August 20, 2014

Pentecostals And Miracles

We have been looking at the topic of miracles, and Tim Stafford’s Miracles, this week. Lisa Dye walked us through a look at Stafford’s book on modern miracles, as well as helping with your comments. Before we leave this topic, I thought we would hear from Stafford on the topic of Pentecostals and why they seem to focus on miracles more than others. Please keep your comments on the topic of Pentecostals and miracles. This is not a critique of Pentecostalism as a whole.

God and miracles go together. Seek God and you will find him doing wonderful things. When God walks the earth, the sick get healed. So it was with Jesus. So it is today.

But we go wrong when we show a higher interest in miracles than in God. This is Pentecostalism’s persistent temptation—to let the effects of God’s presence become more central than God himself. When God becomes mainly a miracle provider, he stops being God. He becomes more like a vending machine. Then pressure comes to provide more miracles, new miracles, unprecedented “phenomena” that stir excitement. The “prosperity” becomes a formula rather than God’s blessing given in a personal relationship … I’m thinking of meetings where only the most superficial gospel teaching is given, and the focus is almost exclusively on miracle healing. I’m thinking of groups that always seem to go on to “the next thing”—the latest manifestation of the Holy Spirit, whether laughing or prophetic utterances or dancing or trembling or singing or roaring. There’s always something new to catch our attention, and the search for novelty becomes an addiction.

That is a danger in all faith: we want what God offers more than we want God himself.

 

Comments

  1. The theology of glory is more in tune with our natural self.

    I can really understand the temptation. I give into it far too often, myself.

    • I concur. There are endless ginormous Baptist churches that also see Jesus as a cosmic vending machine, despite their “cessationist” theology.

  2. I think it is the age old “demand” for proof. “For indeed Jews ask for signs and Greeks search for wisdom; but we preach Christ crucified: a stumbling block to Jews and foolishness to Gentiles,” i Corinthians 1:22-23 And that we live in a “feelings” culture. It is all about how I FEEL. We are too lazy to study the Scripture because we are addicted to instant information via the technology available to us. And our pastors either do not or cannot teach us soundly because our attention spans have been shortened by TV and other media. We DEMAND to walk by sight – period. And like any addiction we need more and more and bigger and bigger to satisfy us. We were awed by TV back in the 50′s, now we demand HUGE screens. Go to the movies, or to church for that matter, and you are almost blown out of the building by the volume of the movie/music etc. Our burgers have to be DOUBLE or TRIPLE, our restaurant servings are OVERSIZE. We are a nation of excess so Scripture and Christian disciplines of silence, meditation, PRAYER and listening to God are just not satisfying.

    So unless we can SEE it and FEEL it we reject it. We have been fooled into thinking that constant noise is the norm – therefore we cannot hear the still small voice of the Lord. So – SHOW ME and then I will believe. Satisfy my overstimulated senses. Forgetting that when Jesus raised Lazarus from the dead the response was, “Get rid of him”. Or Jesus words to Thomas, “Blessed are those who HAVE NOT SEEN but believe.”

    Finally I think the demand for miracles results from being too attached to this earth – to the here and now. We don’t understand, as the early Christians did and even just a few generations ago understood, that we are pilgrims and strangers headed for a “better city”. We want excitement, healing, fulfillment etc. here and now. And we don’t understand the Then and There teaching. Then there will be no more pain, crying, sorrow etc. But now all those are part and parcel of this life.

  3. I’m a Pentecostal. Stafford’s statement here is precisely right. There are plenty of Pentecostals in my circles who are this way. Coincidentally I posted something today on miracles without love. (1 Cor 13:1-3) That, I believe, is the center of the problem: If we love God, and love people as God loves them, we’ll seek miracles with the right attitude. If we don’t, we seek them for the spectacle and the power, and render them impotent, and give anti-supernaturalists yet another reason to mock God.

  4. +1. If you have a steady supply miracles, who needs faith anyway? Nicely said, Adrienne.

    • Headless Unicorn Guy says:

      “Who needs faith anyway” when you have on-demand Mighty Magick?

    • Miracles don’t produce faith in God. As Samson demonstrated, you’re just as likely to take God for granted… and wind up with your eyes gouged out, turning a donkey wheel.

      You’d think it would be otherwise, but the scriptures show time and again this isn’t so. God rescued the Hebrews from Egyptian slavery, but even so, they hadn’t the faith to enter Canaan. Jesus performed miracle after miracle for his disciples, yet has to rebuke them over and over for their miniscule faith. You see, watching these things happen didn’t require the onlookers to trust God for themselves, and that is how faith grows.

  5. Headless Unicorn Guy says:

    When God becomes mainly a miracle provider, he stops being God. He becomes more like a vending machine. Then pressure comes to provide more miracles, new miracles, unprecedented “phenomena” that stir excitement.

    An Addiction/Tolerance Response.
    “CAN YOU TOP THIS?”
    Until you’re slashing yourselves with knives alongside the priests of Baal.

  6. Speaking of Pentecostal(ism), one of the best books to read on its early history is this one:

    http://www.amazon.com/Azusa-Street-Mission-Revival/dp/1418506249

    The Azusa Street Mission and Revival, by Cecil M. Robeck, Jr.

    Robeck had access to European materials on the subject that were unavailable to other writers.

  7. There’s an understandable narrowness to our desire for miracles. Doesn’t seem that we (I included) most want miracles that heal our (or a loved one’s) bodies? I mean, who asks for the miracle of world peace? Or that no child dies from malnutrition this afternoon? But give us illness, and we want it gone. We’re not different from those who came to Jesus with their blindness, sores, dead loved ones. Maybe His responses to them gives us the courage to ask. But why didn’t any of them ask to have the world changed? This is an observation, not a criticism.

    Keep in mind that in the Eucharist, He gives us the miracle of his Body and Blood.

  8. As I thought about this post and the comments here, I was struck by the fact that Jesus’ own miracle-giving did not include Himself, not even as His path took Him to Gethsemane, the mock trial, the Roman scourging, and finally the Cross. In fact, now that I think about it, did He perform ANY miracles for His own (personal) benefit, His own “wordly” benefit? (The only real power He shows/uses is in conquering death POST-cross.)

    It seems to me if I could wrap my head around this idea, I might just understand a healthier, more “God-willed” view of miracles than I currently have. It’s not about this world, it’s not about this world…

    • Headless Unicorn Guy says:

      In my church tradition (RCC), saints who were known for healing miracles were often themselves chronically ill. They healed others, but not themselves. This may be a general pattern.

  9. I have found that in my 39 years of walking with the Lord I have found extremism in both directions. Those who must have oneupmanship or following signs and wonders and those who do not believe in any. Jesus said signs and wonders would follow those who believe. They were meant to be attesting miracles to the preaching of the gospel of Jesus Christ. The miracles I have personally witnessed have not come because I was seeking them, but were generally suprises that occurred in the gentlest ways. Salvation is still the greatest miracle, the baptism in the Holy Spirit was a spontaneous moment that overwhelmed me. Counterfeits are indicators of the existence of the genuine. There are nine manifestations of the Spirit, but many fleshly responses to the Spirit’s presence. Man gets fleshly responses confused with the Spirit. Fleshly manifestations are easy to reproduce, but they produce no life. The flesh can only beget flesh. Seek God’s heart and not his hand, His will and not His gifts, He will give you what you need, and all you need. Just ask. I am fed up with people who think that gain is godliness, the Bible tells me not to associate with such.

  10. Well, many Pentecostals must be like me, because
    “I need a miracle
    every day.”