I recently attended a ministry service in Mukilteo, Washington. The event, dubbed a “prophecy event” by my friend is officially called Sought Out and was a general meeting to focus on worship to God and prayer ministry for people in need. It was a meeting not unlike many church meetings except for the worship which was non-traditional and ministry was spoken over others if they requested it. In short, people were encouraged to draw nearer to God and bring their needs in faith to the Father.
My friend, who describes himself as a Calvinist, recently posted a critical review of this meeting on his blog and its alleged practices. At one point in his post he made this stunning statement: “Nevertheless, I am still praying that this movement [Pentecostalism]would cease to be, realizing the attack it levels on the Word of God.”
Regardless of our personal positions on our various faith practices, how did we get to the place in the body where we pray against each other? I have obvious differences with my friend’s point of view and believe that he is missing so much more with God, but those differences are non-essential doctrine. In other words, on the merits of the greater spiritual gifts as they are accurately described in the bible, it is alright if we do not agree as the matter of each other’s salvation is assured.
For those of you unfamiliar with the term, Calvinism, known as Reformed theology, is a system of biblical interpretation that focuses on the supreme sovereignty of God, His majesty, His holiness, etc. It relates this to man’s fallen, sinful nature. Because of the great chasm between God and man and because of man’s sinfulness, God must predestine people into salvation or no one would be saved. Therefore, salvation is the work of God and we are the recipients of His gracious election.
As for the definition, most of my friend’s focus seems to be dependent on the “system of biblical interpretation” as he sees it. As he said later in his post, “For me, the issue really boils down to the question of canon: are our Scriptures complete? Are they sufficient? Are we missing out on anything; and if so, the consequences could possibly lead to eternal damnation… But then, albeit somewhat extreme, if you think about it, why couldn’t it?
Let me first answer the questions. Whether rhetorically intended or not, they deserve to be answered to clear up misunderstanding, mostly because they are written with assumptions of doubt about my expression of faith toward God. So to the questions:
1) Are our Scriptures complete?Yes!
2) Are they sufficient? Yes!
3) Are we missing out on anything? In scripture no! But in practice, yes!
4) And if so, the consequences could possibly lead to eternal damnation…But then, albeit somewhat extreme, if you think about it, why couldn’t it? Because of grace it could not happen. Grace is God’s promise to us as a loving Father who does not punish his children with damnation for failing to receive all he has for us or for trying to find more of him in the greater gifts. Man does this at his own dispensation. (Read the parable of the Prodigal Son for evidence of his nature who in that story offered his son more only to be rejected, just as these Calvinists reject God’s greater gifts).
I wanted to write this article in reply to his blog post. Ironically, the scriptures were “inspired” and would not exist were it not for revelation and yet, it is now revelation that some sects of Christianity reject.
If there is a central theme in the Calvinist’s approach to “faith” it is that theirs is rooted in thought and devotion to only the things that they can see, prove and comprehend – assuming it aligns to the doctrine. By that measure, it appears the doctrine sits above God’s word in a hierarchy. In reality, it strips out faith. It is centered on what we can comprehend and understand about God. It seems to put God in a box that is easy to consume and understand in context of the condition of the church and utter lack of power on display there.
One such example is the Calvinist’s approach to spiritual gifts and the offices of the church which they believe stopped after the apostles. If the word of God is so central to their beliefs, why do they assume this stopped? My friend seems to put all the weight of his beliefs on what other Calvinists have taught on the subject, as if that were somehow more relevant that than the lack of biblical evidence to support their beliefs.
By contrast, if I read just one passage in Ephesians 4:11-13, I am convinced this is not correct:
“So Christ himself gave the apostles, the prophets, the evangelists, the pastors and teachers, to equip his people for works of service, so that the body of Christ may be built up until we all reach unity in the faith and in the knowledge of the Son of God and become mature, attaining to the whole measure of the fullness of Christ.”
The “unity” passage in this scripture teaches us that God ordained that the offices and their unique gifting are a precursor to unity, maturity and the whole measure of fullness that we obviously do not have today. Therefore, if those things follow the mantle of the gifts and the foretold unity that has not yet been achieved, then they and their gifting cannot pass away until it does. Otherwise, unity will never be attained.
Another example is found in a section of my friend’s writings concerning prayer for healing. As he says “Trusting that if He wills healing, wonderful! -Praise and glory to God! -And if not: that’s OK too; For His will be done-and a perfect will it is!” My friend continues:
“So it would seem, we have a story of two Gospels; the outcome then must ultimately rely either on:
1. “Our” faith (man centered) diligence, (and a lot of “hoping, hoping, hoping’…) or;
2. A surrendering to the will of a Sovereign God
What my friend means is that all matters of healing are already decided. It’s up to God’s providence whether his wife gets well or not. Trust him (God), but there is no need to pray because it makes no difference to God what you do one way or the other because the matter is already decided.
Here we have a disregard for further scriptural application to these statements. Calvinists say they stand solely on the word. Yes they do – parts of it. The parts they like and parts that support their doctrine. For as James 5:16 says, “Therefore, confess your sins to one another, and pray for one another so that you may be healed. The effective prayer of a righteous man can accomplish much.”
Faith is not man-centered diligence. God does not ask us to fold our hands in our lap and bow or heads hopelessly to his sovereign will, he wants to see if we have faith – at least as much as a mustard seed. Abraham negotiated for Sodom and Gomorrah, repeatedly interceding on its behalf (Gen. 18:16-33). The parable of the persistent widow (Luke 18:1) is another example where we are instructed to come to God diligently. Jesus instructs us to “Ask, seek and knock,” (Matt. 7:7). These stories among others illustrate that “We have not because we ask not.” (James 4:2).
Behind the spirit of “asking” you will find faith. It is not passive but very proactive. It has nothing to do with surrender but has everything to do with faith that God will bring about what he promises, be that healing, provision, comfort or direction.
The bible and my doctrine, no matter how correct cannot tell me if I should marry that man, or take that job, or move my family to another state. Does the Calvinist think we’re on our own in such matters or that God does not care?
Doctrines cannot answer those questions and if we have decided that there is no prophecy, there is also no revelation at all because revelation by its very nature is a prophetic act and directive for what God’s people should seek (1 Cor. 14:1). Otherwise, there is no comfort for those who mourn because that would be a supernatural act. There is no reason to “ask, seek or knock,” for what do we hope to find except for silence from a God that does not speak to us? The church cannot be edified, comforted and encouraged because there is no prophecy, (1 Cor. 14:4). How will the pure in heart see God – for that sounds like a vision? I could go on and on with this but to what point? If we close our minds and exchange a supernatural God for a God is that is not so super, we settle so much less than God intended. Gifts and the offices are given to us by God but it is up to us receive them, just as it is up to us to receive the prophet if we hope to have the prophet’s reward (Matt. 10:41).
Oddly, these things are rarely addressed by the Calvinist. We’re asked by them to follow the word (which I believe we do more completely than they do) and when we point out scriptures that contradict their practice, they no longer want to follow the word. The Calvinist believes that the gifts stopped, but where does it say that in the word? The Calvinist uses a Litmus Test that requires an apostle must be a witness of the resurrected Christ himself. He uses 1 Cor. 9:1 to support that position. That passage reads, “Did I not see Christ?” In contrast to this, in examining the totality of scripture, passages in Ephesians 4 or 1 Cor. 12:28 of Eph. 2:20 specifically call us to build his church on the backs of the apostles and prophets not teachers and pastors. The Calvinist says that Paul was the last of the Apostles. If true, what was he doing instructing the church of Ephesus on that very thing?
Incidentally, as my friend writes, “Paul indicated that he was the last of the apostles (I Cor. 15:7-9),” but examination of this passage does not say that at all, but rather reads that Paul considered himself to be the “least of the apostles.”
I can honestly say that I will never pray against my brother. Quite honestly, I would be better off to set myself on fire than to oppose God and his kingdom. I am confused how he can pray against this movement and presumably those in it and at the same time appear indignant over the debate that it stirs. That would seem to be much like majoring in the minors.
This much I know: My friend loves God and I, instead, will bless him and his faithfulness for it. I also pray that he gets everything out his relationship with God that the Father intends – although in his world he might wonder why I would pray as it supposedly does little good to influence God. If my brother calls himself a Christian I can only work against God if I pray against him. I would much rather pray with the Holy Spirit in his groaning for us to come into fullness, in the process of which, aligning myself with what God is doing in other people’s lives and not be so focused on the negatives or the enemy.
I, for one, want no part of a god who does not move in signs, wonders and miracles. I want no part of anything less and will not assume anything is over until God says it is – because that would be nothing more than producing the best possible church that earth can muster.