Wednesday, February 20, 2008

Subjective Title

Call it a subjective sense of calling or call it prophecy... what's the difference?. Adrian rightly asks - are the differences just semantics? What is the difference between a subjective sense of calling that must be tested by Scripture and a 'prophecy' that must also be tested by Scripture. Reformed Charismatic CJ Mahaney adds his amen to Adrian's. So does this one.

The only danger we have is when what's subjective rises above what's objective. But which sane charismatics want to do that? We need to have scripture as the foundation under our feet, cherished in our hearts and ruling over our heads. We need to be saturated with the word of God. As Shudall says, we really don't have enough of God's word among us, and that lets subjectivity run riot. Keep experience governed by what God has said in his word and we're free to enjoy experience extensively.

Christians are blessed. Objectively. As in, Galatians 3v9 and 14, So then, those who are of faith are blessed along with Abraham, the man of faith... in Christ Jesus the blessing of Abraham might come to the Gentiles, so that we might receive the promised Spirit through faith. That's identity changing blessing. That's eternity changing blessing. That's good news.

Christians are blessed. Subjectively. As in Galatians 4v15, What then has become of the blessing you felt? A joyful experience of God's blessing that led to sacrificial living. That's not just experience, that's transforming experience. That's good news.

Amen, Adrian for your observation.


  1. Bish -I think what you may be misundertanding here is that cessationists don't, as I understand it, say that God doesn't speak "subjectively" or indeed "miraculously" today. What they deny is that there is a particular office of prophet in the church to whom specific and regular revelations are made, as seems to have been early church practice.

  2. Ah, that's a helpful thought. I'd love to hear some reasoning as to why? :)

    Would we say that there is also no office of pastor? Or teacher? Or evangelist? Or administrator?

  3. Check out this:

  4. I think one of the arguments is that the church is founded on the apostles and prophets. Apostles and Prophets are foundational ministries especially associated with the production of the completed canon. In this way, no new revelation after Christ becomes no need for apostles and prophets after the foundational period is over and the scriptures are completed.

  5. "The only danger we have is when what's subjective rises above what's objective. But which sane charismatics want to do that?"

    Quite. I agree.

    And yet, could it be suggested that the Charismatic movement is/ has generally been characterised by such sanity? Depends where you look and who you talk to.

    And there are many many ways that the one can displace the other, without it having to be the crude and obvious - 'I know the bible says x, but God has told me y'. Ways that are not just a danger for those who identify themselves as charismatics.

  6. Charismatic excess/abuse may tend to over-subjectivism... but I think you could probably argue that conservative excess/abuse may tend to under-subjectivism? The charismatic might elevate experience over scripture, the conservative might fail to follow simple commands to joy and ...

    One gets carried away, the other underwhelmed. Neither are good. But abuse must be replaced by right use in either case.

  7. One of the things I don't like about your post Bish (sorry, but we're friends, so straight talking is allowed) is the "experience governed by God's word". Like the Christian life is something we live and God's word is like the fence within we operate...interstingly not dissilimar from the Guidance and the Voice of God View. The bible seems to see itself as the source of our delight and experience, rather than experience being something that is "governed" by the Bible. This, I think is one of the ways in charismatic circles the Bible is sometimes (by no means always) inadvertently sidelined.

  8. Man, you're so right. I've slipped into things I've critiqued before. (Mark Virkler & the voice of God)

    Jeremiah 15v16
    Your words were found, and I ate them, and your words became to me a joy and the delight of my heart,
    for I am called by your name,
    O LORD, God of hosts.

    That sounds a bit more like it.

  9. you could probably argue that conservative excess/abuse may tend to under-subjectivism?

    Yes, absolutely. I couldn't agree more.

    I wonder whether charismatic theology per se is an adequate corrective to this though, given that in some senses the charismatic movement is still stabilising itself theologically speaking. Perhaps we could do with being more in touch with our genuinely experiential heritage - the church fathers, reformers, puritans, early methodists, etc. etc.

  10. Pete, that's what encourages me about Sovereign Grace Ministries - here is a 30 year old part of the charismatic movement that has (since some point) begun to dig deeply into the puritans and so seems to present a sane charismaticism that has weight to it.

    I agree that the charismatic movement is probably still stablising, and probably as that is ongoing it's perhaps leading to less over-reaction from non-charismatics to experience and more of a warm embrace.. ?

    I feel (if we can say that) that my Christian experience has been richer for hours spent in the company of Calvin and Owen and others. And of course the longer I can spend immersed in God's own words.

  11. I agree. A lot of people are very encouraged by a heck of a lot of what is coming from sovereign grace ministries. I think there is a similar thing going on here, but perhaps it's further back than is the US with the Sov Grace people.

    My limited contact with students in various CUs certainly indicates that there's still a long way for things to come.

    But then again, I'd love it if we were all a little more reformed here in the UK (in all the great and good meanings of that word).