Saturday, July 10, 2010

Not the Best, But Still Good

Okay, I said that I would comment on this after I had a chance to read it.

First of all I think Justin Taylor's title is overblown - it is not the best thing written on spiritual gifts today. Many other fine and biblically accurate books and articles have been written in recent years, among which is Wayne Grudem's The Gift of Prophecy in the New Testament and Today.  Bu it not the best, it was still a good and thought-provoking article, and one that I mostly agreed with.

The writer, Vern S. Poythress, is attempting a theological justification for the continuance of spiritual manifestations and gifts (against the usual conservative cessationist position) while guarding against charismatic/pentecostal tendencies to exalt manifestations almost, if not entirely, to the level of Scripture. I personally have never met anyone who so over exalts experience, at least in formal doctrine, although many may do so in practical terms. His thesis is that:
"...modern spiritual gifts are analogous to but not identical with the divinely authoritative gifts exercised by the apostles. Since there is no strict identity, apostolic teaching and the biblical canon have exclusive divine authority. On the other hand, since there is analogy, modern spiritual gifts are still genuine and useful to the church. Hence, there is a middle way between blanket approval and blanket rejection of modern charismatic gifts."

I agree with him that: (a) Scripture, as the permanent canon of revelation, should always be held in a superior position over any and all contemporary spiritual experiences or revelations, and (b) the gifts and workings of the Spirit continue today, but subject to verification and vindication by judgement under the standard of Scripture. He is right, but i think it has been better said by many others.

Poythress concludes by saying “If charismatics and noncharismatics could agree on these points, I think that the debate on modern spiritual gifts would be largely over.” I think that is overly optimistic; because plain old human cussedness would probably prevent the end of the battle, but he is right in theory.

BTW, the diagram I posted earlier is also very helpful.

Follow the link to read it for yourself. Feel free, of course, to comment if you disagree with my evaluation.