JD Hall vs Ante Pavkovic Charismatic Gifts Debate: Critical Review – II of II
This is part 2 of my review of the JD Hall – Ante Pavkovic debate. For part 1, click here.
At 1:04 –
In his cross-examination of Ante, Jordan used a Mormon website that affirms the charismata. However, Ante missed Jordon’s point completely in his rebuttal because he attempted to casually dismiss the problem by saying that Mormons also believe in prayer, so that means we should do away with prayer. The real problem for Pentecostal/Charismatic theology along these lines is that Mormons, Catholics, Modalists (people who deny the Trinity), prosperity subscribers, other religions, and even cults all practice the very same ecstatic utterances of gibberish as those who claim to be more orthodox in their doctrine in the Pentecostal/Charismatic movement. When modern linguists study the practice from a scientific standpoint, there is no discernible difference in the practice among these various groups. It is the exact same phenomenon. Therefore, the Pentecostal claim that their tongues are an extraordinary act of God is patently false. So unimpressive is the practice that anyone can learn how to do it with minimal instruction.
The second point of this section is Ante’s attempt to defend the long ending of Mark. Ante believes that the ending of Mark was initially removed by infidels who did not believe in the resurrection of Christ and so they took it out. The idea is that all the resurrection accounts, on this view, were added to the gospels later as the church was trying to deify Christ. Ante actually says the source for rejecting the ending of Mark is “from the devil.” This is typical Pentecostal rhetoric and intimidation when they become nervous that their doctrine may actually be in jeopardy.
I do not want to get too sidetracked in textual criticism, but it seems appropriate to refute Ante at least at some level on his outrageous claims around the ending of Mark. First, the earliest and best MSS which are Sinaiticus and Vaticanus do not contain Mark 16:9-20. Second, of the church fathers, Clement, Origen, Cyprian, and Cyril of Jerusalem show no knowledge of the longer ending of Mark. The historian Eusebius said that the most accurate copies of Mark ended with v. 8. Third, there aren’t just two optional endings in the MSS evidence. There are five potential endings in the MSS evidence. Which one is correct? The earliest MSS that contain the longer ending of Mark is no earlier than the 4th century: MSS according to Eusebius, Jerome, Severus. The only exception is a Latin translation coming from Irenaeus. Fourth, the longer ending is stylistically incongruous with Mark. The scholarly consensus then is that Mark did not write any of the endings available to us except, of course, the one that ends at v. 8. Ante’s claim that most MSS contain the longer ending is, from a textual critical standpoint, irrelevant.
It is also worth mentioning that Ante thinks that Mark could not have ended without having a resurrection account. The implication is that if we reject the longer ending in Mark, we end up with a Markan ending that is absent a resurrection account. This is confusing to me because when one reads Mark 16:1-8, they do in fact find a resurrection in Mark’s gospel. In fact, Mark 16:1-8 is entirely focused on the empty tomb. The angel says, “He has risen; he is not here!” Again, Ante’s basic mistakes are piling up one by one.
Ante begins with the proposition that the Bible teaches that the gifts of the Spirit would continue until Jesus returns.
Ante references Matt. 28:18-20. Ante’s argument is that Jesus was given all authority and that through the charismatic gifts, that authority would be granted to the church for the purpose of world missions. Jesus tells his disciples in Luke 24 not to leave Jerusalem but rather, wait until they are clothed with the power from on high. Again, in Acts 1 Jesus reiterates his command. And in Acts 2, this power falls upon the disciples through the filling of the Holy Spirit. The problem with this line of reasoning is that the filling of the Holy Spirit and the charismata are conflated in this argument. Moreover, Ante still has not made the case that the miraculous tongues (languages) that appeared in Acts 2, 10, and 19 should be understood as the normative phenomenon when someone is filled with the Holy Spirit. Out of the 11 conversion stories in Acts, only 3 references the supernatural language abilities. And out of the 6 mentions (Acts 2, 4, 8, 9, 10, 19) of someone being filled with the Holy Spirit, only 3 of them (Acts 2, 10, 19) include any reference to tongues. Therefore, the assumption that the filling of the Holy Spirit will always be accompanied by tongues is simply false. Paul reinforces this fact in 1 Cor. 12:30: Do all speak with tongues? The Greek construction requires an emphatic negative answer – no! So, not everyone in the body will speak in tongues according to Paul as documented here in 1 Cor. 12:30. But in Eph. 5:18, this same Paul commands that all Christians are to be “being filled with the Spirit.” It is safe to assume that all Christians must be filled with the Spirit since Paul commanded it and to live a lifestyle in perpetual disobedience is an indication that one’s faith is not genuine.
Therefore, if Ante is correct, and being filled with the Spirit is always accompanied by tongues and I am right when I say that Paul commands all Christians to be filled with the Spirit, then this would mean that those of us who do NOT speak in tongues are not filled with the Spirit, and are living in perpetual disobedience to Scripture and are therefore not saved. The point I am making is really this: the same Apostle Paul who commanded all Christians to be filled with the Spirit is the same Paul who unambiguously denied that all Christians would speak in tongues. This must mean that even in Paul’s day, in fact, and yes, even in Corinth, that not everyone who was filled with the Spirit spoke in tongues. In fact, this same Paul wrote to the Church at Ephesus and said that God has blessed us (all Christians) with every spiritual blessing in the heavenly places. I do think that being filled with the Holy Spirit and speaking in tongues, according to Ante’s theology, would be considered one of the spiritual blessings that Paul is talking about. Paul went on to say that we are all sealed with the promised Holy Spirit. This is the same promise Peter referenced in Acts 2:38, and that Jesus referenced in Acts 1:4. Moreover, the same Paul said to the Corinthian Church at 1:7 that they were not lacking in any spiritual gift even though not all of them spoke in tongues. So even in Paul’s day, it was possible to “not speak in tongues” and be filled with the Holy Spirit and to be “not lacking” in any spiritual gift. Ante’s argument has hit a proverbial brick wall. His conclusion that everyone who is filled with the Holy Spirit will speak in tongues, or, more accurately, supernatural languages.
For the remainder of this section of the debate, Ante goes off on what can only be described as a Pentecostal tirade lifting text after text out of context in order to support his radically biased and anachronistic hermeneutic. There is literally nothing that I could find worthy of rebuttal. At the risk of sounding uncharitable, it was an embarrassing moment among embarrassing moments.
Some closing points
- The Apostle Paul did not believe that speaking in tongues always accompanied being “filled with the Holy Spirit.”
- Of the 11 conversion accounts recorded in the book of Acts, only 3 mention tongues. (27%)
- Of the 6 accounts of people being filled with the Holy Spirit in the book of Acts, only 3 mention tongues.
- The ending of Mark has 5 different options, not two. [1) Sinaiticus/Vaticanus; 2) Bobiensis; 3) A, C, D, θ, f13, 33, Maj MSS, & others; 4) W, MSSaccording to Jerome, 5) L, ψ, 083, 099 & others).
- The tongues mentioned in Scripture are genuine languages – spoken miraculously as a divine sign that God is ushering in the New Covenant.
- The miracles and healings in the NT were indisputable.
- The Holy Spirit is the dispenser of the gifts. He gifts them out as he wills, not as we will.
- The church fathers overwhelmingly speak of tongue-speaking as the supernatural gift of speaking in real languages: Irenaeus, Hippolytus, Hegemonius, Gregory of Nazianzen, Ambrosiaster, Chrysostom, Augustine, Leo the Great, and implied by others (such as Tertullian and Origen)
Afterthought: How to debate Pentecostal/Charismatic Theology
When I debate Pentecostals, I like to begin the discussion by talking about their more egregious errors rather than their experiential bent. Many Pentecostals hold to Oneness theology, modalism. These oneness Pentecostals engage in exactly the very same practices as Trinitarian Pentecostals. There is no experiential difference between them. How could a heretic be filled with the Holy Spirit? Second, the overwhelming majority of Pentecostals believe you can lose your salvation. This reflects a serious heresy in their soteriology. Third, as mentioned above, most Pentecostals believe that ecstatic utterance is a necessary sign that always accompanies the experience of being baptized or filled with the Holy Spirit. After demonstrating that these first two views are heresy and the latter serious error, I move to my cessationist arguments.
My approach to discussing and debating the operation of the gifts is pretty straightforward. I begin by affirming that God can perform a miracle today if he chooses. God can heal today. And if God chooses, he can gift someone in a foreign country with the gift of language not previously studied for missionary purposes, if God so chooses. Having said that, my assertion is simply this: the claim by modern Pentecostals and Charismatics that they are practicing the very same charismata we read about in the NT church is patently false. Essentially, my claim is the contradictory of Peter’s quote of Joel: this is not that.
First, one must examine the nature of these gifts exegetically without regard for modern phenomenon. What was the nature of tongues in the NT? What was the nature of prophecy? And so on and so forth. Once you have determined the nature of these gifts using sound hermeneutical and exegetical principles, only then can you examine the phenomena within modern Pentecostalism and Charismatics. What are they doing? Is what they are doing what the early NT church did? NOTE: you cannot examine these modern claims using Scripture alone so to speak. You have to use other methods. One such method is empirical in nature. When a Pentecostal “faith-healer” comes to town making remarkable claims to be able to cure all sorts of ailments, we don’t use the Bible to see if he is telling the truth. We examine the actual physical evidence in front of us. For example, when people who can walk are placed in a wheelchair and a faith-healer prays for them and they stand up and walk, how can you refer to the Bible to determine if a miracle just took place? If that is your method, you will never distinguish between true faith-healers and the false faith-healers. And I have no reason to think there are true faith-healers living today. So, what you do is examine the person to see if they really were paralyzed, to begin with, and if they really can walk now. You study the nature of the phenomenon itself. You look for medical documentation that someone was in fact, paralyzed. The same is true for modern tongues. Is this that? Are modern tongues of the same nature as those we see in Scripture. Does the modern experience match our exegetical analysis of Scripture? Well, we don’t simply use Scripture to make this determination. We have to look at and examine the nature of modern tongues. And when we do, we discover some remarkable things.
- The modern practice of tongues is not actual languages. Therefore, it is not the same thing that the NT church experienced.
- The modern practice of healings and miracles are unverifiable and nebulous at best. In fact, no one claiming to be a miracle-worker or faith-healer has been able to demonstrate clear proof of his or her gifts with anything close to authentic documentation. In fact, every time a Pentecostal is given the opportunity to “show us” they fail. On the other hand, the NT miracles were verifiable and uncontroversial. Therefore, the modern claims that miracle workers and faith-healers exist is illegitimate and demonstrably false.
- Finally, scientific studies have conclusively demonstrated that modern tongues, better understood as ecstatic utterances, are not miraculous in nature, are identical to tongues practiced by other religions and cults as well as heretical Christian groups, and can be learned or copied by anyone wishing to do so.
I do believe that Peter would say: this is not that!
[Reviewed by Ed Dingess]