Thursday, January 15, 2009

This week's lesson: the continuing gift of God's Spirit

This week's lesson is one in which you will continually be saying, "Yes but."

Yes, we believe God's Spirit still inspires "miraculous gifts" such as prophecy, tongues, and healing . . .
And no, it's not just modern skeptics who doubt this -- John Calvin taught that such gifts ended with the close of the apostolic age. That's why many Evangelicals reject out of hand the idea that Ellen White could be a prophet . . .

And that's why a Baptist pastor here in Lincoln City -- one who suffered from a chronic illness -- was somewhat taken aback when members of our ministerial association asked if they could pray God to heal him.

"I had to struggle with that request for some time," he told us later. "As a Baptist, I'd been taught that God no longer answered such prayers."

As Adventists, we don't share this belief in "the cessation of signs."

But no, we don't believe every "miraculous gift" is from God.
And yes, early Adventists could be a pretty lively bunch -- George Knight estimates there were anywhere from 200 to 500 Millerite "prophets" in the late 1840s, with five women "prophesying" in Ellen White's home town!

Far from being unique, in other words, Ellen White was one of many who claimed the Spirit's power -- claims she spent much of her early ministry opposing. Years later, she would write:
These men and women were not bad, but they were deceived and deluded. . . . In the past they had been blessed with a consciousness that they had a knowledge of the truth, and they had accomplished much good; but [now] Satan was molding the work. -- Letter 132 (1900), quoted in Arthur White's Ellen White: the Early Years (1827-1862), page 68.
In short, Adventists have always been in two minds about the Spirit's gifts:

Yes, we've always been open to the general idea of such gifts.

But no, we've always been wary of specific claims to such gifts.

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