Wednesday, February 15, 2012

Word of Faith vs Cessationism--Who's Closer to Jesus?

There is a thought provoking article over at Scot McKnight's blog.  It's by a guest writer named "T" and he is using McKnight's book The King Jesus Gospel: The Original Good News Revisited (Zondervan, 2011) to engage in a thought experiment.  Here is a portion of what "T" wrote:
It was in the context of having read Scot’s book and letting these ideas ruminate, tearing down structures in my mind and building new ones, that I read a post by Roger Olson asking if the word-faith movement within extreme Pentecostalism presented ‘another gospel.’ Let me add right now that I disagree with word-faith (and ‘prosperity gospel’) teaching wholeheartedly. In the interests of space, my naked disavowal will have to suffice. But as I read the post that was rightfully denouncing extreme word-faith and prosperity gospel teachings, I couldn’t help but wonder, If the gospels are the gospel, does extreme cessationism present a “gospel” that is farther from “the gospels” than word-faith Pentecostalism? 
As I thought about this, I thought of several things. Initially (as a born and raised Biblicist evangelical!) I thought in terms of express scriptural support for word-faith on one extreme and for extreme cessationism on the other. On that score, word-faith has a clear advantage over cessationism. Even if it has to be selective in its NT areas of focus, it can at least point to clear, express NT teachings, not only to support the general idea that God does miracles through his people, but also the extreme word-faith teachings (Mark 9:23, James 5:15, Matthew 17:19-21). Again, while I think other portions of the NT make it clear that these verses must be nuanced to avoid taking them without any qualification, they are more expressly supportive of word-faith teachings than most of us would like. But my next line of thought wasn’t rooted in my Biblicist leanings and prima-scriptura goals, but in Scot’s thesis. Namely, if the gospels are the gospels, they proclaim a Jesus that not only heals as the bread and butter of his work, but also 
- Authorizes/commands others who represent him to heal the sick, cast out demons, raise the dead, 
- Commends the faith of those who believe in his authority and/or willingness to heal (Centurian, Canaanite woman), 
- Challenges and/or criticizes the faith of his disciples when they don’t have the faith to believe that THEY can cast out demons in his name, 
- Predicts that anyone who believes will also do what he has been doing (John 14:12; Mark 16:17), 
- Sends out apostles after his resurrection who found churches who then, in fact, also do miracles and signs and wonders in Christ’s name (Galatians 3:5, I Cor. 12-14, James 5:13-18). 
Considering all this and more with “the gospels are the gospel” ringing in my head, I began to lose articulable reasons to answer this question in the negative: “Do word-faith Pentecostals proclaim a Jesus, a gospel, more like the Jesus presented in the gospels than cessationists do?”