We are all afflicted with our church traditions and cultures. Depending on our denominational or church backgrounds, we may have different concepts of miracles. That is inevitable because we do not totally all study the bible by ourselves. Most of the time, we depend upon our elders, bible teachers and godly leaders showing us what the bible says. We make the assumption they are more knowledgeable than we’re and so we simply trust what they’ve taught.
Our church traditions have their strengths but some of those are producing negative results. Therefore, it’s not whether my church tradition is preferable to yours or vice versa. The important thing is to find out which aspects of our traditions are consistent with what the bible actually teaches and which are not. It’s dangerous to just take things for granted.
Through The Elijah Challenge ministry, we’ve taught many nameless and faceless believers from the mainline evangelical and Pentecostal / Charismatic churches. We thank God that many of these mainline evangelical churches are receptive to divine healing and the practice of healing the sick.
There are several churches that believe miracles have already ceased and therefore they can’t happen today. Through their teachings, essays and books, quite several 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 each one of 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 declare that God only allow extensive miracles in three periods of history, namely from enough time of Moses to Joshua, Elijah and Elisha. The 3rd period was from enough time of Jesus to the Apostles. The ultimate time when miracles can become rampant would be the time of the Antichrist and the truly amazing Tribulation.
The churches that abide by the professor’s assumptions and arguments ultimately wear theological blinders – God will not perform any miracles outside these periods. According to them, all of the claims of healing miracles in the Pentecostal and Charismatic movements are therefore either fakes or false miracles.
Like most 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 enough time of the Apostles. Signs and wonders cannot occur within our era simply because God apparently does not have any 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 was simply 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 as a result of not enough medical care. Women were told to provide 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 which range from A. A. Allen, Kathyrn Kuhlman to John Wimber. In careful calculated mockery, he says, “Now, it appears obvious, at the very least a curiosity to all of us that so many leading advocates of faith healing are sick!” He’s careful to point out that many of these faith healers also died of chronic diseases.
After presenting an entire host of weird and ridiculous events that have been considered miraculous by the naive, the bible teacher hopes to convince his audience that folks who experience or believe in modern miracles are of similar category of naive people. Sounding benevolent, he warns that false signs and false miracles are the principal tool of Satan ultimately times.
This cessationist claims he believes God can still do miracles because God’s power hasn’t diminished even in modern time. When 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 previously mentioned in 1 Corinthians 12, has ceased operating today. He challenges the Charismatics to make one or more person who is raised from the dead. Most of the healing miracles, according to the teacher, are partial, gradual, temporary and on occasions, become reversed. They’re impossible to verify and apparently the sole instant miracles are the ones that have to do with psychosomatic diseases.
With heavy mockery, this teacher says that even though the Holy Spirit wants to produce His capacity to heal, why does He choose to produce it on people that 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 such as 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 these theological prowess is evidenced however it is wonderful for us to notice that when Jesus first came, He did not approach the so-called skilled teachers of the Torah to talk about the Good News. He instead called those that weren’t theological trained people such as for instance fishermen, tax-collector and even ex-prostitute.