another quote

This comes from Kenneth Berding’s incisive (and occasionally comical) critique of how ‘charisma(ta)‘ is understood both in NT scholarship and lay theology. The gist of his argument: stop using charisma(ta)-language as a technical term for ‘(spiritual) gifts’–i.e. special abilities or talents–because such a technical usage is not supported by the biblical texts. Berding concludes his article with this little gem:

“But what will I teach my Spiritual Gifts Class (or congregation, or college students, or seminarians)?” You can begin by teaching that the word [charisma] does not inherently mean Spirit-given ability. [Charisma], as with any other word, needs to be defined in such a way that it fits appropriately with the passage in which is found. Teach that [charisma] generally means a concrete way that God expresses grace but can be defined more narrowly if the context suggests it. You can teach that Paul’s list-passages discuss ministries rather than abilities (though God gives general spiritual enablement to every spiritual task). You can teach that the items listed by Paul (teaching, prophecy, adminstration, exhortation, tongues, etc) are in fact ministries (large and small) given by God to members of the Christian community to build that community up in Christ. You can teach your class to get involved in minsitry and not wait around until they have figured out what special abilities they do or do not have. You can tell them to dispense with their “spiritual gifts tests.” You can stop using the word “gift” and talk about ministries instead. And after you have done all of these, you might consider cancelling your Spiritual Gifts Class altogether and start another called “Ministering to One Another.”

 –K. Berding, “Confusing Word and Concept in ‘Spiritual Gifts’: Have We Forgotten James Barr’s Exhortations?” JETS 43.1 (2000): 50-51

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