The Gift of Prophecy Throughout Church History Page |
The second issue is an allowance to these scholars based on what all scholars agree regarding the
church fathers: they are like prisoners of war; if you torture them long enough they’ll tell you anything
you want to hear! The fact is that there were major doctrinal variations that frequently distort andfracture what little witness we do have to the operation of the charismatic gifts. What we
dowhen studying the early church fathers is, as Carson continues,
“to milk what evidence there is without evenhanded weighing of the
proportion, frequency, theology, and influence of the groups theye
Now as far as the facts go, it appears that tongues were extremely rare after the beginning of the 2
century. Prophecy, however, was known and welcomed in the church until the rise of the Montanistheresy. Montanists were charis
, who claimed to enjoy Spirit-given, prophetic gifts of thehighest authority so much so that they confidently dismissed much of Scripture. This caused thechurch to respond by stressing the stability and immutability of the faith once-for-all handed downfrom the apostles to the saints. The result then was that if prophecy was being abused by the
Montanists, then somehow prophecy must be as suspicious as they are. This is the classic “geneticfallacy” of logic which discredits something legitimate because it’s connected to something illegitimate.
From that time on prophecy was held in suspicion from that point to the present. According to
“…it must be remembered that this theological stance was an
. The fact that the church made room for prophecyuntil the Montanist abuse strongly suggests that what the church
understood by ‘prophecy’ up to that time
did not in any way jeopardizethe apostolic deposit
. It was the authority claim of Montanism that wasso profoundly dangerous, ultimately threatening the numerous cardinal
doctrines of the church” (p. 168).
we conclude from the historical evidence? There are four things D.A. Carson says we canglean.1.
There is enough evidence that some form of “charismatic gifts” continued sporadically across
the centuries of church history that it is useless to insist out of doctrinal persuasions that everyreport is either doubtful or demonic.2.
From the death of Montanism until the turn of the 20
century, the charismatic gifts werenever a part of any major movement. In each case that can be observed, the groups involvedwere small, fringe groups that were generally marginalized.3.
The great movements of holiness, piety and reformation that refreshed and renewed thechurch we
re never seriously crippled because their leaders didn’t speak in tongues. Athoughtful reading of the Puritans, for example, reveals that their drive to live for God’s glory
was no less powerful and effectual without the charismatic gifts. What is more, the preaching