Tag Archives: miracles

The principle that enchanted everyday life for the medievals (including the arts and sciences)


The Last Supper, Leonardo Da Vinci

The Last Supper, Leonardo Da Vinci

In my last post, I asked, “What separates Protestants from Catholics on the matter of the arts? Why have Protestants done so poorly compared with Catholics?” I hinted that the answer lies in a certain aspect of the medieval heritage – which rightly belongs to all Western Christians today, but which the Catholics have retained and Protestants largely discarded.

What, then, did the medieval church have, theologically, that the Reformation church seems to have lost? What was the bridge from the material to the spiritual world that avoided both Gnosticism and materialism—and fostered the arts as well?

This missing links turns out to be one of the most central theological ideas of the Middle Ages:  the idea of sacramentality. Sacramentality is the concept that the outward and visible can convey the inward and spiritual. Physical matters and actions can become transparent vehicles of divine activity and presence. In short, sacraments can be God’s love made visible.

Or to turn it around, sacramentality is the belief that transcendent spiritual reality manifests itself in and through created material reality, that all creation is in some sense a reflection of the creator, that God is present in and through the world. A correlative of this is that religion is not separated from, or compartmentalized from, the rest of life. It’s not something left for Sunday morning. God can and does manifest himself in and through the creation that he’s made. Continue reading

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Glimpses of Francis of Assisi, from Mark Galli


Saint Francis of assisi in his tomb

The following are brief excerpts and quotations I marked while reading Mark Galli’s Francis of Assisi and His World (Downer’s Grove, IL: InterVarsity Press, 2002). Galli, managing editor of Christianity Today and former managing editor of Christian History, did his homework well, and this little book, like Chesterton’s biography of Francis, is full of insights. Galli does tend to find “legalism” in medieval monasticism, and has cautioned evangelicals about their “romance of the cloister.” But his understanding of the sacrament of penance (see below) is more nuanced than that of most Protestants. Continue reading

Signs and wonders: the charismatic power of early Christianity


Again a re-post, from the Christianity Today history blog. For a related posted on this blog, see here:

Signs and Wonders: The Charismatic Power of Early Christianity

by Chris Armstrong | January 7, 2009

When we teach about the early church, we frequently omit the story of spiritual gifts.

orant catacomb priscilla3.JPG

Cessationism is the belief that the miracles of Jesus’ lifetime and the apostolic period happened solely to attest to the authority and inspiration of the apostolic writings, and that miracles and extraordinary spiritual gifts ceased after the writing of the apostolic documents was concluded.

As writers such as ex-Dallas Seminary professor Jack Deere have argued, this is a position with no biblical foundation. But it also has a problem with the historical record. That record shows clearly that the early church was quite active in the charismatic gifts at least through 200 AD. There was a decline in the 3rd century, and then again it became active.

Sadly, many writers and teachers who are not cessationist continue to give the impression that miracles and extraordinary gifts were phenomena limited to the apostolic period. The way the early church is usually taught, we hear much about martyrdom and persecution; much about Gnostics and Arians and doctrinal disputes; much about how bishops and clergy roles evolved, and how the apostolic tradition was passed down and the canon of the New Testament evolved. Continue reading

More charismatic phenomena in non-charismatic church movements–“the early years”


Here is a continuation of my previous post on charismatic phenomena in “non-charismatic” church traditions. This time we head back farther in time and cross confessional lines. As with many of these posts, this was previously posted a few years back at http://www.christianhistory.net. For a related article on this blog, see here:

Christian History Corner: Timeline of the Spirit-gifted
Before Moody, Finney, Edwards, and Mather came a long line of Catholic and Orthodox believers reputed to enjoy the promise of the Father.
Chris Armstrong

Several readers wrote in after last week’s newsletter, “Do non-charismatics ‘Do’ Holy Spirit Baptism?” to chide me for omitting the Eastern Orthodox and Roman Catholic Christians who have sought and taught the Spirit’s empowering work in the Christian’s life.

As I thought about filling that gap in this week’s newsletter, it occurred to me: Why should I try to say again what has already been well said, and exceptionally well researched, by a scholar who has made the history of Holy Spirit baptism his life’s work?

Stanley M. Burgess is a professor of religious studies at Southwest Missouri State University and editor of The New International Dictionary of Pentecostal and Charismatic Movements (Zondervan, 2002). That indispensable tome displays prominently on its cover an abbreviated timeline of Pentecostal prehistory. Continue reading

Do Nigerian miracle ministries discredit the faith?


With charismatic gifts and miracles come abuse. It’s just like every other aspect of church life: Christians are still sinful, fleshly people, prone to use the things of God to forward their own agendas. In 2004, Nigerian authorities saw abuses within prominent television ministries in their country and moved to shut them down. What should we think about the high incidence of the miraculous in African countries? Should we dismiss it all as charlatanry? Or is God really doing physical miracles there?

Christian History Corner: Do Nigerian Miracle Ministries Discredit the Faith?
The spiritual dynamism of West African Christianity is now well known even in the West. Do credulity-stretching, highly publicized miracles discredit what God is doing in that region?
By Chris Armstrong

Recently Nigeria’s National Broadcasting Commission (NBC) issued a ban on the television broadcasting of miracles—specifically, those not “provable and believable” (though the NBC failed to provide guidelines for establishing proof). The ban is aimed at the many Pentecostal ministries in that country who air video of healing miracles to draw people to their meetings and to Christ.

My response to this sort of “news of the miraculous” in Africa is mixed. First, I get a small thrill—a little, inner voice saying “Yay!”—when I am reminded of how powerfully God has touched that continent, so that miracles of healing would become standard television fare. Second, I share in the skepticism that suspects some charismatic ministers broadcast such events—without adequately checking the genuineness of the “miracles”—to aggrandize their ministries and gain followers. Third, I am angry (with, I hope, a holy sort of anger) that the Devil continues, as he always has, to discredit by any means possible the work of the Holy Spirit—in this case, through exploiting the base motives of some leaders. Continue reading