Jul

08

2010

Justin Taylor|12:00 am CT

The Best Essay Ever Written on Spiritual Gifts Today

I know, I know. The blog title sounds like an overstatement. Maybe—but it’s at least the best essay I’ve read on the subject.

Written by Vern Poythress and published in JETS in 1996, it’s called “Modern Spiritual Gifts as Analogous to Apostolic Gifts: Affirming Extraordinary Works of the Spirit.”

Here’s the thesis:

I maintain that modern spiritual gifts are analogous to but not identical with the divinely authoritative gifts exercised by the apostles. Since there is no strict identity, apostolic teaching and the biblical canon have exclusive divine authority. On the other hand, since there is analogy, modern spiritual gifts are still genuine and useful to the church. Hence, there is a middle way between blanket approval and blanket rejection of modern charismatic gifts.

On prophecy he says, “If charismatics and noncharismatics could agree on these points, I think that the debate on modern spiritual gifts would be largely over.”

Here’s an outline of the sections:

  1. Christocentricity of gifts
  2. A pyramid of giftedness
  3. Awareness of basis for words and action
  4. Distinctive focuses for content
  5. The question of modern charismatic gifts
  6. Circumstantial content received through nondiscursive processes
  7. Predictions
  8. Commands
  9. Welcoming spiritual gifts
  10. The debate about the cessation of prophecy
  11. Modern speaking in tongues
  12. Historical accounts of extraordinary events

The following diagram might not make a lot of sense without reading the essay, but it does a helpful job of pulling together the way in which Dr. Poythress sees spiritual gifts functioning in biblical times and today:

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