Anyone who has read CatHouse Chat for a while knows of my appreciation for the ministry and teaching of Mark Driscoll, the lead pastor/teacher at Mars Hill Church. Mark preaches, generally, from the Reformed/Calvinist tradition and his sermons have frequently been encouraging and edifying to me.
However, I have recently been seeing some discussions about some of his positions which do concern me. The main site I've noted is Pyromaniacs, which is authored by several men who seem to me to be quite sound theologically (posts mentioning Driscoll can be searched here). One of the gentlemen there, Dan Phillips, also posts on his own blog, Biblical Christianity, and occasionally continues the discussion there. Another contributor, Phil Johnson, is, if I recall correctly, a member/leader of John MacArthur's church, and a sometime contributor to the Grace to You blog, where Pastor John has been posting a series on the YRRs ("young, reformed, restless").
Now, these are all teachers I respect, and whose love for Christ I, personally, do not doubt. Nevertheless, Pyromaniacs & Co. have brought up some problems with Mark Driscoll's ministry that I must take seriously. I am persuaded that there is cause for concern, so I can no longer give my whole-hearted endorsement to Mars Hill Church/Mark Driscoll. I believe that there is a LOT of good coming out of that church, but I would now caution listeners/watchers to exercise careful discernment.
All that is an introduction to the questions I *do* have: Do we still have the Gifts of the Spirit ("charisma") today? If so, how do they operate? If not, why have they ceased? Have they ALL ceased? If so, why have some continued?
I think, from what I've read (and I realize that this is very simplified), that TeamPyro is pretty firmly on the side of cessationism (the gifts are no longer operational), at least in the sense that the big sign gifts (raising the dead, miraculous healings, tongues, revelation, etc.) have stopped. Driscoll, on the other hand, doesn't believe that - although I have seen him state that he's definitely not a "charismaniac," and that soi-disant "words from the Lord" need to be carefully evaluated according to Scripture before they are presented to the church body.
I confess that I do not, personally, have a complete answer.
I do believe that the Gifts are still operative, but not in the larger "this is proof of God's authority" sense that Moses, Elijah, Elisha, the Apostles, and - of course! - Jesus had. I believe that the exercise of gifts on that level was, as it were, God's personal "diplomatic credentials" so that anyone witnessing them would have no excuse that these men were indeed from God and spoke in His authority.
Having said that, I do believe that there is a place for the gifts: God does indeed call and gift some people to proclaim His Word in power and truth (without it being new revelation). God does gift some to be healers, whether via traditional medicine or the laying on of hands (but I'm highly suspicious of "faith healers," who seem on the whole to be chasing after personal glory rather than God's glory). God blesses some with extra measures of kindness, grace and service, while still commanding that ALL Christians demonstrate these qualities in their lives.
I even think speaking in tongues is a working gift, although I suspect that God does it via an unusual facility with actual languages so that the Gospel may be proclaimed throughout all the world. "Spiritual" languages make me uncomfortable, in large part due to the "charismaniacs" who seem to babble senselessly and without proper decorum and orderliness. Paul actually addresses this very specifically in 1 Corinthians 14:6-17:
But now, brethren, if I come to you speaking with tongues, what shall I profit you unless I speak to you either by revelation, by knowledge, by prophesying, or by teaching? Even things without life, whether flute or harp, when they make a sound, unless they make a distinction in the sounds, how will it be known what is piped or played? For if the trumpet makes an uncertain sound, who will prepare for battle? So likewise you, unless you utter by the tongue words easy to understand, how will it be known what is spoken? For you will be speaking into the air. There are, it may be, so many kinds of languages in the world, and none of them is without significance. Therefore, if I do not know the meaning of the language, I shall be a foreigner to him who speaks, and he who speaks will be a foreigner to me. Even so you, since you are zealous for spiritual gifts, let it be for the edification of the church that you seek to excel.
Therefore let him who speaks in a tongue pray that he may interpret. For if I pray in a tongue, my spirit prays, but my understanding is unfruitful. What is the conclusion then? I will pray with the spirit, and I will also pray with the understanding. I will sing with the spirit, and I will also sing with the understanding. Otherwise, if you bless with the spirit, how will he who occupies the place of the uninformed say “Amen” at your giving of thanks, since he does not understand what you say? For you indeed give thanks well, but the other is not edified.
Spiritual gifts - however they come to us today - are to be used FIRST to glorify God, and then to edify the Church and be a witness to unbelievers. Our God is not the author of chaos, but of reason and order; therefore, the charisma must be demonstrated in accord with God's character and in an orderly fashion. We are not to display them as if we were at a circus for entertainment and drama. After all, Paul continues in verses 26-33:
How is it then, brethren? Whenever you come together, each of you has a psalm, has a teaching, has a tongue, has a revelation, has an interpretation. Let all things be done for edification. If anyone speaks in a tongue, let there be two or at the most three, each in turn, and let one interpret. But if there is no interpreter, let him keep silent in church, and let him speak to himself and to God. Let two or three prophets speak, and let the others judge. But if anything is revealed to another who sits by, let the first keep silent. For you can all prophesy one by one, that all may learn and all may be encouraged. And the spirits of the prophets are subject to the prophets. For God is not the author of confusion but of peace, as in all the churches of the saints.
What concerns me about the criticisms Pyromaniacs & Co. (and no disrespect in that title indended; it's merely a convenient way for me to generally refer to the worthy critics I listed) is not so much that Mark Driscoll believes that the charisma are in operation today, but their examples of how he's using them seem to contradict both biblical instruction and his own statements on how not to be a "charismaniac."
As I said, I have many questions about the spiritual gifts and how they're exercised. My opinion is that, perhaps, both Pyromaniacs and Driscoll go too far to either side. Nevertheless, they are teachers who have all helped me think more biblicly and have deepened my love for God. Frankly, they have all also taught me that there are a LOT of things about God that I do not - and possibly will never - know.
But then, that's just a glorious reminder that He's God, and I'm not! ;-)