J D Hall is really upset. So upset that he has thrown a huge public tantrum.
What is he so annoyed about, you ask? Well J D wanted to have a big debate with Dr Michael Brown because Dr Brown is a continuist and J D is a cessationist. J D is offended because Dr Brown hasn’t acquiesced to his requests for a showdown.
Of course, the question one would ask is why Dr Brown would be bothered with J D Hall’s desperate desire for a debate? Everyone knows what they’re going to get.
J D has gathered a verbal arsenal of anti-charismatic weaponry based on his cessationist application of the Word of God.
He would like to test his theological blunderbuss by browbeating someone who has a reasonable level of knowledge of charismatic doctrine.
The trouble for J D is that Dr Brown, being a wise person, is probably not in the habit of wasting his time on people who think they know what they’re talking about but are clearly out of their depth when it comes to the subject matter at hand.
To put it simply, it is known that J D doesn’t believe, and obviously doesn’t want to believe, that the Holy Spirit is still engaging the Church with the same ministry as He did with the early Church. His position is set.
Why, then, would anyone spend their precious time arguing over another person’s deep prejudice, when there is a dying world which needs to be saved?
If there was a point to it then perhaps it would be worthwhile, but since the opening ambit is already antagonistic, why go there?
Which brings us to the other thing, which is Hall’s polemic style. It comes across as angry and contentious. Here’s an example of Hall’s sparring ethos taken from his pleading article ‘It’s Time for Dr Brown to Debate’.
‘I do not hold that the majority of evangelical charismatics are errant brothers. I hold that many are not brothers at all, worship a god of their imagination, have replaced true religion with myths and fables and occultic practices, and that God despises their worship as being in neither Spirit nor Truth.’
So there’s his starting point, clearly. Hall has declared the majority of the members of the charismatic movement to be unsaved.
Unless we can get past this faux pas I see no way to progress. He has implied in his challenge to Dr Brown that he doesn’t even regard those he is in league with to be Christians. They are not, to him, brethren.
In fact, he says, they are engaged in myths, fables and occultic practices. By this he means they speak in tongues, prophesy, pray for healing for the sick, cast demons out of possessed people, and worship God in an exuberant, devoted, and passionate way.
You see, he believes these things are occultism in the modern era even though they mirror that of the early church.
Which would indicate that he thinks the believers of the early Church must have engaged in the very same ‘occult’ practices, for they too were speaking in tongues, healing the sick, casting out demons and worshiping God with all their heart.
Perhaps Dr Brown is waiting for J D to exhibit a tad less pride and pomposity over this basic flaw in his assumptions before entertaining his dream of a public bunfight over doctrine.
It is quite likely that, in ignoring Hall’s challenge, Dr Brown is being gracious towards Hall, who, from a charismatic or Pentecostal perspective, really doesn’t have a clue what continuism is all about, and has already made up his mind to reject it regardless of what Dr Brown might offer.
I don’t see that contending for the faith is the same as being contentious, and Hall leans more to the latter than the former. Following his allegation that charismatics are not saved, Hall writes:
‘Charismatics seem unwilling to engage on this proposition in the religious marketplace of ideas, being satisfied to provide as their only defence their subjective experiences and a religious fervour that shouts down Holy Scripture in babbling tongues and nonsense words.’
First of all, what is a ‘religious marketplace of ideas’? Sounds like ecumenical waffle to me. Surely doctrine is derived from the canon of scripture, and is not subject to interpretation. Isn’t that the essence of Sola Scripture?
If the gifts and manifestations of the Spirit are revealed to us, then the onus on us is to go along with God’s will and instruction concerning their practice and application. The same with speaking in tongues, prophecy, healing and deliverance. If they have not ended, as we contend, then we are obliged to follow the teaching given to us in the Word.
I am not a charismatic, but I know enough to understand that they believe in far more that ‘subjective experiences and a religious fervour’, which is cessationist code for a complete misunderstanding of what the gift of prophecy and of speaking in tongues is Biblically.
Do you see how Hall converts speaking in tongues into ‘babbling’ and ‘nonsense words’? Here Dr Brown would have a field day with J D Hall, because, like all cessationist protagonists, he shows his complete ignorance of spiritual things when he uses such language.
It’s like Hall is admitting ‘I don’t know what I’m talking about, but I’m going to say something anyway, just so that you can see my ignorance of this subject in motion’.
You’re not supposed to understand
Scripture says that when a person speaks in tongues no one can understand him, so of course it would sound like ‘nonsense words’ to the uninformed or the unlearned.
1 Corinthians 14:2 He who speaks in a tongue does not speak to men but to God, for no one understands him; however, in the spirit he speaks mysteries.
Exactly! No one understands him. No wonder Hall thinks it’s ‘nonsense’. He doesn’t understand how tongues work.
When we speak in tongues we are not speaking to men but to God. Did you see that? We are speaking to God. Surely that’s a good thing. We are speaking in mysteries in the spirit. These mysteries will be revealed as the Spirit speaks through our spirit.
1 Corinthians 2:9-12 But as it is written: “Eye has not seen, nor ear heard, nor have entered into the heart of man the things which God has prepared for those who love Him.”
But God has revealed them to us through His Spirit. For the Spirit searches all things, yes, the deep things of God. For what man knows the things of a man except the spirit of the man which is in him? Even so no one knows the things of God except the Spirit of God.
Now we have received, not the spirit of the world, but the Spirit who is from God, that we might know the things that have been freely given to us by God.
This is Bible. This is Sola Scriptura. This is the Word of God for the Church.
Speaking in tongues is a New Testament ability directly from the Spirit of God. There are three operations spoken of in scripture. One is the simple gift of tongues which is a personal prayer and worship language. Another is the gift of tongues which requires an interpretation in an assembly. And the other is the office of speaking in tongues, which is also accompanied by the gift of interpretation of that tongue.
These manifestations are for the edification, exhortation and encouragement of the local church. They are as the Spirit leads, although we can speak with other tongues at our leisure and it is beneficial for building up the speaker spiritually.
This building up, incidentally, has nothing to do with being puffed up. I mention this because I have heard it said. It is knowledge that puffs up, not the gift of tongues, which builds up. There is a difference.
What I can’t understand is why anyone as determined to be Sola Scriptura as J D Hall is not excited spiritually to learn about and step into these things. What is he afraid of? It’s of the Spirit. Why are cessationists downplaying these wonderful gifts and manifestations of the Spirit when they are so powerful and useful to the Church?
1 Corinthians 12:1 Now concerning spiritual gifts, brethren, I do not want you to be ignorant.
Ignorance is not bliss. It is a rejection, in this case, of the truth. These gifts are for us today as much as for the early Church. They came from God for the Church. We should be delighted.
Perhaps Dr Brown will change his mind and take notice of J D Hall’s tears of anguish one day. Maybe when J D has calmed down in his approach, Dr Brown will invite him onto his own program for a chat around the scriptures.
There’s more to be said on this article in the future, but for now, I hope J D will read his New Testament with clearer eyes and an open heart towards the gifts and manifestations of the Spirit, and simply believe.
That’s all we’re required to do with the Word before acting on it.