This week I was volunteering at the Partners in Harvest conference in Hemel Hempstead. It is a fellowship of churches and ministries in the Charismatic tradition. There is an emphasis on the person of the Holy Spirit and the availability of that personal God in the life of all people, and especially Christians.
Accordingly, there is an expectation of miracles to be a regular part of the Christian life. Healing ought to be commonplace. Lives ought to be miraculously transformed. Society ought to be totally transformed by the Spirit-enabled Church.
In order to demonstrate the power and presence of God’s Spirit, conference delegates were invited to pray and place a coin on the wall. God’s Spirit was going to hold it there.
So naturally I went to have a go with rather dubious faith. To my great surprise, I did actually get a coin to stick. And I wasn’t the only one.
Coins were all over the wall. I even saw a £10 note and a coke can stuck to wall simply because someone prayed that it would stay there.
Now, after a quick look on the internet I realised that it was a feature of waxy, sticky paint. The spoon had me for a moment though.
So, anyway, I don’t want to have an argument over this.
I am more interested in the theology which is manifesting in what I believe is self-deception.
The preacher explained that this supposed miracle demonstrates that God is powerful enough to do anything. So, if God can hold a penny to a wall, he can heal my cancer or depression. Indeed after we had all done the coin trick, the preacher led the congregation in prayers for one another for all manner of things.
The penny trick caused the faith to increase.
I’ll just leave this here.
So I was in a room full of Christians who were not prepared to receive from Scripture, that is, the collection of documents from the early church paid for with their lives, the faith given by Christ himself that his disciples would do things like he had done.
And Jesus went throughout all the cities and villages, teaching in their synagogues and proclaiming the gospel of the kingdom and healing every disease and every affliction. When he saw the crowds, he had compassion for them, because they were harassed and helpless, like sheep without a shepherd. Then he said to his disciples, “The harvest is plentiful, but the laborers are few; therefore pray earnestly to the Lord of the harvest to send out laborers into his harvest.” And he called to him his twelve disciples and gave them authority over unclean spirits, to cast them out, and to heal every disease and every affliction.
– Matthew 9:35-10:1
It is sad to me that it took a deceptive magic trick to convince a room full of pastors and missionaries that the faith tradition handed down to them by martyrs, prophets, pastors and scholars was in any way true for them.
In truth, this demonstrates that the epistemology of many Christians is no different to anyone else. They want to be just an impressed by something they can see and touch, rather than trust Christ’s own words of promise.
Perhaps the renewal of our minds needs to go deeper, giving us an appreciation for knowledge and ideas we have not conjured up ourselves, rather diving into the great well of Scripture and the Christians who have gone before us.
I propose that this kind of deeply Christian though, spirituality and practice will have a far greater effect on ourselves and on society than the sporadic reports of miracles we have now.
This would be half the way toward actually fulfilling Jesus’ command, to make disciples of all nations.