In addition to the belief that revelatory and miraculous gifts are for the church today, the resurgence of Pentecostalism brought with it the signs and wonders movement. With a global outreach via Christian television broadcasting networks (like TBN), mega-star and mega rich faith healers have successfully spread their brand of Christianity all over the world. Starting in the 1920-30s with Aimee Semple McPherson, Oral Roberts in the 40s, Kathryn Kuhlman in the 50s, faith healers now include the biggest names in Christianity Fred Price, Benny Hinn, and others. Before we consider a biblical critique of the claims of faith healers, it would be helpful to gain a historical perspective by hearing the convictions of the early church fathers regarding the gifts of miracles.
Quotes from the Church Fathers
Below is a small but representative sample of quotes about the church’s conviction about miracles, prophecy, and tongues in the Fall 2004, Detroit Baptist Seminary Journal on 1 Corinthians 13:8-13.
John Chrysostom (c. 344–407):
This whole place [speaking about 1 Corinthians 12] is very obscure: but the obscurity is produced by our ignorance of the facts referred to and by their cessation, being such as then used to occur but now no longer take place.
Thomas Watson (c 1620–1686):
“Sure, there is as much need of ordination now as in Christ's time and in the time of the apostles, there being then extraordinary gifts in the church which are now ceased.”
Conyers Middleton (1683–1750):
We have no sufficient reason to believe, upon the authority of the primitive fathers, that any such powers were continued to the church, after the days of the Apostles.
George Whitefield (1714-1770):
[After being accused of practicing the miraculous gifts of the Spirit, said:]
I never did pretend to these extraordinary operations of working miracles, or speaking with tongues [since] the karismata, the miraculous gifts conferred on the primitive church . . . have long since ceased.
Arthur W. Pink (1886–1952):
As there were offices extraordinary (apostles and prophets) at the beginning of our dispensation, so there were gifts extraordinary; and as successors were not appointed for the former, so a continuance was never intended for the latter. The gifts were dependent upon the officers. We no longer have the apostles with us and therefore the supernatural gifts (the communication of which was an essential part of "the signs of an apostle," II Cor. 12:12) are absent.
BIBLICAL BASIS: The Truth about Signs and Wonders
- Is it normative (normal) for God to raise up miracles workers among His people? While it is true that throughout history God has done and continues to do the miraculous, it is also true that only during three relatively short spans in all of history did He perform the miraculous through men gifted to perform signs and wonders. And never was it the case during any point in history that all believers performed miracles.
- Why did miracles occur in biblical history? The Scriptures make it clear that God conferred miraculous gifts to Moses/Joshua, Elijah/Elisha, and Jesus/the apostles to validate/authenticate that they were His direct divine spokespersons (Exodus 4:1-5, 8-9; 14:31; 1 Kings 17:23-24; John 10:37-38; Acts 5:12; 2 Cor 12:12; Heb 2:4).
- What is the NT evidence of the work of the Spirit? The Bible warns against those (Matt 7:22-23) who claim signs and wonders as being evidence of salvation. The fruit of the Spirit is a morally transformed life (Gal 5:16, 22-23) with no reference to revelatory or miraculous gifts (Eph 5:18ff).
- Consider some of the extraordinary miracle workers in the Bible and answer the questions do the verified works of anything faith healer today remotely compare with them? (Exod 14:21-22; Deut 34:10-12; John 9:30-32; 11:43-44, 47; 53; 12:10-11; Acts 5:15-16; 9:36-37, 40; 19:12).
- What does the following investigations suggest about today’s so-called faith healers? Following a Kathryn Kuhlman 1967 fellowship in Philadelphia, Dr. William A. Nolen conducted a case study of 23 people who claimed to have been cured during her services. Nolen's long term follow-ups concluded there were no cures in those cases. Furthermore, "one woman who was said to have been cured of spinal cancer threw away her brace and ran across the stage at Kuhlman's command; her spine collapsed the next day, according to Nolen, and she died four months later." Also the show 20/20 exposed TV Evangelist Peter Popoff as a fake. He pretended that God was revealing to him sick people in the audience when in fact one of his workers would read that person’s pray card to him through a hidden receiver in his ear. 20/20 picked up the frequency, heard, and documented the whole scam.
APPLICATION: WHY IS THIS SIGNIFICANT?
Many of today’s so-called faith healers are fake healers. They knowingly deceive vulnerable people desperate for help to rob them of their money. The Bible warns us, “but evil men and impostors will proceed from bad to worse, deceiving and being deceived,” 2 Tim 3:13.
So what do we do? (1) We believe that the miraculous gifts from Pentecost ceased, and yet we acknowledge that God can and does do miracles as it pleases Him (2) We limit fellowshipping in teaching venues with those who resist important doctrines. And (3) we reject fellowshipping with those who reject the essentials of our faith: the Trinity, advocating a false gospel, i.e., the Word Faith’s prosperity gospel, false teaching faith healers, etc.
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