Seaborn Hall, 11/09/19
Growing up in the South, I became a Christian at 17 and was immediately taught that God works certain ways in different times or seasons – not everything taught in the Bible is available today. For example, God does not heal, God does not speak, there are no apostles or prophets, and God does not normally do miracles today. At the time I did not know that this line of teaching had a name: Dispensationalism. Since then progressive dispensationalism has softened some of the hard lines of its genitor, for example see the treatment at Theopedia.
Dispensationalism And Anti-Supernatural Thought
Dispensationalism is the teaching that God works certain ways in certain periods of time. According to Wikipedia, “Traditional dispensationalists perceive the present age of grace to be a “parenthesis” or “intercalation” in God’s plans.”
In other words, God worked in the ways above in the New Testament Era when there was a need to authenticate the words of Jesus and the Apostles, but He has stopped working that way today. There is no need for prophets or true prophecy. Today we have the historical testimony of Jesus and the Apostles recorded in the Bible so there is no need for the supernatural.
Dispensationalists believe in general that God does not heal, speak, or act supernaturally today. Progressive dispensationalist are open to the possibility that God acts supernaturally today or that there are exceptions, but largely discount it towards the future end times age.
Problems With Dispensational Thought
There are several basic problems with the views above. First is the increasingly known fact that God is working supernaturally in most parts of the church outside of the Western world. Documented miracles and healings have been recorded by ministries operating in Africa, South America, by the church in China, and throughout other parts of the world.
Even films and books today document supernatural acts and miracles that have happened – even to believers with no prior belief of the supernatural because of their tradition or background. For example, 20 Minutes in Heaven records what happened to a Southern Baptist (Dispensational) Pastor when he ‘died’ in a car accident. 20 Minutes in Hell records what happened to a Southern California evangelical real estate agent who had been raised under Dispensational theology. God is even affecting Western lives of those who have been taught not to believe that He works supernaturally.
Second, Jack Deere in his book, Surprised By The Power Of The Spirit, and others, including Sam Storm and Dr. Michael Brown, have pointed out the anti-supernatural bias present in the theology of many of those who hold the Dispensational forms of thinking. To say that the gift of prophecy or other supernatural gifts are not for today is to say that none of the supernatural things of God are for today. It is an anti-supernatural bias.
Third, the Bible assumes that God’s acts follow the faith and actions of those who believe in Him and are His representatives on earth. Therefore, those that insist that believers who believe in such things must ‘prove’ their validity are arguing from the wrong vantage point.
Lastly, the fact that there are counterfeits of the supernatural – which there undoubtedly are in the New Age – is a logical argument for the genuine supernatural.
There is no reason for the supernatural to be edited out of the present of the church in the same way as liberal ‘Historical Jesus’ advocates edit it out of the life of Christ.
Faith comes before seeing in Scripture. We would never tell an unbeliever, “Don’t believe in Christ if you don’t have proof of experience.” That is not faith. In the same way, if you don’t believe that God moves in prophecy or the supernatural it is very unlikely that you will see any healing or other supernatural manifestation of the Holy Spirit.
There are exceptions to this, sure, like the Apostle Paul. But the Apostle Paul was the Apostle Paul – not many of us fit into that category.
Don’t let an anti-supernatural bias or bad theology cause you to miss all that God has for you. Dispensational anti-supernatural arguments like those made by John MacArthur have been authoritatively answered by authors like Jack Deere, Sam Storm, and Dr. Michael Brown. Gifts or experiences are not to be the focus of our relationship with God, but they are part of the total fabric of relationship that God has for all of His children.