The Lausanne Movement blog has a series of post from two weeks ago in recognition of the one-year anniversary of the Third Lausanne Congress on World Evangelization last October.
- Sunday –One Year Ago Today: Cape Town 2010 Begins
- Monday – Cape Town 2010: From An Event To A Movement
- Tuesday – Cape Town 2010: Calling Christians To Action
- Wednesday – Cape Town 2010: Africa Responds
- Thursday – Cape Town 2010: John Stott And The Lausanne Movement
- Friday – Cape Town 2010: Priorities For World Evangelization
- Saturday – Cape Town 2010: Living A Life That Is H.I.S.
What Was the Most Important Thing About Cape Town 2010?
Here’s a key reflection from one of the posts on the most important outcome from the Congress last fall:
In an interview at the close of the Congress, Doug Birdsall, Executive Chair of The Lausanne Movement, said he believes the personal connections made by leaders were among the most important accomplishments of the gathering. Additionally he said leaders were able to sense the magnitude of what God is doing around the world and that together the Church regained its footing and regained its nerve for world evangelization.
I agree 100%. Making connections and seeing what God is doing are the central purposes of any conference — most of all a convention such as Cape Town 2010 that brought together delegates from almost every nation in the world. And from the results of the past year, it looks like these outcomes have born much fruit — and will continue to bear fruit for a long time to come.
Here’s a closing video that looks back on the congress: Cape Town 2010: Looking back at the Congress
The “new rules” have been around for a while now, but this is still a great summary by Jeff Jarvis in What Would Google Do?:
- Customers are now in charge.
- People can find each other anywhere and coalesce around you or against you.
- The mass market is [sort of] dead, replaced by the mass of niches.
- Since markets are conversations, the key skill in any organization is no longer marketing but conversing.
- We have shifted from an economy based on scarcity to one based on abundance.
- Enabling customers to collaborate with you (creating, distributing, marketing, supporting products) is what creates a premium in today’s market.
- The most successful enterprises today are networks and the platforms on which those networks are built.
- The key to success is not owning pipelines, people, products, or even intellectual property, but openness.
I had the same initial reservations as Michael Hyatt: It seems like you get most of the advancements through the iOS5 software, and the iPhone 4 is already really great. Is it worth it to upgrade to the iPhone 4s?
After his daughter convinced him to give it a try, he upgraded — and is very glad he did. He gives a great summary of the three biggest benefits in upgrading, and has me convinced.
I should add that, with something like an iPhone, it is generally my policy to get every upgrade, because the increase in speed alone is usually worth it. It also helps keep you up to date on the advancements in technology, by experience rather than simply hearing second-hand. I think that is important for keeping our thinking up to date so that we can fully maximize technology for good.
But I was reluctant here, giving slightly higher priority to saving money than I usually do. As is typical, though, I’ve found that the intent to save money often ends up shooting you in the foot when the issue at stake is, as here, an investment in tools that exist to equip you in doing good. So, with this lesson reinforced once again, I will be getting the iPhone 4s.
It is so easy, especially in turbulent economic times such as those we are in now, to get focused on efficiency and cost cutting. And those things do have their place.
But they are not the main thing. They are not what’s most important. And leadership should be diligent to never succumb to the temptation to let them usurp what is most important.
After a God-centered passion, two of the most important principles for any leader are respect and generosity.
Generosity — not efficiency. And respect — not efficiency.
Efficiency can, and often does, undermine both. That’s why you have to make it second, not first.
There are few (if any) promises in the Bible to prosper the “efficient” man or woman. But there is an abundance of promises to the generous person.
We know this from the Bible. But often we think that “business thinking” is different. That somehow the realm of running non-profits and businesses and other organizations plays by different rules.
But it doesn’t.
To be sure, people often think it does, and act like it does. That’s why we need to be careful about saying “non-profits need to be run more like businesses” and so forth — not because the principles for running an effective business are always different (though sometimes they are), but because there are many wrong business principles being used to run businesses, and we don’t want to let those infect the non-profit sector as well.
But the things that are ultimately required for running a business and non-profit well are ultimately the same things necessary for living a good life. And generosity and respect are two of those overarching principles.
And we aren’t left simply looking at the Bible to see this (though that should be enough). The best business and leadership thinkers have always acknowledged this.
Take Peter Drucker. At the end of his book The Effective Executive, he points out that his emphasis on making strengths productive “is fundamentally respect for the person — one’s own as well as others. It is a value system of action.” Drucker isn’t detaching executive effectiveness from the realm of morality and decency and sheer humanity. Rather, he sees them as utterly intertwined. A focus on strengths is ultimately a respect for the individual.
Likewise, he points out that the practice of “putting first things first” is not simply an issue of effectiveness, but character. “What is being developed here is not information, but chracter: foresight, self-reliance, courage. What is being developed here, in other words, is leadership — not the leadership of brilliance and genius, to be sure, but hte much more modest yet more enduring leadership of dedication, determination, and serious purpose.”
Drucker does not abstract effectiveness, even in large organizations, from character. They are utterly intertwined such that the core practices of effectiveness are actually manifestations of (and means of developing) character and respect for others.
Likewise, when I was at the Global Leadership Summit the year before this one, Jack Welch made a very significant comment. He said “Top people have a generosity of spirit. They get a kick out of giving bonuses, for example. They don’t have envy. They love helping people grow.” There’s character once again, and generosity. Top people are generous. Generosity is not just something for our personal lives and personal finances; we are to have a generosity of spirit in the way we go about our work. That is biblical, but what we see is that it is also borne out by the experience of the most effective business leaders and thinkers of our time.
So, how do you lead? Do you care first about generosity, or efficiency? About respect — and thus it’s corollary of positioning people according to their strengths — or efficiency?
I’m not playing these things off against efficiency, rightly understood. For ultimately, the best way to be efficient is to value generosity and respect before efficiency.
Don’t leave it to merely to your advisers. In contrast:
Any good leader must develop a substantive base. No matter how talented your advisers and deputies, you have to attack challenges with as much of your own knowledge as possible. (Rudy Giuliani)
That’s why we need to go beyond the common practice of distinguishing the urgent from the important to distinguishing the imperative from the important.
Don’t just think in terms of urgent vs. important. Think in terms of imperative vs. important.
A leader who distances himself from his staff at the first sign of trouble might save a few popularity points, but it’s shortsighted. Eventually, no one wants to work for someone like that.
Here’s a good example of authoritarian leadership from Hans Finzel’s classic The Top Ten Mistakes Leaders Make.
The most important thing worth noting here is that the leaders weren’t being authoritarian on purpose. That’s the thing about authoritarian leadership: it’s often a subtle thing that someone doesn’t even know they are doing. This doesn’t excuse it, but it shows us that we need to be careful to reflect on our own leadership styles. For we can fall into an authoritarian approach sometimes without even knowing it.
Here’s the example that Finzel relates from one of his students:
My organization was looking for a new regional leader. Those making the decision had somebody picked out. However, before finalizing it, they were going to meet with different people to receive feedback on the individual they had chosen.
I gave them my serious concerns and observations. Even though they took the time to listen to us, they really didn’t hear what we were saying. In the end, our input and feedback was rejected. And our predictions came to pass.
How did this whole situation make us feel? We concluded that the leaders at the top had already made up their minds regarding their choice, and that, almost as an afterthought, they had decided to talk to us “underlings” to try to get our rubberstamp approval.
It made me feel as if they didn’t really want or need my input. If they would have listened to us, we would have been spared the pain, misunderstanding, and hurt when it became obvious to everyone that this individual was the wrong choice for leadership.
Sometimes it is said that we shouldn’t make our own plans and then ask for God to bless them; we should ask God what his plans are, and align ours with his.
Now, this is good advice if this is meant at the high level — that is, if the definition of “God’s plans” here is “God’s moral will revealed in Scripture.” God’s plan for us, in this sense, is that we do justice, love mercy, and walk humbly with him (Micah 6:8; Matthew 23:23). That’s our mission in life.
God also gets more specific: in marriage, we are to marry only another believer. In our jobs, we are to have full integrity and work with enthusiasm and skill as unto the Lord. In our giving, we are to be generous.
In this sense, we are to seek God’s plans, not our own. That is, God has defined our ultimate priorities in life. We are to seek what he has revealed for us, rather than just coming up with whatever we want to do.
Now, within this framework, there are many areas that God’s word does not address specifically. Should you seek to have another child or not? Should your company add those 3 new positions? Should you buy this house or that one? What major should you chose, and what are your overall objectives for your career?
In this realm, as long as our ultimate aims are governed by and stem from God’s moral will, we are to make plans. And, the teaching of the Scripture is that we don’t look for some specific sub-plans that God has for us. Rather, he wants us, indeed, to make our own plans (with Scriptural wisdom and prayer) and seek to accomplish them.
More than that, the teaching of the Scriptures is that, in the main, we should look for God to bless our plans. Our plans will change and adapt, because God is ultimately sovereign. But it is striking that, when addressing the subject of godly planning, the Bible emphasizes not only that the success of our plans is subject to God (Proverbs 16:9), but that, when we plan in dependence on him, God seeks to bless what we do. He doesn’t say “you should have done this or that — that’s what my plan was.” Instead, he says: “Commit your work to the Lord, and your plans will be established” (Proverbs 16:3).
Commit your work to the Lord — don’t be godless in your work and planning — and your plans will be established.
Likewise, Psalm 37:4 tells us: “Delight yourself in the Lord, and he will give you the desires of your heart.” Whose desires will he give you? Yours.
Too often as Christians we almost paralyze ourselves by thinking that our desires and plans don’t mean anything — that God plans on defeating our godly plans time and again because he has some other plan for us different than what we sought to do.
The emphasis of the Bible, though, is that God wants you making plans, he wants you doing this in reliance on him, and he wants these plans to reflect his ultimately priorities (glorify him, love others, seek justice). If you are doing that, the Scriptures indicate that you should look for God to work with you in your plans. He surely will adjust and improve them, but your plans will be established – that is, when he changes them, he will change them for the better.
This is getting to be a week for recommending books. My friend, James Grant, recently released his first book, a commentary on 1 & 2 Thessalonians in the “Preaching the Word” series (edited by Kent Hughes): 1 & 2 Thessalonians: The Hope of Salvation.
James is a pastor, and that’s what makes this commentary so helpful: his pastoral insight shines through just as brightly as his textual insight. I’ve referred to his commentary a few times already while reflecting on Paul’s view of work while finishing up my own book this fall, and it has been very helpful.
Here is Bryan Chapel’s endorsement for the series:
“The Preaching the Word commentary series is one of my favorites. The focus upon explaining a text while preaching it as the goal makes the series resonate with the priorities of the pulpit. No academic aloofness here, but down-to-earth, preacher-to-preacher meat for God’s people.”
For pastors and anyone looking to build up their library of NT commentaries, James’ book is worth picking up.
In You Don’t Need a Title to Be a Leader: How Anyone, Anywhere, Can Make a Positive Difference, Mark Sanborn highlights five core characteristics of effective leaders. Effective leaders:
- Believe they can positively shape their lives and careers.
- Lead through their relationships with people, as opposed to their control over people.
- Collaborate rather than control.
- Persuade others to contribute, rather than order them to.
- Get others to follow them out of respect and commitment rather than fear and compliance.
If you read (which is everyone), I would highly recommend my friend Tony Reinke’s new book, Lit!: A Christian Guide to Reading Books. It is well written, enjoyable, incredibly practical, and on a subject (reading) that it is very interesting and helpful to read more about. So often we just read, without thinking much about how we do it. Tony’s book helps us correct that, so we can read better and know better what reading really is.
Here’s what Randy Alcorn had to say:
“I read many books, but seldom do I enjoy one more than I did Tony Reinke’s Lit!. Many of my greatest childhood adventures, and much of my growth after I was converted as a teenager, came through reading imagination-expanding and life-changing books. Tony’s writing is thoughtful, perceptive, concise, and God-honoring. He upholds biblical authority, and offers helpful guidance, while allowing for a range of tastes. Lit! rings true to my own lifetime of reading experience. As a reader and writer of both nonfiction and fiction, I appreciate the breadth of Tony’s treatment, which includes a variety of genres. For book lovers, this is a treasure and delight. For those who aren’t book lovers, it makes a great case for becoming one.”
In part one, Tony gives a theology of books and reading, and in part 2 he gives practical advice on books and reading. He covers how a biblical worldview equips us to benefit from books, seven benefits of reading non-Christian books, six priorities for deciding what to read (and what not to read), 20 tips and tricks for reading nonfiction books, six ways to find the time you need to read, and much more.
So if you read, I highly recommend getting Tony’s book!
The reason I’m asking is because I use Firefox on my Mac, but want my bookmarks to be synced with my iPhone — and, at least until recently, the only way to do that was to sync them to Safari first. Then, Safari syncs them to your iPhone via Mobile Me.
I have traditionally used XMarks to accomplish this, but I’m having trouble with it and want to stop using it.
Does anyone know either (1) if there is now a way to sync bookmarks directly from Firefox to your iPhone/iPad or (2) if there is a better way to sync your bookmarks between Firefox and Safari on the Mac?
I love Crossway’s rewards program, Crossway Impact: Rewards with a Mission. Here’s the brief description:
Crossway is excited to introduce a new kind of rewards program — one that makes sense for your budget, has great perks, and (curve ball) isn’t all about you. Crossway Impact is a program that rewards you and allows you to make an impact with every purchase.
The curve ball is my favorite part: there are lots of individual benefits to being a part of it, but the best part is that you can be of benefit to others as well because 5% of everything you spend goes to support a great cause. (You can choose among several ministries, including Desiring God, Ligonier, and The Gospel Coalition.
You even get to name your own membership fee.
It’s worth checking out, if you haven’t already.
A helpful column by Jack Welch from a few years ago. Here are the six points, with some of Welch’s comments as well:
- Preferred employers demonstrate a real commitment to continuous learning. No lip service. These companies invest in the development of their people through classes, training programs, off-site experiences, all sending the message that the organization is eager to facilitate a steady path to personal growth.
- Preferred employers are meritocracies. Pay and promotions are tightly linked to performance. . . . People with brains, self-confidence, and competitive spirit are always attracted to such environments.
- Preferred employers not only allow people to take risks but also celebrate those who do. And they don’t shoot those who try but fail. As with meritocracies, a culture of risk-taking attracts exactly the kind of creative, bold employees companies want and need in a global marketplace where innovation is the single best defense against unrelenting cost competition.
- Preferred employers understand that what is good for society is also good for business.
- Preferred employers keep their hiring standards tight.
- Preferred companies are profitable and growing.
“The best thing about being a preferred employer is that it gets you good people, and this launches a virtuous cycle. The best team attracts the best team, and winning often leads to more winning.”
We shall never have an adequate conception of the greatness of this salvation unless we realize something at any rate of what we were before this mighty power took hold of us, unless we realize what we would still be if God had not intervened in our lives and had rescued us.
In other words, we must realize the depth of sin, what sin really means, and what it has done to the human race.
If you get this, you have almost everything you need to know. (Almost.) Tom Peters in In Search of Excellence: Lessons from America’s Best-Run Companies:
Any well-functioning organization is neither centralized nor decentralized but a wonderful combination of both. Around most dimensions the best companies, then and now, are loose. They give people exceptional freedom to do things their own way.
At the same time, the great companies are highly centralized around a few crucial dimensions: the central values that make up their culture, one or two (no more) top strategic priorities, and a few key financial indicators.
Note: The key point is not simply that organizations need to be centralized in some areas and decentralized in others. If you say to yourself “great, the fact that every organization ought to have certain non-negotiable realities means I should micromanage my people and tell them what to do in whatever area I want,” you’ve missed it.
The key point is exactly where a company should (and should not) be centralized. It should be centralized in its core values — they are not up for grabs and are not negotiable. It should be decentralized in relation to letting people find their own way to accomplish the objectives of their roles.
In other words, precisely because the mission and core values of an organization are specific and tightly defined, employees are able to have great freedom in almost every other area.
I know of some organizations that get this backwards — they stray in relation to their core values, but are tightly controlled according to the leader’s wishes in almost every other area. That’s backwards. The key to a great company is unleashing your people, which is possible from making your mission and values clear — and meaning it.
Absolutely true. Amen.
Here’s the research:
My guest post at the Willow Creek leadership blog.
Here’s the first part:
One of the major themes about Christ in the book of Isaiah is that he cares a lot about justice. For example, Isaiah says that “he will bring forth justice to the nations” (42:1), that “he will faithfully bring forth justice” (42:3) and that “he will not grow faint or be discouraged until he has established justice in the earth” (42:4).
In his book Good News About Injustice, Gary Haugen points out that justice is “the right use of power.” To use power rightly means to skillfully exercise it in the service of others — especially those who are in need or in a situation where they are unable to help themselves. That’s why the Bible lays substantial emphasis on caring for the orphan and the widow: “Seek justice, correct oppression, bring justice to the fatherless, plead the widow’s cause” (Isaiah 1:17).
One implication of this that is rightly getting a lot of attention in the church today is that we should spend ourselves radically in the fight against global poverty, human trafficking, and other injustices. A concern for justice means a concern for addressing large global problems.
A concern for justice also implies a concern for something else that is sometimes overlooked–namely, leadership. For if justice is “the right use of power,” then good leadership is a form of justice. And, conversely, bad leadership — even if unintentionally so — is a subtle form of injustice.
Scott Belsky, in Making Ideas Happen: Overcoming the Obstacles Between Vision and Reality:
Ideas don’t happen because they are great — or by accident. The misconception that great ideas inevitably lead to success has prevailed for too long. Whether you have the perfect solution for an everyday problem or a bold new concept for a creative masterpiece, you must transform vision into reality.
I watched the beginning of John Piper’s Bloodlines documentary the other day, and something Piper said really stands out to me.
Segregation was referred to as “separate but equal” — but, as Piper points out, it was really just separate. There was nothing equal about it. It was discrimination, pure and simple. Claiming that you are discriminating and yet treating people as “equal” is simply to be double-tongued.
The Bible gives us many specific examples to illustrate the obedience that God requires of us. One of them directly relating to segregation is James 2:1-4:
My brothers, show no partiality as you hold the faith in our Lord Jesus Christ, the Lord of glory. For if a man wearing a gold ring and fine clothing comes into your assembly, and a poor man in shabby clothing also comes in, and if you pay attention to the one who wears the fine clothing and say, ‘You sit here in a good place,’ while you say to the poor man, ‘You stand over there,’ or, ‘Sit down at my feet,’ have you not then made distinctions among yourselves and become judges with evil thoughts?
Now, here’s what’s interesting. Someone could easily have said: “James isn’t talking about segregation as it existed in 20th-century America. He’s talking about treating the rich better than the poor in church — which has nothing to do with segregation based on color. So, when people enforced and allowed segregation, they weren’t violating this passage.”
And to do so would miss the whole point. The whole point!
It’s true that James’ example here does not mention segregation based on color. But to think it has to is to completely misunderstand how to interpret the Bible, and to miss the spirit of the law.
For James started, in 2:1, by stating the main principle: It is wrong to show partiality. Treating the rich and poor differently in church is the specific example he gives to illustrate this. But it is not the only way to show partiality. “Separate but equal” was another way to do it. “Separate but equal” was doing the very thing James discusses in his example here, just in different clothes. “You go use this drinking fountain, while I use this one” is no different from saying “you sit in this seat here because you have money, and this other guy without money will have to sit way in the back.”
Here’s why this matters: When the Bible gives specific examples of sins, like giving good seats in church to people of wealth and bad seats to those without wealth, few people will commit the sin in that exact way as the example (though some, of course, still will!). The problem is that we often end up violating the true intent of the passage by doing things in a slightly different way than the specific example the Scripture gave — not realizing that, in doing so, we are violating the main point and spirit of the passage
Here’s the application: We shouldn’t ask, “Did I follow the letter of the law?” We are to ask: “Am I following the true intent of the law?”
Hence, “show no partiality” means not simply to avoid giving better seats to church members with more money, but not to discriminate at all. “You shall not murder” does not simply mean not to kill your neighbor, but rather that we are to positively seek his good and flourishing. “You shall not commit adultery” does not simply mean “don’t cheat on your wife,” but “love your wife and seek the prospering of your marriage.” And “you shall not bear false witness” does not simply mean “don’t lie,” but “uphold your word in all contexts (cf. James 5:12) and be consistent in your speech (cf. 1 Timothy 3:8) and make sure your actions match your word (cf. James 2:15-16).”
And, of course, in seeing this, we see what failures we all are! Which of us pursues the good of our neighbor 100% of the time? Which of us has a marriage that is everything it should be?
The glorious news of the gospel is that, in Christ, God does not condemn his people for these things. We are not under the condemnation of the law, but are forgiven and fully righteous in God’s sight.
But the law still shows us how we are to live. And this means we should not conclude it doesn’t matter how we live or take it lightly when we realize we are violating the spirit of the law (especially on a matter as significant as segregation — which, fortunately, is now outlawed). Knowing that we always fail in some sense in fulfilling God’s will, we are to press on in obedience eagerly and enthusiastically (Titus 2:14), knowing that as we do so God is empowering us and causing us to grow in holiness (Philippians 2:12-14). And, it also means that we should, perhaps, examine ourselves once in a while to see if there are any areas where we might be in accord with the letter of the law, but in violation of its spirit.
A Summary of Vern Poythress’ Article “Modern Spiritual Gifts as Analogous to Apostolic: Affirming Extraordinary Works of the Spirit Within Cessationist Theology”
Vern Poythress’ article “Modern Spiritual Gifts as Analogous to Apostolic: Affirming Extraordinary Works of the Spirit Within Cessationist Theology” is by far the most helpful, enlightening thing I have read on how to understand things like impressions, seeming modern-day prophecy, a sense that something is going to happen (and then it does), and other such extraordinary forms of awareness that do not seem to have a natural explanation.
For one of my classes back in seminary, we had to summarize 20 journal articles having to do with the Holy Spirit and his work. Poythress’ article is the first one I chose to summarize. After seeing Justin Taylor’s post on Mark Driscoll and Douglas Wilson’s discussion on spiritual gifts and extraordinary happenings where he mentions Poythress’ article, I thought it might be good to post my summary here. Since the original article is fairly long, this summary might help you get the gist of his article in about 1,000 words or so.
Poythress’ thoughts relate not simply to understanding spiritual gifts and strange happenings, but also general guidance in the Christian life. For example, I don’t think that God has an “individual will” for us to discover and follow (rather, when the Scriptures do not mandate one way or another, we are free and responsible to choose our own course of action). But how should we understand it when we have an impression that God would have us do this or that? Are we stuck with either concluding that such things are to be utterly disregarded as not from God or, on the other hand, that if they are real that they are authoritative and as binding on us as Scripture? Poythress’ framework gives us a third way, which is incredibly helpful.
I’ll let you see his answer below. So, enough introduction — here’s my summary:
Poythress’ thesis cannot be stated any better than he himself has worded it: “Modern spiritual gifts are analogous to but not identical with the divine authoritative gifts that are 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” (71).
He begins by providing a biblical framework for thinking of the gifts, and suggests that all gifts can be classified as prophetic, priestly, or kingly. A pyramid structure in turn helps illustrate the functioning of the gifts. The top level is messianic, which only Christ has and which is of infallible authority. The second level is apostolic, which only the apostles and “apostolic men” had, and is also divinely authoritative and unrepeatable. Third is the level of special, prominent gifts such as pastor, teacher, and so forth. The gifts on this level are ongoing and repeatable. The final level is that of every believer’s involvement, which is also repeatable.
The main distinction being made here is between “gifts with full divine authority and subordinate (uninspired) gifts” (74). The gifts in level one and two have unqualified divine authority. The gifts in levels three and four are not inspired (the speech of these people is not identical to the speech of God such that it carries unqualified authority), though obviously we can still say that God is at work in them and they come from the power of the Spirit.
Gifts with unqualified divine authority have ceased with the apostles; all gifts today have qualified authority, and thus although they are analogous to apostolic gifts (we preach today, for example, as the apostles did), they are not identical (they differ in authority). There are three reasons for concluding that unqualified divine authority ceased with the apostles: “the finality of revelation in Christ (Heb 1:1-3), the foundational character of the teaching of the apostles (Eph 2:20), and the fact that the canon of Scripture is complete” (74). Both charismatic and non-charismatic sides agree here, he points out.
Building on this, we can distinguish gifts based upon the “awareness of the basis for [our] ideas or actions” (75). Some gifts are discursive, and some are nondiscursive. Ideas have a discursive basis when they have in mind a conscious basis, such as a biblical text. Preaching falls into this category. Ideas are nondiscursive when we are not consciously aware of their source. Hunches, feelings, and intuition fall into this category. Third, some ideas fall in-between these groups in that we have a partial awareness of their basis.
He then makes the crucial point that there is no reason to think an idea is authoritative simply because it is nondiscursive (76). Just as modern preaching is only authoritative insofar as it is derived from biblical truth, so also modern nondiscursive extraordinary events (like visions and prophecies, or less vivid impressions and hunches) are authoritative only insofar as they repeat and apply what is already in the biblical text (78; see esp. 79.7).
So far Poythress has been focusing on the process by which an idea comes about. He now moves on to make his final distinction, which concerns “content rather than process.” There are three distinctions here: attempts to say what the Bible teaches, called teaching content; attempts to speak about circumstances, called circumstantial content; and a combination of the two, called applicatory content. A biblical example of all three is 2 Chr 25:3-4, where Amaziah applies Deut 24:16. In this vein, we need to remember that all knowledge, whether about everyday life or recorded in Scripture, is ultimately from the Lord (Prov 2:6).
All of this is brought together in the following way. The controversial gifts (prophecy, word of knowledge, tongues, etc.) are nondiscursive. As discussed earlier, this does not therefore make them divinely authoritative. But neither does it make them useless. If teaching content is involved, arising nondiscursively, it is to be believed if it is biblical, and disbelieved if it is not (84). With circumstantial content, the level of authority is the same whether it is gained through discursive means (a telephone call) or nondiscursive (an impression). Information received in a telephone call can be in error, and so can information received nondiscursively; conversely, both may also be true.
Some may think that God is more involved in nondiscursive processes; but that doesn’t make such processes infallible. It is wrong “to confuse involvement of God with full divine authority in the product” (86). For example, God is involved in making the grass grow (Ps 104:14), but “growing grass is not inspired.” God is involved in the information gained from a friend through a phone call, but that doesn’t make it inspired and infallible. Likewise, God is often involved when information is gained nondiscursively, but that doesn’t make the nondiscursive information any more infallible or authoritative than a telephone call.
How can we judge the accuracy of nondiscursive circumstantial content? If we cannot directly check out the facts, we judge the content the same way we would a long distance telephone call from a friend. Although the friend is to far away for us to seek immediate confirmation, we can ask ourselves if our friend is generally reliable, if we are hearing him clearly, and so forth. So also if one’s nondiscursive processes have generally checked out, there is a greater reason to believe them.
After specifically discussing within this framework predictions and instances involving commands, Poythress then explains how this understanding allows us to welcome extraordinary spiritual gifts without being slavishly obedient to them. He argues that the best exponent for the continuance of the gifts (Grudem) and for their cessation (Gaffin) actually are at the same place in substance since Grudem agrees that modern day gifts are not divinely authoritative, and Gaffin agrees that God can work through nondiscursive means. The main difference is simply whether the prophecy of today is that which Paul discussed in 1 Cor 12-14, or whether it is a “fallible analogue.” The other difference is that Gaffin needs to integrate more fully these modern phenomena into his theology of gifts, and Grudem needs to be more clear about the status of prophecy. But these are only practical adjustments; the substance is the same. Finally, Poythress concludes by giving accounts of extraordinary events throughout history (post-biblical times) to prove that his conclusions are not novel (94-101).
In sum, Poythress has sought to provide us with a framework that affirms the work of God in modern day nondiscursive events while still upholding the sufficiency and finality of Scripture.
Poythress, Vern S. “Modern Spiritual Gifts Analogous to Apostolic Gifts: Affirming Extraordinary Works of the Spirit Within Cessationist Theology.” Journal of the Evangelical Theological Society 39/1 (March 1996): 71-101.
From Marvin Olasky; goes right to the core of good writing:
Here’s slightly overstated advice from George Orwell, and if you follow it 99 percent of the time you can find the joy of exceptions: “Never use a metaphor, simile, or other figure of speech which you are used to seeing in print. Never use a long word where a short word will do. If it is possible to cut a word out, always cut it out. Never use the passive where you can use the active.” (Essayist Sheridan Baker noted similarly, “Never use a long word when you can find a short one…. Pick up every sentence in turn, asking ourselves if we can possibly make it shorter.”)