Me with my lovely wife, Kathy:

Wednesday, September 25, 2013

Council on Dispensational Hermeneutics, #4:

I was privileged to attend the 2013 gathering of the Council on Dispensational Hermeneutics.  To help clarify my thinking, and to encourage further discussion, I've been commenting on what I heard there.  Since the papers that were presented at the conference will be published, this is a discussion that will be open to all.
While this year's papers are not yet published, one can find the topics and presenters at the Council's website.
Since my first post following the conference was mostly personal.  This is really the 3rd post in which I discuss the discussion about cessationism.  Look here and scroll down:

Often looking at things in a fresh way helps bring clarity.  Even when I end up not agreeing with a different perspective, I often find that looking at the same old thing from a different angle helps me gain a better understanding.  A couple of the papers that were presented did that.

I already mentioned Dr. Arp's paper.  Dr. Arp, in as nearly a literal way as a metaphor can take, took us on a walk around 1 Corinthians 13:8-13.  He refused to tell us what he saw.  Instead he told us where we need to look.  If my Greek were an automobile it would be banned from the road for being more rust than substance.  Still I found my former teacher's tour compelling.  He took us to various portals and said, "Look here.  Before you can make a clear conclusion you have to decide what this is."
Structure, verb change, voice change, middle voice, the omission of "tongues" in v. 9, the contrast between the "perfect" and the "partial."   It looks like I have some work to do, and so do others who speak before they have taken the whole tour.

Often we speak about things that we haven't adequately defined.  Dr. Ken Gardoski called us out on that one.
In biblical studies we sometimes come across definitions of words and concepts that are
assumed but not defended. This is the case with spiritual gifts. The definition of spiritual
gift as “ability” is frequently offered but rarely defended. This definition is prevalent to the
point of being a default—proponents cite it automatically without discussion or support.
It is simply assumed to be correct.
Related to spiritual gifts is the Greek word often associated with them: χάρισμα. As with
the concept of spiritual gift, so too with the word χάρισμα a particular meaning, namely,
“spiritual gift,” is assumed but not defended. The purpose of this paper is to correct
these misunderstandings about the word χάρισμα and the concept of spiritual gift and to
offer alternate understandings of both word and concept.
At this point I think his case for seeing a more general meaning, at least in some places, for the word χάρισμα (charisma) is pretty convincing.  I see some problems in adopting his proposal that spiritual gifts--especially sign-gifts--are ministries rather than abilities.  I guess I'm open but cautious on that one.

Dr.Mark Soto, another former schoolmate of mine, surprised me.  The topic of his paper had come up a couple of times in the discussion periods.  I wasn't impressed.  When he read his paper, however, I found his idea to have merit.  It makes sense.  At this conference it definitely had the advantage of fitting in a dispensational paradigm.  This paragraph gives the gist of the idea, not new, but one I hadn't heard for a while:
In 1 Corinthians 1:22 Paul while Paul is making an argument about the Gospel and the Wisdom of God, he says that “Jews ask for signs and Greeks search for wisdom;” Gordon Fee has a wonderful treatment of these two general axioms in his commentary and while the argument of Paul is not to dwell on these axiomatic truths they are true none the less. This reality further outlines the distinction of the nature of the Church in Acts. We observe numerous signs and wonders in the first 12 chapters of Acts but there is a waning of those signs and wonders in chapters 13 to 28. Here we see Paul emerge as the predominant character in the book and his gifts are used to logically present the gospel to Greeks and show the gospel not the way that Gentile scholars did but to provide an understanding to the Gentiles who would listen and believe.
His other idea is another one that I'm open but cautious about.  He observes a distinction between tongues and tongue.
It appears to this writer that when Paul uses the singular γλώσσῃ [tongue] it always is accompanied by some restriction by the apostle Paul and the plural uses γλώσσαις [tongues] except 1 Corinthians 14:23 which does not conform to either observation. Where the plural us used Paul admonishes the church not to restrict tongues. This writer believes that 1 Corinthians 14:23 uses the plural to describe a different event and that is the entire church is speaking ecstatically together so the plural is appropriate but referencing human languages but ecstatic speech. . . . The conclusion of this writer is that in the singular use of tongue in 1 Corinthians 14 Paul is referring to ecstatic speech and in the plural use of tongues except vs. 23, Paul is referring to the Biblical gift of languages. . . . Interestingly the plural use γλώσσαις is seen in Acts 2,10,19, Mark 16, and 1 Corinthians 12 when the spiritual gift of the Spirit is referenced. 1 Corinthians 14 appears to this writer to be about revelation and instruction to the church for growth and maturity not a treatise on the spiritual gifts.
I'm sure that there were some other new--at least to me--thoughts that were presented.  I mention these because they caught my attention, and they illustrate the reality that there is need for further study and discussion.  I look forward to rereading the revised papers and further work on these matters.  I'm hoping there will be some vigorous interaction both within the Council, and from without.

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