Having just seen the Bob Dylan film I’m Not There and reading John Wimber’s Power Evangelism, Bob Dylan and John Wimber have been on my mind a lot this week. So it was interesting to find a very interesting comment on Wimber in an article about Bob Dylan.
I was looking up Bob Dylan’s faith journey and I came across this interesting article by Darren Hirst. It discusses Bob Dylan’s Christianity in the context of his music. But it starts with this passing comment:
The argument went something like this – if people see marvellous works of God then they would be persuaded of the validity of the Gospel and accept Christ. Leaving aside troubling comments of Christ that suggested it was an adulterous generation that looked for a sign and that people would not be persuaded even if someone was raised from the dead, whatever the weaknesses of the theology and the theory of the Church, the Vineyard movement would make a lasting impression on the Church for the next two decades, until the passing of Wimber, its most persuasive advocate.
Hirst is astute; I think this is one of the strongest objections to the idea of power evangelism. He’s referring to Mark 8:11-12 and parallels (Matthew seems to repeat it with variations 12:38-42 and 16:1-5):
The Pharisees came and began to argue with him, asking him for a sign from heaven, to test him. And he sighed deeply in his spirit and said, “Why does this generation ask for a sign? Truly I tell you, no sign will be given to this generation.”
Maybe Hirst is correct. But I want to find out whether generation is the best translation of the Greek, genea. Was Jesus addressing all the people alive at that time, or could he have been just addressing the Pharisees? These Pharisees had hardened hearts and weren’t approaching him with the faith and receptivity that he required. Their demand for a sign is very different to the genuine seeker who sees a demonstration of power and puts his trust in Jesus.
Whether or not it’s good to seek after signs, God provided them often in the ministry of Jesus and the apostles. I suspect that Jesus wasn’t denying the importance of healing and other miracles, and that Wimber’s main argument stands – just with a big warning attached to it that we don’t demand signs in the way the Pharisees were demanding signs.