Missionary signs and wonders.

Discussion in 'Evangelism, Missions and the Persecuted Church' started by Von, Nov 7, 2018.

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  1. Von

    Von Puritan Board Freshman

    If the signs and wonders of the Apostolic age were to confirm their message, do we find examples of signs and wonders being performed by missionaries through the ages for the same purpose?
    (PS: I am a cessationist)
  2. Ask Mr. Religion

    Ask Mr. Religion Flatly Unflappable

  3. JTB.SDG

    JTB.SDG Puritan Board Sophomore

    I don't believe these things are at all normative as spiritual gifts, but I serve in Asia and have heard several stories from very credible men affiliated with our partner denomination here. There have been healings, knowledge of events that would otherwise not be possible, and other things. I need to check this story but one brother I was very close to for a long time has an incredible story about his sister coming back to life after a missionary had prayed for her.

    I realize it blows some theological paradigms, as it does mine to a degree, but I can't deny the things I've heard from credible believing brothers. I can't say with any degree of confidence why it is the Lord did these things, but the reason you suggest would make a lot of sense as the place we serve is very "unreached".
  4. earl40

    earl40 Puritan Board Post-Graduate

    May I ask if one has "knowledge of events that would otherwise not be possible" can we have that knowledge added to scripture? I don't ask to get an answer, but only to convey that if this happened it could be added to scripture.
  5. Afterthought

    Afterthought Puritan Board Junior

    A cessationist with a healthy view of Providence can explain a lot of things that passes for "miracles" today without detracting from divine power. I don't have time to get much into it, but as a sample of tools in the cessationist framework...

    1) Exaggeration. We should not ignore that some accounts are fabricated or, if true, exaggerated.

    2) Beliefs of the people reporting. All phenomena are interpreted by principia. If a person believes in a certain way, they will evaluate an occurrence in terms of that person's belief framework. Their memories of the event can also readjust the account in their minds, or exaggerate certain details while failing to notice other details. There is also a matter of ignorance too (e.g., perhaps they think someone is dead who is not dead).

    3) We should not deny that the Lord still can do (and does) mighty acts of special providence. In answer to prayer, he can and has healed or defended his people in unusual ways. This is different from having a miraculous gift to confirm the gospel. A misunderstanding of special providences can appear "miraculous" or as a "miraculous" gift to those who do not evaluate phenomena in terms of a cessationist and providential framework. Indeed, these providences are so special that these are the things often people usually mean by "miracles."

    4) God's providence extends to every detail of everything. He could work on someone's will to suddenly give them a desire to pray for someone and then in retrospect, it can seem to be a timely prayer. He could allow people to become deluded and think they are seeing things (or allow the devil to deceive them into seeing things).

    5) God is free to work above and against and without means in his providence. We must not forget that.

    6) God's providence extends to dreams. Perhaps a person is superstitious and believes God still reveals things by dreams. Maybe God will give the person some dream that they interpret as God's revelation as part of God's moving the person to some action. It extends to natural forces like rain and wind too.

    7) We must not underestimate the power of intuition, especially an intuition guided by the Word of God and a careful observation of past and present providential events in light of the Word of God. This is often mistaken for "knowing" something that could not have been known or for "predicting" the future, although it could be some cases of "knowing" are examples of special providences (hard to say; the only first hand experiences or reliable testimonies I have seen have been explainable by intuition). (I mean, a scientist by understanding God's ordinary workings in the natural world can predict things; a common person can predict the color of the sky for a sunset; why not a person well acquainted with God's moral government predicting events in the moral outworking of providence?)

    8) There is also the possibility of receiving assurance that one's prayer will be heard.

    9) Providence extends to our minds. Perhaps the Lord in a timely manner brings something to mind that we used to know, or some fact that we suddenly observe/become aware of. There is also illumination of the Scriptures/their application by the Spirit.
    Last edited: Nov 8, 2018
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  6. Tom Hart

    Tom Hart Puritan Board Junior

    Mine remain very much unblown.
  7. BayouHuguenot

    BayouHuguenot Puritan Board Doctor

    Just for the record, I am sitting this one out. I can also predict exactly what will be said and how it will be said. This thread will also be 8 pages long.
  8. Grant Jones

    Grant Jones Puritan Board Junior

    If you are staying out, then I predict 1-2 pages max:D
  9. DTK

    DTK Puritan Board Junior

    I am basically a cessationist, and am not given to endorsing "signs and wonders" of which we read in the gospel records and the acts of the apostles. It is my understanding that the reason we witness an unusual stirring-up of demonic and dark forces in the days of our Lord's flesh, as well as in the subsequent ministries of the apostles, is that this is what we expect to see as the kingdom of God draws near in the person of the King, and the kingdom of darkness is challenged. I think the same thing can be detected today on any mission field where the gospel is being introduced perhaps for the very first time.

    It is true that the devil's teeth (his works, 1 John 3:8) were pulled at Calvary, but the "mop up" work still proceeds in areas where the devil continues to hold hostages in strongholds of darkness. We must never forget, as we were reminded above with respect to God's providence, that we serve and worship a supernatural God, and His hand is never shortened in any given instance.

    I suppose this touches upon one's eschatology - I am a present gospel millennialist for lack of a better description.
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  10. Pergamum

    Pergamum Ordinary Guy (TM)

    I have raised the dead 3 times so far!

    No, seriously. According to the locals.

    I had to convince them that 3 severely ill people (comatose due to fever and dehydration) were actually still alive (they were talking about burying one) and after infusing 2 bags of Ringer's Lactate, she magically began to stir and wake up. People were amazed. Their prayers of thanksgiving were very fervent.

    Sadly, however, I met another missionary in my region. I respect him greatly. But part of his testimony of his ministry on the internet about his time among a similar tribe here features a story about how God allowed them to raise the dead. This missionary did not write that it "appeared as if he raised the dead", but that God (through their prayers) actually raised the dead and villagers believed through this event.

    Non-scientific people do not understand about breathing, pulses, comatose states from fever/dehydration. And apparently some missionaries don't either (or else it just makes too good of a story).


    We have encountered several trustworthy accounts of dreams and unusual providences. They would dream of a person coming to them with the truth, and the next day met me or another evangelist, or found a Bible. I believe these things still happen.

    We had an evangelist's wife with cerebral malaria. They carried her to us too late. Her breathing was decompensating and she was laying on our floor while we infused her. I told the evangelists that she seemed to be dying, so they started praying. And while they were praying her breathing regularized once more and she began to improve.
  11. Taylor Sexton

    Taylor Sexton Puritan Board Junior

    I don’t think so, brother. There are many thing Jesus said and did that were never added to Scripture, except just to mention that he said and did many more things than were written. The same thing goes for Paul’s speaking in tongues.

    I understand what you’re saying, but I don’t think it necessarily follows that the content production of all verbal gifts must be added to Scripture.

    Just to be clear, I am a cessationist.
  12. BayouHuguenot

    BayouHuguenot Puritan Board Doctor

    Fair enough. My take, regardless of whether one is cessationist or continuationist:

    If you start with the David Hume approach that it isn't possible because it isn't possible because Bible or something, not only are you doing bad philosophy and theology, but also bad science.
  13. BayouHuguenot

    BayouHuguenot Puritan Board Doctor

    What was the content of the prophecies of Phillip's daughters? Without affirming the consequent in a modus pollens, how do you know?
  14. Ask Mr. Religion

    Ask Mr. Religion Flatly Unflappable

    All evidence to the contrary, notwithstanding, of course:
  15. earl40

    earl40 Puritan Board Post-Graduate

    I hear you, but IF one did record this supernatural knowledge to paper you should consider adding to the bible. So far as any of the things "Jesus said or did" and were not recorded they would be scripture IF they were written down. Now this thread may go 5 or 6 pages. :)
  16. BayouHuguenot

    BayouHuguenot Puritan Board Doctor

  17. Jeri Tanner

    Jeri Tanner Moderator Staff Member

    Just to chime in on the OP- I don’t think we do find such examples of accompanying signs and wonders after the days of the apostles. As far as I know none are recorded by any at the Reformation, nor in the days of the later missionary renewals.
  18. BayouHuguenot

    BayouHuguenot Puritan Board Doctor

    I can't resist, though I promised (prophesied?) not to post on this thread. As to the Reformation, perhaps you are correct. As to later missionary renewal movements, does the present day count? I hear miraculous stories a lot.

    As to the Patristic age and early Medieval age, just read about Boniface or Martin of Tours, or any random moment in Bede's Ecclesiastical History. Even cessationists like Augustine admit that miracles happened alongside the preaching of the gospel (see Books 8 (I think) and 22 of City of God).

    Irenaeus's church, if he is to be believed, raised people (at least one guy) from the dead.

    Of course, that doesn't mean this stuff *actually* happened. We all have to deal with the epistemological issues in testimonial belief. But the church has always admitted they have happened.
  19. Tom Hart

    Tom Hart Puritan Board Junior

    There are plenty of cases of ecstasies from such luminaries as the Montanists and Anabaptists, not to mention mediæval Roman Catholicism's innumerable supposed miracles. (Modern Roman Catholicism is still mediæval in many respects.)

    Belief in frequent supernatural events, dubbed "miracles", seems to have been held by many of the Church Fathers. (The Church Fathers are not at all consistent here, though.) Interestingly, though, not one can point to an event that he himself took part in or even witnessed. All of it is second-hand information, or lies much further off than that.

    John Wesley was followed everywhere with noisy behaviour and many accounts of bizarre occurrences thought to be miraculous. His preaching was said to be very often a noisy affair, with many of those attending shouting and falling to the ground. Similar circumstances accompanied the Irvingites.

    In the days of the Reformation, meanwhile, none other than John Knox himself has been credited, by some, with a kind of prophecy. If I remember correctly, Knox seemingly predicted the downfall and death of Mary, Queen of Scots. (Myself, I would attribute this to common foresight. Mary, by her behaviour, was inviting her ruin.) In any case, to my knowledge, John Knox never himself claimed such a power.
  20. Tom Hart

    Tom Hart Puritan Board Junior

    No, she hasn't.

    "Why, say you, do not those things take place now? because they would not move, unless they were wonderful, and, if they were usual, they would not be wonderful. [...] They were done at a very suitable time, in order that, by these a multitude of believers having been gathered together and spread abroad, authority might be turned with effect upon habits."

    Augustine, On the Profit of Believing

    "When the Catholic Church had been founded and diffused throughout the whole world, on the one hand miracles were not allowed to continue till our time, lest the mind should always seek visible things, and the human race should grow cold by becoming accustomed to things which when they were novelties kindled its faith."

    Augustine, On True Religion, 25.47

    "For not even now, when a hand is laid on the baptized, do they receive the Holy Spirit in such a way that they speak with the tongues of all nations; nor are the sick now healed by the passing shadow of the preachers of Christ. Even though such things happened at that time, manifestly these ceased later."

    Augustine, Retractions (1.12.7)

    "Why, saith one, are there not now those who raise the dead, and perform cures? Yes, then, why, I say: why are there not now those who have a contempt for this present life? Do we serve God for hire? When man’s nature was weaker, when the Faith had to be planted, there were even many such; but now he would not have us to hang upon these signs, but to be ready for death. [...] For this cause it is that there are none such now; because that (future) life hath seemed to us honorless, seeing that for its sake we do nothing, whilst for this there is nothing we refuse to undergo."

    John Chrysostom, Homily 8 on Colossians

    "Even now there are some that seek them and say, Why do not miracles take place also at this present time? If you are faithful, as you ought to be, and lovest Christ as you ought to love Him, you have no need of signs, they are given to the unbelievers."

    John Chrysostom, Homily 25 on John

    It is a mistake to make Augustine (or, indeed, many others of his time) unquestionably support miraculous events. Augustine's writings contain differing statements on this subject. By the end of his life, though, in his Retractions, he seems to have favoured a cessation of the charismatic gifts.
  21. BayouHuguenot

    BayouHuguenot Puritan Board Doctor

    Notice I said Augustine was a cessationist, but he admitted the miraculous. He just didn't incorporate it into his paradigm.

    Chrysostom was irritated at the laziness of his flock and wanted to steer them in other directions.

    You are also confusing the categories between miracles happening and apostolic gifts being passed down. Augustine's quotes clearly deny the latter, yet his testimony in City of God admit the former.

    And if the church didn't believe in miracles continuing (which is not the same thing as continuationism), then Bede, Martin of Tours, Gregory Thaumaturgus, Athanasius, and Ephrem the Syrian didn't get the message.
  22. Tom Hart

    Tom Hart Puritan Board Junior

    I do not doubt that you are more knowledgeable about Augustine than I am. Could you show me where he makes this distinction of apostolic gifts and general miracles? I'd also alpreciate it if you showed where Chrysostom makes clear that he's dealing with what you say. His words seem fairly strong by themselves.

    I've read enough of Bede to know his stories of miracles are not only absurd but anti-scriptural. A dead saint's bones do not cause miraculous healings or save a city from invasion.

    You really have to reckon with primitive folk beliefs in this sort of thing.
  23. BayouHuguenot

    BayouHuguenot Puritan Board Doctor

    I don't know where he makes the distinction. I'm assuming he is operating with it. My point was that he acknowledge the miraculous continuing in City of God.

    He's probably a cessationist. He thought most of Constantinople was unconverted, and so he wanted to direct people to the Word and not to signs and wonders.
    I don't disagree. My point was that the church thought they were continuing today.
  24. Jeri Tanner

    Jeri Tanner Moderator Staff Member

    Hehe, made you look.

    The missionary activity was that of people like David Brainerd (early on), and later Hudson Taylor and William Carey. I don’t believe any of the men of that stature claimed to have seen instantaneous healings, raisings from the dead, speaking in tongues, visions, or such, though they certainly went out into lands where darkness and superstition prevailed and the gospel was unknown.

    You mentioned Iraneus, but as usual, many popular stories about the patristic fathers bear a closer look.
  25. Tom Hart

    Tom Hart Puritan Board Junior

    That's quite an assumption to make. Others (such as Warfield) have called Augustine inconsistent on this point.

    Then what was the purpose of your reply to the quotation I gave?

    And my point was that the church was plagued with grave errors concerning the signs. Plainly, we shouldn't take the ridiculous and unbiblical claims seriously, and we should therefore also doubt other aspects of popular mediæval conceptions of the miraculous. Certainly it's not unreasonable to question them.
  26. Pergamum

    Pergamum Ordinary Guy (TM)

    What a strange legacy of many of the Puritans, who believed in the powers of witches and yet make God powerless.

    A witch can kill your crops or dry up the milk of your cow, but the Spirit cannot heal in a case where the doctor is unable to help?

    Many Puritans believed in evil supernatural powers. But yet many here on the PB are saying there is little to no supernatural power for good.

    I believe that, while the age of miracles is passed, such that we should not normally expect them, the Confessions do state that in His ordinary providence, God makes use of means, yet He is free to work without, above, and against them.

    And God sometimes does precisely this!

    He does so by: (1) healing despite all natural signs pointing to further degradation/death, (2) extraordinary providences whereby He wonderfully delivers the saints despite all outwards signs telling us that this cannot be, (3) and that some are still guided by dreams or particular insights from the Spirit.

    I do not believe tongues exist because if these gifts were given for the edification of the church then why, in the entire history of the Church, has there never yet been a bible translation, nor even a single verse of Scripture, translated into a native language through the use of tongues?

    Here is a quote by Samual Rutherford, one of the framers of the WCF:

    “There is a revelation of some particular men, who have foretold things to come, even since the ceasing of the Canon of the Word, as John Husse [John Hus], Wickeliefe [Wycliffe], Luther, have foretold things to come and they certainly fell out, and in our nation of Scotland, M. George Wishart foretold that Cardinal Beaton should not come out alive at the Gates of the Castle of St. Andrews, but that he should die a shameful death, and he was hanged over the window that he did look out at, when he saw the man of God burnt, Knox prophesied of the hanging of the Lord of Grange, M. Ioh. Davidson uttered prophecies, known to many of the kingdome, diverse Holy and mortified preachers in England have done the like… [Samuel Rutherford. A Survey Of The Spiritual Antichrist. Opening the Secrets Of Familisme and Antinomianisme in the Antichrist Doctrine of John Saltmarsh… (London: no pub., 1648), 42.”
    Last edited: Nov 8, 2018
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  27. Tom Hart

    Tom Hart Puritan Board Junior

    Which Puritans are you referring to? Who has said "there is little to no supernatural power for good"?

    Cessationism is not necessarily a denial of all things miraculous. For my part, I do not say that God cannot do miracles.

    There are different views covered by the term "cessationism". What all cessationism does say is that the gifts of the apostolic age have ceased. There are now no healings through human agency as in the time of the apostles. There is now no speaking in tongues. I think most would say as well that there is now no raising of the dead.

    A cessationist can certainly believe that God still acts in miraculous ways, though these works are not the same sort as those we read of in the Old and New Testaments.
  28. Pergamum

    Pergamum Ordinary Guy (TM)

    You claim: "Cessationism is not necessarily a denial of all things miraculous."

    Is this your definition or the normal definition of cessationism?
  29. Tom Hart

    Tom Hart Puritan Board Junior

    As I said, there are different views. According to the definitions here, I am what might be called a "Classical Cessationist".

  30. BayouHuguenot

    BayouHuguenot Puritan Board Doctor

    He is inconsistent. That was my assumption.
    I thought I was agreeing with you on that part.
    There is that element, but some of these guys were also key in the Nicene and Post-Nicene councils, so they weren't completely naive.
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