When Alexander Campbell wrote and preached in the early 1800s, he struggled against teachings of the Society of Friends (Quakers) and similar denominations that taught that the Spirit presently inspired believers at the same level as scripture. As a result, he tended to minimize the present work of the Spirit.
In the 1970s, the Churches of Christ were rocked by Pentecostalism. Our homegrown hero, Pat Boone, had been a popular singer in the early 60s and a movie star — competing with Elvis himself. His book Between You, Me and the Gatepost was studied in youth groups across the Churches of Christ.
Then he published A New Song, detailing his experiences with faith healing and speaking in tongues. He was disfellowshipped by his home church. David Lipscomb College refused to sing its alma mater, composed by Boone. And the Gospel Advocate and other church publications poured out articles denying the indwelling of the Spirit.
Until this point, the Churches had had a friendly, internal disagreement as to whether the Spirit dwelled within a Christian solely representatively, through the word, or whether the Spirit had a personal indwelling. But the charismatic movement became a major, international movement in the late 1960s and early 1970s. Some Churches of Christ adopted or approved charismatic practices, especially speaking in tongues. And the editors pushed in the opposite direction — hard — insisting that the age of miracles was over and that the Spirit indwells only through the word — a truly humanistic, even Deistic teaching.
Predictably enough, many in the Churches found this word-only teaching so contrary to scripture and experience that they abandoned the Churches altogether. A number of congregations left the Churches to become outright denominational — which is why some Pentecostal churches practice believer baptism by immersion for remission of sins. There was a mixing of blood, as it were.
Indeed, the controversy over the Spirit was so intense — and came at the same time new translations such as the NIV and NASB made personal Bible study much more productive — that it helped create what is sometimes now called the progressive movement within the Churches of Christ. It forced countless elders and ministers to restudy the issues, to rethink the controversies, and to read the commentaries from our sister denominations. And we found that much of what we believed was reactionary — built more on being against a particular teaching than seeking to understand the scriptures.
During these years, it became popular to teach that 1 Cor 13 taught that tongues and prophecies would end when the New Testament was completed, sometime around 100 AD. The theory is that “that which is perfect” (KJV: 1 Cor 13:10) is the New Testament — and it wasn’t just the Churches of Christ that taught this.
But this theory has long been rejected by mainstream, conservative, evangelical scholarship. The Greek and logic of the text simply don’t support it. Moreover, it’s a theory testable by history. If it’s true, then church history should reflect the end of miracles when the last apostle died or thereabouts — and there is no such history. In fact, Christian history reveals that miracles continued for centuries afterwards. Augustine, in the Fifth Century, wrote that miracles had ended, and as soon as he’d done so, he was overwhelmed with accounts of miracles — more than he could write down. He sent men to investigate, saw many for himself, and recanted his position.
So we have to deal with the text and our history as it is. Denial and rationalization do no one any favors. On the other hand, we also live in an age when charlatans make all sorts of false claims about faith healing and take advantage of thousands of good people. We should not encourage gullibility.
Where does that leave us? Well, first,
(1Jo 4:1 ESV) Beloved, do not believe every spirit, but test the spirits to see whether they are from God, for many false prophets have gone out into the world.
(Jer 29:8-9 ESV) 8 For thus says the LORD of hosts, the God of Israel: Do not let your prophets and your diviners who are among you deceive you, and do not listen to the dreams that they dream, 9 for it is a lie that they are prophesying to you in my name; I did not send them, declares the LORD.
On the other hand, neither John nor Jeremiah would have denied that there are legitimate prophets (such as themselves!). They would only insist that we be leery and test their claims.
Hence, I am skeptical of many claims, but unwilling to deny that God can and does do miracles today. Who am I to limit the work of God? No matter how many false claims there may be, a million false claims do not prove that all claims are false. After all, there were hundreds of false messiahs, but Jesus is the Messiah. All the charlatans and con artists in the world do not change that fact, and I must not allow myself to become so cynical that I cannot see the work of God when it happens before me. That would be, quite possibly, blasphemy of the Holy Spirit. I will not credit Satan with the work of God.