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Signs & Wonders – Part 4

posted Mar 28, 2017, 10:51 AM by First Baptist

In this series, I’ve been describing the 4 views (or “schools of thought”) within Christiandom on the subject of signs & wonders.


It came up during our Q&A last Sunday, so let me share again my definition of a sign & wonder:


Signs & wonders are miracles through a human agent, usually in response to their praying (or even their declaring), for the purpose of demonstrating to unbelievers God’s presence, character & omnipotence.



Views Considered So Far


Cessationist view: God still performs miracles, but the ability of human beings to perform signs & wonders ended with the apostles.


Pentecostal/Charismatic view: The ability to perform signs & wonders is a continuing gift to the Church and is not merely for the purpose of enhancing the Church’s witness, but also for encouraging believers in their faith (primarily through the healing of their diseases & illnesses).



The Third Wave View


The Third Wave view emerged in the 1980s. Its main proponent was C. Peter Wagner, who at the time, was a professor of missions at the Fuller School of World Missions in California. In 1988, he wrote a book entitled The Third Wave of the Holy Spirit.


Wagner believes that the rise of Pentecostalism in the early 1900s was the first wave. The second wave was the Charismatic movement that began in the 1960s. This was quickly followed by the third wave that continues to the present.


What Wagner observed, as he traveled around the world in the early 1980s, was that signs & wonders were fairly commonplace in non-Western cultures. This was especially true when the Gospel was being taken into new areas.


The Third Wave view encompasses two main ideas:


1.      The signs & wonders present in Jesus’ ministry (and in the apostles) are to be regarded as normative. In other words, just like Jesus (and the apostles) our witnessing today should be accompanied by signs & wonders. Simple proclamation is not enough.

2.      The reason signs & wonders have been relatively uncommon in Western cultures is because Christians in these cultures, especially here in America, have largely adopted a rationalist worldview and are prejudiced against the supernatural. The argument is that our theology has been determined by our worldview, and not the other way around.


The third wave view has received a ton of criticism. Among the main criticisms:


1.      The so-called signs & wonders have shown a tendency to devolve into bizarre spectacles, such as uncontrolled laughter, shaking, falling down, etc.

2.      Fascination with power seems to replace serious interest in the actual content of the gospel.


Obviously, we will need careful discernment as we consider the manner of our witnessing for Christ in Harlan and beyond.


Next week: The open but cautious view.



Pastor Dan