I customarily write about current issues from a biblical perspective. I do so because so often the Christian viewpoint in our culture is either ignored by the media and others, or misrepresented. I occasionally write about someone whose life is an inspirational example of what it means to be a Christian, and I sometimes write about doctrinal issues.
I want to preface this article with some comments on hermeneutics, that branch of theology that addresses the principles of biblical interpretation. I have said experience alone is a poor hermeneutic. Scripture defines Christian experience; our experience does not define Christian doctrine. I have also said lack of experience is a poor hermeneutic. Just because I have not experienced something declared in Scripture does not mean it did not happen, or will not happen again.
Forty years ago I was a member of Allandale Baptist Church in Jacksonville, Florida. It was my home church, a Southern Baptist Church. At that time Southern Baptist churches were embroiled in the charismatic controversy. I recall the sharp differences of opinion on both sides of the issue, and witnessed some mean-spirited things said and done on both sides.
I remember reading what a number of leading Southern Baptist scholars had written on the subject. They all agreed that the gifts of the Spirit enumerated in chapter 12 of First Corinthians were not for today, but not a single one agreed on what the gifts of the Spirit were. I thought at that time their disharmony indicated they did not know what these gifts were, and if they did not know what they were, how could they now say what they are not?
This launched a personal search for the truth on this issue and today I embrace a Pentecostal theology. I know the term Pentecostal carries a lot of baggage with it, most of which I do not wish to claim, and certainly do not want to carry, but it comes with the territory.
I am attending seminary online, and currently taking Church History I. In our readings this past week we learned how the canon of Scripture was recognized by the church and completed. Our readings said that Pentecostals had “tendencies to emphasize the ongoing nature of prophecy,” and rejected the notion of a completed canon.
I willingly admit my ignorance far outweighs my knowledge, but I am not aware of a single credible Pentecostal scholar who believes the canon of Scriptures is not complete and sealed. The gift of prophecy we read about in First Corinthians chapters 12 through 14, is something distinct from the process of inspiration that produced the completed canon. The gift of prophecy, as I understand it, is not equal to, or in completion with the completed cannon, but rather a prophetic utterance that is judged by its agreement with Scripture. I will share a personal anecdote I hope will clarify.
Years ago a friend of mine was led to assist a missionary in Puerto Rico for a year. Paul, Gene and I were young married men with families and we shared a call to the ministry. We had a final get together before their leaving. When we arrived at the cookout God told me to tell Sharon, Paul’s wife, “Your children are going to be alright.” I resisted telling her this because it did not make sense, the children appeared to be fine. But the Spirit of God was insistent.
So I said to Sharon, “God has told me to tell you, your children are going to be alright.” Sharon burst into tears. She said that when Paul had decided to go to Puerto Rico she had started researching the island country to gain a better understanding of its cultural background. She discovered Voodoo was still a commonly practiced folk religion in Puerto Rico. From that time she had recurring nightmares with Satan telling her he was going to kill her children. Not wanting her fears to influence Paul’s decision or cause him concern, she had kept this constant torment to herself. When I spoke, she was both edified and consoled (1 Corinthians 14:3), and her fear relieved. They served in Puerto Rico and returned with the children healthy and safe.
Obviously this story is not an attempt to augment the canon, but it does show that the story of the empowerment of the Holy Spirit on the day of Pentecost is not finished, and will not be until Christ returns. It is reminiscent of examples we see in the Scriptures like Agabus (Acts 11:28; 21:9-10). “This is what was spoken of through the prophet Joel,” Acts 2:16.