We’re all affected by our church traditions and cultures. Based on our denominational or church backgrounds, we may have different concepts of miracles. That is inevitable because we do not absolutely all study the bible by ourselves. Most of the time, we depend upon our elders, bible teachers and godly leaders to exhibit us what the bible says. We make the assumption that they are more knowledgeable than we’re and so we simply trust what they’ve taught.
Our church traditions have their positive aspects but some of those are producing negative results. Therefore, it’s not whether my church tradition is better than yours or vice versa. The key is to learn which facets of our traditions are consistent with what the bible actually teaches and which are not. It is dangerous to you need to take things for granted.
Through The Elijah Challenge ministry, we have taught many nameless and faceless believers from both mainline evangelical and Pentecostal / Charismatic churches. We thank God that several mainline evangelical churches are receptive to divine healing and the practice of healing the sick.
There are some churches that believe miracles have ceased and therefore they cannot happen today. Through their teachings, essays and books, quite a number of these church leaders have buried divine healings and miracles in the grave of cessation. In spite of many modern evidences of healing miracles they try to justify their belief by rejecting all these as counterfeits.
The cessation theory expounded by Benjamin B. Warfield, a professor at Princeton Seminary from 1887 to 1921, continues to affect many churches. Echoing Warfield, these Christians claim that God only allow extensive miracles in three periods of history, namely from the full time of Moses to Joshua, Elijah and Elisha. The next period was from the full time of Jesus to the Apostles. The final time when miracles can be rampant is the time of the Antichrist and the truly amazing Tribulation.
The churches that stick to the professor’s assumptions and arguments ultimately placed on theological blinders – God will no longer perform any miracles outside these periods. According in their mind, all the claims of healing miracles in the Pentecostal and Charismatic movements are therefore either fakes or false miracles.
Like many of the modern cessationists, Warfield wasn’t anti-supernatural acim. He believed that all the supernatural activities within the bible were true. However, he strongly believed that all the biblical spiritual gifts and miracles had ceased since the full time of the Apostles. Signs and wonders cannot occur in our era mainly because God apparently has no reason to create them happen.
I studied an 18-page transcript of a class lesson taught by a popular proponent of cessationism. This famous bible teacher begins with the story of Hobart Edward Freeman, a professor of Hebrew, Old Testament Studies, Philosophy and Ethics, who had been later influenced by the Word of Faith movement. Freeman subsequently became very extreme in his teaching on healing and created storms of controversy by disparaging medical institutions, doctors and medicine. His faith-formula theology has caused him to show that God is obligated to heal every disease and infirmity if the believer were to response in genuine faith. He believed when anybody who claimed healing and still continued to take medicine, anyone wouldn’t be expressing his faith with matching action.
Later, Freeman was charged by the government for’negligent homicide’when some members of his congregation died due to the lack of medical care. Women were told to offer birth at home, assisted by midwives, approved by Freeman’s church. Dead babies were prayed to be resurrected at the altar. Apparently, about 90 parishioners died during Freeman’s tenure. A couple of weeks just before his appearance in court, Freeman passed away.
The bible teacher then listed their own selection of so-called extreme faith healers ranging from A. A. Allen, Kathyrn Kuhlman to John Wimber. In careful calculated mockery, he says, “Now, this indicates obvious, at least a curiosity to all of us that so many leading advocates of faith healing are sick!” He’s careful to indicate that several faith healers also died of chronic diseases.
After presenting a complete host of weird and ridiculous events that were considered miraculous by the naive, the bible teacher hopes to convince his audience that folks who experience or rely on modern miracles are of similar category of naive people. Sounding benevolent, he warns that false signs and false miracles are the primary tool of Satan ultimately times.
This cessationist claims he believes God can still do miracles because God’s power has not diminished even in modern time. As soon as he finishes that, he quickly emphasizes that none, absolutely none, of the so-called miracles experienced today is of biblical standard. Then he reiterates his persuasion that both history and the Scripture support his belief that the gift of miracles, as mentioned in 1 Corinthians 12, has ceased operating today. He challenges the Charismatics to make at least one person who is raised from the dead. Most of the healing miracles, according to this teacher, are partial, gradual, temporary and on occasions, become reversed. They are impossible to verify and apparently the only real instant miracles are those that have related to psychosomatic diseases.
With heavy mockery, this teacher says that even when the Holy Spirit wants to produce His capacity to heal, why does He choose to produce it on folks who are teaching bad theology. In true pharisaic approach, he declares that surely if the Holy Spirit wished to authenticate anybody with miracles, He would have chosen people just like the cessationists because according to the teacher, these were supposed to most skilled and teach the truest, purest, most profound and biblical form of theology. The arrogance of the theological prowess is evidenced but it is good for us to note that whenever Jesus first came, He did not approach the so-called skilled teachers of the Torah to share the Good News. He instead called those that weren’t theological trained people such as fishermen, tax-collector and even ex-prostitute.Business