Tuesday, January 23, 2007

The Sign Gifts

Here's an ongoing exchange I had at "MacArthur & Co." Blog, about the sign gifts.

I'll leave the post as is for now so you can see what the major questions, disagreements, and misunderstandings are.

I learned that we should be cautious when we are dealing with God's Word! Yes, we should be dogmatic, but there should be some awe and reverence when tackling such an explosive topic esp. when John Piper, CJ Mahaney, Wayne Grudem, many friends, and the greatest Christian figure in my life - My father - are on the other side).

For the best series I heard on this go here: Dr. S. Lewis Johnson's Pneumatology Series Lectures 19-23


Part 1:

Here are a couple of quick verses which I believe, as you say “stick to the purposes of Paul” and differentiate the gifts (yet still be for edifying the Body of course:

1) Difference in degree or quality of gifts as pertaining to validating the Apostles’ ministry

2 Corin 12:12 “The signs of a true apostle were performed among you with all perseverance, by signs and wonders and miracles.”

Heb 2:4 "God also testifying with them, both by signs and wonders and by various miracles and by gifts of the Holy Spirit according to His own will."

Of the gifts you mention, not all of them are used as signs of a true apostle ie to validate their ministry.

2) The temporality of the offices/gifts:

The office of Apostleship is temporary and yet it is nowhere stated in Scripture as such. Therefore to draw a conclusion that just b/c it doesn’t say they will cease won’t work; The Bible also never does say that all of the gifts will continue equally. (or worse come and go with the passage of time ie 1906)

3) For certain gifts it is specifically and explicitly stated that there purpose are for signs:

Tongues: 1 Corin 14: 22 “So then tongues are for a sign, not to those who believe but to unbelievers;…

Prophesy: (same verse)…but prophecy is for a sign, not to unbelievers but to those who believe.”

Wonders: 2 Corin 12:12 and Heb 2:4

Miracles: 2 Corin 12:12 and Heb 2:4


Part 2

I think I was trying to establish a Biblical precedence for the temporality of the gifts, gifts for Apostolic validity, and specificity of gifts - many people question all of these things.

As for your exegesis on tongues I simply cannot agree with your 1 Corinth 14:2 and I believe you’ve made a common misinterpretation.

“For one who speaks in a tongue does not speak to men but to God; for no one understands, but in his spirit he speaks mysteries.”

This is not a commendation, yet many people use it as such. The Apostle here is condemning the use of tongues in that stance, basically “If you speak in a language that no one understands, only God does” not “Speaking in tongues is speaking to God.”

Don’t believe me? Go look at that chapter,especially that section and you’ll see there are no commendations for tongues - all negatives, including that one.


1 Corinthians 13 explicitly says Love is not self-seeking/self-edification. He denounces this strongly! So why would he than turn around and say that tongues is for SELF edification? He doesn’t, but shows all the negative aspects of it by comparing it to prophecy.

I believe you made a false analogy/parallel with prayer and tongues. Prayer is a generic command for all, while tongues are a gift. The Bible has plenty of "pray like this..." including Jude 20, however

1) I don't think that verse, nor the other prayer verses, can be applied or fulfilled with by tongues b/c 1 Corin 14:14 "For if I pray in a tongue, my spirit prays, but my mind is unfruitful." Jude 20 is hardly talking about unfruitful prayer.

2) I would agree w/ what your saying in verse 16-17, but he doesn't say anything of personal edification. I guess I have to start with this - that the focus of ch 12-14 are about the gifts their, purpose, utility, and goal.

i) Purpose: 12:1 "Now concerning spiritual gifts, brethren, I do not want you to be unaware."

ii) Utilitly 12:8 "But to each one is given the manifestation of the Spirit for the common good."

This is especially important b/c this frames what the Apostle thinks of using the gifts which are for the common good, on the self ie that it is contrary to its uses. As you can see, prayer is not one of these gifts – it is something totally separate where Jude 20 can to build oneself up.

iii) Notice where tongues ends up in the listing of gifts in 12:28 (last) and 30 (next to last).

iv) Paul says to seek love, why? B/c it is greater and why so because one of the things he points out is “it does not seek its own” (1 Corin 13:5)

v) Goal: Now here come all the slams against tongues in ch 14. Paul is using prophecy as the measuring rod to show the negatives of tongues.

v1 Seek prophesy
v2 No one understands
v5 Tongues = prophecy when there is interpretation. In what context? In the church. Paul has always been focused on the gifts and not its corporate sense, ie there is no switch from personal to corporate; just straight analysis of the gift [edit: He was trying to say that Paul was specifically talking about using the tongues in prayer, but what he was acutally was doing was talking about tongues, not just in certain context, but regarding its entire usage]
v12 – The goal is edification of the church
"So also you, since you are zealous of spiritual gifts, seek to abound for the edification of the church."
v13 "Therefore let one who speaks in a tongue pray that he may interpret."
v14 Why do you need interpretation? Well one reason is your mind doesn’t even know what’s going on
"For if I pray in a tongue, my spirit prays, but my mind is unfruitful." I can only take this to be something negative. Paul has not said anything positive about tongues apart from edifying others, why? b/c that’s the purpose of tongues – not for self b/c if you pray in tongues even your mind is unfruitful.
v22 Seeing as how the Apostle has made the distinction of the purpose of gifts ie for others and how the using tongues in circumstances other than for "others" is unfruitful and is self-edfying ~ something that is looked down upon in context. He just flat out tells us the purpose of tongues and guess what its for others, others, others –
"So then tongues are for a sign, not to those who believe but to unbelievers; but prophecy is for a sign, not to unbelievers but to those who believe."

Conclusion: Tongues are not for self-edification, neither are any of the gifts, that’s why prophesy is better b/c its usage benefits others right away, while tongues is made specifically for unbelievers or in conjunction w/ interpretation.


Part 3

Thanks for the reply and I really do appreciate the refining and constant challenge to understand the Word better.

1) First you said, ”If I understand you correctly, Paul is generally critical of the exercise of the gift of tongues. Do correct me if I am wrong in this.”

What I meant was that he is critical of it outside of its designated purpose ie on others.

2) You said,“Paul makes a distinction between speaking in tongues in private, and speaking in tongues in public. Paul wrote, “I thank God that I speak in tongues more than all of you. But in the church I would rather speak five intelligible words to instruct others than ten thousand words in a tongue.” (I Cor14:18-19)

Paul never says he prays in tongues aka personally prayer language, agreed? He just said he spoke it more than they did and that’s it! You assumed it out of context he was talking about private prayers. All the verse says is he spoke tongues more than them and I believe never out of the limits he sets in the same chapter as I have illustrated in my previous post. See Pentecost Acts 2, Acts 10 at Cornelius’ house, Acts 19 with John’s disciples here are times where people spoke in tongues and circumstances like these are most likely what he’s talking about. I cannot agree with your exegesis here.

3) You also state that “Tongues are not for self-edification.” Yet Paul wrote that “He who speaks in a tongue edifies himself.”
I wrote about this in my first post which you may have missed. Basically you have mistaken a denouncements as a commendation . *see part 2”

Summary is = You’ve taken the verse out of context and read it by itself, but go back and look starting from chapter 12 how its all about others, than ch 13 outlines love its superiorities an that it is not self-seeking. Now he comparing tongues with prophecy (all of which is negative and only at best equal w/ interpretation) and what is one of those critcisms self-edification! the very same thing Paul is saying not to do, charismatics tend to pick up and say they do it!

You also wrote, “I challenge you to look for anything that says that we can just shut off our minds and glorify God and be blessed somehow.” Please look at what Paul wrote: “If I pray in a tongue, my spirit prays, but my mind is unfruitful.”

Once again, I covered this in my first post, and it is an obvious criticism of tongues not a praise and most certainly not anything to seek after.

4) I’m sorry, but you are in total disagreement with what Paul wrote. “If there is no interpreter present, the speaker should keep quiet in the church and speak to himself and God.” This seems fairly clear to me.

Well I don’t think you’re seeing it clearly. B/c you seemed to have this verse 14:28 say “the speaker should keep quiet in the church and speak to himself in tongues and to God in tongues.” All Paul saying here is just talk to meditate to God and not exercise your gift? Don’t believe me, he gives the exact same command for prophecy and women to simply “keep silent.”

28 but if there is no interpreter, he must keep silent in the church; and let him speak to himself and to God.

30But if a revelation is made to another who is seated, the first one must keep silent.

34The women are to keep silent in the churches; for they are not permitted to speak, but are to subject themselves, just as the Law also says.


You inserted words into the verses that were never there and have come out with some common misinterpretations:

I will insert in bold the changes you force in and change the understanding of the verse.

“I thank God that I speak in tongues more than all of you in a private prayer language. But in the church I would rather speak five intelligible words to instruct others than ten thousand words in a tongue.” (I Cor14:18-19)

14:28 “the speaker should keep quiet in the church and speak to himself in tongues and to God in tongues.

And that (see part 2) if you look at every instruction on prayer and every prayer in the Bible there is no instruction for your spirit (not the Holy Spirit on your behalf) to pray without your mind. In fact there are no things that treat your spirit as a separate mind able to do things like praying thinking, apart from your mind. That was my original challenge, to find anything like that outside of this verse and it should be noted that there would be mass chaos if we could just pray, talk, and worship only in spirit without our minds. To have only our spirit edified is a foreign concept and one Paul here, with the correct interpretation, is declaring as a clear negative.



Part 4

I think many people on both sides, wrongly parallel the Holy Spirit descending in Acts with the gift of tongues. Surely, I know you would agree, that you don’t control when where or how the Holy Spirit comes, but as you said he comes to you.

That’s the way we see it in Acts 2,10, and 19. However, the gift of tongues is different - it’s able to regulated. So, I think both sides push it with strict analogies.

I’m not fully decided on my position, but I am def. leaning towards the fact that the gift of tongues and prophecy can be “on command” to some extent and be a direct “at that moment” revelation from the Lord you are compelled to say. As I said those experiences in Acts 2, 10, and 19 are not the “2 or 3 at a time in church” sorta deal. Also, note the 12 and 70 in the Gospels and how they were able to use their gifts on command:

Matthew 10:8 "Heal the sick, raise the dead, cleanse the lepers, cast out demons. Freely you received, freely give."

If someone knows a lot about this, please feel free to teach. I’ve been hearing mixed things from both sides on the issue.



My concluding thoughts:

I personally see it as a sign of defeat when you give an argument and the other person doesn't respond to your argument, but rather restates the very thing you refuted! When I kept pushing the distinction between prayer and tongues they did not respond to my arguments, but kept saying the same things. They could not and did not address the gifts in regard to self-edification either. You should watch for these things, not only in this debate, but any other.

Thursday, January 11, 2007

Advice from the Smartest Man Ever - King Solomon

A funny thing has happened to me as of late and that is - I wanna learn stuff! During my winter break I got to read all sorts of books and I just saw all these other books I wanted to read and learn and make myself more well rounded, cultured, knowledgeable, etc. I also got the desire to explore other fields besides science and thought it would be nice to get a Ph.D in philosophy or a Th.D (doctor of theology). That's not all, I have a desire to learn Hebrew and Greek, dancing, workout more, write a contemporary English version of Jonathan Edwards' "The Freedom of the Will," everything!

Since I'm also getting married I want to travel the world with my wife, go all around the world to share the Gospel, and all sorts of things, than I remembered the advice of the smartest man on Earth (next to Jesus) said - King Solomon. For all of you who don't know King Solomon had all the wisdom, all the riches, all the pleasure (wine, parties, music, food, you name it), and all the most beautiful women in the world (something like a 1,000 women in his harem ). This is an important fact b/c he is not simply rationalizing, but telling from first hand experience what a life of wanton pleasure and having everything your heart desires is like and definitely to an extent very, very, few people, if any, have experienced from the beginning of history till now.

Well, what did he say about all that? Vanity, all is vanity!

I read through Ecclesiastes today and I wrote down all the things that Solomon experienced and found meaninglessness, as good reminder to myself as I often catching myself wanting these things, to experience them, and working toward them:

  1. Wealth
  2. The Accomplishment of Goals/Work
  3. Wisdom and Knowledge
  4. The satisfaction of the eyes - actually Solomon says the eyes are not satisfied with seeing (Eccl 1:8) *esp. important for men.
  5. The satisfaction of the ears - once again, the ears are not satisfied with hearing (Eccl 1:8)
  6. Music
  7. Laughter
  8. Pleasure/Enjoyment
  9. Wine
  10. Sex
  11. Competition
  12. Devotion to Books
  13. Writing Books
Also, ever wonder why God has put some unbelievers in enviable positions? Or why people who reject him still are altruistic?

Ecclesiastes 2:26 "For to a person who is good in His sight He has given wisdom and knowledge and joy, while to the sinner He has given the task of gathering and collecting so that he may give to one who is good in God's sight. This too is vanity and striving after wind."

Here's the good advice:

Ecclesiastes 2:24 "There is nothing better for a man than to eat and drink and tell himself that his labor is good. This also I have seen that it is from the hand of God."

Ecclesiastes 12:13 "The conclusion, when all has been heard, is: fear God and keep His commandments, because this applies to every person."

Tuesday, January 9, 2007

Jonathan Edward's on The Freedom of the Will

The long debated argument that has permeated down through the millenia has never gone away and it looks like it never will. Obviously, this debate has not been limited to just the theological realm, but that of the philosophical as well. The tension between freedom and determinism can be philosophically stated as:

If we are free agents than we do not and cannot know the future, b/c the future is contingent (dependent on our, as of yet undecided) choices.

However, we live in a world governed by universal laws and using these are able to predict future. So in this sense, everything in the world is determined from the beginning by the laws that the govern the universe.

Basically, if we are governed by all these scientific laws and that matter must follow these strict rules without exception, are our choices than necessary interactions of these laws?

Theologically this problem becomes:

Why and how can we choose (that is make a real choice of) God if He has already determined it from eternity past?

To the Arminians, the unregenerate human will has the capacity and freedom to choose Christ as His Lord and Savior.

To the Calvinist, the unregenerate man is totally unable to choose God, and it is He who must sovereignly decide who comes to choose him. Man does have freewill; it can freely choose, totally unrestricted, any evil of its liking, but its bound in sin. Man cannot choose good without God.

So when we choose God do we actually choose him from our own will or did He program us and make it our inescapable destiny to choose him against our wills?

Jonathan Edwards in his book "The Freedom of the Will," which some deem his greatest work (though many, including me, believe that his "The History of the Work of Redemption" is his magnum opus) addresses this issue in a very, very thorough fashion. The book itself is unlike Edwards, as it is very philosophical in its nature, breaking down each and every Arminian point. Don't be fooled however, it is still very Biblically centered. Unfortunately, there wasn't much in the positive sense for Calvinism and his old English is tough to get through at times (I am even contemplating writing a contemporary English version).

I'll try not cover arguments that can be found most anywhere else ie that foreknowledge = foreordination, but will try to give 4 "new" points I found in Edwards. Before we start it is important to note that Arminians hold that actions from necessary choices in themselves contain no intrinsic moral value ie good nor evil. After all how can a machine do good? The will has perfect indifference.

1. The Ontology (being) of the Will

Many Arminian proponents claim that the will is free of any necessary association and that is its own first cause, including any predisposing influences and motives.

i. It cannot be its own first cause or else it would come from nothing. This mean something is prior to the first cause of the will.

ii. If you say the soul is the cause of the will, than the will is not free because it is determined by something.

iii. If it is totally undirected than for every event, there should be a 50/50 chance of choosing or not choosing the event. This becomes more clear in point #2 with the discussion about good and evil motives, basically if something is influencing the will, say good, than your will has proportionally lost that much freedom.

iv. The will does what it wants. Say a murder regrets killing someone and didn't really want to do it, it is absurd to say that he did something his will did not want to do. Why? Because that would mean that his will at the same time did something it wanted to and did not want to do.

2. Destruction of virtue and vice.

i. If the will is influenced in any way, for example by a motive, if it is sufficiently strong enough it would make the will unable to choose anything opposing that motivation, thus rendering freewill and libertine choice void.

ii. Therefore, if you are motivated by a strong desire for good than those actions are necessary and in them contain no virtue.

iii. The absurdity here as you can see is that a choice when made with the most sincere good or malevolent motives, are neither good nor evil since they are necessary. At the least, less good and less evil, because of the predisposition to those things.

3. Misunderstandings of philosophical vocabulary and their applications to the natural world.

i. Philosophers, metaphysicians, and theologians use words like "impossible," "cannot," "can," "possible," that are contrary to their normal usage.

ii.However they use these same words (that they all have a different definition for) to and use them in analogies outside philosophy.

iii. Therefore, the layity/normal people, that do not understand the philosophical usage of the term, take them and use them in their normative sense.

iv. This leads to false analogies.

For example: Arminians say if we are bound and have no choice in the moral realm and it is impossible for us to avoid the choice, than just like in the natural realm we are not held accountable. Would God hold us accountable for not being able to fly, play bball like Jordan, or for falling if we got pushed off a building? Thus it follows that we have freewill - WRONG

The problem here is that the "impossible" of a moral decision does not parallel the "impossible"of a natural situation. For one thing, our bodies are composed of matter and our spirit is not. The fundamental laws of physics, chemisty, etc. that are corporeal bodies are bound to, do not apply to our spirit. Also, common experience tells us the contrary - we can lie or not lie, write or not write, fight or walk away etc. we have no choice in the say to obey gravity or not.

Remember the real question behind all this is if man can do good without God's intervention, not specific actions.

4. God is necessarily Good and the Devil is necessarily Evil.

i. The most powerful of all his arguments. God, by definition must choose the very best good and cannot choose evil in any circumstance. Does that make God a robot since He can only choose good? Of course not!

ii. Satan cannot do anything good, but only choose evil. Since all his choices are necessarily evil do they make them less evil and does that make Satan a machine? Of course not!

iii. Yet, when humans make decisions according to God's foreordination why can't they be good or evil? Yes, they are free analogous as God is to make real decisions.

Thursday, January 4, 2007

Sample Presuppositional Conversation

After reading Dr. Greg Bahnsen's masterpiece "Van Til's Apologetic" that is over 700+ pages, it kind of leaves you scratching your head thinking "I'm so supposed to use this stuff in a conversation?"

Well, I went ahead and outlined how you can effectively use presuppositional apologetics:

Sample Conversation

Debate: God is Sovereign/the Final Authority

  1. How can God let _____ happen?
    1. The blank can be filled in with children starving, murder, AIDS, etc.
    2. The problem of evil is one of the most frequent criticisms of Christianity.
  2. Ask them who is deciding the morality of ______?
  3. Can you justify making such a statement? Why is your view on morality authoritative and not mine?
  4. If we are deciding whether or not God is the final authority or not, how can you decide with your authority that God is the final authority? That would in fact, make you the final authority!
  5. Fallacy of neutrality
    1. From the beginning of a talk w/ any non-Christian there are 2 very hostile point of views
    2. If they don’t acknowledge that God is sovereign, they need redemption, you can be confident they will be wrong about every fact.
  6. Show coherency of the Christian position
    1. We can account for logic, reasoning, uniformity in nature for science, morality, existence of evil, etc
    2. Tell them that miracles, infallible Bible, rising from the dead, etc. is not a problem in the Christian worldview.
  7. Ask for their antitheistic epistemology
    1. Universals: Logic, Laws of science/natural law
    2. Relativism
    3. Materialistic Naturalism
  8. Show contradictions in their presuppositions
    1. One and Many Problem
    2. Uniformity of Nature/Problem of Induction
    3. Relativism is actual absolute
  9. Ask for justifications in their use of
    1. Logic
    2. Morality
    3. (Supposed) Neutrality ie appealing to reason
    4. Science/Uniformity of Nature
    5. Materialistic Naturalism
  10. Explain Romans 1:18-22
    1. that they in fact know God and it is b/c of this knowledge of God that allows them to have intelligibility
    2. they are actually borrowing the Christian worldview to refute it!
    3. Common grace and being made in God’s image allows dialogue.
  11. Impossibility of the contrary
    1. That without assuming the Christian God none of the unbeliever’s arguments make sense.
  12. Share the Gospel