We are all suffering from our church traditions and cultures. Depending on our denominational or church backgrounds, we could have different concepts of miracles. This really is inevitable because we do not absolutely all study the bible by ourselves. All of the time, we depend upon our elders, bible teachers and godly leaders to show us what the bible says. We make the assumption that they are more knowledgeable than we are and so we simply trust what they have taught.
Our church traditions have their features but several of those are producing negative results. Therefore, it’s not whether my church tradition is preferable to yours or vice versa. The main element is to discover which aspects of our traditions are in accordance with what the bible actually teaches and which are not. It is dangerous to simply take things for granted.
Through The Elijah Challenge ministry, we have taught many nameless and faceless believers from the 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 can not happen today. Through their teachings, essays and books, quite numerous 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 3rd period was from the full time of Jesus to the Apostles. The final time when miracles will become rampant is the time of the Antichrist and the truly amazing Tribulation.
The churches that adhere to the professor’s assumptions and arguments ultimately put on theological blinders – God will not perform any miracles outside these periods. According in their mind, all of 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 was not anti-supernatural acim. He believed that all the supernatural activities present in 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 inside our era mainly because God apparently doesn’t have reason to create them happen.
I studied an 18-page transcript of a class lesson taught by a well known 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 was 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 instruct that God is obligated to heal every disease and infirmity if the believer were to response in genuine faith. He believed that when anyone who claimed healing and still continued to take medicine, anyone would not be expressing his faith with matching action.
Later, Freeman was charged by the federal government for’negligent homicide’when some members of his congregation died because of the insufficient medical care. Women were told to give birth in the 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 prior to his appearance in court, Freeman passed away.
The bible teacher then listed his own range 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 the very least a curiosity to most of us that so many leading advocates of faith healing are sick!” He is careful to indicate that several faith healers also died of chronic diseases.
After presenting an entire host of weird and ridiculous events that were considered miraculous by the naive, the bible teacher hopes to convince his audience that people who experience or believe in modern miracles are of similar sounding naive people. Sounding benevolent, he warns that false signs and false miracles are the primary tool of Satan in the long run times.
This cessationist claims he believes God can still do miracles because God’s power hasn’t diminished even yet in modern time. The moment he finishes that, he quickly emphasizes that none, absolutely none, of the so-called miracles experienced today is of biblical standard. Then 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 create one or more person who’s raised from the dead. All of the healing miracles, according to this teacher, are partial, gradual, temporary and on occasions, become reversed. They’re impossible to verify and apparently the only real instant miracles are those that have to do with psychosomatic diseases.
With heavy mockery, this teacher says that even though the Holy Spirit wants to release His power to heal, why does He choose to release it on individuals who are teaching bad theology. In true pharisaic approach, he declares that surely if the Holy Spirit wanted to authenticate anybody with miracles, He might have chosen people such as the cessationists because in line with the teacher, they were supposed to the majority of skilled and teach the truest, purest, most profound and biblical form of theology. The arrogance of the theological prowess is evidenced nonetheless it will work for us to notice that after Jesus first came, He didn’t approach the so-called skilled teachers of the Torah to generally share the Good News. He instead called those who were not theological trained people such as for instance fishermen, tax-collector and even ex-prostitute.