January 16, 2021

Sundays with Michael Spencer: May 24, 2015

Pentecost, Giotto

Pentecost, Giotto

If you haven’t read them recently, the relevant passages on Spiritual gifts are 1 Corinthians 12-14, Romans 12, and 1 Peter 4.

Most of us who are old enough recall when we first heard teaching on the subject of “spiritual gifts,” or charismata. For me, it was in the Charismatic movement’s first wave, which involved me both with Catholic charismatics and with charismatics in the mainline churches. That teaching almost entirely dealt with the gift of tongues and other “supernatural” gifts of the Spirit.

Later on, many of us encountered evangelical teaching on spiritual gifts in teaching that seemed heavily influenced by various kinds of secular personality theory, especially the identification of various personality characteristics as they pertained to work, relationships and self-understanding.

The Biblical material on spiritual gifts took a back seat to questions of fulfillment and happiness. I’ve known many Christians who were on a permanent quest to be accurately defined in terms of spiritual gifts/personality type/vocational preference and style.

More recently, “spiritual gift” seminars and inventories have become a standard part of the megachurch’s appropriation of Biblical material for its own programmatic needs. Spiritual gift inventories were not so much about finding who had the gift of “helping” as getting adequate cameramen for the 11 a.m. service.

I’ve always thought that despite the exegetical mysteries we’ll probably always face with these passages and this topic, the practical application of spiritual gifts was not really in question. But because of the connection with controversial topics many don’t want to explore and because spiritual gift inventories are assumed to be the best application, little new is ever said about spiritual gifts.

A recent sermon by my pastor/friend Fr. Peter Mathews boiled the essentials of these passages down to these four points, all with application.

1) The Holy Spirit gives charismata.
2) The Holy Spirit gives diverse charismata.
3) The Holy Spirit gives diverse charismata to diverse people.
4) The Holy Spirit gives diverse charismata to diverse people for the common good.

After hearing that message, I found myself thinking about the one thing I find missing in most evangelical teaching on spiritual gifts. I’d insert it as point “3.5”

3.5) The Holy Spirit gives diverse charismata to diverse people in diverse situations.

Much of the teaching on spiritual gifts that has morphed into “inventories” and such seems to be about my own possession of a gift so tied to my own identity that no matter what situation I am in, that gift is my one offering to the community.

So if my gift is teaching, then I am gifted for teaching in every situation. And I’m justified to say “I would like to help, but that’s not my gift/calling/ministry.”

Instead, I’d like to suggest that the Holy Spirit manifests a diversity of gifts in diverse people in diverse situations, and what may be my spiritual gift in situation “A” may no be at all what I am gifted to do in situation “B.”

The applicable prayer here is not just “What can I do?” but “Father, how can I be a gift from you to this situation?”

We actively seek out the manifestation of the Holy Spirit’s diverse empowerment, but we have a spiritual sensitivity that if toilets need to be cleaned more than Leviticus needs to be taught, then I am gifted, called and empowered to do that very thing.

I believe that the economic downturn and the situations we all may face as families, neighborhoods, churches and ministries may provide a much needed opportunity for us to rethink “charismata,” and be much more open to what God would have us do and be in a new situation.

The current economic downturn provides many opportunities for kinds of “giftedness” that aren’t that valuable or appreciated when times are good. How many of us think about offering rides to others, or sharing a meal, or creating a food pantry when times a good? How many of us see our gifts in terms of program rather than in terms of what the Spirit is doing and yearning to do in very unusual situations?

I’d welcome your thoughts on spiritual gifts, and particularly on having a more flexible and less deterministic view of how they function in the church, the Kingdom and the world.


  1. Rick Ro. says

    Chuckled at this: “Spiritual gift inventories were not so much about finding who had the gift of ‘helping’ as getting adequate cameramen for the 11 a.m. service.”

    I like the idea that “spiritual gifts,” whatever those might be, can change over time or in accordance with different situations. “Father, how can I be a gift from you to this situation?” indeed.

  2. Michael articulated what I had been ruminating for quite some time. Did he write this in 2007? I must have missed reading it way back then…

  3. Hi Mike,

    For someone who spent a lot of time as a Pente & believing tongues is a sign of “fulness”, I perceive and welcome this balanced approach you suggest that we consider.

    What you wrote, “Instead, I’d like to suggest that the Holy Spirit manifests a diversity of gifts in diverse people in diverse situations, and what may be my spiritual gift in situation “A” may not be at all what I am gifted to do in situation “B.”” seems to make sense. The gifts reside in the Spirit & His “manifestation” is given for the “common good” as 1 Cor 12 states.

    So I assume with the more “supernatural” gifts, like healing & discernment, we might be in a situation where we are the only person to pray for someone’s healing. Or the only person to offer discernment/wisdom to a friend in a dire situation.

    Along with that, verse 28 states God “appoints” in the Church. So I reckon that there is a flexibility with the gifts along with a “divine office” that some people have. I even think that prophecy still exists through say the monastics, who call the Church back to what it should be at heart.

    Although as someone who is now semi-“Cathodox”, I haven’t thought through how the gifts play out in the worldwide Church (wherever exactly that is…).

    Regarding tongues, after looking at the church’s patristic & monastic history, considering what is happening today and the claims of “for” vs “against”. I think that modern claims have risen from an error in a) trying to scripturally justify an emotional experience (although I believe many have been filled with the Spirit but have succumb to “powers of suggestion” for the tongues) & b) incorrectly imagining the historical context.

    I now think that tongues was defined / recorded in scripture, from an observers perspective not meant as a supernatural event. The Spiritual element is in the elevation (to the observer) of a normal foreigner’s language, into a rapturous “praising God” in that person’s own language (but unknown tongues to the observer) – that is where the Holy Spirit is involved (the Pentecost event could be slightly different). This article should explain it: http://fundamentalbaptistsermons.net/Hutson/The%20Tongues%20Confusiion%20-By%20Dr_%20Curtis%20Hutson.htm

    So I now think tongues is the elevating of someones language to be used to glorify God. For example, Bible translators or interpreting a sermon in another tongue. As to 1 Cor 14, I think it could apply to a foreigner using their mother tongue in the Corinthian church. Maybe it fits in with a prophet not being accepted in their home town…

    • Standard Baptist doctrine on tongues, Why not go the way of John MacArthur and say that those who speak in tongues could be brain damaged?

      The fact is: We just don’t KNOW! All of the other gifts are fairly self-explanatory, but maybe “unknown tongues” means just THAT, UNKNOWN! Paul speaks of “tongues of men and of angels” in chapter 13, so could he be referring to the gift of tongues?

      Following that same naturalistic explanation, then, gifts of healing must mean health care professionals. Right? And the offices of pastor and teachers must be those who went to bible college or are “papered” by some denomination.

      I’m not dogmatic on tongues, but I far prefer to allow the mystical to have SOME place in things rather than having to try to explain away something that we really can’t explain.

      • JMac just doesn’t like the competition: he already practices the roles of speaking ex cathedra, being an apostle of authority, and speaking prophecy over other’s futures. He just does it through expository preaching, a bible in his name only, and a dedicated group of disciples who go to war for him online and proclaim his name amongst the unwashed masses.

        Yes, I don’t like JMac, and I have very good reasons for it, lol.

        That said, when I finally did read Charismatic Chaos, it was remarkable how it described the fundamental charismatic environment I had just come out of in 2010…even though the book was written around 1980.

      • 1 Cor 14:13 and 14 sort of put the kabosh on the idea of “unknown tongues” for me. Unknown to the speaker, maybe, but not unknown to a literal ALL. There must always be someone who can interpret the tongue that is spoken. And in a multicultural environment, someone getting excited and speaking in an unknown/native tongue, hopefully someone else around can interpret.

        Otherwise, and Paul is clear, shut up. Just shut up and don’t speak in tongues. But just like Paul’s head covering on women, we can ignore him if we choose. His opinion is not a NT law.

        Fun question: how many languages did Paul speak? And would that come into play at all with his “I thank God I speak more tongues than all ya’ll”? Dude was widely traveled and educated.

        1 Cor 14:19 should really be the defining verse in a lot of churches.

        • How much of the socio-economic multi-cultural diversity of the city of Corinth at this time, and the church in Corinth at this time, plays into Paul’s writing?


  4. I have come to realize that the Holy Spirit would have us experience all the gifts in situations. Not that they might remain abiding within us at call but through Him when the nudge of the Spirit would have us move.

    When I went to walk my dog and the cynical neighbor who is actually very nice when it comes to animals is across the street and the voice inside says go pray for her. I distinctly said I don’t want to and the voice said do it anyways. So reluctantly I said I’ll walk over and if a time arises I will try. She bent down to pet my dog whom she loves and I blurted out may I pray for you. She looked at me disgusted but said whatever trips your trigger. So with the most simple prayer I could get out asking God to please bless Faye this day Amen. A few seconds went by and then this big wow by her saying I just got the most incredible feeling all over my body. I said oh that wasn’t me. She said you prayed for me. I smiled and said yea but that wasn’t me. Her dad still alive today has the tattoo of the death camps on his arm. Faye, if should would be anything would be Jewish. I turned to leave and she said thanks and I said have a good day. Mostly I was thinking wow. That has happened a couple of times in different situations and I have said many times I don’t want to and I hear do it anyways. The conviction is so strong sometimes I can’t do it fast enough.

    Sorry that was long. I have seen some healed. I have sat and spoken with a young man from the not so good neighborhoods here for hours and you could see the hunger he had for spiritual things. I have had words of knowledge. I have seen words of knowledge by others on there first time. I have seen people walking away singing praises to the name after an event. I have seen some one who couldn’t walk get up with a look of total surprise and say I’m healed and walk back and forth singing and praising and saying it’s gone I’m healed with forty plus people watching. I talked in a class about a scripture of Jesus healing the leper and Him saying I am willing only for a few minutes and right after a young women with something wrong with her neck all crooked and stuff said they can’t help me would you pray for me. It just dawned on me when I smiled and said I would that I just lived it out and she got free from whatever that day. I sat down and went wow.

    I could tell you I never spoke not once in front of others. Yet the Lord has me do it from time to time. I just have to be honest and really He is doing the rest. I’m not saying it’s so good or that it’s bad or it couldn’t have been better. It was just me trying to do what I was being convicted to do and wanting to because I love HIm that’s all. Well Not all because I want for others to know this love that so melts a heart in a man made of stone. By the way I’m a mason and I’ve laid plenty of stone.

    The young lady whose dog died because she only left him for a few minutes in the car to get something on a hot day. Hard thing. God said pray for her and I could see the young boy who was in her future and why the dog died that day. Boy did that dog love her. I did and I get to see the little boy from time to time. I have yet to tell her this is why I prayed that day. Maybe I’ll get the chance soon but I’ve feeling she already knows.

    I could go on but the thing that has always stood out to me is He would have us know as much as is possible for us to have. Nothing is ever the same and there are no formulas. When I hear about the formulas from the formula crowds I smile because the only one I know of is love and it acts in each situation according to that situation and when it flows through our hearts from Him to whoever it is a joy completed. These things are happening everyday here and in abundance throughout the world. I know it is hard to believe for people. I have felt that and know it and am empathetic towards that. I have seen things happen and have even questioned after I saw it right in front of me. So I look at those in the Bible with a different look than I once did. I do know if you are seeking you will find. The question always becomes what are we looking for.

    • Great story. I agree with lots of your take here.

      The way I’ve heard it expressed is like this: the Holy Spirit is the owner and the distributor of the gifts. Some gifts make sense for people based on wiring and personality — but He can enable a person with any gift as needed, for as long as necessary.

    • Nothing is ever the same and there are no formulas.

      Amen. The kingdom of God is at hand, and it shows up unexpectantly.

  5. They are called gifts because we give them, not because God gives them to us. (Like a parent buying a gift for a child to take to a birthday party.)

    Before we go to a meeting of the church, we can ask for a gift to give. God might have something for us to do or say. That makes the gifts one time gifts. Next time, we ask for another gift. That is why we can desire and ask for the greater gifts.
    This idea seems to fit better with the type of meetings of the first church–more of the people participating and taking turns.

    • “They are called gifts because we give them, not because God gives them to us.”

      Thanks EZK for that quote. A good one liner to remember. Wish I’d seen it before.

  6. Hi Oscar,

    I don’t think this analysis of tongues negates the mystical. I can start speaking them right here right now. To what avail ? Why should we speak “mysteries to God” when He is the author of mysteries. Looking at my experience, I was taught that I wasn’t filled with the Spirit UNTIL I spoke in tongues. So…there’s the power of suggestion…I just had to keep seeking & trying until I spoke in tongues. I noticed no other changes in my life at the time. Why do I need tongues, if God knows my heart ? He knows what I need before I ask. He groans in me with the Spirit in words that cannot be uttered (Romans 8 I think).

    On top of that, did the post-Apostolic Church slide into apostasy ? No tongues from the 200s to 1900 ? I would have thought there would be a monk or father somewhere that had the gift. There were gifts of healings, miracles…no tongues.

    As to the “unknown” factor, again unknown to the narrator or observer. It may be possible that Pentecost was a miraculous situation where people actually spoke in tongues they didn’t learn, but to extrapolate that onto every other mention of “tongues” in the book of Acts, doesn’t “cut the mustard”. Shouldn’t the focus be on being filled with the Spirit where inhibitions are lifted and people glorified God or spoke of Him as a living reality ?

    I think the surprise is in Jewish Apostles noticing that Gentile converts are receiving God’s Spirit and glorifying God in tongues THEY don’t understand. God has kept His promise & salvation has spilled to the “ends of the earth”.


    • Hi, DennisB. My personal experience was quite different than yours. I first spoke in tongues at the same time that I was filled AND saved. No one influenced me, it just happened. Now, I DO admit that the power of suggestion CAN be a factor and, after the fact, I can “speak in tongues” without inspiration, any time I choose. But that STILL doesn’t negate the miraculous inception of it in my experience.

      As for the scene in Acts 2, that was clearly a supernatural act for the benefit of the audience and for propagating the gospel message. Paul’s later teachings on the matter differ in purpose. Just a controversial subject not worth splitting hairs over. We may differ, but Jesus is still Lord of all.

      • I like your take Oscar. I would never flaunt tongues. I believe it is not to be flaunted or put on display at the cost of someone else. I don’t care for the debate at all over them. I must wonder though at what point we thought they just disappeared and then reappeared. Who would know such things but God himself.

        I had someone that follows a certain line of thought say the gifts are for the building up of the saints. I then asked him if the one speaking in tongues was not a saint. I have found revelation when speaking in them for myself and at times not. I have found it to be extremely beautiful for me and in times where I have no words this happens and is calming for me. This especially happens when for no reason I become extremely anxious with no apparent reason for me to be this way. I have found tongues to be useful and I also pray in the words I can understand at these times but it usually begins with tongues.

        Of note to me a person came up to me once and for an unknown reason just says to me tongues are the least of the gifts. I just smiled and said okay. It stuck out. Really just out of the blue. I’ve never been one to push tongues or to just start speaking them because. Always I keep it to myself and hope for a time where there will be interpretation and that I might be part of that. Later in my alone time I was wondering about it and I thought the least of all gifts is still preferable isn’t it. I was raised Methodist and never heard of these things till I was 48. I have no idea if it is so awful important that it be the absolute proof of the filling of the Holy Spirit. Do I believe that it is. Nope, not sure and I’m not sure I care. Do I want people to have all the Holy Spirit has for them. Yep, positively and may the love of God fill them to overflowing.

        • I don’t care for the debate at all over them.

          w, I think the debate has largely come up out of defense. I know I tend to skew that way at times.

          When tongues first started showing up again, it became a “haves and have not” situation. Or like DennisB mentioned, you weren’t really a Christian/believer/spirit-filled unless you spoke in tongues. Or you were missing out on the real prayer language that really build you up. So my prayers to God in my native tongue are incomplete or not powerful/powerless enough? Those are very personal things.

          Then it became a corporate thing. Seemingly clear directives from Paul were ignored in churches, so now people could just pray in tongues whenever they felt like it. Sometimes interpreted, sometimes not. You could walk into a service and hear nothing but tongues being spoken, with some “Yes, Lords” sprinkled in. What if you couldn’t pray in a tongue? Do you lie and just mutter and get by until you get skilled at mimicking it? Do you attempt to offer an interpretation, since what is the original speaker going to do, tell you that you were wrong?

          It gets complicated quickly.

          • I truly understand everything you’re saying Stuart. I do believe people can do what they want and be the way they want to be. I once was at this conference and I saw things that made me shake my head. I could see people doing things and they weren’t coming across as genuine. In fact it was apparent that certain people were just plain faking because????

            Have a friend name lou and I know the Holy Spirit works through Lou who was hurt by a church because they said you had not the Spirit before the evidence of tongues. You bring this up to Lou and you will see his hurt come out. I think that it is horrible that people would say such things. If you spoke in tongues and know it to be good why do you need to have it forced on to someone else. Forcing someone else to believe something they do not is not of love. No one forced me to and in fact when I asked someone I had known for a very long time about them and he said yes I do all the time. I asked God about them. Now Him I trust.

            I truly believe that when we flaunt anything it is childish and immature. Full of the stuff that causes me to sneeze which I’m I promised God I wouldn’t do anymore. So that’s as close to that as I can get Stuart. I could look you in the eye with love and you would see I am sincere and truly my heart aches that you were hurt by things that should be a part of blessing. The good news isn’t changed any because of someone speaking in tongues or being healed or being prophesied over. Pure love overcomes all and I’m sure when we leave here we will get to see that. You and I, we will see it.

          • Also Stuart my friend Lou always says if you’re saved you can’t be any more saved than saved. I have since found that it rings out as true and it is true in that respect but you can have more truth than just that. You can be saved and have full life. Jesus said I came so you can have full life. So i have always wondered if that saying then becomes a lie because I can be saved and have full life which is something that never dawned on me being a Methodist. Some of those services were the driest I have ever known.

      • Oscar, in your memory and experience, when you were saved and filled and spoke in tongues…were you prompted to or demonstrated how to? I don’t think I’ve ever seen someone completely unbidden speak in tongues at their conversion, but it could be likely, so I’d like to hear your experience.

        And is tongues something you’ve worked at and learned how to do more of, maybe in a group or with other individuals? Or did it develop on it’s own, so you went from having “a word” of tongues, as I’ve been taught some have been given, up to phrases, up to sentences, up to in essence a prayer language?

        • Stuart, I wasn’t directly exposed to it, but I DID hear it momentarily in passing, without knowing what it was. I thought it was a foreign language. So now you can proclaim “Aha! I KNEW it!” My experience was quite spontaneous, and I am not much of a spontaneous person.

          Never the less, I knew some people who received the tongues gift while praying alone and not knowing what it was till some else remarked on it.

          Your explanations make some logical sense, but you do not carry that same logic to other giftings. If tongues alone must be subjected to this type of nullification then I’d say you’ve only gone half way. BUT…I still reserve the right to be totally wrong ????

    • Looking at my experience, I was taught that I wasn’t filled with the Spirit UNTIL I spoke in tongues.

      Which isn’t a fruit of the spirit, but those are liberal values and not a focus here.

      Yeah, this teaching messed me up as well.

    • There were gifts of healings, miracles…no tongues.

      Plus, the concept of glossalia can be seen in MANY cultures and religions around the world. Which are “cults”, which are worshipping “demons”, right? So is God the author of confusion that he’d let something that should be straight from the HOLY SPIRIT, from the angels maybe even, something that communes with the Throneroom of God….be spoken out of unsaved cultists who worship demons whenever they want to do it as well?

      What’s the difference between Christian tongues and shaman tongues? The intent? Apparently not the vehicle or method of communication. Is God’s tongues no more than saying Coke is the “real” cola even though there are tons of imitators?

      I think the surprise is in Jewish Apostles noticing that Gentile converts are receiving God’s Spirit and glorifying God in tongues THEY don’t understand. God has kept His promise & salvation has spilled to the “ends of the earth”.


      • If an unsaved, demon worshipping pagan cultist can pray in the exact same identifical tongues as some spirit-filled born again believer…

        What is the point of tongues again? And are they real?

        • Apologies if I’m crossing some lines today. Yesterday was crap, and today I’m not gonna take no crap, lol. But seriously, apologies. These are thoughts I have and want to discuss and cut through all the rhetoric to get to the real issues.

      • Stuart,

        Since I spent most of my adolescence and early adulthood in Pentecostal/Charismatic circles, speaking in tongues doesn’t strike me as a strange thing at all, even if it’s been out of my personal religious experience for going on 20 years now.

        You’re raising some very interesting questions vis-a-vis similar practices in other religions. I just think there are only so many ways human beings can express themselves in general, so it doesn’t surprise me to hear of speaking in tongues in non-Christian settings. (It’s not about real vs. counterfeit, in other words: it’s just about being human.)

        The way I think of tongues now is to bracket it with, e.g., dancing. Humans have danced for a million years or more. Even though we needed all of those hard-won hunter-gatherer calories just to survive, we still danced all night and into the morning around the campfires of time forgotten. To what end? It certainly wasn’t about transportation. You end the dance right where you started.

        So it is with tongues. You haven’t necessarily communicated one iota to anyone, but your tongue has danced the night away.

  7. Can I heretically suggest that Luke, the author of Acts, embellished for audience persuasion or passed along common urban stories designed to “build people’s faith up” when he wrote the book? Things like someone’s shadow healing someone as it passed by…that doesn’t sound very likely.

    People being blessed and healed through the ministry of the apostles? Amen, that most definitely happened, and we see repeated examples of that throughout history since then whenever men and women rise up and help those who need help.

    But people being blessed and supernaturally healed? Maybe not. Unless supernatural just means “guided to help and serve through Jesus’ example and promptings of His spirit”. And not “I unleashed this supernatural power God gave me, laid hands, and their legs grew an inch”.

    It’s remarkable how so many ‘problems’, like the apparent decline/absence/maybe revival of the charismatic gifts just go away if you first ask “did they really happen as we are thinking they happened and choosing to read into the text”.

  8. My testimony is that I have seen many people supernaturally healed. I have seen and heard many prophecies, seen their fulfillment, and have given them myself. I have never spoken in tongues, but I’ve seen others speak in tongues, and have heard others interpret those tongues.


    I have never seen anyone supernaturally healed. I have never heard anyone prophesy. I have never heard anyone speak in tongues. And I have never heard any interpretation of tongues.

    Why is that?

    Because the former are all from God and common. The latter are fantasies, what we wish would happen, and not what is promised or given to us.

    It sort of comes back to gnosticism, doesn’t it. We have a tendency to want to elevate some mythical spiritual experience over the physical, the super over the mundane. We’ll lay hands and pray for healing instead of offering to help buy better food or fix the leak in the ceiling.

    I’m going to propose that if you fix the physical, you also fix the spiritual. When you fix the mental, you also fix the soul. The physical MUST come first. Always. Jesus had to be born, and had to die, in order to be resurrected and ascend. Body. First.


    • Christiane says

      Hi STUART,

      I think you are on to something here: the way people take ‘the natural world’ for granted and do not see the ‘holy’ in it. Like the distinction about ‘supernatural’ healing.
      I remember the hospital in our city having a large sign as you came in to the lobby: “We bandage the wound. God heals it.”
      And I think, ‘yes, that has it right’ . . . when we begin to see the wonder within the natural world, we stop taking it ‘for granted’ and see that many of the ‘miracles’ are unseen and are all around us . . .

    • Quite the insight. I had to reread this many times. I wonder when it first dawned on me I was leaving and not staying and have no choice in it. I wonder how I still like to think I am indestructible as like when I was young and almost killed many times over. Funny thing is most if not all never really like to look at this.

      The gifts here are only something that is temporary. This is temporary. This. I am sure what we may deem as so important isn’t as important as we deem it to be. I lived in houses with leaks. I went with little to no food because back then getting free food wasn’t so easy as it can be today. I was grateful to eat. Now I wonder when things will have to stop dying for me to live.

      I see what your saying but I don’t see it as either or. Jesus did have to be born but ascending only means he had to descend first. The spirit was here with him in the flesh. He gave up his position it is said.

      I know for some it works backwards to me. For me it has to be in the heart first for my mind to comprehend. I have heard many say it is in the mind first then the heart. I know for me when I look through the lense of love I understand it better. God brought me into being here and I have been telling him all my life not what I want and then this late in my life I realize this might have been the best place of all for me. I’ll bet though that if i was starving and diseased I wouldn’t be saying that. The whole thing is hard. This place is hard. My heart grew hard and still it tries to soften. It had to be broken for it to be fixed.

      • I was also wondering is there a typing gremlin in this forum. I have never had such a hard time typing out my thoughts.

  9. Hi StuartB,

    Not sure what you mean by your “But Also” comparison. It seems like a flat contradiction. I like your take on, “I’m going to propose that if you fix the physical, you also fix the spiritual. When you fix the mental, you also fix the soul. The physical MUST come first. Always.” This speaks of discipleship to me. Another missing factor in modern Christianity. A disciple hangs around, spends time, rings up, visits, becomes, “Jesus in the flesh”, in a sense.

    However, I don’t think that negates the supernatural. If you read church history, there are many saints both old & modern, who have been accompanied by healing and miracles. If you can believe in a virgin birth, a resurrection and a 2nd coming, there should be no problem in believing in the miraculous.

    As to cultists (or even within Christianity), Satan can counterfeit every gift of the Spirit and use the “fruits of the Spirit” (in half-truths) to deceive. That’s why the Spirit is required in the corporate community of Church. That is why I believe, God led the church providentially to develop Holy Tradition which includes scripture as the “crowning jewel” and which included a real Apostolic succession (which is largely broken now), and Councils. Once that is jettisoned, it is “every man for himself”, it seems. Not the way God intended…

    If the church is meant to be an extension of Israel, a fulfillment, it fails. Israel was an integrated whole.

    Another thing. If churches don’t want to develop some type of historical sense that links back to the Apostles, Fathers, and listens to the prophetic in the monastics, I doubt they will be able to reflect God’s Spirit in action (talking about all streams here). Without “knowing who you are” in an incarnational & historical sense, the Church becomes a “cold institution”, a “lecture hall” or a “fun fair”. The current trend is in using management skills to fulfill its mission.

    Lastly, its interesting to note that in 1 Cor 12, tongues is listed along with “administration” and “helping”. To me that points to them not having the “supernatural” element.

    • Robert F says

      ” Israel was an integrated whole.”

      When? Certainly not when Jesus lived his mortal life. Certainly not for many centuries before in exile, or after in the diaspora. When was Israel an integrated whole?

    • Robert F says

      I don’t think the Church is the fulfillment of Israel. I think the idea that the Church replaced, or fulfilled God’s promises to, Israel has been the root of Christian antisemitism down through the ages. It has a strong historical connection with the Christian accusation of deicide against the Jews. The Church is the Church, and Israel continues to be Israel; God’s promises to Israel have not been replaced or fulfilled by his promises to the Church.

  10. Hi Robert,

    What I meant is that Israel (including pre-Israeli dealings with YHWH) has pretty much been an integrated whole in theological unity., except for 1 major split between the northern & southern kingdoms.

    What do you make of Romans 11:17 on then ? That seems to point to us becoming a part of Israel in a spiritual sense. Also Hebrews 12 points to us being integrated with Israel.
    “God’s promises to Israel have not been replaced or fulfilled by his promises to the Church.”
    What of His promises to Abraham ?

    • Robert F says

      I’m not sure that there was theological unanimity. That north/south split you mention went quite deep, socially and theologically; didn’t it ultimately result in a Samaritan theology very different from the theology of Israel as we know it? And what of the theological differences within the house of Israel during Jesus’ time: Pharisees, Sadducees, Essenes, not to mention the other more political factions, Zealots and Herodians, who no doubt had their own theological underpinnings? Those differences didn’t just suddenly come into existence during Jesus’ time; they had a history of factionalism and conflict behind them that went back hundreds of years.

      Seeing the Church as a branch grafted into the root of Israel is a good way of understanding it, and, as you point out, is grounded in the authentic letters of Paul. What I object to is any suggestion that, because Israel did not meet God’s standards, he disinherited them and replaced them with the gentile Church, even going so far as to judge them in the destruction of the Temple by the Romans in 70 CE. The Church’s identity is dependent on the continued presence of God with his people Israel, and the faithfulness of his promises to them; God’s promises to Abraham are fulfilled in Israel, which includes the Church as a component; and God was no more judging Israel in the destruction of the Temple than he was during the Holocaust.

      The idea that God was judging Israel by the destruction of the Temple is something that makes me very uncomfortable with the interpretations of N.T. Wright, because it parallels the traditional interpretations that have underwritten historical Christian antisemitism. I believe the prophecies predicting the destruction of the Temple were written after the destruction occurred, by a Church embattled by the Jewish community and on the defensive; the same Church that in the NT texts routinely showed the Romans in a better light than the Jews. Some of the NT texts are in fact so cloyingly interested in flattering and aligning with the Romans against Israel that is it embarrassing.

      Unfortunately, historic Christian antisemitism is rooted not in later developments, but in the NT texts themselves, most of all in the gospels and in the early Church’s antagonism toward the people of Israel. When reading the NT texts we must read them through this understanding of the failure of the Church in relation to Israel, otherwise we run the risk of repeating the same theological errors, which may have disastrous results. A good way to do this is to prioritize the authentic letters of Paul, which, unlike the gospels, are philo-Jewish rather than anti-Jewish. Paul’s authentic letter were written early by a man not under the strong anti-Jewish influence of the later Gentile and Hellenized Christians who who wrote and redacted the gospels.

      • Robert F says

        Unfortunately, two books that are otherwise so invaluable to the Church, the Gospel of John and the Acts of the Apostles, are also the worst in their anti-Jewish and/or pro-Roman perspectives.

  11. Some interesting comments. So if you say God didn’t destroy the Temple as a judgement, I assume you would extrapolate this back to all other OT instances of judgement. Are you saying most of the OT is myth ?

    ” I believe the prophecies predicting the destruction of the Temple were written after the destruction occurred, by a Church embattled by the Jewish community and on the defensive”

    Are you referring to the book of Daniel ? Your comments seem to imply a patchwork of validating certain parts of the canon of scripture & invalidating others. How do you determine what parts of scripture is authoritative ?

    To me, this musing fits in with Pentecost as Jesus promised His Spirit would lead His apostles into all truth, corporately. He also breathed the Spirit on them, corporately. How that “Truth” passed on to the succeeding generations, is part of the issue here.

    • Robert F says

      I was referring to the prophecies regarding the destruction of the Temple spoken by Jesus in the New Testament.

      Yes, I’m a patchwork Christian. My primary trust is that God will make things right no matter how incorrectly I, or the Church/churches, misinterpret or misconstrue. I look to the shape of Jesus life, death and resurrection for the pattern of life I should follow; I don’t elevate the words attributed to him by the NT Church to the status of apothegms from heaven. I lean heavily on Paul for my understanding of what the Gospel texts are saying, who Jesus was, what he did, and what he asks of those who would follow him. I attribute no infallibility or inerrancy to myself, the Church or the Bible.

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