We are all affected by our church traditions and cultures. Depending on our denominational or church backgrounds, we will have different concepts of acim. This is inevitable because we do not all study the bible by ourselves. Most of the time, we depend upon our elders, bible teachers and godly leaders to show us what the bible says. We make the assumption that they are more knowledgeable than we are and so we simply trust what they have taught.
Our church traditions have their positive aspects but some of these are producing negative results. Therefore, it is not whether my church tradition is better than yours or vice versa. The key is to find out which aspects of our traditions are in line with what the bible actually teaches and which are not. It is dangerous to simply take things for granted.
Through The Elijah Challenge ministry, we have taught many nameless and faceless believers from both the mainline evangelical and Pentecostal / Charismatic churches. We thank God that many of these mainline evangelical churches are receptive to divine healing and the practice of healing the sick.
There are some churches that believe miracles have already ceased and therefore they cannot happen today. Through their teachings, essays and books, quite a number of these church leaders have buried divine healings and miracles in the grave of cessation. In spite of many modern evidences of healing miracles they try to justify their belief by rejecting all these as counterfeits.
The cessation theory expounded by Benjamin B. Warfield, a professor at Princeton Seminary from 1887 to 1921, continues to affect many churches. Echoing Warfield, these Christians claim that God only allow extensive miracles in three periods of history, namely from the time of Moses to Joshua, Elijah and Elisha. The third period was from the time of Jesus to the Apostles. The final time when miracles will become rampant would be the time of the Antichrist and the great Tribulation.
The churches that adhere to the professor’s assumptions and arguments ultimately put on theological blinders – God will no longer perform any miracles outside these periods. According to them, all the claims of healing miracles in the Pentecostal and Charismatic movements are therefore either fakes or false miracles.
Like many of the modern cessationists, Warfield was not anti-supernatural. He believed that all the supernatural activities found in the bible were true. However, he strongly believed that all the biblical spiritual gifts and miracles had ceased since the time of the Apostles. Signs and wonders cannot occur in our era simply because God apparently has no reason to make them happen.
I studied an 18-page transcript of a class lesson taught by a popular proponent of cessationism. This famous bible teacher begins with the story of Hobart Edward Freeman, a professor of Hebrew, Old Testament Studies, Philosophy and Ethics, who was later influenced by the Word of Faith movement. Freeman subsequently became very extreme in his teaching on healing and created storms of controversy by disparaging medical institutions, doctors and medicine. His faith-formula theology has caused him to teach that God is obligated to heal every disease and infirmity if the believer were to response in genuine faith. He believed that if anyone who claimed healing and still continued to take medicine, the person would not be expressing his faith with matching action.
Later, Freeman was charged by the government for ‘negligent homicide’ when some members of his congregation died due to the lack of medical care. Women were told to give birth at home, assisted by midwives, approved by Freeman’s church. Dead babies were prayed to be resurrected at the altar. Apparently, about 90 parishioners died during Freeman’s tenure. Two weeks prior to his appearance in court, Freeman passed away.