Review of “Surprised by the Power of the Spirit" (Mar 07)

2008/11/01 at 3:48 上午 發表留言

        Jack
Deere’s best-selling Surprised by the Power of the Spirit is an
exposition of why God still works signs and wonders, and miracles in the church
today from the biblical perspective. The book is intended for both
non-charismatics and charismatics. Deere was a cessationist[1]
who taught at Dallas Theological Seminary as an associate professor of Old
Testament. In the late 1980’s, however, through various encounters, he began an
intense re-study of the Scriptures on the issues surrounding the miraculous
gifts and ministries of the Spirit. As a result, he became convinced that the
supernatural gifts of the Spirit were still valid, and that his former
theological views were based more on prejudices and lack of personal
experiences. Deere then became affiliated with the Vineyard movement and John
Wimber. He also formed close fellowship with the Kansas City Prophets,
especially Paul Cain, whom he identified as his mentor.[2]
The book is published during the time when the Vineyard movement and other
Restoration theologies are prevalent. Deere is often cited as one of the
leading exponents of Third Wave ideologies, along with Peter C. Wagner and
Wayne Grudem. In 1918, Counterfeit Miracles, a popular book arguing
against the continuation of present-day miraculous gifts of the Spirit by the
renowned cessationist Benjamin Breckinridge Warfield, was published. It is one
of the most cited cessationism literatures in Christendom that had influenced
many prominent church leaders and teachers even to this day. Seventy-five years
later, Surprised by the Power of the Spirit has been commented by some
as having “all the potential for neutralizing Warfield and his followers and
opening the Body of Christ to the full power of God’s Holy Spirit.”[3]

        Surprised
by the Power of the Spirit
contains 14 chapters, an epilogue and three
appendices. It is divided into three major sections: “Shocked and Surprised”
(chapters 1-3), “Shattered Misconceptions” (chapters 4-11), and “Seeking the
Gifts and the Giver” (chapters 12-14 and epilogue). In the opening section,
Deere recounts his dramatic journey from a cessationist seminary professor to a
believer in contemporary miracles. This conversion was the result of a
re-evaluation of Scriptures coupled with witnessing a significant number of
divine healings, accurate prophetic utterances and demonic deliverances
firsthand. At the end of these experiences, Deere felt convicted by God. He had
to admit that he needed to “continue in the humility of a little child” in
order to “break the chains of some of [his] most arrogant prejudices about the
Christian life and ministry.”[4]
Finally, he came to the conclusion that the miraculous gifts of the Spirit have
not passed away. The second section, Shattered Misconceptions, takes up a large
portion of the book. In chapters four to six, he discusses the misunderstanding,
misgiving, and misuse of the miraculous gifts and healing from the Scriptures.
Deere starts by stating that there are three main reasons why Bible-believing
Christians do not believe in the miraculous gifts of the Spirit today. The
primary one is that the “majority of Christians believe what they believe
because godly and respected teachers told them it was correct” so that “experience
and tradition determine the majority of what church people believe, rather than
the careful, patient and personal study of the Scriptures.”[5]
The second most important reason is that people do not find New
Testament-quality miracles in church history. The third most common reason
stemmed from the abuse, or the perceived abuse, of the miraculous gifts in the
charismatic movements.

        Deere
asserts that the core problem of all three explanations is that their rationale
is not founded on Scriptural ground. Doctrines cannot be built on experiences,
traditions or church history, and the revulsion caused by spiritual abuses does
not prove or disprove whether the supernatural gifts have continued or not. In
response to the first cessation reasoning, the lack of personal experiences
will produce false assumptions. The first is that the apostles and other New
Testament miracle workers could heal the sick and operate other divine gifts at
their own will. The second false assumption is that the apostles’ healing
ministry, or the apostolic office of Eph. 4:11, is exactly the same as an
individual functioning in the gifts of healings.[6]
As for church history, Deere points out that the reason why spiritual gifts
have diminished is because the church has rejected them, not that God intended
them to cease. It is because of unbelief, apostasy and legalism that prevented
the gifts from functioning. He argues that since the Scriptures (the Pentateuch
or parts of it) have been lost some time after the death of Moses until the
reign of King Josiah (2 Kings 22:8), and also in the Middle Ages except among few
high clergies, it certainly does not mean that God has, hence, withdrawn the
Bible from the church. The church’s obsoleting of God’s divine gifts neither
implies His approval of their absence nor His removal of them. Furthermore,
many cessationists often explain away supernatural events in the past as either
“demonic” in origin or “inaccurate” because these people, in the first place,
do not believe that the gifts have continued.[7]
When commenting on spiritual abuses of gifts, Deere affirmed that it is not an applicable
argument for the cessation of gifts. Impurities in the church do not mean that
miracles are not from God, and this was the case with the Corinthian Church.
Wrong teachings do not imply that miracles are invalid, and this was the case
with the Galatian churches. Lastly, miracles do not support or confirm the
distinctive erroneous doctrines of a group of Christians, as in the case of the
churches at both Corinth and Galatia. Deere
also purports that common abuses in non-charismatic circles, such as legalism,
intellectualism and lukewarmness, are oftentimes more subtle and damaging than
gift exploitations.

        In
chapter seven, the author provides some general principles for testing to
reveal a genuine move of the God. The signs of an authentic work of the Spirit
are the fruit of the Holy Spirit, not the absence or abundance of physical
manifestations—they are not evidence for or against the validity of spiritual
gifts. Believers should shun fleshly emotionalism and refrain from attaching
spirituality to physical manifestations inasmuch as they should never be the
focus of one’s spiritual life. However, it is equally important to discern
genuine manifestations and not suppress them. Regardless of how strange or
atypical a manifestation may seem, the Bible exhorts God’s people not to judge
according to “outward appearances” (1 Sam.16:7).[8]
Chapter eight deals with the primary cessationist argument, which claims that
miracles authenticated the apostles to be trustworthy authors of the
Scriptures; therefore, when the Scriptures were written, miracles were no
longer needed. Deere refutes that miracles are the workings of apostleship, and
not the proof of it, and that the authority of Scripture does not rest on
miracles. Moreover, not all New Testament authors are apostles, which would
render the cessationist argument inconsistent. The subject of why God heals and
grants miraculous gifts, and also why God does not heal in some instances are
the themes in chapter nine to eleven. The Scripture shows that God heals due to
a variety of reasons, but primarily God heals due to His compassion and to
bring glory to His Son Jesus. On the contrary, healing will not flow if there
are unbelief, legalism, and lukewarm faith present. Besides these negative
spiritual forces, the mysterious and sovereign ways and timings of God make it
not possible to fully comprehend why some are not healed, or not healed
instantly. Spiritual gifts are given for the edification of the church, and the
church will always need to be edified before the Rapture or the Second Coming
of Christ.

        The
last few chapters of the book and the epilogue constitute the third major
section. In chapter twelve, Deere provides guidelines for identifying and
cultivating spiritual giftings. In chapters thirteen and fourteen, he urges the
readers to pursue the Giver of the gifts with passion and diligence. He ends
the book with an introductory discussion on discerning the voice of God, which
he later wrote an entire book on this topic: Surprised by the Voice of God.[9]
In appendix A, Deere further elaborates other reasons why God heals and works
miracles. Appendix B is a detailed theological treatise contending that the
miraculous gifts did not cease with the apostles. In fact, he argues that the
apostolic office still exists today, but present-day apostles do not have
divine authority to claim any revelations on a par with the closed written Word
of God. Appendix C challenges John MacArthur’s view that there were only three
periods of miracles in the Bible. Deere notes that MacArthur’s idea originates
from B. B. Warfield’s popular cessationist argument, but even Warfield was more
careful than MacArthur in stating that there were four periods of revelation,
including the time of Daniel as the fourth period, not three.[10]

        Overall
speaking, it seems that Surprised by the Power of the Spirit is a highly
apologetic and valuable piece to the church world. The strengths of the book
are numerous. First and foremost, being a former cessationist professor of
theology at a distinguished seminary, the motivation of Deere’s own experiences
and journey into the miraculous would likely be intensely humbling and sincere.
The primary force of this dramatic change of theological position is a deep and
thorough re-study of the Scriptures with personal experiential knowledge.
Therefore, it is unlikely a prejudiced intellectual theory book trying to
defend a particular brand of theology, but rather an honest attempt to convey
certain truths. Secondly, Deere’s scholarly arguments dismantle cessationism to
the core. He clearly shows from the Bible that the miraculous gifts of the Holy
Spirit have not ceased and they are vital for the church today. The book
properly reveals that most Christians’ theological perspectives are not
obtained from a careful, patient, and personal study of the Bible. The majority
of Christians simply believe what respected Christian figures said to be true.
Personal examples are used to show that the cessationist standpoint is based on
theological prejudices due to experiences and historical precedence.
Consequently, those who are raised in an anti-charismatic environment will
likely become cessationists. In this light, it is easier to see why
cessationism is based more on traditions. When challenged by a more objective and
careful examination of the Bible, its main arguments are shown to be illogical
in interpretation and insensible in practices. Thirdly, Deere rightly urges the
readers back to loving the Giver of gifts in the concluding chapters of the
book. He reveals that there is a subtle danger in the over-focus and admiration
of doctrines and the words of the Bible in themselves above the Author of the
Bible. The believers’ spiritual vitality will be choked by this misplaced
priority. Hence, while validating the continuance of the miraculous gifts, a
life of passion and hunger for God must still be given precedence over all
doctrinal issues. These “last words” of the book are both insightful and
inspirational. They address not only to non-charismatics, but also to those who
only embrace the miraculous gifts in theory legalistically. These concluding
chapters serve to usher all readers to look beyond mere correct theology.

        One
notable weakness of Surprised by the Power of the Spirit concerns the
discussion of God’s will in healing. The majority of Deere’s Scriptural basis
for not receiving healings such as apostasy, legalism and unbelief is well-argued.
It is also true that sometimes it is not possible to identify the reasons why
some are healed while some are not.[11]
However, the manifestation of healing or the lack of one alone is irrelevant to
God’s will in regard to healing. Deere did not interact with verses such as
James 5:14-16, which seems to indicate that it is God’s will for all Christians
to be healed.[12]
He also did not point to the fact that all who came to Jesus and
the early church were healed (Matt. 8:16, Luke 4:40, Acts 5:16). One could
argue that just as there are no Scriptures to back up God’s intention of
withdrawing the miraculous gifts, there are also no Scriptural proof arguing
that it is not God’s will for every Christian to be healed. In a similar way,
not all are saved, but it is still God’s desire that “all should come to
repentance” (2 Pet. 3:9). Although Deere believes that one should always expect
God to heal, but he also believes that there could be times when God wills for
sicknesses and diseases to be part of one’s life. Besides having no Scriptural
support, this belief also has difficulties in real-life applications. The heart
of the matter is how could one be sure of God’s particular intention in each
specific case apart from the Bible? Christians could mistake their own thoughts
to be God’s. Furthermore, it will not be surprising if the Devil comes as an
“angel of light” and whispers deceiving words to Christians that are contrary
to God’s will. Doubtlessly there are redemptive values in enduring sicknesses
and diseases, but the question is whether this is God’s primary way of teaching
His children or not. Kids could really learn the danger of fire when they
experience severe burning; however, this surely does not imply that their
parents wish them to get burned in order to learn a certain lesson. Likewise,
many Christian ex-drug addicts could minister well to people with similar
problems that they once had, but God is merely working all things, good or bad,
for good to those who love Him (Rom. 8:28), thus, we cannot infer God’s
approval or divine will in drug indulgence. The bottom line is, ironically,
that doctrines should not to be built on experiences or facts, but solely on
the Word of God (which is the same line of thought that Deere is arguing
throughout the book).

        On
the other hand, God does place a higher value in many spiritual virtues over
physical comfort, which could be cultivated through bodily pains. Therefore,
although it is God’s will to heal all, He does not choose to heal everyone
immediately, or with the same method. One could simply not receive healing
within a short period of time because of God’s sovereign timing and ways, but
never His will. It is important to see that not all “failure” to receive
(instantaneous) healings can be attributed to the valid reasons that Deere
offers such as apostasy, unbelief, or legalism (cf. John 9:3). There could be
instances where one is not healed due to unbelief, but not all who are not
healed right away are unbelieving. There is also another similar area in which
Deere errs by placing martyrdom in the same category as physical illnesses as
an illustration of God exercising His sovereignty in refusing to heal. However,
it is worthwhile to consider that the cosmic rulership of God will never
contradict His Word. The working out of God’s sovereignty will always be in
accordance with His character and principles, which are revealed in the written
Word. From the different Greek words and usage, the Bible clearly distinguishes
“martyrdom” from “biological ailments”—the former is divine will, the latter is
not.[13]
It is a fact that many martyrs die by means other than diseases and sicknesses,
hence, there are nothing to be healed. Stephen was called a martyr in Acts
22:20, and his death was caused by stoning, not sicknesses. Also the martyrs
mentioned in Revelation were killed (Rev. 2:13, 6:9). Even in cases where
physical infirmities are the agents of one’s being persecuted unto death,
martyrdom remains altogether in a different category. Predestination is
involved in martyrdom, and it is possible to have an inner knowing of this call
as part of God’s plan for one’s life. The Apostle Paul knew this was the way
God chose for him to end his mission on earth as a testimony (Acts 20:22-24,
21:10-14, 2 Tim. 2:6-8). Jesus prophesied to Peter in John 21 that he was going
to suffer as a martyr. Revelation chapter two also shows that it is the destiny
for some to undergo tribulation that will result in death for their
faithfulness to Christ. Many theologians and historians share similar views
concerning martyrdom.[14]
It is true that the Bible does not give specific reasons why Peter was
delivered from prison in Acts 12, and lived many more years after, while James
was martyred earlier; however, this issue does not concern God’s will in
healing. God’s sovereignty is rightly exemplified here, but the analogy is
misleading.[15]

        In
summary, Surprised by the Power of the Spirit is a significant work. The
book grew out of the author’s heartfelt experiences and genuine concern for the
Bride of Christ. His argumentation for the continuance of charismatic gifts
makes tremendous biblical and practical sense. The inspirational chapters on
pursuing God and developing passion for Jesus give warmth to the readers and
ignite Christian affection towards God and people. While minor flaws exist in
the healing expositions, the book rightly presents the God of the Bible who
continues to bring physical wholeness to people miraculously. Most importantly,
Deere reveals the Father’s heart: He rejoices to see His beloved children enjoy
complete wellbeing—spirit, soul, and body. Surprised by the Power of the
Spirit
is a profitable piece that will surely edify its readers if studied
with an open attitude. It is a must-read for all Christians, cessationists or
charismatics.


 

Notes

 


[1] The term “cessationist” as defined by Deere is “someone who believes
that the miraculous gifts of the Holy Spirit ceased with the death of the last
apostle or shortly thereafter. Jack Deere, Surprised by the Power of the
Spirit
(Grand Rapids, MI: Zondervan, 1993), p. 267.

 

[2] However, in April 2005, Deere, along with Mick Bickle and Rick
Joyner, issued a public statement regarding Paul Cain’s moral failures.
Afterward, Paul has agreed to undergo a restoration process. But in January
2007, Deere, Bickle and Joyner, again issued another public notice regarding
Paul Cain’s refusal to comply with the original restoration team. Paul has
moved and came under another restoration team, which has declared Paul as being
restored. For the public statements, see http://www.morningstarministries.org/feature/sb/2005/SB04_05.htm
(Rick Joyner’s official ministry website), and http://www.jackdeere.com/thoughts/an_update_on_pa.html
(Jack Deere’s official website), and http://www.paulcain.org/
(Paul Cain’s official website).

 

[3] Quoted from Peter C. Wagner’s endorsement in Deere’s book. Besides
Warfield and Counterfeit Miracles, Deere’s book also deals with John
MacArthur and his anti-charismatic book Charismatic Chaos (Grand Rapids,
MI: Zondervan, 1992).

 

[4] Deere, Surprised by the Power of the Spirit, pp. 29ff.

 

[5] Ibid., pp. 47 and 52.

 

[6] See 1 Corinthians 12:9 “To another faith by the same Spirit, to
another gifts of healings by the same Spirit,” 1 Corinthians 12:28 “And
God has appointed these in the church: first apostles, second prophets, third
teachers, after that miracles, then gifts of healings, helps,
administrations, varieties of tongues,” 1 Corinthians 12:30 “Do all have gifts
of healings
? Do all speak with tongues? Do all interpret?” (Emphasis mine, NKJV).

 

[7] Deere also appeals to many church fathers’ writings as evidence
that the miraculous gifts did not cease after the death of the last apostle. It
is especially interesting that he mentions Augustine. From his earlier
writings, he believed that miracles have ceased. But in The City of God
(Book 22:8), one of his later writings, he retracted his former belief and said
that he knew more than seventy verified miracles in his city of Hippo in less
than two years (Deere, Surprised by the Power of the Spirit, p. 74).

 

[8] Deere also cites the various physical reactions to the Holy
Spirit’s visible and less visible works from the Scriptures such as “trembling,
shaking, and trances, to even illness (probably physical weaknesses and exhaustion
but not a sickness) and physical collapse.” He believes that it is not uncommon
for God’s people to tremble, weep, or even be in a state that appears to be drunkenness,
in the presence of God. This supports that “physical reactions to the work of
the Spirit may occur in a wide variety of ways” (Ibid., pp. 87-93).

 

[9] Jack Deere, Surprised by the Voice of God (Grand Rapids, MI:
Zondervan, 1996).

 

[10] Deere, Surprised by the Power of the Spirit, pp.290-291. However,
Deere does not believe that the Bible supports Warfield’s view either.

 

[11] This means the divine and mysterious wisdom of God may not be
evident to finite human understandings; hence it may appear as if there are no
apparent reasons behind a miracle or the lack of it. However, one needs to be
cautious not to label every single miracle or the lack of one as being “mystical.”
God’s desire is that His people would know His ways (Jer. 31:33). Therefore, it
would not be unusual for God to reveal the specific reasons behind miraculous
incidents. Deere appeals to the healing of the paralytic in Luke 5 (p. 146) as
one of the supporting texts for the “unexplainable” type of miracles.
Nevertheless, the Bible actually gives the rationale behind this healing. Verse
20 shows that it was the faith of the paralytic and their friends (the
plural pronoun “they” indicates not just the faith of the paralytic, but also
those who brought him to Jesus) that appropriated the power that was present to
heal in verse 17. At least on the human level, we could say that “faith” was
one of the reasons why God decided to grant Jesus the power to heal at that
meeting (it would also not be wrong if the forgiveness of sin of the paralytic
was also one of the reasons in this particular case). It is also important to
see from this passage that sometimes healings are brought about by the prayers,
faith, and deeds of others, whom we may or may not know personally. This
explains why some are healed without earnestly seeking the Lord—because others
sought the Lord for them instead.

 

[12] James 5:14-16: “Is anyone among you sick? Let him call for
the elders of the church, and let them pray over him, anointing him with oil in
the name of the Lord. And the prayer of faith will save the sick, and the Lord
will raise him up. And if he has committed sins, he will be forgiven. Confess
your trespasses to one another, and pray for one another, that you may be
healed. The effective, fervent prayer of a righteous man avails much” (emphasis
mine, NKJV).

 

[13] The New Testament Greek word for “martyr” is μάρτυς (martus). Thayer’s Greek-English
Lexicon gives the following definition:

 

1) a witness

1a) in a legal sense

1b) an historical sense

1b1) one who is a spectator of anything, e.g. of a
contest

1c) in an ethical sense

1c1) those who after his example have proved the
strength and genuineness of their faith in Christ by undergoing a violent death

 

Not once was μάρτυς used to connote sicknesses or physical infirmities in the New
Testament.

 

[14] See, for example, Cyril C. Richardson, “The Way of Martyrdom,” in Early
Christian Fathers
(Philadelphia: Westminster Press, 1953); Thomas Aquinas,
“Of Martyrdom (Five Articles),” Summa Theologica, (Benziger Bros.
edition, 1947), Public Domain, retrieved from http://www.ccel.org/ccel/aquinas/summa.SS_Q124.html;
Philip Schaff, “Persecution Of Christianity And Christian Martyrdom,” History
of the Christian Church, Volume II: Ante-Nicene Christianity. A.D. 100-325
,
3rd ed. (Oak Harbor, WA: Logos Research Systems, Inc., 1997), Public
Domain, retrieved from http://www.ccel.org/ccel/schaff/hcc2.v.iv.html;
C. Peter Wagner, Your Spiritual Gifts Can Help Your Church Grow, 2nd
ed. (Ventura: Regal Books, 1994), pp. 60-63. Simply put, common sense and word
usage necessitate languages to define “martyrdom” and “sickness” as two
different concepts.

 

[15] Some even hold that martyrdom is a gift from passages such as Acts
7, 1 Cor. 13:3 and 2 Cor. 11:23-28. For example, Peter Wagner defines martyrdom
this way:

 

“The gift of martyrdom is a special ability
that God has given to certain members of the Body of Christ to undergo
suffering for the faith even to death while consistently displaying a joyous
and victorious attitude that brings glory to God” (Ibid., p. 61).

 

Wagner placed martyrdom side-by-side with the other gifts from the
lists in 1 Cor. 12, Rom. 12 and Eph. 4:11. However, there do not seem to be
enough Scriptures to establish martyrdom as a gift in the same sense as the
other gifts such as the gift of prophecy or the gifts of healings. Martyrdom is
a special and privileged calling of God, but not a spiritual gift in the
specific sense.

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