Wednesday, July 27, 2011

The Necessity of Spiritual Encounter

The pattern of scripture is not that men choose God but that men are encountered by God and a relationship ensues. Pelagic theologies frame man's capacity as something capable of initiating a relationship with God, but I think the scriptures are clear that man would never bother with God if God didn't intervene. It's not that we cannot come to an unaided conclusion that God exists or even comprehend his attributes, but in the gap between knowing about someone and knowing him personally, mankind can do none other than chiseling that data to our own liking (idolatry). God, the infinite and transcendent, is never subject to our powers of drawing him out.

Folk bent on discovering God, or knowing the Great Truth--Buddha, Lao-Tzu, or Plato for instance--do not find God the Creator, nor the Son who conquered death. They merely rearrange the particulars of projections of humanity and/or human reasoning. God as he is, God the only all-wise, the self-existent, the maker of heaven and earth, he who sees the end from the beginning, the one who talks, they do not find. Humans cannot find God, he must "find" them.

There is the scriptural command to seek God with one's whole heart with the promise of finding him as a result. However, just a modicum of thought will recognize that it was the word from God to seek and find that was itself the initiator of process in the first place. God "saying" something is how it always begins. God must show up in the places we can perceive (but not necessarily see) and poke us, shake us, call us or we remain apart. If one is ever to truly know God as he truly is, a spiritual encounter initiated by him is absolutely necessary.

Wednesday, July 20, 2011

Miracles Among the Masses: Faith

If authority isn't the telling issue in the manifesting of miracles, what is? To say, "faith," as if that alone was it would be inaccurate, although faith is very important in the scheme of things. There are recorded incidents of God producing miracles when no faith was present nor was any ensuing. God, of course, can do what he wants, when he wants, how he wants, with whom and to whom he wants; but he doesn't act purposelessly in the manifesting miracles. It seems to me, what could be called ministering miracles, occur at the nexus of three things: 1) faith in the doer, 2) faith in the receiver, and 3) the inspiration of the Holy Spirit.

Though God is the ultimate performer of the miraculous, if the human agent does not have faith, the likelihood is that the miraculous will not occur. The faith necessary is the kind that has no doubts concerning the thing about to be done: doubt is the underminer of divine intervention. I think that is a hard thing for humans in general to produce, thankfully for God's glory, there is a gracious enablement that can accompany the need for the miracle. That is not to say that we do not have power over our own belief, so if we slough off counting on God to bail us out of our unbelief, we're likely to face disappointment.

If the receiver does not have some measure of faith, the likelihood of a miracle is next to nothing. God occasionally intervenes despite the unbelief of a receiver rather than in conjunction with his or her faith, but generally, that will not be the case. Today, the receiver is often saddled with the entire burden of failure in the effort to produce the miraculous, but I don't think that represents the total picture of what is going on. Regardless, it cannot be denied that Jesus clearly taught miraculous ministry is received according to one's faith.

The Spirit does as he wills and doesn't do as doesn't will. If the Holy Spirit does not have a mind to do a thing, it just ain't gettin' done! We can exercise some will in relation to the Spirit's will insofar as we go along with what he enables (like in tongues), but his doing is still absolutely necessary to anything miraculous. The only means we have of influencing the impetus of the Spirit is prayer, but the Spirit must be present to do whatever if whatever is to be done.

So, when faith in the doer is contemporaneous with faith in the receiver and the Spirit's willing, a miracle occurs.

Friday, July 15, 2011

Miracles Among Masses: Authority

Among the charismatic, over the last 100 years, a phenomenon known as the healing evangelist or miracle crusade has become common place. More or less, such ministry is an attempt to replicate the ministry of Christ (primarily) and (to a degree) the Apostles. Imo, the result has been less than stellar, many (most) of the miracles less than miraculous, and the practitioners a lot more than shoddy. The concept of replicating the works of Christ, is a noble endeavor: the practice, the miracle crusade, doesn't seem very noble at all to me.

Since I'm not ready or willing to saddle the practitioners with the accusation of outright fraud, what do I think is the problem with their doctrine and practice? First, I think there is a misapplication of the concept of authority in their sense of mission; and second, I think there is an ignorance of what inspiration entails in their practice. Let me develop these thoughts, with this presuppostion: Neither Christ nor the Apostles (in Acts) ever commanded things that did not happen. Therefore, a command or declaration that something is so that doesn't become so in short order is not in the pattern of Christ or the Apostles.

Authority can only go so far. Jesus had as much authority as any human will ever possess. He stilled the wind and waves, cursed the fig, forgave sins, and raised the dead. And yet for all his authority, he was stopped cold in Nazareth. Why? Was he not as in touch with Spirit as he ever was in Nazareth? Was he not as perfectly obedient to his heavenly Father there? Did he not have as much authority as he had anywhere else he went?

Jesus was stymied in Nazareth, not because of any issue of authority, but because of unbelief in the potential receivers of God's miraculous blessing. God is certainly under no obligation to put on a demonstrative show for the entertainment of those who would persist in unbelief anyhow. Besides, even Adam in sinless innocence was not forced by God to believe in God or his word--something tells me it wouldn't be belief if it was imposed. So, though unbelief in people doesn't diminish God's authority in the least, it does prevent them from receiving his gracious ministrations or knowing him intimately.

We have the authority we need, and all the authority we're going to get in our Great Commission. Authority in itself, however, will never be the issue that determines our success, it is merely the invitation for us to proceed. We have no power over the belief or unbelief of people, and in that regard, we'll see what Jesus saw: some believe, some will believe, and some won't believe no matter what we do or don't do. All we can do is not give them a reason for unbelief, and in dependence, follow the lead of the Holy Spirit.

I'll complete my thoughts in my next post.