Friday, August 12, 2011

Changing the expression of Christianity: A Charismatic History of the Church

Phil Moore observes that the gospel progresses with signs and wonders in his survey of church history beginning in Acts. Phil Moore on the Demonstration of the Spirit's Power - Training Track at Together on a Mission 2011Moore:
"church history was always meant to be like something out of Acts"
Is preaching the gospel enough? Or, should we expect the preaching of the gospel to be accompanied with power? Moore argues that the successful advance of the gospel comes through confrontation between the Triune God and demons and idols, rather than a softly softly approach. Evil definitively overthrown by the gospel. Where are these confrontations today?

He says, the church flounders when the power of God is abandoned, to political power and human activity - whether in the days of Constantine or the Reformation etc. He documents Augustine's late-in-life conversion to belief in healing (documented in City of God ch22.8). Moore asks, could it be that the reformation lacked traction because it was not accompanied with signs and wonders? even though some like Martin Luther believed in healing, it was not the norm or emphasis of the reformation...
"If the physicians are at a loss to find a remedy, you may be sure that it is not a case of ordinary melancholy. It must, rather, be an affliction that comes from the devil, and must be counteracted by the power of Christ and with the prayer of faith. This is what we do, and what we have been accustomed to do, for a cabinetmaker here was similarly afflicted with madness and we cured him by prayer in Christ’s name."
Moore: "to not believe in the baptism in the Holy Spirit today is to be in the minority today" (64mins). Moore calls for us to face our Christoph Blumhart moment - a healing evangelist - who took the gospel forward with the Spirit's power but then retracted as he was asked to stop. Where might we go? Where might God want to move? What kind of prophetic vision might he have for us? Who might he heal? How might he show that idols are powerless and Christ is true.

Phil is a pastor, gifted evangelist and prolifically producing Bible commentaries. You can catch more of him here: Phil Moore: Gospel-Centred Preaching at Together on a Mission 2011. A seminar in which he shows we must always be preaching the gospel, for all people. Full of practical wisdom for how to keep the gospel at the heart of church life.

9 comments:

  1. The reformation abandoned the power of God and lacked traction?

    ...For me it is harder to imagine more of a miracle in the last 1000yrs of the church.

    On Blumhardt his reason for giving up healing ministry was slightly different to simply being asked to stop. He said: "I do not want to suggest that it is of little importance for God to heal the sick; actually, it now is happening more and more often—although very much in quiet. However, things should not be promoted as though God’s kingdom consists in the healing of sick people. To be cleansed is more important than to be healed. It is more important to have a heart for God’s cause, not to be chained to the world but be able to move for the kingdom of God." (cited on wikipedia)

    I think many cautious about 'signs and wonders' are wary for the same reason.

    Interestingly I only heard of Blumhardt a few weeks back through Simeon Zahl (a fan of broth Blumhardt and Luther) who has written a heavy looking tome on him.

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  2. I think you'd find Reeves saying Reformation lacked traction too, with a retreat into scholastic theology... different analysis, maybe related.

    if you have time I think Phil Moore is worth listening too. the history has to be checked, though he is a historian - to the sources! - but the rallying cry feels compelling, even if you don't buy every last detail.

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  3. Thanks Dave.

    I'll look forward to listening to the Phil Moore mp3.

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  4. Be good to know what you make of it. I imagine you'll not like some of it, but other parts might be more helpful.

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  5. The reformers were most keen to stress that what marks identify the true apostolic church are NOT miracles. That is, not that they didn't acknowledge that God healed, etc., in their day, but against the establishment, which was saying - we have centuries of miracles (healings, weeping statues, visions) to prove our teachings (prayer to dead saints, etc.): where are yours? What is the sign that God is with you in your condemnation of the Church? And the reformers did not reply, 'Here are our miracles': they replied that the true mark of apostolicity is to hold to the teaching of the apostles, and spread it. To hear one of their heirs imply that by this they doomed the movement (it didn't stick - lacked traction), is disturbing. Why do we hear so little about this in the (later) pastoral epistles, if indeed it's key to the lasting success of the Church?

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  6. I guess, Phil Moore would say why are signs and wonders so big in Acts... and why would it need to be restated in the pastoral epistles? And, he'd probably say: holding to apostolic teaching does mean the gospel accompanied by signs and wonders....

    One to ponder.

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  7. Hi Dave,

    It was a very provocative and well argued talk for the centrality of signs and wonders in much of the historical mission of the church, and has challenged me to think through what I actually believe. Thank you for poking me to listen to it.

    Nevertheless I have some serious concerns, particularly with how he seemed to say that signs and wonders were part of the Gospel rather than attestations to its truth (repeatedly he said that you were not proclaiming the full gospel if you didn't perform s&w; and his preference for Catholics who worked miracles over protestants who didn't seemed to suggest he doesn't see grace as all that important).

    I wonder what he would make of Mark 2:1-12, or Robin Parry's musings.

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  8. Good to listen to people we might differ with isn't it! I'm totally persuaded Phil is on the right team - but he does highlight a major faultline for the charismatic/less-charismatic debate...

    He does talk with awareness of the oddness of Catholics - though arguably, Luther was a Catholic for a while too :)

    Quite how this works out in church life would be a good question to ask him. His recent commentary on Acts (Straight to the heart of Acts) gives some direction and example I think.

    Would he say s&w necessary every time... not sure. Would he say we should expect them... probably!

    On Mark 2 / Parry, yeah I don't know where he'd go. Whether s&w are always there Scripturally, and whether Mark 2 does or doesn't give mandate for that is an interesting one. Certainly Jesus intention in Mark 2 is strongest to show his identity, and then come the signs and wonders as an evidence/pointer to his authority, right?

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  9. All good points. Definitively good to listen to people we might differ with, particularly if they are a part of the body of Christ we might be ignoring.

    On Mark 2, I think you are right. Of course his identity is firstly the God who forgives sins, and secondly the God who heals. Humanity's sin is why we get sick, not vice versa.

    I did have an incidental thought. Perhaps the Reformers in their stronger view of the miraculous power found in the word preached and sacrament administered had a belief in the normality of the supernatural that even pentecostals don't have. I listened recently to a Lutheran (who I would bet money doesn't exercise healing gifts) recall an occasion when a fellow passenger on a plane asked what he did for a living. He answered that he was an 'exorcist'!

    The reason he said that was that he believed that in announcing the forgiveness of sins from the pulpit he was being just that. By that word of life he was casting out demons from peoples lives.

    I don't know what to make of that. But I'd love to tell someone in all seriousness that that I was an exorcist at least once in my life!

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