The Charismatic Gifts and
the Defender’s Bible
|Author: Doug Sharp
Date: 2/23/1999 updated 5/21/2003
I am writing this for the benefit of those who have a copy of the Defender’s Bible, with commentary on the scriptures written by apologist Dr. Henry M. Morris. I regard Dr. Morris with great affection and respect for this work as well as his other many writings, and remain amazed at the tireless dedication it must have taken to research every subject covered in the Bible. Dr. Morris is one of the most influential people in my life, and his studies of God’s creation and the flood are beyond comparison.
A number of people have approached me and asked about the treatment Dr. Morris gives concerning the charismatic gifts in his commentaries. I point out to them the fact that they need to regard them at a different level than the scriptures themselves. Bible commentaries may be very helpful, but we must regard them as the perspective of one person who is a pilgrim walking through this life just like the rest of us. All of us “see through a glass darkly,” and “know in part,” and “prophesy in part.” Our responsibility is to apply the scriptures to our lives based upon working through them ourselves, not necessarily relying upon what someone else says about them.
There have been many theologians who have provided Bibles with chain reference commentaries. These Bibles contain notes by the theologian explaining the meaning of the scriptures. The Scofield Bible and the Dake Annotated Reference Bible are examples where the commentaries are both brilliant and flawed. This is because we have only a human, limited perspective based upon our experiences, and we interpret the Bible in light of these experiences. Scofield and Dake, in their treatment of Genesis, promoted the Gap theory, which is now more or less regarded as being out of date. This idea creates more theological problems than it solves. The Defender’s Bible is a welcome answer to this, and is unsurpassed in its treatment of Genesis, the flood, and creation.
People Who Influenced My Thinking
My theological perspective comes from a varied background. I grew up in a country Methodist church, where the minister, Don Thomson, preached the simple gospel of salvation. There is no problem with that except I never realized what power there was behind it. Earlier I had made a decision when I was a child to follow Jesus Christ while reading the Seventh Day Adventist Bible Story books. But in high school, the time came when I needed to understand that God deals with his children on a personal level. I thought that the Christian life was lived on sheer will power, raw belief, and common sense. Now there is an element of that, but to build your entire world-view and faith on this is quite unstable. It was then Don Thomson introduced me to the writings of David Wilkerson.
In The Cross and the Switchblade, Wilkerson’s bold proclamation of salvation in the power of the Holy Spirit woke me up to the fact that a relationship with God on a personal level is not only possible, but central to everything a Christian should be. With that power, young people in New York City gangs with drug problems were delivered and set free. We had the opportunity to hear Nicky Cruz speak and give his testimony first hand about how God had transformed his life from being a violent gang leader. The fruits of his conversion were unmistakable, consistent, and powerful. I compared this with some in our own youth group at that time who seemed apathetic to things of the Lord.
Another early influence was the teachings of Garner Ted Armstrong. I used to laugh at his radio broadcast, but listened intently when he taught about the theory of evolution and how it could not explain the existence of life upon the earth. I had never heard this preached about before, and I had not known that there was good evidence from a scientific point of view for the existence of God. Since I was studying science as a major in college, this appealed to me on an intellectual level. Then I began wanting to take the Lord and the Bible seriously and apply it to my life. It turned out that many of his other doctrines were rather unbiblical, and I was confused by these ideas for a while, enamored with Armstrong’s persuasive personality. Even so, I have to credit him with waking me up to the possibility that believing the Bible can be intellectually satisfying as well as spiritually fulfilling.
Barry Moeckel lived on the same floor as I did in Holden Hall at Michigan State University. I could sense that there was something different about this fellow the moment I met him. He had a quiet gentle spirit that was very distinctive, and he invited me to Bible studies. It was a new experience for me to gather with other young people, pray together and study the Bible. Our young people at the church where I grew up just were not interested in doing that. I also took note that he came from an Assembly of God church, the church of David Wilkerson. At these meetings I first experienced the phenomena of “speaking in tongues” and the gifts of the Holy Spirit. I found that they expected God to show up at these meetings, and when He did miracles took place as a matter of course. This took the form of healings, answered prayer, prophecy, words of knowledge and wisdom, and the ever-present tongues and interpretation. These were much different from the quiet church services I was used to, but the more I attended, the more I realized that this was a whole lot more like the New Testament church. I found that their practices of these gifts were consistent with the teachings in the Bible. Barry became the leader of the Campus Action group at MSU. He is now serving with the Wycliffe Bible Translators in Papua New Guinea as a missionary teacher.
About the same time, I met Dr. John Moore at Michigan State University, who taught Natural Science from a creationist perspective. It was through him that I became familiar with the writings of Dr. Henry M. Morris and the Creation Research Society. As I studied with Dr. Moore, I realized the power of the message of God’s creation, how it is fundamental to everything that I believed. I also was able to defend my faith for the first time and give an account to someone else why I believe in Jesus Christ. I took a couple of independent study classes under his tutelage, and was honored that he mentored me. These classes became a foundation for my first publication in the Creation Research Society Quarterly.
After graduation, newly married, I entered the military and was stationed in San Diego. I remember searching for a church there. We wanted to visit Scott Memorial Baptist Church, but couldn’t find a parking spot, so we ended up at an Assembly of God church. It was over a year later that we discovered that Scott Memorial was where Henry M. Morris attended. I often wonder what might be different had we been able to park that day.
Charismatic Doctrines Tested
Having come from a background where the gifts of the Spirit were not manifested often, I eagerly accepted everything I was being taught through Campus Action and the Master’s House, a street ministry in Lansing. The power of the Holy Spirit performed many different miracles of which I could not deny. The difference this made in the lives of the drug addicts, alcoholics and street people was evidence enough that these gifts were genuine, not to mention the fact that they matched what was spelled out in scriptures.
My belief and interest in the scriptures were enhanced by the influence of the Creation Research Society and the writings of Henry M. Morris and particularly A. E. Wilder-Smith. The refutation of evolution, especially at the biochemical level by Wilder-Smith in his book The Creation of Life, solidified my faith in Jesus Christ and the reliability of his word, the Bible. In addition, his writings were consistent with what I was finding out experimentally as a chemistry major. When I met Dr. Kelly Seagraves in San Diego, his writings and productions fueled my interest in the creation-evolution question.
These two sources met different needs in my life. First, I wanted a faith that was alive, that believes in a continual empowerment of God by the Holy Spirit. The second was a need to have a solid foundation in scripture that makes sense intellectually and scientifically. Unfortunately, I was to discover that the two sides did not always reconcile. The charismatic camp often did not place a lot of importance on the foundation of creation, although they were interested; the majority of those who were trailblazing creationists were Baptists, Lutherans, Seventh Day Adventists, who had doctrinal problems with the charismatic gifts.
I was determined to find out for myself. I consulted with a like-minded friend of mine, and we decided to read books that challenged the charismatic gifts, and evaluate them critically against the scriptures. Our final conclusion was that the basis for these challenges was rooted in tradition, fear, and misconception.
There are several fallacies that are usually presented:
(1) The charismatic gifts such as “speaking in tongues” have died out.
(2) The reasons for the gifts ended with the canon of scriptures. Scripture alone is the basis of revelation.
(3) The phenomenon of speaking in tongues can be demonic in nature.
(4) Much of I Corinthians 12-14 talks about the use and misuse of the gift of tongues. Since tongues can be misused, it shouldn’t be used.
(5) Speaking in tongues is the “least of the gifts.”
(6) Tongues can cause confusion in the church.
(7) The tongues practiced by Pentecostal churches are ecstatic utterances made by people in a trance.
Let’s take each of these and analyze them according to the scriptures. When did some of the gifts of the Holy Spirit die out, and why would God withdraw any of the gifts? The commentary in the Defender’s Bible tries to use I Corinthians 13:8 to prove this. First it says that charity never fails. Prophecies shall fail, tongues shall cease, knowledge shall vanish away. But when will this happen? Verse 10 says “when that which is perfect shall come, then that which is in part shall be done away.” Baptist theology believes that this means when the canon of scripture was complete. In other words, they think that once the entire Bible was written, there was no more need for supernatural miracles or spiritual gifts. I don’t think so. Verse 12 sheds more light: “For now we see through a glass darkly, but THEN FACE TO FACE, now I know in part; but then shall I know even as also I am known.” I believe that the “perfect” that is to come is the second coming of Jesus Christ. The idea that it is the canon of scriptures is a stretch in my opinion. Also, knowledge certainly hasn’t vanished away, so this time is yet to come.
I believe it is a mistake to disparage, trivialize, or minimize the importance of any gift given by God. It is evident from scriptures like I Corinthians 13:1, I Corinthians 14:18, I Corinthians 14:39 that the gift of tongues was valued by the early church, and one should “forbid not to speak with tongues.”
One of the misunderstandings concerning tongues has to do with the different roles in which it is used. The major role for tongues is in personal worship and prayer, praying “with the spirit, and with the understanding also.” When you pray “with the spirit” (I Corinthians 14:15), the Holy Spirit helps us in our intercession (Romans 8:26).
The second role is in public expressions in tongues, followed by interpretation. This is what caused a lot of confusion in the New Testament church, because several people would speak out at once out of order, some without interpretation. The basic warning concerning the use of this form of tongues is in I Corinthians 14:40: “Let all things be done decently and in order.” It is still true today the many Pentecostal churches do not measure up to this standard. But that is because the church is made up of people in various stages of learning and maturity.
When a believer speaks in tongues, they are not “ecstatic utterances” that come from a trance. The Holy Spirit is a gentleman, and the “gifts of the Spirit are subject to the prophets” ( I Corinthians 14:32). The commentary in the Defender’s Bible is right on here. All of the speakers are in full control of their faculties, so the prophets could speak one at a time, each in proper order, and all were fully capable of stopping and deferring to each other if it was clear that he also has a message from God. In our church, if it is evident that someone is speaking from a trance-like state, or is disruptive, out of order, or speaks in a harsh, negative, judgmental tone of voice, our ushers gently escort them out and pray with them. Usually they need some sort of deliverance, since these things are not of God. But, because the devil can mimic the gifts of the Holy Spirit, and often does so with his plants manifesting themselves right within a church service, it is no reason to abandon the genuine gifts. Why must we always attribute all supernatural phenomena to the devil?
One Pentecostal doctrine that puzzles a lot of people is the statement that the “evidence for the Baptism of the Holy Spirit is speaking in tongues.” I can see why that is confusing to many people. I asked a number of pastors questions about this.
“Does this mean that a Christian who does not speak in tongues doesn’t have the Holy Spirit?
No. There are plenty of scriptures that indicate otherwise.
“Does this mean that a Christian who does not speak in tongues cannot operate in any of the other gifts of the Holy Spirit?
No. Personal experience and scripture (I Corinthians 12:30) show that not all have this gift, but that does not preclude them from having other gifts.
“Then, what do you mean by this?”
It turns out that their very definition of the “Baptism of the Holy Spirit” is speaking in tongues. This is a tautology, somewhat like saying a person will arrive when he gets there. This may mean something to some Pentecostals, but to a person who has a logical mind, it proves or demonstrates little. It is like saying that the evidence for speaking in tongues is if you speak in tongues. To attribute any meaning beyond this could stray into erroneous ideas concerning this controversial phenomenon. Since this is a gift from God, there can be no reason to boast concerning it. I am a little uncomfortable using the term “evidence” because then you may imply that this “evidence” is being used to take someone’s spiritual temperature. From my experience, God gives this gift indiscriminately as he wills without regard to intelligence, spiritual achievement, physical good looks, or social status. If a person seeks the gift of tongues as a badge of spiritual honor, he is operating from the wrong motive. Some Pentecostal denominations have wrongly excluded those who do not speak in tongues, and I think that is as wrong as denominations that exclude those who do. They are like I Corinthians 12:17, the whole body trying to be an eye or an ear. We need diversity within the body of Christ.
This by no means takes away from the supernatural nature and importance of this gift in the lives of Christians. This piece of the Pentecostal experience has done more to deliver young people from addictions, put fire in their enthusiasm for the things of God, put songs in the heart of people than anything I know. Coupled with the rest of the gifts of the spirit when they are in proper operation in the body of Christ, they bring unity, not division. I currently belong to Mount Hope Church, which has grown from the 700 attenders when I arrived 15 years ago to over 4,000 today. During this time there have been stages where God has brought people into the maturity of the faith through leadership training, so that they avoided many of the common mistakes that have plagued some Pentecostal churches in the use of the gifts of the Holy Spirit.
One person who disagrees with me on this is Derek Prince in the Spirit-Filled Believer’s Handbook, (Charisma House, 1993). He believes that the gift of tongues precedes the other eight gifts. However I know many cases where the other gifts were manifested much earlier than tongues in the lives of my friends. But other well-meaning Christians kept telling them they didn’t “have it” until they spoke in tongues. This caused much confusion for them though they may or may not receive the gift of tongues later. Though I appreciate Derek Prince for much of his teaching, I am afraid he is incorrect here. Too often, the result of this teaching is that pastors become more interested in tallying a spiritual scorecard than bringing together the body of Christ so that the gifts can be manifested in diverse ways.
I think that if we need “evidence,” we should look to the fruits of the Holy Spirit, not the gifts. If a person exhibits “love, joy, peace, longsuffering, gentleness, goodness, faith, meekness, and temperance (Galatians 5:22-23), this is measure as to how much the Holy Spirit has affected a person’s life. The only reason in my mind to look for this evidence is to find a person more mature in the Christian life from whom you can learn. When I met Barry Moeckel, I was first attracted to the lifestyle he led that exhibited these fruits. The fact that he demonstrated many of the gifts of the spirit did not mean as much as how this translated into practice as the fruits of the spirit matured in his life.
Now, it certainly can be said that speaking in tongues often was remarked about by the apostles as evidence that the Holy Spirit was working in their life. But it could also be said that they saw joy and peace on their faces at the same time, which are immediate fruits. Here again, Derek Prince would disagree with me about the fruit of the Holy Spirit being evidence. I would invite you to examine his logic for yourself to see if his case is airtight. I believe that he makes his case more from personal experience.
I believe that all of the gifts mentioned in scripture still should function as they did in the New Testament. Where have these marching orders concerning the use of the gifts been rescinded? I do not find in scripture anything that indicates that God said to himself, “Oops, I made a mistake in giving certain people gifts, so now I’m going to revoke them.” The need for the gifts are as great now as they were in the New Testament. With the canon of scripture God is finished with His written revelation, but that does not mean that he has ceased to communicate personally with his children or intervene divinely to meet their needs. I think that it is dangerous to attribute all supernatural phenomena to the devil. Certainly he has his counterfeits, even in the church, but that does not nullify the value of the genuine. And it is evident that there was a genuine way to use the gifts because Paul spent three chapters in I Corinthians 12-14 instructing believers how to use them properly. I know of no more effective ministry for drug addicts than Teen Challenge, and I attribute that to the fact that the gifts of the Holy Spirit fills the spiritual void that young people try to satisfy with drugs.
Henry M. Morris obviously took his interpretations of these scripture out of an old-school Baptist book of theology and included them in the Defender’s Bible. Like others that have gone before him in writing commentaries, I think he is in error here. That does not, by any means, take away from his anointing in his writing concerning Genesis, Creation, the Flood, and fall of Man, where he has contributed greatly, and every Christian should be grateful to him concerning this. I think that he has the Holy Spirit in the same or greater measure as any of the greatest Pentecostal preachers around, he is simply filling a different role. We should recognize each other’s gifts and give credit to a person’s contribution to exposing the light of Jesus Christ where God has revealed it to them.
What does this do? I think it results in two different sets of evangelical believers: the Baptists trying to be the brain of the body of Christ, the Pentecostals trying to be the mouth. Each camp gathers to themselves like-minded individuals who create their own Christian culture and traditions. But we need each other, and God uses both, because not every person can be reached through intellectual reason, and some people cannot be reached through emotional appeal. Both camps are effective in sending missionaries, reaching people for Christ, and doing the work of the ministry.
Can Pentecostals say that Henry M. Morris and other Baptists like him are not used by the Holy Spirit because of their stand that the gifts of the Holy Spirit have died out? No, on the contrary, God has given them tremendous anointing in other areas, and in that anointing they are very effective. People have diverse needs, and God has created them that way. Like birds of a feather, people of like personalities tend to gather together. But the eye cannot say to the hand, “I have no need of thee: nor again the head to the feet, I have no need of you” (I Corinthians 12:21). The ideal would be for all of us to work together in the spreading of the gospel, recognizing the strengths of the other.
I have immense affection and respect for Dr. Morris. If I disagree with him concerning spiritual gifts, I am sure that someday, perhaps in heaven, Jesus will call us all together and straighten one or both of us out. In that day, debate over these issues won’t matter. For at that time, “that which is in part shall be done away…” (I Corinthians 13:10).
Answers to Questions Concerning Charismatic Gifts
- Some denominations believe that you must speak in tongues to be saved. What do you think? Answer: I think this is an unfortunate error. Their logic goes like this: (A) Speaking in tongues = Baptism in the Holy Spirit (B) You must have the Holy Spirit to be saved. Yet the scripture clearly indicates that tongues are just one of many spiritual gifts that are distributed among believers (I Corinthians 12:3-11) and they are a blessing separate and subsequent from salvation (Acts 19:1-6).
- What benefit do speaking in tongues derive, and what has it done for you? Answer: The primary purpose for tongues is to put the most unruly member of your body under the control of the Holy Spirit (James 4:1-6). In doing so, your prayer is divorced from your intellect, and your spirit prays rather than having your mind think up stuff to say. This is a humbling experience for many, and some miss out on the fruits because they are too proud to be heard praying in another language. Before I allowed the Holy Spirit control over my life, I was extremely introverted and shy. I was also bound by fear of the supernatural and phenomena I could not explain. Tongues were a means the Lord used to free me of these bondages. Many others report freedom from drugs, depression, guilt, anxiety and worry.
- Sometimes I hear a long, drawn out message in tongues, but a short interpretation, or vice-versa. Doesn’t this indicate that the message is false? Answer: Not at all. Remember, an interpretation is not a translation. However, even if it were, in some languages it takes many times as many words to say something as it would in English. For example, the language of the Sipopo Indians of Peru uses five times as many words to express John 1:1-4 as would the Fali Language of Cameroon. I find it ironic that the group responsible for the wonderful work of Bible translation, the Wycliffe Bible Translators, are largely made up of non-charismatics, yet they are in effect fulfilling the role of interpretation of tongues, but perhaps in a different way than envisioned by Pentecostals.
- Are the tongues real languages? Answer: I Corinthians 13:1 says, “Though I speak with the tongues of men and of angels, and have not charity, I am become as sounding brass, or a tinkling cymbal.” This indicates that they are indeed real languages, but some may not be human languages, but angelic. This verse also shows the possibility that the gift may be misused when the wrong motive is present. My daughter had an experience when she was praying at the altar in church in tongues, and the lady beside her was delighted because she was Chinese, and my daughter was praising God in perfect Cantonese. She told Linda, “I finally have found someone who can translate for me!” Linda had to explain to her that she was born in America and had never learned Cantonese. But it turns out, that is the native language of my wife. I often hear stories like this, including visitors to Mexico who visit a Spanish-speaking charismatic church where one of the members prayed in English, a tongue he had never learned. My wife has also heard others pray in Cantonese, though they have never learned the language.
- Satanists, Spiritualists, Mormons, Muslims, Hindus and other non-Christians pray in tongues. Answer: The counterfeit does not nullify the genuine. Certainly tongues can be imitated by cults or people who would like to mock God. But this refutes the idea that “speaking in tongues is evidence for the Baptism of the Holy Spirit.” Better to look for the fruits of the Holy Spirit, none of which are duplicated. A counterfeit spirit might put the speaker in a trance and they would have no power over what they said. But the Holy Spirit never does that. He is gentle and the speaker always has control of his faculties, though often because He bathes this person with so much love, there may be a lot of emotion that accompanies the message. This is ok and normal.
- What do you think of “holy laughter” or other emotional manifestations of the spirit, such as shaking, singing in the spirit, or being slain in the spirit? Answer: Again, this is very subjective to the experience. Some of this is faked, but I still believe that it is best to judge this by the fruit. Is this accompanied by answered prayer, more power and boldness, increased strength and wisdom, more patience and love?
- What other gifts of the Holy Spirit have you experienced? Answer: The Lord has blessed me many times with the ability to sense when someone has a need. Often I will show up at someone’s door just when they were about to email me for help (I do computer support), or I will prepare a report for my boss at work just before he is about to ask me for it. I think this is a form of the word of knowledge and wisdom manifested in a very practical way. I also can tell when the spirit behind something is evil or good, and avoid trouble as a result. I believe this is the gift of discerning of spirits.
- What gifts do you not flow in? Answer: Don’t ask me to teach about healing. Go see a doctor, or pray yourself. You are likely to get better results. I have no idea how the gift of healing works, though I pray for people to be healed. I generally do not flow well in prophecy, either. Because God does not choose to use us in one of the gifts, it does not make that gift less or more valuable or valid, nor does it diminish the giver or the one who receives it. It is clear that very few people flow in all of the gifts.
- If a person has the gift of speaking in tongues; does it mean that God loves him or her more than someone who does not? Answer: God values every person the same. He distributes his gifts to his children, probably to meet specific needs to make up for areas in their life where they hurt or are inadequate.
- Are the ideas you express here the official doctrine of your church? Answer: I am certain that some in my church (Assembly of God) might disagree with some of the ideas I have presented here. But I have attempted to relate my experiences as accurately from the Bible as I believe possible. If anything is out of whack here, I invite anyone to set me straight.
- What would be your ultimate desire for the church in the use of the gifts of the spirit? Answer: I would like to see the barriers between believers broken down so that true body ministry can take place. We all have need of each other, and if we congregate by what gift God has given us, we miss out on the full blessings of the Lord.
- Speaking in tongues often divide churches. Answer: This is unfortunate, but simply indicates the immaturity of the believers involved. It does not diminish the value of the gift. If I give one of my daughters a pearl necklace and the other a gold watch, they might start a fight over who got what gift. The value of the necklace and the watch are unaffected by the fight.
- Because a person operates in the gifts of the Spirit, does it mean that their doctrine is automatically pure? Answer: By no means. It is common for people whose gift is in one area to try to expound on another area of doctrine that they really have no business teaching. The Pentecostal movement has had a spotty history with teaching some pretty strange stuff, but that makes us no different than the rest of the church of God, charismatic or not. This does not invalidate the gift. In fact, sometimes God will deliberately use someone with very little credibility, humanly speaking, to accomplish great things. Spiritual maturity and understanding is actually a different process God performs on people who are willing to submit their will to His will, and it takes time. The gifts of the Spirit help, but they are no substitute for the everyday experiences that provide growth in the understanding of the Lord and the study of God’s word.
- People who operate in the gifts of the Spirit base their theology on experience rather than solid Bible teaching. Answer: The same statement can be made of non-charismatics, because they also base their judgment of the gifts upon their own experience or lack thereof. The Bible, as the ultimate authority, clearly teaches about these gifts and the use thereof. We base our beliefs on this.
- What are the gifts of the Holy Spirit? Answer:
I Corinthians 12: 1-11: Wisdom, knowledge, faith, healing, miracles, prophecy, discernment, speaking in tongues, interpretation of tongues.
Romans 12: 4-8: Prophecy, serving, teaching, encouraging, giving, leadership, showing mercy.
Ephesians 4:11: Apostles, prophets, evangelists, pastors, teachers.
- What are the fruits of the Holy Spirit? Answer:
Galatians 5:22: Love, joy, peace, patience, kindness, goodness, faithfulness, gentleness and self control.
- Where can I learn more about the gifts of the Holy Spirit?
An excellent book on this subject is Gifts That Shape Your Life and Change Your World
by Dave Williams, available from the Dave Williams’ Ministry.