And so, does this mean that tongues and other miraculous manifestations are with us today? Well, it’s not the purpose of these posts to answer all the questions–largely because I don’ t have all the answers.
I have no reason to doubt the reality of miraculous manifestations of God’s love among his people. God is certainly capable of doing whatever miracles suit him, and I wouldn’t presume to tell God what he needs to be doing with his powers.
Nonetheless, I am skeptical of many claims, as so much of what passes for God’s work is doctrinally flawed or even exploitative. Too many faith healers have been proved to be charlatans and too many have been told they can’t speak in tongues because of their immaturity for me to accept all claims at face value.
But neither am I ready to deny all the testimony good people who’ve seen God work outside the bounds of nature just because some claims are false. God can do miracles and I know of no reason why he shouldn’t. (In fact, if anyone knows a good healer, I could use one!)
Finally, I suppose we have to deal with Hebrews 2:3-4:
(Heb. 2:3b-4) This salvation, which was first announced by the Lord, was confirmed to us by those who heard him. 4 God also testified to it by signs, wonders and various miracles, and gifts of the Holy Spirit distributed according to his will.
It is often argued that this passage states that the age of miracles had ended by the date this book was written–sometime before the fall of Jerusalem in A.D. 70 (see F. F. Bruce’s discussion of the dating of Hebrews in his New International Commentary). The argument doesn’t wash.
V. 4 does indeed speak in the past tense, saying that God’s salvation has been “testified” to by miracles. But this doesn’t deny that such testimony might be continuing–just that the testimony already given is enough.
Moreover, miracles could still be happening, just because it suits God’s purposes. Nothing says that testifying to God’s salvation is the only reason for doing miracles!
As the apostles weren’t all dead by this date–and the books of the New Testament hadn’t all been written–how could the miracles of prophesy and inspiration be over? How could Hebrews be written by inspiration if the age of miracles was already over?
It is therefore argued that the writer is simply speaking as though the age of miracles were drawing to an end, and this makes better sense but hardly proves the point. Most would agree that the overwhelming outpouring of the Spirit’s gifts in the First Century was an extraordinary time and this extraordinary time is over. But this doesn’t prove that the Spirit no longer works at all or that miracles are impossible.
And so, I remain skeptical but open, unwilling to prejudge claims of miraculous manifestations. Indeed, I wouldn’t at all wish to be found in the place of the Pharisees, who denied the Spirit’s work (Matt. 12), only to be charged with blaspheming the Holy Spirit! I don’t have all the answers, but this is one mistake even I know not to make!