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.


Pumice said...

I don't know if you saw the movie Steve Martin did on this topic. I can't remember the title. It took a dim view of these types of meetings. The O Henry ending had people actually being healed in spite of the fact he was a fraud.

For people who push this as Biblical and blame people for not having enough faith I would add this to your observation about Nazareth. When the man was lowered through the roof and healed by Jesus, he was not healed by his faith but by the faith of his friends. I would suggest to faith healers that if someone is not healed it is not because the sick person lacked faith but that the "healer" lacked faith.

Grace and Peace

SLW said...

Steve Martin (Leap of Faith) and Chevy Chase (Fletch Lives) both portrayed faith healing televangelist frauds on film. I can't say that I wasn't offended by both portrayals. I know it is only to be expected from some of the tomfoolery that goes by the name of ministry, but it still rubs me the wrong way.

I will be exploring the role of faith and whose is required in healing moments in my next post.

Anonymous said...


Regarding "Neither Christ nor the Apostles (in Acts) ever commanded things that did not happen," there is Matthew 17.26: "And I brought him to thy disciples, and they could not cure him." The disciples had apparently tried to cast the demon out, but they were not successful.

Regarding Pumice's comment, the Greek implies that the faith of the kid on the cot was included.

Anonymous said...

Sorry, missed the "(in Acts)".