer from, therefore it may not be the best example to make your point.

    4. i) To begin with, I gave more than one example to illustrate my point.

      ii) But sticking with the Trinitarian example, there are orthodox formulations and heterodox formulations. A layman is more likely to slip into an inadvertently heterodox formulation than a theologian–unless the theologian really is heretical.