Q-Final for Bryan: Demonic Forces

Bryan, I think I could come up with another 20 questions based on your responses so far, but I think I'l going to make this my last question for the sake of your time and the interest of the readers of this blog; as such it will run long.  I welcome you to post any other questions you think help clarify your theology or your views, and I'll be pleased to answer them.

A theme which evolved here is your accusation that the cessation must demand that whatever it is you are asserting happens in your experience, it must be demonic.  That is: the cessationist has no other choices but to brand your view of common-place supernatural events as somehow quarterbacked by Satan and run by his Demon minions.  I think the record is clear that I have not accused you of anything like that, but to make it clearer still, I refuse that explanation for one reason only: I think you're just deeply confused about what you have experienced.

Here's what I think: I think in the end that those who are charismatic don't keep their own record in clear view, and they remember only the few times they think they had spirit-filled confirmations of their beliefs but are forgetful (intentionally) of the many times their beliefs have been falsified or incriminated by the lack of substantiation.  I think the balance sheet of even the most ardent and reliable Charismatic is tilted to implausibility, but because they never write down anything that would require red ink, they simply operate as if they are in the orthodoxological-black.

My explanation of your mistakes is a lot more ordinary than you would allow to me believe, I think.  Why must the cessationist, as you have said several times in this exchange, see you as working with the Devil in order to disbelieve your view?  Isn't there a much more ordinary explanation?

The only reason I've emphasized those things several times is because the "demonic" theme developed first in cessationist rhetoric early on. That theme is not my thread to own. It is in fact what has already been woven through in various ways on the cessationist end of this discussion. I have responded strongly to it and still believe my response is completely warranted.

If you've feel I've denied you your more ordinary explanation of my "mistakes" and unfairly broad-brushed you in to the "demonic" rhetoric that was characteristic mostly of John Macarthur and Strange Fire etc. , then I apologize. Your view has now been made more clear. I can accept that at face value.

But the fact still stands Frank: John Macarthur, The Strange Fire Conference,  and the hard position and camp you've defended, has already accused us of attributing the works of Satan to the Holy Spirit. That is crystal clear. And I have argued in this discussion that the opposite has occurred--you guys have attributed genuine works of the Holy Spirit to Satan. Hence this gap between us. Regardless if you want to distance yourself from having to choose between just those two options, in many cases, it is still only those two options which emerge, in my opinion. But in any case, the "demonic" accusations are already out there, some of them specific, some implied.

So to your questions:  Why must the cessationist, as you have said several times in this exchange, see you as working with the Devil in order to disbelieve your view of your experience?....is there not a much more ordinary explanation?

Well,  it obviously depends on what experience(s) we're talking about here doesn't it. Because sure, in some cases there could be a much more ordinary explanation as you put it. It could be true that I and other continualists are just deeply confused about what we've experienced. Now, I don't believe that at all. If anything, I'm more certain now of what I believe and what I've experienced than I ever have been.  But what experiences are we talking about here? Are you sure all of them can be described as common-place supernatural events? 

So that we have a good example and a specific experience to go by, I want to use Matt Chandler's and Bob Hamp's testimonies. Reader, if you've not listened to these testimonies, they are here. I use these because their story is very similar to many many other testimonies--that is, I think they represent a more common prophetic/power evangelism type experience among many other charismatics and continualists. I think how we assess the testimony of Matt and Bob's experience gets to the heart of this debate. Here's what I mean:

After you listen to the testimonies, here are the immediate options that I think you are left with:

A.  Matt and Bob are lying.
B.  Matt and Bob are not lying, but they are deeply confused about what it is they've experienced.
C.  Matt and Bob are telling the truth, it actually happened, and they are completely sober minded about their experience.

Now, if you pick C. and choose to believe their testimony, your next two options emerge:

A.  God supernaturally revealed those details to Matt and arranged it all.
B.  Satan supernaturally revealed those details to Matt and arranged it all.

Matt's point in his testimony is that if this is not God, then that leaves the Devil. And as he points out--Satan is not viewed in Scripture as a roaring lion roaming about seeking someone to save. We know for a fact that Satan is not in the business of redemption, so we know this experience didn't come from an evil source or deceptive counterfeit. 

So, Frank, if it is experiences like this that we are talking about, then I have to say that I agree with Matt--that only two options are possible here. The nature of the experience is clearly one that requires dependency on information Matt could not possibly know apart from supernatural revelation--so therefore cannot be explained apart from being one of two supernatural sources. And of course I'd argue it cannot be explained apart from the revealing ministry of the Holy Spirit.

I realize we can disagree on what to call the experience, or how we interpret the experience. But in terms of origin, it's gotta be either the Holy Spirit or some other supernatural personality giving the information and setting it all up.

Now, if we can agree that the source of this experience is indeed God, we can then ask, how do we interpret this experience Biblically? What do we call it? Providence? Prophecy?

If I'm understanding your question correctly Frank, I think it'd be similar to what Lyndon Unger asked in his post about Matt's experience. He asked "Are the only options for explaining these occurrences that they're either acts of true prophecy or demonic misleading?" He then answers that question by saying, " How bout this option: It is a work of God's providential orchestration of lives and minds, but it's not prophecy. It is God, but it's not prophecy."

Is this close to what you'd argue Frank? I know you've stated that we continualists simply don't have categories for providence (we actually do though) that frankly the Bible has and you have. 

At any rate, I have two observations and responses against what Lyndon Unger suggests is a viable option. 

One, the argument actually compares the wrong two categories--in other words it doesn't compare apples with apples. Matt Chandler is not arguing that it's either an act of the true gift of prophecy (interpretation of experience) or demonic misleading (source of experience), he's arguing that it's either God (source of experience) or demonic misleading (source of experience). 

The right comparison would be to compare two potential sources of the experience (God or the Devil),  or to compare two options of the interpretation of the experience (gift of prophecy or providential orchestration).

Therefore, the only two optional sources, given the supernatural revelatory nature of Matt's experience are still either the Holy Spirit or demonic misleading.

Two, the argument also seems to ignore the detailed nature of Matt's testimony. You might not agree that we can call it the biblical gift of prophecy, but there was clearly revelation involved that forces you, I think, to not comfortably fit that kind of testimony in a nice little providential orchestration category that doesn't do justice to what Matt is saying actually happened.   
Which brings me back to your question Frank--Why must the cessationist, as you have said several times in this exchange, see you as working with the Devil in order to disbelieve your view of your experience?....is there not a much more ordinary explanation?

There is not a more ordinary explanation when it comes to assessing the testimony of this kind of revelatory experience like Matt Chandler testifies to and that many many others can testify personally to. In terms of concluding what you believe to be the source of the experience, you do have to decide whether or not you think it's authored by God or if you believe it's demonic misleading. But you don't have to believe we're partnering with Satan to disbelieve or disagree with what we ultimately choose to call our experience. 

Lyndon Unger agrees it's from God and would agree we need to give Him glory for it, but refuses to agree that it's the gift of prophecy. Fair enough. I disagree that it can't be considered a gift of prophecy, but we know we disagree on that point...and probably always will. 

Now, the question of whether or not we call it true prophecy or providential orchestration is obviously important and at the heart of this debate over the continuation of the miraculous gifts, but it's not the most important observation, in my opinion, that surfaces here.

This is the most important: If you agree, with Unger, that the source of Matt's detailed revelatory experience was God---that is, if you believe it was providentially produced and carried out by power of the Holy Spirit as a work we should praise Him for, then you have conceded to one important foundation of continualist belief and experience:

God speaks outside the Bible, but not in contradiction to it.  

There is no way around that conclusion. The only way around that conclusion is to flat-out deny Matt's experience was produced by the Holy Spirit or to downplay the reality of the revelatory nature of what Matt actually is testifying to experiencing.   

Therefore, if you are truly understanding what Matt's testimony of his revelatory experience (as representative of our experience) says about reality and you really believe it was from God, then you are forced to either conclude that God indeed does speak outside the Bible, or that Matt's experience wasn't from God after all. Which would mean also, that if you refuse to believe that God speaks outside the Bible, then you are forced to conclude Matt's experience and our experiences like this are actually demonically inspired, because the supernaturally revelatory nature of them clearly doesn't allow you a more ordinary explanation outside of those two supernatural sources. 

Furthermore, because it's important for our conversation about what's normal for the Christian life, I'll say this: Once you believe and embrace that God does this kind of thing, who are we to decide what is normal for Him to do and what isn't? He can do it anytime He wants. Indeed, according to many other eye-witness testimonies, He is doing these things, similar to what He did through Matt Chandler and Bob Hamp, around the world through his people to reveal the Father's love and advance the gospel of the Kingdom. I think there is enough evidence for these things that to deny that their source is the Holy Spirit, is doing what J.P. Moreland said: It's "rejecting beliefs that have enough rational support to make them intellectually obligatory to believe."