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Wednesday, December 30, 2015

Pentecostalism Changes Everything (including apologetics)


I make it a habit of listening to NPR radio on Sunday evenings.  It keeps me better informed on world events than the TV news. One of the programs I monitor is the “TED Radio Hour.”  This program specializes in gathering experts on specific topics such as leadership or the meaning of compassion, etc. Many of these programs are excellent, although naturally they have a secular slant. 



The program that first aired on December 25 (I heard it r on the 27th) was called “Believers and Doubters.”[1]  It featured several intelligent Christians as well as agnostics and atheists. The atheist was particularly interesting.  Rather than rant against religion and belief in God, he showed appreciation for religion’s good points, as in its social benefits and morality, while still insisting that belief in God was “ridiculous.”  

It was good, well-balanced programming. No slamming of Christians or putting up some fundamentalists ignoramus as a modeling the Christian side. But I had heard programs like this at least half dozen times from various media outlets. “Believers and Doubters” and the others all discussed faith from perspective of what goes on in the mind – a version of the subjective “he says-she says” mode. Atheists and Christians showed equal integrity of belief (and non-belief) and reasonableness – although sometimes the Christians lose out on the reasonableness.

These programs have missed the Pentecostal factor which would have taken the program out of the subjective mode, and into the area of experiential and medical evidence for faith. That is, I believe in God, Jesus Christ and the Bible, not only because of inner experiences, but also because I have experienced spiritual-to-earth phenomenon, as a  miraculous healing, an instantaneous healing of serious back problems, or an exorcism which brought about instant behavioral changes for the good, etc. This phenomenon-to-belief pattern is found even in the Old Testament in the story recorded in 1 Kg 17.


Some time later the son of the woman who owned the house became ill. He grew worse and worse, and finally stopped breathing. She said to Elijah, “What do you have against me, man of God? Did you come to remind me of my sin and kill my son?”  “Give me your son,” Elijah replied. He took him from her arms, carried him to the upper room where he was staying, and laid him on his bed. Then he cried out to the Lord, “Lord my God, have you brought tragedy even on this widow I am staying with, by causing her son to die?”  Then he stretched himself out on the boy three times and cried out to the Lord, “Lord my God, let this boy’s life return to him!”  The Lord heard Elijah’s cry, and the boy’s life returned to him, and he lived. Elijah picked up the child and carried him down from the room into the house. He gave him to his mother and said, “Look, your son is alive!” Then the woman said to Elijah, “Now I know that you are a man of God and that the word of the Lord from your mouth is the truth.” Vs. 17-23)
Notice the last words spoken by the widow, she believed in Elijah’s teaching because it was verified by the power of God in an earthly, miraculous event.  This type of  reason for belief is repeated by the writer of Hebrews as a general principal:

We must pay the most careful attention, therefore, to what we have heard, so that we do not drift away ... This salvation, which was first announced by the Lord, was confirmed to us by those who heard him. God also testified to it by signs, wonders and various miracles, and by gifts of the Holy Spirit distributed according to his will. (Heb 2:1-4)
I am not excluding the importance of a logic based apologetic, as in demonstrating the veracity of the resurrection accounts, etc., for it is both mandated in scripture and often a very effective tool of evangelization (1 Peter 3:15). Nor are the narratives of subjective conversion experiences unimportant. Rather they all have a role in apologetics and witnessing.
 
But both secular elitists and cessationist Christian ignore the miraculous as impossible or delusional. So naturally, the editors of TED hour missed the importance of the miraculous in belief. It is probably because they have little or no contact with Pentecostals. Although the main-line and liberal denominations, which don’t believe in the miraculous, are imploding in membership, they still have prestige among the elites and represent “real” Christianity to them. More than likely, for instance, an Episcopal or Lutheran clergyman (who often does not believe in the Bible) is interviewed to represent the “Christian” perspective on a given issue.

Furthermore, many Evangelicals still are solidly cessaiontist, and will not readily admit that the basis of their faith is from any sort of miraculous phenomenon. They might witness to a sudden change in attitude, or deliverance from drugs after a conversion experience, but nothing that is overtly miraculous.

We charismatics and Pentecostal Christians shouldn’t get mad about this and give up on the secular media. Things are slowly changing, and we need to pray that they change more rapidly so that the Pentecostal/charismatic witness will be more often called on.

Two years ago, my wife Carolyn has published  a funny, inspirational and wonderfully written work on her transition from a cessationist Baptist to a Spirit-filled Believer,Watching God Work. The book contains many instances in which we have ministered the Holy Spirit's gifts in healing and other miraculous events. This should be, as the Chinese pastor and writer, Watchman Nee, once said, "the normal Christian life."  Carolyn's books are available HERE.  


Watching God Work: The Stuff of Miracles by [DeArteaga, Carolyn Koontz]

Blessings to all...



Announcement:

The noted Pentecostal scholar Dr. Jon Ruthven wrote a very positive review of my latest book, Agnes Sanford and Her Companions: The Assault on Cessationism and the Coming of the Charismatic Renewal. You can access it HERE.



The book may be purchased on Amazon, either print or inexpensive Kindle. You can purchase the print version at a discount from the publisher HERE





[1] Dec 25, 2025  http://www.npr.org/2013/11/18/245949211/believers-and-doubters?showDate=2015-12-25