Now, I urgently state that not all conservatives take these views, although many do. And some deny taking these views while stating a position that requires these results. For example, in Hawley’s correspondence course lesson, he writes,
If healing is gradual, it is not a miracle since a miracle necessitates restraining the laws of nature which does not happen in gradual recovery. True, a gradual recovery may be in answer to prayer.
If you think about it, that makes no sense at all. If my friend is healed as a consequence of my prayer, then God did something. If God didn’t violate the laws of nature, what did he do?
One answer is that he healed indirectly, through the agency of the doctors and nurses. He influenced their decision making but not the effect of their medicines. The human mind, having a supernatural component, may be influenced without violating the laws of nature. But if this is so, then why does the Spirit’s work on the human mind — a so-called direct operation — somehow trigger a miracle?
For example, in another lesson in the same correspondence course, the “fruit of the Spirit” evidently comes about without any action by the Spirit!
Each of the figures we have noticed presents the same thought — the Christian life is one of progressive spiritual development accomplished by the constant effort of the child of God to be a better Christian.’
Combining these two passages, consider the fruit which the Christian should bear.
We must strive to have that childlike faith in our Father that will cause us to trust him implicitly and that will wipe away the doubts and fears which force their way into our lives.
If we develop the other fruits of the Spirit, we will be happy serving Christ.
The thought in both expressions is that of diligent application of one’s efforts to gain a greater understanding of the divine will.
Over and over again, the “fruit of the Spirit” is described as the results of the Christian’s work — and no credit is given to the Spirit at all. Indeed, Hawley says the Christian “should bear” the fruit, whereas the scripture quite plainly says that it’s speaking of the Spirit’s fruit.
I would not for a moment deny that the Christian is involved in the bearing of this fruit. I just think it’s obviously wrong to speak as though the Spirit were not also involved in the bearing of its own fruit.
Similarly, Roger D. Campbell writes,
The Bible teaches that in His work to convert sinners and keep Christians sanctified or holy, the Spirit does His work through the word of God. When we uphold this truth, some Christians think that we are doubting the Spirit’s work. Such could not be further from the truth. The Spirit acts, He moves people, He draws people, He convicts people’s hearts to do God’s will. The question is: “How does He do that?” The correct answer is that He does so through the word, His instrument or sword (Ephesians 6:17).
“Then, you believe that the Bible is the Holy Spirit, right?” No, we don’t. Why don’t we? The Bible is not the Holy Spirit, but rather it is the word that He gave us. … Rather the Spirit does His work of convicting men’s hearts through that word.
… People may misunderstand you if you tell them that you do not believe in modern-day miracles or a direct operation of the Spirit to move the hearts of men. They may think that you are saying that you do not believe in the Holy Spirit at all. Politely correct their misunderstanding and use the Scriptures to show them God’s truth on the matter.
And so we find that the Spirit “acts,” “moves,” “draws,” and “convicts” — but only through the word. There is no “direct operation of the Spirit to move the hearts of men.” You see, this would be a miracle, and miracles stopped nearly 2,000 years ago.
But if the Spirit cannot operate directly on the hearts of men, can God? How can God guide the hands of the surgeons but not the words of the Bible class teacher?
There’s a huge, logical inconsistency in saying the Spirit is trapped in the pages of the Bible but God is not. It’s a miracle whether done by God the Father or God the Holy Spirit!
And as a result of such teaching — and it’s painfully common among the Churches of Christ — we are beginning to doubt the power of prayer to make a difference in our lives.
This form of religion is not technically Deism — but it’s Deism’s fraternal twin. Deism, of course, teaches that God created the heavens and earth and then stepped back and watched to see what would happen — with no interference or self-revelation other than the Creation.
This Church of Christ Deism holds that God was powerfully active in the world up through the time of the apostles, and then he quit. Having inspired the perfect book — the New Testament — God could kick back and relax because the book is entirely sufficient on its own. The Spirit inspired the book, and the book acts, moves, draws, and convicts with no further divine activity.
Indeed, it’s not entirely unfair to characterize this view as replacing the work of God and his Spirit with a book — very nearly making the Bible the object of our faith. It is, I think, a very unhealthy teaching.
[to be continued]
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