Signs and Wonders is a phrase referring to experiences that are perceived to be miraculous as being normative in the modern Christian experience, and is a phrase associated with groups that are a part of modern charismatic movements and pentecostalism. This phrase is seen multiple times throughout the Christian Bible to describe the activities of the early church, and is historically recorded as continuing, at least in practice, since the time of Christ. The phrase is primarily derived from old and new testament references, and is now used in the Christian and mainstream press, and in scholarly religious discourse to communicate a strong emphasis on recognizing perceived manifestations of the Holy Spirit—the third person, with God the Father and God the Son, of the Christian Trinity—in the contemporary lives of Christian believers; as well, it communicates a focus on the expectation that divine action would be experienced in the individual and corporate life of the modern Christian church, and a further insistence that followers actively seek the "gifts of the Spirit". A further major emphasis of belief in signs and wonders is that the message of the Christian "good news" is communicated more effectively to those who do not believe it if accompanied by such supernatural manifestations of the Holy Spirit, including such signs and wonders as miraculous healings and modern prophetic proclamations.
The origin of the title phrase within the Christian Bible is in Exodus 7:3, which describes God's actions to free the Israelites from being enslaved in Egypt. This phrase is used a total of 31 times in the Christian Bible and it became popular again in modern history around the time of the Azusa Street Revival when attendees claimed miraculous and supernatural events had happened.
Controversy stirred by John Wimber’s teachings on signs and wonders brought on a wave of critical responses, a wave referred to as the "fourth wave of the Holy Spirit,"
although some have argued that it was less a wave than an "orthogonal ripple". The most persistent criticism focuses on the claim that effective evangelism cannot properly be exercised without the accompanying miraculous work. Such a situation, it was argued , added to the Gospel message and ultimately distorted its message from being one of salvation to being one of experiencing God's blessings now. While many critics did not deny that God could perform the miraculous, they also claimed that it was a fallacy to assume that miracles could be expected—as though God could be "forced" to act as it were.
Entering into the dialogue were J. Woodhouse, K. L. Sarles, K. M. Bond, and D. H. Shepherd, Later in the 1990s, the discussion was taken up by R. E. Jackson (addressing skeptics), and D. Williams.
Defense and reflection
The ongoing theological reflection accompanying the signs and wonders movement was evidenced by Fuller Theological Seminary’s 1988 Symposium on Power Evangelism and C. Peter Wagner's book titled The Third Wave of the Holy Spirit. The study of the missiological implications of signs and wonders would continue on into the turn of the century E. B. Dennis confronted the long-standing objections of cessationists with his thesis entitled, The Duration of the Charismata, in 1989. The broader debate over the signs and wonders movement and the present-day function of the manifestation gifts would continue on into the 1990s.
References and notes
- ^ Hyatt, Eddie. 2000 Years Of Charismatic Christianity: A 21st century look at church history from a pentecostal/charismatic prospective. Charisma House, 2002
- ^ Millard J. Erickson (1992). Introducing Christian Doctrine. Baker Book House. p. 103.
- ^ T C Hammond, Revised and edited by David F Wright (1968). In Understanding be Men:A Handbook of Christian Doctrine (sixth ed.). Inter-Varsity Press. pp. 54–56 and 128–131.
- ^ Grudem, Wayne A. 1994. Systematic Theology: An Introduction to Biblical Doctrine. Leicester, England: Inter-Varsity Press; Grand Rapids, MI: Zondervan. page 226.
- ^ CT Editorial Board (February 9, 1998). "Editorial: Wimber's Wonders". Christianity Today. Carol Stream, IL: ChristianityToday.org. 42 (2). Retrieved April 3, 2017.
- ^ Welchel, Tommy. True Stories of the Miracles of Azusa Street and Beyond: Re-live One of The Greastest Outpourings in History that is Breaking Loose Once Again. Destiny Image, 2013
- ^ * J. Woodhouse, P. Barnett, et al., Signs & Wonders and Evangelicals: a Response to the Teaching of John Wimber (Homebush West, NSW, Australia: Lancer Books, 1987).
- ^ * K. L. Sarles, An Appraisal of the Signs & Wonders Movement (Dallas, Texas: Bibliotheca Sacra, 1988).
- ^ * K. M. Bond, Signs and Wonders: Perspectives on John Wimber's Vineyard (Langley, British Columbia: Northwest Baptist Theological Seminary, 1990).
- ^ * D. H. Shepherd, A Critical Analysis of Power Evangelism as an Evangelistic Methodology of the Signs and Wonders Movement (Mid-America Baptist Theological Seminary, 1991).
- ^ R. E. Jackson, An Evaluation of the Evangelistic Emphasis of the North American Power Evangelism Movement, 1977-1997 (Southern Baptist Theological Seminary, 1999).
- ^ D. Williams, Signs, Wonders, and the Kingdom of God: A Biblical Guide for the Reluctant Skeptic (Ann Arbor, Michigan: Vine Books, 1989).
- ^ * Papers Presented at the Symposium on Power Evangelism (Pasadena, California: Fuller Theological Seminary, 1988).
- ^ * C. Peter Wagner, The Third Wave of the Holy Spirit: Encountering the Power of Signs and Wonders Today (Ann Arbor: Servant Publications Vine Books, 1988).
- ^ T. O. Kettenring, The Impact on Confidence for Personal Witnessing through Exposure to Power Evangelism (Denver, Colorado: Denver Seminary, 2000).
- ^ J. Lee, Power Evangelism in the Third Wave Movement and Its Implications for Contemporary Church Growth (Southwestern Baptist Theological Seminary, 2000).
- ^ E. B. Dennis, The Duration of the Charismata: An Exegetical and Theological Study of 1 Corinthians 13:10 (Virginia Beach, VA: CBN University, 1989).
- ^ D. T. Tharp, Signs and Wonders in the Twentieth Century Evangelical Church: Corinth Revisited (Ashland, OH: Ashland Theological Seminary, 1992).
- ^ J. A. Algera, Signs and Wonders of God's Kingdom (Philadelphia, PA: Westminster Theological Seminary, 1993).
- ^ Jon M. Ruthven, On the Cessation of Charismata : The Protestant Polemic on Postbiblical Miracles (Sheffield: Sheffield Academic Press, 1993).
- ^ J. I. Packer, G. S. Greig, et al., The Kingdom and the Power: Are Healing and the Spiritual Gifts Used by Jesus and the Early Church Meant for the Church Today?: a Biblical Look at How to Bring the Gospel to the World with Power (Ventura, California: Regal Books, 1993).
- Stanley M. Burgess, ed., The New International Dictionary of Pentecostal and Charismatic Movements (Grand Rapids, Michigan: Zondervan, 2002), pages 702 and 1200.
- Christian Life Magazine and C. P. Wagner, Signs and Wonders Today (Wheaton, Illinois: Christian Life Magazine, 1983).
- G. R. Geyer, Empowerment of the Laity with the Charismata for Renewal in a Traditional Congregation (Rochester, New York: Crozer Theological Seminary, 1983).
- John Wimber, A Brief Sketch of Signs and Wonders through the Church Age (Placentia, California: Vineyard Christian Fellowship, 1984).
- John Wimber, Signs and Wonders and Church Growth (Placentia, California: Vineyard Ministries International, 1984).
- Trevor Martin, Kingdom Healing (London: Marshalls, 1981).
- S. S. Schatzmann, The Pauline Concept of Charismata in the Light of Recent Critical Literature (Fort Worth, Texas: Southwestern Baptist Theological Seminary, 1981). This work would later be released as A Pauline Theology of Charismata (Peabody, Massachusetts: Hendrickson Publishers, 1987).
- Society for Pentecostal Studies, Gifts of the Spirit: Papers Presented at the 12th Annual Meeting of the Society for Pentecostal Studies, November 18–20, 1982 (Pasadena, California: Fuller Theological Seminary, 1982).
- Jack Deere, Surprised by the Power of the Spirit (Eastbourne: Kingsway Publications, 1993).
- Jack Deere, Surprised by the Voice of God (Grand Rapids, Michigan: Zondervan, 1996).