Table Charismata Matters

Sunday, January 29, 2017

Uprooting and Replanting Mulberry Trees

The following is a response to Steve Hays' blogpost:
Casting mountains into the sea

Steve's blogpost is a kind of sequel to his blogpost Faith and providence. Of which I responded to in the combox as well as in my own blogpost:
A Response to Steve Hays' Comments Regarding Nabeel Qureshi's Illness

Blue Sentences in Italics are quotations from Steve's Blogpost.

"Did Jesus literally mean that his followers can uproot mountains and cast them into the sea? Is that the kind of world we actually live in?"

I don't see how that isn't in the same league as Joshua commanding the sun to "stand still", Moses speaking to a rock to release water (which he messed up), Jesus commanding a fig tree to die, a storm to cease and demons to leave. Someone might say God indicated to Moses that He wanted to perform the miracle. But that's not the case with Joshua.

12    At that time Joshua spoke to the LORD in the day when the LORD gave the Amorites over to the sons of Israel, and he said in the sight of Israel,
    "Sun, stand still at Gibeon,
        and moon, in the Valley of Aijalon."
13    And the sun stood still, and the moon stopped,
        until the nation took vengeance on their enemies.
    Is this not written in the Book of Jashar? The sun stopped in the midst of heaven and did not hurry to set for about a whole day.14 There has been no day like it before or since, when the LORD heeded the voice of a man, for the LORD fought for Israel.- Joshua 10:12-14
As far as I can tell Joshua didn't get an impression from God that He was already planning on stopping the sun. Joshua initiated the miracle himself (according to God's hidden decree if Calvinism is true). God didn't let Joshua's "word fall to the ground" in the same way God would later uphold Samuel's words (1 Sam. 3:19). They spoke in faith and God backed up both them and their words. They spoke in a way Paul would later describe in the following way,
Since we have the same spirit of faith according to what has been written, “I believed, and so I spoke,” we also believe, and so we also speak,- 2 Cor. 4:13

The woman healed from an issue of blood—recorded in all three Synoptic Gospels—had no revelation from God or Jesus that she would be healed if she touched the hem of Jesus' garment. In fact, Jesus was surprised and wasn't expecting healing virtue to flow from Him to heal her. He didn't know who it was who got healed. In the case of the healing of the Centurion's servant Jesus was going to personally travel to the servant to minister healing, yet it was the Centurion's faith which dictated how the healing would occur. He told Jesus that all He needed to do was to say the word (i.e. give the command) and the healing would occur. Jesus seemed to be reluctant to turn water into wine at the request of His mother, but He did it anyway. Abraham was cheeky when he persisted in lowering the number of people required for God to relent destroying Sodom and Gomorrah. The same thing when Moses contradicted God's apparent decree that He would start all over again and make a people out of Moses. Moses argued with God to change His mind and forgive his fellow Israelites. Moses had the chutzpah to ask God to show him His glory. The Syrophoenican woman persisted in asking Jesus to heal her daughter contrary to His stated intention NOT to heal her, as Vincent Cheung masterfully expounds in his blogpost Faith Override [though, there are some non-sequiturs in the details of his article]. He wrote:

He [Jesus] said no. He said no in three or four ways. There was the silent treatment. There was the positive covenantal argument. There was the negative covenantal argument. And there was the redemptive-historical maneuver.
Imagine what you would have done. He was not just ignoring you, he was saying no. He was not just saying no, he was schooling you in theology. You were defenseless because he was correct, and he was the Son of God............The woman did not accept the denial as “the will of God,” but she pressed on. Jesus asserted a covenantal argument. Then he asserted a redemptive-historical argument. He was correct theologically. What could turn this around?  It was the simplest and rarest thing in the world. The woman asserted an argument from faith. She hijacked the Lord’s metaphor and insisted on getting something from him that was not intended for her and that did not belong to her, and that he said was “not right” to give to her. Faith made it right anyway. She had no covenant, and it was not her time, but she still got what she wanted. What’s your excuse?
 From the human perspective it seems like humans were in control of the miracles and/or God's response. As a Calvinist I would see those actions as previously decreed by God, though they (the humans) didn't know that.

If moving mountains is hyperbole, then is Luke 17:5 also hyperbole?

The apostles said to the Lord, "Increase our faith!"6 And the Lord said, "If you had faith like a grain of mustard seed, you could say to this mulberry tree, 'Be uprooted and planted in the sea,' and it would obey you.- Luke 17:5

"ii) Consider the havoc it would wreak if Christians had the power to trigger natural disasters. Do we really think God has delegated that kind of unbridled power to Christians?"

God's promises to answer prayer are always understood to be in keeping with His purposes, decrees and moral standards. So, for example, God would never answer a prayer for successful adultery and theft, or the destruction of the world, or the damnation of every human, or the cancellation of the Second Coming of Christ etc.

 If you abide in me, and my words abide in you, ask whatever you wish, and it will be done for you.- John 15:7

21 Beloved, if our heart does not condemn us, we have confidence before God;22 and whatever we ask we receive from him, because we keep his commandments and do what pleases him.- 1 John 3:21-22

14 And this is the confidence that we have toward him, that if we ask anything according to his will he hears us.15 And if we know that he hears us in whatever we ask, we know that we have the requests that we have asked of him.- 1 John 5:14-15

Having Christ's Words abiding in oneself informs one of what God would generally or specifically desire or approve of. There are some things not addressed or covered in God's Word which may or may not be God's purpose to grant. In which case, our confidence in God's granting those types of things will be weaker than for something that God has revealed (e.g. healing according to faith as in James 5:15). Though, if our hearts are attuned to God's heart, we can sometimes sense if something would be in keeping with God's purposes without any impression or private revelation. Other times there might be such an impression or private revelation that God is desirous to perform it. For example, George Mueller said that there were times when he got impressions that God wanted something performed which wasn't covered in Scripture and which he wouldn't have felt free to ask for or do without such an impression or gift of faith. Conversely, God sometimes gives impressions that it is not His will to grant a prayer. That's whether it's not covered by God's Word or even if covered by God's Word. So, if—ex hypothesi—it is God's general will to always heal the sick given sufficient faith, there have been times when people specifically got the impression it was NOT God's intention to heal a person (at least at that time) and so not to pray. That includes folks like George Mueller , Johann Christoph Blumhardt, Francis MacNutt, Charles S. Price et alii.

The following is a quote from chapter 9 of Charles S. Price's book The Real Faith.

Some years ago I was conducting a meeting in a Presbyterian Church in Medford, Oregon. The Lord led us to hold a healing service one afternoon. The place was crowded, and many were standing outside and on the window ledges, looking into the building. One of that number was a little crippled boy who walked with the aid of crutches. My heart bled for the little fellow, for there was such a look of pathos about his blue eyes that my heart was stirred. Silently I lifted my heart to the Lord, and asked for faith for the healing of the little lad.

Then across the platform there came for prayer a line of children, most of whom were accompanied by their parents. A little girl stood in front of me. Her mother was weeping. I laid my hands on her head and prayed.

Nothing happened; but the spirit of the meeting seemed to change. There was a deadness and a heaviness which weighed heavily upon me. I prayed again; and the feeling seemed to increase. I looked at the weeping mother in bewilderment. She was sobbing. At last she cried out, almost hysterically, "Why won't Jesus heal my girl?"

"Where do you worship?" I asked.

"I go to the Methodist Church," was her reply.

I looked at her closely. Then into my heart there came a suspicion. Just at that moment the Lord imparted the gift of discernment to one of the people by my side who asked the woman this question: "Have you ever been in Mysticism or Occultism?"

She had, she confessed. Her little girl did not go to the Methodist Church. She, herself, had not been there for months. She had been attending a spiritualist seance week after week. Then I knew why my Lord had withheld His blessing and His faith. The mother continued to cry in her agony of soul, "He has healed others; please ask Him to heal my little girl."

I said, "Sister, do you know anything about salvation through the shed blood of Jesus on Calvary?"

She said she had at one time, but a sorrow had come into her life and, instead of taking a little tighter grip on the hand divine, she had turned away from God. In response to my appeal, she said that she would like to give her heart to Christ then and there, and asked me to pray for her. She repeated a prayer of surrender after me, and then I closed with the words, "I am trusting in Jesus as my personal Savior, and I claim the promise of the blood as the atonement for all my sin."

Into my heart, and into hers too there swept a glory wave from heaven. As I reached out my hand once again to her little girl, I knew that her days as a cripple were over. She sprang to her feet. She was healed! Then I looked at the poor little crippled boy and held out my hand for him to try to climb through the window and come to the platform for prayer. He did not come. Instead, he fell through the window, leaving his crutches on the outside! He too was healed.

The Holy Ghost took such charge of that service, that I have seldom seen anything to equal it. Not only were people healed, but many were saved. Down the aisle came a dear, old lady who had been in a wheel chair for years. She was leaping, shouting, and praising God, even as they did in the days when the Savior walked the streets with men. What a meeting! What a time to make men adore Him and angels to rejoice.
Now, suppose I had possessed faith for the healing of that little girl. Suppose that when I first laid hands on her head, she had gone away well. Her mother would have taken it as a sign that the seance was in the order of the Lord, and from that moment on she would have been more deeply enmeshed in the spiritism that I do not believe is of God. So, when I prayed in my lack of understanding, the spirit of faith and assurance was lifted from me. How empty I felt. Then, when the mother accepted Jesus as her personal Savior, faith was imparted and the work was done. Instead of struggling to be healed, how much sweeter and richer life would be, were we to look to Jesus who is "the Author and the Finisher of our faith."
Returning to Steve's question:

"ii) Consider the havoc it would wreak if Christians had the power to trigger natural disasters. Do we really think God has delegated that kind of unbridled power to Christians?"

Assuming God did desire a mountain to be moved, God has the power to keep natural disasters like tsunamis from occurring. Take for example Joshua's commanding the sun to stand still. Some have speculated that God may have bent light in such a way that it looked like the sun stood still, and so provided the extra daylight hours for Joshua to win the battle. However, assuming God literally did stop the Earth from rotating, God—being omnipotent—could have performed the additional miracle(s) of preventing the natural disasters that would otherwise naturally have occurred had the sun literally stood still or the Earth stop spinning (depending whether you use as your coordinate system relative heliocentrism or relative geocentrism).

"iv) Furthermore, it isn't even coherent. What if a farmer prays for rain while his neighbor prays for sunshine to display her baked goods at the county fair?"

Craig Keener has described nature miracles that amounted to this in his two volume book on Miracles [including interviews]. In one instance a village didn't get rain according to the presumptuous statement of a Christian believer despite surrounding villages receiving rain. The believer regretted making the statement before his pagan neighbors, but nevertheless fervently prayed that God would bring it to pass as he said for the sake of God's honor and glory. Also, we have modern instances of rain falling with a clear boundary line so that you can actually see where one side is wet with falling rain and the other side is dry. Steve, has used a better example in times past when he pointed out people on different sides of a war can't both have their prayers answered for their own side win. Most battles in history aren't addressed in Scripture and its prophecies and so do not fall under any specific promise of God.

"vii) Someone might object that we shouldn't interpret v24 in light of experience. I disagree. If a claim has predictable consequences, then it's legitimate to judge the claim by the outcome. If the claim is true, there will be observable evidence. That's the nature of the claim. It is necessary to take experience into account when a particular claim implies a particular experience."

Conversely, if it works in some sense for some people in some areas, then that might suggest they are interpreting the passage correctly. I say "in some sense" since the people I cite have their own peculiar qualifications regarding the efficacy of faith (as I've given my own throughout this blogpost). I say "in some areas" because some Christians seem to have developed faith in some areas more than (or to the exclusion of) others. Mueller had great faith for provision but not in healing apart from the gift of faith. Whereas Smith Wigglesworth had great faith for healing, but virtually none for finances in comparison to Mueller. The apostle James apparently had great faith for healing and WISDOM. I've already cited James 5:14ff for healing. Here's James regarding EXPECTANT Faith for WISDOM:

5    If any of you lacks wisdom, let him ask God, who gives generously to all without reproach, and it will be given him.6 But let him ask in faith. with no doubting, for the one who doubts is like a wave of the sea that is driven and tossed by the wind.7 For that person must not suppose that he will receive anything from the Lord;8 he is a double-minded man, unstable in all his ways.- James 1:5-8

 James' statement about "anything from the Lord" might be interpreted to mean that James was teaching the exercise of expectant faith was not limited to asking for wisdom. This would be consistent with his statement later on regarding the "prayer of faith" for healing in James 5:14ff. Others had great faith for prophesying (Rom. 12:6) as God gave to each person a measure of faith (Rom. 12:3, Eph. 4:7). I could name more Arminian/Arminian-like healing ministers and give examples, and I've already mentioned a Pentecostal (Price), a Catholic (MacNutt) and a Lutheran (Blumhardt). But I should give some more Calvinist examples as well, besides Mueller (who more or less eventually came to a Calvinistic soteriology).  For example, Andrew Murray [here or here] and A. J. Gordon were two Calvinists (of sorts) who believed and taught—in some sense and degree—expectant faith for healing. For contemporary Calvinistic examples, I would recommend the writings of Sam Storms, or reading Johanes Lilik Susanto's Doctoral Thesis where he gives examples in his own experience [or HERE]. Or controversial Calvinist Vincent Cheung's testimonies.


Beginning in Healing Ministry by Vincent Cheung

Advancing in Healing Ministry by Vincent Cheung

Contending in Healing Ministry by Vincent Cheung

Or Cheung's books on Biblical Healing

Here's a quote from Cheung's blogpost Advancing in Healing Ministry:

The first time I preached was also the first time I prayed for the sick. I was sixteen, a high school student. Someone was able to secure the basement of a bank for me to preach to a group of adults every Sunday. Most of the people were middle-aged, probably older than I am now. If any of them looked down on me because of my age, they no longer did after the first night.

In the message, I declared that God still performed miracles and that he commanded all believers to heal the sick. After I finished, I invited anyone who was sick to come forward, and I would pray for healing in front of everybody. Before that time, although I had heard about it, I had never prayed for the sick, never seen anyone pray for the sick, and never seen any miracle of healing. I went ahead by faith, because God told me to pray for the sick in the Bible.

Only one person came up, although after she was healed, others streamed forward. She had an abnormal curvature of the spine for some years, and was frequently in pain. I asked her to name her condition, if she had been to the doctor, and to tell us what the doctor said about it. I asked her to describe what had to be changed physically in order for her to be healed. And I confirmed that she was in pain at that moment.

Then I placed my hand on her back and was going to command her spine to become straight in the name of Jesus. I hardly went further than “In the name of Gee…” when I felt a blast come down through the ceiling (Isaiah 65:24, Matthew 6:8). I say that I could “feel” it, but it was not the same as a sensation on the body. A sensation on the body occurs when something interacts with our body, so that something that occurs beyond the space that our body occupies would not produce such a sensation. But I could feel this definitely. It was so much like a physical sensation that I would have mistaken it as one if not for the fact that it started very far from my body, even from the level above us. The Bible might be referring to something similar when it says, “At once Jesus realized that power had gone out from him” (Mark 5:30).

This blast of power or energy took the shape of a sphere, about four to five feet in diameter. It crashed down through the ceiling at an angle, struck the woman on the head, and went down her spine to my hand. She fell to the floor. When we picked her up, she no longer had any pain, and she could bend down to touch her toes, something that she could not do before.

When it happened, although the whole place gasped, I was not surprised, because I really believed. I told the people to thank God, and asked if there were other sick people present, and waved them forward. Now, I am just telling you what happened, but special sensations are in fact unnecessary for healing, and more powerful cases have occurred when I did not feel anything.

So I had success the first time I prayed for the sick. On the other hand, there was one person who prayed for over a hundred people before the first healing happened. He continued, because the Bible told him to pray for the sick. Then, once the miracles started, they never stopped. He had a worldwide ministry of healing for decades. Another person prayed for many people over a year and a half before the first healing happened, and he has been a strong proponent of the healing ministry ever since on an international scale. I cannot speculate on why it happened this way for them, especially since I did not know them personally, although I might be able to offer some theories if I know more about their personalities and circumstances.

My point is that you should pray for the sick because the Bible teaches it, and do not give up if people do not receive healing right away. Even if you are not successful the first time, or the first fifty times, it does not mean that you will never have a ministry of healing. It does not happen the same way with everybody. Do not think that you do not have the “gift” of healing. Forget about the gifts – relatively speaking, the Bible almost never talks about spiritual operations in such terms. All you need is faith in God and compassion toward the people. God has all the gifts.
I'm not saying as a matter of fact that Vincent Cheung or any of the people I have (or could) listed performed the supernatural feats they've claimed or have been attributed to them. The point is that IF some of them have, then Steve's criteria of experience would be evidence for my view. Especially since doubt and faith (much less sufficient faith) are not empirically observable, whereas apparent healing in connection with—and in the context of—a profession of faith would be empirically observable. This is analogous to how a Christian can logically claim to have a positive experience of God's presence, whereas atheists cannot logically claim to have a positive experience of the non-existence of God. Atheist lack of experience doesn't proof God's non-existence since, (generally speaking) as the saying goes, "Absence of evidence is not evidence of absence." It could be the case that everyone Steve could cite who failed to receive a positive answer to prayer 1. didn't pray for something that was God's will (ever or at that time); 2. prayed for something contrary to God's will (ever or at that time); 3. lacked sufficient faith to meet the conditions to received what God was willing to grant; 4. prayed with impure motives (James 4:2-3); or a combination of those things. I've cited a few experiential cases because Steve's blogpost emphasized the informative nature of experience and what we can infer from them. I could have cited more examples, but one need only browse this blog Charismata Matters.

 From my Calvinistic Continuationist perspective the difference between those for whom "it works" and for those whom it doesn't is the result of the nexus of 1. God's sovereignty, 2. God's calling and 3. people's knowledge and faith (the latter two ultimately falling under the influence of the first). While God may be generally willing to heal people and to use every Christian to minister healing, not everyone has a specific calling for a healing ministry (or have gifts of healing). The latter group would naturally have greater success in a healing ministry than the average Christian.


FN #1. One thing more. Some say, “Oh, I shall never have the gift of Faith Mr. Mueller has got.” This is a mistake—it is the greatest error—there is not a particle of truth in it. My Faith is the same kind of Faith that all of God's children have had. It is the same kind that Simon Peter had, and all Christians may obtain the like Faith. My Faith is their Faith, though there may be more of it because my Faith has been a little more developed by exercise then theirs; but their Faith is precisely the Faith I exercise, only, with regard to degree, mine may be more strongly exercised. Now, my beloved brothers and sisters, begin in a little way. At first I was able to trust the Lord for ten dollars, then for a hundred dollars, then for a thousand dollars, and now, with the greatest ease, I could trust Him for a million dollars, if there was occasion. But first, I should quietly, carefully, deliberately examine and see whether what I was trusting for, was something in accordance with His promises in His written Word.- George Mueller

FN #2 "It pleased the Lord, I think, to give me in some cases something like the gift (not grace) of faith, so that unconditionally I could ask and look for an answer. The difference between the gift and the grace of faith seems to me this. According to the gift of faith I am able to do a thing, or believe that a thing will come to pass, the not doing of which, or the not believing of which would not be sin; according to the grace of faith I am able to do a thing, or believe that a thing will come to pass, respecting which I have the word of God as the ground to rest upon, and, therefore, the not doing it, or the not believing it would be sin. For instance, the gift of faith would be needed, to believe that a sick person should be restored again, though there is no human probability: for there is no promise to that effect; the grace of faith is needed to believe that the Lord will give me the necessaries of life, if I first seek the kingdom of God and His righteousness: for there is a promise to that effect. (Matt. vi. 33.)" - George Mueller


  1. AP,

    Have you ever been healed or been involved in a healing?

    It would be nice if somebody responded to your questions in the comments on Triablogue:

    "Was it cruel for Jesus to tell the father of the demoniac 'If you can believe, all things are possible to him who believes?' (Mark 9:23)?"

    "Was it cruel for Jesus to chastise Peter for not continuing to walk on water? Jesus immediately reached out his hand and took hold of him, saying to him,'O you of little faith, why did you doubt?' - Matt. 14:31"

    "Was it cruel of Jesus to rebuke the disciples that it was because of their lack of faith that they couldn't deliver the demoniac even though they should have been able to?
    '19 Then the disciples came to Jesus privately and said, 'Why could we not cast it out?'20 He said to them, 'Because of your little faith. For truly, I say to you, if you have faith like a grain of mustard seed, you will say to this mountain, 'Move from here to there,' and it will move, and nothing will be impossible for you.'- Matt. 17:19-20"

  2. One of my goals for my blogs (especially this one) is to encourage and facilitate the convergence of Continuationists and Calvinists. Something which Sam Storms attempts to do in his book by the title Convergence: Spiritual Journeys of a Charismatic Calvinist. Continuationists tend to oppose Calvinism, just as Calvinists tend to oppose Continuationism. However, considering Church history these past few decades, it's looking to me like God really does want these two groups to start learning from each other and even to converge and merge to some extent. Because I'm trying to persuade both sides theologically, I want to keep my own experiences out of the discussion. I want to focus on the Biblical, theological, logical and historical issues and not my own private experiences of the supernatural (of which I've had) and/or lack of experiences (of which I've also had). I want to focus on what the Bible says and what the church universal has experienced, and not the epxerience of any one particular person (especially myself). My contention is that the Bible teaches both sides of Continuationistic Calvinism and that the history of the church confirms this by the fact that the foundational issues of unconditional election and continuing supernatural experiences has been around from the very beginning and has never left the Church. And that God has providentially blessed both groups in their goal to advance God's Kingdom.

    Hypothetically speaking, if I were to reveal that I had extraordinarily amazing supernatural experiences, some of my fellow Calvinists who are cessationists would be incredulous and likely say that my experiences are dictating my interpretation of Scripture and coloring my theology. Many (not all) of them automatically assume any modern claims to the supernatural are necessarily demonic if truly supernatural. That's their a priori assumption. Conversely, hypothetically, if I were to say that I've never had a clear supernatural experience, then that would likely make my fellow Continuationists who are non-Calvinistic conclude that this empirically confirms the error of Calvinism and justifies the old canard of Calvinists necessarily being the "chosen frozen". Many (not all) of them assuming that where the Spirit of the LORD is there will always be confirmatory and attesting miraculous signs following. The fact is that God has also worked to bring revival and awaking through cessationist and semi-cessationist preachers, teachers and theologians.

    From my perspective, a more encouraging fact that I want to highlight is that mighty supernatural occurrences have happened in the past among those who have held to unconditional election and a high view of God's sovereignty. (e.g. the Covenanters). I believe there is no contradiction between the two theologies. With respect to myself, I think it's sufficient for me to say that I've had (what I rightly or wrongly interpret to be) real supernatural experiences without going into details.



    1. Some relevant links:

      A Reformation Discussion of Extraordinary Predictive Prophecy Subsequent to the Closing of the Canon of Scripture by the Session of the PRCE

      Steve Hays on Cessationism

      The charismatic covenanters

      Extraordinary Gifts and Church Officers

      John Calvin Apparently Received a Word of Knowledge from God

      The Suppressed Evidence: Or, Proofs of the Miraculous Faith and Experience of the Church of Christ In All Ages, From Authentic Records of the Fathers, Waldenses, Hussites, Reformers, United Brethren, &c. by Thomas Boys

      The Ministry of Healing: Miracles of Cure in All Ages

      The Scots Worthies by John Howie

      Testimonies of the Supernatural Among Respected Christian Leaders

  3. Fair enough. Thanks for the reply. If it's not too personal, what kind of church (i.e., denomination) do you attend?