This past weekend, I had the joy of meeting someone who is on the frontlines of Biblical scholarship, namely, Dr. Daniel B. Wallace. From what I know, he came in primarily to spend some time with our leaders here at Providence and then to share with the church as a whole on Sunday night. He went through much of the information on the reliability of the New Testament as well as how New Testament textual criticism works. Much of the facts he gave can be found in his book, Reinventing Jesus, which I would recommend to anyone who wants to know accurate information about how the Scriptures have been faithfully transmitted from the original sources. While there are many facts that would be profitable to reproduce here and discuss, overall I will simply say that less than 1% of all 400,000 plus textual variants are of any real significance, and even those do not do anything to shake the Christian faith. As my professor Dr. Black (who interestingly enough did his undergrad with Wallace) has said regarding the New Testament, "We haven't lost a word."
Saturday night, I went to a friend's birthday party. While there, I met some folks and had some conversations which brought some experiences in my Christian life back around full circle. As some of you readers may know, I come from a fairly Charismatic background. While I remain unashamedly and uncompromisingly charismatic from a functional standpoint and would like to see cessationism stamped out of the church altogether (no offense if you're a cessationist), since a few months after I finished my undergrad, I have distanced myself a bit even from those I would have once considered Biblical charismatics. For those of you who do not know what I mean by such terms, "charismatic" essentially means the belief that all of the Spiritual gifts, including the so-called "sign gifts" (I use quotes here because such categories are not delineated in the Scriptures) are active in the church today. Conversely, "cessationism" is the belief that the more miraculous gifts ceased at some point in church history (most cessationists would say it was at the close of the Apostolic age near the beginning of the 2nd Century AD).
Now when I say "biblical charismatics," I'm not talking about the average televangelist on TBN...nor any other such peddlers of prosperity/health and wealth theology. While I would not fully condemn proponents of such views, I have no qualms about saying the views themselves are horrific distortions of what the Scriptures teach, and many of the hecklers who preach such messages should probably repent. So if not that, who am I talking about? The ones whom I was once closer to are more of what I'd term the "third wave" type of charismatics. These charismatics for the most part have not done much that I would consider clearly wrong or dangerous, but the fringes of the movement might be associated with such controversies as the recent Todd Bentley revival.
A large portion of the guests at the party I attended were members of a fairly charismatic church (as best I can tell at least). While I did not get into any theological controversies, I had some deep conversations with a few of them. Now, although I was curious as to what they believed and somewhat uncomfortable in speculating their finer points of doctrine, my overall reaction to these conversations was by no means one of fear or discomfort. Quite the contrary, I was overwhelmingly encouraged in my faith and felt a renewed vigor to pray and seek the Lord. One cool fact I found out, namely that Raleigh is "the City of Oaks," related to an experience I had prior to coming to SEBTS. Specifically, a friend of mine shared with me a vision of an acorn which related to my place in God's plans...I'd tell the story here, but that is another blog post.
To get right to the point of all this, my experiences caused me to reflect on what all believers should be unified on, namely, the Gospel. Even while I might not endorse all of the practices and views of my charismatic brothers and sisters, and while I would like to see more of them have a high view of Scripture (especially as opposed to prophetic experiences), I would also like to see my less-charismatic brothers and sisters (especially in the SBC) be more open to the charismatic operations of the Holy Spirit. While there are many theological issues begging to be discussed here, I do not feel like writing on them tonight. For now, I will simply say it is my prayer to see more of the body of Christ rightly understand what the Gospel is, particularly the non-negotiables of the Christian faith, and then to be unified on the Gospel. May the Lord unite His saints. Amen.