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...

1 comment:

John Cowart said...

I wonder about this greater thing too.

If He meant sheer numbers, then my ophthalmologist gives more sight to more blind people in a week than Jesus did in a lifetime.

Jesus only walked on water once, today we have nuclear submarines that traverse the Arctic under polar ice and stay under for months. Is that greater?

As for water into wine, today we have Budweiser.

However, I'm not sure what He meant but I doubt that Jesus referred to a game of "Can You Top This".

A thing that bothers me is that in some circles, since God is not seen to act, it looks like believers manufacture miracles on their own... or maybe it's a case of they've got the power, and I don't. Puzzling stuff.