February 20, 2013

Why Reformed Pastors Need Not Be Charismatic – Part 2

by Eric Davis

DesiringGodIn yesterday’s post, I introduced some of the popular misconceptions about cessationism from the recent Desiring God conference session, “Sovereign Grace, Spiritual Gifts, and the Pastor: How Should a Reformed Pastor Be Charismatic?”

In it, Pastor Tope Koleoso asserted that Reformed pastors “should” and “must” also be charismatic. The bulk of his message implied that cessationism is an insufficient position for pastors to hold because it: fears the work of the Holy Spirit; preaches a deficient gospel; is pragmatic; does not rely on or believe in the Holy Spirit; and cannot rightly do battle against Satan and demonic forces (among other things). The first three misconceptions were addressed yesterday. Here are the remaining two:

Misconception #4: Cessationists do not rely on, believe in, or think they need the Holy Spirit.   

Using Christ’s ministry as the starting point, Koleoso remarked:

“The Spirit came upon [Jesus] and this triggered the beginning of his ministry… I want to submit to you that if he needed the Holy Spirit, it’s nothing short of arrogance for us to think, ‘We’ll just go, we’ll be fine.’ The plan is not just for you to go. The plan is for you to go and be fruitful.”

Koleoso obviously assumes that cessationists fail to do ministry “by the Spirit,” or–worse–do not even believe in the necessity of the Spirit.

He is not alone in this wrong assumption. Scott Thomas, a former president of Acts 29, commented on cessationism by saying, “We [Acts 29] believe it’s not God the Father, God the Son, and God the Holy Bible. And we don’t believe it is God formerly known as God the Holy Spirit. May he rest in peace.”


Frankly, cessationists rightly tire from these sorts of strange statements which reflect a severely misguided understanding of cessationist pneumatology. To my continuationist brothers and sisters: Please stop making this claim. On behalf of cessationists, I want to tell you that when you say things like that you make your view look embarrassingly elementary. It shows you have not done your theological or historical homework. It’s like saying, “You don’t believe in Santa Claus? Wow, then you must deny the existence of Christmas.”

Cessationists are not Dinitarians. No cessationist has ever put out a book on the glories of the Dinity. We have not slain the Spirit, nor would we ever want to. Cessationists have pneumatology sections in their systematics; it’s not as if we have been silent on the Spirit’s real work.

pulpitCessationists believe in, cling to, hope in, trust in, are filled with, and love the Holy Spirit. We are so desperately dependent on him. Cessationists love the Holy Spirit like a baby loves his bottle, blanket, and binky. With Adrian Rogers, cessationists cry, “I’d rather die than minister without the Holy Spirit.” And as cessationist preachers ascend to the pulpit before every sermon, with Spurgeon, we cry, “I believe in the Holy Spirit, I believe in the Holy Spirit, I believe in the Holy Spirit.” Our fear, thousands of times beyond what the Holy Spirit “might do,” is that we would minister without his illuminating, sanctifying, and enabling power. For that reason cessationists labor, trembling and in prayer, for exegetical integrity in all they do, so as to do ministry in the Spirit.

What would one do without the Spirit? How could we have fellowship with Christ? How could we have the new birth, or the forming of Christ in us and the flock, or the apprehension of the word, or the power to minister and preach and shepherd, or his hope and assurance? Our preaching would be in total vain without him; our words in counseling and from the pulpit would be mere vibrations of air molecules; inert objects falling on impenetrable hearts of the unwakable dead. Who else besides the Spirit could take our words and plant them in the heart of the dead to supernaturally bloom to 30, 60, and 100-fold? Please, charismatic brothers, cease accusing (knowingly or unknowingly) cessationists of dinitarianism. At the very least, say something like, “Though we know you believe in the Spirit, we disagree with your view of how he works.”

Owen on the SpiritCessationists believe in the Spirit. Keep in mind that the one of the greatest works ever completed on the Holy Spirit is a 900+ page tome by John Owen… a cessationist. Owen’s colossal work on the Spirit will not likely be matched in exegetical and biblical competence anytime soon (here it is for .99 on Kindle). And its a work which ought to make contemporary evangelicalism blush at our pneumatological shallowness.

Sinclair Ferguson said of Owen and his work, “He realized that central to the Reformation’s rediscovery of the gospel had been the place, person and power of the Spirit. He saw (as Warfield later did) that Calvin was the theologian of the Holy Spirit.” Again, in addition to Owen, Warfield and Calvin were cessationists who believed in the Holy Spirit.

We would have to conclude, then, that Reformed pastors need not be charismatic, since cessationists believe whole-heartedly and most honorably in the Person and power of the Holy Spirit.

Misconception #5: Cessationists cannot rightly do battle against Satan and demonic forces.

Koleoso said:

“What do you do when there’s a demonic situation in the camp [church, congregation]? You cannot theologize Satan away. You can’t lecture him away. You need the power of the Holy Spirit…this is a supernatural calling… So pastor, you need this.”

Cessationists cry out a hand-raising “Amen!” to the idea that we need the power of the Spirit in dealing with that which is not-flesh-and-blood. But not for the same reasons as charismatics.

Koleoso’s comment is another example of driving a non-existent wedge between Scripture and the Spirit. It’s a boogeyman distinction. Cessationists do not believe that ministry can be done absent from the power and filling of the Holy Spirit.

Though Koleoso might not voice it, there is dangerous thinking behind his too-popular assertion, “You cannot theologize Satan away.” First, it assumes that Scripture is insufficient for effectively facing the prince of the power of the air. It’s the perilous idea that “the Bible is good for some things, but something more is needed for the real big spiritual issues.” Second, the statement assumes that relying on Scripture excludes reliance on the Spirit.

I agree with Koleoso that in our own strength we cannot conquer Satan and his minions. Cessationists know that. We need the power of the Holy Spirit to strengthen us as we minister, to regenerate those under his oppression, and sanctify us as we struggle. But, one certainly can “theologize Satan away.” In fact, we are commanded to do so.

I assume that “theologize” means to rely on truths of Scripture for strength beyond ourselves against things stronger than flesh-and-blood. The prescribed means to do so are given in Ephesians 6: “truth” (v. 14), “righteousness” (v. 14), “the gospel of peace” (v. 15), “faith” (v. 16), “salvation” (v. 17), and “the sword of the Spirit which is the word of God” (v. 17).

armourRomeNotice a few things about the prescribed means for facing spiritual warfare: Scripture is “truth” (John 17:17), individuals attain “righteousness” through the Spirit’s application of Scripture (Ps 19:7, Rom 10:14-15, John 17:17), the “gospel of peace” is the message from Scripture by which one is at peace with God (Rom 5:1), “faith” is the assurance of things hoped for which are tangible and unalterable promises contained in Scripture (Heb 11:1), “salvation,” and the protection thereof, is assured to us by what the Spirit has spoken in Scripture (Rom 8:29-30), and the Spirit’s one weapon, the “sword,” is what he has spoken: Scripture.

So not only can we theologize Satan away, but we must. The weapon of choice in the face of spiritual struggles is the Spirit-inspired word of God. To say otherwise is to make that non-existent distinction between the ministry of the Holy Spirit and the Word.  We do not need more than Scripture to battle the devil. We need only Scripture, for that is the Spirit-given armor with which we stand and according to which the Holy Spirit works. So theology is the thing which the Spirit uses to theologize Satan away.

Koleoso additionally remarked that according to Matthew 4:23:

“Jesus went around all Galilee teaching…preaching…healing…delivering. He went around teaching, preaching, healing, and delivering. The church in the west basically only wants to do two things: preach and teach. It doesn’t want to do the healing and the delivering because when you stand and teach, if you’re articulate, if you have a suave way about you, you can pull this thing off…and people won’t even realize there is no Holy Spirit in it because it’s just so smooth.”

Once again, this unhelpfully assumes a few things. First, he assumes that the gift of healing, which is the at-will ability to completely and instantly heal, still exists (Cessationists believe whole-heartedly that God heals. The difference is that we say God heals, while the NT gift of healing was the Apostle healing at will, and that gift has passed). Second, it assumes that the ministry of the word is insufficient to “deliver” people suffering due to Satan or demons. But, God can heal or deliver as we rightly minister the sword of the Spirit. Further, the ministry of the word (again, which is doing ministry by the Spirit) is certainly sufficient to transform lives, no matter what oppression they may be under. Cessationism is the most effective, God-given way by which we can approach and honor God when dealing with spiritual issues.

We would have to conclude, then, that Reformed pastors need not be charismatic, because to do so would steer away from effectively battling all that is not-flesh-and-blood.

In tomorrow’s wrap up post, we’ll look at what seem to be the deeper errors underneath the call to continuationism.

Eric Davis

Posts Twitter

Eric is the pastor of Cornerstone Church in Jackson Hole, WY. He and his team planted the church in 2008. Leslie is his wife of 14 years and mother of their 3 children.
  • Nic Standal

    Nice post, God has given you much grace. So how can a young man keep his way pure? Maybe by going full blown Reformed Covenant!

    • Eric Davis

      Thanks for stopping in, Nic. The Spirit hasn’t told me to go such a direction yet. 😉

      • Nic Standal

        Well when your leaky Dispensationalism finally dries up, you’ll have no other place to go but up!

  • “It shows you have not done your theological or historical homework. It’s like saying, “You don’t believe in Santa Claus? Wow, then you must deny the existence of Christmas.””

    Excellent. Well-put.

  • Very good, extremely gentle. Yes, just about every time this poor man says “Holy Spirit,” listeners need to translate it to “babbling and calling it ‘tongues,’ naming your hunches ‘prophecies,’ acting on impulse and blaming God, statistically-insignificant correlations of demands for healing with anything like a result, and pounding your chest as you claim that you believe in all the NT gifts even though what you do is nothing like them.”

  • Michael Coughlin

    Keep up the good work, Eric.

  • Lonnie W.

    Wow! Talk about a lot of straw-man arguments. I would be surprised if Pastor Koleoso did not get a lot of push-back after these comments. Was there a panel discussion at the end of the conference and did he have to answer for any of his assertions? Thanks for your loving but to-the-point article. Excellent.

  • kevin2184

    Excellent post, Eric. Thanks for writing it.

    • Eric Davis

      Thanks for the encouragement, Kevin. Press on.

  • Suzanne T.

    Very helpful. I am so thankful for articles like these..let God’s word be true!

    God saved me later in life, having no experience in these things I was “neutral” (naive) to them. In the (CMA) church I subsequently attended I was exposed to a mild form of “charismata”. It wasn’t necessarily “from the pulpit” or overt in the church, but what I was seeing in the other ministries there (as I came to realize) was a tip-of-the-ice-berg. I felt (as it were 🙂 that something just wasn’t right but exactly what that was I didn’t know (and was it me?). In my naivete I was afraid to be wrong about, or go against the things of God..and who was I, a baby Christian to question those who would know? I began my own research out of God’s Word and through other teachers and eventually came to what I believed a clearer understanding about Charismatic things (in all its many forms) and as a result agree completely with the cessationist position as represented (for instance) here.

    The great mystery to me is..I don’t understand why, although many of these (generally speaking) are my brothers and sisters in the Faith and we read the same scriptures, and are filled with the same Spirit, we come to such different understandings. Is it mostly due to ones “experience”? I can’t speak from experience, but I wonder how it be to have “experienced” something (i.e. tongues, demons) and being told what I experienced was not of God?

    But for God’s grace and providence go we in any direction, ultimately…for what do we have that has not been given to us? (1Cor. 4:7)

    • Suzanne T.

      You cannot theologize Satan away.
      I agree that yes you can, it’s the only way..

      I watched a film about a pair of missionary families who spent over 14 years (I believe in the early 80’s) with a people in Indonesia who’d never seen a white person. Of course they knew something of eternity (Ecc. 3:11) and had established ways to deal with life andf death typical of such a people group (animism, spiritism, shamnism, etc..) As it happened, after several carefully spent years with these people and by God’s great grace many of them came to repentance and true saving faith. A situation did arise where during very difficult birthing situation with one of the new converts to Christ, a shaman came in to “assist”. Deeply concerned as to the “spirits” now in the mix, the missionaries stuck with what they knew and relied soley on the Scriptures and the work of the Spirit through prayer throughout the ordeal. In the end the woman delivered a healthy baby and recovered from her life-threatening illness. The good fruit that came from this witness to God’s “presence” out of His Living Word is inestimable.

      Seeing this film was a huge factor in my own understanding of this thing called “casting out” demons for today. In any circumstance God’s Word is ALL sufficient.

      Sorry I’ve rambled, I am a bit passionate about this subject 🙂

      Blessings ~

      • Suzanne T.

        -Oh- the film is called “The Taliabo Story” 🙂

      • Eric Davis


        That’s a great story and confirming of what Scripture teaches. Thanks for your comments.

  • Thanks again for clearly explaining the issue. This issue will continue to come up and this point will come in handy.

  • kateg

    I think that view stems from a low view of the Holy Spirit. Continuationists seems to think they understand scripture, rightly apply acripture, and study theology because of their great piousness, their mental prowess, etc, and really anyone who can read can do it. However, understanding scripture, rightly applying scripture, even theology itself, is not just a mental act but only rightly done by the enabling of the Holy Spirit. It is only through the Holy Spirit that we can understand, that it is not foolishness or a stumbling block, only through the Holy Spiril illuminating our minds can we rightly apply scripture, and only through the Holy Spirit who creates the hunger for God do we study Him. These are gifts of the Holy Spirit without which we would still be lost, mouthing words we don’t understand, like the rest of the world.

    • Eric Davis


      I appreciate your point, especially the idea that understanding and applying Scripture is not simply a “mental act” that one performs in the pure power of natural man (1 Cor 2:14). Thanks for that.

  • HC

    Eric, cessationists love Hebrews 2:4 as their main argument? Miracles, signs, wonders, gifts of the Holy Spirit were limited in time to particularly Jesus, then the apostles plus a few others. Why? To verify the then unwritten message. Is that the Reformed argument? How do Reformed people handle the purpose of writing 1 Cor 12 and encouraging the church to go and do likewise? Second, in what sense is that verification not needed today? Your response would be the Holy Spirit through the word of God removes the darkness of sin upon repentance and draws peoples unto salvation…which itself is a miracle? True? And a demon possessed or oppressed person? I know Sproul respectfully asks Pentecostals to go practice raising the dead at funerals, or graveyards to prove his point, but it still doesn’t answer the Corinthians issue.

    • Michael

      Study sola scriptura and the sufficiency of Scripture.

    • Hi HC. I don’t mean to step on Eric’s toes, and I look forward to his answer, but I also wanted to share something in response to your questions.

      I would say that Hebrews 2:3-4 is an argument for cessationism — even a strong one — but not the main argument. Actually, I think Ephesians 2:20 and the surrounding context makes an even stronger case for the fact that apostles and prophets (which, in this context must be NT prophets, not OT prophets; note the order, as well as Eph 3:5-6) were part of the foundation of the church, which foundation was laid by the end of the first century. I think this is what Eric was getting at by speaking of the church’s infancy versus maturity. Those revelatory gifts were the foundation of the church, but with the completion of Scripture the foundation has been laid.

      Regarding 1 Corinthians 12-14, the response would be that that letter was written to a church in the mid AD 50s, when the foundation of the church was still being laid and when miraculous, revelatory gifts were still being given. So it would make sense for Paul to command them concerning the gifts, because the gifts were still in operation at that time. But if the gifts, which are part of the foundation of the church, cease when that foundation is laid, then we can’t apply every teaching concerning the miraculous gifts in precisely the same way it would have been applied to the Corinthians themselves. I develop this idea further in this post.

      Regarding why verification wouldn’t still be needed today, the answer is because Scripture is sufficient to be its own evidence. I love what Jonathan Edwards says in Religious Affections: “The gospel of the blessed God does not go abroad a begging for its
      evidence, so much as some think: it has its highest and most proper
      evidence in itself.” That is to say that the Word of God itself is so self-authenticatingly glorious that the very glory of it is its own evidence. In fact, this is what Peter says when he styles the prophetic word (i.e., what we today have as Scripture) as “more sure” even than the personal eye-witness of the transfiguration of Jesus (2 Pet 1:16-21).

      Hope that’s helpful.

    • Eric Davis


      Thanks for stopping by and for the good question. Mike nailed it. Heb 2:4 is certainly not the deal-breaker for cessationism. It is one of the evidences among many. As Mike mentioned, Eph 2:20 is also key.

      And as Mike commented regarding 1 Cor 12-14, recall the context there. Paul wrote that during the foundation-laying era of the church.

      Key in all this is understanding the context of redemptive history. We must take a deeper look at what is going on in Acts 2, as far as the birth of the church.

      In addition to reading the post Mike referenced, read Nate Busenitz’s series (http://thecripplegate.com/series-guide/) for a very biblical analysis of cessationism and let me know what you think. Thanks HC.

  • Pingback: Why Reformed Pastors Need Not Be Charismatic – Part 2 « The Ransomed()

  • It’s odd that Koleoso says “you can’t theologise Satan away”, implying that you can theologise the Holy Spirit away…

  • theslypig

    Superb series of posts – after listening to his talk, your points are spot-on and very gracious.

    He made a point of Matt 4:23 being normative for us today. I think it’s instructive to note that verse comes right before the Sermon on the Mount, followed by 2 chapters of healing (and other) miracles, and closed off with an almost identical verse, Matt 9:35: “And Jesus went throughout all the cities and villages, teaching in their synagogues and proclaiming the gospel of the kingdom and healing every disease and every affliction.”

    This bookend structure was pointed out in a sermon by John Piper, introducing the Beatitudes: “It is a summary statement of Jesus’ earthly ministry… One way to restate that verse would be to say that Jesus made it his ministry to preach the coming of the kingdom, teach the way of the kingdom, and demonstrate the purpose and power of the kingdom by healing the sick. Preaching, teaching, and healing.”
    He sees these 5 chapters as a microcosm of his ministry: “Matthew’s point is that the Lord who teaches like this in the Sermon on the Mount is the same Lord who calls us to follow him through life and depend upon his power. His personal work and power are inseparable from his teaching. In fact we will see right away that this is clear even in the beatitudes.”

    Sorry for the long setup. I mention this because it shows a similar flavor to Pastor Koleoso’s thesis, although more exegetically-developed. However, I think a close look at these 5 chapters would make ‘normative’ a VERY hard sell. But go just a step further and what do we see? Chapter 10, Jesus commissioning the 12 Apostles for a very special, authoritative mission which was not to be repeated. Ex: don’t go to Gentile regions (Mt 10:5), go in pairs (Mk 6:7), preach a limited message (Mt 10:7, Mk 6:12), and its itinerant & temporary nature (Mt 10:9-15). So in a way we have Jesus modeling for his Top Men what he wanted them to do, and sending them off. There is much to be learned from the Sermon on the Mount and his supernatural works; it just seems unwise that our takeaway be a mere blanket ‘go and do likewise’. As you pointed out, these at-will, authoritative miracle performances are simply not around anymore. To ignore this is to fail to understand Christ’s purposes in different ages and ways.

    • Eric Davis


      Great point. I like how you showed from the text other non-normative things. We have to be hermenuetically careful about the ‘go and do likewise.’

  • nate

    Pastor Eric great post. I would like to add when after jesus’ baptism when tempted by the devil jesus utilized scripture alone to thwart satan. I would say that pastor koleoso’s position is a direct attack against sola scriptura, which would question his affirming being reformed.

    • elainebitt

      “I would say that pastor koleoso’s position is a direct attack against
      sola scriptura, which would question his affirming being reformed.”

      And that’s why we say a “reformed charismatic” is an oxymoron. =)

    • Eric Davis


      Great point. Thanks for pointing that out.

  • Pingback: Why Reformed Pastors Need Not Be Charismatic – Part 3 | the Cripplegate()

  • Pingback: La Reforma y el Carismaticismo « sujetosalaRoca()

  • Pingback: The Cripplegate on Cessation and Continuation | the Cripplegate()

  • Pingback: Weekly Links (2/22/2013) | The Beacon()

  • Pingback: Charismatic Chaos: Response Round-up | The Decablog()