The dull and predictable anonymous pseudonyms over at churchwatchcentral love quoting one of their former contributors and ‘good friend’ Jeff Maples, who has also contributed at controversial polemics site Pulpit & Pen.
Now Jeff has his own blog, which bears a striking resemblance to Pulpit & Pen, and is unfortunately festooned with advertisements, some quite worldly in Christian terms.
Attacking Dr Brown is habit forming
In a recent criticism of Messianic Jewish Christian author and broadcaster Dr Michael Brown, Maples makes some extraordinary claims about what the Bible does and doesn’t say about the gifts and manifestations of the Spirit and about speaking in tongues. These are his words…
Michael Brown is the world’s premier apologist for the ancient heresy of Montanism. Montanism is the heresy that teaches that certain spiritual gifts, such as prophecy, continue today and that it is possible to receive direct, divine revelation from God apart from Scripture. The heresy has been re-packaged in modern times into what is known as the charismatic movement. Charismatics and Pentecostals hold to the unbiblical position that the apostolic sign gifts, such as tongues, prophecy, and the gift of healing are still for the Church today.Jeff Maples
Well, who says that Dr Brown is an apologist for the ancient heresy of Montanism? He certainly doesn’t. I don’t. His peers don’t. No, that is purely Maples’ opinion, in which he takes something of a liberty with the facts. Thus, he starts off on the wrong foot and meanders off into la-la land in his judgment from that point.
You see, Maples, like his cohorts at Pulpit & Pen, associates anyone who believes in the Biblical teaching on speaking in tongues, or prophecy, the gifts and manifestations of the Spirit as engaging in Montanism. He made that up of course. Or rather, he borrowed it from polemicist Jordan Hall, who is the originator of the fallacy.
Maples claims that ‘Montanism is the heresy that teaches that certain spiritual gifts, such as prophecy, continue today and that it is possible to receive direct, divine revelation from God apart from Scripture.’ Notice that he tags on ‘apart from scripture’ on the end of his self-assessed definition.
If you merely take the substance of the sentence and apply it to Biblical possibilities you will come up with, ‘Montanism teaches that certain spiritual gifts, such as prophecy, continue today and that it is possible to receive direct, divine revelation from God.’
The rest Maples’ added for effect based on the claims of anti-Montanus critics. Montanus’ contemporary Tertulian would certainly have disagreed with Maples’ claims, although there were some ancient critics who would have agreed, hence Tertulian’s qualification that the Montanists New Prophecy did not contain extra-Biblical content. The argument is up for debate but rather inconclusive.
The historical truth is that no-one accurately knows exactly what the Montanists actually taught or believed, and what we do have is mostly speculation derived from criticism issued by their contemporary opponents, which Maples, here, is continuing willy-nilly.
By all accounts, Montanists were mostly engaging in a form of prophecy as far as the writings we do have confirm, and relied heavily on the teachings of the Apostle John from His gospel and letters, and the Revelation. Whether or not they considered it extra-Biblical revelation, or engaged in the gifts of the Spirit is not confirmed or known.
Speculation is not information, nor confirmation.
Are tongues and gifts Biblical?
I’m not for Montanism, or out to defend it, but you can see that the basic claim is that there are Christians who believe that the Bible teaches that spiritual gifts continue today, and that God communicates with His people. Maples appears to consider this to be error. He also tags believers who are continuationists with a Montanism sticker.
He argues that, ‘The heresy has been re-packaged in modern times into what is known as the charismatic movement.’ He has slimed charismatics with Montanism as a matter of convenience to support his argument, not because of any actual factual evidence he can readily produce.
His argument goes something like this: ‘Montanists believed in prophecy, and charismatics believe in prophecy, therefore charismatics must be Montanists.’ Yes, I know, that is a very dubious argument. A ten-year-old could dismantle it.
It’s like saying that the Spanish eat cheese, and the Italians eat cheese, therefore the Spanish must be Italian.’
What do charismatics believe that Maples, a Reformed doctrine adherent and cessationist, does not? Basically, charismatics believe that tongues and prophecy are for today, and that the gifts and manifestations of the Spirit are current, whereas Maples teaches that tongues have ceased and the gifts and manifestations of the Spirit have ended.
Accepting tongues, prophecy and the gifts of the Spirit as contemporary to the Church is certainly not the same as being a Montanist, ancient or modern. It is simply applying what the Bible teaches.
Was the Apostle Paul a Montanist because he taught on speaking in tongues, prophecy and the gifts and manifestations of the Spirit? Of course not. He was the Apostle charged with teaching revelations he received from the Lord. He taught on the correct application of tongues, prophecy, the gifts and the manifestations of the Spirit. He was certainly not a cessationist.
Then Maples adds Pentecostals to his list of the accused. He says, ‘Charismatics and Pentecostals hold to the unbiblical position that the apostolic sign gifts, such as tongues, prophecy, and the gift of healing are still for the Church today.’
Read that through carefully again. He charges that tongues, prophecy, and the ‘gift of healing’ are unbiblical. In fact, it is the ‘gifts of healings’, plural, and it is definitely, along with the other gifts and manifestations, Biblical. Why? Because they are listed in scripture, taught on in scripture and encouraged in scripture.
1 Corinthians 14:1-5 Pursue love, and desire spiritual gifts, but especially that you may prophesy.
For 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. But he who prophesies speaks edification and exhortation and comfort to men.
He who speaks in a tongue edifies himself, but he who prophesies edifies the church.
I wish you all spoke with tongues, but even more that you prophesied; for he who prophesies is greater than he who speaks with tongues, unless indeed he interprets, that the church may receive edification.
How can tongues, prophecy and the gifts be unbiblical if the Apostle Paul is teaching us to be zealous for them, and showing how they are to be utilised in an assembly or in private prayer and worship?
Paul actually hopes that all speak with tongues, obviously meaning in private prayer, devotion and worship in spiritual conversation with the Lord, but, rather, that in the assembly, all are able to prophesy unless there is interpretation of the tongue. He is being inclusive. He is directing order. Bringing correction. It is all about the difference between personal or corporate edification through the gifts. That is the context.
He is not rejecting tongues. He is instructing on the correct use. He is not rejecting prophecy. He is instructing on the correct context. They are perfectly Biblical.
1 Corinthians 14:39-40 Therefore, brethren, desire earnestly to prophesy, and do not forbid to speak with tongues. Let all things be done decently and in order.
Oh, so part of conducting a meeting decently and in order includes the correct pastoral management and application of tongues, prophecy, and, in fact, the rest of the gifts of the Spirit.
It is Maples who is out of order in rejecting scripture here.
Are there such things as ‘apostolic sign gifts’?
What about his assertion that these are ”apostolic sign gifts’? What does that even mean? Are ‘apostolic sign gifts’ ‘Biblical’?
Cessationists, or some of them at least, teach that the gifts and manifestations of the Spirit, including speaking in tongues and prophecy, were for the Apostles of Christ alone as part of the evidence that they were Apostles. They call them ‘apostolic sign gifts.’ Polemicists love making up words and phrases to enhance their theology. This one appears to be ‘extra-Biblical.’
They say that because they were ‘apostolic sign gifts’ they passed away when the last of Christ’s Apostles passed away. It’s their get-out-of-jail card when reminded that there is no scripture to confirm cessationist theology.
This is poor exegesis, though, because Paul is clearly not talking only of Apostles when he teaches on the gifts and manifestations of the Spirit in the church setting. He is very obviously talking to the entire church at Corinth, and even makes mention of ‘all the churches’. He is not only addressing Apostles with these instructions. He is relating them to the Church, including present day members.
There are many scripture references that back up the current day Biblical use of speaking in tongues, prophecy, healing and the gifts of the Spirit. There is nothing to back up the cessationists’ theory that they have ended.
Try though they might, the cessationist theorists struggle with the fact that scripture is very clear on the gifts. Attacking Dr Brown for agreeing with scripture is a rather pointless exercise. It is even worse when the person laying down the accusations is in error himself.
As for the churchwatchcentral anonymi who perpetuate these false teachings by republishing them, maybe they should sharpen up on scripture and discover for themselves what the Bible actually teaches on these things. Shine a little light on themselves to find the edge of reality.