Spiritual Gifts - Keep the Receipt!

According to I Corinthians 12 one thing that all Christians receive from God are spiritual 'gifts' - abilities that help the Body of Christ function. Some of these are alleged to have 'passed away' after the canonization of Scripture so for purposes of this discussion I'll stick to the ones that don't bother the mainstream or conservative churches. As a matter of fact, I'll focus on just a few:
  • Discernment
  • Knowledge
  • Wisdom
The church has demonstrated throughout its history that, if anything, it has these 'gifts' in much smaller quantities than the rest of the general population. If you are a Christian, I hope you kept your spirtual gift receipt because you may want to return them as defective...

I will point out a couple of recent examples. The first is rather obvious, the rampant sexual escapades of Catholic priests. If the gifts of the spirit were real, no priest would abuse more than one altar boy in any given parish without being discovered. A parent, being a good Christian, would discern, or get a bit of knowledge or wisdom, regarding said priest even before his first grope! (or at least immediately afterwards) But even without such supposed gifts, average, everyday non-gifted Catholics should be able to tell when something is rotten in Denmark, but Christianity is structured in such a way as to suppress the questioning of elders and leaders. If this happened with a neighbor one wouldn't hesitate to call the adult in question on the carpet.

Protestants don't fare any better, and perhaps no better example can be found than Ted Haggard. None of his 14,000 church members were tipped off by the Lord that their pastor was banging a male prostitute while snorting meth? Where was the knowledge, wisdom and discernment there?

But at least a few had managed to 'discern' some problems. Louis Sheldon of the 'Traditional Values Coalition' told the Jewish Week:
"he and 'a lot' of others knew about Haggard’s homosexuality “for awhile ... but we weren’t sure just how to deal with it.”

Months before a male prostitute publicly revealed Haggard’s secret relationship with him, and the reverend’s drug use as well, “Ted and I had a discussion,” explained Sheldon, who said Haggard gave him a telltale signal then: “He said homosexuality is genetic. I said, no it isn’t. But I just knew he was covering up. They need to say that.”
A later clarification has changed a lot of us to some of us but the fact is that some people knew. Maybe it was discernment, maybe it was 'gaydar,' but a few can evidently claim some level of discernment here. But what about wisdom?

I could ply you with anecdote after anecdote, some even from my own life, but the overall pattern cuts across all the lines -- Catholic vs. Protestant, charismatic vs. non-charismatic, etc.. -- defective spiritual gifts. Like I said, I hope they kept their receipts, and good luck with the customer service desk.....


John W. Loftus said...

Actually, since the Holy Spirit is believed to reside in the Christian, then every major conflict between churches proves to me that he isn't properly doing his job. Think about the wars between Christian denominations, as one example. If the Holy Spirit really exists and really teaches the Christian, then these wars, Inquisitions, Crusades, witch hunts and persecutions by other Christians are to be blamed upon the Holy Spirit not properly doing his job. And for me this is solid evidence he does not exist.

We see this even in the wide divergence of Christians on every issue from Calvinism to pentecostalism, to eschatology, to feminism, to capital punishment to abortion, to capitalism, to homosexuality, to politics of every sort, as well as every divergent theological position. The evidence shows us there is no Holy Spirit guidance among Christians. He's not doing his job. Which again leads me to conclude he doesn't even exist.

The only possible come back for the Christian is to argue that other Christians are just not listening to the Holy Spirit. They must claim that they alone are listening to the Holy Spirit. LOL. How likely is that, especially since all Christians will claim that the Christians they disagree with are not listening to the Holy Spirit?

I can hear them now:

Ed: You're not listening to the Holy Spirit.
Jean: Yes I am. You aren't
Ed: No you aren't.
Jean: You!
Ed: No you!

Hallq said...

John--have you contributed to the Rational Response Squad's Blasphemy Challenge? That comment would make a good contribution to it.

Rich said...

"Actually, since the Holy Spirit is believed to reside in the Christian, then every major conflict between churches proves to me that he isn't properly doing his job."
Do you mean to say that the holy spirit should force people to do his bidding? I don't think his job is to make anybody do anything. While you see this as proff of nonexistance I see it as proof that hardly anyone, regaurdless of religious persuasion, is listening. Being christian certainly is equal to being perfect and wrong doing from christians isn't proof that the holy spirit doesn't exsist. I can understand that from your point of view it would appear this way though.
From my point of view the person commiting these acts are the ones to blame and not the holy spirit. His job is not to force God's will upon us.
I had to chuckle at your end comment John, because I have seen people actually do this. You can be sure there are those that will comment exactly as you say, that their form of christianity is the only one guided by the spirit.

"The dark side clouds everything"

Hallq said...

I think you're missing that much of the problem is that if both sides in such a dispute really believe it, we have reason to suspect that they're both wrong.

Anonymous said...

Here are my two cents. I think Spiritual gifts take a time to build just like any other giftedness. After all Paul spent about 14 years learning about Jesus before he even dared approach he elders in Jerusalem. But Biblical references aside, Any gift takes time and a willingness to develop. If you are at all familiar with Howard Gardner's theory of Multiple Intelligences I would like to use that as my example. Gardner believes that there are eight different types of intelligence and different people are gifted in certain ways. However just because someone has linguistic intelligence does not mean they do not need to work at learning how to read it simply means that they process linguistic information faster and more easily. Gardner also believes that a person can develop intellegenices that are not as strong by working and practicing with them. The brain is after all a muscle.

The point behind this is that I think all gifts spiritual or intellectual or whatever need to be developed. I very much believe that God plants the seeds of gifts in Christians when they choose to receive the Holy Spirit, but just as is up to them to be disciplined to read the Bible, to meet together, and to pray, it is also up to them to cultivate gifts and skills.


John W. Loftus said...

I think Spiritual gifts take a time to build just like any other giftedness.

The gifts in Romans 12:6-8 seem to be the ones that must be developed (...serving, teaching, encouraging, giving, leadership, being merciful), and I found that such gifts as these correspond to a person's natural talents, upbringing, temperment, birth order, and abilities. My older brother, for instance, is a natural born leader, and surprise, he became a Christian and he now claims to have the gift of leadership. How exactly is that a special gift of the Spirit given to him as a Christian?

However, I believe a case can be made that the gifts mentioned in I Cor. 12 are special spiritual miraculous gifts, unlike those mentioned in Romans 12.

How does a person develop the gifts of prophecy and healing, for instance? Take a quick read through Acts and tell me how Peter and Paul learned to speak God's word and how they learned to heal (Acts 3:1-10; 14:8-10).

But if it's the responsibility of the Holy Spirit to guide Christians, then he should know exactly what to say to them to have them come to a consensus on the issues that they disagreed about that led to horrible wars. You just fail to see this. Is his job to illuminate the Christian mind, or not? The available evidence is against him properly doing his job.

Anonymous said...

Point taken. I'm not a theological scholar or even a student but I find this discussion intriguing. I am afraid to open up too many areas as I rarely have discussions with non Christians or former Christians (my loss) But I do have another question. What about man's choice to accept the gifts or to use them? It seems that it is human nature to not use what we are given or to misuse it. This is not to say that the Holy Spirit as God can't rise above are humanness I believe he can but then one would have to wonder what kind of relationship that would be.

John W. Loftus said...

As I have said elsewhere, if God (or the Holy Spirit) is writing on our hearts the moral truths by which we should live by, or if he's teaching us how to interpret the Bible, then he's writing with invisible ink. No one seems to be able to read it. And this is evidence for my claims. There is no evidence showing that he's doing his job. None. To say it's humankind's fault, sidesteps the question of whether God is to be blamed for not guiding us in ways he wants us to travel. Does he know how to communicate with us in ways we can understand, or not?

And it's nonsense to say that Christian people simply ignore God's voice. Christians have a desire to know God's will. I did.

Let's say that God wants us all to be Catholics. If that is the message the Holy Spirit is communicating, and Christian people hear it clearly, then they would become Catholics. And if Catholicism is true and the Holy Spirit had done his job all along, there wouldn't be the denominational wars that we saw in Christian history. Q.E.D.

Rich said...

I would never say that you were ignoring Gods voice. But I also don't think it is nonsense to believe that someone would not follow their leader all the time. If all the tools to accomplish the job are before us then it is us that is at fault. If Lucifer could rebel against God right in his presense, how much more likely are we to not follow? When the cats away the mice will play.
If we are given gifts then it is up to us to use it. I think part of your feelings come from your stance that we have no free will. If we have free will, then that means we are free to act on guidance or not. With free will, we are given gifta that we use or not, its up to us when you take free will into account. I understand that you discount free will and all I am saying here is that if you give us free will then not folowing Gods voice becomes very plausible, even with a desire to know God's will.

John W. Loftus said...

When it comes to understanding the clear voice of the Holy Spirit who is supposed to tell followers who love him and earnestly desire to follow him, then yes, Christians would believe what that voice said. Why not? But it's foolish to suppose that it's the Christians' fault every single time, and that's what you must believe.

If Lucifer could rebel against God right in his presense, how much more likely are we to not follow?

Here you're making reference to something that is even less believable to make your case. I do not believe that a being as intelligent as what Lucifer is claimed to be, would ever rebel in the unmediated presence of absolute love and unlimited power. If he did, he's dumber than a box of rocks.

Mully said...

I think your post on Spiritual Gifts is a bit of a farce. Afterall, isn't Paul dealing with the very problem of people abusing certain Spiritual Gifts (chs.12-14) which is causing division in the church. In fact, if you read the whole letter you will realise the depth of the problems in the Corinthian Church. Paul addresses them as Christian's, yet knows all to well that Christian's still rebel and abuse the gifts of God. Thus he restores the centrality of the gospel and exhorts them that their behaviour must reflect the fact of the Holy Spirit's indwelling.

Rich said...

Thats why I said you would have to discount free will for this to be the case. If we are free to act, then we won't always do the right thing, even wanting to. Even the best intentions go wrong because we are falable. You call it human nature, which is the same thing I call it. It is on the individual to act. Even being less believable, I am saying that if we are to believe in what the bible says, then Lucifer fell in Gods presence. We are much more likely to go astray when we are not in his presence.

paul said...

..."Spiritual gifts take time to develop..."

They should be pretty well developed after 2000 years of exercise. In a biblical context, the church is at least a 2000 year collection of people. Science grows and builds on itself, yet Christianity makes no progress, if anything, it seems to regress. Where are all those guys with healing power in their shadows? Seems like if all the guys with that 'gift' had written down their secrets of development, we'd have super gifts by now.

Sharon Mooney said...

Frank Walton posts on the Edward T. Babinski blog he's responded to the Blasphemy Challenge. I visited, posted, what I was saying was taken out of context, and then followed with "Everyone believes in God". Well, that's because I'm a deist, like *duh* ... but Deists are vastly different from Agnostics and Atheists. And by no means, is the Deity, the weak, moody, misfit, so-called "god" of the Christian religion. In fact, they'd call the Deity, the Devil. I waited for my second response to be approved... all night and morning, and its still not there. So, I deleted my original comment and went over to theology web and posted.

Frank Walton's crew are dishonest, I left this post:

I waited all night and all morning for my second response to that lie that everyone believes in God, to be posted. It never was. So, as you can see I deleted my original comment, and have moved everything to Theology Web. Okay?

Glenn Dixon said...

mully said I think your post on Spiritual Gifts is a bit of a farce. Afterall, isn't Paul dealing with the very problem of people abusing certain Spiritual Gifts (chs.12-14) which is causing division in the church.

My point was that there is no evidence that the church has any spiritual gifts at all, not that they are being abused...

Glenn Dixon said...

Sharon, I am very confused as to why you are posting this here in the comments section. Your comment doesn't seem to have anything to do with the 'spiritual gifts' topic.

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