Sorting Out Teachings on Miraculous Gifts – John Boruff

The books and audio teachings listed below are an eclectic bunch. In my opinion, it is very challenging to teach comprehensively on the subject of miraculous gifts without borrowing from a variety of Christian spiritual traditions. To only focus on one tradition is to confine and limit our understanding of a subject which is mostly comprised of experiential content. But when teaching about experiences, we must also teach what is considered to be Christian orthodoxy. The very idea of borrowing from different Christian traditions begs the question: is this not heretical? Catholics consider Protestants to be heretics and vice versa. Conservative Pentecostals, like myself, generally view charismatic churches in the New Apostolic Reformation (NAR) as heretics.

If we were only to rely on Catholic teaching for miraculous gifts, we could turn to Augustin Poulain’s The Graces of Interior Prayer, where we would learn of things such as contemplation or listening to the Holy Spirit, and visions, and discernment. But if we stopped at Poulain, we’d end up believing in anti-Biblical things like venerating the dead and taking Mary as our intercessor before God. If we were to only look at what Assemblies of God has to say on the subject, we could go with Donald Gee’s Concerning Spiritual Gifts, which would define what certain gifts do, but little would be said about how to grow in and experience those gifts. There would also be no teaching on dreams and visions. If we were to rely only on what the Vineyard has to say, we could content ourselves with what John Wimber said in his Spiritual Gifts Seminar and Power Healing, but we would find still a lack of teaching on dream interpretation, and the nature of prophetic ministry.

If we were to side with the likes of Mike Bickle and IHOP, and borrow his teachings from Growing in the Prophetic, or buy into what he does entirely, we might be exposing ourselves to a kundalini spirit and drinking into the carnality and lack of spiritual discernment that has plagued charismatics ever since the Toronto Blessing movement happened in 1994. It might, however, be safer to allow John and Paula Sandford’s The Elijah Task to teach us about the nature of prophetic ministry. That book seems to have spawned the idea, and was first published in 1977, long before the Toronto fiasco came with its offshoots like Bethel Church, Todd Bentley, and John Crowder. But even if we were to stop at Sandford on the nature of dreams and visions, we might still find a shade of error, because of his Jungian expressions and use of the word “psychic,” which might lead us to balance that out with John Paul Jackson’s The Biblical Model of Dream Interpretation, which filters out a lot of false, egocentric, psychology interpretations of dreams that entered the church through Morton Kelsey and Herman Riffel.

To have a full and complete teaching on miraculous gifts, what you need firstly, is a definition of the gifts listed in 1 Corinthians 12:8-10. Both Gee and Wimber did this. After all the definitions have been made; and the theory of what the gifts can accomplish for the Church has been solidified, the next step should be to explain what it is like to actually experience those gifts; and the final stages would involve interpreting, understanding, and using those gifts for personal direction from the Holy Spirit and for the edification and comfort of the body of Christ. Too many books only stop at defining the gifts in a theoretical way; especially Assemblies of God or Gospel Publishing House books; they take it from the approach of a detached Bible study and leave you with little to no guidance about how to receive these gifts into your life. The charismatic and the Catholic books will take you into the deeper waters of spiritual experience, but they often lack the theological orthodoxy that you get from the Assemblies of God books. Wimber, for example, taught against the Pentecostal understanding of the baptism in the Holy Spirit in Acts 2, 10, and 19. I feel that Poulain, Gee, and Wimber provide a solid understanding of miraculous gifts. And anywhere that Wimber left off at, namely dream interpretation, you may find that John Sandford, Ira Milligan, and John Paul Jackson hammered out.

But it’s important for me, as a Pentecostal, that in reaching out to both Catholic and Vineyard theology, and some dream-and-vision teachers that associated with Wimber for a time, to in no way lean to Catholicism as a means of salvation or to the charismaniacs of the Toronto Blessing, which end up flapping like seals and barking like dogs! I believe that the Holy Spirit and Biblical orthodoxy always agree with one another, but neither do I take it to mean that there are no dreams and visions today. Such things have to be rooted in the old evangelicalism—Wesleyan, Finneyite, Puritan revivalism. Not the watered down Southern Baptist type we see today, the kind that has “once saved, always saved” as its only creed.

I distrust any preacher that does not have a 17th or 18th century understanding of the Bible. Today, there is so much antinomian, universalist, no-lordship nonsense out there mixed together with pluralistic Hindu gurus, Native American shaman quotes, and New Age pop psychology, and gay theologians, together with tongue speaking, all jumbled together in confusion. It’s just heresy! Charismatics need all the miracles they can get, but they also need all the Bible they can get. Who will point them in the right direction? Anyone teaching on the gifts of the Spirit, coming from Bethel Church, or IHOP, or MorningStar Ministries, or Catch The Fire Toronto is highly suspect in my opinion. These movements have consistently shunned orthodox evangelicalism in favor of the vanity and attention of heretical enthusiasts. Sexually immoral teachers have been honored in their midst. The only exception I would make is Steve Thompson’s You May All Prophesy, which was published just before the Lakeland Revival; and after Bentley’s moral failure, Thompson had the integrity to leave MorningStar. Being that it is 2019, I would like to lay a special emphasis on warning against anything coming from Bill Johnson and Bethel Church. There is a lot of antinomianism and universalism coming out of that ministry; and because, through their Bethel Music, they are reaching into churches through praise and worship leaders, they are very popular and influential right now in charismatic churches. Although Bill Johnson’s God Is Good speaks against universalism in passing (p. 104), there is no doubt that many within his stream lean in that direction. Beni Johnson practices Christian yoga (Healthy and Free, p. 71), Judy Franklin thinks that the New Age movement has some pretty good ideas (The Physics of Heaven, p. 15), Heidi Baker and Jake Hamilton downplay the John 14:6 gospel message in the film Holy Ghost, and they continue to befriend John Crowder who is an outspoken “trinitarian” universalist, whatever that is supposed to mean. Clearly universalism is somewhere in the waters of Bethel Church’s reach, but so also are antinomian ideas. Jenn Johnson teaches against “black and white” thinking in one video, claiming that moral truth can operate on a gray scale: once again, pointing people away from Biblical law as the black and white absolute moral standard of right and wrong. Kris Vallotton admittedly does teach prophetic ministry there, but also borrows from Steve Thompson’s work, so there is no need to resort to Vallotton where Thompson has already succeeded. Bethel Church pushes an impure form of charismatic Christianity. I’d recommend being respectful and pick your battles with people ensnared by Bethel ideas, but I would personally urge people to avoid their teachings on YouTube, in books, etc.

True prophets shun such movements. Men like Andrew Strom, who explains in Why I Left the Prophetic Movement, that the lack of repentance preaching and holiness preaching combined with bizarre behavior, is what turned him off from what is now called the New Apostolic Reformation (NAR). Andrew Strom points us to men like John Wesley, Charles Finney, Smith Wigglesworth, Leonard Ravenhill, and David Wilkerson as men of God to frame our spirituality around. I tend to agree with him about this. But to add one additional observation: there is little to no teaching on dreams and visions, dream interpretation, prophetic ministry (receiving and giving words of knowledge) in the writings of these men. You have to look to John Sandford, John Paul Jackson, Ira Milligan, and John Wimber to get teaching on that.

You have to borrow to a degree, outside of your comfort zone of perfect evangelical revival theology; otherwise, you’re not going to get the full view on miraculous gifts. A lot of what Strom is pointing to is evangelicalism, which is Gospel-centered salvation theology. But when it comes to miraculous gifts, we are dealing with things such as stillness, quieting the mind, journaling dreams and visions, interpreting prophetic symbols, and sharing supernatural information with other Christians in order to encourage their faith, sometimes to the point of praying for physical healing and casting out demons. Smith Wigglesworth is the only prominent teacher mentioned by Strom that really straddled both evangelicalism and prophetic charismatic experiences. His writings are helpful, but I think he does not describe enough about how to experience the gift of prophecy for yourself. A lot of what he writes comes across like the book of Acts or a succession of miracle stories. I also think that a lot of the Catholic saints had miracle experiences that went much further than Wigglesworth describes; and any study of the miraculous gifts should take them into consideration as well. Although the Catholic Church is wrong about Mary and a few other things—a lot of their teaching is rooted in the church fathers, is orthodox, and agrees with the Bible.

FURTHER READING ON MIRACULOUS GIFTS

Alexander, Archibald. Thoughts on Religious Experience. Carlisle, PA: The Banner of Truth Trust, 1967. Chapter 7: “Considerations on Dreams, Visions, Etc.”

Boys, Thomas. The Suppressed Evidence: or, Proofs of the Miraculous Faith and Experience of the Church of Christ In All Ages, from Authentic Records of the Fathers, Waldenses, Hussites, Reformers, United Brethren, &c. London: Hamilton, Adams, and Co., 1832.

Cruz, Joan Carroll. Mysteries Marvels Miracles: In the Lives of the Saints. Charlotte, NC: TAN Books, 1997. As with the books by Poulain and Devine, I will have to disapprove of Marianism, or devotion to dead saints; but while ignoring that, I think there was some genuine activity of the Holy Spirit among the Catholic saints.

Deere, Jack. Surprised by the Power of the Spirit. Grand Rapids, MI: Zondervan, 1993. Debunks cessationism; and argues for the continuation of miraculous gifts, apostles, and prophets in the church today.

Frodsham, Stanley. Smith Wigglesworth: Apostle of Faith. Springfield, MO: Gospel Publishing House, 1948.

Gee, Donald. Concerning Spiritual Gifts. Revised. Springfield, MO: Gospel Publishing House, 1980.

Gordon, A. J. The Ministry of Healing. New Kensington, PA: Whitaker House, 2020.

Jackson, John Paul. The Biblical Model of Dream Interpretation. North Sutton, NH: Streams Publications, 2006. CDs.

Jennings, Daniel. The Supernatural Occurrences of John Wesley. Sean Multimedia, 2012.

Howie, John. The Scots Worthies. Edinburgh: The Banner of Truth Trust, 1995. Protestant reformers that experienced miracles while being persecuted.

Lewis, David. Healing: Fiction, Fantasy, or Fact? London: Hodder and Stoughton, 1989. Found that John Wimber had a 30% hit rate for dramatic healings.

MacNutt, Francis. Healing. Notre Dame: Ave Maria Press, 1974. This impacted Wimber’s views on healing.

––––––. Deliverance from Evil Spirits. Grand Rapids, MI: Chosen Books, 1995.

Milligan, Ira. Understanding the Dreams You Dream. Shippensburg, PA: Treasure House, 1997. The best book I know of that can help evangelical charismatics to interpret dreams and visions with Biblical prophetic symbolism.

Poulain, Augustin. The Graces of Interior Prayer. London: Routledge & Kegan Paul, 1950. Catholic mystical theology on contemplation and visions.

Sandford, John and Paula. The Elijah Task. Lake Mary, FL: Charisma House, 2006.

Strom, Andrew. Why I Left the Prophetic Movement. RevivalSchool, 2007.

Thompson, Steve. You May All Prophesy. Fort Mill, SC: MorningStar Publications, 2007.

Wigglesworth, Smith. Ever Increasing Faith. Revised Edition. Springfield, MO: Gospel Publishing House, 1971.

Wimber, John. Power Evangelism. San Francisco, CA: Harper & Row, 1986.

––––––. Power Healing. San Francisco, CA: Harper & Row, 1987.

––––––. Discover Wimber. 2 vols. MP3 audio files from vineyardresources.com on a USB drive. Teachings on physical healing (10 hours), miracles and church growth (14 hours), miraculous gifts (10 hours), and casting out demons (14 hours).

About John Boruff

John Boruff is a husband, father, blogger, and insurance agent.
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