12 January 2006
Allow me to reiterate...
Today I'm going to take advantage of the fact that this is my weblog and simply reiterate (for clarity's sake and for emphasis' sake) the same simple point I tried to make yesterday.
I should explain, first of all, that although the past two days have generated a record number of comments, and I would love to interact in detail with all of them, I've barely had time even to read some of them. On Tuesday I spent the morning preparing a funeral sermon and the afternoon actually doing the funeral and graveside services. Yesterday I spent most of the day giving a deposition in an unusual legal case. (I can't really describe the nature of the case, but I'm just a peripheral witness, neither the victim nor the accused. Nonetheless, the process required me to spend all afternoon Wednesday in downtown Los Angeles. Obviously, that ate up the better part of the day.)
Tonight we have houseguests coming to stay through the weekend, and meanwhile unanswered e-mail and other pressing duties are stacking up. So it's unlikely that I'll be able to post another extensive entry in the "cessationism" discussion before next week. Thanks for your patience, and feel free to keep commenting.
I did, however, print out fifty or so comments that had been posted by 11:00 AM yesterday, and I took them downtown with me to read while I was waiting to be deposed.
As I said, I can't reply to every point and every question, but I want to respond to one issue that keeps coming up. I thought I had addressed this (albeit obliquely) several times before, and I also thought I was clearly making a major point of it in yesterday's post. But perhaps I have been too subtle. (That's a problem I seem to have sometimes. I'm trying hard to overcome it.)
Let's try again:
The kneejerk demand for "exegesis" at the very start of the cessationism discussion is fatuous.
"Exegesis" for what? So far I haven't actually taken any positions or made any controversial biblical claims that require "exegetical" support. All I have done to date is point out how hard it is to find any credible person, even from the charismatic camp, who really believes the apostolic signs and offices are still in full operation just like when the apostle Paul raised Eutychus from the dead. I quoted some charismatic authors to establish their position. There's hardly any need for supporting "exegesis" on that.
Furthermore, I have asserted almost nothing about the degree of cessationism I hold to. I have not even actually stated whether I believe miracles (as distinct from miraculous gifts) occur today. I've merely argued that a genuinely non-cessationist, strictly pure continuationist theology is practically unheard of.
(Even in the earlier discussion last month, when I made several posts pointing out what an extraordinarily high percentage of modern "prophecies" turn out to be bogus, I did not actually argueyetthat the gift of prophecy has utterly and finally ceased. As a matter of fact, several times I explicitly pointed out that I was not making any such argument. See, for example, the statement in large red type near the end of this post.)
That refusal to assert any specific degree of cessationism is a deliberate omission and not an accidental oversight on my part. I am first simply trying to establish the fact that no one who is credible seriously believes that all the miracles and gifts of the apostolic era are commonplace today. I don't need a proof-text, or any amount of "exegesis" to validate that.
As a matter of fact (unless I missed a comment) no one has yet seriously asserted the contrary. No one has come forward to offer any earnest defense for the claim that nothing whatsoever has changed in the exercise of miraculous gifts since Peter commanded the lame man at the Temple gate to rise and walk. Moreover, everyone (including a few bold commenters yesterday who seemed to doubt whether the canon is really closed) has agreed that no new Scripture has been written for the past 1900 years.
Now, show me something there that requires "exegetical support," and I'll try to tackle the challenge. Otherwise, it would be better to stay with the actual argument that's being made, and interact with that.
And be patient. When some argument I'm making calls for biblical support, I'll do my best to give it. But the principle of sola Scriptura has never meant that all theological arguments are invalid unless they can be substantiated with some proof-text. What "exegetical proof" would you have cited in 18 BC to confirm the truth that no new Scripture had been written for 400 years, since the time of Malachi?
And does the fact that no Old Testament text actually predicted the cessation of the Old Testament Prophetic office alter the reality that the office did in fact cease?
Likewise, there has never been any hue and cry for proof-texts or "exegetical support" for the almost universal conviction that nothing has been added to the New Testament canon since the end of the first century. Why do you suppose almost no one ever demands any biblical argument for that?