Monday, February 23, 2009

Apostolic authority...

Hmmm. In my former post, Theophilus, I wrote about an issue I have with the current teaching from The Meeting House in Canada.

I don't go to that church, I'm on the wrong continent, but ever since I discovered them, over a year ago, I've been really impressed with their teaching, their theology and their overall view of Christian life, the universe and everything. If I lived in Canada I'd certainly have tried going there a few times.

So I'm slightly miffed that they have been emphasising a point recently that I'm not totally in agreement with. Although, having said that, I've still not made up my mind on this issue one way or the other...

Last week's sermon touched on the same points as the previous ones, but went one step further, or actually, two steps further.

The points are:
  • There is a difference between miracles and healings carried out by the Apostles in the book of Acts from what is possible for believers today.
  • Apostolic miracles were immediate, dramatic and unambiguous. Miracles & healings today are, at best, ambiguous and leave plenty of room for skeptics to remain skeptical.
  • The Apostles were those who were directly commissioned by Jesus, there have been no further apostles since the first generation died out.
Chris has pointed out that even Jesus's miracles were sometimes ambiguous and that some were skeptical of those miracles.

I doubted about what Jesus said about future generations of followers doing 'greater things' than him.

Obviously this came up in the house groups at the Meeting House as this was raised in last week's sermon. The two new points raised by the Meeting House are:
  1. Looking back over history, there is no evidence of successive generations of Christians doing 'greater' miracles than Jesus did. So either Jesus was lying (which we assume he wasn't) or he didn't mean 'greater' in that sense. Maybe he meant 'greater' in the quantitative sense? More believers = far, far more miracles and healings than one man, even the Son of Man, could have done.
  2. What the Apostles had, which we don't have, is authority. They could command a healing or a miracle, we can only ask.
I'm really not sure about point 2!

In 'the great commission' Jesus asserts that he is the one with the authority. He didn't pass it on, he retained it, so that all of the folk who carried out the commission - on his behalf - would be people under authority. If we're still carrying out the same commission, we have the same access to authority as the first generation of disciples did! Sometimes I think we don't see the working of the authority, because we haven't been brave enough to behave like commissioned people.

Having said that, I suspect their reasoning in point 1 is fairly good. We haven't seen Christians doing 'greater' things than Jesus (healing blind, walking on water, raising dead, turning water into wine), indeed we rarely hear of things of that level of greatness and I (for one) am pretty skeptical of some of the semi-great stories I hear.

But the doubting goes on... I still need to wrestle with this a bit longer...

Thursday, February 19, 2009

What happened to Peter?

Thinking about the book of Acts, which I am, I find myself wondering what happened to Peter? In Chapters 1-5, he is the main man, then suddenly he's gone from the limelight. Stephen steps in, Philip steps in and ultimately Paul carries the weight of most of the rest of the book. OK, Peter does pop up into the story again, dealing with Simon the Sorcerer and Cornelius, etc., but his time as 'main man' seems to be over.

I wonder if Peter did something that meant he lost his place in the spotlight?

I've expressed this opinion before [here and here], but I've found myself thinking more about the story of Ananias and Sapphira (Acts 5). I continue to believe that it was Peter's choice that resulted in their deaths, not God's choice. God imparted power to Peter to exercise his ministry, Peter used that power to enact judgement on Ananias & Sapphira. Thus, the decision to kill A&S was Peter's.

But what if God, as a consequence of Peter's bad choice, decided to demote Peter? Not remove him from service, but make him less of a player. Others are promoted to the main places, including the outsider, Saul.

I wonder, if Peter hadn't abused the power that God gave him in this instance, would it have been necessary to enlist Paul as the primary evangelist to the gentiles? Maybe if Peter had been a bit wiser, we would have ended up with the epistles of Peter to all the churches, and a very different book of Acts.

Of course we'll never know. As Aslan says in the Narnia books on several occasions "no-one is ever told what would have happened...". But these are the thoughts I find running through my mind every now and then.

What do you think? Is this nonsense, or is there something in there?

Wednesday, February 18, 2009

The Apostolic Miracle

I've been listening to the current sermon series on Acts from the Meeting House. One of the points they've made a couple of times so far in the series is that there is a difference between the miracles and healings that the 1st generation apostles performed, from anything that has been or is possible for subsequent generations of believers since the first century.

They assert that the healings and miracles of the first Apostles were clear and unambiguous - everyone, even sceptics, could not deny that a miraculous event had occurred. For example, the healing of the cripple at the gates of the temple in Acts 3. Even the Sanhedrin could not deny that the cripple had been healed.

However, they go further and assert that this is not possible today. They state that such 'healings' and 'miracles' which apparently occur today tend to be ambiguous, with the sceptics left with plenty of room not to believe them at all.

I'm guessing that this is a derived theology, I can't see this teaching in the bible. But I can see where it could come from - big obvious miracles happened back then, smaller, less obvious 'miracles' (if any) seem to happen these days. Anyone got any insight here?

I also guess that they don't believe in apostolic succession. That is, that after the first generation of Apostles, there were no further apostles.

The thing is, from observation of the way the world appears to be, this seems like perfectly sensible reasoning to me. But its not the way I want the world to be. I want it to be possible for the big miracles still to happen. I want apostles to be walking among us.