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. Andplease don't forgetit 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 raisedin 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?