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Particulars of Christianity:
310 Pentecostalism,
the Charismatic
and Faith Movements

Applying the Test of Purpose
and Verifiability (Part 2)

5 Tests for Authenticity: The Test of Apostolic Continuity
The Test of Origination
The Test of Quality (or Ecstasy)
The Test of Heresy
Defining the Test of Purpose and Verifiability
On Faith and Miracles
The Sign Sign-Giver Process
Applying the Test of Purpose and Verifiability (Part 1)
Applying the Test of Purpose and Verifiability (Part 2)

Section 1 | Section 2 | Section 3 | Section 4
| Section 5

Now, at this point we should note that it is neither possible nor necessary to examine every claim of tongues, healing, or other miracle that is reported to have taken place in the rise of the modern Charismatic and Faith Movement up until the present time.

If someone suggests that this or that group or person, even themselves is legitimately speaking in tongues, we can ask how they know? In other words, we can seek verification of the supernatural. The question is NOT whether or not the early Church spoke in tongues? They certainly did. The question is NOT whether or not the early Church spoke in tongues when they received the Holy Spirit? They certainly did. The question is NOT whether God is currently capable of doing the supernatural? He certainly is. The question is, "If I speak in tongues today, how do I know that it is really the authentic gift of tongues practiced in the New Testament and first few centuries AD and not just made-up non-sense words?"

God does not ask us to take things on blind faith. God has given proofs that Christianity is real. Christianity is objectively verifiable, even from a historic point of view. Faith should never be used to substantiate that a miracle has occurred. Instead, miracles are given by God so that we can know what to put our faith in. If the miracle itself requires faith to accept, then we might as well just put our faith in the person without a miracle in the first place. In such cases, miracles that require faith serve no purpose at all. Such miracles are inconsistent with the Biblical precedent and requirements for miracles.

And the same is true for other miracles and signs besides speaking in tongues. It is absolutely certain that healing miracles did occur in the Bible in both the Old Testament and the New Testament. But if someone suggests that either they or someone else is performing healing miracles, we can and should ask for verification that the supernatural is going on.

If the healing can be explained by other factors besides the supernatural, then we have no reason to accept that a healing miracle has occurred. If the symptoms cannot be detected, diagnosed, or verified, then we should not accept that a miracle has occurred. Back pains, tooth aches, headaches, and other unverifiable symptoms are impossible to verify. We have no way to know if the person was faking, exaggerating, or maybe the pain just went away on its own. Not to mention that the relationship between psychology and pain is not entirely defined or understood by modern science. Many primitive worship practices involve exciting people to a hyper-emotional state where they are able to walk on hot coals or do other unimaginable feats and dull the mind to pain in the process. But more importantly, if the symptoms cannot be objectively identified, we have no way to determine if those symptoms actually went away or were there in the first place.

If the healing took a long time to occur, then we have little reason to accept that a healing miracle has taken place. The human body is designed to heal over time. Headaches go away. Bones mend. Illness is fought off by the immune system. And some diseases even go into remission. Before we accept that the miraculous is taking place or that someone else has the power to perform miracles, we need to make sure that the events are actually miraculous in character. If the events can be explained by ordinary, natural factors, we should not accept that someone is performing the miraculous or has the power to perform miracles.

If the healing takes place while the individual is obtaining medical treatment for the problem, then we should not accept that the miraculous is taking place. After all, how do we know that the healing did not occur because of the medicine, chemo therapy, physical therapy, radiation-therapy, or whatever other treatment or procedure was being received.

With medical science as advanced as it is today, it should be easier than ever to verify symptoms and verify the loss of symptoms and illnesses. There should be no reason to resort to accepting the unverifiable "on faith." In short, if someone cannot provide verifiable evidence that supernatural healing has taken place, we should not accept the claim that an individual or group operates using miraculous healing power.

Likewise, the Bible also does records miracles that involve material provision. In 2 Kings 6:1-6, we see that a man was indeed miraculously freed from debt when a metal axe-head floated to the surface of the water. But that defies the laws of nature involving gravity and density. Wood floats. A metal axe-head, which had already sunk does not. In Matthew 14, Matthew 15, Mark 6, Luke 9, and John 6, Jesus feeds thousands by multiplying loaves and fishes. In 1 Kings 17:8-16, Elijah multiplied the widow's oil so that it did not run out. These Biblical examples defy natural explanation. They are verifiably supernatural in character.

But when we compare that to the types of financial miracles occurring in the modern Faith Movement, we must inquire as to whether or not the events are actually supernatural in character. Or are these events explainable by ordinary, natural causes.

Unlike the floating metal axe-head or the multiplied food, getting a raise at work or having someone give you money or a car can happen quite naturally. People can be generous. People can also be persuaded to give. Sometimes, these things maybe coincidences, but by no means do they require supernatural activity. Additionally, when you survey the distribution of wealth among the Faith Movement, you invariably find that the rich are the leaders and the poor are those who "sow seed" into their ministries. This doesn't require something supernatural. It can be explained simply by the fact that large numbers of people give their money to the leaders whether as outright gifts or to purchase books or tapes. Thus finances to flow into those leaders by purely natural means.

And because these types of "financial miracles" can come about entirely by natural processes, we should not accept the claim that they are supernatural.

And once again, if it takes faith to substantiate that a miracle has actually occurred then you are simply taking the person at their word. If you are going to just take the person at their word, then the miracle serves no purpose. And, by just taking the person at their word, you are going against the Biblical instructions to test and verify a teacher or prophet's claims. If a miracle is real, then it should be verifiably supernatural in character. Only then does it substantiate our faith in someone's claims. Only then does it operate within the Biblically prescribed model, function, and purpose of signs and miracles.

So, when faced with the claim that financial miracles are taking place, verify that something supernatural is responsible for the financial change. If the events can be explained by natural means, then we have no reason to accept the claim that something supernatural is occurring. When faced with the claim that healing miracles are taking place, verify that something supernatural is responsible for the healing. If the events can be explained by natural means, then we have no reason to accept the claim that something supernatural is occurring. When faced with the claim that someone is speaking in tongues, verify that it is an actual language and that the person has not previously learned that language. If it cannot be verified that they are speaking in an actual language, then we have no reason to accept the claim that something supernatural is occurring.

Finally, as far as prophecies go, consider that the Biblical standard for prophets as recorded in Deuteronomy.

Deuteronomy 18:21 And if thou say in thine heart, How shall we know the word which the LORD hath not spoken? 22 When a prophet speaketh in the name of the LORD, if the thing follow not, nor come to pass, that is the thing which the LORD hath not spoken, but the prophet hath spoken it presumptuously: thou shalt not be afraid of him.

God told the people of Israel that they could determine which prophets were from him and which were not by whether or not what the prophet spoke came to pass. If the prophet spoke something that did not come to pass, then that prophet had spoken presumptuously and was not from God. The Biblical standard for those who claim to be prophets then, is 100 percent accuracy.

Anyone can make predictions and be right some of the time and wrong some of the time. Anyone can play the odds, predict according to what's likely, and end up right some portion of the time. Anyone can make vague predictions that can later be interpreted in whatever way will fit with actual events. Anyone can predict obvious things. Such predictions don't require God's involvement and should not be taken as signs of God's endorsement.

For example, when a friend or relative becomes pregnant, it is often fun for people to try and predict whether the child will be a boy or a girl. But this does not require God's involvement. There chances of getting that right are 50-50. The same goes for predicting who will win the Super Bowl or some other sports match for example. The odds are such that you are going to be right some of the time. Even people who guess on standardized tests like the ACT or SAT are likely to get some of their guesses correct, particularly if they are systematic. Being right some of the time and playing the odds doesn't require God's involvement.

Likewise, predicting vague things such as "A breakthrough," "big things," "God's going to use you," or using other such undefined and unspecified descriptions does not require God's involvement either. These things are sufficiently vague to the extent that their meaning can be determined "after the fact." Anything that remotely fits these vague descriptions can be said to fulfill the prophecy.

Self-fulfilling prophecies also don't require the supernatural. For example, it doesn't require God's involvement to tell someone, "God said if you would help someone else you will feel better about yourself." If the person helps someone else and ends up feeling better about themselves, this doesn't require the ability to see the future. Likewise, predicting that someone will end up being a missionary overseas doesn't require God's involvement either. When you tell someone that you see them as a foreign missionary, that person may go and become a foreign missionary motivated by the belief that God has spoken it through a prophet. Thus, the prediction is fulfilled, not because someone saw the future, but the prophetic statement caused them to carry it out. In such cases as these, one person is just carrying out another person's advice or instruction. There is nothing supernatural about it.

Therefore, prophets who speak vaguely or who are only right part of the time should not be accepted as authentic or from God. It does not require God's involvement to make such predictions.

We must remember that we have a responsibility according to the Biblical instructions to verify and test miraculous claims because false prophets, false teachers, and false miracles will occur. Not every miracle is from God and not every prophet or teacher is either. (Exodus 7:11, Exodus 7:22, Deuteronomy 13:12-14, Deuteronomy 18:21-22, Matthew 24:11, Matthew 24:24, Mark 13:22, 1 Corinthians 14:29, 2 Timothy 3:8, 2 Thessalonians 2:9, 2 Peter 2:1, 1 John 4:1-3, and Revelation 19:20.) Therefore, we must look to the Biblical models of doctrine and miracles for comparison. And anyone or anything that does not line up with what is recorded in the Biblical must be rejected.

In the end, any reported miracle that can be explained by ordinary, natural factors should not be accepted as an authentic work of God. Because such events do not require God's involvement but can happen without God, they do not prove God's endorsement. Since God's endorsement is the Biblical purpose for signs, any event that cannot prove God's endorsement is not a Biblically legitimate sign because it is inconsistent with the occurrence of miracles in the Bible itself.

And in conclusion, we can see that the modern practice of the Charismatic gifts has great difficulty passing any of the 5 Tests for Authenticity. Since history records that the gifts had disappeared by the time of John Chrysostom and Augustine in the fourth century, no one can trace modern charismatic gifts through continuous practice back to the Apostles. Therefore, all modern charismatic gifts fail the Test of Apostolic Continuity. Since the rapid expansion of the modern Pentecostal, Charismatic, and Faith Movements which began in the nineteenth century either initially involved or has since passed through stages involving ecstatic behavior of various kinds, heretical statements, or miracles that were readily explainable by natural, rather than supernatural, factors, modern gifts fail the Test of Origination as well as the Test of Quality (or Ecstasy), the Test of Heresy, and the Test of Purpose and Verifiability.

Ultimately, since documented history provides evidence that makes it extremely difficult to substantiate that the modern gifts are authentic and since the Bible instructs us not to accept every person who claims to be from God but to test their claims, we find no reason to accept the modern charismatic gifts as authentic. In fact, based upon the documented evidence, we find every reason to believe the modern charismatic gifts are simply a reemergence of the counterfeit gifts practiced by the early heretics of the first few centuries AD. Whether or not most modern charismatics are sincere and simply unaware of this history and evidence is irrelevant. Using the standards applied by the early Church when rejecting those early counterfeit gifts, we also reject the modern charismatic gifts as counterfeit as well. Those who practice the modern charismatic gifts should lovingly and kindly be made aware of the facts of both early Church history concerning the charismatic gifts and modern history regarding the reemergence of these gifts.

Basically, as these 5 Tests for Authenticity reveal, the history and circumstances leading up to the modern practice of the charismatic gifts creates a field of land mines, which make it impossible for any modern practitioner of the gifts to trace how the gifts came to them without tracing through ecstasy, heresy, events that can be explained without the supernatural, or other marks of the counterfeit somewhere along the way.