She was ready to be healed.
After all, charismatic healer Nathan Morris consistently boasted how he/God had supposedly caused Delia Knox to walk for the first time in 22 years after being paralyzed in a car accident, so why not her? The young woman had come to a recent Nathan Morris event in our city to walk again.
A friend of mine who was close to the girl at the gathering watched her enthusiasm, saw her excitement, and witnessed Morris command her to be healed. Sadly, my friend also saw the girl’s disillusionment and grief as she was wheeled back up the same aisle she had come down, still unable to walk.
Its episodes like this that have me turning a corner on those in the Church who insist that the gift of miracles is normative today. The more I see things like the above happen to good people, the more I grieve over the damage being done by them.
When I first became a Christian, I met a group of people involved in a downtown street ministry who invited me to join them. They all belonged to a local Pentecostal church and it wasn’t long before they said I hadn’t received the “baptism of the Holy Spirit” (a phrase that never appears in Scripture).
To get that sorted out, they had me come to their church, go down front, and kneel to receive the baptism of the Spirit from the pastor. Their preacher started speaking in unintelligible words, clamped his hand on my head, and commanded that I be Spirit-baptized and to start speaking in tongues.
I wasn’t necessarily upset that nothing supernatural occurred to me that night, but it did cause me to start researching the whole idea that the miracle gifts described in the New Testament were still active today. What I discovered many years ago needs to be understood – I think now more than ever – by all Christians, especially those involved in charismatic assemblies.
Thomas Aquinas once said that a key objective of any philosopher was to smartly make distinctions. When it comes to the charismatic movement and miracles, there are two key distinctions in Scripture that should be noted.
The first distinction revolves around what is prescriptive in the Bible vs. what is descriptive.
The Bible contains many genres including didactic teaching, narrative, poetry, and others. Charismatics always point to the book of Acts as proof that miracles are for today, but they need to understand that books like Acts and 1 Corinthians describe many different historical events that happened in the early Church, with those occurrences not always being prescribed for today.
This important fact leads to the second distinction, which involves the difference between the fact of miracles and the gift of miracles.
Because God is a supernatural God, the fact of miracles can be found throughout all of Scripture (e.g. parting of the Red Sea, walls of Jericho falling, Daniel in the Lion’s den, etc.) However, the gift of miraculous sign gifts is constrained to three specific and brief periods of past history: The Mosaic period, the prophetic period (with Elijah and Elisha), and the apostolic period with Jesus and the apostles, with there being a fourth future period coming, which is the apocalyptic period (see Rev. 11).
In each of these situations, God briefly gifts a few persons with sign gifts for the purpose of overruling false teachings and false gods, confirming God’s truth, and serving as a witness against those who stand in opposition. In the thousands of years that involved the writing of Scripture, there are only three and short-lived specific times when you have God’s people actively doing miraculous works, and then, it was always for the purpose of confirming God’s truth for important reasons.
That being the case, why do some charismatics thrust these facts aside and fixate so much on miracles today?
More Miracles Please
From what I’ve seen, read, and gotten directly from charismatics themselves, I would assert that they have an incorrect view of miracle gifts for two reasons.
First, there is typically a lack of in-depth theological study and a bad hermeneutical approach to the subject. Too little exegesis of the Biblical text and excessive eisegesis motivated by what the person wants to believe leads to a flawed interpretation and practice. It also manifests in bad teaching to others who then perpetuate the error onto others.
Second, there tends to be a lot of emotion tied up in this; more emotion than honest examination. And that’s somewhat understandable because people want to see and experience God first hand, and witnessing a supposed miracle in-person gives people that emotional ‘touch’ they’re wanting so badly.
But unfortunately, the flawed teaching and emotional pursuit of ‘experiencing God’ results in the person failing to accept the reality of how things really are and how miracle gifts are actually portrayed in Scripture. They create their own spiritual world when they try to imitate what they read about in the New Testament.
Rather than miraculously speaking in true languages (glōssa; see Acts 2) that they’ve never learned, the person coaches themself into uttering babble that is not a real language at all and cannot be verified or falsified. As opposed to the true, healing miracles performed by Christ and the apostles that were publicly and immediately verifiable, you have tragic and heart-breaking scenes like that shown in the Nathan Morris video previously referenced.
And should they come face to face with clear and stark failures of the miracles they try to bring about, some turn to a very tragic explanation in an attempt to avoid the obvious.
It’s Not God It’s You
When my first wife was dying of thyroid cancer, a woman came to our house to explain to her that the reason she wasn’t being healed and cured of cancer was because she didn’t have enough faith.
Sadly, this type of encounter isn’t rare. Such proclamations only serve to wound the already-inflicted person more and add a crushing weight of guilt onto their already burdened shoulders making the pain even worse.
The charismatic’s go-to verse to ‘prove’ their statement of the person’s supposed lack of faith negating a miracle is Mark 6:5-6, which says: “And he [Jesus] could do no mighty work there, except that he laid his hands on a few sick people and healed them. And he marveled because of their unbelief.”
However, the charismatic either intentionally or unintentionally overlooks the parallel passage in Matthew, which provides additional information on the matter: “And he did not do many mighty works there, because of their unbelief” (Matt. 13:58, my emphasis).
However, if the charismatic is still convinced it’s a lack of faith that keep people from being healed, I always tell them there are countless, gravely-ill children who have no problem fully believing someone who tells them that they can be cured of their illness. Not surprisingly, I’ve yet to have anyone take me up on the offer.
Testing Belief Systems
Many years ago, Christian theologian and philosopher Dr. John Edward Carnell proposed three tests for validating any belief system:
- Logical consistency – do the belief system’s teachings logically cohere with one another or do they conflict in logical or rational ways?
- Empirical adequacy – can the claim(s) be reasonably verified or falsified?
- Existential or experiential relevancy – are the claims existentially relevant and do they have answers for the core questions of life: origin, meaning, morality, and destiny.
The charismatic’s claim of possessing the gift of miracles today miserably fails the second of Carnell’s tests when viewed in the light of reality and Scripture’s clear teaching. That being the case, if we are truly to worship God in spirit and truth (John 4:24), I have some questions for my charismatic friends:
When will you realize that what you’re practicing doesn’t square with what Scripture teaches?
How many times will you watch your ‘gift of healing’ fail before you realize you don’t have it?
How many more people will you deeply wound and harm before you realize your error?
I’m not directing these questions at the fraudulent ‘healers’ out there who know only too well what they’re doing and can easily be identified by their consistent cry for money and via the use of various Bible texts such as 2 Pet. 2, Phil.3:19, 1 Tim. 6:5, etc. Their judgment is coming.
Instead I’m asking you who honestly believe that what you’re practicing to be valid to please pray and ask God to show you the truth about your supposed ‘gifts’ and examine their results in the light of Scripture and reality.
Do not misunderstand me - God hasn’t changed and He can do miracles whenever He chooses. But the failure of some charismatics to recognize their error where the ability to perform miracles is concerned has caused horrible consequences in some cases. Just ask the family of Jamie Coots whose death was the direct result of extreme charismatic practices or the paralyzed girl my friend watched leave the Nathan Morris event in despair.
Enough is enough.
 Baker’s New Testament commentary provides this insight: “However, the form of expression in Mark differs somewhat from that in Matthew. Matt. 13:58 reads, “And because of their unbelief he did not do many miracles there.” Mark has, “He was unable to do any miracle there.” Probable solution: he could not perform these miracles because, under these circumstances of unbelief and opposition, he did not want to do them. Instead of asserting his almighty power to suppress the people’s rebellious stand, he respected their own responsibility for their attitudes and actions. Cf. Matt. 24:37. See also Luke 22:22; Acts 2:23. Hendriksen, W., & Kistemaker, S. J. (1953-2001). Vol. 10: Exposition of the Gospel According to Mark. New Testament Commentary (224). Grand Rapids: Baker Book House.
 Norman Geisler, “John Edward Carnell” in Baker Encyclopedia of Christian Apologetics (Grand Rapids, MI: Baker, 1999), 114-120.