Signs and wondering about back-ache
On Sunday I went to a charismatic church. A local church had a special afternoon meeting, an internationally known and respected charismatic leader was preaching, and so it was a rare opportunity to see what really goes on. Not a lot, actually; it was a disappointment.
We were told that gold dust might materialise; it didn't. (I was glad about that; it would have been such a shame to be caught out without my dustpan and brush). There had, however, been miraculous manifestations of gold tea-leaves in one of the hotels over the weekend. Hmmm.
The singing was unexceptional; not good, not bad. The preaching was fine - up to a point. We were treated to a reasonable exposition of John 14, complete with quotes from Hendrikson. Jesus' promise not to leave them as orphans was fulfilled not by his resurrection, nor by the (still future) return in glory, but fulfilled by the coming of the Spirit at Pentecost. OK so far. Therefore Jesus was present in the church to do exactly the same as he was in the days when he walked with the disciples - an inference Hendrikson doesn't draw and would, I think, deny. Therefore, said the preacher, today he's going to heal those with back-ache: specifically, lower back pain with shooting pains down the leg and the sciatic nerve.
Over at Pyromaniacs (here, for example - where Spurgeon is being quoted - and don't miss the 'comments' section) the boys occasionally defend a cessationist position, and are lampooned for it. From time to time they issue a challenge: please, someone, show us a miracle. It's a fair challenge, surely? If Jesus is doing the same in the churches today as he did when he walked the earth, show us. Back-ache? Where's that in the gospels?
Please note: Sunday's experience was not a back-street charismatic church with a poorly-trained leader. The speaker was one of the big guys, one of the most respected men in the movmement. And all he could offer was back-ache relief.
Adrian Warnock should know better; he's a doctor - a psychiatrist in fact. But he doesn't - see here. The healing of anxieties and a stiff shoulder - what will Jesus do today? Indeed, what will he do!
What's the problem? Suggestion, that's what. Hypnosis can do all of this; hypno-therapists offer it in your high street. We don't need to invoke miracles and the power of Jesus to explain any of this - and Adrian, in particular, should know it. Where's the healing of those born blind, please? Where are the lepers being cured? Where's the raising of the dead - if Jesus is present in the church to do exactly what he used to do?
Over the years I've ridiculed charismatic meetings for their 'God is telling me somebody here has back-ache' pronouncements. Sometimes, I've felt guilty about that. But I cannot begin to tell you how unimaginably disappointed I was on Sunday to discover that my friends still haven't moved beyond it.
But worse than that - and please don't tell anybody, will you? - it actually made me wonder (for a short while) if the Christian faith is true. I mean, there has to be more to it than this, surely? And if it did that for me, what does it do for others - that is, for those unbelievers who don't leave their discernment at the door?