A Case for Cessationism: A Response to Dave Miller

This article was originally posted at my site. Only some of my articles are posted on SBC Voices. If you would like access to all of my articles, you can follow my feed here. You can also connect with me on TwitterFacebook, and Google+.

Dave Miller recently wrote an article titled “God told me that the Bible does NOT teach Cessationism.”  Cessationism is the belief that the miraculous spiritual gifts detailed in Scripture have ceased, and are no longer present in the church.  I disagree with Miller’s article for many reasons:

1) He’s overly simplistic and dismissive. It’s undeniable that for over 1600 years of church history, the miraculous spiritual gifts were inactive in the church.  They were only present among heretics.  In spite of this fact, Miller believes cessationism is “hermeneutical wishful thinking.”  There must be a lot of wishful thinkers in church history!  You cannot dismiss hundreds of years of church history as hermeneutical wishful thinking.

2) The reason I’m a cessationist is because I believe the purpose of the miraculous gifts has ceased.  It’s not because of wishful thinking. I was raised a charismatic!  The reason I’m a cessationist is because I asked what Scripture identified as the purpose of the miraculous spiritual gifts.  The answer is that the miraculous gifts were given for the building up of the church so that early Christians could trust the truth being presented as coming from God (See where Christ healed one person out of a multitude in John 5:2-9 to validate His identity: Acts 2:22-23 ; Paul speaks of the signs of an apostle as proof for his apostleship in 2 Cor. 12:12; miracles were random in Scripture; and spiritual gifts were given to individual Christians to encourage and build up other Christians/the church: 1 Cor. 12:7 and the context of the chapter; Rom. 12:1-8; 1 Pet. 4:10-11).  Thus, the question is if this purpose is still needed today.  Does the message of Christ and the apostles need to be revalidated with each generation?  No.  The gospel spread without repeated validation for over 1600 years.  Furthermore, it’s a wicked generation who seeks a sign beyond the signs that have already been provided (Matt. 12:39). The person who says, “I’ll only believe the gospel if God . . .” reveals his or her unrepentant heart.  If he or she will not hear Scripture, he or she will not hear the message accompanied by miracles either (Luke 16:31).

3) He argues from silence.  There’s no where in Scripture where God spoke to an individual through his or her feelings, causing his or her heart to burn, etc.  Yet, Miller insists that God not only spoke this way in Scripture, but that He speaks to all Christians this way today as well.  I hope the reader sees the danger here.  Miller doesn’t realize it, but when he provides no Scripture and appeals to experience alone as the basis for His belief in God speaking through feelings, impressions, etc., he’s appealing to natural theology (creation) for the doctrine of the Spirit relatively leading Christians through feelings, impressions, etc.  In other words, he’s appealing to old liberalism.  See Nieubhr.  He’s appealing to an authority outside of Scripture, a theology derived from the world around him; particularly, a theology derived from within himself.  To Miller’s credit, he argues that doctrine should be derived from Scripture, not the subjective voice of the Spirit; nevertheless, the only reason Miller believes the doctrine that the Spirit leads through feelings, emotions, etc. is because he’s experienced this leading Himself. Thus, he takes this subjective claim and reads it back into Scripture.  You won’t find subjective leading through feeling, burning in one’s bosom, etc. in Scripture.  It’s not there.  Miller may argue that “we don’t know how they were lead in Scripture,” which is an inaccurate statement.  In most cases we do know, and in the cases we don’t, why would we assume God used a different method than in previous encounters with His people?  The common denominator, at the very least, is that when God spoke, He always led His people through their minds, not their feelings or emotions.

4) Cessationists believe in miracles.  I understand that miracles are occasionally reported on the mission field today.  Cessationism allows for such miracles.  The reality, however, is that miracles are not miraculous gifts.  Miraculous gifts were used at the discretion of the person who received the gift.  These gifts weren’t given, then taken away, given again, then taken away again.  They were given once for the person’s lifetime (as far as we know) “according to the grace given to us” (Rom. 12:6).  For example, in 1 Corinthians 14:27-28, the apostle Paul tells those who speak in tongues to be silent if there is no interpreter.   So, these Corinthians have the gift of tongues, but must be silent if there is no interpreter. If the gift of tongues is given and taken away, It makes no sense that God would give someone something to say if no interpreter was present, since they couldn’t speak His word.  Paul also tells prophets to be silent if another prophet receives a revelation from the Spirit (1 Cor. 14:29-33).  Thus, it appears the gifts of tongues and prophecy are for life, and are used at the discretion of the people who possess them.  Granted, these people may not always have a tongue or prophecy, but they always possess the gift from salvation onward, since these gifts are given according to the grace given to us at salvation (Rom. 12:6).

5) The Bible never says the miraculous will cease (except prophecies and tongues, 1 Cor. 13:8), but it also never says they will continue either.  As a matter of fact, based on how there are clear periods of the miraculous in Scripture and clear periods when the miraculous was absent in Scripture, we should only assume that the miraculous will cease at least temporarily at various points in history.  The reality is that both sides are making assumptions.  Both sides are making exegetical leaps.  The cessationist side, however, has history on her side.  The only way non-Cessationists can answer the absence of the miraculous for over 1600 years in church history is to either argue for a third wave of miracles today or to add extra stipulations to the possession and use of miraculous gifts.  Some affirm a third-wave of the miraculous today, meaning that the first wave was during Elijah’s time, the 2nd wave was in the time of the New Testament, and the third wave is today.  Some also add stipulations to the possession and use of miraculous gifts, such as “you must possess enough faith,” “you must have a short list of sins,” “you must immerse yourself in Scripture,” etc.  In Scripture, however, there are no stipulations for spiritual gifts other than being a Christian (Rom. 12:6).  The person who possesses the gift of teaching, for example, has this gift regardless of his spiritual obedience.  The same goes for miraculous spiritual gifts as well.

6) God talked to very few people from Genesis to Revelation.  Miller argues that God spoke to individuals throughout Scripture.  What he fails to mention is that God spoke to a few individuals, and did not speak to millions of individuals.  Yet, Miller argues God speaks to all Christians today.  Where’s the textual warrant for such a claim?  How can you make something that was rare in Scripture, normative for all Christians today?  The way Miller does this is by redefining the way God speaks. Miller isn’t claiming that every Christian hears God’s voice. Instead, he’s claiming that every Christian is led by unction, impressions, feelings, etc. from God.  He, however, has yet to prove how he knows these impressions, feelings, etc. are from God.  Where’s the Scriptural proof?  Until Miller provides Scriptural proof for the Spirit speaking through relative feelings, emotions, etc., he’s appealing to the relative voice of the Spirit for more than “details,” he’s appealing to the relative voice of the Spirit for doctrine as well.  At this point, Miller is appealing to natural theology (his own subjective experience) as the basis for the Spirit relatively leading individual Christians through feelings, impressions, unction, etc., which directly goes against his claim that the subjective voice of the Spirit does not give us new doctrine.

7) Miller makes fideistic leaps. He claims,

God revealed himself, his purposes, his ways and his will in the Word of God. All that we know about God is found there. Every truth, every doctrine must be drawn from it. It is our sufficient guide and standard of truth.

But God also gave us his Spirit to indwell us and to communicate to us the specifics of his will . Go here, not there. Do this, not that. He speaks to us, leading and guiding us in the details of life that are not covered in the doctrine and teaching of God’s Word.

We should not look to that subjective and inner work of the Spirit for truth or doctrine, but for details.

Cessationists believe as well that God revealed Himself in His self-revelation: Scripture.  They also believe that we have the Holy Spirit who leads and guides us.  The difference is that we believe the Holy Sprit operates through His Word, not in giving us daily “details.”  Where’s the textual warrant for Miller’s claim?  So, we can trust the subjective voice of the Spirit for “details,” but not for truth or doctrine?  Why not?  That doesn’t make any sense, if you’re really hearing the voice of the Spirit on a daily basis.  You should be able to trust the Spirit’s voice always.  If He’s willing to tell us what to do on a daily basis, why can’t He give us progressive revelation as well?  Why should we study Scripture to show ourselves approved, if the Scriptures aren’t sufficient for the daily details?  Also, Miller argues that the subjective voice of the Spirit doesn’t give new doctrine, but I wonder if he believes the Spirit repeats doctrine found in Scripture.  If so, then why study Scripture at all?  This is what I run into in the local church.  Why spend hours in the Word studying if the Spirit will mystically tell us what to believe after praying for a minute?

Furthermore, what about the Scriptures that argue Scripture is sufficient for even the daily “details”?  Paul in Romans 12: 2 writes, “Do not be conformed to this world, but be transformed by the renewal of your mind, that by testing you may discern what is the will of God, what is good and acceptable and perfect.”  The relative leading of the Spirit is not even hinted at here.  Yet, after declaring a summary of the doctrine of salvation (Rom. 1-11), Paul says our minds must be renewed based on these aforementioned truths.  The result of our minds being renewed by these truths is the ability to discern the will of God, what is good and acceptable and perfect!  This brings the question to Miller’s assumptions, “If understanding Scripture provides us with the perfect revealed will of God, what do we need the subjective leading of the Spirit beyond Scripture for?”  How can the subjective leading of the Spirit improve on perfection?

8) Cessationism is in the pattern.  Miller argues that God speaking to individuals is the pattern throughout Scripture. He misses the reality that God rarely spoke, and when He did, there were sometimes hundreds of years between each time He spoke.  In other words, there were times in Scripture where God didn’t speak.  That’s the “normal pattern” in Scripture.  Frankly, there’s no point in Scripture where all of God’s people individually heard God’s voice and were individually guided by Him.  It’s not in the text, Old or New Testament.

9) Relative leading is selfish.  What’s interesting about spiritual gifts is that they are not for the individuals who possess them.  They’re provided for the good of the whole church (1 Cor. 12:7, and the context of the chapter; Rom. 12:1-8; 1 Pet. 4:10-11).  Yet, Miller argues for a spiritual gift (subjective leading of the Spirit; also known as a “word of wisdom”) that is somewhat selfish.  Being led subjectively is about our own daily lives or the “details” as Miller calls them.  Granted, other Christians may benefit sometimes, but the point is that “the Spirit leads me.”  Miller even appeals to a greater intimacy with the Lord due to such leading, which implies that he has a closer relationship with Christ than those who disagree with him.  He acts as if reading, hearing, and understanding the Word of God in Scripture is not intimate enough!  He writes,

I think that some in the cessationist movement have adopted what I call biblical deism. Deism believed in an impersonal God, one who created the world then stood back and let it operate according to certain principles. Biblical deism creates a somewhat impersonal God today. He does not walk with me and talk with me. He gave me his word and stands back while I read and determine the details on my own.  Our God is personal. He speaks and listens and enters into relationship with us.

This statement is a caricature.  What evangelical cessationist argues that God speaking through His Word is not intimate?!  The reality is that all Scripture is only spiritually discerned (1 Cor. 2:12-15).  Understanding the Scriptures as truth is an intimate work of the Spirit in the heart of believers!  Miller is on dangerous ground here (I don’t think he meant to diminish the intimacy Christians experience as the Word of God is spiritually discerned in their hearts; although, I think that’s exactly what his words say).

10) The Word of God is sufficient for discernment.  After arguing that the Bible is sufficient for doctrine and truth, and that the subjective leading of the Spirit is only necessary for the “details,” Miller argues that if the Spirit was no longer speaking, then why did Paul warn the Corinthians to be discerning of the spirits?  The answer is simple.  Paul wrote this in the First Century when the Spirit was still speaking.  Furthermore, we still must discern the spirits today based on Scriptural truth.  Some in the church indeed still have the ability to exercise discernment moreso than others, as is evident based on how many Christians freely choose to follow false teachers.

11) Miller redefines “words of wisdom.”  Without citing any Scripture, Miller argues there’s a difference between OT prophecy and the NT manifestation of the Spirit and guidance.  He believes he receives words from the Lord that are not authoritative for anyone else but him.  He argues that we shouldn’t immediately obey this subjective voice, but should instead test it by Scripture.  My concern is that if you cannot trust the subjective voice of the Spirit, then what’s the point of Him speaking?  Furthermore, Miller redefines words from God as “words of wisdom,” while denying the context surrounding this spiritual gift.  The purpose of “words of wisdom” is the edification of the church, not the benefit of the individual (1 Cor. 12:7, and the context of the chapter; Rom. 12:1-8; 1 Pet. 4:10-11).  Miller turns this gift inwardly instead of arguing for its purpose, which is outward.

12) Miller redefines the Trinity.  In jest, Miller quotes Mark Driscoll as saying that cessationists have replaced the biblical Trinity with a new one, “Father, Son, and Holy Bible.”  To this I simply say, in jest, that Miller and others like him have replaced the biblical Trinity with a new one, “Father, Son, and Holy Self.”  Driscoll and Miller both believe they’re defending the work of the Spirit, when in reality, they’re claiming the Spirit is doing something the Scriptures do not claim.  They’re appealing to natural theology as the source of the Spirit’s voice without textual warrant.

13) God speaking through Scripture is personal enough.  I don’t need relative, personal revelation in order to have an intimate relationship with God.  I have His Word!  He speaks to me on a daily basis, and I speak to Him as well.  The Spirit speaks to me constantly.  We have an intimate relationship, and I don’t need more revelation.  Cessationists aren’t less intimate with God than non-Cessationists (which Miller implies).  Once again, I thought the purpose of spiritual gifts was the building up of the church, not increased intimacy between God and the person who receives the gift?

14) The sufficiency of Scripture is the issue.  Miller says non-Cessationists believe Scripture is sufficient.  He believes the Scripture is sufficient for doctrine and truth, but not for the daily “details” of life.  That’s not “sufficient” enough for me.  The Scriptures are sufficient even for the daily details of our lives.  When you’re faced with two decisions, and neither violates Scripture, do what you want!  I tell you this based on the authority of God’s Word, not based on the so-called authority of natural theology.

15) Non-Cessationism destroys Christian freedom.  Cessationists are consistently free to do what they want beyond Scripture.  When we’re faced with a big or small decision, we don’t have to wait for the Spirit’s subjective voice; we are free in Christ to make the decision based on Scripture.  If Scripture is explicitly and implicitly silent on the issue, we can do what we want!  Non-Cessationists on the other hand are tied to the subjective leading of the Spirit, even though there is no textual warrant for “waiting on the Spirit to speak.”

16) Those who affirm the subjective leading of the Spirit are dreadfully inconsistent.  Those of you who believe you’re led subjectively by the Spirit, do you wait for the Spirit’s subjective voice before you do everything?  For example, did you wait for the Spirit’s subjective leading before you chose which restaurant to eat at?  If not, then why not?  Do you only wait for the Spirit’s leading on what you deem are “big decisions”?  If you have enough wisdom to discern what decisions you should “wait on the Spirit’s subjective voice for,” then you have enough wisdom to make these decisions yourself.

17) Your conscience, as informed by Scripture, is what’s really leading you.  The fact that you cannot trust the subjective leading of the Spirit means that you’re not a prophet and the Spirit isn’t leading you.  Something less authoritative and less powerful is leading you: your conscience, desire, etc.  Why put God’s name on something that may or may not be true?  You realize if you claim God led you to do something, but then you change your mind later realizing that God wasn’t leading you, then you’re a false prophet to yourself. This means you’re incapable of accurately hearing what the Lord is saying.

18) Non-cessationists wrongly assume that the New Testament church had more revelation than we possess today. All the words that Christ spoke while physically on Earth are not included in Scripture.  We only possess what we need.  If we don’t possess it in Scripture, we don’t need it.  Thus, it’s rightful to assume that the early church did not need it as well.  We must view the rest of revelation given in the early church as simply a repeat of what we possess in Scripture, unless one wants to argue that the New Testament church possessed more doctrine than we do.  Remember that the New Testament church did not possess the New Testament.  They needed extra revelation from God, as proven by miracles and tongues, because they did not have the New Testament.  (I realize this is speculation, but even Miller agrees, since he and I both affirm that the canon is closed. There are no new doctrines given today.  In other words, we don’t need any new doctrines, and even if God leads His people relatively, He’s not presenting any doctrines in doing so.)  What you and I possess today in the New Testament is simply the various prophecies and proclamations the early church relatively possessed through the empowering and gifting of the Spirit.  Therefore, since we have exactly as much revelation in Scripture as the New Testament church had through their tongues, prophecies, interpretations, words of wisdom, words of knowledge, etc., we have no need for these miracles today.  We possess in Scripture the revelation these miracles were given to validate.

What are your thoughts?

This article was originally posted at my site. Only some of my articles are posted on SBC Voices. If you would like access to all of my articles, you can follow my feed here. You can also connect with me on TwitterFacebook, and Google+.

Comments

  1. Greg Harvey says

    I’m a practical cessationist but not a convictional one. All of your points are good–especially the one of having been a charismatic–but there needs to be room for those gifts to be expressed in God’s time and for his purpose. Convictional cessationism effectively disallows that happening for the precise same reason that convictional Pentacostalism effectively calls into question the salvation of non-tongues expressing believers: it throws systemic doubt on the opposite camp with zero regard to authenticity of faith.

    I’ve shared the experience among the Indonesian Mission regarding the discussion as related to me of Jerry Rankin’s private prayer language. I’ll simply state that my experience with that story and both our institutional history and my personal memory of him provides and effective counter-argument to your post, Jared. It takes a single counter example to disprove a logical argument after all.

    I would add that Avery T. Willis was (is, though absent in the body) a convictional Holy Spirit advocate who in every practical way was like a Pentacostal while not expressing (Shirley or his kids could correct me) sign gifts dating back to a specific experience at Oklahoma Baptist while he still was in school. I will not damn him with the faint praise of saying he was an experience-first believer, but he demonstrated a faith that combined head knowledge and direct Holy Spirit leadership adroitly while taking care to establish via research that revival–specifically the 60s Indonesian revival that included the Like A Mighty Wind Timorese story–was NOT broadly characterized by sign gifts while arguably and thoroughly being Holy Spirit motivated.

    Practical cessationism allows both the non-signed events and the sign gift experiences to be authentic at the same time and delegating to the Holy Spirit the authority and the mystery for the differences.

    I will note that–as with complementaianism–I personally see little problem with a policy of enforced practical cessationism at the entity level. I think the timing of putting the policy in place while Rankin was the seated president of the IMB bordered on vindictive or intentionally embarrassing, though. But that isn’t the specific purpose of this comment and I only mention it as a caution against one problem of convictional cessationism: it could deny an authentic expression and therefore grieve the Holy Spirit. It’s better in my opinion to administer sign gifts per Paul’s direction.

    • Max says

      “It takes a single counter example to disprove a logical argument after all.”

      A man with a personal experience is never at the mercy of a man with an argument.

      • Greg Harvey says

        While that is a good point, it’s not an adequate point. The convictional cessationist position is also based on experience and experience only. It is not based on Scripture.

      • says

        Max,

        The problem here is that the personal experience people claim are often highly subjective feelings and could be the Spirit’s work or could be that extra slice of pizza eaten last night. Reports of phenomena are often similar: it is possible that someone has seen a miracle, but it is also possible that they have experienced coincidence (not that I believe in existential coincidence, per se, but we often have everyday experiences to which we attach supernatural significance (and there is supernatural significance behind everything, every event is an amazing miracle in its own right, but not of the sort we sometimes assume (G. K. Chesterton is scowling at me right now; I’m trying to win back his favor))).

        I believe God works miracles and answers prayers, and I have heard reports I thought to be credible examples of those things, but just because someone tells me of a miraculous or supernatural experience doesn’t mean I’m going to automatically believe the experience has been interpreted correctly.

  2. Dwight McKissic says

    Jared,

    Without commenting–at this point–on the specifics and particulars of your response, your article reminds me that the SBC theologically in many ways is a house divided. My response to Denny Burk’s article on complementaranism and the Gospel also suggest that we are a house divided. The Calvinist/Traditionalist war further reminds me of our division. The Bible says in the book of Amos, “How can two walk together except they agree?” At what point do we say the differences are so great that we need to take an official stand on some of these issues? Yes, that would divide the house; but wouldn’t a house that is unified and walking in agreement on these secondary and tertiar–yet important matters– accomplish more for the Kingdom than a house divided? Jesus wedded unity to world evangelism in John 17:21, and Luke records that unity preceded the great Pentecost outpuring of God’s Spirit in Acts 2:1. Our lack of unity is probaly eroding our mission efforts and the greater manisfestation of God’s manifest presence in our midst.

    The positions that you and Burk have taken on these matters are quite disconcerting for me. I wonder do the two of you represent majority SBC thought? If so, the vast majority of churches that I fellowship with in SBC life are out of touch with the mainstream SBC. At some point I wish the SBC would weigh in on these issues. If I were planting a church today I would be utterly confused as to where the SBC stand on these issues and therfore would not know whether or not I would be theologically compatible with the convention that I was considering aligning with.

    Jared, do you tkink the SBC should adopt a position on (1) cessationism (2) The Gospel’s relationship to complementarianism and social/economic justice (3) Calvinism/Traditionalism? Or do we continue to debate these issues ad-infinitum until Jesus comes, utilizing energy and resources that could be better used in building the Kingdom? What is the Kingdom value of all of our discussion that usually go around in circles?

    Dwight

    • Max says

      ” … the SBC theologically in many ways is a house divided … wouldn’t a house that is unified and walking in agreement on these secondary and tertiary – yet important matters – accomplish more for the Kingdom than a house divided? … Our lack of unity is probably eroding our mission efforts and the greater manisfestation of God’s manifest presence in our midst.”

      Brother McKissic – Even though it troubles me much to say this, I agree wholeheartedly with your comments. As I’ve looked across the Protestant landscape at denominational splits and re-splits, it appears that such actions were taken due to one of the following reasons: theological differences, church organization, or major moral issues. If Southern Baptists can’t be sufficiently agreed on God’s plan of salvation and certain other essential matters of belief and practice, how can we be expected to hold together? It’s clear from blog comments on this and other sites, that we do not think alike, nor feel alike, on the critical subjects of reaching the world for Christ and teaching disciples what they should know – we can’t even agree what that teaching should be! Unless we can be brought to such a change of views and feelings as will unite us, we will only be a hindrance to each other and to the work of God going forward.

      God commands the blessing to be where there is unity. “The greater manisfestation of God’s manifest presence in our midst” will not be found where the Body of Christ grieves and quenches the Holy Spirit.

      • says

        “It’s clear from blog comments on this and other sites, that we do not think alike, nor feel alike, on the critical subjects of reaching the world for Christ and teaching disciples what they should know”

        I haven’t seen any disagreement on these two issues – that is, we do not disagree on the necessity and the divine calling for all believers to be reaching the lost and building the saints. That is why we are able to cooperate, we are joining together in this common work even if the way your church goes about that work is a little different from the way my church goes about that work, and even if what I believe about God’s role and man’s role in salvation is a little different from your belief. We agree that whatever the details, the instruction is clear: go and tell; come together and build.

    • says

      Dwight,

      That’s why it is helpful to belong to a denomination which makes room for disagreement (though I don’t think we have much room to disagree on complementarian issues – the BF&M is pretty clear). We can be united even as we disagree on these things.

      In my own association, I cooperate with pastors who are both Calvinistic and absolutely not Calvinistic. I also cooperate with those who are borderline charismatic. One of my closest pastor friends, a man who has served as a tremendous mentor to me, is a fellow Calvinist while also being an almost raging Bapticostal. We’ve debated the gifts issue before, and he’s seen my strong disagreement with Blackaby during an event where Blackaby came to town. We continue to fellowship quite well and minister alongside each other and he has served as a great teacher to me, though I do wish he would correct this area of mistake in his own theology. :)

      The point is, just because we disagree doesn’t mean we are divided. This is part of the beauty of the SBC – unity in the midst of diversity all underneath an encompassing uniformity.

      • Dwight McKissic says

        Chris,

        I don’t disagree with you. I just felt the need to raise the question. Your bapticostal-calvinist friend would likely be denied mission/church planting opportunities with the IMB or NAMB because of his bapticostalism. You wouldn’t be denied those opportunities. That’s why I believe the SBC should provide some kind of disclosure to churches and church planters who may be interested in joining their ranks so they can make a more informed decision about a relationship with the SBC. In my judgement the degree to which the SBC leans cessationist, complementarian, and calvinist is not fullu understood by all. You almost have to be an insider to discover this. That to me is unfair and an integrity issue.

        BTW, please go to my blogpost(google Dwight McKissic blog) and look at my respone to Denny Burk’s comment and then answer the question, do you believe that Burk did not practically equate complementarianism with the Gospel?

        Dwight

        • says

          For the record, I think the IMB made a mistake to add the restriction against a private prayer language. As the the SBC leaning complementarian, I think that’s fairly well understood and affirmed by most in the SBC.

          I’ll check out your response to Burk, I hadn’t seen that yet, but from what I’ve read thus far (and as I noted in my comment to you on the other post), no, I don’t think Burk in any way equates complementarianism with the gospel. His concern is with how people handle Scripture, and that the same treatment of the Bible which leads people away from complementarianism is the same treatment of the Bible which leads people away from central truths about God.

          • Dwight McKissic says

            Chris,

            Do you belive that it is well under stood that a woman can not teach a man in Sunday School or speak/preach/teach in worship at the male Senior pastor’s request? In most Black Baptist including SBC Black churches, this sis a standard practice at least once a year(Women’s Day) and for many others women speak at the pastor’s request at other times. Why wasn’t the memo given to us when we joined the SBC? Examples of women functioning in this capacity in Scripture are plentiful. Why does the SBC frown on this practice. Paul clearly teaches that a woman can speak to a congregation as long as she does so under male authority(1 Corinthians 11: 1-10).

            Do you agree that the SBC should make these preferences known to churches before they are granted membership?

            Dwight

            Dwight

          • says

            Dwight,

            I would say that to some degree or another, these are at least the beliefs of most SBC churches (with variations for things such as Sunday school (in some places, certainly not all) and particular kinds of special events – women comedians, etc, though even in those cases I take a firm complementarian view).

            I disagree that there are plentiful examples in Scripture. There are a very few instances that raise side questions but which do not change what the Bible clearly teaches. But this is a distraction from the above post, a discussion which fits better on your own post. :)

  3. Bill Mac says

    It’s an odd thing. I am not a cessationist and yet I agree with more in this article than I did with Dave’s. I think Jared’s points are good but his conclusion is not, and vice versa with the previous article.

  4. says

    Jared,

    THANK YOU for representing with grace and substance the issues that frame this matter. The readers should carefully read and investigate what Spurgeon confronted in the “Downgrade Controversy”. There is utterly no way to exegete someones ‘experience’. The parallels with his time and ours are many.

    The SBC claims to embrace the Sufficiency of Scripture but deny that important principle in a whole host of areas, this being but one of them.

    I am quite certain that you will be pilloried and maligned for taking this posture. I ask the readers to study the Scriptures on all the places where the ‘majority ruled’. Kadesh Barnea is a good place to begin. It matters little what the majority think if in fact they are not on solid exegetical ground in dealing with what the text says (or does not say).

    Finally, I pray that we engage such issues with an irenic and gracious tenor as well as a valid hermeneutic that has been affirmed by orthodox Christians through the ages.

    In Grace,
    Tom Fillinger
    803 776 5282

  5. Frank L. says

    When I read posts like this I think of the title of a little book in my library

    “Your God Is Too Small”

      • Frank L. says

        Imagine that. I believe the same thing.

        And, history, Scripture, and experience verifies my belief.

        • says

          I’m sure you believe the same thing, but your implication is that I make God small because of what I believe about him, whereas I believe those who teach things like whispers from the Spirit are adding onto God things he never said about himself. Most of our language about God’s work in man today is language that is not found in the Bible. We have invented attributes for God and have taught people to expect him to do things he never promised to do.

          • Frank L. says

            Chris,

            You said, “We ask people to expect Him to do things he never promised to do?”

            Like what? I tell people to expect God to raise the dead, for example, because that is what He did and does, and Who He is. I ask people to expect God to supernaturally provide for any and every need. Did He not promise to do that?

            I ask people to expect God to manifest Himself through supernatural manifestations of the Spirit (continuationism), because that is what He promised to do. I’m sure you are familiar with the Book of Romans and Corinthians.

            I’ve taught people wait for God to speak in non-verbal ways that transcend human language because that’s what the Holy Spirit has been promised to do (Rom. 8).

            So, could you state simply and clearly what it is I am asking people to expect God to do that He has not promised to do? You have made that statement several times.

            It does not become more clears or more true simply by repeating it.

            I would never knowingly ask someone to believe or do anything that God has not promised directly or indirectly in His Word.

    • Greg Harvey says

      Frank: my first read of your comment is that you thought the cessationist view could be considered putting God into a box that provides us comfort. But then I realized I might be missing your point.

      Could you elaborate just a little as to which direction you’re heading with that? Color me interested and curious and in strong potential agreement with that comment. In fact, my wife said exactly that to me this morning: that we cannot interpret Scripture in such a way that we restrict the work of God in any way, shape, or form when I was discussing this with him. I read your comment within the context of what she said and it reverberated strongly.

      • Frank L. says

        Greg,

        My point of view is that almost every discussion (if not all) related to theology brings God down to man’s level. It cannot be any other way for we cannot “think” like God (Isa. 55).

        However, direct experience, involving what some philosophers call intuition is much more expansive than intellect. This is why Moses did not merely “think” about God while reading the Bible (which had not been written yet, but go with me on this) to get a “subjective” impression or intellectual understanding of what God said.

        No, Moses “experienced” God in a Burning Bush. This “experiential” element follows throughout the Bible narrative including Pentecost and beyond.

        My view has been attacked as “subjective.” One writer uses this frequently. Actually, I think he has it backwards. I believe my “experience” in seeing God’s manifestation in a vision and many times in signs and wonders is “objective,” whereas simply allowing the Bible to “impress” upon my psyche (psueche, Gk) is subjective.

        Without some “experience” with God, the Bible is simply “ink on a page.”

        So, I do believe that any time we “discuss” God and His ways, we–of necessity–box Him in. It is the human dilemma that can only be overcome by attendant, Biblically-based, experience.

        Lest anyone accuse me of not believing in sola scriptura, let me qualify that with Cor. 2:14, Tim. 3:16, and a string of other verses that teach that Scripture requires an “experiential” component in order to “come alive” in one’s soul.

        The Scriptures, as ink on a page, have no saving power, and limited illumining power without the intervention of God through the Holy Spirit.

        That is why Issac Asimov was a Bible scholar, yet utterly lost to hell for eternity.

        • Greg Harvey says

          Thanks Frank. In essence I agree. I think the moment we start reading the ink, God chooses to either directly or indirectly help, but the idea the ink itself is magical is about as unBaptistic as I can imagine. Conflating the words on the page with THE Word of God is a forgivable act of simple faith that even a child might do.

          But the broader point that God isn’t tame nor tamable–using C. S. Lewis’ phrasing–is something I think we downplay as Baptists. I’d add that I personally–trained as a scientist–sometimes fall into the temptation of trying to analyze stories of miracles from the perspective of my fellow trainees instead of from the perspective of awe at God stepping into history yet again.

          Sign gifts seem showy to many SBs and our insistence on baptism and the Lord’s Supper being simply ordinances with only obedience and symbolism as meaningful content tends to buttress both the sense of showiness and our skepticism of the mystical aspects of those gifts. Add to that perceived skepticism in Paul’s handling of the sign gifts and it is somewhat understandable that cessationists believe they are on reasoned ground.

          But I agree that God doesn’t fit neatly into our lives. He wants more for us than to be a sterile idol, token, or fetish. And in return, we need to practice expecting to be surprised.

          Remember what Isaac means and how he got that name? “He laughs”.

          • Frank says

            Greg,

            I think you analyze–I too come from a science background–the issue well.

            I don’t like what some people have done with words like, “mystery and magic,” but I believe these are essential elements in understanding (to whatever degree humanly possible) the Christian faith.

            I also agree with your opening statement about Bible reading. I do believe that the Bible is indespensible in the experience of faith. How exactly God uses it–that is the methodology–I do not know but I know He does.

            Good post. Thanks.

  6. says

    Dwight, if you believe unity means uniformity, you won’t find it even if you divide from the SBC and unite only with those who you think agree with you on everything. The greatest ministry is accomplished when second and third tier issues do not divide us. These issues should be lovingly discussed and debated, but they shouldn’t divide us.

    These issues are not essential, first tier issues for me. I’m a soft complementarian (I believe women can teach men; they’re just not supposed to teach men from the position of pastor/elder. This also only applies to the church, and not to society at large. My wife doesn’t have to follow the leadership of men in society. She’s free to be President, if she wants; but, she’s my helpmate at home as I lead/serve her.). I also don’t think cessationism should be confessional, even at the entity level. I disagree with those entity heads who would make it an issue. I’m still willing to reach the nations with you and Dave in spite of how wrong you are (I hope ya’ll are willing to reach the nations with me as well). There’s even theoretical continuationists in my church. We love each other! If someone spoke in tongues in my church, I would seek an interpreter; if no interpreter was present, I would tell the person to sit down and be quiet.

    I do think that complimentarianism is a greater issue due to the direct tie it has with the gospel and creation in Scripture. Nevertheless, I see it as a second tier issue. I wouldn’t pastor a church that was egalitarian; however, I would pastor a conservative charismatic church (a church that followed Paul’s rules for order in worship), because I believe cessationism is a third tier issue. Now, I couldn’t even be a member of a loose charismatic church that overemphasizes the gifts and creates new ones (slain in the Spirit, getting zapped, holy laughter, etc.).

    • Dwight McKissic says

      Jared,

      I appreciate your response. Our thinking is not as far apart as your post led me to believe. Based on how you define “soft complementarianism” I would fit that category. Neither do I think cessationism should be confessional, except in the context we now find ourselves in where I believe the SBC should weigh in on this. Functionally and practically, the IMB policies makes the convention–at least from a mission sending standpoint–cessationist. By the convention not weighing in on this, I find it very difficult to answer the question, what is the official SBC position on the gifts of the Spirit?

      Our church is heavily involved in missions and I don’t require everybody to think like me in order to receive mission support from us. We have actually supported cessationist church planters and those who are much more charismatic in their expressions than I am. Our big questions are: do they have integrity?; and will they lift up Jesus more so than their theological bent? I most certainly could cooperate with you in missions. However, if your cessationist views are heavily taught in our colleges and seminaries and are the dominant views of most pastors and churches in the SBC–which I don’t believe they are–I would rather partner with you not as a member of the SBC, just as we currently partner in missions with several evangelical Baptists and non-Baptists groups that we don’t necessarily fully embrace all aspects of their doctrine.

      Dwight

  7. Dee says

    I agree doctine is closed with the Bible…however, it is clear no one agrees what the Bible is saying…maybe we need a little true revelation on that?

    1Co 14:39 So, then, brothers, earnestly seek to prophesy, and do not forbid speaking in tongues.

    1Co 13:8 Love never fails. And whether there be prophecies, they shall be inactive; or tongues, they shall cease; or knowledge, it shall be inactive.

    Have you heard of sarcasm? Paul is a rabbi. Rabbinic argument is full of sarcasm. The reason tongues and knowledge fail is due to love being absent. I have it…the answer to many years of debate:) But seriously, Paul tells you not to forbid tongues then you take it on yourself to forbid tongues? ‘What chutspah those Baptists have to take me (Paul) out of context! ‘ (What Paul might say, if he were helping me write this…)

    2Pe 3:15-16 And count the patience of our Lord as salvation, just as our beloved brother Paul also wrote to you according to the wisdom given him, as he does in all his letters when he speaks in them of these matters. There are some things in them that are hard to understand, which the ignorant and unstable twist to their own destruction, as they do the other Scriptures.

    We must be very careful to take these scriptures in the context in which an Eastern thinking ancient rabbi would write and not to assume a doctrine based in modern Western thought then fashion the words to our own liking. If they had trouble with people twisting Paul back then, how much more now???!!!!

    Catholics ruled for so long, of course tongues were stifled…do you wish to go back to old style Catholicism? Why go back to their doctrine? Cessationism is a Catholic doctrine through and through.

    Why would you assume that there were not others you have not heard of in history or in the Bible days that just did not make it onto the pages of history who had spiritual gifts? I believe that in the hidden places God still moved. Why? Because that is who YHWH is. He wants relationship, not just people who interface with ink on a page and act as robots to that ink.

    2Co 3:3-8 And you show that you are a letter from Christ delivered by us, written not with ink but with the Spirit of the living God, not on tablets of stone but on tablets of human hearts. Such is the confidence that we have through Christ toward God. Not that we are sufficient in ourselves to claim anything as coming from us, but our sufficiency is from God, who has made us competent to be ministers of a new covenant, not of the letter but of the Spirit. For the letter kills, but the Spirit gives life. Now if the ministry of death, carved in letters on stone, came with such glory that the Israelites could not gaze at Moses’ face because of its glory, which was being brought to an end, will not the ministry of the Spirit have even more glory?

    So the letter on the page kills but the Spirit gives life…it seems to me that your view is of a dead Spirit.

    Charismata, the true and the fakes, is just more public now that it is not illegal. I see nothing in scripture saying they could ever cease according to God’s design…only man’s lack of love can do that. Are there abuses? Of course. There are abuses in every doctrine and faction. Just expect it and learn to pastor it. That is what Paul’s rules on interpretation, etc. are for. Learn them, use them and you will do well. They would not have been included in scripture had tongues not been expected to continue. Paul would have clearly spelled out any true cessation doctrine and this would not be an issue.

    My story must to be summarized for this to make sense. At 8, I responded to an SBC VBS invitation, was baptized and I have been assured by my mother that the pastor was convinced I knew what I was doing. However, my family fell away from church soon after and I started going with a friend to the Church of God where hair buns, no makeup, raised arms and tongues were the rule. In fact, everyone ‘went forward’ every service, so I did. The pastor took it upon himself to raise my hands for me, which I felt was rude, but I realized he felt he was helping me.
    At 11, while walking to this friend’s house to play, not thinking about God at all, mind you, God’s presence stopped me cold and overwhelmed me with His love right on the sidewalk. In a moment, I changed the direction of my entire life with no prompting from any person, including myself. I had not been thinking about anything like it before and it seemed to come from nowhere. In that moment, I felt an urgency to know God deeply and completely. In that moment, I knew that I must immediately ask my mother to take me back to MY church, the SBC to learn everything I could about Him.
    So I went to my friend’s house and did not tell her. I later went home, asked to go to MY church, yet did not tell her why. She said we could and so from then on with or without Mom, I went to every service and class I could get my teeth into till this very moment.
    Why did I not feel compelled to tell? I don’t know. It was very personal and people I knew did not talk about charismatic or God came over me type experiences. It was not till I was 40 something that I found out that some of my favorite people in the SBC church, those who impacted me most deeply…were secretly speaking in tongues at home. I
    It was not till I was told to write and memorize my testimony many years later for a high school mission trip that I realized that was the defining moment of my life. I truly had a Samuel experience.
    I studied and struggled with the issue of tongues, but I solved the problem by just telling God ‘I want everything you have for me and nothing that is not from You’. I never felt it was a salvation issue and also realized that many people do fake it or think they have it when it is just emotion. My husband genuinely has it, because he is different when he prays in tongues. When he is in a bad mood, verbalizing the concern sometimes makes it worse, but when he prays in tongues he comes away from it with a renewed faith. So something true is happening for him. I don’t believe that is the case with many charismatics. But I know some true ones who produce fruit. I also know some SBC or other dry people who do and some who do not produce fruit. I figure fruit is the issue and not tongues.
    My husband was part of a Brownsville Revival inspired church revival in Cedar Rapids, IA. I was not married to him then and though I heard about it, I felt God say not now. So I held back from it, without condemnation.
    Years later I found a Hebraic Roots study in that church which I found had sprung up from the revival. It was heavily and deeply into studying the scriptures and we learned Hebrew in that class. I already knew Greek from high school. From there I met a man who started a house of prayer in the style of the Kansas City IHOP with flowing music and lots of intercession for the nations, but with more balance scripturally I believe, the lost and our class had a time slot to pray for Israel. Soon I was a prayer leader there and that is where I took a spiritual bootcamp and I learned this Ric Lumbard, the director, taught tongues was not necessary for salvation and not only that he taught you could have any one of the gifts and be filled with the Holy Spirit. I had found the man who would teach me about the Holy Spirit in a well balanced fashion.

    Ric taught a class on ‘safe supernatural’ where he gave wise guidelines such as never tell someone ‘God told me to tell you this’…never prophesy someone to marry another person…serve the word you get and never expect someone to receive it without them testing the spirits….and two or three witnesses affirms the truth. So he taught that if a word from God cannot be confirmed by two or three other witnesses such as scripture, another person who did not know, circumstance, etc. that we should not consider it was true. We also must learn to discern spirits. I learned about deliverance ministry from this man…he handles this in a quiet, logical fashion and never embarrasses anyone in public. I have never met a minister who is so well balanced, logical, well versed in scripture, yet 80 percent leaning in the spirit. I personally am 80percent logic and into scripture analysis so for me to be impressed by the Spirit in this man took some doing.

    Do I speak in tongues? Strangely, I see Hebrew letters in the spirit. I have been told that possibly my logical nature interferes with my ‘tongues’ reception:) My husband, however is 90percent sensitive in the spirit and a sensitive soul all around who sees music in the spirit and then plays what he sees on his variety of musical instruments. It really sounds like it came from God. The more I deeply I study Hebrew Living Word Pictures from the paleo Hebrew…, the more sense Ric Lumbard makes. All I can say is that my whole life fits together with a nice pretty bow on it now. I have come full circle in all my studies and everything fits. I hang with Messianics, uncompleted Jews, Charismatics, Baptists, I just felt led to talk to some Catholics about the Moedim/Feasts, we’ll see,….but nothing will work for any one group till ‘echad’ unity is the goal and learning from one another what piece of the kingdom puzzle each has correct and then put those pieces together to see what YHWH is building in His family. All I can say is some of us will be there and some will be surprised that they are not….and surprised who else made it. I, personally, don’t want to be unpleasantly surprised, so I will keep my spiritual eyes and ears open for whatever YHWH has next for me. But always, it must align with actual scripture…not just my pet doctrine or what a professor once told me it meant. I am responsible to find out what the Hebrew actually says and when in Greek what is the underlying Hebraic thought.

    Do not believe someone just because they produced a miraculous event. That could be a deception from the enemy. You must test it against scripture. Is this person teaching in line with scripture? Is the sign a biblical sign that was prophesied? If you do not know the original then you will be deceived by charletans. Learn the scripture, especially Genesis and the Torah and that is your plumbline to gauge all signs from.
    All signs and wonders from Jesus were specifically pointing to things in the Torah. That is how they knew it was Messiah and not just some pretender. Even the pharaoh’s magicians could produce similar signs. But they did not know what the signs meant and were just copycats. That is the key. Don’t be fooled by a copycat. Look for the true two witnesses who will come…they will remind you of Moses and Elijah in their focus.

    Joh 14:12 “Truly, truly, I say to you, whoever believes in me will also do the works that I do; and greater works than these will he do, because I am going to the Father.

    • Christiane says

      DEE,
      concerning your statement, this:
      “Cessationism is a Catholic doctrine through and through. ”

      where is that found in the Vatican Catechism?

    • John Wylie says

      Dee,

      It’s not the letter on a page that kills. The letter Paul is referring to is the letter of the Law. I think you might taking Paul a bit out of context.

      • Dee says

        John, hebraic thought allows a scripture to operate on 4 levels of understanding simultaneously…p’shat literal, drash comparative, remez hint and sod hidden. But letter on a page just means literal.the spirit giving life not only means the holy spirit speaking to you about it but also just taking the principle meaning and applying it too other circumstances similar in nature. However there are scriptures that also should be taken as prophecy that look only literal. Scripture is hebraic, so we must learn to think hebraic.

  8. says

    Jared,

    There are a number of points in your article which I do not agree with. I do not have time now to deal with them all point by point.

    I will limit myself now to only a few, though I may come back and deal with others later.

    First, your claim that “it’s undeniable that for over 1600 years of church history, the miraculous spiritual gifts were inactive in the church.”

    I am not sure how undeniable this is. There are scattered reports of miracles throughout church history. We will likely need to consult historical sources and go back and forth on this for a while in order to come to any definitive conclusion. But, in any case, I think your claim that this is “undeniable” is a pretty big stretch.

    Even if it were able to be demonstrated, however, there are several other factors to take into consideration on this point.

    1. If miraculous gifts ceased with the completion of the canon, why are they still frequently reported in the first three centuries of church history?

    2. If the vast majority of Christendom did not believe in justification by faith alone during a long stretch of church history, does this render it untrue as well?

    3. Jesus’ said that in certain towns, due to their lack of faith, He did not do miracles there. Is it possible that certain periods of history have been correspondingly marked by a lack of faith? It is interesting to me that reports of supernatural gifts and miracles are more frequent even today in the two-thirds world.

    4. God sovereignly distributes the gifts as He chooses. Just because He may not have distributed them quite as liberally during certain times and in certain places does not mean He will not choose to distribute them more liberally at other times and places. This is similar to the Third Wave argument, but not exactly the same. It is more an argument for sporadic waves of miracles and supernatural gifts throughout history and throughout world geography. It is not our place to argue with God’s sovereign choice in His distribution of the gifts, but it is our place to examine our own hearts in order to ask if perhaps our lack of faith is a reason why we are not seeing more manifestations of the supernatural in our own lives.

    5. You also say that “miraculous gifts were used at the discretion of the person who received the gift.” I am not convinced that is the case. I believe the X factor is not the discretion of the person who received the gift, but rather the sovereignty of God. In Acts 4:29-30, the early believers in Jerusalem prayed: “And now, Lord, look upon their threats and grant to your servants to continue to speak your word with all boldness, while you stretch out your hand to heal, and signs and wonders are performed through the name of your holy servant Jesus.” In other words, they recognized that healing, signs, and wonders were ultimately dependent on the sovereignty of God.

    As far as your section on the purpose of miraculous gifts having ceased, you do not really answer the argument I raised in the comment stream of Dave’s post related to this point. I will copy it again here. I believe this is a strong exegetical argument. It will need to be answered before I am convinced it that it does not disprove your thesis on this point:

    1. Hebrews 2:2–4. For since the message declared by angels proved to be reliable, and every transgression or disobedience received a just retribution, 3 how shall we escape if we neglect such a great salvation? It was declared at first by the Lord, and it was attested to us by those who heard, 4 while God also bore witness by signs and wonders and various miracles and by gifts of the Holy Spirit distributed according to his will.

    2. 1 Corinthians 13:8–10. Love never ends. As for prophecies, they will pass away; as for tongues, they will cease; as for knowledge, it will pass away. 9 For we know in part and we prophesy in part, 10 but when the perfect comes, the partial will pass away.

    3. 1 Corinthians 1:4–8. I give thanks to my God always for you because of the grace of God that was given you in Christ Jesus, 5 that in every way you were enriched in him in all speech and all knowledge— 6 even as the testimony about Christ was confirmed among you— 7 so that you are not lacking in any gift, as you wait for the revealing of our Lord Jesus Christ, 8 who will sustain you to the end, guiltless in the day of our Lord Jesus Christ.

    My reasoning. One of the purposes (not necessarily the only one, in my understanding) of signs, wonders, miracles, and gifts of the Holy Spirit, according to Heb. 2:2–4 is to confirm the witness of those who are giving testimony to the gospel. The direct reference in this passage is to those who were eyewitnesses, but 1 Cor. 1:4–8 appears to refer to the same function of spiritual gifts, not only as practiced by the original apostles, but by the believers in Corinth. “All speech and all knowledge” in 1 Cor. 1:6, in the context of 1 Corinthians, almost certainly refers to certain supernatural manifestations of spiritual gifts. 1 Cor. 13:8–10 specifically teaches that tongues and prophecy will pass away when ever “the perfect comes.” 1 Cor. 1:4–8 appears to shed further light on the coming of “the perfect”: God’s confirmation of the gospel through “all speech and knowledge” among common believers, who will not be “lacking in any gift,” will continue as long as we continue to wait for “the revealing of our Lord Jesus Christ, who will sustain you to the end, guiltless in the day of our Lord Jesus Christ.”

    In other words, the inevitable conclusion I gather from all this is that “the perfect” referred to in 1 Cor. 13:8–10 is the Second Coming of Jesus. And God’s confirmation of the gospel by means of supernatural spiritual gifts will continue until “the perfect” comes.

    Finally (for now), regarding your point that “The Bible never says the miraculous will cease (except prophecies and tongues, 1 Cor. 13:8), but it also never says they will continue either.” If my argument above holds water, then 1 Cor. 1:4-8 does indeed imply very strongly, if not directly state, that miraculous gifts will continue.

    This, for me, was the clincher when I was diligently studying Scripture trying to come to some conclusions on these questions.

    I am still open to being convinced otherwise, but I will have to see some answer to my exegesis of Heb. 2:2-4, 1 Cor. 13:8-10, and 1 Cor. 1:4-8 first.

    • says

      David, thanks for the comment.

      First, I’ve got some sources that Ruthven suggested. I’ll look through them, and try to get something together in a few weeks. It is a debatable issue; but I didn’t make it hastily. B. B. Warfield and Ian Murray have made similar statements.

      Second, even if I grant that miracles were frequent up to the Third Century, you must ask why they decreased and ceased. At the very least, you have to argue they decreased in frequency. Why did they decrease in frequency? If the church needs the miraculous gifts, why would they decrease in frequency?

      Third, what does Jesus not doing miracles due to a lack of the potential recipient’s faith, have to do with spiritual gifts? Show me where in Scripture that a Christian must possess a certain amount of faith before he or she can use a spiritual gift. It’s not there.

      Fourth, you’re correct that God sovereignly distributes the gifts, but I don’t know why you would hold that there are multiple waves of spiritual gifts based on geography, certain churches, etc. Where’s the textual warrant for such an argument? Also, you point to a “lack of faith” as a reason. Show me where a certain amount of faith must accompany the use of gifts, or you can’t use them. This argument isn’t in the text.

      Fifth, I think “the perfect” to which Paul refers is when he goes to heaven. I don’t think he’s making an eschatological statement that he wouldn’t experience at death, but rather a statement directly applicable to himself and his hearers and us. His point is that love will continue even in Heaven. That’s why it must be used and be the main emphasis here. If “the perfect” isn’t when Paul goes to Heaven, then you must argue that miraculous gifts continue in the intermediate Heaven (Since Christ hasn’t returned yet) or you must affirm some type of soul sleep.

      Moreover, where does 1 Cor. 4-8 argue that these spiritual gifts will continue forever until the 2nd coming? You’re making what was normative for the Corinthians, normative for the entire church forevermore. (How does this jive with your argument that some churches will have miraculous gifts and some won’t based on God’s willing in certain geographies, time periods, etc. since the Corinthians didn’t lack in any spiritual gift?) We can’t argue that Paul is saying the Corinthians would use miraculous spiritual gifts until the 2nd coming of Christ? They’re all dead now. How are they using these spiritual gifts today?

      Furthermore, “not lacking in any spiritual gift,” means that if the miraculous spiritual gifts have ceased, then we’re “not lacking in any spiritual gift” either. The church isn’t lacking spiritual gifts today if the Holy Spirit is no longer giving these gifts.

      Finally, the gospel has already been validated. It doesn’t have to be validated with every new generation. Once again, how does this jive with your argument that the miraculous gifts aren’t present in every geographic location or time period? If the gospel needs re-validation, then shouldn’t miracles be active among all Christians?

      • says

        “Show me where in Scripture that a Christian must possess a certain amount of faith before he or she can use a spiritual gift. It’s not there.”

        How about Rom 12: “If prophecy, prophesy according to your faith.”

        • says

          Jon, You’re ignoring the context. Look at v.3 –

          “3 For by the grace given to me I say to everyone among you not to think of himself more highly than he ought to think, but to think with sober judgment, each according to the measure of faith that God has assigned” (Rom. 12:3).

          “According to our faith (Rom. 12:6)” refers to the “measure of faith God has assigned (Rom. 12:3).” It doesn’t refer to “if you possess a certain amount of faith.”

          • Frank L. says

            I don’t think you can altogether deny different measures of faith among disciples.

            Jesus referred to “Ye of little faith.” How that relates to spiritual gifts is not certain in my mind. After all, God manifested His truth through a donkey–I’m presuming was not part of the elect.

            Also, a important parable speaks of the “size of faith” in regard to a mustard seed. That would indicate to me that even the “smallest” measure of faith would be sufficient to be used mightily of God.

            As all you know, Biblical faith is dependent upon the “object” not the “subject.” So, the faith movement guys (gals) get this backward and faith becomes a muscle and the Word of Faith preachers become personal trainers.

            God will not be manipulated by such drivel.

      • David Rogers says

        RE: “Second…”: Check out this Sam Storms article http://www.enjoyinggodministries.com/article/gifts-in-church-history/

        RE: “Third…”: The Bible does explicitly teach that the exercise of gifts is somewhat contingent on one’s level of faith, as well as one’s desire to exercise that gift, often expressed through prayer: Romans 12:6–8, 1 Corinthians 14:1, 12–13, 39.

        RE: “Fourth…”: See above RE: Second, and RE: Third.

        RE: “Fifth…”: What is your exegetical basis for thinking “the perfect” is heaven? The text doesn’t talk about “going” somewhere, but rather about something (i.e. “the perfect”) “coming” to us.

        RE: 1 Cor. 1:4–8: Throughout the NT, the imminence of the Second Coming is assumed. In general, what Paul and other NT writers write to individual groups of Christians is applicable to all Christians throughout church history, unless a specific context demands a more specific application. In any case, all Scripture is “profitable for teaching, for reproof, for correction, and for training in righteousness.”

        By the same token, in the Great Commission, Jesus said to the 11, in Matthew 28:20, “I am with you always, to the end of the age.” Since they all died and are no longer with us, are we to assume His command to make disciples of all nations was only applicable to them?

        And, yes, in a sense, if God is not sovereignly distributing certain gifts at a certain time and place, then we are not truly “lacking” what He desires for us. Indeed, 1 Peter 1:3 states that, “His divine power has granted to us all things that pertain to life and godliness.” And yet, the context of 1 Cor. 1:4–8 shows that God used spiritual gifts, most specifically those having to do with supernatural speech and knowledge, to confirm the authenticity of the gospel message, and that this confirmation will continue to the end, to “the day of our Lord Jesus Christ.”

        With regard to your last paragraph, in a sense, the gospel does not need to be re-validated. But yet, the Bible teaches that God Himself sovereignly takes it upon Himself to continue to confirm it until the end. The way and degree He does this depends upon His sovereignty, though our lack of faith, desire, and prayer can also play a role in limiting what He would otherwise do (Matthew 23:37).

        • Frank L. says

          David,

          “”””though our lack of faith, desire, and prayer can also play a role in limiting what He would otherwise do (Matthew 23:37).””””

          This seems explicitly clear in Scripture. All believers are not “equal” in the sense of performance. This is a touchy subject especially with American believers who are staunchly eqalitarian and individualistic in our world-view.

          That’s “egalitarian” apart from gender.

  9. Josh Bryant says

    Another argument for the continuation of the gifts:

    If the gifts have ceased then Revelation 11:3-6 will not be possible.

  10. says

    I used to teach a class called, Thesis Research and Writing for many years at a major Protestant seminary. I would tell my students that they had no business proposing a “thesis” until they had read all the major related literature.
    I would strongly urge Jared to interact with some key works before repeating his cessationist theses–a position that, in the face of an exploding charismatic movement at over 700+ million world wide, and a flood of scholarly literature against it, is in serious retreat these days:

    Craig Keener, *Miracles: The Credibility of the New Testament Accounts* 2 vols. Baker Academic, 2011. (1179 pages of densly documented material from a major Evangelical scholar).
    Gary Greig and Kevin Springer. *The Kingdom and the Power*. Regal Books, 1993.
    Wayne Grudem (ed.). *Continuing Spiritual Gifts: Four Views* Zondervan, 1996.
    Jon Ruthven. *On the Cessation of the Charismata: The Protestant Polemic on Post-Biblical Miracles*. 2nd revised edition. Tulsa: Word & Spirit Press, 2011. (See summary of academic reviews in Amazon.com)
    ______. *What’s Wrong with Protestant Theology: Traditions vs. Biblical Emphasis* Tulsa: Word & Spirit Press, 2012.

    See also the enormous bibliography in *On the Cessation* and in Keener, above, on the literature documenting spirtual gifts manifesting in history. (Some of these are listed in “Continuationism” in Wikipedia). To make the claim that 1600 years of history is silent on spiritual gifts and miracle accounts betrays a studied, willful ignorance of history and its scholarly literature.

    To accuse those who cannot dismiss the clear commands of scripture at face value to “seek, desire earnestly” prophecy and other spiritual gifts as “sarcasm”–actually, he meant being sardonic) is breathtaking when considering the solid exegetical case many have made for continuing spiritual gifts in the church.

    How can cessationism flout the explicit teaching of Paul in Romans 11:29 “The charismata and callings of God are *not withdrawn.*” (More “sarcasm”? That Paul! Such a comedian!) Like Paul here, Peter in Acts 2:39 is citing this paraphrase as the action point–the climax–of arguably the keynote address of Christianity: “I, even I, says the Lord: ‘The Spirit I have put upon you, and the words I have put in your mouth, shall not depart from your mouth, nor depart from the mouths of your children, nor from the mouths of your children’s children, FOREVER.”—This speech was delivered among a group that was speaking in tongues (“that which you see and hear”–present tense) and clearly referred to the spiritual utterance gifts. This is how *Luke and Peter* interpreted this OT passage from Isa 59:21–as Paul in Rm 11:29–as the new covenant of the prophetic Spirit offered to all who would seek it (See: “‘This Is My Covenant with Them'” (journal article) at http://www.jonruthven.org/JPT%20Covenant%20I.pdf)

    I certainly respect that Jared is entitled to his opinions, but his claim that continuing spiritual gifts are unbiblical for today and that they did not appear in 1600 years of history, all without engaging the best scholarship in these areas, invites serious skepticism of his thesis.

    • David Rogers says

      Dr. Ruthven has some pretty substantial argumentation here. If you click on his name, and go to his website, you can access an article “On the Cessation of Spiritual Gifts,” which is taken from his book and dissertation on the same topic.

      While I do not take a full-blown Pentecostal approach to spiritual gifts (as it appears Dr. Ruthven does), the argumentation for continuationism in general does not hinge, as I understand it, on such things as “second blessing” theology, or any one gift (such as tongues) as a necessary manifestation of the work of the Holy Spirit.

      I have not yet read his books on the subject, and only had time thus far to skim over his article on his website. I look forward to studying what he has to say in more depth later. I was interested, however, to see him deal with the passages I mention in my earlier comment (1 Cor. 1:4-8 and 1 Cor. 13:8-10) in pretty much the same way as I understand them, but with a whole lot of additional supporting information and exegesis.

      I would also second his recommendation of the book edited by Greig and Springer. It was a real eye-opener for me when I first read it about 15 years ago.

    • says

      Jon, give me some time, and I’ll interact with some of the sources you suggest. To be fair, this blog post was a response to Dave Miller’s post (which cited no sources other than Scripture and personal experience). Also, at first glance, you seem to be confusing spiritual gifts and miracles. They’re not the same thing.

      Maybe we’ll have some substantial interaction.

        • says

          Jon, the Spirit giving someone the ability to work a miracle and the Spirit working a miracle apart from gifting humans are 2 different things. The ability to work miracles is different than seeing the Spirit work a miracle independent of supernaturally gifting a person to work the miracle.

          Since you seem to be combining miracles worked by the Spirit independently and miracle working of the Spirit through gifting humans, are you still arguing that the miraculous spiritual gifts have been active throughout church history? I’m not talking about miracles being worked by God in response to prayer, I’m talking about miracle-working; such as tongues, healings, etc. worked through humans in church history.

          • says

            Jared,

            You are setting the rules for the playing field according to your own presuppositions, not according to Scripture. For one thing, everything that God does is supernatural. God works through people – it is always supernatural. I think that much that we explain away as being a coincidence or natural, is actually God working strongly through people in ways that we cannot explain.

            You create a prism here and then strain everything through it. It is impossible to have a complete discussion on this issue via blogs, especially when you level 18 points. To respond to each one would take a blog post all its own.

            I have no idea how to read the Bible if I throw out all that Scripture tells us about God working and speaking and interacting with His people and enabling them for ministry. You could make the case that Acts 1:6-8 is a case for the Continualist perspective in that the receiving of the Holy Spirit and the power to be a witness – which is for all believers for all time, as Peter preached – provides the doctrinal basis for the perspective that the Gifts of the Holy Spirit are not to be withdrawn.

            The argument from a lack of experience by the cessationist is not convincing. Many in Jesus’ day could not receive what He was doing either. I am not saying that you lack faith or any such thing. I am only saying that when you are predisposed to reject the gifts of the Spirit, then you will not accept them, even when they are right in front of you.

            I have seen abuses too. There are many charlatans. But, the presence of abuse does not eliminate the possibility of the legitimate outworking of the Spirit in power.

            As for those who ask why those gifted in healing do not go and empty out hospitals, I would ask why those gifted in evangelism do not go and get everyone saved, or why those gifted in teaching to do not and teach so that no one ever sins again or no one does wrong or why those gifted in administration do not make everything run perfectly all the time or why those gifted in mercy do not take care of every need.

            Yes, there are those gifted in healing. Some of them might be doctors that God has enabled to do amazing things in healing the human body. What we call natural might actually be supernatural in that God is working in ways we cannot understand. I know that spiritual gifts are given to believers for the building up of the saints – I am just expanding the understanding of how God cares for His people beyond the natural/supernatural divide. On the subject of gifting, however, yes, we have seen people who seem to have an unusual ability to pray for people to be healed and healing follows more often with that person than with others. It is unexplainable. I have seen it myself.

            I sat next to a man in India who everyone in the room nonchalantly claimed to have raised the dead many times in villages in India as part of his evangelistic ministry. It was well known by all there. They had seen it. Either everyone in the room was a liar (this was a training meeting for indigenous Indian missionaries with an evangelical ministry) or they were telling the truth.

            I have seen exorcisms, prophecies spoken that have been fulfilled, tongues interpreted, and healings and other miracles. Yes, God did it in answer to prayer, but there were people who were used more directly in praying these prayers than others who were observing and receiving. Now, none of those arguments from experience mean a thing. They are not convincing. It is only the Word of God that we can point to, and Scripture does not say that what is firmly established in the New Testament as the normal experience of the church will cease or be fully withdrawn.

            Personally, I think that what happens is that sign and wonders are granted according to God’s will and purposes. Death is still a natural part of life. Not everyone will be healed. God has a purpose in allowing sickness during this time and He has a purpose in His silence at times. We cannot conjure up God and any implication that the Continuationist believes we can is just false. God is sovereign. Yet, He does equip people in certain ways to represent His Kingdom and power. Why should we expect anything less? These giftings do not add to or take away from the validity of the Word of God, but rather, they bring to life what the Word testifies to. The Word points to Jesus and the Gifts of the Spirit confirm and illuminate the work of Jesus in our lives. The Kingdom is “now but not yet.” We do not get the fullness of the Kingdom until Jesus returns. But, until then, we get the “drip-drops” of the Kingdom in significant ways. One of those ways is through the outworking of the Gifts of the Spirit.

            I think that the miraculous gifts occur far less than some claim (they cannot be controlled) but far more often than others claim (God has not withdrawn or limited Himself in any way). David Rogers has pointed to 1 Corinthians 1:4-8. That passage alone is a stronger witness to the continuation of the gifts than any cessationist argument that I have seen.

            The burden of proof is on the cessationist, not the continuationist. It is a burden that neither Scripture nor church history nor experience can bear if we look at this objectively. Can we make a case for the rarity of Spiritual Gifts? Absolutely! But, that does not mean that they have disappeared or that Scripture says that we should not expect them to continue.

          • says

            Oh, by the way, Jared – this is not an issue that I think we should divide over. I can think that you are wrong and you can think that I am wrong and we can continue to serve the Lord together in partnership and by encouraging one another, I hope. I appreciate you and your writing and am thankful that you put in the time and energy to write this response.

          • says

            Alan, thanks for the interaction.

            First, if you make Acts 1:6-8 normative for all Christians spreading the gospel from that point onward, then where are your miracles? Also, shouldn’t you be ministering in Jerusalem, Judea, Samaria, unto the ends of the Earth. The disciples accomplished this prophecy in the First Century. You can’t take this “power” as normative without taking “unto the ends of the Earth” as normative as well. In other words, if we’re all going to receive this “power” from the Holy Spirit, then we’ll reach the ends of the Earth with each generation that possesses this power as well. Yet, this prophecy isn’t being fulfilled, if what you’re arguing is true. I’m not prepared to argue that Christ’s prophecy isn’t being fulfilled.

            Second, you’re adding to the requirement for spiritual gifts. They are gifts given by the Holy Spirit, not based on a certain amount of faith we possess. These are given at salvation, “according to the grace given to us” (Rom. 12:6).

            Third, arguing that “gifts of healing” might be possessed by doctors is a different definition than Scripture gives. You’ve changed the definition of the “gift of healing” in Scripture. Even Atheists are amazing doctors (due to God’s gifting of course, but not due to spiritual gifts).

            Fourth, I don’t understand how 1 Cor. 1:4-8 proves the continuation of miraculous gifts?

            Fifth, you wrote, “The burden of proof is on the cessationist, not the continuationist. It is a burden that neither Scripture nor church history nor experience can bear if we look at this objectively. Can we make a case for the rarity of Spiritual Gifts? Absolutely! But, that does not mean that they have disappeared or that Scripture says that we should not expect them to continue.”

            The burden of proof is on both continuationists and cessationists. I also think it’s unfair to be dismissive. You really think I don’t want miracles or the miraculous or to know beyond the shadow of a doubt that I’m supposed to make this decision instead of that one? I don’t understand how you can dismiss my 18 arguments as “not looking at the issue objectively.”

          • says

            Once again, I would urge the participants of this discussion to check out Keener, *Miracles: The Credibility of the NT Accounts* (Baker Academic, 2011). It exhaustively (1179 pps) documents miracles happing all over the world, and makes the conservative claim that at least 300 million people claim to have witnessed them first hand, as I have. They’re not rare at all, but one must be willing to investigate them honestly. For a biblical outline arguing for the continuation of miracles and spiritual gifts, see http://www.jonruthven/ (article on cessationism).

          • says

            Jon, just for the record, I’m not debating the existence of miracles. I’m debating the existence of the miraculous spiritual gifts. I’m in process of reading the sources you suggested, including your own book.

          • says

            I understand that some make a distinction between miracles and “miraculous spiritual gifts.” For the life of me I can’t get the difference. But any way . . . . ;-)

  11. parsonsmike says

    Did you ever read or hear something and just know it was wrong, but you couldn’t prove it, at least at the moment?

    That is my reaction to some of what Chris is posting here. Like point 3.
    Words on paper or in a book are lifeless.
    If you are a follower of the Bible as a book of words you are in danger of becoming like the Jews who had to add a million laws or so to the Law in order to cover every new and different situation that rises up in daily life. That is the ministry of the letter, and it kills.

    The ministry of the Spirit brings life and understanding because it uses the Word to teach principles that when a new or different situation rises up in life, you don’t words from a book that tell you exactly what to do. That is because even if there was such a book it would be so large that one would not be able to find what you were looking for.

    Now we have a book, so we look to it. We carry it around. We can even put it on our phones, The Bible can always be right there for us. But brothers this has not always been so. And yet God led His people into truth even when they had no access to His written words. For all who are being led by the Spirit of God, these are sons of God.

    It is a relationship we have with God. We have His book, we pray to Him. He leads us and guides us by His Spirit. He uses the world around us, including His Word and His people, to teach us His ways and His wills.

    For we read:
    Yet we do speak wisdom among those who are mature; a wisdom, however, not of this age nor of the rulers of this age, who are passing away; but we speak God’s wisdom in a mystery, the hidden wisdom which God predestined before the ages to our glory; the wisdom which none of the rulers of this age has understood; for if they had understood it they would not have crucified the Lord of glory; but just as it is written,

    “Things which eye has not seen and ear has not heard,
    And which have not entered the heart of man,
    All that God has prepared for those who love Him.”

    For to us God revealed them through the Spirit; for the Spirit searches all things, even the depths of God. For who among men knows the thoughts of a man except the spirit of the man which is in him? Even so the thoughts of God no one knows except the Spirit of God. Now we have received, not the spirit of the world, but the Spirit who is from God, so that we may know the things freely given to us by God, which things we also speak, not in words taught by human wisdom, but in those taught by the Spirit, combining spiritual thoughts with spiritual words.

    Now plain things don’t need the Spirit to reveal them.
    But again, why does Paul tell us that the thoughts of God are only known by the Spirit, when we have the written Word of God?

    Again, who is the “us” but the children of God?

    Likewise if any person saved or not can read the Bible, and that is all we have, then what is “spiritual thoughts”? “spiritual words”?

    We read:
    But a natural man does not accept the things of the Spirit of God, for they are foolishness to him; and he cannot understand them, because they are spiritually appraised. But he who is spiritual appraises all things, yet he himself is appraised by no one.

    The natural man can read the Bible and understand the sentences but can not understand the mind of God, the thoughts of God. He lacks in ability of spiritual discernment that the spiritual man does not. But the spiritual man appraises all things. By “all” here, Paul is meaning more than just the Bible.

    So how does that happen? The indwelling Spirit leads the children of God to appraise all things. But how? Certainly through the mind. But we appraise things through the mind by a variety of ways, including thoughts and feelings and impressions.

    • says

      A hearty “amen” to this analysis! The more I experience the working of the Spirit in my life, the more I am driven to the Bible, which, in turn drives me into the experiences of the Spirit. I strongly believe in the inerrant, holy, universal, unbroken, divinely-inspired scriptures–the word of God written–the non”sarcastic” word of God that means what it says–the word made alive to me by his Spirit (2 Cor 3). As far as “experiences” of the Spirit, I have a DMin student, an internationally-known evangelist and trainer in spiritual gifts, who has collected over 200 cases of surgically-implanted metal either disappearing (x-rays of this in some cases) and/or allowing bending and movement of the body that should be impossible with that metal present. I’ve seen at least one such case within 5 feet where a metal plate disappeared from the lower shin bone during prayer. This plate was covered only by about a millimeter or two of skin–it’s disappearance was extremely easy to detect. If this doesn’t qualify as a “sign gift” (a characterization unknown in Scripture), then I don’t know what would. This happened in Mechanicsburg, PA about a year ago. I would contend that “miracles” (“signs, wonders, mighty works”) don’t *prove* the Gospel; they *express* the Gospel.

  12. Christiane says

    “So shall my word be that goeth forth out of my mouth: it shall not return unto me void, but it shall accomplish that which I please, and it shall prosper in the thing whereto I sent it.” (Isaiah 55:11)

    The countless works of the Holy Spirit among us are not directly seen. One of the great works of the Holy Spirit is to prepare the hearts of men to receive Our Lord . . .

    this has been on-going since Pentecost and will continue until Our Lord returns to us

    If the Holy Spirit’s preparation of the human heart to receive Christ
    is not miracle enough for some people . . . then what is?

  13. Jim G. says

    Hi Jared,

    You wrote,

    “It’s undeniable that for over 1600 years of church history, the miraculous spiritual gifts were inactive in the church. They were only present among heretics. ”

    That assertion is not backed up by history. The gifts of the Spirit were active well up into Augustine’s time, though with decreasing frequency. That makes spiritual gifts a fairly normal occurrence for the first 400 years of Christian history, and that is in the mainstream, not the fringe. I would recommend you consult Eusebius A. Stephanou, “The Charismata of the Early Church Fathers” GOTR June 1, 1976 125-46.

    Not only that, but the requirement for canonization among Roman Catholics is the presence of miracles. That means that “St.” Gregory the Great, “St.” Francis, “St.” Benedict, “St.” Anselm, “St.” Bernard of Clairvaux, “St.” Thomas Aquinas, and so many others exhibited evidence of miracles in their lives. These men, though devout Medieval Catholics, were by no means heretics. The miraculous may have occurred with lessening frequency, but to say they completely ceased and were only in the possession of heretics is quite historically uninformed. Any casual internet search of the lives of any of these men will yield the miraculous – that is why the RCC recognizes them as “saints.”

    Jim G.

      • Jim G. says

        Hi Jared,

        Both are in evidence. I just read today that Bernard of Clairvaux, for instance, was said to have the gift of healing by making the sign of the cross over the sick. He was a pretty important figure in the Medieval church – he gave us the hymn “O Sacred Head” if I am not mistaken.

        Jim G.

  14. says

    Here’s a quote by Ian Murray: “What I would point out is the fact that not since the time of the apostolic church has there been any group of Christians whose claim to be in possession of the extraordinary gifts of the New Testament age has deserved credibility. These gifts were unknown in the time of Chrysostom (c. 347-407) and Augustine (c. 354-430). Nor have they ever been possessed by any evangelical leaders in any of the revivals from the Reformation to the present century. Against the claim of the Roman Church that she is authenticated by the continuance of the miraculous, the reformers appealed solely to the Scripture. The same was true in the Puritan period, through the Great Awakening in the time of Edwards, Whitefield, and the Wesleys, and down to Spur-geon. All agreed with Whitefield that “the miraculous gifts conferred on the primitive church have long since ceased.” If such leaders were filled with the Spirit, as they were, in order to do such a mighty work, it is strange that they knew no miraculous gifts—supposing they were intended to be permanent. The more so as the Scripture teaches that gifts are sovereignly given by the Holy Spirit ‘who works all these things, distributing to each one individually as He wills’ (1 Cor 12:11).

    This is not to say that miraculous gifts have not been chimed among Protestants at any time. They have been repeatedly claimed by those whose ultimate history proved them to be fanatics whose hopes were delusions. This happened at the time of the Reformation and again in the following century when numbers were misled by those claiming to possess the spirit of prophecy…. Theoretical discussion of the possibility of the continuance of miraculous gifts may continue, but the historical facts are clear: great revivals have occurred without the presence of any such gifts, while excitement and interest in them may abound where there is no revival.”

    Iain Murray, Pentecost Today? (Carlisle, Pa.: Banner of Truth, 1998), 197-99.

    • Christiane says

      the miraculous gifts of the Holy Spirit are given in order to build up the Church so that it may accomplish the great purpose of bringing Christ to the world . . .

      the Church has carefully guarded the integrity of the gifts by thoroughly investigating reported manifestations . . . for the thousands and thousands of reports that come in, not very many are validated after careful examination according to very strict guidelines

      here’s the thing:
      in this world, we see the manifestations of Satan . . . they have not ceased on this earth

      so it is that the work of the Holy Spirit has not ceased to build up the Church that brings Christ to those who need Him,
      in direct response to the attacks of Satan on the innocent

    • Jim G. says

      Hi Jared,

      Murray is just dead wrong. I want to encourage you to do two things. First, since I believe you are a student at SBTS, see if you have access to ATLA from home. If you do, go to it and type in “Eusebius A. Stephanou” in the search box and read his article on “The Charismata of the Early Church Fathers” from 1976 in GOTR (11 years BEFORE Murray – so Murray’s scholarship is extremely sloppy). It is in pdf full text. He provides primary source material from almost every important father of the first four centuries showing Murray to be completely wrong in his assessment of the historicity of cessationism.

      Second, and please take this in the kind spirit in which it is intended, you must read beyond the typical Reformed/Presbyterian/Protestant viewpoint, especially since you are working toward (if I remember correctly) a ThM. You can’t just take someone like Murray’s word for it. He did not do his homework and because you quoted him and allowed him to shape your viewpoint, it shows that you did not do yours either. It’s like our discussion last week (I think) about Richard Muller. As good and reputable a scholar as he is, he did not describe the Reformed viewpoint on determinism with as much nuance as he should have. Always have a couple of different sources at hand. It makes for much better scholarship. This is intended to be good advice from someone who has been there and took the lumps.

      Jim G.

  15. Christiane says

    one further thing to consider . . .

    NONE of the gifts of the Holy Spirit are ‘ordinary’ . . . they are all manifestations of grace given in order to strengthen the Church for its mission

    people need to stop taking what is holy for granted . . . I have seen a lot of this among some Christian people . . . the more Christian people give thanks to God, the more they will see the wonders of God at work in this world

    taking for granted what is holy is not a good witness to the strength of one’s faith, or the degree to which one is consciously beholden to God for all good things

  16. says

    I’m afraid the distinction between the spiritual gift of miracles and miracles appearing in answer to prayer escapes me, since I can’t find clear scriptural support for this distinction. I might suggest that the Spirit works both. I would still recommend the bibliography in the Wikipedia article in Wikipedia on miracles and spiritual gifts in history.

  17. says

    Jared,
    Good balance to Dave’s piece. I appreciate the work you both did.

    I would lean toward your position here primarily for the preservation of the revelation given in the canon of scripture.

    Also, while Paul treated the miraculous as common enough to comment on, the bulk of his admonitions had nothing to do with relying on the miraculous. Rather, his typical admonitions were what we might think of as ordinary. In fact, his admonitions regarding the miraculous placed restrictions on them favoring the clarity of the message of the gospel and the traditions of the ordinances that had already been revealed. In other words, undue attention given to the miraculous draws attention away from faith and places it back in the category of sight. Our faith is based on what we know from scripture. Our sight is based on more and more evidence as though we don’t have enough for faith yet. The miracle of the indwelling of the Holy Spirit is that we know Him without the need for a sign. That should be normative.