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Martyred for the Gospel

Martyred for the Gospel
The burning of Tharchbishop of Cant. D. Tho. Cranmer in the town dich at Oxford, with his hand first thrust into the fyre, wherwith he subscribed before. [Click on the picture to see Cranmer's last words.]

Collect of the Day

The Fifth Sunday after the Epiphany.
The Collect.

O LORD, we beseech thee to keep thy Church and household continually in thy true religion; that they who do lean only upon the hope of thy heavenly grace may evermore be defended by thy mighty power; through Jesus Christ our Lord. Amen.

Daily Bible Verse

Sunday, January 18, 2009

Scripture the Final Revelation: A Further Critique of George Conger's Theology

Charismatics still do not understand the fact that Scripture is the only binding revelation we have from God. We are not guided by personal revelations, impressions, or visions but we are to be guided solely and exclusively by Holy Scripture. Where Scripture is silent we may use our personal discretion in making moral decisions and decisions in everyday life such as finances, where to go to college, what job to take, whom we should marry, etc. However, we should always acknowledge that God is providentially in control and even when we make bad decisions He can still work it for our good.

The guiding principle for any decision making process is, "Do not go beyond what is written." (See 1 Corinthians 4:6). This means that we are not just bound to not violate a moral law revealed in Scripture such as, "Do not commit adultery." (See Mark 10:19; Luke 18:20; James 2:11). It also means that we are not to speculate about spiritual issues and then try to claim it as "divine revelation." According to Paul, this sort of super spirituality leads to vanity, pride, and self-exaltation. While charismatics will say that such speculation is revelation on a secondary level, in actual practice they wind up making such human speculation equal with Scripture. Even Wayne Grudem, the Reformed charismatic, says that prophecies in church ought to be prefaced by the words, "I believe this is what the Lord is saying." This is equivalent to saying it is personal opinion. Grudem also acknowledges that "prophecy" today is fallible and prone to human error. Thus, it is really moot and pointless for charismatics to pretend that this "charismatic gift" is something supernatural for really it is merely the natural man trying to reproduce what is essentially supernatural and infallible in the New Testament and apostolic witness.

Most of the so-called "charismatic gifts" today are really just man trying to exalt himself and impress others with his superiority in spiritual matters. The truth is we are all on a level playing field. We are all sinners. We all err. We all see through a glass darkly. Charismatics have nothing more than anyone else has, despite their claims to the contrary. We have only one infallible word from God. It is called Holy Scripture. All else is human interpretation of Scripture. Even commentaries, creeds, and confessions of faith may sometimes err. If this is true of the collective thinking of conservative and Reformed scholarship, it is most certainly true of man's attempts to replicate the supernatural.

I would not for one minute question God's ability to do the supernatural or perform a miracle. However, when men claim to be able to do this my heresy/false miracles detector goes off. As Christians we ought to be aware that in the last days there will be many false prophets and charlatans out there. (See Matthew 7:15; 24:11-14; 24:24; 2 Peter 2:1). If it sounds too good to be true, it is too good to be true. Of course God answers prayers. Of course God can do miraculous things. But that is not the norm and we should not need to see the dead raised in order to believe. We follow God's Word, not signs, wonders and miracles. The short of it is that miracles are not the proof of the Gospel. It is the Word of God:

"But Abraham said, ‘They have Moses and the Prophets; let them hear them.’ And he said, ‘No, father Abraham, but if someone goes to them from the dead, they will repent.’ He said to him, ‘If they do not hear Moses and the Prophets, neither will they be convinced if someone should rise from the dead.’ " (Luke 16:29-31, ESV)

"Then he said to them, "These are my words that I spoke to you while I was still with you, that everything written about me in the Law of Moses and the Prophets and the Psalms must be fulfilled." Then he opened their minds to understand the Scriptures, and said to them, "Thus it is written, that the Christ should suffer and on the third day rise from the dead, and that repentance and forgiveness of sins should be proclaimed in his name to all nations, beginning from Jerusalem." (Luke 24:44-47, ESV)

The point here is that the resurrection even of Jesus Christ will not convince those who refuse to believe if they do not believe Moses and the Prophets. It is Holy Scripture which in the final analysis proves that Jesus is who He claimed to be. The resurrection is merely the icing on the cake. Even if someone is raised from the dead, including Jesus Christ Himself, if they will not hear Moses and the Prophets and Christ, they will not believe. It is the Holy Spirit Himself who brings us to faith by hearing the Scriptures and the Gospel preached, for it is the Bible which testifies to these things.

I was a Pentecostal/Charismatic for over ten years and was often disappointed that the anecdotes told in church were never backed up with solid evidence. I was also disappointed that the so-called miracles in evangelistic services were often just smoke and mirrors. Any debunker can see through the doubletalk and the ambiguity meant to mislead the gullible.

However, in the Bible the miracles were irrefutably supernatural so that even the critics could not deny that something beyond the natural had occurred. The short of it is that we are obligated to believe that the miracles of the Bible did indeed happen because the Bible is inerrant and infallible. However, we are to test the spirits today to see if they are of God. (See 1 John 4:1-6).We are to make sure that the doctrines being taught are in line with Scripture and that we are not being led astray by lying signs and wonders (Matthew 24:24; II Thessalonians 2:9).

I think Calvin's comments on the miracles claimed by the Roman Catholics is still relevant to us today regarding miracle claims by charismatics and Roman Catholics. Calvin notes that the "charismatics" of his day disputed the teachings of Scripture by appealing to the lack of miracles performed by Reformed and Gospel preachers:

"Nevertheless, they cease not to assail our doctrine, and to accuse and defame it in what terms they may, in order to render it either hated or suspected. They call it new, and of recent birth; they carp at it as doubtful and uncertain; they bid us tell by what miracles it has been confirmed; they ask if it be fair to receive it against the consent of so many holy Fathers and the most ancient custom; they urge us to confess either that it is schismatical in giving battle to the Church, or that the Church must have been without life during the many centuries in which nothing of the kind was heard. Lastly, they say there is little need of argument, for its quality may be known by its fruits, namely, the large number of sects, the many seditious disturbances, and the great licentiousness which it has produced. No doubt, it is a very easy matter for them, in presence of an ignorant and credulous multitude, to insult over an undefended cause; but were an opportunity of mutual discussion afforded, that acrimony which they now pour out upon us in frothy torrents, with as much license as impunity, 12 would assuredly boil dry."

"1. First, in calling it new, they are exceedingly injurious to God, whose sacred word deserved not to be charged with novelty. To them, indeed, I very little doubt it is new, as Christ is new, and the Gospel new; but those who are acquainted with the old saying of Paul, that Christ Jesus “died for our sins, and rose again for our justification” (Rom. 4:25), will not detect any novelty in us. That it long lay buried and unknown is the guilty consequence of man’s impiety; but now when, by the kindness of God, it is restored to us, it ought to resume its antiquity just as the returning citizen resumes his rights."

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"3. In demanding miracles from us, they act dishonestly; for we have not coined some new gospel, but retain the very one the truth of which is confirmed by all the miracles which Christ and the apostles ever wrought. But they have a peculiarity which we have not—they can confirm their faith by constant miracles down to the present day! Way rather, they allege miracles which might produce wavering in minds otherwise well disposed; they are so frivolous and ridiculous, so vain and false. But were they even exceedingly wonderful, they could have no effect against the truth of God, whose name ought to be hallowed always, and everywhere, whether by miracles, or by the natural course of events. The deception would perhaps be more specious if Scripture did not admonish us of the legitimate end and use of miracles. Mark tells us (Mark 16:20) that the signs which followed the preaching of the apostles were wrought in confirmation of it; so Luke also relates that the Lord “gave testimony to the word of his grace, and granted signs and wonders to be done” by the hands of the apostles (Acts 14:3). Very much to the same effect are those words of the apostle, that salvation by a preached gospel was confirmed, “The Lord bearing witness with signs and wonders, and with divers miracles” (Heb. 2:4). Those things which we are told are seals of the gospel, shall we pervert to the subversion of the gospel? What was destined only to confirm the truth, shall we misapply to the confirmation of lies? The proper course, therefore, is, in the first instance, to ascertain and examine the doctrine which is said by the Evangelist to precede; then after it has been proved, but not till then, it may receive confirmation from miracles. But the mark of sound doctrine given by our Saviour himself is its tendency to promote the glory not of men, but of God (John 7:18; 8:50). Our Saviour having declared this to be test of doctrine, we are in error if we regard as miraculous, works which are used for any other purpose than to magnify the name of God."


[Calvin's Institutes of the Christian Religion, "Prefatory Address."

Calvin's reasoning here is hard to refute if one's position is that Scripture alone is the final word. However, if Scripture is not the final word and there is some sort of ongoing revelation today, then follow the charismatics. I for one will follow the Bible. I will not and cannot believe what someone teaches if it is not first proved from Holy Scripture. Signs, wonders, miracles, prophecies, and revelations today are not the source of doctrine. The Bible is our only infallible source of doctrine. I would submit to you that if you believe otherwise, you're setting yourself up to be deceived.

There are those who think we should never publicly question a sermon. However, a sermon is delivered publicly and is therefore open to public scrutiny. We are to test the doctrinal content of all sermons by the Word of God, the Holy Scriptures. I welcome the examination of all that I write or say in public. The minister who is committed to Scripture as the only infallible rule of faith and practice would be out of character to say otherwise.


Sola Scriptura!

Charlie

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