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Proclaiming the Gospel with Miraculous Gifts in the Postbiblical Early Church

Perhaps the most impressive aspect of Basil’s charismatic life and outreach was the combining of preaching and teaching with care. He created an entire community, called “New Town”—later referred to as the Basilead—to deal with social needs, including those of widows, orphans, lepers, the poor, and even travelers.13 In the process, he guided others into the role of pneumatophor—those led by the Spirit to give of themselves, rather than to be self-seeking.

Basil understood that the vibrant Christian was a “pneumatophor”—an active receptacle, carrier and distributor of the Holy Spirit and of spiritual gifts.


Augustine of Hippo (354-430): Miracles Accompanying Sermons

Without doubt, Augustine stands as the most influential Church Father in the West. He is responsible for crystallizing much of Western theology, including the traditional Western view of the Holy Spirit’s person and work.14

What most theologians and Church historians do not recognize in Augustine is the dynamic of his ministry and his recognition of the place of the miraculous in successful ministry. While some scholars argue that he was skeptical of the charismata in his early career, by the time he wrote the City of God (413-26) miracles were a part of his own experience. In this work he reports, “Even now . . . many miracles are wrought, the same God who wrought those we read of still performing them, by whom He will and as He will. . . .”15 Again, he declares that “We cannot listen to those who maintain that the invisible God works no visible miracles . . . God, who made the visible heaven and earth, does not disdain to work visible miracles in heaven or earth, that he may thereby awaken the soul which is immersed in things visible to worship him, the invisible.”16

Augustine gives several examples, including a Cappadocian brother and sister, Paulus and Palladia, who were widely known for their horrible cases of palsy. They wandered into Hippo one Spring, and attended church, where they were prayed for. On Easter morning, when the largest crowd of the year had gathered, Paulus was praying in the church, when suddenly his shaking ceased. Those around recognized what had happened, and soon the whole church was filled with the voices of those who were shouting praises to God. Augustine then ministered to the people, mediating the eloquence of God’s work among them.

They shouted God’s praises without words, but with such a noise that our ears could scarcely bear it.

— Augustine of Hippo

At the end of the service, there were more shouts, for the palsied sister, Palladia, who had been trembling at the back of the church, suddenly found herself totally healed. At this point, Augustine reports, “Such a shout of wonder rose from men and women together, that the exclamations and the tears seemed like never to come to an end . . . they shouted God’s praises without words, but with such a noise that our ears could scarcely bear it.”17

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Category: Church History, Summer 2008

About the Author: Stanley M. Burgess received a BA and MA from the University of Michigan and a PhD from the University of Missouri-Columbia. He has taught history for 57 years and was Distinguished Professor of Christian History, Regent University, Virginia Beach, Virginia (2004–2011). He has written numerous scholarly articles on church history and the history of Christianity as well as several books, including The Spirit and the Church: Antiquity (Hendrickson), The Holy Spirit: Eastern Christian Traditions (Hendrickson), and The Holy Spirit: Medieval Roman Catholic and Reformation Traditions (Hendrickson), a documentary history of the Christian Peoples of the Spirit: A Documentary History of Pentecostal Spirituality from the Early Church to the Present (New York University Press, 2011), and was co-editor of the Wiley-Blackwell Companion to Religion and Social Justice (Oxford, 2012).

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