We are all suffering from our church traditions and cultures. According to our denominational or church backgrounds, we could have different concepts of miracles. This is inevitable because we do not totally all study the bible by ourselves. All of the time, we depend upon our elders, bible teachers and godly leaders showing us what the bible says. We make the assumption that they’re more knowledgeable than we’re and so we simply trust what they have taught.
Our church traditions have their positive aspects but some of these are producing negative results. Therefore, it is not whether my church tradition is better than yours or vice versa. The main element is to find out which areas of our traditions are consistent with what the bible actually teaches and which are not. It is dangerous to simply take things for granted.
Through The Elijah Challenge ministry, we’ve taught many nameless and faceless believers from both 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 a few churches that believe miracles have previously ceased and therefore they can not happen today. Through their teachings, essays and books, quite a number of these church leaders have buried divine healings and miracles in the grave of cessation. Notwithstanding many modern evidences of healing miracles they attempt to justify their belief by rejecting all 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 third period was from enough time of Jesus to the Apostles. The last time when miracles can be rampant is the time of the Antichrist and the fantastic Tribulation.
The churches that abide by the professor’s assumptions and arguments ultimately placed on theological blinders – God will no longer 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 wasn’t anti-supernatural acim. He believed that the supernatural activities present in the bible were true. However, he strongly believed that the biblical spiritual gifts and miracles had ceased since enough time of the Apostles. Signs and wonders cannot occur inside our era mainly because God apparently does not have any reason to make them happen.
I studied an 18-page transcript of a type lesson taught by a well known 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 teach that God is obligated to heal every disease and infirmity if the believer were to response in genuine faith. He believed that when anybody who claimed healing and still continued to take medicine, anyone wouldn’t 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 because of the not enough medical care. Women were told to offer birth in the 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. Two weeks just before his appearance in court, Freeman passed away.
The bible teacher then listed his own choice of so-called extreme faith healers ranging from A. A. Allen, Kathyrn Kuhlman to John Wimber. In careful calculated mockery, he says, “Now, this indicates obvious, at the very least a curiosity to many of us that so many leading advocates of faith healing are sick!” He is 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 were 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 sounding naive people. Sounding benevolent, he warns that false signs and false miracles are the principal tool of Satan ultimately times.
This cessationist claims that he believes God can still do miracles because God’s power has not 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 reiterates his persuasion that both history and the Scripture support his belief that the gift of miracles, as stated in 1 Corinthians 12, has ceased operating today. He challenges the Charismatics to create a minumum of one person who is raised from the dead. All of the healing miracles, according to this teacher, are partial, gradual, temporary and on occasions, become reversed. They’re impossible to verify and apparently the only real instant miracles are the ones that have related to 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 desired to authenticate anybody with miracles, He could have chosen people like the cessationists because based on the teacher, they were supposed to many skilled and teach the truest, purest, most profound and biblical type of theology. The arrogance of these theological prowess is evidenced however it is good for us to note that whenever Jesus first came, He did not approach the so-called skilled teachers of the Torah to generally share the Good News. He instead called people who were not theological trained people such as fishermen, tax-collector and even ex-prostitute.