Thursday, December 19, 2013

Hermeneutical Philosophies for Interpreting Narrative Literature Part 7 - A Narrative from Silence

A Narrative from Silence

The Pentecostal Hermeneutic is criticized for forming a theology exclusively from the narratives, which mixes the unique with the programmatic. There are those that reject the entirety of the charismatic as having no contemporary relevance to ministry. Some theologians have surmised that the gifts of the Spirit were a temporary endowment granted for a special purpose. It was confined to the age of the apostles and is not present in the modern era (Eerdman 1919, 28). Those who reject the pentecostal hermeneutic may not be cessationists, but unable to find a satisfactory hermeneutical principle by which to interpret the miracle-laden text ,many abandon the practice of miracles altogether. Yet this approach has neither a didactic nor a narrative from which to base itself. The book of Acts is the singular post-pentecost history in scripture, and however one interprets that account, it cannot be denied that those whom Luke recorded performed copious amounts of miracles. Miracles constituted a significant portion of their ministry, with what regularity it is to be repeated is disputable. What is indisputable is that for decades miracles generally accompanied their outreaches, and the following generations of the church followed suit. Those today who neglect the miraculous forge a new ministry pattern that bears no resemblance to the early church. Thus, in rejecting the narrative due to the absence of the didactic, they are left with neither. The cessationist has no biblical justification of any kind; for this reason the number of cessationist scholars are rapidly declining and it is becoming an increasingly marginalized viewpoint

The cessationist position is found in a reaction against the pentecostal position, as opposed to scripture. Cessationist theologian John MacArthur believes if pentecostals were honest with themselves they would concede that personal experience, not scripture, forms the foundation for their belief system (MacArthur 1992, 26). This position comes at the beginning of a book that does not provide a single verse to support the cessation of spiritual gifts; but rather is polemic against abuses by those who misuse spiritual gifts. Cessationist thought finds its most complete and developed doctrinal expression in B.B. Warfield's Counterfeit Miracles (Bicket 2001, 82), who, like MacArthur, appeals nearly exclusively to what he perceives to be spiritual abuses from those touting miracles. The cessationist, in the absence of biblical support to malign a doctrine, must depend upon their negative experience with pentecostals, as opposed to solid biblical support to support their doctrine.
A miracless ministry is not one found in the scriptures, and to envision one is to create a new theology and ministry: a ministry without the apologetic resource of healing, exorcism, words of wisdom, and prophecy that defined the apostolic ministry. This form of outreach must base itself around alternative forms of evangelism that scripture neither endorses nor provides a narrative for example. Essentially, in doing so, this position is based on a narrative that doesn't exist. There are areas of valid criticism hurled at pentecostals, but that is an appeal to emotions, experience, and a narrative of silence. Thus their ministry may bear resemblances to the early church in charitable works and teaching, but in avoiding the miraculous set a precedent based on experience and tradition, rather than scripture.

God Love You -- Rev. Sheen


Eerdman, Charles R., The Acts, An Exposition, Westminster Press, Philadelphia, PA, 1919

MacArthur, John, Charismatic Chaos, Zondervan Publishing House, Grand Rapids, MI, 1992

Bicket, Zenas J., Introduction to Pentecostal Doctrine, Gospel Publishing House, Springfield, Missouri, 2001.

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