27 April 2005

Faith and Gifts

In most Judeo-Christian belief systems there is this concept of Spiritual Gifts. In a nutshell it is that through the Holy Spirit, God gives us "gifts". These gifts are abilities that come from Him, to do His work, and bless His people. For many this is dangerously close to that whole supernatural side of faith we so studiously avoid. Although it's not the easiest subject I wanted to get down some of my thoughts. If I have to take some lumps for broaching the taboo, so be it. In fact, my dad is probably going to have some choice words if and when he reads this particular post. He has been very influential in how I've constructed my own world view and he's usually quick to point out when I've left the beaten path. ;-)

Just what are these gifts? Well, let's start with Romans 12 which has a list of what are commonly referred to as "motivational" gifts. These are abilities which augment or assist our specific functions in the body of believers. These gifts are prophecy, ministry (read: serving or helping), teaching, encouraging, giving, leadership and mercy.

Another list of gifts can be found in I Corinthians 12:4-11. This list, in context, appears to be a list of abilities the Spirit may give to anyone in the body of believers specifically to meet the needs of an occasion. It would seem these are not abilities which permanently characterize the person exercising them, but are more situational in nature. This list includes words of wisdom, words of knowledge, faith, healing, miracles, prophecy, discerning of spirits, speaking in tongues and interpreting tongues.

Later on in I Corinthians 12:27-28 we see an amalgam of both lists which can be taken to mean that there are people whose life is regularly characterized by the use of some combination of these gifts. It also implies that there is some overlap among the gifting and that a range of gifts is possible.

There are a couple of common stances on these gifts, aside from open acceptance. Firstly there is outright denial. This is usually focused on certain gifts, typically those involving God directly communicating with or intervening in the physical world. The argument is often presented that these gifts were only given to the apostles for the sole purpose of authenticating their message. Without the apostles, there gifts are no longer needed. This would belie a common assumption which is that God never gives us by supernatural means any more than the minimum that fulfilling His work absolutely requires.

Needless to say, I find the idea that God is stingy with His power to be illogical and absurd. Regardless of whether this is an active or passive assumption I find any attempt to box God to be mostly futile and conversely is an active way to turn believers from faith.

Another stance on these gifts is to limit their applicability. Typically this involves restricting their exercise to specific worship services or formal gatherings. There are numerous examples of their use in the streets so obviously limiting their use is also inappropriate.

There are of course other ways we limit and restrict the acceptance, and therefore exercise, of Spiritual Gifts and my goal is not to debunk them all. My aim was to address what I've recently felt where the most common of these limiting beliefs. In many ways, faith is like the force. If you don't believe in it, you can't use it. I believe our spiritual gifts are similar in behaviour. If we want to use them as we have been called to do, then we must accept them, and exercise them diligently.

Over my next several posts, I'll wander in and out of this subject. If there is a particular subject on which you'd like to hear more, please feel free to drop me a note. Sometimes it's nice to be able to broach a subject I know people want to hear about. You can't always be stirring the bees nest. If you don't stop stirring they get too dizzy and then just have bumbling bees. ;-)

1 comment :

Unknown said...

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