The charismatic debate – are impressions prophecy?

In the ongoing charismatic debate JOLLYBLOGGER: speaks of the reformed doctrine of providence:

“I think this speaks to charismatics and cessationists. To the charismatics it blurs the natural/supernatural distinction. In other words its not as if God is absent from the natural and present in the supernatural. God is present in everything. The fact that I just took a breath is an example of direct, divine activity. In other words, I am as dependent on the power of God to enable me to breathe as Lazarus was for Jesus to raise him from the dead…….

I once spoke to Dr. Bill Edgar from Westminster Seminary about this and his comment was that charismatics and cessationists agree (or should agree) that God is doing marvelous things in our world, it is just that we differ on how to interpret them.

I honestly believe it is the cessationist who makes the supernatural/natural distinction too large. For me, it really doesnt matter too much if God answers my prayer for the healing of Phil Johnson’s allergic rhinitis by means of a new medication, his body just suddenly deciding one day no longer to exhibit such symptoms (trust me – it happens, and is called the placebo effect if it is in response to a treatment), by miraculously changing something physically wrong with his white cells or by eventually (after a long time I trust!) taking Phil home to be with him and performing the ultimate miracle of healing. I just want Phil to be healed. I even know it is God’s will for Phil to be healed. What I don’t know is the timing or the method God will use. Thats what makes it exciting. A charismatic should be able to praise God for the death of a of a faithful saint releasing healing as he does for the miraculous touch of God. Its the same God who acts through nature as who acts in other ways. When a healing comes, does it really matter so much whether it is medically explainable or not – except in terms of any exaggerated claims we might make.

I hadnt read Pyromaniac’s post from today before writing the above paragraph. Imagine my pleasure to note that Phil has announced he has indeed been healed (even if it is just a temporary abatement). Who would have thought God would answer my prayers yesterday that God would blow Pyro’s theology sky high by healing him by sending some rain: as pyro put it “the good news is that it rained yesterday and is raining hard this morning, and my allergy symptoms have mostly subsided.”. I am rejoicing in a healing as much as I would be if it had been miraculous. The timing was perfect if nothing else!

When it comes to impressions, David rightly seems to capitulate. Unless someone is willing to contradict the great Spurgeon, how can he not. David goes on to assure me he is not a charismatic, at least by his definition of the word. Similarily, Brad claims to be a Continualist not Charismatic. But if David and others will allow the operation of God in providing impressions to us today but agree with me that those impressions are not infallible and should in stead be tested by scripture then he is as much a charismatic as I am – at least by my definiton!

Blogotional rightly points out that there are issues with our definitions-

The first time I ever discussed this issue with Adrian, he defined “charismatic” simply as someone who believe the Holy Spirit still bestows gifts today — in other words, not a cessasionist. That, frankly, is the first time I ever heard that definition. Until that discussion, charismatic was a word reserved precisely for the fire-breathing, God-profaning, convinced-of-their-own-status-as God’s-exclusive-mouthpiece types that David and I were both skewering yesterday.

He goes on to ask Charismatics to “make a scriptural arguement for the continuance of revelatory authority” which I simply cannot help him with as I do NOT believe that there IS any continuance of revelatory authority.

The hired shepherd puts it this way:

Even At this point cessationists who can’t accept that God is free to give someone an impression to do something, say something or pray specifically in a particular way, today, should perhaps consider that they are maybe not so much cessationists as anti-charismatics. Likewise, charismatics who don’t want to recognise a primacy of the Word and of preaching might do well to consider that they are not Reformed. I for one feel much more in tune with Reformed charismatics than I could be with so-called hard-line cessationists who deny any possibility that God might act in an extraordinary way today.

The problem seems to be what I call prophecy someone else calls fallible impressions. But is fallible impression a biblical phrase? No it isnt. I believe the NT is clear that prophecy is far from infallible.

Look, at the end of the day the cessationist has to explain why 1 Thess 5:19 is in the bible if prophecy in the NT times was always authoritive, or indeed how the Corinthian church could be in such a mess but still using the gifts, or indeed why Paul chose to ignore the advice given him not to go to Jerusalem?

1 Thess 5:19-21 “Do not quench the Spirit. Do not despise prophecies, but test everything; hold fast what is good”

Acts 21:4 And through the Spirit they were telling Paul not to go on to Jerusalem

About Adrian Warnock

Adrian Warnock has been a blogger since April 2003, and part of the leadership team of Jubilee Church, London for more than ten years, serving alongside Tope Koleoso. His book, Raised With Christ - How The Resurrection Changes Everything was published by Crossway, January 2010. Read more about Adrian Warnock or connect with him on Twitter, Facebook or Google+.

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