Saturday, 30 May 2015

Well known Charismatic Christian Leaders: Charles Spurgeon's ministry of Words of Knowledge and Healing

The next few posts are aimed at my cessationist brethren.  A cessationist, remember, is someone who believes that gifts of the Spirit such as prophecy, other languages, physical healing, are not for today.  They were only for the times of the early apostles and those who seek these things are in error.

So (through these slightly provocative titles) I will begin by showing how well known leaders admired by cessationists exercised gifts of the Spirit of various kinds.

I used to dislike Charles Spurgeon.  My antagonistic feelings began many years ago, when a good friend of mine joined a reformed evangelical church, very similar to the Ebenezer Reformed Bible Tabernacle in Shieldcastlehope.  My friend began to grow less friendly towards some of my other Christian friends and started picking arguments with people over predestination and freewill.  At the same time, he became an avid student of Charles Spurgeon sermons and biographies.  He told me once that the Pastor of his church had a large poster of Charles Spurgon in his study.  I was unhappy with the direction my friend's spiritual life was going in and to some extent I blamed CHS himself.

This all changed when I began to read some of his sermons, and his book 'Lectures to my Students'.  Hey!  I really like this guy!

So what has been going on here?

I think that people who limit God and in doing so, quench the Spirit, instinctively look for a champion to further their cause.  CH Spurgeon, who was a Calvinist and huge admirer of the Puritans, fits that bill quite well, not least because he had a hugely fruitful and powerful ministry.  He stood against the liberal theologians of his day, warned against emotionalism, he disliked altar calls, he eschewed more superstitious expressions of Christianity and he therefore became a champion of the Reformed faith.

Most books about Spurgeon are written by cessationists and therefore will not say too much about the miraculous elements of his ministry, and he himself downplayed these things.  But I am going to quote now from some biographies of Spurgeon - firstly his own autobiography via this You Tube clip:

Now a quote from 'Spurgeon A New Biography' by Arnold Dallimore (P140).

In view of Spurgeon's own long sickness and that of his wife, it is difficult to believe that many people thought he posessed a "gift of healing".  The best information on this matter is to be found in Russell Conwell's Life of Spurgeon, particularly in his chapter, "Wonderful Healing."
The idea began during the cholera epidemic.  As we saw, Spurgeon visited numerous homes where the disease raged, and there he prayed that the sick one might be made well.  In many instances, in someone who seemed near death the disease was stopped, and before long health returned.  People were sure this was the result of prayer.
During further years Spurgeon prayed for persons in sicknesses of various kinds, and although in many a case there was no betterment, in others there was improvement that appeared miraculous.  Dr Conwell examined several of these experiences and in 1892, the year of Spurgeon's death, he declared:

There are now living and worshipping in the Metropolitan Tabernacle hundreds of people who ascribe the extension of their life to the effect of Mr Spurgeon's personal prayers.  They have been sick with disease and nigh unto death, he has appeared, kneeled by their beds and prayed for recovery.  Immediately the tide of health returned, the fevered pulse became calm, the temperature was reduced, and all the activities of nature resumed their normal functions within a short and unexpected period.  If a meeting were called of all those who attribute their recovery to the prayer of Mr Spurgeon, it would furnish me with one of the most deserved tributes to his memory that could possibly be made.

Conwell goes on to report seven specific instances of what was considered healing in response to Spurgeon's prayers.  "The belief in Mr Spurgeon's healing power became among some classes a positive superstition, and he was obliged to overcome the very false and extravagant expressions... by mentioning the matter from the pulpit, and rebuking the theories of the extremely enthusiastic.  He felt it was becoming too much like the shrines of Catholic Europe."
Spurgeon declared that the subject of divine healing was very much a mystery to him.  He said he prayed about sickness just as he prayed about anything else, and that in some instances God answered with healing, whereas in others, for reasons beyond our understanding, He allowed suffering to continue.

Sunday, 17 May 2015

On Labels: Pre-Augustinian - Grecian 2000

Thanks to Augustine of Hippo and some others, most of the last 2,000 years have seen the church influenced largely from Athens rather than Jerusalem.  Western Christianity is largely a fusion of Greek philosophy and Biblical thinking.

Here are a couple of examples from our British culture.

Our traditional Universities like Durham, St Andrews, Cambridge and Oxford.  Originally built on a collegiate system with Christian foundations, the idea of a 'University' is a Greek one.  Some would argue that the world's first one was founded by Plato in Athens.

Our school system has an uncanny resemblance to the system of state education described in Plato's Republic.  Children were to be given guardians and separated from their fathers and mothers and taught reading, mathematics, music and physical education from the age of six.  In Hebrew thinking, children were taught in their local community, either in the home or at the local synagogue.  You could argue that a Christian School or a 'Faith School' is a fusion of Biblical and Greek thinking.

I am now going to give you a list of differences between a Greek and a Hebrew thinker.  Which one are you?

Greek Thinkers Hebrew Thinkers
Separate the physical from the spiritual.  Hence, baptism and communion are empty symbols with no spiritual consequence. Integrate the physical from the spiritual.  Hence, as in 1Corinthians 11, some people died by taking the Lord's Supper for the wrong reasons.  In 1Kings 13, Naaman was healed by being 'baptised' seven times in the River Jordan.

Separate clergy (priests, vicars, pastors,
ministers) from the laity using academic degrees, titles etc.
See us as a royal priesthood.  Brothers and sisters.

Send children away from the family into academic institutions with qualified teachers and age segregated classes
Teach from father and mother to son and daughter.

Teach through catechisms and systematic theologies
Teach through parables, stories.

Teach by lecturing an audience through wisdom and oratory
Teach by the power of the Holy Spirit, interacting with an audience
Teach that a disembodied soul goes to a spiritual heaven Teach the resurrection of the dead, the existence of a new body and a new heaven and a new earth

Read the Bible allegorically, looking for the spiritual meaning behind narratives

Read the Bible literally, noting people and places in their most straightforward meaning

See the church as the 'new' Israel

Differentiate Israel and the Church
Limit musical worship to standing up and singing
Extend musical worship to clapping, kneeling, shouting, silence, dancing and other physical expression

Value family and community
Value institutions

Separate 'Christian' service (pastors, evangelists, missionaries) to 'secular' service, like teaching, manual trades, medical professions.
See all work as sacred.

See God as perfect, but impersonal.  Don't expect God to speak through visions, prophecy or other forms of revelation
Listen to God as well as speak to Him in Prayer

Think in terms of social democracy, state power
Think in terms of Kingdom

I want to put it to you that we need to rid ourselves of the Greek thinking and go back to a more Hebrew mindset if we are to recover the power of the early church.  We need the church to be pre-Augustinian.

For a fuller explanation of what I have written here, may I recommend David Pawson's talks on De-Greecing the church.