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Doran Addresses the Question of Unique Empowering for Ministry

DoranLast week we had a profitable discussion regarding the possibility of being uniquely enabled of the Spirit for ministry, especially preaching. The discussion was prompted by Dr. Kevin Bauder’s excellent article on “the power of God.” I appreciated interacting with professors and pastors who out-think me by a long shot. Dr. Doran chimed in very briefly, suggesting that we not throw out the baby with the bathwater in our rejection of the careless pneumatology that is so pervasive in our day, even within fundamentalism. He wasn’t able to discuss the issue further, but he did point me to an article he wrote on the topic for DBTS’s journal. The article is entitled “The Role of the Holy Spirit in Preaching.”

Dr. Doran offers quotations that reflect the teaching of several respected preachers from recent history: Spurgeon, R.A. Torrey, D. Martin Lloyd-Jones. All of them spoke of and longed for some unique empowering of the Spirit, often appealing to I Corinthians 2:1-5 to describe it. All of them erred in speaking of this enabling in imprecise ways, and even in opening the door to direct communication from God. We may very well take exception–we should take exception–with the imprecision of their language (“unction,” “baptism,” “anointing,” etc.). On the other hand, we should consider whether they were correct in describing and longing for a unique enabling of the Spirit for their pulpit ministries. In other words, we may reject their exegesis without necessarily rejecting the idea of enabling of which they spoke. I believe that Dr. Doran does just that.

Dr. Doran critiques these good men (and the countless others they have influenced) for the imprecise way in which they used biblical language relating to the Holy Spirit’s ministry:

“The most basic issue relates to defining the Spirit’s empowering work, that is, what should this work be properly called? It is my contention that it is improper to describe it in terms of the baptism with the Spirit, anointing, or unction as they are defined biblically. By using these terms in a manner which is not consistent with the biblical usage, this position creates confusion, improperly restricts to a few what God has given to all believers, blurs the distinction between the effects of Spirit baptism and genuine empowering, and dangerously opens the door to ffresh communications from God.” (p. 116)

Yet, although he points out the dangers of an imprecise understanding of the Holy Spirit’s working as described by these men, Dr. Doran clearly allows for a special enabling of the Spirit for pulpit ministry:

“Modern excesses regarding ‘power’ have rightly brought forth strong criticisms, but we cannot allow ourselves to react in such a way as to ignore or minimize the New Testament emphasis on powerful ministry of the Spirit through the preaching of the Word (1 Cor 2:1–5; 1 Thess 1:5). In fact, Paul’s great encouragement to press on in the face of tremendous trials and troubles was that God had given him a ‘ministry of the Spirit’ (2 Cor 3:8, 12).” (p. 104)

“It is quite possible that some contemporary fundamentalists have allowed wrong views and teachings regarding the nature of the Spirit’s work to dull in them a hunger for dynamic ministry through the power of the Spirit.” (pp. 104-105)

“The clear implication of the New Testament is that we can actually minister without the power of God. Paul could have preached at Corinth in such a way that it was not in demonstration of the Spirit and power (cf. 1 Cor 2:4), or he could have ministered at Thessalonica “in word only” (1 Thess 1:5; cf. 1 Cor 4:19–20).” (p. 105)

Here is Dr. Doran’s concluding paragraph (though you really should read the whole article):

“Given these criticisms of the popular usage of the phrases ‘baptism with the Spirit,’ ‘anointing/anointed,’ and ‘unction of the Spirit,’ I do not believe that we should perpetuate their usage in our discussions of preaching. Also, it would be best that prayer for preaching should not invoke these ideas (e.g., ‘anoint your preacher’) and discussion of the giftedness or fruitfulness of preachers would be better served without these images (e.g., ‘he is an anointed preacher’). This does not in any way minimize the desire that so often prompts the unbiblical use of these terms and images. My contention is that one may have a very intense desire for the Spirit’s work in preaching without mudding the theological waters through inaccurate use of terms. In fact, the quest toward the noble goal of Spirit-empowered preaching will be aided by the elimination of unneeded confusion and improved concentration on the true access to that power.”

In other words, Dr. Doran throws out the bathwater of theological imprecision, but he keeps the baby safe in the nursery. Good stuff. Give it a read.

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6 Responses

  1. I think having read Bauder’s previous article and the discussion that followed here and elsewhere, and now Doran’s, I must disagree with your conclusion. It seems to me that these men (and you) are indeed “rejecting the idea of enabling.”

    Before we condemn the men God has used greatly in the past for sloppiness in their language or what we have decided is their flawed doctrine, perhaps we should reconsider if they were on to some truth that we’re missing. The reality is that it is hard to argue that today’s church (I’m talking about the kind of sound, separated, Bible-preaching, non-charismatic, independent Baptist church that I attend too) has the power of God in a way that is making a real impact on the world around us. Turning the world upside down? Hardly. But at least we aren’t talking “carelessly” about the power of the Holy Spirit.

  2. […] reject their exegesis without necessarily rejecting the idea of enabling of which they spoke.” See here.Posted on 6 Feb, 2007Permalink | Comments”Programme to Destroy the Christian Religion in Burma” […]

  3. Does Doran admit to the varied uses of the words baptism and annointing in Scripture?
    For example, Paul referred to walking under God’s cloud and walking through the Red Sea as baptism: “I would not that ye should be ignorant, how that all our fathers were under the cloud, and all passed through the sea; And were all baptized unto Moses in the cloud and in the sea” (1 Corinthians 10:1-2). And, annointing seems to be used very broadly in Scripture too.

    Perhaps due to certain groups coopting these words for specific things that are unbiblical, we will be forced to limit our use of the words to avoid being misunderstood. Nevertheless, it does not seem to be inappropriate or inacurate to use the words themselves in a variety of ways — including poetic or metaphoric ways.

  4. Reflecting on this discussion, I think there are ditches on both sides. There can be a pompous display of theatrics and “pulpiteering” which gives the impression of “the power of God” (and I’ve seen enough of that in my short lifetime). But there can also be a pompous display of scholarship that assumes that accurate exegesis is the absolute goal of preaching, almost denying the need for a supernatural work of God. That’s why I appreciated Dr. Doran’s desire for theological accuracy that still allows for and desires a unique working of God through the preached Word.

    After all this discussion, I found myself headed for the pulpit Sunday morning praying, “Lord, help me. Help me communicate with more accuracy, clarity and influence than I ever could on my own.” I wouldn’t call it baptism or anointing or even unction. And I certainly didn’t congratulate myself for having “the power of God” as I preached. But I do believe that there is a desperate for God’s Spirit to both assist the preacher and illuminate the hearer.

  5. I won’t be able to dive into a full discussion, but wanted to just make one comment that I believe helps show that there isn’t a basic disagreement between my view and what Dr. Bauder wrote (or so I think).

    My view would be that we do have the power as described by Dr. Bauder, so it is wrong for men to carry on as he described in his article. That is, they seem to make the claim that God has bestowed something on them that He has not on others. This was one of my points in the journal article–all believers have received Spirit baptism and the anointing, so it is biblically incorrect to speak as if these are gifts given post-conversion and only to a select few.

    Yet, my understanding of these matters is that we do always enjoy the full benefits and experience all that we have been given. This can even be said about the indwelling of Christ (cf. Eph 3:17). Sure, we have power because we have the gospel and the Spirit, but are we experiencing the fullness of that power? To put in form of a play on words, we have the reality, but are we realizing it in our lives and ministries?

    I find myself consistently drawn to the pre-Keswick understanding of this as a better explanation of what used to be called experimental Christianity (i.e., Christianiy that affected one’s experience). Surprisingly, it really is a Keswick concept that you simply accept something “by faith” without experiencing it. I grow evermore convinced that the biblical pattern is genuine spiritual experience without surrendering to experientialism. And the NT provides ample evidence that this is a delicate balance that is difficult to maintain. My thought is that we’d do well to try it anyway.

  6. One correction for clarity…the first line of the third paragraph is missing a “not” (“we do not always enjoy…”). Sorry about that.

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