Charismatic “Calvinist”: a contradiction?

This was the whole point of Steve Lawson’s message at the Strange Fire Conference.  Lawson (and MacArthur) is a baptist.

The following quotes are from Martyn Lloyd-Jones: A Family Portrait by Christopher Catherwood:

Here were two very different views of what the Doctor taught on the Holy Spirit – one that he had become pentecostal and the other that he was an anti-charismatic who had been hijacked. Obviously both views cannot be right! (122-3)

Unfortunately, as Jim Packer has so ably pointed out in his book Keep in Step with the Spirit, some people are more influenced by tradition in what they believe than by what Scripture is actually saying, however inconvenient this might be.  Calvin was a cessationist too, and to many that meant if one was to be truly Reformed, one had to be a cessationist too. (Ironically, some of the people who held this view most strongly were Baptists.  Now while some of us there is no problem about being both Reformed and Baptist, Calvin was a firm paedobaptist!  So while they were strongly denying that one could ever believe in continuing spiritual gifts and be Reformed, they were undermining their own case by their insistence that one could indeed be Reformed while denying the doctrine of infant baptism in which Calvin believed so strongly.) (124-5)

Perhaps of course it was easy for the Doctor to believe things that few others combined.  He did after all believe that preaching was logic on fire, and that meant in this context the logic of the Calvinist and the fire of the charismatic – though as he himself showed, Calvinists could have fire and those who believed in the continuation of charismatic gifts could possess logic!  So his dual belief was quite consistent with the man, as well as flowing from scripture.  This last point was most crucial to him.  As we have seen, he was a Bible Calvinist, not a system one.  This made all the difference. (128-9)

People on the reformed side seemed to think that if Calvin did not believe in baptism with the Spirit as a separate experience, nor should they.  This was of course to elevate Calvin to a position higher than Scripture! As we have seen, ultimate if Calvin said one thing and the Bible said another, Calvin was wrong.  To the Doctor, this was not a problem, but to many who had discovered the glorious truths that Calvin also discovered in Scripture, with all their liberating power, then it was a shock to find that he could be wrong.  Instinctively, and in human terms understandably, they rebelled against the notion.  It is much easier to believe in a simple package than to sift through everything and seemingly believe three contradictory things before breakfast! (133)

Piper on Lloyd-Jones, part 6: Cessationism Quenches the Spirit

“Therefore, we may say emphatically that Lloyd-Jones was not a Warfieldian cessationist.

I think it is quite without scriptural warrant to say that all these gifts ended with the apostles or the Apostolic Era. I believe there have been undoubted miracles since then. (The Fight of Faith, 786; Joy Unspeakable, 246)

And when he speaks of the need for revival and for the baptism with the Holy Spirit and for a mighty attestation for the word of God today, it is crystal clear in Lloyd-Jones, he meant the same sort of thing as was meant in Acts 14:3, signs and wonders attesting to the Word of God. “It is perfectly clear…” – (Everything is perfectly clear to Martyn Lloyd-Jones) –

It is perfectly clear that in New Testament times, the gospel was authenticated in this way by signs, wonders and miracles of various characters and descriptions … Was it only meant to be true of the early church? … The Scriptures never anywhere say that these things were only temporary—never! – (you can hear him saying it, can’t you?) – There is no such statement anywhere. (The Sovereign Spirit, 31-32)

He deals with cessationist arguments, and says some mighty powerful things, that I can’t imagine Iain Murray would leave out of his biography, which he did. “To hold such a view as Warfield held is simply to quench the Spirit (SS, 46).  Because Iain Murray was publishing it [Warfield] at the time.  Pushing it.  These views, according to their dear father, Dr. Jones, is the quenching of the Holy Spirit!  and he didn’t want to lose his friends any more than he already was losing them, probably, and so he didn’t want them published until he was gone.

~From “A Passion for Christ Exalting Power

Piper on Lloyd-Jones, part 5: Signs and Wonders

“And now, note, next step, we’re just moving closer and closer in to power evangelism.  Spiritual gifts, healing, miracles, prophecy, tongues, the whole area of signs and wonders, Lloyd-Jones is talking about power evangelism in terms more careful, more clear, more strong than John Wimber ever has, before John Wimber ever thought of it.

He says that spiritual gifts are a part of the authenticating work of revival and the baptism of the Holy Spirit. We need the result of the baptism of the Holy Spirit, which is spiritual gifts in their sign form, and it is a “supernatural authentication of the message” (The Sovereign Spirit, 24).

Now, I’m going to back off for a minute, and reflect with you for a minute about what we reformed types have to come to terms with when we love the Word of God and esteem its uniqueness in power.  When we hear Paul say, “Jews desire signs, and Greeks seek wisdom, but  WE PREACH!” I can hear people saying that to Wimber, “WE PREACH! You desire signs, we preach, which is the power of God.” and I can hear them quote Romans 1:16: “The Gospel is the power of God unto salvation.  DON’T DILUTE THE POWER OF GOSPEL BY COMPROMISING IT WITH YOUR SIGNS AND WONDERS AS THOUGH THE GOSPEL WERE TOO WEAK TO SAVE SINNERS!” Do you hear that coming out of Banner of Truth?

Well, it isn’t that simple, is it. And the issue here is not contemporary Vineyard, Third Wave versus Paul; the issue is Paul versus Paul.  Let me try to explain.  Evidently Peter and Paul and Stephen and Philip, who, would you agree with me, were the greatest preachers that the world has ever known.  Evidently they did not think that the attestation of signs and wonders alongside their unparalleled powerful preaching compromised the integrity or the sufficiency or uniqueness of the power of God through the gospel. (Mark 16:20; Acts 14:3; Heb. 2:4). Evidently they didn’t.

Lloyd-Jones is really impressed by this fact.  He says, “If the apostles were incapable of being true witnesses without unusual power, who are we to claim that we can be witnesses without such power?” (SS, 46). And when he said that , he did not mean simply the power of the word. He meant the power of spiritual gifts. And I’ll show you that from a quote:

[Before Pentecost the apostles] were not yet fit to be witnesses … [They] had been with the Lord during the three years of his ministry. They had heard his sermons, they had seen his miracles, they had seen him crucified on the cross, they had seen him dead and buried,  they had seen him after he had risen literally in the body from the grave. These were the men who had been with him in the upper room at Jerusalem after his resurrection to whom he had expounded the Scriptures, and yet it is to these men he says that they must tarry at Jerusalem until they are endued with power from on high. The special purpose, the specific purpose of the baptism with the Holy Spirit is to enable us to witness, to bear testimony, and one of the ways in which that happens is through the giving of spiritual gifts. (SS, 120)

Now here’s my answer, I wish Lloyd-Jones had given his but I couldn’t find it.  here’s my answer to the question that we must come to terms with, it is utterly essential, of how the power of the Word of God relates to the authenticating function of signs and wonders.  First of all notice the Bible teaches that the Gospel preached is the power of God unto salvation (1 Cor. 1:23) the Gospel preached is the power of God (Rom 1:16) but, the Bible also says that Paul and Barnabas “remained a long time in Iconium speaking boldly for the Lord,”  Would you dare to equate anybody’s preaching today with that preaching?  That was powerful preaching! They were preaching in Iconium with power, speaking boldly for the Lord, “Who, bore witness to the word of His grace, granting signs and wonders to be done by their hands.”

Take all the conflicts today, go back to the New Testament and deal with them there. Don’t let anybody tell you it’s today versus the New Testament.  The issue is, how could preaching and signs and wonders not compromise each other then, not now. Forget now! Forget Wimber, forget everything in the 20th Century, explain Acts.  Explain how you could have the best preaching that ever was preached, described as the power of God unto salvation, and have alongside it God bearing witness with signs and wonders attesting to His word of grace, without saying by that, “My word is insufficient by itself.” Why did God compromise His word, by showing off His power physically? That’s the issue, not today.  Who cares about today, it’s the Bible that matters.

Now here is my effort to understand the Bible, which then maybe would help us today. Could we not say, in putting all this together, that signs and wonders – that is, I mean, healings, exorcisms, and so on – signs and wonders function in relation to the word of God, as a striking, wakening channel for the self-authenticating glory of Christ in the gospel? That may be the most important sentence I’ll give you.  Let me say it again: “Could it be, that signs and wonders function as a striking, wakening, channel, along which, through which, the self-authenticating glory of Christ in the Gospel moves, arrives.  I say emphatically, signs and wonders do not save. I say emphatically, signs and wonders do not transform the heart. I say emphatically, the glory of Christ seen in the gospel is the only power that regenerates, converts, transforms the heart, I base that on 2 Cor. 3:18-4:6. But, evidently, God chooses at times to use signs and wonders along side the regenerating word to win a hearing, to shatter the shell of disinterest, to shatter the shell of cynicism, to shatter the shell of false religion, and to help the heart fix its gaze on the glory of Christ in the gospel (see note 42).  Which, as 2 Cor. 4:4 says, is then like God saying “Let there be light” and boom, there is a new creature.

That’s my best effort at how to account, not for what’s happening today, but for what was happening in Paul’s life, and Philip’s life, and Stephen’s life, and Barnabas’s life, and Peter’s life.  The greatest preaching accompanied by signs and wonders.  Not the greatest preaching, so great it doesn’t need signs and wonders.”

~From “A Passion for Christ Exalting Power

Piper on Lloyd-Jones, part 4: Some Mighty Demonstration

Baptism With the Holy Spirit is an Authentication of the Gospel

“Now watch this – it comes visibly, he says. It is not just a quiet subjective experience of the church. Things happen, he says,  that make the world sit up and take notice. And now this was tremendously important to Lloyd-Jones. He felt almost overwhelmed by the corruption of the world and by the impotence of the church. And he believed that the only hope was something stunningStunning!  “The Christian church today is failing, and failing lamentably.” He preached these sermons in the fall of ’64 to the spring of ’65, near the end of his ministry, four years before he retired.  I hear, if I’m reading between the lines correctly, a growing disillusionment in Martyn Lloyd-Jones with the effectiveness of the church, even his own church.

The Christian church today is failing, and failing lamentably.It is not enough even to be orthodox. You must, of course, be orthodox, otherwise you have not got a message … We need authority and we need authentication … Is it not clear that we are living in an age when we need some special authentication—in other words, we need revival.  (The Sovereign Spirit, 25)

In other words, revival for Lloyd-Jones was a power demonstration that would authenticate the truth of the gospel to desperately hardened world. In fact his description of that world is remarkably contemporary, referring to the demonic and to new age kinds of things, and then at the end of that quote he says:

This is why I believe we are in urgent need of some manifestation, some demonstration, of the power of the Holy Spirit. (SS, 25)

Now, to be fair, he cautioned against excessive preoccupation with revival.  He warns against being too interested in the exceptional and the unusual, he said, “don’t despise the day of small things.  Don’t despise the regular work of the church and the regular work of the Spirit.” (The Fight of Faith, 384)

But.

I hear that caution as a gesture, that’s called for by reality, but not the heartbeat of Martyn Lloyd-Jones.  He was increasingly disillusioned with the “regular” work of the church, so that he goes on now, I think, and says things like this:

[We] can produce a number of converts, thank God for that, and that goes on regularly in evangelical churches every Sunday. But the need today is much too great for that.

In other words, he rejects steady state regular work as adequate.

The need today is for an authentication of God, of the supernatural, of the spiritual, of the eternal, and this can only be answered by God graciously hearing our cry and shedding forth again his Spirit upon us and filling us as he kept filling the early church. (Joy Unspeakable, 278)

What is needed is some mighty demonstration of the power of God, some enactment of the Almighty, that will compel people to pay attention, and to look, and to listen. And the history of all the revivals of the past indicates so clearly that that is invariably the effect of revival… When God acts, he can do more in one minute that man with his organizing can do in fifty years. (Revival, 121-2)

And I can’t help but wonder if he meant, “my fifty years.”

He so wanted to see this.

What lies so heavily on Lloyd-Jones’ heart is that the name of God be vindicated and the glory of the Lord manifested in the world. “We should be anxious to see something happening that will arrest the nations, all the peoples, and cause them to stop and think again” (Revival, 120). And that was the baptism of the Holy Spirit.

The purpose, the main function of the baptism with the Holy Spirit, is … to enable God’s people to witness in such a manner that it becomes a phenomenon and people are arrested and are attracted. (JU, 84; SS 17, 35, 120)

~From “A Passion for Christ Exalting Power