August 11, 2011

What Cessationism Is Not

by Nathan Busenitz

Much ado has been made (both on this blog and elsewhere) about the recent “anti-cessationist” comments of a popular Seattle-based pastor. I don’t desire to enter a war of words, or become embroiled in an online controversy. But I do hope to make a helpful contribution to the conversation.

Over the last few years, I’ve enjoyed investigating the historical record regarding the charismatic gifts, especially the gift of tongues. And I can only hope that the above pastor, and his co-author, will treat the material responsibly in their upcoming work on the subject. (Who knows, maybe they’d be open to a two-views book?)

I would also hope that, in the process of critiquing the cessationist position, the authors do not create a straw man version of cessationism. (I’ll admit that, based on what I’ve read so far, I’m afraid the straw man is already under construction.)

Nonetheless, in an effort to dismantle a fallacious misrepresentation before it is built, I offer the following four clarifications about what cessationism is not:

* * * * *

Cessationism is not anti-supernatural, nor does it deny the possibility of miracles.

When it comes to understanding the cessationist position, the question is notCan God still do miracles in the world today? Cessationists would be quick to acknowledge that God can act at any time in any way He chooses. Along these lines, John MacArthur explains:

Miracles in the Bible [primarily] occurred in three major periods of time.  The time of Moses and Joshua, the time of Elijah and Elisha, and the time of Christ and the apostles.  . . . And it is during those three brief periods of time and those alone that miracles proliferated; that miracles were the norm; that miracles were in abundance. Now God can interject Himself into the human stream supernaturally anytime He wants.  We’re not limiting Him.  We’re simply saying that He has chosen to limit Himself to a great degree to those three periods of time. (Source)

Cessationism then does not deny the reality that God can do whatever He wants whenever He wants (Psalm 115:3). It does not put God into a box or limit His sovereign prerogative.

But it does acknowledge that there was something unique and special about the age of miracles and miracle-workers that defined the ministries of Moses and Joshua, Elijah and Elisha, and Christ and His apostles. Moreover, it recognizes the seemingly obvious fact that those kinds of miracles (like parting the sea, stopping the rain, raising the dead, walking on water, or instantly healing the lame and the blind) are not occurring today.

Thus, cessationists conclude that:

The apostolic age was marvelously unique and it ended.  And what happened then is not the normal thing for every Christian.  The normal thing for every Christian is to study the Word of God, which is able to make us wise and perfect.  [It] is to live by faith and not by sight. (Ibid.)

But can God still do extraordinary things in the world today? Certainly He can, if He chooses to do so. In fact, every time a sinner’s eyes are opened to the gospel, and a new life in Christ is created, it is nothing short of a miracle.

In his helpful book, To Be Continued?, Samuel Waldron aptly expresses the cessationist position this way (on p. 102):

I am not denying by all this that there are miracles in the world today in the broader sense of supernatural occurrences and extraordinary providences. I am only saying that there are no miracles in the stricter sense [of] miracle-workers performing miraculous signs to attest the redemptive revelation they bring from God. Though God has never locked Himself out of His world and is still at liberty to do as He pleases, when He pleases, how He pleases, and where He pleases, He has made it clear that the progress of redemptive revelation attested by miraculous signs done by miracle-workers has been brought to conclusion in the revelation embodied in our New Testaments.

So, the question is not: Can God still do miracles?

Rather, the definitive question is this: Are the miraculous gifts of the New Testament still in operation in the church today–such that what was the norm in the days of Christ and the apostles ought to be expected today?

To that, all cessationists would answer “no.”

* * * * *

Cessationism is not founded on one’s interpretation of “the perfect” in 1 Corinthians 13:10.

For that matter, it seems there are almost as many views of “the perfect” among cessationist scholars as there are commentators who write about 1 Corinthians 13:8–13. Space in this article does not permit a full investigation into each of these, but rather a cursory explanation of the major positions.

 The Different Views

(1) Some (such as F.F. Bruce) argue that love itself is the perfect. Thus when the fullness of love comes, the Corinthians will put away their childish desires.

(2) Some (such as B.B. Warfield) contend that the completed canon of Scripture is the perfect. Scripture is described as “perfect” in James 1:25, a text in which the same word for “mirror” (as in v. 12) is found (in James 1:23). Thus partial revelation is done away when the full revelation of Scripture comes.

(3) Some (such as Robert Thomas) contend that the mature church is the perfect. This view is primarily based on the illustration of verse 11 and on the close connection between this passage and Eph. 4:11–13. The exact timing of the church’s “maturity” is unknown, though it is closely associated with the completion of the canon, and the end of the apostolic era (cf. Eph. 2:20).

(4) Some (such as Thomas Edgar) see the believer’s entrance into the presence of Christ (at the moment of death) as the perfect. This view accounts for the personal aspect of Paul’s statement in verse 12. Paul personally experienced full knowledge when he entered Christ’s presence at his death (cf. 2 Cor. 5:8).

(5) Some (such as Richard Gaffin) see the return of Christ (and the end of this age) as the perfect. This is also the view of most continuationists. Thus, when Christ comes back (as delineated in chapter 15), the partial revelation we know now will be made complete.

(6) Some (such as John MacArthur) view the eternal state (in a general sense) as the perfect. This explanation interprets the neuter of to teleion as a reference to a general state of events and not a personal return of Christ. This view overlaps with both numbers 4 and 5 above in that, according to this view: “For Christians the eternal state begins either at death, when they go to be with the Lord, or at the rapture, when the Lord takes His own to be with Himself” (John MacArthur, First Corinthians, p. 366).

Of these views, I personally find the last three more convincing than the first three. This is primarily due (I will confess) to the testimony of church history. Dr. Gary Shogren, after doing an in-depth study of some 169 patristic references to this passage, concludes that the church fathers overwhelmingly saw the perfect in terms of something beyond this life (most normally associating it with the return of Christ, or with seeing Christ in heaven). Even John Chrysostom (who was clearly a cessationist) saw it this way. While not authoritative, such historical evidence is difficult to dismiss.

In any case, my point here is simply this: The interpreter can take any of the above positions, and still remain a cessationist. In fact, there are cessationists who hold to each of the positions listed above (as the names I’ve listed indicate).

Thus, Anthony Thiselton notes in his commentary on this passage: “The one important point to make here is that few or none of the serious ‘cessationist’ arguments depends on a specific exegesis of 1 Cor 13:8–11. . . .  These verses should not be used as a polemic for either side in this debate” (NIGTC, pp. 1063–64).

* * * * *

Cessationism is not an attack on the Person or work of the Holy Spirit.

In fact, just the opposite is true. Cessationists are motivated by a desire to see the Holy Spirit glorified. They are concerned that, by redefining the gifts, the continuationist position cheapens the remarkable nature of those gifts, lessening the truly miraculous working of the Spirit in the earliest stages of the church.

Cessationists are convinced that, by redefining healing, the charismatic position presents a bad testimony to the watching world when the sick are not healed. By redefining tongues, the charismatic position promotes a type of nonsensical gibberish that runs contrary to anything we know about the biblical gift. By redefining prophecy, the charismatic position lends credence to those who would claim to speak the very words of God and yet speak error.

This, then, is the primary concern of cessationists: that the honor of the Triune God and His Word be exalted—and that it not be cheapened by watered-down substitutes.

And how do we know if something is authentic or not? By comparing it to the written testimony of Scripture. Does going to the Bible to define the gifts mean that we are bypassing the Holy Spirit? Quite the contrary. When we search the Scriptures, we are going to the testimony of the Holy Spirit Himself to discover what He has revealed about the gifts that He bestowed.

As a cessationist, I love the Holy Spirit. I would never want to do anything to discredit His work, diminish His attributes, or downplay His ministry. Nor would I ever want to miss out on anything He is doing in the church today. And I’m not the only cessationist who feels this way.

Because we love the Holy Spirit we are thankful to God for the Spirit’s amazing and ongoing work in the body of Christ. His works of regenerating, indwelling, baptizing, sealing, assuring, illuminating, convicting, comforting, confirming, filling, and enabling are all indispensable aspects of His ministry.

Because we love the Holy Spirit we are motivated to study the Scriptures that He inspired to learn how to walk in a manner worthy, being characterized by His fruit. We long to be filled by Him (Eph. 5:18), which begins by being indwelt with His Word, which is the Word of Christ (Col. 3:16–17), and being equipped with His sword, which is the Word of God (Eph. 6:17).

Finally, it is because we love the Holy Spirit that we long to rightly represent Him, to understand and appreciate His purposes (as He has revealed them in His Word), and to align ourselves with what He is doing in this world. This more than anything else gives us reason to study the issue of charismatic gifts (cf. 1 Cor. 12:7-11). Our goal in this study has to be more than mere doctrinal correctness. Our motivation must be to gain a more accurate understanding of the Spirit’s work—such that we might better yield ourselves to Him in service to Christ for the glory of God.

* * * * *

Cessationism is not a product of the Enlightenment.

Perhaps the easiest way to demonstrate this final point is to cite pre-Enlightenment Christian leaders who held to a cessationist position. It is, after all, difficult to argue that John Chrysostom’s fourth-century theology was a result of 18th-century European rationalism.

In bringing this blog post to a close then, here are ten leaders from church history to consider:

1. John Chrysostom (c. 344–407):

This whole place [speaking about 1 Corinthians 12] is very obscure: but the obscurity is produced by our ignorance of the facts referred to and by their cessation, being such as then used to occur but now no longer take place.

(Source: John Chrysostom, Homilies on 1 Corinthians, 36.7. Chrysostom is commenting on 1 Cor 12:1–2 and introducing the entire chapter. Cited from 1–2 Corinthians, in the Ancient Christian Commentary Series, 146.)

2. Augustine (354–430):

In the earliest times, the Holy Spirit fell upon them that believe and they spoke with tongues, which they had not learned, as the Spirit gave them utterance. These were signs adapted to the time. For there was this betokening of the Holy Spirit in all tongues [languages] to show that the gospel of God was to run through all tongues over the whole earth. That thing was done for a sign, and it passed away.

(Source: Augustine, Homilies on the First Epistle of John, 6.10. Cf. Schaff, NPNF, First Series, 7:497–98.)

3. Theodoret of Cyrus (c. 393–c. 466):

In former times those who accepted the divine preaching and who were baptized for their salvation were given visible signs of the grace of the Holy Spirit at work in them. Some spoke in tongues which they did not know and which nobody had taught them, while others performed miracles or prophesied. The Corinthians also did these things, but they did not use the gifts as they should have done. They were more interested in showing off than in using them for the edification of the church. . . . Even in our time grace is given to those who are deemed worthy of holy baptism, but it may not take the same form as it did in those days.

(Source: Theodoret of Cyrus, Commentary on the First Epistle to the Corinthians, 240, 43; in reference to 1 Cor 12:1, 7. Cited from 1–2 Corinthians, ACCS, 117).

Note: Proponents of continuationism, like Jon Ruthven (in his work, On the Cessation of the Charismata), also acknowledge cessationist views in other church fathers (like Origen in the 3rd century, and Ambrosiaster in the 4th century).

Additionally, to this list, we could include the most well-known name of the middle ages, the 13th-century scholastic, Thomas Aquinas.

But let’s jump ahead to the Reformation and Puritan eras.

4. Martin Luther (1483–1546)

In the early Church the Holy Spirit was sent forth in visible form. He descended upon Christ in the form of a dove (Matt. 3:16), and in the likeness of fire upon the apostles and other believers. (Acts 2:3.) This visible outpouring of the Holy Spirit was necessary to the establishment of the early Church, as were also the miracles that accompanied the gift of the Holy Ghost. Paul explained the purpose of these miraculous gifts of the Spirit in I Corinthians 14:22, “Tongues are for a sign, not to them that believe, but to them that believe not.” Once the Church had been established and properly advertised by these miracles, the visible appearance of the Holy Ghost ceased.

(Source: Martin Luther, Commentary on Galatians 4, Trans. by Theodore Graebner [Grand Rapids, Michigan: Zondervan, 1949], pp. 150-172. This is from Luther’s comment on Gal. 4:6.)

5. John Calvin (1509–1564):

Though Christ does not expressly state whether he intends this gift [of miracles] to be temporary, or to remain perpetually in the Church, yet it is more probable that miracles were promised only for a time, in order to give lustre to the gospel while it was new or in a state of obscurity.

(Source: John Calvin, Commentary on the Synoptic Gospels, III:389.)

The gift of healing, like the rest of the miracles, which the Lord willed to be brought forth for a time, has vanished away in order to make the preaching of the Gospel marvellous for ever.

(Source: John Calvin, Institutes of the Christian Religion, IV:19, 18.)

6. John Owen (1616–1683):

Gifts which in their own nature exceed the whole power of all our faculties, that dispensation of the Spirit is long since ceased and where it is now pretended unto by any, it may justly be suspected as an enthusiastic delusion.

(Source: John Owen, Works,  IV:518.)

7. Thomas Watson (1620–1686):

Sure, there is as much need of ordination now as in Christ’s time and in the time of the apostles, there being then extraordinary gifts in the church which are now ceased.

(Source: Thomas Watson, The Beatitudes, 140.)

8. Matthew Henry (1662–1714):

What these gifts were is at large told us in the body of the chapter [1 Corinthians 12]; namely, extraordinary offices and powers, bestowed on ministers and Christians in the first ages, for conviction of unbelievers, and propagation of the gospel.

(Source: Matthew Henry, Complete Commentary, in reference to 1 Corinthians 12.)

The gift of tongues was one new product of the spirit of prophecy and given for a particular reason, that, the Jewish pale being taken down, all nations might be brought into the church. These and other gifts of prophecy, being a sign, have long since ceased and been laid aside, and we have no encouragement to expect the revival of them; but, on the contrary, are directed to call the scriptures the more sure word of prophecy, more sure than voices from heaven; and to them we are directed to take heed, to search them, and to hold them fast, 2 Peter 1:29.

(Source: Matthew Henry, Preface to Vol. IV of his Exposition of OT & NT, vii.)

9. John Gill (1697–1771):

[Commenting on 1 Corinthians 12:9 and 30,]

Now these gifts were bestowed in common, by the Spirit, on apostles, prophets, and pastors, or elders of the church, in those early times: the Alexandrian copy, and the Vulgate Latin version, read, “by one Spirit”.

(Source: John Gill’s commentary on 1 Corinthians 12:9.)

No; when these gifts were in being, all had them not. When anointing with oil, in order to heal the sick, was in use, it was only performed by the elders of the church, not by the common members of it, who were to be sent for by the sick on this occasion.

(Source: John Gill’s commentary on 1 Corinthians 12:30.)

10. Jonathan Edwards (1703–1758):

In the days of his [Jesus’] flesh, his disciples had a measure of the miraculous gifts of the Spirit, being enabled thus to teach and to work miracles. But after the resurrection and ascension, was the most full and remarkable effusion of the Spirit in his miraculous gifts that ever took place, beginning with the day of Pentecost, after Christ had risen and ascended to heaven. And in consequence of this, not only here and there an extraordinary person was endowed with these extraordinary gifts, but they were common in the church, and so continued during the lifetime of the apostles, or till the death of the last of them, even the apostle John, which took place about a hundred years from the birth of Christ; so that the first hundred years of the Christian era, or the first century, was the era of miracles.

But soon after that, the canon of Scripture being completed when the apostle John had written the book of Revelation, which he wrote not long before his death, these miraculous gifts were no longer continued in the church. For there was now completed an established written revelation of the mind and will of God, wherein God had fully recorded a standing and all-sufficient rule for his church in all ages. And the Jewish church and nation being overthrown, and the Christian church and the last dispensation of the church of God being established, the miraculous gifts of the Spirit were no longer needed, and therefore they ceased; for though they had been continued in the church for so many ages, yet then they failed, and God caused them to fail because there was no further occasion for them. And so was fulfilled the saying of the text, “Whether there be prophecies, they shall fail; whether there be tongues, they shall cease; whether there be knowledge, it shall vanish away.” And now there seems to be an end to all such fruits of the Spirit as these, and we have no reason to expect them any more.

(Source: Jonathan Edwards, Sermon entitled, “The Holy Spirit Forever To Be Communicated To The Saints, In The Grace Of Charity, Or Divine Love” on 1 Corinthians 13:8.)

“Of the extraordinary gifts, they were given ‘in order to the founding and establishing of the church in the world. But since the canon of Scriptures has been completed, and the Christian church fully founded and established, these extraordinary gifts have ceased.”

(Source: Jonathan Edwards, Charity and its Fruits, 29.)

* * * * *

To this list, we could add other names: James Buchanan, R. L. Dabney, Charles Spurgeon, George Smeaton, Abraham Kuyper, William G. T. Shedd, B. B. Warfield, A. W. Pink, and so on. But, admittedly, they are post-Enlightenment historical figures.

So I guess we’ll have to save their testimony for a different post.

Nathan Busenitz

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Nathan serves on the pastoral staff of Grace Church and teaches theology at The Master's Seminary in Los Angeles.
  • This post shows why we need church history ThD’s roaming the planet like Jedi knights brandishing their primary source light sabers.

    • Mary Elizabeth Tyler

      Clint said: “This post shows why we need church history.”

      This is so very true. I have talked to many women who have grown up under the tutelage of Joyce Meyer and Beth Moore, and they are clueless as to the doctrine of justified by faith alone. Shallow teachers produce shallow understanding.

      Thank the Lord for Martin Luther, Edwards, Knox, and Calvin and so many more. I remember John Piper saying something to the effect (not quoting him verbatim), that without reading the Reformers and other gifted, godly men of the faith, it would take us a very, very long time to come to all the truths on our own. I think that is a very true statement.

      • Tavis

        I want to be one of those guys 🙂

  • Massimo

    Thanks Nate. Appreciative of the clarity you bring to these issues. I am challenged by your love for the Holy Spirit!

  • Mike Worrell

    “This, then, is the primary concern of cessationists: that the honor of the Triune God and His Word be exalted—and that it not be cheapened by watered-down substitutes.”

    Awesome.

  • Blake

    This is a wonderfully valuable article. Thank you! Could you point me to a succinct source where I could learn more about the Scriptural defense of cessationism? As a non-cessationist who is looking to study it out soon, an article like this that laid out a survey approach to cessationist support in Scripture would be a gem.

    • Dan B.

      I found this article to be helpful. It’s written by a cessationist professor at DBTS—Mark Snoeberger. One caveat, though. IIRC, he writes from a dispensationalist perspective, which may or may not satisfy you at times. (I initially read it through a subscription service, but the link I posted above seems to be the same article.)

    • Dan B.

      I found this article to be helpful. It’s written by a cessationist professor at DBTS—Mark Snoeberger. One caveat, though. IIRC, he writes from a dispensationalist perspective, which may or may not satisfy you at times. (I initially read it through a subscription service, but the link I posted above seems to be the same article.)

    • Nate B.

      Hi Blake,

      I found Thomas Edgar’s book, ‘Satisfied by the Promise of the Spirit,’ to be one of the most-helpful, concise defenses of cessationism. Authors like Richard Gaffin, Samuel Waldron, Norman Geisler, Richard Mayhue, Robert Thomas, and John MacArthur also have helpful resources on this subject.

      If you’re interested, you can download my Shepherds’ Conference seminars on this topic at the following links:

      1. http://www.gracechurch.org/media/369/whos_afraid_of_the_holy_ghost/
      2. http://www.gracechurch.org/media/303/now_thats_the_spirit/

    • Anonymous

      Or check out pyromaniacs this week. Any of this weeks’ posts, but this one specifically:
      http://teampyro.blogspot.com/2011/08/tersely-put-continuationism-self.html

  • This is hectic. I can boldly say Im a cessationist now. Haha. A great article distilled with a passionate endeavour for the truth in God’s word, and essentially for His glory. Thanks Mr. Busenitz. (I’m hoping to be a student of yours in the near future, haha thanks to Clint) Deo Volente.

  • Byron

    Expect sanctified plagiarism when I get to 1 Cor 12-14 in about 3months.

  • Jerry Wragg

    Great post, Nate! A few thoughts that might stimulate discussion (sorry for the length):

    On the common charismatic notion of a dichotomy between cessationism and a “present…God”. The following is merely an argument from experience, yet it may provide a worthy challenge to the continuationist idea. For instance, I have lived my entire Christian life being sanctified, making crucial decisions, raising a family, facing an evil culture, shepherding the flock of God, praying, seeing God work intimately in my life, knowing His pleasure, smarting under His discipline, learning to be selfless, cultivating humility, being powerfully led by His Spirit, becoming more courageous in bold evangelism, establishing deep doctrinal convictions, loving Jesus Christ and His cross beyond words, and experiencing the overwhelming wonder of worshiping my God—all exclusively through the instrument of the “living and abiding word of God” in the Holy Spirit’s hand! What does this prove? Only that until its biblical arguments are convincing, none of what continuationism promises holds any necessary attraction for me. If God does reveal Himself “freshly” for my practical daily walk by some other means than the Bible I sure haven’t missed it. The Lord is as “fresh” to me now as ever! Does He strongly compel me to do this or that and go here or there? His word assures me that He does in several ways:
    (1) By means of the Spirit’s sanctifying grace (as I yield to His written will – Eph. 5:18)
    (2) By the mind of Christ renewing my fleshly reasoning (as I obey the truth – 1 Cor. 2:15; 2 Cor. 10:5)
    (3) By doctrinal convictions cured over time (as I develop discernment – Heb. 5:14)
    (4) And by the refining of my faith (as I entrust myself to Christ’s written promises, providential care, and saving love – Rom. 8:26-30).

    Some may ask, “what about those everyday practical ‘forks in the road’ where the dilemma of making a ‘wrong’ decision seems to demand ‘clearer insight into the future’”? For me, such cases are fairly routine and I resolve them in two ways: (1) I exhaust all possible avenues of wisdom commanded in scripture, namely, seeking wise counsel, applying any biblically explicit principles, examining subtle motives and unbiblical ideas that cloud my thinking, and trusting that the Spirit is working out His sovereign will in my life. Having first given the matter these considerations and found no more compelling clarity, I move forward in faith (even if I’m not quite sure, hence the faith!); (2) By practicing the previous steps, the Spirit builds a deeper discernment over time so that such considerations begin to occur imperceptibly. No more “answer” is needed, nor do I believe one is offered by the Lord. Otherwise, how would I come to know and trust the promised goodness of God in the “waiting”?
    On that note, I have often wondered why so many Christians seem to “need” specific clarity from God in the daily issues of life. If an intimate walk with Christ demanded a whole set of daily, personal revelations guaranteeing the “best path for me” how would I ever learn simple entrustment? Moreover, wouldn’t I be held responsible for carrying out every prescriptive detail of the revealed plan? And since I already lack faith where the scriptures are concerned, wouldn’t my immaturity quibble even more over God’s specific path for me because “His ways are not my ways…and His thoughts are higher than my thoughts”? In addition, how would I ever have enough spiritual insight to comprehend what He has ordained for me in each moment of my life, and how could I bear the burden of failing to line up with it all? And if inner promptings are direct revelations from God to me personally and I fail to obey to the detail, haven’t I violated His directly revealed will in the same manner as disobeying His written word?
    So far, God has strengthened my faith by His word alone apart from such specific revelations. If I’ve missed such a crucial resource as fresh, divine revelation for my sanctification during the last twenty-three years, you would think that glaring perversion, gross spiritual atrophy, serious doctrinal confusion, and frequent ruinous decisions would litter the landscape of my Christian experience (evidences all too common among many who live by revelations outside of scripture). After all, if a believer neglects any other spiritual discipline (including the use of spiritual gifts in the body), even for a short time, the watered seed of dereliction does bloom! Yet, in every persistent battle with the flesh (e.g. pride, weak faith, ignorance, laziness, unforgiveness, idolatry, and more) and my own daily struggle to humbly trust the Lord for His perfect will (a work-in-progress known all too well by my family and close friends) I have found scripture a ready and utterly sufficient weapon against the enemy, and a thorough implement for spiritual surgery. True, continuationists may make the same assertion, but not without being inconsistent. Continuationism necessitates the conclusion that cessationists have missed the personal work of the Spirit available to all believers, and therefore are floundering in a sea of non-dynamic adherence to ancient words alone. As a logical consequence, cessationist-churches must be “quenching the Spirit[‘s]” most significant work by emphasizing the specific application of ancient scripture over the contemporary and individual-specific revelations given directly by God. I fail to see how these conclusions can be avoided given the continuationist’s claim that direct revelation occurs today.
    So what do we make of those nagging “checks and promptings” in our “spirit”? Are “strong impressions” (i.e. to witness to someone, to listen to a radio preacher, to be a missionary, to speak a serendipitous word of encouragement, etc.) to be taken as “direct” revelations from the Lord? For the continuationist, the answer is yes, not only because of an alleged lack of a verse or passage to the contrary (never mind that cessationism has yet to be dispensed of with so little a proof), but also because these revelations, it is claimed, represent a needed specificity the Bible never intended to offer. I would submit, however, that the answer depends on what is meant by “direct.” For instance, the singular testimony of scripture regarding Christian maturity is that as one’s understanding of biblical truth deepens through obedience, strong conviction and discernment increase exponentially (Heb. 5:14; 1 John 2:13-14). Now, if I’m inwardly (indeed, almost audibly) compelled at some moment to share Christ with someone, must I conclude that the Lord has directly revealed His future will to me for that moment? Isn’t it possible (even more probable) that I am simply being “directed” through biblical convictions which the Spirit has seasoned through obedience over time, for His providential and effective use at that particular moment? Or, perhaps I’m experiencing a range of normal, biblical thoughts brought on by a combination of biblical truth and Christian experience? Our minds (inner man) work this way in every other arena of life, why must we suddenly divinize every strong “notion” and inner “impression”?
    Perhaps some clarity can be gained by looking at the way our conscience works. The scripture’s teach that the conscience strongly “condemns” or “affirms” us, depending upon how we respond to the strongest inner standards of conviction we believe (Rom. 2:14-15). Such condemnation and affirmation may be so inwardly powerful that it seems like audible “screaming”! Yet, no one would claim (I hope) that the promptings of the conscience are direct revelations from God. In fact, it is dangerous to give the conscience ultimate authority since it can be wrongly trained, sending false alarms where no sin exists, or no alarms when real guilt is present. It seems to me that inner convictions operate in a similar fashion. The more biblically refined my convictions, the more Spirit-driven my strong “impressions”. But if I mistake sensitive and mature spiritual convictions for “direct revelation” from God I will most assuredly “hear” God’s will where He has not spoken, and miss His clear written direction in pursuit of more than He offers.
    As I see it, the idea of direct, divine, freshly revealed specifics for my life cannot be a both/and proposition. Either I believe that all inner thoughts specific to my life are directly given by God to complement the general principles of His written revelation, or they are the fruit of a Spirit-trained mind being “led” by obedience-produced convictions.
    More to the point…these “promtings” and “impressions” are easily explained as God’s providential leading in a spiritually seasoned believer whose biblical convictions “speak to them” in the milieu of daily living. These strong thoughts can result in experiences ranging from the mundane to the seemingly impossible. They DO NOT demand the belief that God has directly spoken beyond scripture. His providence working through obedient believers is all that is needed (Phil. 2:12-13) to experience His leading. Lest we think this is only an issue of semantics, I believe what continuationists call “fresh revelation” is actually the Spirit’s providence combined with strong biblical convictions at best, or their accommodation of weak faith by desiring a “sensation” of knowing God’s specific will at worst.
    In light of the above, my experience (apologies for the argument from experience only) with Christ keeps me wondering if continuationism is more the result of wanting something that obedience to the written word already affords. My point is not that experience rules my conclusions, only that my experience continues to prove what God’s word overwhelmingly claims, namely that it provides everything the Christian needs until glory.

    • Nate B.

      Thanks Jerry! Good insights here. The knowledge of God in Scripture is, indeed, all that we need for life and godliness (cf. 2 Peter 1:3, 19-21).

  • Jim Masters

    thanks, nate. good thoughts.

  • SBashoor

    Good, good, good. I’ve had to perry with these kinds of responses for years when interacting with folks about what cessationism is and isn’t. As much as some continuationists complain that their views are caricatured (which they are sometimes), I certainly see a lot of the same coming the other way.

  • Brent Small

    Nathan, great article and insights as always. Jerry, your comments are so helpful as the experience of your faith lived out by the Spirit according to the Scripture testifies to the continued and real presence of God working in the life of the believer. The continuist argument seems to me, in all humility, to undermine and devalue God’s Word as revealed in Scripture and the Spirit’s ongoing and active role to use the Word in a believer’s life. When a continuist argues that cessationism puts “God in a box,” then he or she is on a slippery slope that undermines the authority, clarity, necessity and sufficiency of Scripture which is the means through which we eneter into a relationship with God, experience Him daily and by which we are sanctified and matured 2 Timothy 3:15-17.

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  • Anonymous

    Giving praise and glory to His matchless name and thanking Him for guiding you in composing this article.

    Signed,
    A Former, Functioning Charismatic

  • Anonymous

    Nate, I really like the way you have approached this issue, from the “what it’s not” side.

    “I would also hope that, in the process of critiquing the cessationist position, the authors do not create a straw man version of cessationism. (I’ll admit that, based on what I’ve read so far, I’m afraid the straw man is already under construction.)”

    Agreed.

  • Karl Heitman

    Great topic of discussion. Careful, Nathan. Don’t become kown for what you’re against….

  • Anonymous

    I perused the link you give to the pastor’s excerpt, at the very end of that excerpt he says:
    “you tend to ignore the Holy Spirit and attribute everything the Spirit does to the gospel.”

    I can’t help but quote this:

    “For I am not ashamed of the gospel, for it is the power of God for salvation to everyone who believes, to the Jew first and also to the Greek.” Romans 1:16

  • Anonymous

    awesome!

  • Mary Elizabeth Tyler

    Great post, Nate. Truth comes through in your words, but also important is the love you show for the Lord!

  • Andy Woodfield

    Hi Nate. Thanks for lighting a fire under the straw man of continuationists. I appreciate your emphasis on the ministry and work of the Holy Spirit in the life of every believer and the historical emphasis showing a long line of cessationists in church history. Like Jerry Wragg I have never lacked the convicting, comforting, prompting, illuminating and guiding work of the Holy Spirit in all areas of my life. My lack of spirituality, at times, is not due to my view of whether sign gifts are still in operation today or not, but rather due to my own lack of obedience to what I already know by the Holy Spirit through the enduring and sufficient Word of God to be true. Nor do I sense any lack of impact on the unbelieving world (as some continuationists would suggest I have), because like the Apostle Paul I am not ashamed of the gospel, for it is the power of God for salvation to everyone who believes, to the Jew first and also the Greek (Rom 1:16). Thanks for the encouragement brother.

  • Isaiaslobao

    Dear Dr. Nathan. My name is Isaias, I’m a professor of theology and history here in Brazil. Can translate your article into portuguese?

    • Anonymous

      Hi Isaias, feel free to use/translate whatever would be helpful.

    • Matthew Carroll

      Caro Isaias, I would be very grateful to receive a copy of your Portuguese translation. Thank you,
      – Matthew Carroll
      Goiânia

  • Mrs. P

    Is there anything in between cessationists and guys who speak (gibberish) “tongues” and claim to heal anyone who has enough faith, etc? (That’s probably a dumb question, but I’m new to this discussion.) For example, John Piper does not hold the cessationist view but he’s no Benny Hinn either. Does the label “continuationist” refer to anybody who believes those gifts could still be around today or only the extreme charismatics?

    The reason I ask is because I was a bit bothered by your point #3 where you mentioned those who claim to practice these gifts but do them in a way that is contrary to what we see in the bible. You’re completely right that those who speak gibberish for example are not speaking in tongues (aka real languages) like believers in the bible did. BUT, not all of us who don’t hold the cessationist view are like that. Maybe I just misunderstood you, but when I read that portion of the post I felt like you were lumping everyone who is non-cessationist into the Benny Hinn category.

    The reason why I can’t fully jump on board with the cessationist view (even though I was raised with that view and the church I attend holds that view) is that I just don’t see any Scripture to back it up. Like you said, it doesn’t really make sense that “the perfect” in 1 Corinthians 13 means the full cannon of Scripture or the mature church because later the passage says that when “the perfect” arrives we will see “face to face”. How can that mean the full cannon of Scripture or the mature church? So, if that verse doesn’t back up cessationism, what scripture does? There really is no place where the bible says that those gifts were temporary or would cease. It seems the cessationists base their view on the fact that we just don’t see those gifts happening anymore (at least not in the western world, there are many missionary stories of those gifts occurring). That’s totally understandable, but when it all boils down, you gotta give me Scripture or I can’t fully accept your arguments.

    And how do we deal with 1 Corinthians 12:31, 14:1 and 14:39 which command us to desire the spiritual gifts, especially prophecy, and to not forbid the speaking of tongues? Is this command no longer valid to us today?

    I admit it’s hard to say why we don’t see these gifts in the church today if they haven’t ceased. That is exactly why I’m not entirely on board with one view or the other, just open to the possibility that those gifts haven’t ceased because I don’t see that anywhere in Scripture. Being of the dispensationalist persuasion, I think it’s possible that because of sin perhaps God has decided to withdraw those gifts from the church in Western society. Perhaps it’s because in this day and age with mass media and hard hearts, sign gifts wouldn’t be effective in our culture. But that’s not to say God can’t or wouldn’t use those gifts in other cultures with softer hearts, or even in our culture at some times. Perhaps it’s because the church either doesn’t “desire the spiritual gifts” as scripture commands, or pretends to have false gifts that are unbiblical. Just my thoughts.

    • Anonymous

      Hi Mrs. P,

      Thanks for your comments and your question. Please know that I have great respect for the conservative evangelical leaders within the continuationist camp. Even so, I believe that they have redefined the biblical gifts in order to make them match contemporary experience.

      But more to your point, there are several questions we need to answer as we think about the charismatic gifts.

      1. The first is what I call the WHAT question: What were the gifts, as they are described and defined in the New Testament? When we look at the Gospels, Acts, and 1 Corinthians, we find the gifts pretty readily described and defined. I believe the evidence points to this: http://thecripplegate.com/why-im-not-a-charismatic/.

      If we conclude that those gifts (as depicted in Scripture) are not present in the church today, then we find ourselves in a de facto cessationist position.

      2. The second is what I call the WHEN question: If the NT gifts are no longer operating in the church today, then when did they cease. I think that Acts 2:16-21; Ephesians 2:20; and Hebrews 2:3-4 provide us with a biblical paradigm for answering that question.

      For more on those verses, please see the following two links:

      http://www.sfpulpit.com/2007/01/16/the-when-question-part-2-acts-2/
      http://www.sfpulpit.com/2007/02/06/the-when-question-part-7-ephesians-220/

      3. A third question we could add would be the WHY question: Why did God only give the miraculous gifts for the foundation stage of the church, and not the entire church age? Cessationists generally answer this question by pointing to the fact that miraculous signs served to authenticate the messenger (like Moses, Elijah, and the apostles) at particularly significant times in salvation history.

      Now that the canon of Scripture is complete, we no longer need miraculous signs to know if someone’s ministry is from God. We can measure their claims by the completed prophetic word–the Bible.

      Hope that helps!
      Nathan

      • Anonymous

        One additional thought: I mentioned that most continuationists redefine the gifts to match contemporary experience.

        Here’s what I mean by that:

        The gift of prophecy (consisting of error-free revelation from God when defined biblically [cf. Deut. 18:20-22]) is redefined to allow for error depending on the level of a person’s faith. Thus, continuationists (like Grudem) warn us not to base any future decision-making on someone’s supposed prophecy.

        The gift of tongues (defined as authentic foreign languages in the New Testament) is redefined as spiritually-ecstatic speech or as a prayer language that does not correspond to any known human language.

        The gift of healing (depicted in Scripture as the supernatural ability of a healer to instanteously and undeniably cure people of real diseases) is redefined as an answer to prayer that sometimes results in recovery (after weeks of time) but not always.

        These would be examples of the way that (I believe) the New Testament gifts have been redefined by those in the continuationist camp.

  • Mrs. P

    Is there anything in between cessationists and guys who speak (gibberish) “tongues” and claim to heal anyone who has enough faith, etc? (That’s probably a dumb question, but I’m new to this discussion.) For example, John Piper does not hold the cessationist view but he’s no Benny Hinn either. Does the label “continuationist” refer to anybody who believes those gifts could still be around today or only the extreme charismatics?

    The reason I ask is because I was a bit bothered by your point #3 where you mentioned those who claim to practice these gifts but do them in a way that is contrary to what we see in the bible. You’re completely right that those who speak gibberish for example are not speaking in tongues (aka real languages) like believers in the bible did. BUT, not all of us who don’t hold the cessationist view are like that. Maybe I just misunderstood you, but when I read that portion of the post I felt like you were lumping everyone who is non-cessationist into the Benny Hinn category.

    The reason why I can’t fully jump on board with the cessationist view (even though I was raised with that view and the church I attend holds that view) is that I just don’t see any Scripture to back it up. Like you said, it doesn’t really make sense that “the perfect” in 1 Corinthians 13 means the full cannon of Scripture or the mature church because later the passage says that when “the perfect” arrives we will see “face to face”. How can that mean the full cannon of Scripture or the mature church? So, if that verse doesn’t back up cessationism, what scripture does? There really is no place where the bible says that those gifts were temporary or would cease. It seems the cessationists base their view on the fact that we just don’t see those gifts happening anymore (at least not in the western world, there are many missionary stories of those gifts occurring). That’s totally understandable, but when it all boils down, you gotta give me Scripture or I can’t fully accept your arguments.

    And how do we deal with 1 Corinthians 12:31, 14:1 and 14:39 which command us to desire the spiritual gifts, especially prophecy, and to not forbid the speaking of tongues? Is this command no longer valid to us today?

    I admit it’s hard to say why we don’t see these gifts in the church today if they haven’t ceased. That is exactly why I’m not entirely on board with one view or the other, just open to the possibility that those gifts haven’t ceased because I don’t see that anywhere in Scripture. Being of the dispensationalist persuasion, I think it’s possible that because of sin perhaps God has decided to withdraw those gifts from the church in Western society. Perhaps it’s because in this day and age with mass media and hard hearts, sign gifts wouldn’t be effective in our culture. But that’s not to say God can’t or wouldn’t use those gifts in other cultures with softer hearts, or even in our culture at some times. Perhaps it’s because the church either doesn’t “desire the spiritual gifts” as scripture commands, or pretends to have false gifts that are unbiblical. Just my thoughts.

  • Suzanne

    Wow..Thanks so much for a plain, very nicely layed-out basis for a true cessationist view; in contrast to what’s circling ’round out there. From the root of scripture on up to the Reformers, very well treated. And Jerry Wragg, your comment(ary) was an especially edifying read to top this all off. Thank you!

  • Suzanne

    Wow..Thanks so much for a plain, very nicely layed-out basis for a true cessationist view; in contrast to what’s circling ’round out there. From the root of scripture on up to the Reformers, very well treated. And Jerry Wragg, your comment(ary) was an especially edifying read to top this all off. Thank you!

  • Tim

    Great line: … an enthusiastic delusion. That John Owen sure knew how to string words together!

    Thanks for a well-written and thought-provoking article, Nate. I wouldn’t have as much quarrel with the continuationists’ position if I saw them performing miracles like folks did in the Bible, but all I’ve ever seen are cheap knock-offs. Why do they even bother to justify their actions and doctrine by comparing themselves to biblical miracle workers? Anyone with half an ounce of perception can tell the difference between a rain puddle and the Pacific Ocean.

  • Jerry Wragg

    I often read comments that say something like: “I’d be a cessationist if there were passages that tell us the gifts have ceased, but since there are none I remain open to their continuation.”

    This kind of thinking is, perhaps even at times unwittingly, part of the ongoing irony of the continuationist’s argument. Good Bible students know that the truth claims in Scripture are taught through four basic frameworks:
    (1) Explicit truth-principles
    (2) Implicit truth-principles
    (3) Inferential truth-principles
    (4) Illustrative truth-principles

    As is often cited, the doctrine of the Trinity is not delineated in Scripture through explicit usage of the term, but it is a cardinal truth implicitly taught in various texts which describe the divine nature and character of each person of the triune Godhead. God is, in fact, a Triune God. Is there a verse that explicitly states the doctrine? No. It is, however, so clearly taught by implicit, inferential, and illustrative texts all over the Bible that no true Bible student (including thoughtful continuationists) could deny it without peril to their soul.

    Why is it, then, that the numerous passages (no exaggeration) brought to bear in defense of cessationism are only deemed valid if they “explicitly” state that the gifts have ceased? I assure you that continuationism has yet to catalogue its own set of “explicit” statements soundly proving the gifts are for today. Why are continuationists free to base their view on principles derived from implication, inference, and illustration while limiting cessationists to “explicit statements” only?

    Yes, I’m thoroughly familiar with continuationism’s poster-theologians (e.g. Grudem) and their textual arguments. I’ve also worked through many very worthy exegetical counter-arguments (e.g. Gaffin’s defense of cessationism). Both sides have done some formidable homework, but it seems that only one side (the continuationist) is allowed to draw conclusions beyond explicit truth-claims (of which there are none for either side). This method of special pleading has occurred so frequently in the debate that it is now assumed by less informed, curious Christians that cessationism, having no explicit text to support it, is simply the more radical view.

    I submit that until all the textual evidence (implicit, inferential, and illustrative) is carefully weighed, no one should ground their position on the absence of their opponent’s explicit evidence. The most one could say is: “Since the Bible does not offer an unquestionable statement as to whether the gifts continue from the NT onward, we must examine the entire body of implicit, inferential, and illustrative textual evidence for our understanding.”

    • Mrs. P

      I suppose the reason why cessationists are expected to prove their view more explicitly is because the burden of proof is on them. We all know that these gifts occurred in the early church, so the burden of proof is on the cessationists to prove that they ceased. Otherwise, why shouldn’t we go on believing that the gifts are continuing on the same as before? (This makes sense to me, unless my logic is off, which is entirely possible 🙂 )

      I understand what you mean about the Trinity not being specifically mentioned in the bible but the doctrine of the Trinity is obviously inferred by many Scriptures. I guess I just don’t see cessationism that obviously inferred. The passages that MIGHT infer it haven’t convinced me at this point, but like I said before, I’m not a full blooded continuationist or cessationist, I’m sort of on the fence. But at the moment, I feel like the burden of proof is on the cessationist camp, therefore I’m slightly more inclined to lean towards the continuationists.

    • Mrs. P

      I suppose the reason why cessationists are expected to prove their view more explicitly is because the burden of proof is on them. We all know that these gifts occurred in the early church, so the burden of proof is on the cessationists to prove that they ceased. Otherwise, why shouldn’t we go on believing that the gifts are continuing on the same as before? (This makes sense to me, unless my logic is off, which is entirely possible 🙂 )

      I understand what you mean about the Trinity not being specifically mentioned in the bible but the doctrine of the Trinity is obviously inferred by many Scriptures. I guess I just don’t see cessationism that obviously inferred. The passages that MIGHT infer it haven’t convinced me at this point, but like I said before, I’m not a full blooded continuationist or cessationist, I’m sort of on the fence. But at the moment, I feel like the burden of proof is on the cessationist camp, therefore I’m slightly more inclined to lean towards the continuationists.

      • truthstands

        Actually, I think that logic leads to the opposite conclusion. You admit the gifts occurred in the early church, but acknowledge we don’t see them today (as biblically defined).

        Is not the burden of proof on Continuationists who insist the gifts continue when in fact we don’t see them?

        The empirical evidence is decidedly on the side of Cessationism.

      • Anonymous

        I too think that the burden of proof is on the continuationists. I hope we can all agree that those gifts in the NT are not the same as seen in the churches today.

        My reason/logic tells me that, if today’s gifts are not the same as the ones described in the Bible, that makes them [today’s gifts] unbiblical.

        • Mrs. P

          What truthstands and elainebitt said makes sense. I admit I didn’t think of it from that perspective so I agree that if we’re using experience (what we observe in the world today, i.e. no biblical sign gifts), the burden of proof is on the continuationists.

          But, I was thinking only of looking at the bible and nothing else to prove that those gifts have ceased. In that case, the bible is very clear that those gifts were common in the early church, but it doesn’t emphatically state that those gifts were temporary. So, if you only use the bible to examine this issue, it seems the burden of proof rests on the cessationists to show where the bible teaches that those gifts would cease.

          This makes sense in MY mind, but I’m no seminary grad like many of you. So please explain to me if I seem to be wrong on this. I really do want to have the right thinking on this issue.

  • Thanks Nate. That was a helpful word, both for its content and its tone. Grateful for your ministry.

  • Thanks Nate. That was a helpful word, both for its content and its tone. Grateful for your ministry.

  • I am not trying to bag on any of those men. John Owen is the theologian that I identify with and I love and adore that man and I praise God for his service.

    Each of the men you quoted, all assumed something that was outside of the Bible. Those men are essentially saying this: “It was needed in the early part of the church. But we don’t need it anymore.” I am with each of them when they quote Scripture. I resonate with that. Then they throw in “but those things have passed away.”

    I notice “those things have passed away” is not quoting any Scripture.

  • Noah Hartmetz

    One of the many areas I am being sanctified in is having an appreciation for the work that godly men have put or do put into explaining what a passage means. Most assuredly, I believe Paul meant one thing in 1 Corinthians 13:8-12 and by the Spirit’s help, we can work to attempt to understand what Paul meant by what he said, and ultimately what the Holy Spirit meant by what he said. However, when I read the various views on what “the perfect” is and see the names and picture the hours upon hours of laboring over the text to discern its meaning for themselves and the good of the body of Christ, there stirs in me an escalating appreciation for their work and devotion to Christ and his word, even though I may disagree with their conclusions.

    I hope that this same appreciation will be directed to those who hold to the continuation of the gifts after working through the text with the same vigor as the men referenced above, even though I will disagree with their conclusions and offer counter-arguments for them to think about as we strive to exalt Christ and hold to a faithful interpretation of the Spirit-inspired Bible.

  • Thanks Nate! This is very helpful. My son is working through understanding this issue right now. He will greatly benefit from your research on this topic. Thanks for your contributions to the body of Christ through your writing!

  • Harveyg Plett

    Thank you Nate for non-polemic presentation on the Cessationist position or what it is not. You did clearly say that God cn do what He wants to when He wants. I agree. I am wondering whether the name cessationist says too much. You yourself believe in miracles and that God can do wha He wants, evengiving tongues. I don’t have a good replacement. I guess that is the problem with Names. Thank you. I have used your points in my lectures. Especially helpful were your references to various people in church history.
    Thank you and God bless.
    Harvey

  • Tavis

    Thanks, Nate. I remember your class notes on this topic were very helpful for me in forming a clear and concise understanding of the role of the Holy Spirit today. Although I have sent those notes to many of my charismatic friends, they are insistent to put experience (subjective) before history and the teaching of the Word (objective). This has only led me to pray more fervently for them and to strive to avoid heated debates any longer.

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  • Thanks for this helpful article Nate. I’ve added to the resources at Cessationism.com

  • M P

    My only difficulty with this article Nate is that you set up your own “strawman” of Continuationism.” No theologically sound author will agree that the truly watered down view of healing and tongues by the charismatics is Biblical. So if I’m getting this straight you are pre-empting a “possible” strawman argument from a “Seattle-Based” pastor who may or may not actually construct a strawman to knock down Cessationism with a strawman argument of your own? I’m confused. Why not wait until the book comes out and read it , not a blog about it, and then if there’s a strawman simply point out the strawman and say, “bummer they didn’t represent Cessationism properly”? Then write your OWN book about Cessationism.

    Why do we feel that we need to attack other Pastors or leaders who have different views from us?

    • Anonymous

      Why does this comment ring a “Bell”?

      • M P

        Oh brother. Mark Driscoll and Rob Bell are not in the same ballpark. What a cheap comment.

        • Anonymous

          Cheap only if you don’t understand what sold Bell’s book.

          I wasn’t comparing Driscoll with Bell. I was comparing your comment to all the numerous comments during the Bell controversy, after he published the promo video: “we must wait for the book!”

          Driscoll’s rant smells the same kind of promotion that sold Bell’s book: give them a little, just a taste, and then mention somewhere you are writing a book about it and that the book will reveal some incredible and irrefutable stuff! Nothing like building expectation!

    • Anonymous

      MP,
      Did you see MD’s article/rant on cessationism? If anything, Nate is way too charitable in his post, saying things like “a straw man might be built…” If you read MD’s post, you know that strawman is alive and well and prospering.
      Second, the mainline continuationist view is exactly that the gifts still go on but are changed from the gifts in the NT. Check out Poythress’ series of journal articles or Grudem’s book on prophecy for the two most reputable examples. They hardly represent a straw man. And those two men are “theologically sound,” unless you are calling that into question.

      • M P

        I didn’t see Mark Driscolls post on Cessationism. I didn’t see the link. I went back to the top and clicked on the link. Thanks.

  • Anonymous

    This post is so epically (heroic and impressive in quality) good! I really hope all continuationists on the planet read this! Amen to Clint’s first post. I read 1 Timothy 1:6-7 yesterday and thought it to be pertinent to this issue: “For some [Seattle-based] men, straying from these things, have turned aside to fruitless discussion, wanting to be teachers of [spiritual gifts], even though they do not understand either what they are saying or the matters about which they make confident assertions.” Thanks Nate for your thorough, and clear response…and for being a faithful Timothy in the midst of this silliness.

  • John MacArthur’s sermon series helped me a great deal. )I do not agree with everything, especially some of his “proofs” where he seemed to be reaching a bit, but that did not negate the rest of what was taught.) I disagree with this article on… no, I don’t disagree with this article. You said things better than I could.

    I want to point out that some people believe that all Christians should speak in tongues, and they look down on those who do not. There are even “ministries” to the “tongue-tied Christian”, and I find that concept reprehensible as well as opposed to the Bible. This endorsement of tongues in some churches leads to heresy, especially prophesy. “God said to me…” and people accept it without checking against Scripture.

    As MacArthur pointed out, not only are tongues and the other “sign gifts” not discussed other than in the letter to the Corinthians, but not in church history. At least, not in a positive light. It is indeed unfortunate that people do not know that tongue-talkers throughout history were almost always associated with heretical movements. If tongue-talking is a proof that you have the Holy Spirit, then these heretics and cultists (including early Mormons) are solid Christians.

    No, people have often forgotten the approach of the Bereans.

  • Anonymous

    Don’t mess with the Nate-Dog….. I made that mistake when i was young and naive. On a more serious note- THANK YOU

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  • Warren

    I understand the purpose of point four, but also point out that not all of the “church fathers” were cessasionist’s particularly Irenaeus, Origen (contra “3” under point four) and Novation. In chapter six of book five of Against Heresies Irenaeus states “we do also hear many brethren in the Church, who possess prophetic gifts, and who through the Spirit speak all kinds of languages, and bring to light for the general benefit the hidden things of men, and declare the mysteries of God..” Origen speaks of “traces” of the miraculous and the prophetic in his day and having personally witnessed it. Novation talks as if all of the “charismata”–prophets, teachers, tongues, healing, discerning of spirits etc.– are active in his day (mid third century).

  • Keith Brown

    Thank you for your scholarly and very helpful insights Nathan!

  • Jack

    Well said Nathan!

  • Love the way you address the major points in a professional manner, not argumentative as is typically the case on some popular blogs which are very familiar to us. This is something I can send out to my friends who have the opposite view. Thank you for your kind instruction!

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