July 21, 1999
Are signs and wonders still valid for today?
___KANSAS CITY, Mo. (ABP)--The debate over charismatic practices in Christian churches perhaps boils down to this: Are signs and wonders for times such as these?
___Few, if any, Christian scholars disagree that extraordinary signs and wonders were done by the apostles of Christ, those who had face-to-face experience with Jesus.
___But many--including most Baptist theologians and pastors--believe the time for unusual spiritual gifts such as speaking in unknown tongues, healing and miracles administered by humans is over.
___"Before the rise of Pentecostalism, Baptists didn't pay any serious attention to the extraordinary gifts, because nobody was talking about it or doing anything with them," explained James Leo Garrett, emeritus professor of theology at Southwestern Baptist Theological Seminary in Fort Worth.
___For Ken Keathley, visiting professor of theology and philosophy at Midwestern Baptist Theological Seminary in Kansas City, Mo., the crux of the matter boils down to one question: Is the biblical office of apostle still open today?
___"The signs, wonders and miracles are something reserved for the apostles particularly," Keathley said. "A person had to be personally sent out by Jesus Christ; they had to see the resurrected Lord; Paul qualified because he met the resurrected Lord.
___"The office of apostle is closed now," Keathley said. "Baptists and serious charismatics agree that the office of apostle is closed. But charismatics believe signs and wonders and gifts go on today."
___Baptists agree God moves miraculously today, but only in response to prayer, Keathley said. He gave two reasons Baptists traditionally don't believe miraculous signs are available today:
___* Apostolic knowledge. The Bible associates these gifts with the apostles and prophets, those who have direct revelation from God that is infallible.
___* Historical perspective. "It's a matter of fact that when the apostles left the scene, so did the gifts."
___Yet others disagree.
___Siegfried Schatzmann, a former Swiss Pentecostal minister who now is Baptist and teaches at Southwestern Seminary as a guest professor, offers a different perspective.
___"I believe what Paul is saying (in 1 Corinthians 13:9-12) is that those gifts are given for the age of the church--and not just for the first century. They will effectively come to an end when Jesus returns."
___Schatzmann believes many Baptists would affirm that extraordinary spiritual gifts are for today. "But where I think the breakdown comes in for many is how do we control those extraordinary gifts in a local church context without having to feel this is getting out of hand?
___"The expressed answer is, 'We don't know,'" Schatzmann said. "So, to alleviate the situation, we simply don't emphasize it."
___Both Keathley and Garrett said the charismatic movement--and especially the so-called "third wave" in the past 20 years--has had some positive influence on Baptists.
___"If Baptists refuse to give a place to the Holy Spirit in life and worship, then we are wrong," Garrett said. "But to say we have neglected the Holy Spirit is not to say that we make the teaching of the baptism in or with the Spirit absolutely true as given by Pentecostals."
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