Reformed and Pentecostal?

James K. A. Smith has an interesting post at CT: Teaching a Calvinist to Dance. In this post he says he longs for a “a kind of ‘Pentecostalized’ Reformed spirituality.” He goes on to link his quest with that of Edwards. This might surprise some readers, but Smith is at least partly right. He’s exactly right to link his desire for an immediate experience of the risen Christ and for extraordinary phenomena to Edwards. This is the dirty little secret in the modern history of Reformed theology, piety, and practice. We cannot embrace Edwards and D. Martyn Lloyd-Jones unequivocally as “one of us” and tell Jamie Smith that he can’t have the same piety that they had or sought.

Second, Jamie’s post illustrates the state of the definition of the words “Calvinist” and “Reformed.” Jamie mentions some modern Reformed folks (Bavinck and Kuyper), but he doesn’t mention (as I recall) folks such as Calvin and DeBres. Our older theologians, who wrote our confessions, confronted the very sort of spirituality Jamie advocates and seeks, and they rejected it. It isn’t well-known now, but the 16th-century Anabaptists were proto-Pentecostals. Indeed, every year in the Medieval Reformation course, when I describe the theology, piety, and practice of the Anabaptists, many students remark that it sounds a lot like the piety with which they were raised. 

Guido DeBres, the primary author of the Belgic Confession (1561), one of the Reformed confessions adopted by the Reformed churches as part of the “Three Forms of Unity” (including the Heidelberg Catechism and the Canons of Dort) wrote a treatise against the Anabaptists, in which he engaged the very questions posed by modern Pentecostalism: the attempt to replicate Apostolic phenomena, tongues, healing, etc. He engaged Thomas Muntzer, who accused the Protestants of being “dead” and he repudiated Munzter’s piety in favor of a Word and sacrament piety. For DeBres Reformed spirituality is antithetical to what is today called Pentecostalism.

The point is that, from the outset, the Reformed have always been aware that a piety of Word and sacrament will not be satisfactory to all, but that’s our piety. We understand that canonical age is past. We don’t live in redemptive history. The apostles are dead. The Spirit isn’t giving anyone the power to raise the dead or put the living to death. We’re not speaking in natural foreign languages by the power of the Spirit and we’re not receiving canonical or extra-canonical revelation. 

To seek those things is to seek what Luther called “a theology of glory” and it’s antithetical to Reformed piety. I realize this makes us look “dead orthodox” to revivalists and restorationists, but I can live with that. I spent a long time questing after the “small, still voice” and living with the disappointment that I seemed to be the only one not to be receiving ongoing revelation—until I realized that my Pentecostal friends simply re-describe every ordinary thing that happens in extraordinary, apostolic, supernatural categories. When I did the biblical exegesis, I realized that much of what the Pentecostals seek isn’t even biblical. “Tongues of angels” has nothing to do whatever with languages spoken by angels and by Pentecostals. It’s just Pauline hyperbole to make a moral point. 

Third, there is no question whether God could do the sorts of things Jamie (and the predestinarian revivalist tradition) wants. The question is whether He has promised to do so or whether we should expect such. Here I go to Deut. 29:29. I go to Luther’s theology of the cross. I go to the “ordinary means” piety of the Three Forms of Unity and the Westminster Standards. We do see miracles on a regular basis. God sovereignly operates through the preached gospel (1 Cor. 1-2) to makes dead sinners alive, to give them faith, to unite them to Christ. Every Sabbath he confirms that faith and strengthens that union through the use of the holy sacraments. That’s mystery. That’s the power of the Spirit. No, I didn’t speak Swahili in the service, but I did hear the Gospel and God the Spirit did hover over the congregation (1 Pet. 4) and angels were present (1 Cor. 11). That’s enough for me.

All this is to say that I understand what Jamie wants, but it’s wrong. You cannot stuff John Calvin into the same sack as Thomas Muntzer or Hans Hut or Denck or sister Aimee or Cane Ridge or any of the others. These things are mutually exclusive. There is a Reformed piety. It doesn’t need to be augmented or fixed. It needs to be tried.

Related posts:

Are Reformed “Evangelical” or “Evangelicals”?

Presbyterians and Quakers Together

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  • R. Scott Clark
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    R.Scott Clark is the President of the Heidelberg Reformation Association, the author and editor of, and contributor to several books and the author of many articles. He has taught church history and historical theology since 1997 at Westminster Seminary California. He has also taught at Wheaton College, Reformed Theological Seminary, and Concordia University. He has hosted the Heidelblog since 2007.

    More by R. Scott Clark ›

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  1. You mention Edwards and Lloyd Jones. Maybe I’m misunderstanding you, but how is the Puritanical emphasis upon an experiential piety inconsistent with the piety of the Reformers? I know J.W. Nevin continually criticized the Puritans on this very point: Their individualistic emphasis upon experience apart from the ecclesiastical context of Word and Sacrament was at odds with the sacramental piety of the earlier Reformers. I agree with Nevin to a point, seeing that Puritanism, in its congregational/New England variety was prone to individualism, excess, and “the still small voice” theology. Nevertheless, I have a hard time entirely discarding the theology and piety of someone like Jonathan Edwards, regarding it as some form of pseduo-Pentecostalism. I’d love to hear from your perspective how Edwards, Jones, etc. etc. departed from the piety of Reformation Christianity. The sacramental theology of the American Puritans was certainly defective. Many replaced Calvin’s eucharistic theology with a host of individualistic spiritual excercises and disciplines which came to constitute the ethos of this new spirituality. In that way, I’ll agree that someone like Edwards departed from the sacramental emphasis of the Reformers. Still, on a very basic level, I don’t feel as though Edwards’ emphasis upon an experiential piety which feels, loves, rejoices, and experiences is in any way at odds with Calvin’s understanding of piety as knowledge of God expressed in filial fear, love, prayer, and joyful submission. It seems to me like Edwards, along with the early Reformers and English Puritans, placed an emphasis upon an experiential piety rooted in the knowledge of God, and sustained, nourished, and fed through the ministry of Word and Sacrament. Maybe I’m wrong, but I’d sure love to hear your perspective. Thanks!

  2. I am curious, Scott: how high can one fly with saint’s wings? Can you, like, touch the top of the Empire State Building? Does it ever make you dizzy?

    Seriously, nice way to end a Friday.

  3. I was raised Pentecostal (A/G). Pentecostal piety begins with embracing signs rather than the thing signified. They are not unlike the Jews of Jesus’ day. In Luke I think in particular, this is dealt with in chapt 4-5. There, the Jews make it clear that they like to see Jesus performing magic tricks, but they are offended at his message about himself. They want the signs, but they aren’t interested in what those signs point to.

    So when the Pentecostal goes to church, he isn’t there to hear the authoritative (very important word) declaration of pardon from the pulpit. No, they’d rather find their assurance in something else: their own piety. They’d rather be assured by having an emotional experience, which they suppose is the result of the “moving” of the Holy Spirit. So if they go to church, sing songs over and over, work themselves up into this emotional state, falling in love with the beauty of spirituality, and then hear a moralistic sermon that leaves them encumbered with guilt – then they are ready to cry their eyes out, come to the altar, and get saved all over again.

    This is WHY Pentecostals go to church. During the week, they’ve sinned, and so their faith that the Spirit is still with them is shaken. They have no doctrine of election, no doctrine of the perseverance of the saints, and they sure never hear the unadulterated preaching of the gospel. No, they hear moralism, they hear that their sins have resulted in their back-sliding, and they hear that they need to come to the altar and cry a while, so that they know that the Spirit is still with them, and thus they are still saved.

    Pentecostal piety is fundamentally at odds with Reformed piety. We Reformed come to church to hear the man of God authoritatively announce the Word of God. When he says, “Your sins are forgiven in Christ”, we are assured that we didn’t lose our salvation this week when we yelled at our wife or gazed longingly at the commercial on TV. We aren’t getting saved all over again; rather, we’re told that we’ve been saved the whole time. We’re reminded that the Lord will never leave us or forsake us, and he proved it by paying the highest price imaginable to purchase us from slavery to sin and death.

    We don’t need an emotional experience to tell us the Spirit has not left us. We need the promises of Scripture: “Never will I leave you, never will I forsake you.”

    Pentecostal piety is at odds with Reformed piety because Pentecostal doctrine is at odds with Reformed doctrine. Lessing’s ditch is nothing compared to the uncrossable chasm that lies between the two.

  4. Hi SP,

    I elaborate this point much more fully in the forthcoming (Oct/Nov) Recovering the Reformed Confession but I don’t accept the premise that there’s a direct line between Edwards, Lloyd-Jones and “the Puritans.”

    The mainstream of English Puritanism was just English Calvinism. The Dutch Calvinists were Dutch Puritans. The German Calvinists were German Puritans. In other words, “puritanism” isn’t some special brand of theology, piety, and practice. In other words the BC, HC, and CD are “Puritan” documents. Yes, there was some self-consciousness among some Puritans that they were distinct but when one examines the intent and agenda of the mainstream of Anglican and Presbyterian and independent Puritans, it wasn’t that different from the rest of Reformed theology in Europe.

    I don’t think that vital piety means continuing revelation or floating across rooms or falling on the floor. I’m all in favor of experiential Calvinism but I want to let John Owen rather than Jonathan Edwards define what that means. I want to let William Perkins define vital piety.

    Modern Edwards scholarship makes it very difficult for us to treat Edwards as “one of us” without qualification. His theology was shot through with influences that created significant distance from classic Reformed theology, piety, and practice.

    I have a great admiration for The Doctor. I work with Hywel Jones (who was assistant to the Doctor). Nevertheless, there are aspects of Lloyd-Jones’ vision for augmenting Reformed piety with Pentecostalism (see his last two books) that must be confronted and rejected. If I was ever going to be Pentecostal (and there was a time when I was sorely tempted) I would be one of the Lloyd-Jones variety, but we don’t have to go there. It isn’t necessary. I was there for the Kansas City prophets and all that nonsense. I’ve read Wayne Grudem. He’s a great guy but his reading of Agabus and Ephesians just doesn’t hold up. At the end of the day he’s guilty of the QIRE – quest for illegitimate religious experience. The classic Reformed theologians had a different, more Christ-centered, piety of Word and sacrament.

  5. Interesting stuff to definitely chew on. I’ll be looking forward to your book. I’m no Edwards scholar and don’t pretend to be. And maybe I haven’t read extensively enough to see where Edwards departed from classic Reformed theology. I’ll definitely have to read more and check out your book when it comes out. Is there anything currently out now that I could get my hands on with regard to Edwards’ confessional abberation? Most Edwards scholarship that I’ve been confronted with has been only positive. It’d be nice to know exactly at what points Edwards was un-confessional. And I agree completely with your thoughts on Pentecostalism, Grudem, etc. etc. Much of what passes for “Reformed” today is only a recycled form of Anabaptistic spirituality and practice.

  6. You’ve conflated Pentecostalism and Puritans all through this. Not to mention conflating Anabaptists and Puritans.

    Active, progressive sanctification is a reality. At the same time Reformed Theology is the truth. You need to let go of this fear (resentment?) that some Calvinist somewhere is getting guidance from the Holy Spirit you’re not getting.

  7. A very interesting post Dr. Clark. Could you expand on how Edwards’ version of piety differed from that of the Puritans?

  8. I would also suggest that we exercise greater discernment in what we accept in contemporary Edwards scholarship. Some of us too readily accept scholarship from men whose theology is suspect. Now it is not certain that a scholar’s theological persuasion will necessarily infect their reading of someone like Edwards (or Calvin, or Owen…), however Edwards scholarship is rife with theologically tendentious readings of Edwards. Now I do not happen to think that Edwards is the most significant Reformed theologian in the world or even in America, but he is one of the more significant theologians. I would also suggest that if you read Edwards as supporting the unusual phenomena of the awakening, then you have not read him carefully. What he actually says is that some of these phenomena are to be expected, but actually tell us nothing substantial. Edwards was, after all, a cessationist.

  9. Edwards was also a student of John Owen so it would be enlightening to see on those areas where dependence can be demonstrated, how Edwards’ piety departs from that of Owen.

  10. Hi All,

    I’m not saying that Edwards was a Pentecostal but there is considerable evidence that Edwards was deeply influenced by ideas that are foreign to classic Reformed theology. I’m not totally dependent on modernist scholarship hostile to Edwards. I don’t think anyone could call Charles Hodge hostile or modernist and he said, “according to the theory of continued creation there is and can be no created substance in the universe. God is the only substance in the universe.” He concluded, this “doctrine, therefore, in its consequences, is essentially pantheistic.”

    Others, some of whom have been been orthodox, have raised serious questions about Edwards’ doctrine of justification. Yes, there’ve been extensive defenses of the same. I’m not saying that Edwards was completely unorthodox but I am saying that the lines between orthodoxy and Edwards are probably not straight and probably more dotted than some in the NAPARC churches like to think.

    I don’t doubt that Edwards read Owen. He also read Van Mastricht, but he didn’t advocate the same sort of piety in the same way. There are real differences. Edwards had a different relation to modernity than vM and O did.

    The guys with whom we want to identify in the early 18th-century, in the American colonies, are the old siders, not the revivalists.

    For those who haven’t done, please read Marsden’s excellent biography of Edwards. It’s a masterpiece.

    As to expanding on this, I’ll let you wait for the book.

  11. J,

    Reformed piety speaks of illumination. We certainly confess the ongoing presence of the Holy Spirit. We confess the necessity of a vital prayer life, in response to the grace of God, but we’re not and never have been “Pentecostal.”

    Yes, I did deliberately conflate the ABs and the Pentecostals because what happened at Cane Ridge happened hundreds a years earlier in the 1520s. It’s not new. The error of Pentecostalism has always been with us because the theology of glory has always been with us.

    Reformed piety is organized around the public preaching of the gospel and the holy sacraments. We speak of the means of grace. That simply isn’t true of Pentecostalism. The spirit (no pun intended) of Anabaptism and Pentecostalism is alien to the Reformation. The spirit of Pentecostalism is about recovering what they think is apostolic experience but they misunderstand the uniqueness of apostolic experience. Listen, some in the apostolic company were transported from place to place by the Holy Spirit. Pentecostals aren’t. The apostles actually healed people at will. If the Pentecostals could do that in their Wed night healing services, I’m right there. I could use some healing. The apostles preached in languages they didn’t know. The Pentecostals don’t do that — they generally don’t even correctly relate Acts and 1 Corinthians.

    To repeat, we have a vital, Spirit-infused piety but it begins with public worship and the objective means of grace rather than subjective, extraordinary experience. You’re not Elijah. You’re not Elisha, or Paul, or John, or Peter. You and I are just Christians (HC 32). We’re united to Christ by his Spirit. We are members of his body. Flesh of his flesh, bone of his bone. We commune with him, by the Spirit. He feeds us on his body and blood, by the Spirit.

    The Spirit illumines the Word for us. He convicts us of our sin through law. He confirms and encourages us by the Gospel. He testifies to us, in our hearts, that we belong to him, that the gospel is really true for us, that Christ is really for us but that’s it. For Reformed people, that’s enough.

  12. I think we are probably in much basic agreement (especially about the superiority of Reformed confessionalism and piety), but I am more sanguine about Edwards. I grant he had an independent streak I find myself uncomfortable with. I also think he reflects the post-confessional era. That is, he inhabits the world when Protestantism had passed its prime in terms of high Scholasticism. Perhaps you look at the evidence and see the glass half empty and I see it half full.

  13. Hi Jeff,

    You may be right. My concern is the virtually unalloyed enthusiasm I have seen in the Reformed community for the early 18th century revivals. Virtually without dissent I see confessional types pointing to Edwards and Whitefield as models for piety and theology and I think someone needs to point out the difficulties and someone needs to stand up a little for the Old Side. It’s scandalous that, until very recently, the only thing anyone could find on the OS was a terrible chapter by Trinterud. When I was in sem in the mid-80s we didn’t even talk about the OS or even the Old School. it just wasn’t on anyone’s radar. In the book I try to be “fair and balanced” as they say, but just be alerting readers to the potential and real problems in Edwards appropriation of various forms of modernity I’m sure I’ll upset some folks.

  14. One postscript.

    One other reason to be wary of JE is what happened to his theology, piety, and practice. The New England tradition didn’t turn out well and, as Noll and others have noted, the Princetonians were not pretty cautious about him. In other words, whereas we can point to generations of faithful, orthodox students and, as it were, grand-students etc of Calvin, can we do the same for Edwards?

  15. Yes, I think the doctrine versus piety divide, which the awakening produced, and which has plagued us ever since, was very unfortunate. Pathetic even.

    Edwards can be very good and very irritating, at least from a confessionalist perspective like mine. That is why we do not rely on any single theologian, but we look to the confessions, which you and others have noted are public, ecclesiastical documents, to help understand Scripture and the faith. For myself, I try to benefit where I can from Edwards (and any other theologian) and eschew what is chaff.

    Perhaps a volume dedicated to assessing Edwards from a Reformed confessional perspective is in order. This would involve looking at various aspects of his theology/philosophy from different angles, but all from a perspective that affirms the Westminster Standards and the Three Forms of Unity.

  16. Anything you’d reccommend defending Old Side Presbyterianism? In the Reformed community it seems like Edwards scholarship is monolithic and positive!

  17. Hi Jeff and SP,

    Re: Old Side. There’s very little. Off the top of my head I would start with Hart and Muether, Seeking a Better Country, 39-67. One of our MA grads, Toby Kurth, is doing a PhD at SUNY with Ned Landsman on the Old Side but it’s not finished yet. It will be good work, however. I have a note to Peter Wallace, “Old Light on the New Side: John Thomson and Gilbert Tennent on the Great Awakening” but I don’t think it’s published. For source material look for The Great Awakening: Documents Illustrating the Crisis and Its Consequences, eds. Alan Heimert and Perry Miller (Indianapolis: The Bobbs-Merrill Company, 1967).

    I was just looking through my footnotes for OS references and I ran across this title: Jeffrey C. Waddington, “Jonathan Edwards’s ‘Ambiguous and Somewhat Precarious Doctrine of Justification,” WTJ 66 (2004): 357–72.

  18. One interesting book that highlights the profound differences between Edwards and the Reformed Scholastics is The Supreme Harmony of All by Amy Plantinga Pauw. It shows how he differed in his understanding of the Trinity from much of the Reformed tradition, which led to his augmentation of covenant theology. He saw a direct link whereby he could see into the beauty of the Trinitarian relationship. It did not pass through the covenantal work of Christ in the same manner as the Reformed Scholastics deemed necessary- archetypal, ectypal relationship. (The simplicity of God is here attacked.) Therefore, he deemed a knowledge of God to be evidential and experiential. This schema of Edwards can also be seen in his dissertation concerning the nature of true virtue.

  19. Timothy and Michael,

    This is very helpful. Yes, I agree with APP re JE and RefSchol.

    Michael, this is a helpful lead. I’ve asked the library to shelve it.


  20. After being a Pentecostal, and becoming Reformed, I read Edwards. It’s downright painful to read him, because it reminds me of my past. Pentecostals definitely ought to see him in their family tree. And I’m not sorry for saying so.

    I have found that many who have never been to a non-Reformed church find it hard to understand why anyone could be so downright grumpy and grouchy as to say that there might be something wrong with what Edwards had to say. “Why,” they say, “he’s just about the most brilliant theologian America has ever produced!”

    But the fact is, Edwards was sitting around all day dreaming things up, making up his own categories, making up his own terms, almost writing his own theological language. He reinvented everything from the ground up.

    Thanks to him and people like him, millions of people are spiritually starving to death in revivalist type churches.

    But then they say, well, but maybe there are some things that are wrong with Edwards, but there’s a lot of good in there too. Don’t throw the baby out with the bathwater.

    To me, such comments sound like Luke Skywalker talking about Darth Vader. You know what, the devil has a lot of true things to say too. He quoted Scripture.

    We have compromised way too much for way too long. It’s time to burn off the dross and stop reading guys like Edwards and go back to Calvin, to Turretin, to Witsius. Go back to the Westminster Confession of Faith. Read the true masters of theology, and master them. Study them and learn from them. Then you’ll understand why Edwards makes me sick.

    Edwards who said, “God is space.” What a joke.

  21. With regard to Amy Plantinga Pauw, I believe she has been decisively critiqued by Steven Studebaker on the following points:

    1. The east/west scheme on Trinitarianism is defective-Edwards does not waffle between a social and psychological model of the Trinity
    2. Edwards did not deny divine simplicity
    3. Edwards actually follows a more “socially” oriented form of the psychological model found in Augustine’s De Trinitate book 15

    As for Edwards on the Trinity, before you pronounce judgment on Edwards, please read Augustine in De Trinitate and Anselm’s Monologium. Now Auggie and Anselm may be problematic in the minds of some on their discussion of the Trinity, but Edwards is NOT unique.

    And Echo’s description of Edwards is of a non-existent person.

  22. Jeff,

    I’m not sure to whom you’re responding but I’m quite familiar with St Augustine and St Anselm.

    I should have been clearer by saying that I think Edwards marked an ontological turn in Reformed theology.

    I’ll re-read Paul and take a look at Studebaker, thanks for the lead.

  23. Echo,

    I understand your frustration with Edwards and I think we need to be more critical of him than we typically have been willing to be. I agree that the way he is often received by those who would never receive a confessional Reformed voice is a signal that something is wrong. I remember being astonished to see the charismatics and pentecostals appealing to him and then being surprised to find that they had ground.

    At the same time, I think it’s helpful to recognize that Edwards wanted to be orthodox. He was trying to be creative and he whiffed a few.

    A point about rhetoric is in order. I’ve been hard on CVT for the way he speaks/writes about Thomas and other historic theologians. I think I need to heed my own exhortation. If CVT was too hard on Thomas I have to be careful not to be too hard on Edwards. You might want to bear in mind that, if your rhetoric is too heated people won’t hear you. Remember, this is Clark talking here! I’ve had to apologize too many times for using over-heated rhetoric.

  24. Scott:

    Sorry. I know you have read Augustine and Anselm! It was a general comment. No one of your caliber and reputation would be where you are and write the type of scholarship you produce if you haven’t read the classics. I feel stupid having suggested otherwise.

    I am also not quite sure about the ontological turn. Is Sang Lee correct in his formulation of Edwards’ so-called dispositional ontology? My own reading suggests that Edwards was closer to the Reformed Scholastics on the Aristotelian substance/accidents distinction (i.e., Edwards’ use of the language of habits or dispositions can be readily understood in an Aristotelian manner) than Lee would allow. Stephen Holmes has cast a shadow over Lee (with whom I took an Edwards seminar at PTS and will testify that he is a gracious gentleman and scholar-although we could not be farther apart theologically) and John Bombaro’s dissertation, “Beautiful Beings,” under Paul Helm also questions aspects of Lee’s reading of Edwards. I should say that if Lee’s reading is correct, I will join you in criticizing Edwards. I would add that Pauw, Morimoto, and McDermott all assume or build on Lee. So if Lee is wrong (either in the whole, or in certain aspects), then these folk will need to redo their work.

    But your comments above are right on the mark. Where Edwards or any theologian strays from the straight and narrow, we must demur and dissent.

    Also, I myself think that bad historical theology is, in some sense at least, a ninth commandment problem. So we have a duty not only as historians or theologians, but as Christians, to produce accurate work (as accurate as we can be, and where the evidence is under-determined, we must have the fortitude and honesty to say so).

    And I too need to be reminded that the level of rhetoric needs to be kept down. Thank you for that reminder.

  25. Dr. Clark,

    Thanks for an interesting post.

    FWIW, one of the greatest proponents of Jonathan Edwards’ theology on today’s scene is Dr. John Piper. I once saw an ad his church ran in Christianity Today for a position on their pastoral staff. This is how his church described itself: Baptist in Polity, Reformed in Soteriology, Charismatic in Affections.

  26. Hi Jeff,

    When I say “ontological turn” I mean that Edwards re-defined the fundamental human problem in ontological terms. I read him in the light of his debts to Cambridge Platonism. Again, I go back to the occasionalism that Hodge noticed.

    This is one of the fundamental breaks Edwards made with the tradition. So we may disagree as to the degree of continuity that existed between Edwards and the earlier orthodox.

    I agree with you entirely about the nature of HT. My working definition is “telling the truth about the past as best we can.”

    Hi Dave,

    I think that Piper is, in many ways, faithful to the spirit of Edwards’ theology. I think the fact that so many evangelicals are attracted to him says something about what they see in him, which they also see in Edwards, namely the potential of the immediate encounter with the risen Christ.

  27. Thanks for this post.
    I have a minor question:

    you wrote:
    “We don’t live in redemptive history.”

    Not being in redemptive history is impossible… unless one defines it as “everything PRE- John’s Apocalypse”. But why define it this way? Your excellent point about reformed piety is still right-on, even if our post-apostolic, semi-eschatological, pre-consummation age is indeed one of redemptive history.

    In any case, here is a really interesting article by Peter Jensen, re-printed in the OPC New Horizons some time ago. It connects the quest for nonReformed spirituality with the quest for assurance:

    The connection with Edwards’ spirituality, Pentacostalism, and assurance is worth pursuing further.

  28. Hi Gregory,

    I mean, “We don’t live in the canonical period.” I should have been more precise. When we preach “redemptive-historical” sermons, we don’t preach about God’s providence last week, we preach about and from God’s saving acts in “redemptive history.” Moses is dead. Jesus is ascended. The canon is closed. That’s what I mean.

    You probably knew that didn’t you?

  29. Resurrecting discussion on an old post.

    I’ve recently found out that a certain type of cell-church movement, the G12 (“Government” or Groups” of 12) is making waves in the evangelical scene here in the Philippines. The only thing I know about it is that it has Pentecostal roots, but that’s it.

    Does anyone know of any in-depth study of this movement?

  30. I have been reading comments on reformed charismatics. If one had no upbringing in reformed tradition but had extensive training only in Scripture, it would seem that the church of Corinth would be exhorted to be just this, a Reformed (I Cor 1:30) Charismatic (I Cor 12; 14). I only say this because are we so informed that we need not exposit Scripture but only hold to tradition? I see very little if any Scripture references on all the blogs above. It’s the fear of the Lord that I have when Scripture says “forbid not the speaking in tongues” over and above a Calvinist’s reaction to emotionalism. I can’t make the connection how a caution against will worship and emotionalistic idolatry cancels out plain affirmations of I Cor 14. Scripture says (said?) not to forbid tongues, that Paul wished they all spoke with tongues and still that they should give all the praise to God, boasting in Him alone (I Cor 4:7). If I were to just pick up a Bible and read I Cor 14 for the first time, this is exactly what I would get out of it in its plain sense. And isn’t this Calvin’s perspective when he tells us to hold to the simplicity of Scripture, to read it in its plainest sense, unless it is well qualified by context? But you must, have to, look outside of Biblical context to show that these gifts which were by the Spirit then, are useless today. It is amazing how much of I Cor 14 is utterly, practically useless for today, crossed out by many for today and yet it was good enough for the Christian of that day. We see the phenomena of the book of Acts in daily use by the church in Corinthians. Yes, the blogger above is rt that Jews of the days of Jesus looked to the signs instead of Christ Himself. But should the signs be useless and preached against if they be wrought be God Himself? You guys are trying to fight battles on the wrong turf, the turf of traditions. I may be wrong in what I have written, but meet me on the turf of Scripture and let all Scripture be profitable for doctrine. Lastly, why would Paul encourage such behavior, tongues, prophesies, words of knowledge, if they had the apostle rt there in front of them speaking in place of God as He led them into all truth. In other words, what place did it have then as it was encouraged in the church for edification, if indeed books were not added to the cannon every time someone prophesied or spoke in tongues/interpreted? It was the norm of the Christian church then. What was the use when they had the sacraments then as well as the apostles?

  31. John,

    I don’t dispute that the Corinthian congregation was both predestinarian and endowed with charismatic gifts. I understand them to be of the same sort that were in evidence in Acts 2—pacemy Pentecostal friends who introduce a disjunction between Acts 2 and 1 Cor.

    Nevertheless, it is evident to the Reformed churches that the Apostolic age is closed. None of the post-apostolic Pentecostals or charismatics (and there has been a steady stream of them) has ever had genuine apostolic office. They don’t raise the dead, they don’t speak in Spirit-given natural language (Acts 2) and they don’t put people to death. If the Wed night healing services actually “worked” I would be there in a NY second.

    What they do is to re-describe ordinary, natural phenomena in Apostolic or supernatural terms. This is a verbal, spiritual, and moral shell game.

    No one denies that God did great, supernatural things in the apostolic period and no one denies that he is capable of doing do now. What we do deny is that God has promised in Scripture to continue doing them after the apostles. We do deny that the folks who claim to have apostolic gifts today really do and we do deny that anyone who says they are “Reformed” and “Pentecostal” is telling the truth.

  32. R,

    I appreciate what you have said. But I am sure you understand how “forbid not the speaking in tongues” seems to the layman to fly in the face of what your tradition holds. You hold that God is able to do these things today but that He cannot because it would possibly add to cannon.

    What if He is not bound to the apostolic age to perform miracles that we see throughout the history of Scripture, not just with the apostles? My fear for you is your extremely strong stance against the miraculous today without much Biblical foundation to back it up. Statements you made about being some place in a NY minute if the miraculous were to occur goes under scrutiny when your premise is that they DON’T happen and “Thus Saith the Lord.” I just don’t find your Biblical backing for this. The miraculous was the norm when the Spirit came upon the elect. And why should it not be today?

    My experience is that I was raised Baptist and had an encounter with the Holy Spirit when I was eight years old where I spoke in tongues without any “coaching.” I didn’t know what had happened until I read it in the Bible later on. I actually had this encounter in Jerusalem on a trip my family took with their church. Was it emotionalism or demon possession? You have these answers already. But I will say that we had been the garden tomb and the Via Dolorsa that same day. And the reality of Christ overwhelmed me as a child in a prayer meeting that night. My teeth chattered uncontrollably and a language came out of my mouth I had never heard before. I cried for the longest time saying, “Why did they crucify Him? He loved them so much!”

    I carried this fire to my high school years where I led a revival in my school where many of my friends came to Christ by His choosing.

    This encounter led me to later become a preacher of which I have been for the last 15 yrs in full time ministry.

    8 yrs ago, I picked up a book by Martin Luther called The Bondage of the Will. It absolutely turned me on my ear and confirmed my suspicions about the dangers of free-will, self-righteous, man centered salvation/sanctification etc. I then proceeded to go on a holy rampage against all Assembly of God, Pentecostals who taught such demonic doctrine. I broke the church I had pioneered apart out in Dallas, Texas. I watched 150 people walk out the door because of my stand for Reformed theology. With only about the same number left and many asking for me to leave, I gave the church to a friend of mine in the church and left.

    Now I meet with my friends out in OC, California where I live and we have a small church of X Arminianists mostly from Pentecostal background.

    My problem is that I have no reason to deny what occurred to me as a child just because you give me a “Thus saith the Lord” not found within the cannon on the absence of the supernatural apart from the eucharist, baptism and the Word.

    To tell me that Luther did not change my life with an Isaiah 43 understanding of soteriology and that Christ’s presence wasn’t near to me in Jerusalem as a child is absurd.

    Watch yourself sir. The sacraments, word, and giftings of Corinithians were not in competition in Paul’s time. Are we not to imitate him? And the moral imperative/accusation laid at my feet that these gifts today detract from the sacraments/word could very well be laid at the first century church’s feet as well. And yet these arguments are not Biblically founded at all.

    You say that the gifts of your choosing have ceased because the cannon is closed. I say, do not forbid the speaking with tongues because the cannon is closed. You deny what cannon expressly forbids to deny and it is closed.

    Such a harsh stance YOU take when the Bible seems to affirm these gifts in the church and ENCOURAGES them. Are you not forbidding what the Bible commands to be enforced for a reason? Go dig until you find that reason but don’t take an eraser to the majority of chapters on the subject because of some half verse that they shall cease etc when we shall know as we are known.

    This type of argument, where half verses are used to wipe out chapters in the Bible is an Arminian’s/Mormon’s hermeneutic, where “not willing that any should perish” (I Peter 3:9) wipes out John 6 and Romans 9.

    God forbid there be inward/outward manifestations of His Spirit within the earthen vessels of His saints as well as the sacraments as His points of contact.

    Bless you man. But you’ve got to come along.

  33. R,

    Let me add one last thing. I see the real issue today with Pentecostals is that they are not God centered doctrinally but man centered. This is what I find Paul addressing in Corinth where many were boasting in themselves and not the Lord Who gave the increase. There is no doubt that your distaste for much of what is seen in the Pentecostal world today comes from a holy rage against self-righteous, self-exalting ceremony/behavior that points to “look at me” religion. I hear you loud and clear on people putting big words on ordinary events. But I do not hold to your reasoning entirely of “it’s the gifts fault.” I think instead, it is the church’s fault for not teaching reformed theology, not tradition, but theology on “what do you have that you have not been given?”…God centered. I blame free-will theology as the center of this problem. “Apart from Me you can do nothing” and end of Mark 16 “these signs shall follow,” if it be treated as cannon, should instead be taught hand in hand. This was Paul’s approach to my understanding in Corinth and it is the approach today.

    Don’t target the gifts dude.

    Target the motives of the heart based upon a blatant disregard or ignorance of Sola Deo Gloria doctrine. If this doctrine is taught, you won’t have to make out like God can’t do today etc…

    I think you should loosen up on Charismatics coming into the Reformed faith. Charismatics think that cannon is yard stick which says don’t take away or add to what has been charged you by this book. In this way, we do not see word of knowledge, prophecy, tongues, healings as adding to cannon but instead fulfilling it as was spoken would happen at the day of Pentecost in generally when the Spirit would fall on the old and young.


  34. Hi John,

    What do you make of the fact that the the Anabaptists in the 16th century made arguments similar to those that you’re making now and that the Reformed folks who wrote our confessions (summarizing how we understand Scripture) rejected them?

    Another major problem with your argument is that it assumes what is in question, namely that the gifts charismatics/pentecostals claim to have today are the very same gifts that operated during the apostolic period.

    They aren’t.

    The word “tongues” in Acts and 1 Cor simply means “natural languages.” By natural languages I mean languages such as French, German, Farsi, and Arabic. The apostles were given power by the Spirit to speak those languages in order to communicate the gospel to all the world.

    What is commonly called “tongues” today is nothing more than an example of a universal phenomenon of religious ecstasy. It has been documented among Muslims and in other world religions for many years. There’s nothing distinctively Christian and certainly nothing apostolic about it.

    I’m not against “the gifts,” if, by that, one means “what the Apostles had.” Honestly, I would love to have them but it isn’t happening.

    As to having them and not adding to the canon (note the spelling, the extra n makes a ruler into an implement of destruction) well, that’s unlikely. The Scriptures don’t know much about extra-canonical prophecy etc. All those gifts were part of the formation of the canonical revelation. With the close of the canon those apostolic, canonical, revelatory gifts ceased.

  35. Bro R,

    I am open to correction. Indeed, I had my clock cleaned by Luther 8 yrs ago after I “knew everything.” But understand that it is hard for me to have my conscience pulled in a new direction unless I am bested, as it were, on the grounds of Scripture. So let me address your thoughts above by saying we must ask “Is it true?” before we ask “How does it apply?” Much of the American church today begins with “How is this relevant to me? How does this apply to my life?” before they ask, “Is it true?” And, “How should my life apply to it?” They also run to tradition before Scripture for context.

    Therefore, I would like to go to Scripture with you first and then work our way down to Anabaptists and the like. Scripture first, tradition and snap shot pictures of the present second.

    Skimming over the book of Acts today. I find that not all understood their languages and thought the Apostles to be drunk with wine, speaking gibberish. Peter had to correct them. This is not to say that every apostle wasn’t speaking in an earthen language ministering to the masses.

    When we move to Cornelius’ house or to Acts 19, there is no mention of crowds hearing their native languages. I only say this because I usually do not form an opinion on a subject based upon one passage of Scripture. I need a pattern to say, “This is sound doctrine.” So for you to say that tongues is consistently used SOLELY to reach the lost in their own language doesn’t add up in Cornelius’ house with his own family and friends sitting there. Now this isn’t to say that tongues weren’t used to win the lost in their own tongue. But it lends itself to tongues being more than for just this purpose or else the two would be noted and tied together winning the lost every time this gift occurred.

    As I understand the book of Acts, it was a transitioning book full of phenomena. But that the epistles laid down commentary on “what just happened” and how the first century church should implement, understand these manifestations.

    Therefore, I look chiefly to Corinthians for my commentary of Acts on the purpose and use of the gifts. In I Corinthians 12, it would seem to me that the gifts are tied to the body of Christ itself. “Do all speak with tongues?” (vs. 30) is directly related to differing parts of the body of Christ in the same ministry of the Spirit. This “do all speak in tongues” also lets me know that possibly not all at that time had the same experience Cornelius had at salvation or throughout life. See how I look to Corinthians for commentary?

    Moving on to chapter 13, Paul says rt on the cuff of “Do all speak in tongues?”, “If I speak in the tongues of men and of angels, but have not love” (vs. 1). I see hear not some silly play on words from Paul which should be taken lightly. But in the context of this gift, Paul acknowledges tongues as both of earthen languages and angelic, not simply Farsi. There is no mention of unicorns or other things that don’t exist in Paul’s statements in chapter 13. He lists faith, knowledge of mysteries, prophetic powers and says they are nothing apart from love. This doesn’t make the list a fairy tale, but instead “nothing” without love. Therefore, I have no reason to believe that “the tongues of angels” is some made up unrealistic metaphor. It doesn’t fit that way in context and would be misleading to the simple, left unqualified by Paul.

    Therefore I stand in doubt of your premise that tongues are just earthen languages based upon Paul’s statement here.

    Cross reference I Cor. 8:2, 3 for my understanding of I Cor. 13:8-12. I believe Paul is speaking to the day he will stand before Christ instead of when the last apostle dies in regards to knowledge and tongues ceasing on the earth.

    I say this because Paul seems to continue on a course to establish these gifts in the church in their proper setting.

    “For one who speaks in a tongue speaks not to men but to God; for NO ONE understands him, but he utters mysteries in the Spirit” (14:2). HOW is it that no one understands him if the gift were ONLY for men of different languages to hear? WHY is it, speaking to the purpose of tongues, that he only speaks to God and not to men? I would submit to you that this is the primary purpose of tongues.

    You must address this passage. Rt now, what you have said as to the purpose of tongues, leading the lost to salvation, does not cover it.

    “He who speaks in tongues edifies himself, but he who prophesies edifies the church. Now I want you all to speak with tongues” (vss 4, 5).

    Paul seems to say in vs 9 ff that tongues should be with interpretation in a public setting because they are “unintelligible” to those who do not speak that specific language. And vs 13 seems to say that even the one speaking in tongues does not understand what he is saying and therefore must pray for the interpretation himself. “For if I pray in a tongue, my spirit prays but my mind is unfruitful. What am I to do? I will pray with the spirit and I will pray with the mind also; I will sing with the spirit and I will sing with the mind also” (vss 14, 15).

    “I thank God that I speak in tongues more than you all; nevertheless IN CHURCH I would rather speak five words with my mind, in order to instruct others, than ten thousand words in a tongue” (vs 18, 19).

    You don’t seem to be covering the fact that tongues was used for personal spiritual edification privately. This is proven by the man that did it all that time in private, but would rather keep to the language of the people in public. And yet, Paul doesn’t dismiss the gift as a sign for unbelievers as well (vs 22) but by interpretation.

    Prophecy again is not here used namely to keep the canon going as it were, but to reveal the secrets of a sinner’s heart in services (vs. 25).

    If there is no interpretation for tongues, Paul instructs them to pray in tongues under their breath (vs. 28).

    Lastly, Paul tells them that this teaching is a command from the Lord (vs 37) and with that he instructs “and do not forbid speaking in tongues” (vs. 39).

    See how you dismiss all of these Scriptures with a broad stroke of “nope”? But also, do you see how common place they were in the church for public AND private use. Do you see how some laymen who only reads the Bible in its plainest sense would see this as the normative of the Christian life? My evidence for this statement is found in the fact that these phenomena did not just HAPPEN in the church, but that the church was instructed on how to use them practically as they were linked to the body of Christ.

    How many verses are spent on this subject VS how many on the eucharist?

    Anyway, tongues of men and angels, used both for private/public edification as the Spirit prays within, a ministry given to and link to the body of Christ, and a sign to the lost… yep.

    Now broad stroke it with tradition.

    As for application today, there is a revival in Lakeland, Fl. rt now that has boasted in 14 people being raised from the dead recently. I only received word of it by e-mail and have no ties to it myself. But why not?? It’s on godTV so I have heard.

    Anabaptists vs Reformed? The emphasis of the Reformation was grace alone/sola deo gloria. This was the common ground. But Luther, Zwingly, Calvin couldn’t get together on Eucharist and still we hold them in the same camp. Anyway, I am of Paul and Apollos won’t fly in this discussion. Many Anabaptists were fanatical, but many were drowned to death by other protestant who were mainstream.

    Application for me is grace alone, glory to God alone, sola Scriptura, faith alone are what holds us together as brothers. But don’t lay a charge against me because I hold that I Corinthians 12, 14 are profitable for doctrine.

    It is my opinion that the gift of tongues has been a private gift in the life of many believers for the last 2000 yrs though Scriptures seem to lend a tad discouraging word against its public church use.


  36. What if one does not dispute that “the gifts” as they are expressed in worship are not the same as the apostolic “gifts”– but are that there is a place, even in Reformed worship, for ecstatic, and emotional, expression? Why, especially with John Calvin’s obviously intimate and emotional relationship with the risen Christ, is such relationship off limits to someone who follows the path he walked?
    I am disturbed at your comfort in throwing people out of fellowship on this basis. I cannot be Reformed and moved to tears at the nearness of Christ’s presence? I cannot exult in His touch in any way, or I am not Reformed? Surely, you are not advocating such a sterile piety.

  37. Hi John,

    You’re repeating a lot of the popular pentecostalism I encountered in Kansas City 20 years ago and by which I was tempted, until I did my exegetical work and spent enough time praying with Pentecostals to see that they really had no more power than an ordinary Presbyterian schmuck.

    Some brief responses:

    1. “tongues” just means “languages” or “foreign languages.” It is the typical Pentecostal move to introduce a new phenomenon after Acts 2 but it doesn’t work. There’s no evidence in any of the places you cite that “tongues” means anything other than “natural language spoken by a supernatural endowment.”

    2. Here’s one example to which i think I’ve appealed before. In 1 Cor 13 when Paul says “tongues of angels” he’s simply using hyperbole. He’s not saying, “If you have enough faith you too can speak with angelic tongues.” (How would anyone know what Angelic language sounds like? Why do “angelic” tongues always sound the same as “shandalallala” and the like? I digress). The point is that however spiritual one might think that one is, one is obligated to demonstrate love. To appeal to this passage in defense of contemporary Pentecostal/charismatic praxis is to abuse the text and ignore the context and intent of the passage.

    3. As to understanding “languages,” well, if one is speaking in a foreign language that no one else uses, of course there will be people who cannot understand them. There’s no evidence in the text that what was happening in Corinth is what is called “tongues” today. Each of the examples to which you appeal can be plainly understood to refer to a “natural” language unless one is determined to read them as something else.

    The principle by which I’m operating is this: It’s plain in Acts 2 that glossolalia refers to natural languages. It doesn’t matter whether they were spoken or heard. To make the same word refer to something else entirely one needs very strong, even overwhelming evidence, which just doesn’t exist.

    Let’s say, just for fun, that the glossolalia of 1 Cor is completely different from that of Acts? How would we know what it sounds like? As I suggested above, why does it sound exactly like that spoken by Muslims and others in states of religious ecstasy. As far as I’m concerned, it’s fine if folks want to do it but they shouldn’t try to equate what they’re doing (whether it’s the Wed night healing service or anything else) with the apostolic phenomena.

    4. What about Paul’s appeal to the curse function of tongues? Have you noticed to what example he appeals? Have you noticed that he equates glossolalia there to a natural language.

    5. Finally, I’m not telling Pentecostals that they can’t be P’s or Charismatics that they can’t be C’s — I doubt they care what I think. My point is that one cannot baptize Pentecostalism or Charismatic piety with predestination and call it Reformed. For better or worse we’re dead orthodox relative to the Ps and Cs. The Spirit works in our congregations through Word and sacrament. We’re just ordinary Christians not super-Christians replicating the Apostles.

  38. Clay,

    As you can see from my reply to John, I am advocating what you seem to regard as dry and sterile piety.

    The attempt to merge Pentecostalism with Reformed theology and piety is like trying to wed Muntzer and Calvin and the latter is having none of it. Calvin abhorred the piety of the Anabaptists.

    What hath Geneva to do with Munster?

  39. so, to be clear– you do not sense Christ’s presence in any way– the peace of Christ only comes to you when you read the Bible, or receive communion? Even the Reformed understanding the the Word of God rightly preached is truly God’s Word understands that the Holy Spirit moves in people in this age.
    Calvin’s prayer life is not simply another word for Bible study– through the Word, God speaks.
    I am not an academic– I am out in the trenches, doing what Christ has called me to do– to preach, to teach, to equip the saints for ministry.
    Where is/what is the place of the Holy Spirit?

  40. Hi Clay,

    Like all Christians, my subjective experience of the presence of God is variable. I don’t confuse my subjective experience with the objective promises of God. I don’t quest after an immediate encounter with the risen Christ. I am satisfied to hear the gospel preached, to be fed with the body of Christ, to trust that what the Word says is true and true for me and for all who believe.

    I don’t mean to say that we don’t have a vital, personal piety but it isn’t the same piety as the Cs and the Ps. It’s a Word and sacrament piety. Read the Heidelberg Catechism or the Westminster Shorter. That’s the piety I’m talking about.

    I do talk about this approach to piety here and here. I’m sure that our piety will never satisfy the evangelical quest to experience Christ without the mediation of Word or sacrament.

    I appreciate your zeal but the piety you’re describing isn’t Calvin’s. As to being in the trenches, well, I’m a minister in a local congregation. This is the stuff I preach and teach to them as I have opportunity. I sit in consistory meetings every month, I do marital counseling, I make some visits, I teach catechism and have been ministering “in the trenches” since 1987. I’ll wager I’ve knocked on as many doors, handed out as many fliers, and preached in as many city missions, and done as many home bible studies as most folks. To quote Paul, “I must be out of my mind to talk this way” but if busy-ness is what counts for piety, I’m familiar with it.

    My own experience is one of the reasons why I’ve moved toward a more churchly and confessionally Reformed piety.

    You can read all about it in Recovering the Reformed Confession this fall.

  41. Thanks, Scott–
    I’m not trying to compete– I’m trying to understand. Neither am I condemning. I’m confused by what I know of Calvin (which I readily admit is less than you know), and the certainty of your boundary between Reformed practice of the faith and any other practice (even the mother church) which recognizes the Holy Spirit as a co-equal part of the Trinity.
    Theologically, maybe I am not Pentecostal– I’m emotional.
    Does that mean that I cannot be Reformed, in your view? How can you possibly square that with the Biblical witness, much less Calvin or any other reformer? If all that was at stake in this was the intellectual pride of being “right,” the Reformed church would have died long ago.
    I have been instructed by your cautions (I’m reading Marsden’s JE bio now), and I do see your point on relying on emotional practice to the detriment of thought, checked by the Word and the careful and collective thought of the Confessions (I’m in the PCUSA, by the way– as if you hadn’t probably already guessed that).
    The Lord put me down in this denomination with a big heart and a passable intelligence. Does He not expect me to use both?
    So much of what you keep looking down on as a desire for “experience” can also be a desire to know with the heart as well as the mind.
    I, too appreciate the dangers of experience unteathered/antithetical to the witness of the Word and the sacramental life of the Church. But there is a vast middle ground between your hard stance and Pentecostal theology/practice.
    As an example, if you are willing, I would covet your prayers as I head for General Assembly tomorrow, where we will vote on the Heidelberg changes (on which I am afraid you are naive in your hope that we are heading back to anything approaching orthodoxy), and all the other horrors that Pandora may have packed into 4,000 pages of reading. So, brother– would you pray for me before throwing me out of Reformed Orthodoxy;-)?

  42. Hi Clay,

    I appreciate your situation and concerns.

    It’s not a question of the deity of the Third Person. Reformed Theology is thoroughly Trinitarian! See:

    The Splendour of the Three in One God

    “The Catholic-Calvinist Trinitarianism of Caspar Olevian,” Westminster Theological Journal 61 (1999): 15–39.

    “The Indispensability of the Trinity,” [with Mark Talbot] Modern Reformation (September/October, 2003).

    What the Bible is All About

    The question is not whether the Spirit is essential to the Trinity or operating in the world today but how the Spirit operates in a post-canonical world and to what end? His ministry in the world is to attract attention to and draw sinners to faith in Christ and union with him.

    As to the mainline (PCUSA) it’s funny that you say “naive.” My fear is that I’ve been so distrustful, angry, suspicious of the mainline for so long that I’ve been unable to see anything good in the PCUSA.

    Don’t get me wrong. I’m one of Machen’s warrior children. I think that, when the PCUSA went after Machen, it signaled long ago that it had no patience for historic Christianity. My experience with the PCUSA back home (Nebraska) was fairly relentless hostility toward historic Christianity. So, when I read Ned Stonehouse’ biography of Machen it just steeled my conviction that the PCUSA isn’t a church and isn’t Reformed. The PCUSA ministers I knew (not many, but a few) were out-and-out libs.

    My sense, however, is that with the influx of Fuller grads in recent years and the appointment of folks like Bruce McCormack, the lines are getting blurrier than they were. My sense is that the San Diego presbytery is a lot more receptive to historic Reformed theology than the mainliners I knew elsewhere.

    What’s different is that folks I wouldn’t expect to do it are appealing to the confessions in a way that is at least formally similar to the way confessionalists would. To what end, I’m not sure. As I said in the other thread on the PCUSA, the MLPs won’t find any help from the Heidelberg. Homosexuality is sin and even if they succeed in getting the word stricken from the translation it’s still sin and still forbidden by God’s law. Anyone with the slightest knowledge of the 16th century would know that.

    As to where you should be, well, I think that every Christian ought to be in a church or denomination or federation that has the marks of a true church as defined by Belgic Confession Art 29. I don’t think that the PCUSA has consistently displayed those marks for a long time. No one has accused the PCUSA of being “disciplined” for a century or more. That’s not the judgment of a disgruntled sideliner, that the judgment of PCUSA folks themselves.

    I hope to do 2 things relative to the mainline. 1) Call those in the PCUSA who actually believe the faith to separate and join with the sideline churches to help advance the historic, confessional, biblical Reformed faith. 2) To try to interest those who find themselves in the PCUSA, for whatever reason, in the confessional faith. That latter group I regard as I do the 60 million or so evangelicals who are mostly unfamiliar with the Reformed faith.

    As to a middle ground, that’s called American evangelicalism. I left that camp meeting a few years ago.

    Blessings on your trip.

  43. Bro Scott,

    I am learning somewhat from you today concerning Reformed understanding of how the Spirit moves. But “the rules have changed” interpretation, the disjunction from I Corinthians 12-14 practice to today, where you absolutely refuse Paul’s admonition to “forbid not the speaking with tongues” by indeed saying, “Anyone who doesn’t forbid them is out of the reformed camp,” is pretty harsh.

    How can you make “tongues of men and angels” a hyperbole? Are tongues of men a hyperbole in the context? Why then of angels? Is this NOT profitable for doctrine placed directly on the cuff of this precise gift’s function?

    Again, I am not denying that this gift is a gift of languages. Neither am I denying that many does it in the flesh including other religions that seek to replicate the authentic. Indeed Paul seems to be highly aware of a carnal crowd (I Cor. 3:1) highjacking the gifts of the Spirit, as it were, for ego driven agendas.

    But this does not exclude the gift’s authenticity then. I am so glad that I will be judged on the basis of Scripture and not what tradition thinks. Nowhere does Scripture tell me that this is a dead gift that shouldn’t be desired and practiced. The opposite is true.

    My fear for you is that you are declaring a NO! where Scripture says YES! And insodoing, you have distanced yourself from the very Word you say is the ONLY authority for today.

    You make fun of the “shandalas” and I laugh too at your remarks. But that is soo subjective of you. I try to stay with the objective word of God on this subject instead of wondering what language someone else is speaking.

    You never covered the issues of I Cor 14 where Paul deals with this gift as a personal edifier instead of simply a “way to reach the lost.”

    My fear of the Lord hear is not to champion tongues but to honor God’s word and kneel before it. How can I do so? How can my conscience be pricked, taken captive by the Scriptures, unless I take it in its plainest sense? Luther said that this was the problem with Erasmus and the like. They put marbles in God’s mouth until He came out saying something completely opposite than the plain writ of Scripture. I have not read all of Calvin’s institutes but have read about 600 pages into it this Spring. Calvin says that Paul’s plea to never leave the simplicity of Christ, is not trying to bring him down to lowest common denominator landing upon human logic. He says, instead, it is reading the Bible in its most simplistic, plainest sense.

    I Corinthians seems to give context to Acts 2 as to the functions and necessity of these gifts in the church. And I Cor 14 seems to indicate that tongues are for more than public use but are for spiritual edification.

    This would seem to add in that day to the eucharist, baptism, and ministry of the word for the edification of the soul. And it was not at odds with it.

    And why is that so wretched for today where yes in the Bible means no today?

    In your quest for sola Scriptura you look to the pointing finger but do not see where it leads. As Christ said, “You search the Scriptures, for in them you think to find life, but they speak of Me.”

    Indeed, for you, it is the Father, Son and Holy Bible. But the Holy Spirit is a Person Who walks and talks with us daily in our prayer lives. And this scares you as indeed anything supernatural today would. My issue is that you have the Holy Spirit pointing to the Bible, the sacraments as your point of contact to God’s grace. I would add that the Bible, sacraments, point to the Holy Spirit and our living relationship with Him. Though He does not speak of Himself, shall we not? Shall we pretend He is not here and guess whether He has touched our hearts in prayer?

    Lastly, when someone does not cover Scriptures but makes blanket statements, I feel their argument does not hold up. I read you Scriptures of this gift being for both private and public use, edification. You did not deal with this purpose of the gift of tongues.



  44. Bro Scott,

    I am learning somewhat from you today concerning Reformed understanding of how the Spirit moves. But “the rules have changed” interpretation, the disjunction from I Corinthians 12-14 practice to today, where you absolutely refuse Paul’s admonition to “forbid not the speaking with tongues” by indeed saying, “Anyone who doesn’t forbid them is out of the reformed camp,” is pretty harsh.

    How can you make “tongues of men and angels” a hyperbole? Are tongues of men a hyperbole in the context? Why then of angels? Is this NOT profitable for doctrine placed directly on the cuff of this precise gift’s function?

    Again, I am not denying that this gift is a gift of languages. Neither am I denying that many does it in the flesh including other religions that seek to replicate the authentic. Indeed Paul seems to be highly aware of a carnal crowd (I Cor. 3:1) highjacking the gifts of the Spirit, as it were, for ego driven agendas.

    But this does not exclude the gift’s authenticity then. I am so glad that I will be judged on the basis of Scripture and not what tradition thinks. Nowhere does Scripture tell me that this is a dead gift that shouldn’t be desired and practiced. The opposite is true.

    My fear for you is that you are declaring a NO! where Scripture says YES! And insodoing, you have distanced yourself from the very Word you say is the ONLY authority for today.

    You make fun of the “shandalas” and I laugh too at your remarks. But that is soo subjective of you. I try to stay with the objective word of God on this subject instead of wondering what language someone else is speaking.

    You never covered the issues of I Cor 14 where Paul deals with this gift as a personal edifier instead of simply a “way to reach the lost.”

    My fear of the Lord hear is not to champion tongues but to honor God’s word and kneel before it. How can I do so? How can my conscience be pricked, taken captive by the Scriptures, unless I take it in its plainest sense? Luther said that this was the problem with Erasmus and the like. They put marbles in God’s mouth until He came out saying something completely opposite than the plain writ of Scripture. I have not read all of Calvin’s institutes but have read about 600 pages into it this Spring. Calvin says that Paul’s plea to never leave the simplicity of Christ, is not trying to bring him down to lowest common denominator landing upon human logic. He says, instead, it is reading the Bible in its most simplistic, plainest sense.

    I Corinthians seems to give context to Acts 2 as to the functions and necessity of these gifts in the church. And I Cor 14 seems to indicate that tongues are for more than public use but are for spiritual edification.

    This would seem to add in that day to the eucharist, baptism, and ministry of the word for the edification of the soul. And it was not at odds with it.

    And why is that so wretched for today where yes in the Bible means no today?

    In your quest for sola Scriptura you look to the pointing finger but do not see where it leads. As Christ said, “You search the Scriptures, for in them you think to find life, but they speak of Me.”

    Indeed, for you, it is the Father, Son and Holy Bible. But the Holy Spirit is a Person Who walks and talks with us daily in our prayer lives. And this scares you as indeed anything supernatural today would. My issue is that you have the Holy Spirit pointing to the Bible, the sacraments as your point of contact to God’s grace. I would add that the Bible, sacraments, point to the Holy Spirit and our living relationship with Him. Though He does not speak of Himself, shall we not? Shall we pretend He is not here and guess whether He has touched our hearts in prayer?

    Lastly, when someone does not cover Scriptures but makes blanket statements, I feel their argument does not hold up. I read you Scriptures of this gift being for both private and public use, edification. You did not deal with this purpose of the gift of tongues.



  45. Hi John,

    I don’t have time to give you a verse-by-verse exegesis of 1 Cor. Have you ever read any cessationist lit? Have you read Dick Gaffin’s critique of pentecostalism?

    I’m not opposed to the “supernatural” today. That’s a canard. What I’m concerned about is the unsubstantiated assumption that the apostolic gifts operate today and the casual equivocation between common religious ecstasy and the apostolic era gifts of healing and speaking in foreign languages by the power of the Spirit. I would dearly love to have the Spirit give me the gift of Dutch. That’s would be a great help to my work.

    I don’t doubt that the Spirit moves immediately today but I also think that’s not the same sort of thing witnessed in the apostolic period. At least some of the apostolic evangelists were transported by the Spirit. I think Benny Hinn uses a jet. There’s a difference.

    As is the case in these discussions (going back centuries) cessationists always get accused of being unspiritual, deistic, and even unregenerate. If that’s what you wish to think, fine but my consistory hasn’t charged me with unbelief yet.

  46. “As Christ said, “You search the Scriptures, for in them you think to find life, but they speak of Me.”

    Ah, but John, what you still don’t realize is that the NT church, the church that 1 Cor. 14 came to – and at a time that 2 Cor was still unwritten, as well as how much else of the NT canon? – did not again have the complete NT Scriptures that we have today. Why couldn’t Paul’s “forbid not” only apply to that situation?

    Two, the apostolic gifts accompanied the ministry of those chosen of Christ when he was here on earth, i.e. “signs, wonders and miracles”. Do we need them today? You say yea, supposedly based on the “plain sense” of 1 Cor. 14 without taking the overall context in to account/presupposing that back then was just like today. The gospels and epistles were complete and bound in with the OT scriptures. Not so.

  47. Rev Clark and Bro Suden,

    My issue with you both is not whether you love, adore the Lord and cleave to His immutable promise alone for your salvation through Christ. I have more in common with you than my charismatic brethren and would put my Calvinism as the main course of my meal and my charismatic tenants as the side salad as it were. I do this because of the emphasis on grace and walking in/having love over and even against the use of the NT gifts.

    I am saddened that such a misuse and over emphasis is within much of the American church today. I believe that this isn’t the “gifts fault” but a problem common today that was in the Corinthian church (performance based religion). And based upon what you have said, I am neither reformed, nor pentecostal because both parties will not have me. I ask for your prayers that the Lord will have mercy upon me.

    My friend told me that when God made the platypus everyone was sure that He had made a mistake. I adhere to all the solas of the Reformed theology and I also am open to God manifesting His Spirit in services today as He did in first century.

    I take issue on two points and will leave it there:

    1. Reformers believe that the Lord not only spoke but speaks through Scriptures. It is alive producing faith in the elect. And as you know, the words spoken in the OT, the apostle says is speaking “while today is today, harden not your heart” etc. We see this also with such as Able, who though he died, his faith still is speaking.

    Unless I see a Scripture that tells me that the gifts will cease at the destruction of the temple or the day and hour of the death of John the Beloved, I do believe that the Scripture is clear that “forbid not the speaking in tongues” and “desire these gifts” are speaking to us today.

    Indeed I find no other source for my faith other than the speaking Word of God. It is how my faith came to be. So how am I to lean upon carnal intellect to “Thomas Jefferson” the Bible just because I don’t see everything today that was done then? Should I not instead, AT LEAST, be open to these gifts and ask God in faith to desire them?

    2. Following the first point, I want to address Rev and Bro’s comments on these gifts being only for a time. Rev said that Benny Hinn doesn’t get caught up to a different eunuch by the wind etc but needs an airplane. Well didn’t Paul also suffer shipwreck and use plain modes of transportation as well? Phillip was caught up to another location as an exception to the rule scenario as Scripture testifies. We don’t see this ever happening again, nor do we see the Apostle teaching the church that to be caught up to another location should be implemented as common practice as one of the gifts of the Spirit to the church.

    Again, gentlemen, two chapters in the Bible speaking to these gifts’ importance, purposes, order and necessity of practice in the body of Christ, for the body of Christ and linked to the body of Christ.

    Paul makes them necessary and not being caught away from one eunuch to another phenomenon.

    Is it possible that these gifts were just for the church of I Corinthians and not 2 Corinthians? I am just a sheep, fellas. I figure if that were true, God would not have invested two chapters in our speaking Bible on the subject just to leave it to the learned to figure out that by 2 Corinthians the opposite was true.

    Unless the Bible tells us differently about “Hey, after the Apostles are dead, do not speak in tongues, prophesy, heal the sick or the like because then you will be adding to Scripture by penalty of Galatians 1:6 coming upon you”… unless I see this, then I believe that the Bible not only spoke, but I find a pattern of it speaking.

    The difference here between Moses and his one time gifts and Paul is that Moses didn’t sit the children of Israel down and say, “Look it. Here is how you are to split the Red Sea or water in general whenever you come together as a congregation.” But Paul implements the phenomenon of Acts 2 etc as what must be for common practice with the saints for the edification of the church corporately and privately (a prayer language speaking mysteries not to men but to God; again, something you have not addressed at all).

    Again, bro Suden, if Mark 16:17ff was written as an addition to Scripture canon after the last apostle died, then my point is again substantiated that these gifts were confirmed to continue. But if Mark 16:17ff is canon, then this passage is for the “believing” in general without qualification.

    “And these signs will follow those who believe: in My name they will cast out demons; they will speak in new tongues…heal” etc.

    If these are indeed the words of our only Lord, then within this context, Paul writes, “forbid not the speaking in tongues.”


  48. Thanks for yours, John.

    Briefly as to the overall context:
    Sola Scriptura implies the sufficiency of the same (cf. WCF 1:1) of which more will be said below. Further, are you as open to God declaring that the need for the apostolic gifts has ceased as the contrary?
    Reformed theology affirms that God in Scripture can tell us something, explicitly, implicitly (i.e. by good and necessary consequences WCF 1:6) or by approved example. Hence though the bare word “trinity” is not found in Scripture, both the term and doctrine of is affirmed by the orthodox.
    The apostolic age which began at Pentecost, had largely run its course by the end of the Acts of the Apostles. Hence the falling off of the gifts in Paul’s ministry as it continues.

    But to the main point and achilles heel of the continuing gifts position, Paul does NOT make the gifts necessary in the two chapters championed. Rather 1Cor. 13:8-10 clearly states ‘tongues shall cease . . . when the perfect shall come’. The reformed understand the “perfect” to be the Scriptures, which equip a man to be perfect unto every good work (cf. 2Tim 3:17).

    Further, as per John Burgon – and here I think, Dr. Clark and most of the P&R of the day will disagree – I deny that Mk.16:17f was an addition to the canon ala the Hort Westcott school of textual criticism. Rather I affirm that the Book of Acts amply fulfills Mk.16:17f, if not that HW is an audacious and unconfessional fraud on par with the other colossal frauds and secular religions of the day, i.e. Marxism, Freudianism and Darwinism.

    Thank you.

  49. I appreciate your time and thoughts Bob.

    The end of I Corinthians 13 is not dealing with the Bible’s last book being written and finished. The context easily points to the day we will see Christ face to face cross ref. vss 9, 10 and vs 12. “For we know in part, and we prophesy in part; but when the perfect is come, the partial will be done away…. For now we see in a mirror dimly, but then face to face; now I know in part, but then I shall know fully just as I also have been fully known.”

    Obviously from context, Paul is not dealing with the completion of Scripture for the fact that he includes himself on that day when the perfect is come with a “we” and an “I.”

    Furthermore, I do not believe that the Apostles knew in part in the sense that they did not have all the information pertaining to life and godliness and had to wait for the Bible to be finished in order to really get the picture. I believe that Paul here is addressing the fact that what he knew conceptually, he would experience for himself fully on the day of the Lord’s return. What he saw partially through his five senses, he would be able to experience fully later on. Erasmas goes after Luther on this point telling him that even Paul didn’t know all the mysteries. Luther’s response is much like the one I just laid out.

    But has knowledge ceased, as well, alongside prophesy and tongues?

    And why then would Paul spend another chapter motivating the promulgation of these gifts which were obviously already vigorously used in the church on the back end of telling the people that the gifts’ usefulness was about up, so to speak?

    As far as the Scriptures’ sufficiency alone, I would simply say that it is as sufficient as the Bible will have it, “All Scripture is inspired by God and profitable for teaching, for reproof, for correction, for training in righteousness; that the man of God may be adequate, equipped for every good work” (2 Tim. 3:16, 17).

    But why wouldn’t “every good work” include a prayer language of tongues in I Corinthians 14 that edifies the individual? Why wouldn’t every good work remain the gift of prophecy that the sinner may be cut to the heart and know that God is with us?

    And where in 2 Timothy 3 do you find that God says that He only will speak through the written word and not through these gifts by the Holy Spirit to win the lost and guide the believer?

    I would also submit to you that 2 Timothy 3 was written before the canon was finished and was still declaring Scripture at that time to be making men perfect for every good work. Therefore, your argument is useless that says men weren’t perfect under the supervision of Paul and the Scriptures they possessed at the time. It’s not a good argument.

    Therefore, I find the Scriptures to be fully sufficient to do exactly what it says it will do above. But I do not find a rigid sola scriptura to the point that God refuses to speak today the way He spoke throughout Biblical history. The written word didn’t seem to be in conflict then with the gift of prophesy (used many times for guidance) then and since it is within the Bible and not without that I find my tenants for walking with God, these examples must do. Albeit, I do not find any other yard stick or canon for our conduct other that the Scriptures and all impressions/ prophecies/ words of knowledge must be confirmed solely under the authority of Scripture.

    Bless you man.


  50. Hi John,
    Briefly again, the “perfect” of 1 Cor.13:10 is neuter, not masculine if it were Christ at his second coming.
    And when that perfect comes, the interim/partial words of prophecy, tongues and knowledge will cease, fail and vanish away (1Cor. 13:8).
    Then we shall know God face to face (1Cor. 13:12) as did Moses (Deut. 34:10), unto whom God spake plainly and not in dark sayings (Num. 12:6-8) though Moses never literally saw his face (Ex. 33:9-11).

    Again, the Word of God that we now have is complete, sufficient and clear. The apostolic sign gifts of the interim period are unnecessary and beside the point after the close of the canon.

    Further as re. “prayer languages”, the Scripture tells us in Rom. 8:26:

    Likewise the Spirit also helpeth our infirmities: for we know not what we should pray for as we ought: but the Spirit itself maketh intercession for us with groanings which cannot be uttered.

    Two, I should think David’s inspired ‘prayer language’ in the psalms sufficient, rather than we need something new. After all, the psalms are one of the most quoted books in the NT. That might seem to indicate that the authors of the same did not have the same problem finding Christ there, that the modern church has.


  51. Bob S,

    I never said that “to telion” was Christ’s coming for the quick and the dead. “For we see in a mirror dimly, but then face to face” could very well mean the day we die and meet Christ face to face. Why would we not see Him face to face on this day? I fully anticipate it. Until then we are left with Scripture to know conceptually what we will experience fully then. Until then we are left to taste “the goodness of the word of God and the powers of the age to come” (Hebrews 6:5). I also don’t understand why the Spirit aiding the church with spiritual gifts that edify privately and corporately are nullified because the Bible was complete. I know that Jude speaks of a faith once and for all given to us and that Paul and John rebuke any addition to the message of salvation and revelation of end times. But I don’t know why the gift of healing, for example, would add to doctrine/canon or would add to salvation message or the book of Revelation. Neither do I understand why praying for guidance on practical matters, that the Holy Spirit would quicken to our remembrance Scripture through private prayer or give us a sense of direction such as whether we should be a missionary to S. Africa or what… I feel that the Bible doesn’t directly address these issues and I find the leading of the Holy Spirit through faith and prayer to be essential, not only to the apostles of Acts but also to me today. How do you guys feel a call to preach, to be a senior pastor, etc if it is up to free-will and not the leading of the Holy Spirit? I pray for direction and I also pray in my spirit, in tongues and ask God for the interpretation as it is written in I Corinthians 14:13. Most of the time God will put a burden on my heart for someone or He will quicken to me a Scripture for the issue at hand.

    I remember leading a kid to Christ on the street one night. He mocked me the whole time I was sharing with him. I prayed in my spirit as he was about to walk away and felt impressed to prophesy over him. I told him that his father was a hopeless alcoholic and that is why he hated God and rejected Him as a heaven Father. The young man came unglued and received Christ that night. This has happened so many times in my past with leading people to Christ that I hardly see the harm, and definitely have seen the use as “the secrets of his heart are disclosed; and so, falling on his face, he will worship God and declare that God is really among you” (I Corinthians 14:25). How have I added to Galatians 1:6 or Jude 1:3 by asking God to reveal to me this young man’s heart and speaking into his life supernaturally?

    Another time as I was praying for a friend, I became grieved in my spirit and told him that he was about to go through the hardest time in his life but that the Lord would restore him double in the end. His name is Brian Bos. He absolutely told me that he did not believe the word was from the Lord. The very same week, he found himself in the car behind a truck that had his wife with another man. She had been having an affair and eventually left him over it. But because of the word I gave him, he stayed in church and trusted the Lord to see him through. Now he is a worship leader and after raising his two daughters by himself all these years has recently remarried expecting his third daughter in a couple of months.

    If this was voodoo magic, it certainly kept Brian trusting in God. He said that he never would have sustained such a betrayal if God had not spoken to him the very week it occurred.

    As to your reference of Romans 8:26, because I do not believe in free-will, or human goodness apart from God’s grace, I make no differentiation between the Spirit making intercession for us and “he utters mysteries in the Spirit” (I Cor 14:2) in reference to tongues and “I will pray in the spirit” (vs. 15).

    I see tongues as a prayer language first and foremost used in I Cor 14 where the Holy Spirit is praying on our behalf when we know not how to pray.

    Bless you bro. Wife is calling for supper.


  52. Hi John,

    What is the perfect?

    1 Corinthians 13:10 But when that which is perfect is come, then that which is in part shall be done away.

    That which is in part. being the knowledge, prophecy and tongues of vs. 8&9. Our death or the second coming of Christ doesn’t fit grammatically. If you want to argue heaven, fine, but as below, chapt. 14 makes clear what is the most excellent gift and it is not tongues or a private prayer language. Edification is the chief good and only prophecy/preaching fulfills that end. (Tongues if publicly interpreted, but the argument now here is for a private tongue/prayer language. Who interprets then? Or are you arguing for the gift of interpretation also?)

    Neither do these chapters (1 Cor. 12-14) dwell on the sign gifts, even unnecessarily as you say 2 posts back if the reformed position is correct . Rather in the same chapters Paul talks about the use of the spiritual gifts 12, declares love greater than the gifts 13 and says above all, after charity, desire to prophesy in order to edify the church 14. In other words, the apostle says prophesying or preaching is greater even than the apostolic sign gifts which the reformed argue belonged to the interim period when the church did not have the NT completely written to preach and teach out of.

    Which is what I told my friend who asked me why I didn’t have/didn’t want to speak in tongues, privately or publicly. The Scripture says – not I – that there are more important gifts to covet. (Obviously I agree.)

    Neither have the reformed quarreled with praying for the Lord’s guidance. But a prayer language is unnecessary to do that and the Lord has already anticipated IMO any need for a private ecstatic/enthusiastic prayer language with Rom. 8:26 which is why I mentioned it.

    As for experiences or stories, fine, but even better, Rome and the anabaptists have always had miracles. The reformed only had sound doctrine and the gospel which saves sinners eternally. No spectacular bells and whistles there.

    Further Deut. 13 makes it clear that even if the sign or wonder comes to pass, that does not legitimate what one might gather from that sign. False prophets can do miracles or exercise the sign gifts. The real test is what do they preach, not the spectacular way that their prophecy of the future came to pass. Our faith is to be in the word of God, not signs, wonders and miracles. We should encourage our brethren in hard times, but at least we both agree that Scripture is the Word of God. On the other hand, if you were to come up to me with your word of prophecy instead of Scripture, it would have no weight for me, however much your friend found it so in his hard times.

    Thank you.

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