Church of Christ Deism: The Church Fathers

i_dont_believe_in_miracles_i_rely_on_them_tshirt-p235921785579041865yk07_400As regular readers know, I’m not a fan of arguing doctrine from the Church Fathers (or Patristics) — uninspired, early Christian writers. However, when the argument is made that miracles ending when the New Testament was completed or when the apostles died, that’s a historical claim, and history suddenly becomes relevant.

The Martyrdom of Polycarp

Then he [Polycarp] had . . . finished his prayer, those who were appointed for the purpose kindled the fire [to burn him to death]. And as the flame blazed forth in great fury, we to whom it was given to witness it beheld a great miracle and have been preserved that we might report to others what then took place. For the fire, shaping itself into the form of an arch, like the sail of a ship when filled with the wind, encompassed as by a circle the body of the martyr. And he appeared within, not like flesh that is burnt, but as bread that is baked, or as gold and silver glowing in a furnace. Moreover, we perceived such a sweet odor, as if frankincense or some such precious spices had been smoking there. At length, when those wicked men perceived that his body could not be consumed by the fire, they commanded an executioner to go near and pierce him through with a dagger. And on his doing this, there came forth a dove and a great quantity of blood, so that the fire was extinguished, and all the people wondered that there should be such a difference between the unbelievers and the elect (Martyrdom of Polycarp 15–16 [A.D. 155]).

Irenaeus

[Heretics are] so far . . . from being able to raise the dead, as the Lord raised them and the apostles did by means of prayer, and as has been frequently done in the [Catholic] brotherhood on account of some necessity. The entire church in that particular locality entreating with much fasting and prayer, the spirit of the dead man has returned, and he has been bestowed in answer to the prayers of the saints (Against Heresies 2:31:2–4 [A.D. 189]).

In like manner we do also hear many brethren in the church, who possess prophetic gifts, and who through the Spirit speak all kinds of languages, and bring to light for the general benefit the hidden things of men, and declare the mysteries of God (Against Heresies 5:6:1 [A.D. 189]).

Tertullian

[When a scorpion stings someone’s heel] we have faith for a defense, if we are not smitten with distrust itself also, in immediately making the sign [of the cross?] and adjuring and besmearing the heel with the beast. Finally, we often aid in this way even the heathen, seeing we have been endowed by God with that power that the apostle [Paul] first used when he despised the viper’s bite [cf. Acts 28:3–5] (Antidote Against the Scorpion 1 [A.D. 211]).

Heaven knows how many distinguished men, to say nothing of common people, have been cured either of devils or of their sicknesses. [Specific examples follow, of persons named and known to his readers.] (To Scapula, chap. 4, [A.D. 196-212])*

Origen (185-254)

[W]e can clearly show a countless multitude of Greeks and Barbarians who acknowledge the existence of Jesus. And some give evidence of their having received through this faith a marvellous power by the cures which they perform, invoking no other name . . . than that of the God of all things, and of Jesus . . . . For by these means we too have seen many persons freed from grievous calamities, and from distractions of mind, and madness, and countless other ills, which could be cured neither by men nor devils” (Against Celsus, chapters 2, 6, 24).*

Eusebius

The citizens of that parish [in Alexandria] mention many other miracles of Narcissus . . . among which they relate the following wonder as performed by him. . . . The oil once failed while the deacons were watching through the night at the great Paschal Vigil. Thereupon, the whole multitude being dismayed, Narcissus directed those who attended to the lights to draw water and bring it to him. This being immediately done he prayed over the water and with firm faith in the Lord commanded them to pour it into the lamps. And when they had done so, contrary to all expectation, by a wonderful and divine power the nature of the water was changed into that of oil. A small portion of it has been preserved even to our day by many of the brethren there as a memento of the wonder (Church History 6:9:1–3 [A.D. 312]).

Athanasius (296-373)

So take these as an example, beloved Dracontius, and do not say, or believe those who say, that the bishop’s office is an occasion to sin. . . . For we know both bishops who fast and monks who eat. We know bishops who drink no wine as well as monks who do. We know bishops who work miracles as well as monks who do not (Letters 49:9 [A.D. 354]).

[W]e ought not to doubt whether such marvels were wrought by the hand of a man. For it is . . . Jesus himself who saith to His disciples and to all who believe on Him, ‘Heal the sick, cast out demons; freely ye have received, freely give.’ Antony, at any rate, healed not by commanding, but by prayer and speaking the name of Christ. So that it was clear to all that it was not he himself who worked, but the Lord who showed mercy by his means and healed the sufferers (Vita S. Antoni, chapters 83-84).*

Lactantius (died A.D. 320),

And as He Himself before His passion put to confusion demons by His word and command, so now, by the name and sign of the same passion, unclean spirits, having insinuated themselves into the bodies of men, are driven out, when racked and tormented, and confessing themselves to be demons, they yield themselves to God, who harasses them (The Epitome of the Divine Institutions, chap. 51).*

Ambrose of Milan

As I do not wish anything that takes place here in your absence to escape the knowledge of your holiness [my sister], you must know that we have found some bodies of holy martyrs. . . . We found two men of marvelous stature, such as those of ancient days. All the bones were perfect. . . . Briefly we arranged the whole in order, and as evening was now coming on, transferred them to the basilica of Fausta, where watch was kept during the night and some received the laying on of hands. On the following morning we translated the relics to the basilica called Ambrosian. During the translation a blind man was healed. . . . [Arians] deny that the blind man received sight, but he denies not that he is healed. He says: “I, who could not see, now see,” and proves it by the fact. . . . He declares that when he touched the hem of the robe of the martyrs, wherewith the sacred relics were covered, his sight was restored (Letters 22:1–2, 17 [A.D. 388]).

Jerome

[A woman with three sick children came to Hilarion and] on reaching the saint she said: “I pray you by Jesus our most merciful God . . . to restore to me my three sons, so that the name of our Lord and Savior may be glorified in the city of the Gentiles. Then shall his servants enter Gaza and the idol Marnas shall fall to the ground.” At first he refused and said that he never left his cell . . . [but] the woman did not leave him till he promised he would enter Gaza after sunset. On coming thither he made the sign of the cross over the bed and fevered limbs of each [child] and called upon the name of Jesus. Marvelous efficacy of the name! . . . In that very hour they took food, recognized the mourning mother, and with thanks to God warmly kissed the saint’s hands (Life of St. Hilarion 14 [A.D. 390]).

John Chrysostom

In our generation, in the case of him who surpassed all in ungodliness, I mean [the emperor] Julian, many strange things happened. Thus, when the Jews were attempting to raise up again the temple at Jerusalem, fire burst out from the foundations and utterly hindered them all, and when both his treasurer and his uncle and namesake made the sacred vessels the subject of their open insolence, one was eaten with worms and gave up the ghost, and the other burst apart in the middle. Moreover, the fountains failing when sacrifices were made there and the entrance of famine into the cities together with the emperor himself was a very great sign. For it is usual with God to do such things when evils are multiplied (Homilies on Matthew 4:2 [A.D. 391]).

Augustine

In the same city of Carthage lived Innocentia, a very devout woman of the highest rank in the state. She had cancer in one of her breasts, a disease that, as physicians say, is incurable. . . . This lady we speak of had been advised by a skillful physician, who was intimate with her family, and she betook herself to God alone in prayer. On the approach of Easter, she was instructed in a dream to wait for the first woman who came out of the baptistery after being baptized and to have her make the sign of Christ upon the sore. She did so and was immediately cured (The City of God 22:8 [A.D. 419]).

For even now miracles are wrought in the name of Christ, whether by his sacraments or by the prayers or relics of his saints. . . . But who but a very small number are aware of the cure that was wrought upon Innocentius . . . a cure wrought at Carthage, in my presence, and under my own eyes? . . . For he and all his household were devotedly pious. He was being treated by medical men for fistulae, of which he had a large number. . . . He had already undergone an operation but clearly needed another. . . . He cast himself down . . . and began to pray; but in what a manner, with what earnestness and emotion, with what a flood of tears, with what groans and sobs, that shook his whole body and almost prevented him speaking. . . . [And when the] surgeons arrived, all that the circumstances required was ready; the frightful instruments were produced; all look on in wonder and suspense. . . . [But the surgeon] finds a perfectly firm scar! No words of mine can describe the joy, and praise, and thanksgiving to the merciful and almighty God, which was poured from the lips of all with tears of gladness. Let the scene [of rejoicing] be imagined rather than described! (ibid.).

A gouty doctor of the same city, when he had given his name for baptism and had been forbidden the day before his baptism from being baptized that year by black woolly haired boys who appeared to him in his dreams (and whom he understood to be devils), and when . . . he refused to obey them but overcame them and would not defer being washed in the laver of regeneration, was relieved in the very act of baptism, not only of the extraordinary pain he was tortured with but also of the disease itself (ibid.).

What am I to do? I am so pressed by the promise of finishing this work that I cannot record all the miracles I know, and doubtless several of our adherents, when they read what I have narrated, will regret that I have omitted many that they, as well as I, certainly know. Even now I beg these persons to excuse me and to consider how long it would take me to relate all those miracles, which the necessity of finishing the work I have undertaken forces me to omit. . . . Even now, therefore, many miracles are wrought, the same God who wrought those we read of [in the Bible is] still performing them, by whom he will and as he will (ibid.).

The fact that the canon of our Scriptures is definitely closed brings it about that the original miracles are everywhere repeated and are fixed in people’s memory, whereas contemporary miracles . . . seldom become known. [Augustine then cites specific examples, naming individuals involved.] . . . It is a simple fact that, that there is no lack of miracles even in our day. And the God who works the miracles we read of in the Scripture uses any means and manner He chooses. The only trouble is that these modern miracles are not so well known as the earlier ones . . . (ibid.)*

And so we have a fairly continuous record of miraculous events up through the 5th century. However, I’m sure most readers will share my doubts as to, at least, some of these. I just can’t imagine God choosing to do miracle through relics, that is, items touched by holy men or women or even body parts of diseased martyrs. The Martyrdom of Polycarp just sounds more legendary than real.

However, the accounts by Augustine are different. Augustine was clearly a genius for the ages. His impact on Christianity and Western culture is incalculable. He is one of the most intelligent, thoughtful men ever to walk the earth. Serious apologetics regarding science and Genesis can’t overlook arguments made by Augustine, long before the age of science.

As explained below, Augustine originally doubted that miracles had continued until his time — the 5th century — but his position changed when he saw them with his own eyes.

Even Augustine of Hippo (a.D. 354- 430), who had originally adopted the view that miracles had ceased with the apostolic age, changed his opinion during the last two or three years of his life. This change of viewpoint was precipitated by a revival in North Africa, where Augustine lived. Suddenly, miracles seemed to proliferate. Augustine quickly decided to publicize the miraculous healings in North Africa, and as bishop in Hippo, he examined and recorded each report that came to his attention. He gave verified reports of healings a maximum of publicity, and he insisted upon receiving a written report from every person who claimed to be healed. This report, or libellus, would then be read publicly in church, in the presence of the writer, and would later be stored in Augustine’s library. He attempted to persuade his colleagues to use the same system, but without great success. In the case of the healing of a noble lady in Carthage, Augustine was disappointed that she failed to use her rank and influence to publicize a miracle of healing that she had experienced. A renowned twentieth-century specialist in Augustine, Peter Brown, stated that Augustine attempted to bring together various incidents of miracles “until they formed a single corpus, as compact and compelling as the miracles that had assisted the growth of the Early Church.”1 Some of the material that Augustine collected appears in the last book (Book 22) of his work, City of God, the eighth chapter of which contains a very lengthy description of miracles which he had either witnessed himself, or about which he had heard from those whom he considered to be reliable witnesses. [Augustine, City of God, book 22, chapter 8, in Roy J. Deferrari, ed., The Fathers of the Church (Washington, D.C.: The Catholic University of America Press, 1954), vol. 24, pp. 431-450.]

The account in City of God is too lengthy for detailed treatment here, but included in it are reports of healings of blindness, multiple rectal fistula, cancer of the breast, gout, paralysis, hernia of the scrotum, and other diseases. Augustine recounts other miracles in which farm animals were cured, demons were cast out of certain individuals, and the dead were raised. In one case, a poor man who lost his cloak prayed, and later found a huge fish squirming upon the beach. He sold it to a restaurant, where a gold ring was found in the gullet of the fish and given to him. In another case, a cart drawn by oxen ran over a child. After his mother prayed, the child not only returned to consciousness, but he showed no sign of the crushing he had suffered.

One of the greatest early works of church history is the Venerable Bede’s Ecclesiastical History of the English People, written in A.D. 731. This is a valuable source, known for its separation of historical fact from hearsay and tradition.3 Bede was a very careful scholar, and did his utmost to find reliable source material for his work, often sending emissaries to various places like Rome to gather important source materials. Throughout Bede’s work there are accounts of miracles. In fact, the entire work is so saturated with accounts of miracles that if one were to discount them, one would have to discount the entire work, which would be impossible, since the events it describes are woven so unmistakably into the tapestry of history.

Richard M. Riss.

It must also be noted that there are examples of miracles occuring among heretical sects (and, of course, many would consider the church to have already become heretical by the time of Augustine).

Alan Rouse notes in a comment, “Eusebius wrote harshly of Montanus and the Phrygian heresy, characterized by unintelligible tongues:

Montanus became beside himself, and being suddenly in a sort of frenzy and ecstasy, he raved, and began to babble and utter strange things, prophesying in a manner contrary to the constant custom of the Church handed down by tradition from the beginning. Some of those who heard his spurious utterances at that time were indignant, and they rebuked him as one that was possessed, and that was under the control of a demon, and was led by a deceitful spirit, and was distracting the multitude; and they forbade him to talk, remembering the distinction drawn by the Lord and his warning to guard watchfully against the coming of false prophets.

But others imagining themselves possessed of the Holy Spirit and of a prophetic gift, were elated and not a little puffed up; and forgetting the distinction of the Lord, they challenged the mad and insidious and seducing spirit, and were cheated and deceived by him. In consequence of this, he could no longer be held in check, so as to keep silence. Thus by artifice, or rather by such a system of wicked craft, the devil, devising destruction for the disobedient, and being unworthily honored by them, secretly excited and inflamed their understandings which had already become estranged from the true faith.

In the same comment, Alan notes that Jerome considered Joel’s prophecy of miracles to have been fulfilled at Pentecost —

In 385 AD, Jerome rejected the prophecy of the Montanists. After quoting Peter’s sermon including Joel’s prophecy of gifts being poured out, Jerome wrote:

If, then, the apostle Peter, upon whom the Lord has founded the Church, has expressly said that the prophecy and promise of the Lord were then and there fulfilled, how can we claim another fulfilment for ourselves?

The fairest conclusion I can reach is that —

* There is no record in history of miracles ending when the last apostle died or when the last man on whom the apostles laid hands died.

* There is no record in history of miracles ending when the last book of the New Testament was written or when the canon was compiled.

* By the late 4th Century, Jerome considered miracles to have ended — writing in opposition to heretical sects claiming to have been validated by miracles. For a time, Augustine was of the same mind, but was later persuaded to the contrary by extensive evidence of continuing miracles.

* So far as we can tell from history, more Christians believed the age of miracles to have never ended, as evidenced by what they considered to be ongoing miracles among the orthodox.

Do I believe that everything recorded in history as a miracle really is a miracle? No, not at all. It’s not hard to discern an element of superstition or legendary embellishment here and there. I’m confident that many claims of a miracle are not true.

Moreover, the scriptures predict that there will be miracles done by false prophets, so it’s hardly surprising that the Montanists claimed miraculous powers. So did Pharoah’s wizards.

Now, it’s possible that the evidence is all bogus — psychosomatic illnesses “healed” by the placebo effect. Maybe none of it happened. But we can’t just assume. And what’s clear is that the early church didn’t notice miracles ending. It seemed to most of them that God continued to work miracles among them. Nor did they think that 1 Cor 13 or other New Testament passages predicted the end of miracles.

Do I find a convicing case in history that the “age of miracles” ended with the apostles or shortly thereafter? No.

Now, the readers may properly ask what point I’m trying to make, and the answer is I’m not arguing. I’m investigating. I’m checking the facts, the history, and the scriptures to see what conclusion — if any — they might lead me to. [I’m not kidding. I’ve not written the final posts yet. Among other things, I’m waiting to see what the readers add to the discussion.]

_______________________________

* Thanks to an earlier comment from Edward Fudge.

About Jay F Guin

My name is Jay Guin, and I’m a retired elder. I wrote The Holy Spirit and Revolutionary Grace about 18 years ago. I’ve spoken at the Pepperdine, Lipscomb, ACU, Harding, and Tulsa lectureships and at ElderLink. My wife’s name is Denise, and I have four sons, Chris, Jonathan, Tyler, and Philip. I have two grandchildren. And I practice law.
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37 Responses to Church of Christ Deism: The Church Fathers

  1. Bob Harry says:

    Over or life time we have seen many cancers cured and other illnesses diminished because of prayers. Some of these were miracles, like a lady going to preop for pancreatic cancer. The tumor, which was rather large was gone.

    The Church in India reports miracles being done by missionairies in areas where the Gospel has never been heard.

    Miracles still happen where there is faith.

    God be praised for His still powerful work.

  2. Alan says:

    How should we view these historical statements in view of scripture?

    Paul said that tongues, prophecy, and miraculous knowledge would pass away (though we still debate the point in time). He did not say the same thing about miracles in general (much less, of miracles performed directy by God without a human agent).

    There is no question God can perform miracles if he chooses to do so, and many of us believe he continues to do so in answer to prayer. God can also perform miracles through a human agent if he chooses, though I have not seen a convincing example of that in my lifetime.

    Acts 8:17-18 is often cited as evidence that miraculous gifts were passed on by the laying on of the apostles' hands. The passage actually says something a bit different – that the Holy Spirit was passed along that way. But since Acts 2:38 promises the Holy Spirit upon repentance and baptism, many people think Acts 8 refers to the visible gifts of the Holy Spirit. If that is true, and if the apostles' hands are the ony means of the gifts being passed along, then we would expect the gifts to end within 75 or so years after the last apostle died. Whether that is what actually happened (despite the historical claims to the contrary which you've quoted), I don't know.

  3. coreydavis says:

    Alan, you brought up what seems to me an important distinction – God performing miracles Himself versus God performing miracles through men.

    In regards to the latter, I see nothing in scripture to show me that miraculous gifts were given in any way other than the baptism of the Holy Spirit and the laying on of the apostles hands. If there is another way in the New Testament, I'd really like to see it.

    Since the purpose of miracles being performed by men appears to be to confirm the word (Mark 16:20), there seems little use for that avenue to be used today. To use them for any other reason would appear to be for show.

    As to God intervening miraculously to accomplish His will – that is a very different subject, and one I don't think that is as clearly defined. If such miracles, like those Bob spoke of above, are still occurring I wonder why they aren't more widespread? Is God now a respecter of persons? I also think that the word "miracle" has been cheapened by various religious (and non-religious) people to the point that what the Bible describes as a miracle and what they call a miracle are hardly the same.

  4. Anonymous says:

    Where does the Bible say the gifts were given only by the apostles? I see God giving Cornelius and his household the Holy Spirit and the gift of speaking in tongues and Peter didn't lay a hand on them. The Samaritans received the Holy Spirit when Peter and John laid hands on them but not gifts of the Spirit as speaking in tongues. I see Paul saying not everyone will have the same gifts such as miraculous gifts 1 Corinthians 12:29-31 “Are all apostles? Are all prophets? Are all teachers? Are all workers of miracles? Do all have gifts of healings? Do all speak with tongues? Do all interpret? But earnestly desire the best gifts. And yet I show you a more excellent way.”

    Where does the Bible say miraculous gifts will cease when the apostles die?

  5. Alan says:

    In regards to the latter, I see nothing in scripture to show me that miraculous gifts were given in any way other than the baptism of the Holy Spirit and the laying on of the apostles hands. If there is another way in the New Testament, I’d really like to see it.

    I agree. But that hardly constitutes ironclad proof that there cannot be another way.

    Since the purpose of miracles being performed by men appears to be to confirm the word (Mark 16:20), there seems little use for that avenue to be used today. To use them for any other reason would appear to be for show

    Again I agree, but this is just human reasoning. Is it impossible for there to be another purpose that is not explicitly stated in scripture?

    I also think that the word “miracle” has been cheapened by various religious (and non-religious) people to the point that what the Bible describes as a miracle and what they call a miracle are hardly the same.

    Evan Almighty would have us call random acts of kindness "miracles." They are not miracles, in the classic sense of the word. Miracles are supernatural.

  6. coreydavis says:

    I agree. But that hardly constitutes ironclad proof that there cannot be another way.

    I can see but one other way – that God imparts them randomly to individuals. Assuming that is possible, what purpose would they serve?

    Again I agree, but this is just human reasoning. Is it impossible for there to be another purpose that is not explicitly stated in scripture?

    Yes, human reasoning, but I would say soundly based upon the word of God. Certainly there could be another purpose, but God does do things for a purpose. I would like to know what purpose you think they might serve today?

    Evan Almighty would have us call random acts of kindness “miracles.” They are not miracles, in the classic sense of the word. Miracles are supernatural.

    Exactly. Using what the Bible shows us to be miracles instead of the modern, lazy usage changes the discussion. "Bob rose from the dead" = miracle. "Bob's arthritis pain lessened dramatically" = not a miracle.

  7. Anonymous says:

    coreydavis,

    Where does the Bible say the gifts were given only by the apostles?

    I see God giving Cornelius and his household the Holy Spirit and the gift of speaking in tongues and Peter didn’t lay a hand on them. The Samaritans received the Holy Spirit when Peter and John laid hands on them but not gifts of the Spirit as speaking in tongues. I see Paul saying not everyone will have the same gifts such as miraculous gifts 1 Corinthians 12:29-31 “Are all apostles? Are all prophets? Are all teachers? Are all workers of miracles? Do all have gifts of healings? Do all speak with tongues? Do all interpret? But earnestly desire the best gifts. And yet I show you a more excellent way.”

    Where does the Bible say miraculous gifts will cease when the apostles die?

  8. Alan says:

    I can see but one other way – that God imparts them randomly to individuals. Assuming that is possible, what purpose would they serve?

    The fact that you and I can't think of another purpose is not proof that no other purpose exists.

    If I had to choose, I'd say that God is not giving people miraculous gifts today. But I acknowledge that I really don't know.

  9. Anonymous says:

    coreydavis I asked some questions, if you would please answer with Scripture.

  10. coreydavis says:

    Because I'm tired of having pointless conversations with you. Why don't you find someone else to blog-stalk?

  11. Anonymous says:

    coreydavis,

    What? I have no idea what you are talking about. They are questions, what do you think they are?

  12. coreydavis says:

    Really? Are you going to say that you aren't the person who posts as "Truth" on the other blogs? Are you willing to put your lie right out there?

    Don't take me for a fool. You type the same things over and over everywhere you post. You can post as Anonymous all you want, but you give yourself away.

  13. Anonymous says:

    coreydavis,

    Please understand I only want you to answer these questions. You seem to be giving a typical response of someone who cannot answer with a Biblical response. Much of what the conservative coc folks do.

  14. I think the association of relics with miraculous events has its roots in this passage: "God did extraordinary miracles through Paul, so that even handkerchiefs and aprons that had touched him were taken to the sick, and their illnesses were cured and the evil spirits left them." ~ Acts 19:11-12

    So I can't discount the accounts of them among early writers as simply unbiblical tradition or as necessarily psychosomatic.

    I would note that Acts 8 records Phillip doing miraculous signs and healings as he proclaimed the Christ, and "When the crowds heard Philip and saw the miraculous signs he did, they all paid close attention to what he said." (Compare the purpose there with Paul's purpose in Romans 15:18-19.)

    While it's true that "When Simon saw that the Spirit was given at the laying on of the apostles' hands, he offered them money and said, "Give me also this ability so that everyone on whom I lay my hands may receive the Holy Spirit" – nothing in the passage says "that the Spirit was ONLY given at the laying on of the apostles' hands."

    Similarly, while 2 Corinthians 12:11-13 says that "The things that mark an apostle—signs, wonders and miracles—were done among you with great perseverance" – it does not say that these things are ONLY marks of an apostle; it was Paul's credential AS an apostle that was in question.

  15. Bob Harry says:

    All of your arguements are centered around scripture and that is the way it should be. I am not a theologin nor even a good scripture quoter as most of you are. All I know is that we have prayer groups who pray for healing and many times God heals when chemo and radiation have failed. We even pray for the healing of mental illness when all the anti depresion meds fail.

    We believe that God performs miracles through missionaries in remote areas of China and India where the Gospel has never been heard or god is unknown.
    I trust my faith in God as a healer when other medical treatments fail.
    If you think i have sinned or in error for believing this then let it be.

  16. coreydavis says:

    Keith – I think that Acts 19:11-12 is very interesting. It brings to mind those that hoped that Peter's shadow falling upon them might heal them.

    As to Acts 8, that appears to be for the purpose of confirming the word, no? The miraculous signs confirmed the power of the teaching.

    Again, I acknowledge that we're never told that Holy Spirit baptism & the laying on of the apostles hands are necessarily the ONLY ways miraculous gifts. However, I have yet to see anyone give a sound explanation as to:

    1. How else these gifts would be given and,
    2. What the purpose would be for giving them in another way

    It is one thing to simply cast doubt, it is another thing to offer a viable explanation. I could think of a few reasons why God might miraculously intervene today Himself, yet I can think of none as to why He would give these gifts in some alternate fashion to men today. Without a sound explanation (rather than simple doubt and "what-ifs"), I am content to stick with what is clear from scriptures.

  17. Anonymous says:

    It is God who gives people the Holy Spirit and it is God who gives gifts of the Spirit as He wills them to have. God gave Cornelius and his household the Holy Spirit and the gift of speaking in tongues, He didn't give it through an apostles hands nor an object.

  18. Anonymous is correct in citing the story of Cornelius; I would imagine that even Peter, the apostle present ,might have been surprised when the Spirit was miraculously manifested in the lives of these new believers.

    coreydavis, I don't pretend to understand God's reasons for doing what He does. In the case of Cornelius, it might be that He gave miraculous gifts of the Spirit to this household to further convince the disciples with Peter that Gentiles were to be accepted (Acts 10:44-48). His reasons are His own. I don't require Him to explain them to me in order to believe that He has them.

    I don't have to know why He commanded Ezekiel to prophesy bones back to life in order to believe that He did so, and can still do so. His purpose (37:1-14) seems to be to let His people know that He has the power of resurrection – and it seems to find fulfillment in Jesus (Matthew 27:52-53, etc.).

    Doesn't it make sense to you that in places of the world where people largely cannot read, where Bibles are scarce, where people of God still proclaim Jesus primarily by word-of-mouth He might still confirm His Word by miracles and signs and wonders?

    Why do you draw a distinction between "why God might miraculously intervene today Himself" and "why He would give these gifts in some alternate fashion to men today"? What makes the possibility of the first acceptable, but not the second?

  19. coreydavis says:

    I guess I'm confused. You give two examples of God's miraculous power, both of which are clearly explained in the very passages you posted, and then say you don't pretend to understand God's reasoning? It is right there.

    Doesn’t it make sense to you that in places of the world where people largely cannot read, where Bibles are scarce, where people of God still proclaim Jesus primarily by word-of-mouth He might still confirm His Word by miracles and signs and wonders?

    My friend, Esudas, is ministering in India to his people that are largely illiterate. He is in exactly the situation that you describe, yet he preaches simply from the all-sufficient word. In fact, people come through claiming to have miraculous gifts (like healing) and then prove themselves to be frauds. Esudas is constantly having to face challenges caused by these fakes.

    Now, if God can still give these gifts, why doesn't He give them to Esudas? Does God not care enough about souls in India to confirm His word with miracles? Is He now a respecter of persons?

    What makes the possibility of the first acceptable, but not the second?

    Exactly what I stated above.

  20. Anonymous says:

    coreydavis,

    I don't believe every convert in the First Century saw miracles nor do I believe every convert now sees miracles.

    Just because you and your friend haven't seen any miracles doesn't mean they don't happen.

    And you cannot Biblically prove God doesn't do miracles.

  21. Hampers says:

    Nice blog. We do believe on Miracles. We believe that the Bible is God’s eternal Word and is the inspired Word given to men by the Holy Spirit.

  22. As to God's reasoning … the examples I gave shine light on results, not reasons. We assume they are God's intent – but cannot assume that they are the fullness of His reasons for doing what He did.

    You ask, "Now, if God can still give these gifts, why doesn’t He give them to Esudas?" I don't know. Has Esudas asked for them (Luke 11:13)? Does Esudas believe that God works miracles through men (Mark 6:5-6)? Most importantly, does God see a need for them there to confirm His Word? One example does not an argument make, my friend!

    And now, coreydavis, you confuse me … for you've said that you can understand "why God might miraculously intervene today Himself" yet the example you give implies that you do not believe that He would. It would seem to me that you've decided God makes all of His plans and means and intentions plain to men, and if they're not right there in scripture, somehow His mighty hands are tied!

  23. coreydavis says:

    As to God’s reasoning … the examples I gave shine light on results, not reasons. We assume they are God’s intent – but cannot assume that they are the fullness of His reasons for doing what He did.

    Did not the same God inspire the writers who make the reasons clear? I agree that His motivation for using the manner He used may not be clear (as in, "why did He use that particular method?"), but the results give explanation to the reasoning.

    Has Esudas asked for them (Luke 11:13)? Does Esudas believe that God works miracles through men (Mark 6:5-6)?

    Did Cornelius ask for them? Did the dead raised by Christ ask for resurrection? This does not appear to be a prerequisite.

    One example does not an argument make, my friend!

    True, but you surely see that it would be unfair to deprive some of the miraculous while giving it to others in this present age – especially when they're in the same situations. Wouldn't that make God a respecter of persons? Furthermore, is the word of God all sufficient as it claims to be?

    you’ve said that you can understand “why God might miraculously intervene today Himself” yet the example you give implies that you do not believe that He would. It would seem to me that you’ve decided God makes all of His plans and means and intentions plain to men, and if they’re not right there in scripture, somehow His mighty hands are tied!

    You misunderstand. Is it possible for God to intervene and perhaps miraculously help an individual escape death in some horrific accident? I see no reason why it wouldn't be (although we should be cautious when describing such as a "miracle"). However, to make the jump from that to giving men the ability to work miracles when the body of scriptures seems to testify to the fact that this no longer happens is a jump I'm not willing to make.

  24. Alan says:

    …a jump I’m not willing to make.

    That takes the discussion into entirely different territory. Your willingness to make the jump is your human judgment. It's therefore a matter of opinion. Differences over this must not be a barrier to fellowship.

  25. coreydavis says:

    So, Alan, if I walk into your assembly and tell you that God has, without Holy Spirit baptism or the laying on of an apostles hands, given me miraculous powers you will accept me and extend your fellowship to me?

  26. Randall says:

    I do not mean to get into the middle of the discussion you two are having, but I would like to comment on an assumption many in the CofC make. Below there is a quote from the comment above:

    –"True, but you surely see that it would be unfair to deprive some of the miraculous while giving it to others in this present age – especially when they’re in the same situations. Wouldn’t that make God a respecter of persons? "–

    We assume that God must treat us all alike. We judge him as to whether he is being fair to us. I have a real problem with this as God has always done what pleased him and it is more than inappropriate for us to judge him. The potter has the right to do what pleases him with the clay, indeed with his whole creation.

    Do we find it unfair that it pleased him to choose Israel over the nations, or Jacob over Esau. I could give many, many examples but surely you could provide many yourself.

    Does he have to give all sinners a "Damascus Road experience" like he did for Paul? May he do one thing to bring one person to faith and another for a different person and may he hader Pharaoh if it pleases him?

    And how does any of this make him a respecter of persons? If he choses someone b/c they were white, or intelligent, or had a good heart then he might be accused of respecting the person. OTOH, if he chose them b/c it pleased him then he is not a respector of persons. Indeed he may have made them this way for his own purpose. And if he enabled them to accomplish much or little, what is that to you? Again, God is able to do as he please with all of his creation and he does not have to answer to us regarding whether it conformed with our (fallen) sense of right and wrong.

    You are welcome to ignore this intrusion to the extent that it pleases you. I am not looking for a reply. I simply wonder at some/many of our assumptions.
    Peace,
    Randall

  27. Alan says:

    So, Alan, if I walk into your assembly and tell you that God has, without Holy Spirit baptism or the laying on of an apostles hands, given me miraculous powers you will accept me and extend your fellowship to me?

    As long as you keep your belief to yourself and are not divisive about it, yes. (Rom 14:1,4,22; Rom 15:7)

  28. coreydavis says:

    And why must I keep it to myself if it is possible? Would you desire proof of my claim?

  29. Alan says:

    And why must I keep it to myself if it is possible?

    The simple answer is that Rom 14:22 says to keep such matters between yourself and God. I would insist on it in this case in order to prevent it from becoming a divisive issue in the congregation.

    Would you desire proof of my claim?

    Not necessarily.

  30. Anonymous says:

    God didn’t heal Moses of his speech impedement and Moses didn’t think God could do such great things through a man with such a weakness, but God made Moses a great leader to bring His people out of bondage. God choose do do other miraculous works through Moses.

    Paul still had infirmities with his eyes, he had problems writing his own letters, Paul even said he knew people would gladly have given him their eyes. Though Paul couldn't see as other people could he did many things in the strength of the Lord people wouldn’t think possible. God choose to do other miraculous works through Paul.

    God may not always do miracles how we think He should but does He does miracles how He wills to do.

  31. coreydavis says:

    The simple answer is that Rom 14:22 says to keep such matters between yourself and God

    Romans 14 is hardly talking about miraculous gifts. They are to be used (although some, such as tongues, were regulated)! Shouldn't you be excited that someone has miraculous gifts? Wouldn't you want to put them to use?

    Or would you fear that you are opening the floodgates for all types of claims (visions, new prophecy, etc.)?

    Not necessarily.

    You'd just assume the tree bore fruit? Wouldn't you like to see an apple first?

  32. Anonymous says:

    coreydavis,

    God didn’t heal Moses of his speech impedement and Moses didn’t think God could do such great things through a man with such a weakness, but God made Moses a great leader to bring His people out of bondage. God choose to do other miraculous works through Moses.

    Paul still had infirmities with his eyes, he had problems writing his own letters, Paul even said he knew people would gladly have given him their eyes. Though Paul couldn’t see as other people could he did many things in the strength of the Lord people wouldn’t think possible. God choose to do other miraculous works through Paul.

    God may not always do miracles how we think He should but He does miracles how He wills to do.

    Does the church you attend pray for the sick, those in need, and missionaries? If so, why?

  33. Alan says:

    Romans 14 is hardly talking about miraculous gifts.

    But it does not exclude them. More precisely, it does not exclude misguided beliefs about miraculous gifts.

    You’d just assume the tree bore fruit?

    I don't feel the need to determine one way or the other, as long as the individual is not being divisive.

  34. I don't imagine any of us will see this question in exactly the same way, any more than the early church leaders (the original subject of Jay's post) seemed to. We intellectualize the matter as if it were only a matter of fellowship or worship procedure or endangering order or tempting Corinthian abuse.

    But I'll tell you how I see the matter before I bow out of this conversation: If I really, really needed a miracle, I would ask for it.

    When my dad initially died and was dead several minutes before EMTs arrived to resuscitate him to a three-week state of coma, my family and I prayed for a miracle. God said no, and after those three weeks, Dad passed away again – but we prayed anyway. And I'd do it again. If I – or someone I dearly love – had a death sentence pending from cancer or the justice system or injuries from an auto accident or anything else, I would ask God for the miracle.

    I wouldn't care whether God accomplished it directly or through the agency of an elder with anointing oil or a loud-mouthed televangelist or a drunken bum who wouldn't remember it later.

    And whether He said yes or no, I would still praise and honor Him and tell everyone I can that God still cares about body and soul, mind and spirit. I would still testify that He hears and He loves and He can and He wills and He does … but that He knows it is good for us, down deep, to ask Him and know that only He can answer.

  35. Anonymous says:

    coreydavis,

    Does the church you attend pray for the sick, those in need, and missionaries? If so, why?

  36. Randall says:

    Keith,
    Well said. Amen!
    Peace,
    Randall

  37. Pingback: An Exchange of Comments with Ray: My Comment | One In Jesus

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