Saturday, October 19, 2013

Judging by appearances

10 And he called the people to him and said to them, “Hear and understand: 11 it is not what goes into the mouth that defiles a person, but what comes out of the mouth; this defiles a person.”…17 Do you not see that whatever goes into the mouth passes into the stomach and is expelled? 18 But what comes out of the mouth proceeds from the heart, and this defiles a person. 19 For out of the heart come evil thoughts, murder, adultery, sexual immorality, theft, false witness, slander. 20 These are what defile a person. But to eat with unwashed hands does not defile anyone” (Mt 15:10-11,17-20).  
25 “Woe to you, scribes and Pharisees, hypocrites! For you clean the outside of the cup and the plate, but inside they are full of greed and self-indulgence. 26 You blind Pharisee! First clean the inside of the cup and the plate, that the outside also may be clean.27 “Woe to you, scribes and Pharisees, hypocrites! For you are like whitewashed tombs, which outwardly appear beautiful, but within are full of dead people's bones and all uncleanness. 28 So you also outwardly appear righteous to others, but within you are full of hypocrisy and lawlessness (Mt 23:25-28).
In attacking charismatic theology, one tactic MacArthurites use is to show YouTube clips of Pentecostals engaged in bizarre behavior. Now, up to a point, I don't have a problem with that tactic. Wherever that happens, it's fair game. However, there are limitations to the value of that tactic:
i) One problem is the fallacious extrapolation from examples like that to charismatics in general, much less charismatic theology in general. When MacArthurites use these YouTube clips to discredit charismatic theology in principle, they are encouraging others to draw a blatantly fallacious inference. They need to demonstrate that this behavior is representative of charismatics. They also need to demonstrate that this behavior is a logical outcome of charismatic theology. 
At the risk of stating the obvious, suppose you're a continuationist. Suppose you think the charismata listed in 1 Cor 12 continue during the church age. Unless MacArthurites think Pauline churches practiced what these YouTube videos show, continuationism doesn't entail this behavior. So that behavior is not an implication of continuationism. 
Indeed, MarArthurites typically claim that charismatics are redefining the charismata. But assuming for the sake of argument that that's true, that would be discontinuationism rather than continuationism.
ii) It's spiritually hazardous to treat these YouTube clips as an implicit standard of comparison. I'm reminded of obese people who complain that they are one of the few remaining groups it's socially acceptable to make fun of. 
Obese people are easy to target because obesity is visible. Smokers are another easy group to pick on because smoking is often done in public. Smokers light up in social gatherings. 
The danger here is for MacArthurites to compare and contrast themselves to charismatics based on appearances–as if the fact that MacArthurites wouldn't be caught dead doing what these crazy Pentecostals on YouTube clips are doing distinguishes true churches from false churches. That's a very deceptive standard of comparison.
For instance, I never attended a Mormon service, but I imagine that Mormon services are very staid and respectable. Nothing sensational or embarrassing usually happens. Everyone behaves themselves.
Same thing with most services at liberal mainline churches. Congregants dress in business suits. Recite the liturgy. Everything you see is very decorous. No faux pas. 
But, of course, appearances can be deceptive. For their theology is heretical and their ethical policies are abominable. 
From what I've read, you have Southern Baptist megachurches where there may be three times as many people on the membership rolls as actually attend. On the face of it, that's a very impressive church. But the stats are misleading. 
Likewise, I've read that traditionally, many Southern Baptist laymen were also Free Masons. Outwardly, they were God-fearing, churchgoing men. Elders and deacons. Pillars of the community. But under the surface something was very wrong.
A church can look good, but be riddled with theological dry rot. Be eaten away by theological terminates that rarely see the light of day.
Don't be so quick to judge by appearances. Jesus reminds us that some of the worst sins are sins of the heart. 


  1. What's often overlooked is the fact that the Corinthian church was probably the most carnal Paul had to deal with YET the genuine gifts of the Spirit operated among them. Paul never denied it. Rather he had to address and correct some of the abuses and wackiness going on there (1 Cor. chapters 12-14). I get the impression that cessationists think that when the gifts of the Spirit operated in the early church it was always ordered. When in fact Paul repeatedly had to correct their expression of worship and use of the gifts. It got so bad that apparently some didn't want to have anything to do with prophecies (1 Thess. 5:19-22). People may have been trying to exercise gifts beyond their proportion of faith and God's given grace (Rom. 12:3-9; 1 Cor. 13:9, 1 Pet. 4:11).

    Again, the genuine gifts operated in a church that had carnal sins like sectarianism, fornication, adultery, incest, abuses of the gifts, pride, selfishness, doctrinal imprecision (e.g. ch. 15 on the resurrection etc.).

    Paul even calls them immature Christians who could only drink spiritual/doctrinal milk, and not eat meat.
    " I fed you with milk, not solid food, for you were not ready for it. And even now you are not yet ready,3 for you are still of the flesh..."- 1 Cor. 3:2-3a

    These things are the same things that sometimes go on in modern charismatic churches. By some cessationist criteria, the Corinthian church during Paul's time was a false church.

    1. typo correction:

      I get the impression that cessationists think that when the gifts of the Spirit operated in the early church it was always ordered [orderly].

    2. It got so bad that apparently some didn't want to have anything to do with prophecies (1 Thess. 5:19-22).

      This passage is obviously about the Thessalonian church, not the Corinthian one. I quoted it because apparently these types of problems occurred (to some degree or another) in all or most of the churches. That's why I also quoted the book of Romans and 1st Peter.