I really appreciated Driscoll’s take on spiritual gifts, particularly those that seem a bit more unusual or more miraculous than others. Driscoll notes that in the early days of the church, there were at least a few occasions where he believes demons were attacking the church plant. He recounts a few close calls in church where he had to do some fast thinking and preaching on his feet to deal with people apparently sent from the enemy or possessed by one of his spirits. Likewise, Driscoll talks about a number of strangely vivid dreams that were apparently prophetic in nature, and on at least one occasion the Spirit leading him to a woman whom he had never met before who was being abused by her boyfriend.
There were several things impressive and refreshing about Driscoll’s take on this stuff. First, he isn’t sensational at all. He comes off as the first skeptic, and because he’s skeptical of his own take on this kind of stuff, he readily gets advice, feedback and accountability from his fellow elders, pastors, and wife. Secondly, he says he grew up in the Roman Catholic church and was converted in college, and has never really been a “pentecostal” sort. He wasn’t out looking for something weird or supernatural, but in the last analysis concludes that these gifts are given by God to various people at various times in His Church and they should be received and used. So obviously, as he notes, he isn’t a “cessationist” although he is clear that he believes that the Bible is the final authority on everything, the canon is closed, and that these gifts should be exercised within and under the accountability of godly elders and friends.
When I was ordained and when I was interviewed for pastoral ministry at Trinity, I registered my stance on “cessationism” as strongly qualified. While I recognized that certain manifestations of miraculous gifts were unique to the first generation of apostles (writing the New Testament, for example, and perhaps some of the healing and prophetic gifts to confirm their authority to do so), I nevertheless was and continue to be uncomfortable insisting that all miraculous gifts have ceased from the Church. Church history is just too plum full of odd stories and miraculous interventions. Just read a missionary biography for instance. Lastly, this isn’t a central theme of the book by any stretch, but just as it assumes a subtle but authentic role in Driscoll’s story, it apparently remains a subtle but significant part of life at Mars Hill. And there’s something about that subtlety that seems, again, refreshing and biblical. The error of the “pentecostals” is to make these sign gifts the center of Christian life and experience, but the error of cessationists is to reject them entirely and pretend they don’t exist. We need a biblical balance between these two extremes.
People have and do abuse and misuse the gifts of the Spirit, and others lie and oppress and divide the body through gimmicks and shows. But this doesn’t mean that God isn’t free to do what He wants. He isn’t bound by our tidy little theological boxes. But the standard is always love, and this means that love sees the dangers and potential challenges of strange and miraculous interventions and love sees how and when to receive the gifts of God for the blessing of His Church. And because the love of Christ is always manifested in love for His Bride, authentic spiritual gifts will always delight in real accountability and submission to pastors and elders and the communion of the saints. People who view miraculous gifts as a license to disregard godly elders have already proven their gifts to be a sham.