"I went to Jerusalem to become acquainted (Gk. istoria) with Cephas" - Paul's words from Galatians 1:18.

Gamaliel's Wisdom and MacArthur's War: Fighting Strange Fires Can Also Be a Fight Against God

"Gamaliel rose and spoke saying..'Therefore, in the present case I advise you: Leave these men alone! Let them go! For if their purpose or activity is of human origin, it will fail. But if it is from God, you will not be able to stop these men; you will only find yourselves fighting against God'" (Acts 5:38-39 NIV).

After the ascension of Christ, the disciples of our Lord went about Jerusalem proclaiming the risen Christ, healing the sick, and becoming quite well-known among the common people. The Sadducees were "filled with jealousy" and had these followers of Christ arrested and imprisoned. But an angel from the Lord miraculously opened the prison door and told the disciples to "go on and tell others about this new life" (Acts 5:20). Peter went straight to the Temple and began preaching Jesus. He was detained again and brought before the Sanhedrin where he was reminded he had been already arrested for preaching Christ and had been told to stop! Peter responded with his famous words, "We must obey God rather than man!" (Acts 5:29). Peter so infuriated the Jerusalem religious leaders that they cried out for his death and all those who followed this insurrectionist Man from Nazareth.

In the midst of the bedlam, a wise and respected leader of the Sanhedrin, a Pharisee named Gamaliel calmly stood up and spoke the words recorded in Acts 5:38-39 (see above). The wisdom of Gamaliel persuaded the angry Sanhedrin and the Christians were released unharmed.  The Orthodox Church made Gamaliel a saint, believing that he and his son had converted to Christianity from Judaism. The Feast of St. Gamaliel is celebrated on August 3rd. Ironically, when Christopher Columbus set sail "across the ocean blue" from Spain, he had been ordered by King Ferdinand to leave on August 2nd, which in 1492 happened to be ninth day of Av on the Jewish Calendar. The ninth of Av is a Jewish holy day called Tish B'Av, commemorating the date of the destruction of both the First and Second Temples of the Jewish nation. Columbus deliberately chose to wait and leave on August 3rd, the Feast Day of Gamaliel. I do not believe it is far fetched to say that Christopher Columbus, an ethnic Jew himself, wished to honor Gamaliel and identify with his conversion to Christ by delaying his departure. Gamaliel has been revered by Christians throughout the centuries.

John MacArthur would do well to imitate Gamaliel and stop his war against Charismatics. At McArthur's Strange Fire Conference in California this week (October 16-18, 2013), he "called out charismatic Christians." Specifically, MacArthur claims that "nothing good has come out of the Charismatic Movement." In addition, MacArthur has grouped men like John Piper, Sam Storms, Adrian Warnock, Mark Driscoll, Scott Camp and a host of other theologically sound continuationists with every far-fetched Charismatic ministry and called them all "strange fires, not from the Lord." My departed grandpa might say of MacArthur's rhetoric "Them there be fighten words!" I think Gamaliel, in contradistinction to MacArthur's tactics, would have stood up before the people in California this week and pointed out that it is unnecessary to attack Christian ministers regarding their purposes, tactics, and activities. "If it be of human origin it will fail. But if it be of God you will not be able to stop these men; you will only find yourselves fighting against God." How does a ministry fail? The fires of affliction reveal the character of one's ministry. It doesn't happen overnight. Just wait. God will reveal the character and quality of all ministries and ministers. Afflictions come to us all. Times of testing are in the appointment book of God for every one of us (I Thessalonians 3:3). When those fires of affliction come, GOD will reveal the character of our ministries.

This is precisely the teaching of I Corinthians 3. Every preacher, evangelist, church leader, and kingdom worker ought to contemplate and mediate on this chapter of the Bible. Contrary to popular but mistaken dispensational interpretation, this text is not referring to the Day (of Judgment), but rather, to days of affliction in this life. This chapter, written about ministers and shepherds of God's people, is a clarion warning for us pastors to focus on our own ministries and stop worrying about what others are doing. The early Hebrew Christians would have known that a foundation in their church of "gold, silver, and precious stones" was precious gospel truth. A foundation of "wood, hay and stubble" is a ministry built on "heretical doctrines, damnable heresies" (Gill). There is no need to burn down the work of another ministry. God has a way of bringing down churches and ministries built on "wood, hay, and stubble." The wisdom of Gamaliel is a far superior than the war of MacArthur.

I do not speak in tongues. I do not have any gift of prophecy. I am a continuationist theologically and a cessationist experientially. That just means I leave these matters up to God. I was twice censured by my fellow trustees on the International Mission Board because I opposed their efforts to root out from missionary service those who believed in and/or practiced a continuation of spiritual gifts like tongues and prophecy  (i.e. President Jerry Rankin). I suggested we should leave our fellow Christians alone on this issue and preach Christ,  supporting the work of all those called by the Spirit to serve on the mission field. I am beginning to believe that theological cessationists who demand every other Christian agree with them are more dangerous than we realize. Why? Because in their attempt to stamp out strange fires, they very well may be fighting  against God. Let's leave others alone and concentrate on our own work. It's far better to allow God to burn the wood, hay and stubble of other ministries than to have Him write Ichabod on our own.

39 comments:

Adam Harwood said...

Well stated, Wade.

Anonymous said...

You defend an area of teaching as one that supports it. Let's say the reformers and puritans are correct and you understood that, would you have wrote such a slanted article?

Let's say you truly approached this objectively, would you have leaned to group these men and an entire line of teachers and preachers - into a snowball of accusation?

Wade Burleson said...

Thank you Dr. Harwood.

Wade Burleson said...

Anonymous,

"You defend an area of teaching as one that supports it?"

Huh??

I am simply suggesting that we should let God chop down the wood, hay and stubble and let us concentrate on building our foundation with gold, silver and precious jewels.

I'm suggesting that the worse problem for any of us is to take the place, position or authority of God in the lives of other people.

Gamaliel's wisdom is "to leave them alone" and my opinion is the same.

Bob Cleveland said...

Wade,

I think your attitude is precisely what it should be. I hope mine is the same, albeit I am a continuationist experientially.

I like that term, by the way. I'm going to steal it.

I've said before and I'll say again: much of the objection to unknown tongues (whatever you want to call it and however you want to view it) stems from the self-centered feeling that "If something hasn't happened to me, then it doesn't happen any more".

I also think it just may be that God prefers strange fire, over no fire at all.

Wade Burleson said...

Bob,

You make a good point. The spirit of Gamaliel should work both ways. It is just as annoying when continuationists demand conformity to their views from cessationists. These are secondary matters. Leave those who disagree with you in the hand of the Lord and concentrate on your ministry.

Debbie Kaufman said...

Wade: You stated that of all the posts you have written, "The Prince of Evil Overruled By the King of Good" was your favorite.

I think that post and this one are my favorites. Well said.

Wade Burleson said...

Thanks Deb!

Reformation said...

Quite poor.

Anonymous said...

Very well stated! I too am a theological continuationist and experientally a cessationist. The thing that troubles me most about MacArthur is that he is fighting a fight and fueling a fire needlessly. I have had many severe disagreements with others who follow MacArthur's teaching in this area. Where is the fulfillment of the two great commandments - Love God, Love People in all this. I appreciate greatly MacArthur's contributions to the kingdom but I find myself struggling with his attitude in this.

Paul said...

MacArthur proves himself to be a contentious ass yet again.

Some people simply aren't content if they aren't stirring the pot, and the seem to gain a great deal of satisfaction in watching others move and react to the drama that they create.

I suspect that MacArthur is personally entertained by the responses he stimulates in others...and that, dear friends is at least a little sociopathic.

curtis johnston said...

Pastor this is a very responsible article. Every believer should follow this advice. I know many charismatic Christians who are are very solid. I have seen their ministries up close and personal. Over the years we have seen charismatic leaders who have severely received God's correction, only to get back to the intended work. This goes for non charismatic leaders as well. I love the scripture: "For I am able to make him (any believer who gets out of whack) stand." Thank God for all levels of worship and His merciful correction.

Chuck Andrews said...

One of the positive things you can say about MacArthur is he is consistent. He has been "waring" against Charismatics for over 35 years with the first printing of The Charismatics: A Doctrinal Perspective (1978).

Even if John MacArthur be correct in his cessation theology (I don't believe he is) it appears to me that Jesus' parable of the wheat and the tares would instruct against this war.

When the servants of the landowner asked him if they should go out and rid the wheat field of the tares the landowner said an emphatic "No." Meaning, absolutely not, not at all, not even one. Instruction was don't even pull up one tare.

In another place Jesus said, “I have other sheep, which are not of this fold; I must bring them also, and they will hear My voice; and they will become one flock with one shepherd." (Jn 10:16).

Likewise, Paul told the believers in Philippi that there are those who preach the gospel from impure motives. Yet he rejoiced for the fact that the gospel is being preached.

With good and godly men/women on both sides of this theological debate it is my opinion, which matters not one iota to Dr. MacArthur, is that he could find better use of his time, resources, and ministry than to wage war against something that does not seem to be as clear cut as he believes it to be.

Thanks, Wade, for a balanced view.

Wade Burleson said...

Excellent point Chuck

Christiane said...

The power the Holy Spirit has not been diminished or removed from the Church.
His position remains ‘along side’ of the whole Body of Christ in its struggles until the time Our Lord returns to us.

The power of the Holy Spirit is the source of the holy peace that Christ has left with us.
The great peace of Christ remains strong in us.
Abundantly visible to all of mankind is the very fruit of the Holy Spirit strongly present as the manner in which Christian people pay honor to their Lord while unselfishly serving and caring for others.

Butch Grogan said...

If Mark Driscoll is "Theologically Sound" after watching him tell about visions he received of people in the church he pastors committing adultery then i've missed something in 40 yrs of studying Scripture.

Fletcher Law said...

Unlike Gamaliel we have had over 100 years of viewing some strong unchallenged wackiness in the charismatic movement. (The Bethel chapel video on the youth group walking on water and the "Gold Dust" worship services to name a few of many.)They need to be challenged.

Wade Burleson said...

Butch and Fletch,

I guarantee you I can find all kinds of abuses from people who hold to Dispensationalism, Calvinism, Covenantalism, and every other ism within Christianity. By "theologically sound" I mean faith in the resurrected Christ and justification by grace through faith. That is theological soundness.

Shari England said...

I also read McArthur's post and was troubled by it. I am also a continuationist, but have grown weary of those who "pressure" me to speak in tongues, claiming this to be "proof" of the filling of the Holy Spirit. I would love to experience it, but I'm not going to fret if I do not. I have friends that have, my own daughter has, but I will leave that to God. Besides, I also believe that if there are tongues, there should also be an interpreter. And rarely is there on of those around. Instead just a room fool of noise. I like Phil. 1:18 - "But what does it matter? The important thing is that in every way, whether from false motives or true, Christ is preached. And because of this I rejoice. Yes, and I will continue to rejoice", as well as the one which opened your post. Thank you, Wade.

Shari England said...

I can't spell tonight! :)

Randall Slack said...

Mark 9:38-40
"Now John answered Him, saying, "Teacher, we saw someone who does not follow us casting out demons in Your name, and we forbade him because he does not follow us."
But Jesus said, "Do not forbid him, for no one who works a miracle in My name can soon afterward speak evil of Me.
For he who is not against us is on our side." (NKJV)

I do believe in the present and continuing ministry of the Holy Spirit, including the tongues and prophecy. However, like yourself, I would not forbid someone who does not.

It is just like the enemy of our faith to get us fighting among ourselves. I can only imagine what fruit would be borne if such enthusiasm would be applied to reaching the lost?

John's ministry has been a blessing for years. It is sad to see him resorting to such behavior.

Rex Ray said...

Wade,

I remember the ‘thinking’ at IMB that you were against.

Good post—sounds like you’re still standing your ground against evil.

“…we saw someone using your name to cast out demons, but we told him to stop because he wasn’t in our [MacArthur’s?] group.” (Mark 9:38)

Randall,
Started to post this but saw you had already. Oh, well…
At least we think alike…good job. :)

Rex Ray said...

Wade,

What if MacArthur had ‘authority’ to enforce punishment of death on those that disagreed with him like those burned at the stake for believing the Lord’s Supper was symbol of his blood instead of believing it was his real blood?

I’ll bet the devil was laughing then just as he laughed when about a hundred longtime Baptist missionaries left or were fired from their calling for NOT signing Paige Patterson’s BF&M 2000.

At first, Jerry Rankin told my son he was ‘grandfathered’ and would not have to sign. That was changed if he did not sign, he would not be fired.

Those promises could not be kept if Rankin was to keep his job. The president of the Executive Committee was responsible for that.

I believe pride is most responsible for some leaders shooting themselves in the foot and as you said “are dangerous”.

ScottShaver said...

Leave them alone and if it be of God it will be made manifest.

That's been my attitude toward the entire SBC under Patterson and Mohler reconstruction.

Still watching with interest to see if more good than controversy,decline, and "marginalization" occurs.

Not looking real good for the home team right now.

Jim said...

Should we then ignore passages like Titus 1:9 for ministers such as MacArthur, but rely on texts taken out of context like Acts 5:38-39 (not a lesson on how to handle false teaching, but showing the boldness of the apostles in teaching the truth), and texts like 1 Corinthians 3 with wood, hay, and stubble being burned being taken out of context as well? There are too many passages that tell us to rebuke and point out false teaching. MacArthur NEVER lumped Piper, Storms, etc. with the false teachers. His concern is with the false gospel going out through the prosperity gospel ministries, which got their start from the continuationist position. Listen to the last message on Friday night to get the whole story. This article was extremely inaccurate and unfair to the message of the conference.

Christiane said...

people reap what they sow . . .

all those years ago, a denomination became controlled by a group of people led by two men

seventy-seven called-by-God missionaries could not sign the document they were required to sign by the new 'administration',
and so, their services in the field were lost to the Church

what seeds were planted then?
and what whirl wind is now reaped as numbers 'decline'?

and how best can it be made right again?

some thoughts on a Sunday morning

Anonymous said...

Wade,

Any group has the right, and duty, to promote, protect and preserve the foundational values that brought the group into existence. It is our democratic right to have freedom of association and of speech. This requires that we also respect the rights of others to pursue their beliefs, however narrow or broad, foolish or wise it may appear to us.

So, let the Charismatics alone.
Let John MacArthur alone do his own thing too.
And may God help us all to be true and faithful in serving Him

What we should never do is to highjack a Calvinist vehicle or an Arminian one, diverting it from its original course , and forcing it to land where we want it to be. In church life, this is not an uncommon affliction , perpetrated by dangerous religious extremists. To them, the end justifies the means.

Wade, I think you made a crucial point about the place of suffering in the Christian's walk with God. "God achieves great things in the world through the one who accepts His way of suffering and self-sacrifice"--J.Ton .
Perhaps you will find time give us further thoughts on the subject of 'suffering'.

Gordon

Aussie John said...

Wade,

One of your best articles!

One of the lessons I've learned over many years of ministry is that those who are continually seeking to blow out another person's candle, knows the light of their own candle is becoming weak.

Rex Ray said...

Christiane,

There were more than 77 that left their calling as many missionaries saw the hand writing on the wall and retired before being made to sign the BFM 2000.

My son and his wife were one of those. They left after getting permission to further their education. She got a Drs. Degree which she uses in another profession.

This is a link of a long letter by Missionary Stan R. Lee to his supervisor. He was fired.

http://www.txbc.org/2002Journals/April2002/Apr02AStatementof.htm

In my opinion, the SBC has made missionaries into employees.

Anonymous said...

Wade,

Whether or not a movement continues may (a) indicate it is of God, which is Gamaliel's point. But it could also be that (b) a movement continues and it is not of God, such as the continued growth of Islam, for instance. In the case of (b) searching the scripture would allow a person to side against a movement that is growing on the grounds that it violates scripture. Gamaliel's polemic is one way of coming to the truth about a movement. Another, such as in Acts 17, is to check the Scriptures as do the Bereans. Don't you think this is what MacArthur is attempting to do?

Christiane said...

Good Morning, REX RAY

I think you are right. Those missionaries who could not sign believed deeply that the Holy Spirit could continually lead them into all truth, I have no doubt.

Integrity was present in those missionaries, and they were was lost to the SBC.

Ideology is not the same as faith. And when an 'administration' attempts to say that it is the same, they don't serve the Church's mission. I'm sure the Church lost many fine missionaries, your relatives among them, and it was a shame they were sent away.

Have a great day, REX.
It is always good to hear from you, too.

Brady Weldon said...

"I am a continuationist theologically and a cessationist experientially." Love this Wade! As I watched the conference online, I kept asking myself the age-old contemplation: "maybe wildfire is better than no fire."

Time will tell, for sure.

Brady

Truth Unites... and Divides said...

Pastor Wade Burleson: "
John MacArthur would do well to imitate Gamaliel and stop his war against Charismatics.
"

Pastor Phil Johnson anticipated such an argument and said this in one of his Strange Fire messages:

Twisting Gamaliel into Submission

"A number of non-charismatic onlookers pointed out all of those things very early and warned people not to follow this man. Todd Friel, for example, repeatedly used to play sound and video clips straight from the Lakeland meetings and warn his listeners that Bentley was sinister. Almost any random clip of Bentley talking was enough to prove that his teaching and his methods were altogether unbiblical. Bentley’s bluster and bravado were nauseating. But most Charismatics scolded Todd Friel rather than Todd Bentley. A flashmob of angry Charismatics called into Friel’s radio program to accuse him of making hasty judgments. This could legitimately be a “new move of the Spirit,” they said. “It’s dangerous to speak against it.” I distinctly remember that several of them quoted Gamaliel from Acts 5:38-39: “I tell you, keep away from these men and let them alone, for if this plan or this undertaking is of man, it will fail; but if it is of God, you will not be able to overthrow them. You might even be found opposing God!”

In those days, I was writing for the Pyromaniacs’ blog. The Pyromaniacs often pointed out the dangers of aberrant doctrines and unorthodox movements (not just Charismatics, but Emergents and postmodernists, and pretty much anyone who didn’t have a high view of Scripture). My blog-partner, Dan Phillips, wrote a couple of posts about the Lakeland revival, in which he simply pleaded for our readers to use an uncomplicated biblical standard to evaluate every popular movement and every person who claims to be Spirit-led. Here are some of the things Dan said:
•“If it doesn’t center on and exalt the person and work of Jesus Christ, it’s not a true work of the Holy Spirit.
•If it wasn’t produced by the preaching of the Word of God, it’s not a work of the Holy Spirit.
•If it doesn’t produce holy living, which includes godly behavior and specifically self-control, it isn’t authentic revival.
•If the leaders aren’t men well-known for the qualities listed in 1 Timothy 3:1–7 and Titus 1:6–9, and specifically for being in subjection to the Word of God—and for soundly teaching the whole counsel of God, it’s not a movement you should follow.”

Now, those seem like fairly obvious, sensible, biblical guidelines, right? Those principles are sound, sane, Scriptural, and equally applicable to Charismatics and non-Charismatics alike. But we immediately had a stampede of people commenting on our blog warning us to be careful lest we “be found fighting against God”—or blaspheming the Holy Spirit.

“Leave it alone,” they said. “If it’s not of God it will come to nothing.” That seems to be the national anthem of open-but-cautious evangelicals. It belongs to the same species of argument as the baby-in-the-bathwater cliché. It is based on the unbiblical idea that the Spirit of God usually manifests Himself in ways that are strange and irrational. So ultimately, if we go by that way of thinking, we would have no foolproof, sensible, biblical measure by which to discern what is true and what is false. No wild claim or strange practice (no matter how preposterous) could ever be totally written off just because it is categorically silly, or contrary to the basic qualities of grace and self-control, or more like dementia than authentic spiritual fruit.

In fact, in recent years, Charismatics have seemed enthralled with precisely those kinds of phenomena: silly, drunken, flamboyant laughter, barking noises, people falling into a trancelike narcosis. Being slain in the Spirit has been a charismatic staple for at least twenty years—even though it lacks any biblical warrant."

Read it all at Is There a Baby in the Bathwater?

Wade Burleson said...

Truth Unites ... and Divides,

I believe, sir, you may have both missed my point and proved my point at the same time.

God has a way of pulling down the Bentleys of this world on His own.

I've long used the illustration that bank tellers are able to discern a counterfeit not by their instructors pointing out all the idiosyncrasies of counterfeits, but by showing them the real thing. Conferences that show videos of the counterfeit serve no purpose in the kingdom. My proposition is that you show the world the real thing. That becomes the best protection from the counterfeit.

Some continuationists I know are showing the world the real thing. Those cessationists that I know and love would be wise to leave the Bentleys alone lest you make the tragic mistake of broadcasting as counterfeit what is actually genuine.

Wade Burleson said...

Brady,

"Maybe wildfire is better than no fire."

Agreed.

I hope in the next post to show the theological rationale for being a continuationist theologically in simple, easy to understand language to help my cessationist friends see the theological underpinnings for supporting my charismatic friends, while at the same time show explain why I am a cessationist experientially to show my charismatic friends that they should stop pressing their non-gifted friends to be like them and trust the Holy Spirit to do His work through various and sundry means.

Truth Unites... and Divides said...

Pastor Wade Burleson,

I think you too casually dismiss what Pastor Phil Johnson is saying about folks twisting Gamaliel's aphorism.

Wade Burleson said...

Truth Unites,

I respect Phil...

But let me show you why I disagree:

If it doesn’t center on and exalt the person and work of Jesus Christ, it’s not a true work of the Holy Spirit.

All of creation revolves around the exalted Christ. Whether someone acknowledges the centrality of Christ or not doesn't make Christ central. He is central. If the measurement of whether or not a true work of the Holy Spirit is how much Christ is exalted and the message centers around Him, then the Strange Fire Conference doesn't meet your own standard. Showing videos of extremes and denigrating an entire Charismatic movement is NOT making the exalted Christ the central message.

•If it wasn’t produced by the preaching of the Word of God, it’s not a work of the Holy Spirit.

The Holy Spirit "moves" where He wills. It would seem to me you've got this backwards. It is NOT the preaching of the Word that PRODUCES the powerful work of the Holy Spirit, but rather, it is the POWERFUL work of the Holy Spirit that produces effectual preaching. Again, the Spirit moves as He pleases, not according to our boxes.


•If it doesn’t produce holy living, which includes godly behavior and specifically self-control, it isn’t authentic revival.

I don't disagree. Unfortunately, I can show unholy living in every movement, including the Bible movement. We all need real revival and our focus on ourselves instead of burning down other ministries might actually produce it.

•If the leaders aren’t men well-known for the qualities listed in 1 Timothy 3:1–7 and Titus 1:6–9, and specifically for being in subjection to the Word of God—and for soundly teaching the whole counsel of God, it’s not a movement you should follow.”

I don't disagree. But again, these are instructions for local assemblies (shepherds, deacons, etc...). The struggle is when someone announces a conference "for the local church" but spends the time illustrating how strange other ministries are instead of showing the real thing.

I disagree with Phil...

But he's a brother and I've no problem fellowshipping with those with whom I disagree.

Christiane said...

Sometimes I think to myself 'is there a duality where everything we do and say either honors God
or honors 'the infernal serpent'?

Or is there some gray area where, in our well intended but foolish ways, we sometimes wander unawares as though 'lost and without a shepherd'? And we only come to understand who was served from the consequences of our behaviors?

Perhaps we can know better how to live when we recognize the truth in WADE's statement, this:

"If it doesn’t center on and exalt the Person and work of Jesus Christ, it’s not a true work of the Holy Spirit."

Those are wise words from Wade. They remind me of this solemn prayer of a troubled Christian woman long ago:

"O Lord, make haste and illumine the night.
Say to my soul that nothing happens without Your permitting it,
and that nothing of what You permit is without comfort.
O Jesus, Son of God,
You Who were silent in the presence of Your accusers, restrain my tongue
until I find what should say and how to say it.
Show me the way and make me ready to follow it.
It is dangerous to delay, yet perilous to go forward.
Answer my petition and show me the way.
I come to You as the wounded go to the physician in search of aid.
Give peace, O Lord, to my heart."
(Birgitta of Sweden)

Perhaps this 'peace' is a God-given sign of correct discernment in how to proceed?

I think it must be so.






StillWiggling said...

Pastor Wade, thank you for hosting this discussion, and thank you for your blog. I'm revisiting the topic now because it came up in a small group last weekend, and nearly came to blows between a continuationist and a cessationist for whom John MacArthur can do no wrong, apparently....

I wonder what's behind the sometimes-frantic zeal of certain cessationists to defend their position. Is it possible that some may

have sought healing (or other intervention) but were not healed, and then perhaps they were told their faith wasn't strong

enough? In spite of strong New Testament evidence that not everyone is healed, and no one could accuse the Apostle Paul of lack

of faith... could they? And then they at best disregard any evidence of miracles they hear of, declaring it imaginary; or at worst,

when confronted by evidence they cannot ignore, suggest that the "miracle" is not from God, which comes perilously close to

blaspheming the Holy Spirit by attributing God's work to satan (who does not deserve to have his name capitalized, in my opinion).

Yes, of course there are abuses among continuationists, particularly those who seek the gifts at the expense of the Giver and

emphasize experience over sound knowledge. I myself was once "taught" to pray in tongues by babbling nonsense, after being

raised by conservative parents who made fun of hand-raisers, pew-jumpers and chandelier-swingers (which was what they called

Pentecostals). I cringe every time I hear yet another story about some well-meaning person daring to tell Joni Eareckson Tada that

she is still in that wheelchair because of lack of faith.

The Biblical standard for believing something not seen is the testimony of 2 or 3 witnesses. I have not personally witnessed any

spectacular miracles, but I accept the testimony of far more than 2 or 3 credible witnesses. Sometimes I still fight the skepticism

drilled into me during my long-ago upbringing, and my hands rarely make it above my waistline; but a piece of street art I saw in

Miami last April said it all: "I'll see it when I believe it."

Again thank you for your always-thoughtful posts.