Wednesday, January 29, 2014

Matches in the dark

What is the meaning of life? That was all- a simple question; one that tended to close in on one with years, the great revelation had never come. The great revelation perhaps never did come. Instead, there were little daily miracles, illuminations, matches struck unexpectedly in the dark; here was one.
– Virginian Woolf, To the Lighthouse
Some impressive testimonial evidence from Keener and Moreland:
That said, I'd like to segue from this to make a different point:
i) Cases like this can be both encouraging and discouraging. It can be encouraging to have corroborative evidence of Biblical promises. Examples of God's active presence is the present as well as the past.
ii) But cases like this can also be discouraging. I imagine many Christians read accounts like this and say to themselves, "Why does God do that for some believers, but not others? Why did God to that for him, but not for me, or my loved one?" "Why did God answer my prayer at one point in life, but turns his back on me during the low point of my life, when I need him more than ever?"
A danger of charismatic theology, especially among its more enthusiastic proponents, is the failure to counterbalance credible reports of modern miracles with the recalcitrant mystery of providence. 
As a rule, it's easier for us to explain why God did something than why he didn't. If he does something remarkable, we can usually think of plausible reasons for how that makes things better. But the seemingly haphazard character of God's miraculous intercession is more resistant to easy explanations. It's hard to discern a pattern to such intermittent miracles. 
Like using a matchbook to light your way home in the dark, you must use them sparingly. There's just enough to keep you from getting lost, but not enough to keep you from stumbling. 


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  2. I commented on that striking account in a previous blog by Steve.

    Here's a LINK to a testimony by J.P. Moreland himself being healed of a viral infection that caused him to have the worst case of laryngitis in the 35 years since college. He said it hurt to speak and his "throat felt as if it had broken glass in it, and I was reduced to whispering." Unfortunately, in order to access the article one has to register (unlike previously). I did, so that I can quote the last part of the article.

    ....As I [i.e. Moreland] was walking out of the sanctuary, two lay elders intercepted me. "Hey, J. P.," one yelled, "you can't leave yet. Hope (my wife) just told us you have laryngitis, and we can't let you get outta here without loving on you a bit and praying for your throat!" So one elder laid hands on my shoulders and the other placed his hand on my lower throat area and started praying.

    To be honest, I wasn't listening to a word they said. I had already left the church emotionally and wanted to get home to make my phone call. But something happened. As the two men prayed gently for me, I began to feel heat pour into my throat and chest from one elder's hand. After two or three minutes of prayer, I was completely and irreversibly healed! I started talking to the brothers normally with no pain, no effort, no trace that anything had been wrong. I never had to make that call to my secretary. The laryngitis never returned.

    A danger of charismatic theology, especially among its more enthusiastic proponents, is the failure to counterbalance credible reports of modern miracles with the recalcitrant mystery of providence.

    Amen. Part of the problem is also the fact that many charismatic Christians are actually ignorant of Scripture. They often aren't aware of passages like the following:

    Though he slay me, yet will I trust in him: but I will maintain mine own ways before him. - Job 13:15 (KJV)

    17 Though the fig tree should not blossom, nor fruit be on the vines, the produce of the olive fail and the fields yield no food, the flock be cut off from the fold and there be no herd in the stalls, 18 yet I will rejoice in the LORD; I will take joy in the God of my salvation. 19 GOD, the Lord, is my strength; he makes my feet like the deer's; he makes me tread on my high places. To the choirmaster: with stringed instruments.- Hab. 3:17-19 (ESV)

    16 Shadrach, Meshach, and Abednego answered and said to the king, "O Nebuchadnezzar, we have no need to answer you in this matter.17 If this be so, our God whom we serve is able to deliver us from the burning fiery furnace, and he will deliver us out of your hand, O king.18 But if not, be it known to you, O king, that we will not serve your gods or worship the golden image that you have set up."- Dan. 3:16-18 (ESV)

    36 As it is written, "For your sake we are being killed all the day long; we are regarded as sheep to be slaughtered."- Rom. 8:36 (ESV)

    Because of a lack of balance many people have apostatized. Others, in order to keep from losing their faith entirely go to the other extreme and become (for all intents and purposes) Deists by holding to a hyper-skeptical cessationism.

    1. In another recent post by Steve I wrote:

      Quoting Ken: But not as much as the NT days, it seems to me.

      I responded: There may be a reason for this in the Western world where it's much easier to document miracles.

      In THIS DEBATE, Hugh Ross (astrophysicist, apologist, and pastor) says that his Church is in between CalTech and JPL so there are a lot of scientific and engineer minded people who attend his church. In his church they practice praying for the sick by the elders. As they did, they approached it scientifically. They noticed that when they were in the habit of announcing healings from the pulpit (presumably on Sundays) there were significantly fewer healings then when they kept it completely secret when people were healed. Ross connected that with the multiple times Jesus would sometimes tell the people He healed not to tell anyone about it.

      Roger Sapp (charismatic teacher with Master of Divinity and Doctor of Philosophy degrees) noticed a similar phenomenon in his healing ministry. Ross and Sapp interpret that phenomenon slightly differently. But I suspect that beyond the problem of unbelief in the Western church, another major reason (among many other reasons) why God doesn't perform very dramatic and undeniable miracles is because it would interfere with God's providential plan for the world. But since we don't know what that plan is, or if, or when there will be a dramatic change in the way God providentially operates, we are therefore free to pray with hope.

      For example, hypothetically let's say Post-millennnialism is true and that God plans to convert the majority of the world by the year 2214 right before the return of Christ. That's 200 years from now. God may use documented healings of amputees and other signs and wonders 50 years before the return of Christ to bring about that global awakening right before Christ's 2nd Advent. In which case, we're living 150 years too early. And so, God may not perform such documented miracles until then. But we don't know that. For all we know, God plans to start performing such miracles next year. Or the next time you or I pray for someone.

      Speaking of Roger Sapp, here's a link to my blog where I list some of his BOOKS and AUDIO/VIDEO. There are a few charismatic "healers" (for lack of a better word) that I personally believe consistently and genuinely operate in the supernatural by God's power. He's at the top of that list.