And I was with you in weakness and in fear and much trembling, and my speech and my message were not in plausible words of wisdom, but in demonstration of the Spirit and of power, so that your faith might not rest in the wisdom of men but in the power of God.
— 1 Corinthians 2:3–5 —
A number of years ago I visited a church where the pastor proclaimed that God would build the church “on signs and wonders.” From his statement, the pastor revealed his theology—the miraculous gifts of the early church (e.g., tongues, healings, prophecies, etc.) are still normative and should be pursued, even promoted, as the normative means by which God builds his church.
More recently, Bill Johnson, a popular-but-false teaching ‘pastor’ from Redding, California, has argued that “working miracles is closer to the normal Christian life than what the Church normally experiences.” In his bestselling When Heaven Invades Earth, Johnson makes apology for the place of the miraculous today. He argues that denial of miracles has to be taught to Christians, stating, “The doctrine stating signs and wonders are no longer needed because we have the Bible was created by people who hadn’t seen God’s power and needed an explanation to justify their own powerless church” (105–06).
That’s a strong claim, and one that bears examination. Is it true the church—for most of the nineteen centuries leading up to the birth of the Charismatic movement (1906)—hadn’t seen God’s power because they failed to pursue the miraculous gifts? Is it true that God’s power is, as Johnson defines it, in “working miracles”? Or might it be the case that power as emphasized by Paul in 1 Corinthians 2:3–5; 4:14–20, for instance, is something different than what these Charismatic pastors mean? Continue reading