10 January 2006

Why the cessationism "discussion" may be a non-starter



I'm about to conclude that it's practically impossible to have an open, candid, rational conversation about cessationism and invite charismatics to participate without finding yourself at the bottom of an angry dogpile of "Spirit-filled" critics, no matter how charitably you try to approach the subject.

Several weeks ago, I brought up the issue of false messages from God (which, as I pointed out, is a serious problem among charismatics and non-charismatics alike). This wasn't a post or an issue that targeted charismatics in particular, but a number of exasperated charismatics nevertheless showed up instantly in the comments thread. Some came with chips on their shoulders, daring me to knock them off. Unless I first made a biblical case for cessationism, they insisted, I had no business bringing up the modern-prophecy issue at all.

But I declined to discuss or debate cessationism at the time. (OK, I made one comment in reply to those who were insisting the issue needed to be settled by dueling proof-texts. Still, for the most part, I steered clear of any "debate" on the issue.) Cessationism wasn't the issue I was aiming at when I brought up failed prophecy, and I didn't see any sense in following the discussion trail down the most rancorous path, away from the point I wanted to make, which (you remember) was only about the dismal track-record of people these days who claim God has given them private messages.

I tried more than once to clarify all of that. In one place, for example, I wrote,
I would like to reiterate something I said earlier: When I brought up this subject of prophetic-utterances-gone-bad in the first place, I wasn't trying to pick a fight with my charismatic readers. I originally had no intention of even getting into the issue of cessationism. I think I have much more in common with my "Reformed non-cessationist" brethren than I have with liberal cessationists. And oddly enough, the main targets I was originally planning to take on were non-charismatics like Henry Blackaby and the Gothardites.

It's not that cessationism isn't a serious issue, and worthy of discussion. It's just that I wasn't looking for a debate with people who were angry with me already just on the basis of something they expected me to say.

Meanwhile, a "debate" about cessationism supposedly broke out elsewhere in the blogosphere. Note: 1) I did not participate, and 2) I didn't ever actually see any credible evidence that a serious "debate" ever really took place. I saw quite a few posts about the debate, but I was never able to locate any actual debate.

Anyway, commenters kept demanding that I give a full argument for cessationism before dealing with the subject of errant prophecies, so I finally said I would tackle the issue of cessationism soon after the first of the new year.

Note again: Virtually all my entries on this subject have included an appeal for discussion without rancor. And—please don't forget—it wasn't I who asked for the discussion about cessationism in the first place.

But when I brought the topic up again (as promised) and merely said that I planned to try to respond to some of the questions and challenges that had already been raised, that unleashed a flood of outrage and ill humor from certain charismatic neighborhoods in the blogosphere.

For one thing, I apparently had the bad taste to bring the subject up within 24 hours after Dan Edelen "joked" about jumping back into the debate. Dan therefore wrote a long, fractured, frustrated lament about the "black hole" of the Christian blogosphere, targeting me in particular and accusing me of boasting that I would "prove ONCE AND FOR ALL that the gifts have ceased"—a claim I have nowhere made, or even insinuated.

Nonetheless, Dan went on to call me out publicly with a fairly ironic plea to "stop one-upping each other so we can prove who's right and who's wrong."

Now, I invite you to reread the offending post, follow the original thread, and notice that to date I still have not even posted a single argument against cessationism, unkind or otherwise. I merely stated that I would begin to respond to questions that had been raised—in some cases by the very same folks now taking me to task for ostensibly picking a fight.

By the way, Dan's plea was quickly echoed in similarly histrionic tones across the blogosphere, mostly by other non-cessationists who (having taunted me with questions and challenges) now apparently want to see the cessation of any and all debate over this particular issue. And, predictably, there were also some who couldn't resist using Dan's post as a club with which to beat "Reformed Theology."

Notice, however: while it's true that some nasty remarks were made in the comments thread after my post last Wednesday, virtually all the surliness and sarcasm came from the charismatic side of the aisle, not from "Reformed" commenters. I did not answer any of those comments, nor did I see any cessationist, Reformed or otherwise, respond in kind.

So all the hand-wringing about the Christian blogosphere's "black hole" is badly misplaced, and somewhat hypocritical, if you ask me. Seriously, the mere fact that Christians frequently disagree on certain points of doctrine, does not constitute a "black hole." Those who refuse to listen to a rational argument before attempting to shout down the opposition are frankly as much a part of the problem as those who want to argue about everything.

It's more like a sucking chest wound than a black hole, I fear. Hopefully, you get the point.

That's a long explanation of why I have stalled this discussion for the past week, and yet I still wish to pursue it. Can we try again? Can we discuss this issue seriously, without rancor and without all the histrionics?

PS: For those who have asked for a definition of cessationism and continuationism, see the post here.

New readers wanting to catch up on the previous discussion may likewise start with that same post, which is a summary of things heretofore blogged on this issue.

Phil's signature

71 comments:

Paul said...

Phil,

I have been eagerly awaiting your posts on the subject of continuing prophecy and some of issues associated with it. I do hope that this discussion will take place in a gracious manner, and would encourage you to minister to the needs of us who would like to hear more on this mattter.

Libbie said...

Oh, Phil, not everyone was telling you to stop, you know. I even broke blogging-hiatus to give the nay-sayers a stern look.

Please, do continue. I've been thoroughly disheartened by the willingness of certain quarters to declare the debate over and done with, and favouring the charismatic conclusion. Your reasoned input would be very, very welcome.

Please, dear pyro-perusers, please hold fire until Phil has actually said something. And then remember who you all belong to :-)


Verification word: Zupowy - I do hope it's not a sound effect for the debate :-)

Jon said...

Ooooh... There it is... Flog that dead horse... Go on! Yeah! There we go!

Jim from OldTruth.com said...

Phil:

When you fire this thing back up, perhaps you could elaborate further on why the "God spoke to me..." issue is at odds with Sola Scriptura. I've noticed that there are an enormous number of participants on these Charismatic blogs who are claiming compatibility with Sola Scriptura. Also, I had an email discussion with the owner of one !!extremely!! popular Reformed blog recently, who also feels there is no conflict between Sola Scriptura and the claims of "God spoke to me...". This is such a key issue, and so misunderstood.

Thanks for everything Phil.
--Jim

Gavin said...

Hi Phil,

Please continue your posts on cessationism if possible. I have been looking forward to what you have to say.

Please also continue your original discussion on prophecy. It appears that none of the exasperated charismatics who have commented on your blog have answered your original challenge.

"So here's my challenge to those continuationists who insist that the problem of bogus prophecies pales in importance compared to the exegetical issues raised by cessationism: Name one faithful modern prophet whose prognostications are both objectively verifiable and always one-hundred percent accurate. Because that is the biblical standard (Deuteronomy 18:20-22)."

I would like this question answered by one of your charismatic critics.

I suspect the reason why the continuationists have steered away from your challenge and concentrated on cessationism is that the know in their heart that there are no faithful modern prophets today.

C.H.H. said...

This has been a perfect example of "Don't even try to confuse me with the facts, Phil you big old [insert insult here]- my mind is made up already!"

I'd say don't worry about those who can't carry on a rational discussion, and dig right in. If some pigs come to the pearl store, you can't shut the whole thing down.

Steve said...

That was a well-stated appeal, Phil. The two biggest problems the last time all this came up were 1) people were NOT paying attention to the focal point of your discussion and were trying to argue you down a different path, and 2) people (such as Dan E) have overreacted and interpreted your attempt to have a reasonable and serious discussion as having hostile overtones, when in reality the hostility has been coming from those who are steering the discussion off track to begin with.

The problem is NOT that you want to carry on a gracious and thought-provoking discussion, the problem is that a lot of Christians today have never learned the art of being gracious and thoughtful in carrying on such a discussion.

Sadly, those who overreact and say, "Let's stop debating!" are discouraging us from the serious responsibility we have to be careful students of God's Word. We as Christians should never fear such discussions. And I sure hope this time around, those who desire to express disagreement do so in a spirit of humility and kindness...WHILE KEEPING THE DISCUSSION ON TRACK.

lycaphim said...

Well said, but keep in mind that both sides often (always?) approach this issue with lots of baggage- most of them emotional opinions.

Its rather hard to get sane debate on this subject nowadays.

marc said...

While some might make the case that the gift of tongues has ceased, the gift of tongue wagging is clearly still in operation.

Jeremy Weaver said...

Phil,
As with any other discussion on the internet, you just have to pick who you want to respond to. Any of the nasty commenters should be ignored, and only those who have any intent at looking in Scripture for their conclusions should be allowed to continue.

So my advice would be, if you are going to post on this topic, pick your fights based on which commenters are the most able to defend their positions without resorting to nastiness.

Chris HH said...

Phil, I'm still up for an open and good natured discussion. Though I hope that good humour can still play a part of a "serious" debate.

I believe there is a place for theological debates on the blogosphere. It sharpens the theology and understanding of both sides even when consensus is not reached.

Let me first of all apologise if any of my previous comments caused offence. They were intended in good humour to provoke thought. Nothing more sinister. I appreciate what you write, and even though I disagree with you, I think you have good things to say. If I didn't think this, I wouldn't visit.

Here are a few of my observations on the nature of this debate:

(1) Despite what some have suggested. This debate is not about Sola Scriptura. Both sides passionately believe this.

(2) Consensus is nearly impossible. For the charismatic the notion that the gifts have ceased is about as believable as the notion that the earth is flat to an Australian. For the cessastionist who believes that God will only communicate through his word, and has already decided what it says, there is no scope for change either.

(3) Passion runs high in both camps.

With this situation some heated exchanges are inevitable, but that doesn't mean that the debate is without merit.

We can reach an understanding of where we differ (and where we don't cf. Sola Scriptura) and most importantly unite against a common foe: false doctrine. Whether it comes via bogus prophecy or bogus exegesis.

Carla said...

Phil,

add me to the list of people that have spoken up to encourage you on this.

It's odd, but in many ways this is exactly the kind of treatment I received in the AoG church when I began to ask questions. I was even called some of the names I've read others call you. So yes, it's an emotional reaction to a legitimate topic, in many cases.

I hope you do decide to overlook that emotional reaction, and go ahead and state your position on this anyway. It will be worthwhile to many readers, I'm sure.

SDG...Carla

WV: "sshsv" the sound the automatic doors made, on Star Trek? (say it outloud, you know you want to, lol)

Jeri said...

Hi Phil,

First, I am not sure you actually need to document a point by point overview of who got mad at you and why. Nobody fights like Christians on the internet, and if we all got down to document the histories of these rock-em-sock-em death matches, we would be lost in a tangled web of history trails.

You are free to just write what you think you should right in good conscience, with the approval of the Scripture as your authority. We all know, if you do that, plenty of people are going to get mad. That's been true from the beginning of Christianity.

But if you want to go the other way and write stuff to really infuriate others, you need to learn how to be arrogant and abrasive (I mean, REALLY arrogant and abrasive). I will be happy to enroll you in my special 10 week course. And just for you, I will waive the matriculation fee.

I read the definitions of cessationism provided, and I wonder: Is there a middle ground?

I do not see any clear declaration in Scripture that the gifts have ceased, yet I do see from circumstances that the gifts have certainly not continued as they were demonstrated in the Book of Acts.

At the same time, there have been rare public utterances from Christians since the New Testament and rare public prayers that were powerfully vindicated by God. There have been church members on rare occasions declared by a battery of medical tests to have cancer who suddenly on follow up showed no sign of cancer at all.

William Tyndale's dying prayer, "Lord, open the King of England's eyes," was answered in King Edward. Hugh Latimer's declaration that the flames that killed him and Nicolas Ridley would light a candle that would never be put out were proved true. Amy Carmichael of Dhonavhur mission in India recorded events of healing, and her accounts were corroborated by witnesses of no less credibility than a secretary of the English government, who was sent to observe the meetings.

I realize that hucksterism abounds. Yet I have seen enough evidence to show me that God has not completely stopped the demonstration of such gifts.

I would have to see evidence from the Bible that proves my conclusion wrong, and a boatload of the nincompoopery of the charismatics is not sufficient. If we were to tote up all the idiocy and outright cruelty propagated in the name of Christendom itself over the centuries, we would conclude there is no Christ. But the truth is carried in the honest minority who have really been changed by Christ.

It may be that way with gifts. Thousands of counterfeits still do not prove that the real thing no longer exists.

Please forgive me if this is coming across as bombastic. But on this tricky and delicate matter, I hope to see Scripture that shows an end to the gifts if I am to beleive in cessationism.

As God has sovereignty over the gifts He bestows, it is entirely His prerogative to give gifts in abundance or in small amount. We know that a wicked and adulterous generation seeks after a sign, but we also know that Christ is present with His people. And the elders are taught to anoint the sick and pray over them for healing. That command has not been rescinded.

So I look forward to what you say, but only Scripture will convince me that the gifts have entirely ceased, not examples of hucksterism or reasoning based on mere circumstance.

Steve Sensenig said...

Phil, while I appreciate the link to my blog, I fear that I did not accurately convey the point I was trying to make in that post. My frustration was with the comments section that followed your post. It was not with your post or the topic for debate at all. I realize in re-reading my post how that might have been misunderstood, and I will attempt today to edit accordingly.

Additionally, I'm not sure when you read my post, but I did make an update on Jan 6 showing that I recognized a change in tone (notably from comments like Steve Camp requesting reasoned biblical exegesis) that proved hopeful to me.

Bottom line, I want the discussion very much! And I was really looking forward to what you had to say. My plea was to a larger audience to participate in a reasonable (and reasoned) manner so that the discussion could actually benefit us.

I really thought that my comments on your thread were fair and an attempt to engage in dialogue, not pick a fight or slam you or your position.

If you still think I'm out to get you, please email me privately so it can be resolved.

steve :)

DJP said...

I'm looking forward to everything you write on this, Phil. I'll probably wish I'd said most of it first.

When the previous discussion got off-track on the issue of the will of God, I blogged on that. Now let me try to anticipate where the next one will go awry. (I may blog it, too, a little prettier.)

It's the distinction between the de jure and the de facto. First, an analogy.

Mormons believe in grace. Jehovah's Witnesses believe in grace. Roman Catholics believe in grace. They all have their little special programs and works and doctrines -- but they believe in grace, and in the Bible. That's what they say. It's their de jure position.

But when you say "alone," and mean "alone" -- that's where they go nuts. When you try to peel off their little special doctrines and agendas, and insist that grace alone, received by faith alone, on the basis of Scripture alone... this is where you find out what really matters to them.

Similarly among fellow-Christians, on the matter of the revelatory gifts. We all agree de jure that the Canon is closed, that Scripture is sufficient. Or so we say.

The problem comes when we say, "Fine, since we're all agreed, then we should get by fine without small-p 'prophecies' never mentioned in the Bible, without hunches and impressions and mumblings and divine insinuations and nudge-nudges never mentioned in the Bible, without supposed gifts that don't measure up to what is plainly revealed in the Bible...."

That's when the de jure position clashes with the de facto, and we see what really matters.

It's like when someone says, "I can live without ______." Someone says, "OK, then, let's get rid of ______." That's when we find out whether the de jure is the same as the de facto, or whether it clashes with it. That's when we find out what really matters the most.

I expect that the ensuing discussion will further highlight and illustrate that phenomenon.

metal dad said...

i also have been looking forward to a reasoned discussion re cessationism. i think there is room for all sides to charitably agree to let the other sides disagree.

i am fully reformed in my theology (five points, infralaparian, Westminster Standards affirming, etc.) but i regularly worship at a Vineyard fellowship.

most of my friends there know my view on the sign gifts but it does not hinder fellowship or friendship. some folks are surprised when they discover my views that i choose to attend a "charismatic" church. once someone expressed surprise that while praying i would ask God to heal the daughter of some friends who was sick at the time. i simply told them that i absolutely believe that God heals in answer to prayer but that i did not believe anyone had the gift of being able to walk around and heal with a word or a touch.

let it not be said of us as H.A. Ironside once said about the Plymouth Brethren, "they are quite careful about breaking bread, but quite careless about breaking hearts."

Steven C said...

Phil,
I to have been one waiting on your continuing comments on Prophecy and cessationalism for some time. It was almost like watching a "to be continued" movie since your last healthy post. Learned alot about your having dsl and the like. Look forward to continuing blog on this subject. But as you have already commented on, be aware of harsh and emotionally charged criticism from those who view this topic as being necessary for salvation. I have experienced it personally and it is not a pretty picture. For me what started the whole debate was simply a question...are tongues necessary today? From that one question I was pretty much excommunicated from the church (exagerration-yet it felt pretty much like that). I was at one time a pentecoastal...now calvinist...oh but for the grace of God.

Jim Crigler said...

CHH: How dare you call Phil an Ole Miss graduate!!!???!!! That's the only purpose your "[insert insult here]" could possibly have!!! ;) <--- (Smiley for the humor impaired)

Jim from oldtruth and Chris HH: Before we can agree that we agree about sola scriptura, we need a discussion about what it is. Perhaps that is in Phil's queue of topics.

Phil: As much as I am looking forward to the cessationism discussion, I am personally more interested in the "messages from God" discussion. My church is awash in Blackaby. Our former interim pastor is or was on HB's board of directors. (I once emailed the IP to thank him for his clear presentation of the Gospel at a communion service; his reply was to the effect that he was glad "God spoke" to me. But he used the same language a few weeks later to talk about "when God begins to speak to you about your finances" and proceded to largely discount the whole book of Proverbs. Is terminology perhaps part of the problem?)

I'm old enough that a pastor I had 20-25 years ago was a big fan of Gothard, and I've been to the basic seminar 2 or 3 times, the last being 20 years ago. But I don't remember any of the private revelation stuff, except perhaps a story about Young Bill once having a "check in his spirit" about some social event. So a few examples there would be a good idea.

candyinsierras said...

So, with the attitude of keeping on topic
and off rancor
comments start with past experiences and blanket statements about "charismatics"?

wordsmith said...

Jim from OldTruth.com is spot on: Sola Scriptura is the heart of the continuationist vs. cessationist discussion. One's views and understanding of SS will say truckloads about how one would answer the question "Are the gifts for today?"

Ransom said...

Phil,

The subjectivism of which you spoke way back when you first started on this topic was an issue in churches long before anyone ever heard of Pentecostalism or Charismatics. Why not just stick to your original plan to discuss failed prophecy and "messages from God," and not worry about the people trying to derail your own plans onto a side track that has little to do with them anyway?

zhansman said...

marc,

I enjoyed your short comment on tongue wagging. I would like to use it awhile as a signature for my emails -- suitably attributed to you of course.

Kim said...

I'm not smart enough to cause any trouble, so I'll just sit and listen...promise. I've even been doing some reading to prepare myself.

Libbie, I love your alliteration..."pyro-perusers."

Dan Edelen said...

Phil,

None of what is wrote is directed as an attack on you! I read Pyromaniac every day and I've got you blogrolled because my readers should read you, too.

My comments were made for the following reasons:

1. I thought we beat the topic to death last quarter of 2005. All parties seemed to go to their respective corners and that was it. I know that Rob Wilkerson of Miscellanies on the Gospel compiled a huge series of links and everyone seemed to be happy with the answers. Adrian Warnock and David Wayne (Jollyblogger) shook hands on the topic, I thought. Tim Challies got in the final word with his Waldron/Grudem interviews and we all settled down for Christmas. Everyone seemed happy. In hindsight, I shouldn't have said anything myself in my post from the McCheyne reading. My later post is certainly a reaction to my own re-opening of the topic, too. In that regard, people have every right to blame me if they want to. I found the Day of the Lord reference in the Joel passage to be interesting and I shared that with my readers. It's hard to come up with interesting topics to blog on all the time. After posting that, I started wondering if we're using blogs the best way or not. Your post just furthered that thinking.

2. Yes, I was being hyperbolic in reference to the "ONCE AND FOR ALL" comment.

3. My whole point to my post is to ask if we're not really mining the possibilities of blogging for the Kingdom beyond merely arguingover a contentious issue like this. It's your blog, though, and I;m not trying to dictate what you blog about. I think that a lot of the charismatic bloggers out there are going to bow out of the discussion, though. I think Rob Wilkerson's "Theological Pillow Fight" compilation has enough material on both sides of the discussion to last us all for a decade, but maybe that's me.

My apologies if there was any misunderstanding. Maybe we're all still riled up from the discussion last quarter. If you're ever out my way, I'd love to sit down over a nice beverage of your choice and chat. Bloggers are some of the most interesting people out there and you're certainly one of the more colorful ones. And yeah, I appreciate that.

Blessings.

Brad Meyer said...

This is just about the most pathetic, defeatist post I've seen by a competent writer.
I'm giving up, I tried to do this, but other mean people disagreed and stated their opinions forcefully so I had to do this, but notice I didn't do that. Then someone else said this but I didn't even say that. That's why I can't write what I want to write on my own blog- it's their fault...
Please find your mojo and come back to the table...

TheBlueRaja said...

"Those who refuse to listen to a rational argument before attempting to shout down the opposition are frankly as much a part of the problem as those who want to argue about everything."

My "pomo" meter is going through the roof . . .

TheBlueRaja said...

Hey Brad, you might have missed this line:

"yet I still wish to pursue it."

I'm not sure if that should cheer you up or not, but there you have it.

Brad Meyer said...

Blueraja,
He's been trying to make the flippin' post for months now...

Arnold said...

I think humor is the best seasoning in a debate like this, I couldn't see planting a stake in the ground on the issue - it's arguing personal experience against personal experience. Normally the experiential is second to God's word but in this case, for better or worse, scripture is open.

Matt said...

I'm with Phil on this one. Are we really more desirous to have visible demonstrations of power than to be content with invisible workings of the Spirit (2 Cornithians 4:18)?

What's in your heart, friend? How different from the world are you, exactly?

Have fun, guys.

TheBlueRaja said...

Good point. But, in all fairness, posting regularly to a blog and maintaining a ministry is pretty difficult, as my own sparse posting at Soylent Green will attest.

Brad Meyer said...

Matt,
What's in my heart is the rejection of a neutered god who no longer intervenes. Phil does have a large audience that he is influencing. For the same reason he feels compelled to correct those who claim new revelation through prohecy, I feel compelled to challenge what he is offering as an alternative.
I'm not more desirous to have visible demonstrations of power than to be content with invisible workings of the Spirit- I'm simply turning away from those that Have a form of godliness, but deny the power thereof.

Habitans in Sicco said...

Brad: "He's been trying to make the flippin' post for months now..."

Your reading comprehension is as deficient as your theology. He's actually been trying for weeks to steer clear of hostility (such as seethes in virtually every comment you post).

You're probably the chief culprit poisoning the atmosphere--between goading the non-cessationists with sarcastic cracks like you posted here, and angrily demanding that Phil change the subject. Your very first comment in reply to Phil's very first post on false prophecy included the utterly false accusation that the charismatic movement is the only topic he ever blogs about. Now your complaint has changed into practically the opposite. You could do yourself and the rest of us a big favor if you'd go take a long nap or somehthing.

lionfood said...

- I know I'm a new guy here but the key to debate is to stay away from personal insult, let's keep this in-house debate civil or he isn't going to blog on it at all.

Steve said...

Phil said, ""Those who refuse to listen to a rational argument before attempting to shout down the opposition are frankly as much a part of the problem as those who want to argue about everything."


Brad, in your venting, I believe you've just proven Phil's point.

Stephen A Morse said...

c.h.h.:
"If some pigs come to the pearl store, you can't shut the whole thing down."
I love that!!! Do you mind if I use that in the future?

Everyone else:
Let's try to keep this at an adult level ok? I hope no one has to ask you to move into the kitchen to sit with the other little kiddies while the adults try to carry on an big person discussion!
SDG

BReformed said...

Phil,

I welcome myself to your blog. I've traveled from Ohio to be in your Sunday School class (but you didn't teach) and I have read everything you have ever written, including the notes you passed in elementary school. You were great up in Toledo last year, sorry to hear you won't be back.

Anyways, I pop in here to say that I have been waiting to read something by an analytical genius (other then myself) on cessationsim for a long time.

It is an important discussion. It needs to be addressed. My baited breath is becoming, well, baited.

Light the match, man!

1 L Loyd said...

Phil, I want to hear what insights FROM THE BIBLE you have. On this topic, it looks like it would be very hard to stay on track. But you know, you wouldn't have to answer every comment, or even have any comments.

Don't let the loud stop you from looking at what you want to.

Hang on brother. =)

TheBlueRaja said...

Phil, I posted some reflections on this post at my own site, if you're interested. It was a little too long to post here, and linking to it was an attractive alternative to posting it anyway, since you could more easily skip it if you decided reading it was a waste of time!

Rusty said...

Phil,

I look forward to it =)

Phinehas said...

Phil,

I just want to say that as a Reformed continuationist (in the mold of a Martyn LLoyd Jones, D.A.Carson, John Piper, Wayne Grudem, C.J.Mahaney, etc.), I would say that I think the reality concerning the miraculous gifts of the Spirit operating in the church today is that it is significantly less than many
charismatics/continuationists would believe, but significantly more than non-charismatic/cessationists think. I share your concerns about spurious claims to the miraculous and manifestations of the extraordinary gifts of the Spirit.

It is my conviction from Holy Scripture and history that the miraculous gifts of the Spirit are and have always been operative in the church, to a greater or lessor extent, as the sovereign Spirit has willed. It is also my conviction and observation, that if any manifestations of the gifts of the Spirit are carefully and rigorously governed by the supreme authority of Sacred Scripture, with its commands and principles concerning same, the abuse of and spurious claims to these gifts would be essentially prevented. Unfortunately, this is too rarely the practice.

There is a great deal of deception and simple naivte going on in this area, and your call to discernmnet, regardless of your personal cessationist view, should be appreciated by all, including continuationists. I know that I do. Thank you (and don't through the baby out with the bath water)!

BugBlaster said...

Phil,
I'm looking forward to reading your stuff. God gave us pretty capable brains, and if we really want to, we can read through and filter out noise, shrillness and even nastiness, whichever side they come from.

God also gave us some pretty clear instructions to be loving and respectful to our fellow adoptees, to approach each other with fear and trembling, and to avoid the trap of being wise in our own eyes.

vegemitechristian said...

Well, I tried to interact (as best I could) with the 6 points in the actual post in the "prophecy revisited" thread, and am waiting for further interaction.
Sorry, I'm new to blogging, but it doesn't seem as interactive as (say) forum posting. I guess it's not meant to be(?)

I was really looking forward (still am), to some good posts from the pyro re: prophecy, revelation, cessationism (whatever!) and comments in the comments thread from those who agree and those who disagree. I don't undertsand the personal attack thing. This could be profitable for people like me (perhaps at the moment best described as a 'cautious continuationist') who are working through these things.

Just in case this never goes anywhere, I can only recommend (outside of the topic of propechy but still on the Holy Spirit) the book that Dan Wallace has edited, with Grudem providing a forward and response. It's entitled "Who's afraid of the Holy Spirit" and available from the excellent bible.org

This is a wonderful tome for either charismatics or cessationists - I am having a really good brain work out (and heart work out) as I work my way through it.

"Hard" cessationism (if you want to call it that) seems to me to be as incorrect and unhelpful to the faith as the other end of the spectrum (what you might call extreme charismatics - all the usual culprits).

And it's these charismatics that are in the limelight these days, with T.V. shows etc. and ANY christian who reads their bible ought to see the abuse! Goodness me, this ought to be stating the obvious, and it's sad that it's not true!

I find myself wondering though if "hard" (read - "cold") cessationism was also the "trend of the day" at one point? Probably before T.V. etc.

The abuses we see in charismatic circles appeal to the sinful nature! Who doesn't want to be rich, powerful, 100% healthy, important etc??
Hard cessationism also probably appeals to the sinful nature. If we're going to be religous, we want to be in control. Check out the princetonians reliance on rationalism in canon determination - in opposition to the reformed perspective of the witness of the Spirit to the believer/s being of prime importance.

But within the world of bible believing christians, who seek to know, love and obey Christ with all their heart, mind, soul and strength are those who see that certain gifts have ceased, and those who don't. Given that both groups have the same 'type' of christianity (bible believing and obeying), the cessation discussion should be more of a family affair, with strong opinions etc. for sure - but with regards to the topic at hand. Personal attacks needn't (and ought not) get a look in!

Anyway, this post is probably too long! A christian I hold in very high respect (and a cessationist)once admonished me after a discussion about all these things: "I'll have to leave it at that, except to note that God has always used those who first pursue Christ, not the gifts. Whether the
gifts are given to us for his glory, we must be absolutely devoted to Jesus Christ. If we do that, God will use us mightily."

Amen!

Steve Sensenig said...

For what it's worth, Phil, I posted another update on my blog entry today attempting to clarify the point I was trying to make.

I'm still trying to figure out how you thought I was "baiting" you, though.

*sigh*
steve :)

Steve Sensenig said...

sorry....that should read "taunting" you. (Not sure where I got "baiting" from when I was typing!)

steve :)

Steve Sensenig said...

I just realized that I am not the only "Steve" that participates in these comments, and if people don't come to the actual comment page, they don't see my picture to distinguish between me and any other "Steve" here. So, I've changed my display name to be "Steve S" to hopefully avoid any confusion.

Maybe that's why Phil thought I was taunting him??? I dunno...

steve :) (by the way, I always sign my comments "steve :)" so that should help distinguish, too...)

Patrick said...

completely unrelated, but Phil, congrats! You made the Challies King of the Week.

Ellen said...

Name one faithful modern prophet whose prognostications are both objectively verifiable and always one-hundred percent accurate. Because that is the biblical standard (Deuteronomy 18:20-22)."

I'm still up in the air about (capital P) Prophets - but I think a response to this question would be another question.

How long between Isaiah's Messianic prophecies until Christ was born?

As far as individual "prophets" go, here is a post I made yesterday after a disheartening Sunday at my church.

Finrod said...

Although I'm likely to get lost in this deluge of comments, I'll try anyway:

I've posted a response at Eternal Perspectives in which I try to be even-handed and fair without backing down from some of my earlier statements. I was one of the "anonymous" links in Phil's post today and was misrepresented by him - whether accidentally or intentionally, I do not know, although I certainly hope and want to believe it was the former.

There is a simple-but-not-easy solution to this problem, which I suggest in my post, but my cynicism does not allow me to believe (a) those who need to implement it will indeed do so, and (b) those who need to implement it will even bother reading my response.

That's fine. I don't expect the Godblogs to be any different than the vast majority of churches, so my expectations are not exceedingly high.

suzi said...

Brad,

Phil never said he couldn't do this nor is he unwilling. It's what everyone else intends to do or respond with the discussion and having been around for the first part of it, I fully understand. Phil, I just don't know if commenters will play nice, don't count on it.
Guess for the meantime I set my dictionary aside and put the Excedrin back in the cupboard. Hope you are all feeling better now!

Suzi

Shane McGrath said...

Phil is afraid that he will eventually have to site scripture in defense of cessationism. He'll be left to old Benny Hinn quotes to keep his head above water. One of the Master's Seminary (graduates) once told me that given all of the attention to the subject at the Seminary--they never convinced him. This says alot considering he was convinced of much while there. We still love you Phil!!!

Steve said...

Shane:

Your comment about the Master's Seminary graduate is a reflection of that one person's OWN mind, not a reflection of the seminary's inability to convince, nor is it evidence that they lack solid support for their view.

Let's not resort to the faulty logic of extrapolating one person's experience and building an assumption about an entire seminary upon it. That's pretty weak evidence. You haven't given any indication of what criteria the person used in arriving to his conclusion. That's pretty important in a discussion on a matter such as this.

I also find your comment that "Phil is afraid he will have to cite Scripture" quite presumptive. You're yet another example of someone taking hostile potshots even before the discussion is under way. You'd be far better off waiting till the discussion begins and interacting directly with what is actually said, and doing so in a civil manner.

Discussions between cessationists and continuationists don't have to be hostile. I've engaged in some very positive discussions on this very issue through the years, and know it can be done.

Brad Meyer said...

Let's talk about an issue which is directly linked to cessationism, but not cessationism. I'm not talking about cessationism. Why do you keep insinuating I'm talking about cessationism? By the way, here's a definition of cessationism. OK, I talked a little about cessationism... just a little... I'm not talking about cessationism. Maybe some day down the road I'll talk about cessationism. Here's a definition of cessationism. I didn't talk about cessationism and don't even want to. If I did want to, you'd be convinced, although I'm only a moderate cessationist. OK, let's talk about cessationism. Fine, here's the definition. Folks, I just can't talk about cessationism- these people are really too much to deal with. Here's some Spurgeon.

lionfood said...

Please don't snuff this before it starts - I am desperate to be convinced of cessationism, what a load off of my shoulders it would be.

Phil Johnson said...

Blueraja, I posted this on your site, but since some of it is relevant here, and you posted a couple of links to your blog in my comments thread, I figured I'd echo my comment here.

BTW, I've fixed one paragraph that seemed ambiguous since posting the original version at your blog. If I get the opportunity, I'll repost the revised version at your blog, too:


To some degree, I suppose, "arrogance" and "meanness" are in the eye of the beholder. Obviously, I don't agree with the notion so popular today (reflected in some of these comments) that every expression of certainty, assurance, dogmatic conviction, and doctrinal clarity is inherently arrogant.

But honestly, Raja, "fire and brimstone" is the exact kind of over-the-top exaggeration you elsewhere have professed to deplore. Nor is it my style to "yell," Mr. McKnight.

There's a mean-spirited hypocrisy to this kind of broad smear and deliberate caricature that more or less de-fangs your central criticism of me, don't you think?

My only appeal to you, Raja, is to re-read all your comments on my blog (starting with your very first comment ever) and tell me if you seriously believe the way you have consistently treated me has earned you a legitimate platform to publish this sort of public scolding.

Also, you misunderstood my reference to the sucking wound. I'm not complaining that I personally have been "hurt" by the rancor of my continuationist friends. I'm just saying that on a secondary issue like strict cessationism, the light-speed jump to defcon twelve is seriously injurious to the discussion and to all involved.

I would not appeal for the same kind of restraint if someone came along proclaiming a gospel of human merit. I've repeatedly explained why I am convinced a threat to the gospel does sometimes warrant more of a gloves-off fight. See also Galatians 1.

Still, I challenge you to point out any real, actual examples of actual anger or snideness in any of my dealings with advocates of the New Perspective on Paul. You may not like my candor, and you may think my position simplistic and uninformed or too hard-line, but you cannot righteously accuse me of employing deliberate and unprovoked rancor in place of actual arguments.

Once more in case you are still missing it: one of the main points I've tried to make from the beginning of the continuationist discussion is that some issues are worth fighting for, and even dying for; the gospel is one of those issues; the continuationism/cessationism debate is not.

By treating all issues as essentially equal and equally abstruse, you are committing the principle fallacy that I have argued against from day one at my blog.

Since your constant complaint is that I need to labor more to understand and be fair with a position I'm critical of, I hope you appreciate the irony here.

C.H.H. said...

"I love that!!! Do you mind if I use that in the future?"

Sure.

TheBlueRaja said...

Thanks, Phil. You're right about the fact that a person's tone is a totally subjective matter, but the main point I made was one about listening to the opposition, not about how you're mean. In fact, I specifically said that you weren't. Neither was it about you being "angry" or "snide". You use very strong (though not "uncivil" in the sense of "name-calling") language to decry opposing positions - but my problem with that wasn't that you were being mean, but that you didn't seem to take the time to listen or understand the positions that you are decrying.

I have been over-the-top in my criticisms in some of my posts here - and I've posted the appropriate apologies in those cases. And I'm not scolding you, I'm just suggesting that the way you responded in this post is very much the same way those who have been at the recieving end of your criticisms about emerging church, NPP, et. al. have responded, and I think that's significant. The problem is that charges of "not listening" don't seem to register as much in those cases. The whole point of my post was that your positions are too simplistic, uninformed and hard-line because you don't listen to the opposition well enough.

This wasn't a slanderous post, Phil. You may think the situation is different in your case than in the others (emergent, NPP, etc) given any number of qualifications you'd like to make, but otherwise I think the correlation sticks.

Phil Johnson said...

VegemiteChristian: "Well, I tried to interact (as best I could) with the 6 points in the actual post in the "prophecy revisited" thread, and am waiting for further interaction."

Sorry about that. I barely have time to read ALL the comments, much less respond to them all in any kind of depth. See rule 1 in the right sidebar of my blog's from page.

I do try to take note of what appear to be the most important points from commenters. I file those in my failing, sievelike memory, and I try to interact with as many as possible in follow-up posts. Or if someone makes a really good point that I have time to interact with immediately, I sometimes do respond in a comment. I'm also a sucker for answering certain carping critics, but I'm working hard to resist that urge, so that's not meant as an encouragement for you to try to tick me off in order to get a personal reply.

Keep commenting, though. Even if I don't reply, if your points are good enough, some of my more astute commenters are sure to answer you.

I like Vegemite, BTW. But Marmite really is better.

TheBlueRaja said...

As for the "gospel being at stake" or that either emerging church or NPP is a "merit-based salvation" is a judgment made without listening well enough, and that for all of their problems, that's not one of them. The whole point is that your "gloves come off" too soon, without a lot of "what does he mean by X" kind of conversations.

ajlin said...

Mr. Johnson,

->I'd like to emplore you to please not begin posting arguments for cessationism and instead to continue with your original intention of posting on "false messages" from God.
->The fact is, I know many people who still wait quietly after prayer to hear a "word from God" (i.e., an impression in their minds) by which to direct their lives at specific times.
->I believe that the original mini-series that you had planned would have been very useful to me personally in ministering to my loved ones, and I think it would have been helpful to others as well.
->Can't you just ignore those calling for the cessationist debate for the time being?

In Christ,
-Andrew

Arnold said...

ajlin:
Psalms 4:4?

vegemitechristian said...

Ah no worries. Think I'm beginning to understand more about blogs and blogging. Although I fear that much of it (as in, reading heaps of blogs) could be an unproductive use of time for me. I guess just pick a couple that talk about topics you're interested in and leave it at that. I agree with Steve Camp - let the exegises begin!

I very much affirm one point you make in this thread of comments: that some things are worth "fight for" and others are not. Continuationists and cessationists ought to be together fighting for the truth of the gospel. I see this sort of debate as more of an "in-house" or "keep it in the family" type of thing (for want of a better way of putting it!). Even more so when the 2 camps are coming from the same reformed perspective! It should be like this (IMO), play hard with the exegesis (no need for thin skins - we're all family), and when the discussion gets tiresome, let's all chill out with a coldie!

Anyway, cheers - nice to be part of the blogosphere or whatever you lot say!

Marmite - From what I remember of it: yuck! Although perhaps that was promite? Which do the poms favour? Anyway, vegemite - the original and the best. Well, the "original" bit might not be true, but let's not let that get in the way! Definitely the best though. Good to see a yankee who knows what the stuff is!

Via Crusis said...

I hear Ajlin's appeal for help in ministering to loved ones.

I might be able to answer your question about modern prophets from the other (dark side) of the issue. There was a time when I was involved in the New Age and Eastern Mysticism. My brand was slickly repackaged for the western mind. If you took a class on cults in bible school, my cult was in the textbook. (Walter Martins, "Kingdom of the Cults")It is known as the "Unity School of Christianity". My prophet was Edgar Cayce "the Sleeping Prophet". I recall even as a non-believer in a cult, we would "test the spirits", and pray the Lords Prayer, and Psalm 23 as prayers for protection before delving into past lives, consulting the "Akashic records" or speaking with the dead. We knew there was danger. We named the name of Christ like it was a good luck talisman. That was then. But now I have loved ones in the "signs and wonders" crowd that don't even think in terms of discernment, the fact that Satan can masquerade as as angel of light seems a foreign concept to them. But we don't have to give Satan all the credit, how about the heart is deceitful above all things. Now I know that even if I was witnessing the Transfiguration with Peter, I have a more sure word of prophesy. Steve

Stevie B said...

I don't follow the comments of this blog (though I've been reading the blog consistenty for about a month since I discovered it) I do have one question for any side of it (since I don't know if it was brought up already).

Was the prophet Jonah a false prophet? What he predicted didn't come to pass, but Nineveh didn't repent. Yet his story is canonized in the Bible.

Forgive me if I repeat something already brought up.

Otherwise, its just too much arguing by the looks of it for me to go through all the comments on each of these related entries. Forgive me if I don't check back for an answer in too long.

Blessings

Stevie B

Stevie B said...

sorry, Nineveh DID repent (and was not destroyed like Jonah predicted-- FAITHFULLY delivering the word the Lord told him to

(key typo correction!)

lionfood said...

bremners - I think he was making a personal prediction from prejudice as opposed to a prophetic "So sayeth the Lord - they will not repent" statement.

chamblee54 said...

This is sixty percent of a comment.It is comment 66.6.

Shane McGrath said...

Steve,

Why are you so touchy? You wrote: "You're yet another example of someone taking hostile potshots even before the discussion is under way." Not only were my comments not hostile, but they were quite the opposite--perhaps "playful" would be a better description. Phil's a grown man, he can take it!

I am not claiming that my friend's testimonial is the "end all" in this debate, but it does count for something. He got straight A's in Greek Exegesis and is quite capable of seeing that it is not supported by the scriptures. The fact that scripture does not teach this doctrine is a substantial matter (to say the least)!

What John and Phil have wrote on the subject is important and I've learned alot from them. But it's still very weak on actual Biblical support. That is, after all, what John and Phil claim to live by. I'm afraid, in this subject, they are depending upon their "traditions" rather than taking a fresh look at the scripture. We are all guilty of that from time to time.

Don't worry, Cessationism will soon cease the next time John MacArthur says, "The Holy Spirit led me to this passage of scripture." I've got him on tape saying that!!! He's a closet Charismatic after all!!!

Steve Sensenig said...
This comment has been removed by a blog administrator.
Rob Wilkerson said...

Phil,

I tried for over a month to keep up with all the debate on the blogosphere at my post on A Theological Pillow Fight. Hope this provides some more history on the whole deal.

Thanks for your continuing candor.

A2JC4life said...

I, too, would very much like to hear more on this discussion. As a non-cessationist (who nevertheless believes the gifts are very much abused today, much as they were in the Corinthian church, and thus would probably have agreed with the post in question ;) ) I have been completely exasperated by my attempts to find out WHY cessationists believe as they do. I have never, ever been able to get a single cessationist to offer me any Scripture references for this position, with or without accompanying discussion. (I wonder if this is the root cause of some of the ill-will in your blog comments - those who are so thoroughly exasperated that their patience has run out?) I, too, hope the discussion will take place graciously, but would be very disappointed to see you fail to bring it up - it is clearly a need, as my own attempts to search on the subject have demonstrated!