Tuesday, November 29, 2005

This Is No Age To Advocate Restraint[1].

The Problem.
‘Open but Cautious’. This is a term that has been rankling me for some time ever since it began to be used at my home church in Dunstable. Dictionaries define the word; “Caution” as; “Prudence or restraint in action or decision”[2]. Now is there anything wrong with that? This article may stir and cause a rumpus, but I want to assert that I believe that this category carries more danger of ‘quenching the Holy Spirit’ than even being cessationist. Furthermore I want to argue that this present age is no time to be cautious. Wise – yes. Cautious – no. The need of the hour is passionate hunger!

There is my brief. Now it is time to begin gathering and presenting my evidence before the mobs start gathering with stones and flaming torches. This article is, of course, a response to Mark Heath’s latest post entitled: "Over Cautious?".

He admits that he is cautious freely but “hopes” that he is open. So in the spirit of friendly debate, I want to consider this and establish whether it is a responsible and indeed spiritual position to hold.

Keathley defines the ‘Open but Cautious’ view as one that; “recognizes that there are no explicit verses in the New Testament that say that miraculous gifts have ceased, and so, this group wants to stay open to the possibility that the miraculous gifts may still exist, but at the same time, they are uncomfortable with the teachings and practices of the charismatic and vineyard movements”[3]. He suspects quite rightly (I think) that it is a view held by most evangelicals and notes intuitively that; “They don’t want to be accused of putting God in a box, and so they remain open, but cautious”.

Charismatics Are Closer to Cessationists Than We Think.
It is my contention that I have more patience sometimes with the cessationists themselves rather than the “open-but-cautiousites”. (By the way that’s my term and it’s copyrighted). Dr Richard Gaffin addressed the Conference of Reformed Churches in Seoul in 1997 on the subject of the Charismatic Movement and he made this startling comment:

There can be no question from the viewpoint of the New Testament; not to experience the Spirit – in a vital, transforming and thus powerful way – is not to have the Spirit at all[4].

If I were addressing the intricacies of the baptism of the Holy Spirit itself I would question the logic of Dr Gaffin’s argument. He seems to be therefore suggesting that if the baptism of the Spirit occurs simultaneously with regeneration, and clearly it must be a vital, transforming and powerful event – then those believers who do not have an experiential conversion by default do not have the Spirit and therefore (according to Gaffin) are not believers. This argument is one that Dr Lloyd-Jones would call very cruel.

That aside, I am hugely encouraged by the fact that one of the leading cessationist scholars in the world is writing here urging that the Spirit must be experienced in a vital, and powerful manner! Similarly I was told that at the Banner of Truth Conference (a few years ago) that after a particularly powerful sermon, there was a “holy hush” where the Spirit was unquestionably moving and touching, and apparently the conference stayed in that manner for at least half an hour!

A few comments on previous blogs have questioned whether I think that cessationists have a “real” relationship with God. Even such a wondering I think is a mistake. To me, the issue of cessationism is that they simply believe that certain sign gifts have ceased and were meant only for the apostolic age. I would hazard a guess that they would be shocked and deeply offended if a suggestion was made that they denied the power and supremacy of God to intervene in time and space in any manner in which He deemed fit. As I have mentioned previously, many of the historical heroes were cessationists; Jonathan Edwards and C H Spurgeon (maybe) and yet their true and utter and fervent belief in the power of God and His Holy Spirit surpassed many so-called charismatics today.

Is the New Testament Very Cautious?
I did a preliminary survey of a concordance – does the word “caution” appear in the Bible. And the answer is – no. Not much. I would guess that the “proof text” for all those “open-but-cautiousites” or “cautious-but-openites” is from 1 Corinthians 14:40. Yet I think that Dr Martyn Lloyd-Jones brings the ‘forgotten perspective’ to the context of this verse. Paul was writing to a church that was in deep moral sin and serious charismatic excess. The Doctor said; “Could it be claimed that any of our churches are in a similar state to Corinth?”. I would seriously hope not! So why therefore has it become the favourite verse of some. Furthermore we must ask – is the order of the Spirit that Paul has in mind, the order that the ‘cautious-but-openites’ have in mind?

So I have gone to the book of Acts to look at some principles and events of New Testament life. And I have some hypothetical statements and questions to put to my “cautious-but-openite” friends. Now I will be fair. After just coming fresh from Richard Gaffin, I know that it is a debatable thing as to whether we are ‘allowed’ to use Pentecost as a template for life today, so I will start my questions post-Pentecost just for the sake of argument:

1. Acts 2:13 – “They are all filled with new wine”. Question: Were the apostles cautious in this event? Did they weigh up the pros and cons of this experience that had come upon them and the strange sounds that were coming out of their mouths? If they did, then why were they accused of drunkenness? Drunks are not usually associated with being cautious men.

2. Acts 2:17 – “I will pour out My Spirit”. Question: Is this a cautious act by a cautious God? Merriam-Webster defines the word; “Pour” as “to supply or produce freely or copiously”[5].

3. Acts 2:42-47 – “And they devoted themselves to the apostles' teaching and fellowship, to the breaking of bread and the prayers. 43And awe came upon every soul, and many wonders and signs were being done through the apostles. 44And all who believed were together and had all things in common. 45And they were selling their possessions and belongings and distributing the proceeds to all, as any had need. 46And day by day, attending the temple together and breaking bread in their homes, they received their food with glad and generous hearts, 47praising God and having favour with all the people. And the Lord added to their number day by day those who were being saved”.

Question: If I went to my pastor and asked him to hold a prayer meeting every day where he preached a sermon every day and we broke bread every day, and sold my house and my car and gave my money to the church, oh and gave up my job so I could serve the church - do you think he would call me a “cautious” individual?

4. Acts 5:1 – “A man named Ananias”. Question: If a man brought a generous offering to your church and said it was all his pension payment, but you suspected he had kept some, would you declare before the community that he had lied to the Holy Spirit? Or would you exercise … caution and keep it to yourself for “unity’s” sake?

5. Acts 10:44 – “While Peter was saying these things”. Question: If members of your congregation who you knew were blatant non-Christians began prophesying and speaking in tongues during your preaching … what would you do? Would you be amazed and worship God? Or would you exercise caution and rebuke them and tell them to wait till the ministry time at the end of the sermon?

6. Acts 11:27 – “Prophets came … and foretold a famine”. Question: Having read Wayne Grudem and being “open” but still of course “cautious”, how would you weigh such a prophecy of famine? You see, the disciples sent aid to the affected area. Is that cautious? Pyromaniac has told us about the numerous false prophecies!

7. Acts 13:7 – “A Jewish false prophet”. Question: Exorcisms! This is going to become quite contemporary with the release of the true story; “The Exorcism of Emily Rose”. A priest was taken to court for attempting to exorcise. You may face the same penalty. What would you do if you faced an evil man seemed clearly demon-possessed; who denounced your work, slandered your name, lied and generally was horrid to you? Would you “suffer for the Lord’s sake” and be cautious? Or would you do what the disciples did and cast the demon out?

Stop Being Cautious and Get Thirsty!
I think that my point is clear without even touching on the examples in 1 Corinthians. For example; say you are open but cautious and allow prophecy in your church – how would you feel if you were “sharing” a “thought” from the Lord and someone stood up and interrupted you with another word? (1 Corinthians 14:40).

It seems painfully obvious to me that God is blessing abundantly some of the most “un-cautious” groups, churches and individuals alive today. Look at Benny Hinn. Philip Johnson doesn’t like him very much. He made it into the “bad” category in the list of bookmarks. His theology is doubtful. His website contains advice on buying nice, new flashy cars - yet can anyone deny that God is blessing his ministry? That people are being saved? Look at Reinhard Bonke. He shouts and he bawls. His ministry technique isn’t what you would call cautious. Yet can anyone deny that God is blessing his ministry? He is filling stadiums with hungry people longing to see God move in power. Look at Black Pentecostalism. Their often rampant Arminianism offends the cautious, yet God is filling their churches especially in the United Kingdom.

It just seems to me that God meets the hungry and meets them in power! What was the pre-requisite for Jesus giving the Holy Spirit? Not right theology – not right doctrine – not the five points of Calvinism. But THIRST!!!

Does that mean I am going to abandon Reformed Theology and go running to the Hinns, Copelands, etcs of this world? No. But I do get disturbed when Dr Martyn Lloyd-Jones thunders from the pulpit at Westminster; “Perfectly Orthodox – Perfectly Useless!”. So Mark, I am afraid I won’t be joining you in the Camp of Caution and I freely admit that. I love Reformed Theology. I love reading the Puritans, the Reformers, Spurgeon and will continue to do so.

But alongside Terry Virgo, I don’t think this is any age to advocate restraint. The church needs to be awakened with the Spirit of Glory! Like George Whitfield told John Wesley, if we get rid of the excess, then the real may disappear. If I have to take that chance, then so be it. I’m thirsty. Let me shut up with a quote from C S Lewis and his marvellous Chronicles of Narnia. No it ISNT that oh-so-overused quote of Mr Beavers! (Something about Aslan not be tame) If I hear that again, I’m going to hurl. It’s from the Silver Chair and it involves Jill and the Lion Aslan.

“The Lion said to her, "Are you not thirsty?" "I'm dying of thirst," said Jill. "Then drink," said the lion. "May I-could I-would you mind going away while I do," said Jill. The Lion answered this only by a look and a very low growl. And, as Jill gazed at its smooth motionless bulk, she realized she might as well have asked the whole mountain to move aside for her convenience. The delicious rippling noise of the stream was driving her nearly frantic. "Will you promise not to-do anything to me, if I do come?" said Jill. "I make no promises," said the lion. Jill was so thirsty now that, without noticing it, she had come a step nearer. "Do you eat girls?" she said. "I have swallowed up girls and boys, women and men, kings and emperors, cities and realms," said the lion. It didn't say this as if it were boasting, nor as if it were sorry, nor as if it were angry, it just said it. "I dare not come and drink," said Jill. "Then you will die of thirst," said the lion. "Oh dear!" said Jill, coming another step nearer. "I suppose I must go and look for another stream then." "There is no other stream," said the lion”.

There isn’t any other stream. There is danger in coming to drink. But there isn’t any other stream.

[1] Commendation by Terry Virgo from “Joy Unspeakable” by Dr Martyn Lloyd-Jones. Published 2000 by Kingsway, Eastbourne.
[2] http://dictionary.reference.com/search?q=Caution – downloaded Monday, 28 November 2005.
[3] http://www.bible.org/page.asp?page_id=2248 – downloaded Monday, 28 November 2005.
[4] http://www.the-highway.com/charismatic1_Gaffin.html - downloaded Monday 28th November 2005.
[5] http://www.m-w.com/dictionary/pour - downloaded Tuesday, 29 November 2005.


Unknown said...

Agreed. Open-but-Cautious doesn't really make much sense. And we tell agnostics off when they take that approach to Jesus...

I remember someone commenting that it was incredibly offensive to the Holy Spirit to consent that he gives things today and then not pursue them, against a direct scriptural command to do so). Either things happen today or they don't....

That said, all to easily I revert back to practical cessationism totally contrary to my convictions.... how I need a greater thirst for God's work in my life. Lord, have mercy.

Dan Bowen said...

A v good comment. How is it that we have de-Personalised the Holy Spirit to such a degree that we are "cautious" about what He gives or might give or doesn't give!!

I think I remember a verse about "If you being evil know how to give good gifts ... how much more ..."?!??!

D x

jul said...

Amen! I was thinking of Narnia the whole way through and you chose the perfect quote. I'm very tired of everyone caring more about being safe. Shouldn't we be incredibly more afraid of quenching and grieving the Spirit of the living God? I would rather make serious mistakes in life but it be obvious that I'm passionate about God than live a life that appears 'perfect' but is devoid of true knowlege and experience of Christ.

Dan Bowen said...

Yes .. yes ... yes Jul!!

That's why I made the Hinn/Bonke/Black Pentecostal comment - yere they may make some mistakes. But I get the feeling that God is really rather fond of them and likes them for their hunger and unabandoned love!!

So I truly echo your cry - oh to have that desperation! Oh ... thats in the Bible too - "You have forsaken your first love!!".

This is what is so convicting me - that all these things are IN the Word!!

D x

Anonymous said...

Dan's words on here have really brought back to me the Newfrontiers Leaders Conference in Brighton this year. It was after one of the evening sessions when i decided whole heartedly to give myself to God. I had always heard and even seen what the Holy Spirit could do, mainly from Dan; so on this particular night I was prayed for by a group of people, when I just decided to let the Holy Spirit baptise me and flood me.

It was the most wonderous experience EVER ! Thus I want more ! God still has much to do in my life, this I believe without question.

What I also believe was that night happened because I believe absolutley in the Holy Spirit, and the amazing things He achieves.
So bless Dan for his FAB words !!!

Dan Bowen said...

Thanks for that Scott, really appreciate it.

Thats the essence of receving the Spirit - and oh how I remember that remarkable night!! - the essence is to "go on" being filled!! This is a landmark but it isn't a tabernacle!!

"The whole object is that I might know Him" said Terry Virgo. He's blessed you and touched you that you might dive deeper into Him!

D x

Anonymous said...
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Anonymous said...

Absolutely ... I am a cessationist and I have read your article with much interest. Yes we may disagree on the secondary issue of whether the sign gifts exist today and church practice ... we don't have a dreaded "prophecy" microphone!

But I believe our hearts are united around the fact that both Charismatic and Cessationist long for, believe and expect the power of God. I for one long for a mighty revival!!

You might find this blog entry interesting ... it was written too by a cessationist:


I think you will like this quote in particular, Baxter's Boy:

"The sweetness of encountering God comes as we, by faith, are lifted up the very throne room of God in worship".

Every blessing.

Anonymous said...

I do wholeheartedly agree. As a fellow cessationist I am so encouraged by this article.

If there were more "sensible" charismatics like this writer who believed in the power of God yet held fast to His Word, there would be much ground for unity.

And indeed ... open but cautious?? It seems a bit of the typical "don't commit to either camp!".

Looking forward to more writings on these issues.

Many thanks.

Anonymous said...

Hi Dan, good post, but please don't stick me in the "open but cautious" camp! I've tried to explain myself better in my next post.

Anonymous said...

But the point is still HUNGER. Discernment yes. lets not throw away our brains. But hunger - hunger - hunger!!! Where is the hunger?!?! Where is the longing for God to be known and shown?