Sunday, August 11, 2013

Butler for the prosecution

Did you read my article on this subject:

They are sign gifts because they gave authentication to the ministry of Christ and His apostles. It is the consistent use of the Greek word semeion in these contexts.
Fred, no one (at least not me) is denying that NT miracles sometimes function to attest the message/messenger. The question at issue is whether that's their exclusive role. In the very post, I gave some examples to demonstrate how it's reductionistic to confine them to that role.
In all the examples you give above, it was the apostles Peter and Paul who experienced the phenomena. The fact that they were apostles who had been specifically commissioned by the Lord Himself to take the new covenant message to the world indicates the "sign" nature of those miracles to not only direct the messengers and authenticate their message.
i) It isn't just apostles. The examples include Philip.
ii) I'm was just sampling the data for illustrative purposes. Actually, there are several nonapostolic examples in Acts: Ananias, Cornelius, Stephen, Philip, and his four daughters.

iii) The fact that Peter and Paul were apostles doesn't make these authenticating signs. Look at how they actually function in these passages. Rather, these give examples of special divine guidance or encouragement. 
iv) So that wasn't my argument. If, however, that's the argument you use against continuationism (or at least one of your arguments), then that creates a problem for your own position. For it would be easy to construct a parallel argument: elders were appointed by the apostles (Acts 14:23), so I don't see that as setting a normative precedent. If the charismata lapsed with the death of the apostles, so did church office. If the charismata was contingent on direct apostolic action, so was eldership.

Hence, your objection, carried to its logical conclusion, would extend cessationism to pastors and elders, as well as healers, prophets, &c. So your argument either proves too much or too little. 
v) You're shadowboxing with a position I didn't advance. I didn't cite the case of Philip "as an example of a normative experience with the Holy Spirit that should happen with all Christians in our modern day. " It needn't be universal (or even general) to be a counterexample to your claim that the purpose of sign-gifts was to legitimate the apostolic vocation. 
vi) I didn't cite the case of Philip as normative for every Christian today. If, however, I were attempting to argue for a normative position, the logical point of departure would be the programmatic statement in Acts 2:17ff. The case of Philip is one illustrative instance of that normative principle.

Mind you , I think Joel's sweeping language is hyperbolic and representative rather than truly universal in scope. But his language is by no means confined to the Apostles. And, in Peter's quotation, this marks a epochal turning-point in redemptive history. This is the new status quo of the new covenant era. It's something we'd expect to continue for the duration of the church age–not lapse after a single generation.

vii) I hope you're not suggesting that Philip's possession of the charismata (Acts 8:6-7) was the result of the apostolic imposition of hands. For one thing, fullness of the Spirit was a prerequisite for the imposition of hands in the case of Philip and Stephen (Acts 6:3,5), and not a result thereof.

viii) Also, I trust you're not suggesting that Philip's ministry to the Ethiopian eunuch was dependent on apostolic sanction. It's not the apostles who sent him to evangelize the Ethiopian. Rather, he was tasked by an angel of God (Acts 8:26), in conjunction with the Holy Spirit (Acts 8:29). He acted at God's direct instigation. There was no apostolic approval process.
ix You have a theory that oversimplifies the data. You're attempting to shoehorn the data into a single explanatory principle. That conclusion doesn't arise from the data. Rather, that's imposed on the data, despite the data, which are more varied.

You can try to argue that from other passages, but in these passages they serve a different purpose. Don't flatten everything out to make it agree with a general theory. We must respect the specific content of each passage.

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