18 January, 2006

Waiting for the plane

Catherine Seipp wrote a cool piece on Richard Feynman. It's kind of a grab bag about him, but one of his stories really caught my eye.

“Cargo Cult Science.” The title comes, as Feynman explains, from primitive people in the South Seas who’d experienced airplanes landing with useful things during World War II and wanted this to happen again.
For years afterward, they would station a man in a wooden hut next to an abandoned runway, with wooden pieces on his ears like headphones and bamboo sticking out like an antenna. But even though he looked just like an air-traffic controller, and fires burned as guide lights just like they did before, still no planes came.

Here is the crux of the Cessationism debate, in my opinion.

God once did amazing miracles. He does not any more - at least not in my town, and in none of the towns in which I have ever lived. We read about them, but they are not happening here. I grew up Assemblies of God, so I know ALL ABOUT how God's miracles are happening now. Sorry, but they are only happening for the truly deluded.

On the other hand, I have heard about ongoing miracles in third world nations from people who have seen them, and for whom I have deep trust. I believe that *name deleted*'s stories are 100% true, because I have verified that he is a man of honesty and discernment.

To be clear, I believe God still does amazing miracles for people in other cultures. I am not a cessationist, and don't believe that scripture will support cessationism. I am, however, an American cessationist by degrees. God is not performing amazing miracles in America. He is still interacting with His people directly, but not by growing their feet or curing cancer dramatically.

Which brings me back to Feynman's story.

I believe that American charismatics are standing by a runway with a tiki torch, trying to lure God to bring back the airplanes. The point they are missing is that those airplanes came for reasons, specifically reasons of war. The war is over for those islands, and the war is over for America. The church is established here, and now she endures by other means than the dramatic miracle.

As in Iraq, once the battle was over Shock and Awe was put away, never to be heard from again. Now the Iraqis are working toward normalcy. America is in the same position, as is all of the Christian West. There is still a battle with the insurgency, but these are not the days when anyone's handkerchief is going to heal everyone whose shadow it touches.

Of course, as we drift back toward the darkness of atheism, maybe we will give God reason to bring out the heavy artillery again, but we should take care what we ask for!

No comments: