Saturday, May 03, 2008

On the Holy Spirit

This is the beginning of a series of posts based on a training day I did for our South West relay at the end of April.

On the Holy Spirit, developing clearer thinking on those matters of first importance so that we might grow in love for Jesus' church in the power of the Holy Spirit, in other-centred, gospel-confessing service.

Everyone had packed their bags and was waiting to board the coach. In one corner of the room I could overhear that a heated discussion was underway. I lurked nearby and listened in. They were discussion charismatic gifts. Not so much the gifts of administration and teaching, but prophecy, healing and tongues. Controversial! And often considered with anecdotes and hearsay rather than with the Bible. I decided then, 2.5 years ago, to get the scriptures open in this. I shared my thoughts with the CU small groups coordinator and we shaped a plan for the next term to study 1 Corinthians 1-4 and 12-14. Some criticised us for not studying chapter 15 (though no-one minded that we weren't covering 5-11 or 16). What can you do in seven weeks?

There is an Elephant in the Room – or indeed several of them. That is – something very obvious that no-one seems to notice. A classic example of missing the point. Today isn't about changing your position but about Biblical convictions and practice.


Initially everyone is a continuationist. Things seem to change for the next 1800 years in which most people are probably cessationist, but since then the balance has changed - certainly on a global scale. In the new creation, as we'll see from 1 Corinthians 13, everyone will be a cessationist. Where should we stand today?


More than just supernatural manifestions – in that case Hindu's are Continuationist, and Dawkins a Cessationist. We mean gifts of the Holy Spirit to the church. And, less about an issue of style – such as ‘charismatics put their hands in the air’ and more the purpose and practice of certain gifts.


Having Charismatic convictions (or non-charismatic convictions) says virtually nothing about the rest of your theology. Liberal-Anglo-Catholics may be Cessationist, but it's not true that all Cessationists are Liberal, Anglican or Catholic.

Where you stand on charismatic theology says very little about the rest of your beliefs. Sweeping statements and assumptions can therefore be misleading about where we each stand. Best to talk rather than to presume.

With students I wont major on non-essentials but I wont avoid them either - especially where they present opportunity to open the scriptures with students. My parting gift to students in Guildford was, at their request, an afternoon study on Romans 9... some would call that foolish, but I'm convinced that there's nothing better than to gather God's people around God's word and let Him do the talking.

Next: 1 Corinthians 12v1-3.


  1. Naughty. We are doing this at Relay 3.

  2. As I recall, last time around it was my idea first. That said, you did an excellent job with it. Wont hurt the SWers to do it again.

  3. This is all looks very good. I'm a sucker for anything with diagrams in it. Good on you for 'talking about the secondaries while uniting round the primaries' as well.

    I wonder if you did any stuff on the way 'continuationists' differ over what the gifts of the actually are? (it looked like you might've done in yr 'definitions' section?).

    I just ask that because (I think that) I think most of the places I disagree with charismatic brothers and sisters boils down to that, more than whether anything continues or not.

  4. That should read 'what the gifts of the Spirit actually are' - I trust the omission of the Spirit doesn't say something about my underlying theology! :)

  5. I didn't particularly, though I suppose I could have done that. The diagram was more designed to illustrate that things aren't quite so simple as imagined, and that cessationism and charismaticism occur across the spectrum of evangelicalism (and beyond it).

    The working definitions of gifts (which I don't think are definitions as such) that we gleaned from 1 Cor 12-14 will follow as we go through.

    To a diverse room in a UCCF context I wanted to establish all the common ground I could - which I think we managed fairly well.

    Not everyone was showing their colours but I'd guess the majority were either Continuationist, or cautiously-continuationist due to examples of abuse or feeling like they didn't understand enough to pursue things.... hopefully the day helped with that!

  6. Great. I'm looking fwd to future posts.

  7. a Bible study on Romans 9 "foolish"? Why? You never know, it might prompt students to take a meaningful interest in Jewish evangelism!!

  8. ..or even just to be humbled by grace.