11 January 2006

You're probably a cessationist, too



If you believe any of the miraculous spiritual gifts were operative in the apostolic era only, and that some or all of those gifts gradually ceased before the end of the first century, you are a cessationist.

If you believe all the spiritual gifts described in the New Testament have continued unabated, unchanged, and unaltered since the initial outpouring of tongues at Pentecost, you are a continuationist.

It's pretty hard to find a real continuationist. Absolute non-cessationists exist only at the bizarre fringe of the charismatic movement. They are the sort of people who like to declare one another "apostles," claim (and inevitably abuse) all the apostolic prerogatives, sometimes invent fanciful stories about people raised from the dead, and twist and corrupt virtually every category of doctrine related to the gospel, the atonement, or Christian discipleship and self-denial.

But evangelical charismatics (especially the Reformed variety) do not really believe there are apostles today who have the same authority as the Apostles in the early church. Some may use the term apostle, but they invariably insist that the apostleship they recognize today is a lesser kind of apostleship than the office and gift that belonged to the apostles in the first century.

Now, think through the implications of that position: By arguing for a lesser kind of apostleship, they are actually conceding that the authentic, original New Testament gift of apostleship (Ephesians 4:11) has ceased. They have in effect embraced a kind of cessationism themselves.

Note: There is no more or less biblical warrant for this view than for any other kind of cessationism.

Nonetheless, every true evangelical holds to some form of cessationism. We all believe that the canon of Scripture is closed, right? We do not believe we should be seeking to add new inspired material to the New Testament canon. We hold to the faith that was once for all delivered to the saints (Jude 3)—delivered in the person of Christ, and through the teaching of His apostles, and inscripturated in the New Testament. We believe Scripture as we have it is complete. And those who do not believe that are not really evangelicals. They are cultists and false teachers, who would add to the Word of God.

But notice this: if you acknowledge that the canon is closed and the gift of apostleship has ceased, you have already conceded the heart of the cessationist argument.

That's not all, though. Most leading "Reformed charismatics" go even further than that. They freely admit that all the charismatic gifts in operation today are of a lesser quality than the gifts we read about in the New Testament.

For example, in Wayne Grudem's book The Gift of Prophecy in the New Testament and Today (Wheaton: Crossway, 1988)—probably the single most important and influential work written to defend modern prophecy—Grudem writes that "no responsible charismatic holds" the view that prophecy today is infallible and inerrant revelation from God (p. 111). He says charismatics are arguing for a "lesser kind of prophecy" (112), which is not on the same level as the inspired prophecies of the Old Testament prophets or the New Testament apostles—and which may even be (and very often is) fallible.

Grudem writes,
there is almost uniform testimony from all sections of the charismatic movement that [today's] prophecy is impure, and will contain elements which are not to be obeyed or trusted.

Jack Deere, former Dallas Seminary prof-turned charismatic advocate, likewise admits in his book Surprised by the Power of the Holy Spirit (Grand Rapids: Zondervan, 1993), that he has not seen anyone today performing miracles or possessing gifts of the same quality as the signs and wonders of the apostolic era. In fact, Deere argues vehemently throughout his book that modern charismatics do not even claim to have apostolic-quality gifts and miracle-working abilities. One of Deere's main lines of defense against critics of the charismatic movement is his insistence that modern charismatic gifts are actually lesser gifts than those available in the apostolic era, and therefore, he suggests, they should not be held to apostolic standards.

Again, consider the implications of that claim: Deere and Grudem have, in effect, conceded the entire cessationist argument. They have admitted that they are themselves cessationists of sorts. They believe that the true apostolic gifts and miracles have ceased, and they are admitting that what they are claiming today is not the same as the charismata described in the New Testament.

In other words, modern charismatics have already adopted a cessationist position. When pressed on the issue, all honest charismatics are forced to admit that the "gifts" they receive today are of lesser quality than those of the apostolic era.

Contemporary tongues-speakers do not speak in understandable or translatable dialects, the way the apostles and their followers did at Pentecost. Charismatics who minister on the foreign mission-field are not typically able to preach the gospel miraculously in the tongues of their hearers. Charismatic missionaries have to go to language school like everyone else.

If all sides already acknowledge that there are no modern workers of signs and wonders who can really duplicate apostolic power, then we have no actual argument about the principle of cessationism, and therefore all the frantic demands for biblical and exegetical support for cessationism are superfluous. The real gist of our disagreement boils down only to a question of degree.

In a very helpful book, Satisfied by the Promise of the Spirit (Grand Rapids: Kregel, 1996), Thomas Edgar writes,

The charismatic movement gained credence and initial acceptance by claiming their gifts were the same as those in Acts. For most people this is why they are credible today. Yet now one of their primary defenses is the claim that [the gifts] are not the same [as those in the New Testament.] Faced with the facts, they have had to revoke the very foundation of their original reason for existence. (p. 32)

As for biblical arguments, in Scripture itself, there is ample evidence that miracles were extraordinary, rare events, usually associated in some significant way with people who spoke inspired and infallible utterances. It is obvious from the biblical narrative that miracles were declining in frequency even before the apostolic era drew to a close. Scripture says the miracles were apostolic signs (2 Corinthians 12:12), and therefore by definition they pertained specifically and uniquely to the apostolic era.

Phil's signature

105 comments:

Catez said...

Hi Phil,
I found this very interesting. I would like to ask you about this last part:
Scripture says the miracles were apostolic signs (2 Corinthians 12:12), and therefore by definition they pertained specifically and uniquely to the apostolic era.

I read that reference and I was thinking it referred to signs and wonders that followed the apostles - but it doesn't seem to me to negate that other miracles occur. I have understood cessationism to mean that certain gifts of the Holy Spirit are not evident today. What I'm not clear on is what you mean by miracles. Are you saying God does not do miracles today - or are you referring to specific "manifestations" (can't think of another word right now)?
BTW - as I know you get a variety of comments I am genuinely asking here - I'm not sure what you meant in the miracles part.

Paul said...

Thanks for the introduction. That all makes perfect sense to me. I look forward to hearing more from you on this issue.

lionfood said...

Yeah, but there is no scriptural evidence.....just kidding. Well put. I will chew on this for a while, but I definitely and finally see the cessationist view more clearly - it helped that we aren't talking about a hardline cessationism, i.e. there is zero Spiritual authority given today.

irRational said...

(apologies for deleted comment, didn't know it left a "footprint", or I would have just left a second comment as I merely wished to add to it lest it be misconstrued)

Absolute non-cessationists exist only at the bizarre fringe of the charismatic movement. They are the sort of people who like to declare one another "apostles,"... <--sadly, this is a fairly accurate representation of my mother-in-law who is in all other ways a wonderful lady. It is impossible to convince her that prophecy, tongues, healings, etc. are not being done *in the same way* or *to the same degree* as they were by the apostles themselves, she won't even go that far. :-(
She seems to have a good grasp of the heart of the Gospel message (albeit an Arminian view) and so I continue to pray, and I have hope that someday she will come to a fuller knowledge of the Truth. Now and then though that little niggling thought comes into my mind, "Just how much heresy are you allowed before you are completely outside?" :-(
She rarely quotes Scripture to me, rather her prooftexts are experiences she or others she knows or has heard about have had. One thing I'd like to ask her but have refrained as I think it may be inflammatory is, "If these things are workings of the Holy Spirit, why is at least one of the fruits of the Spirit obviously missing?" The most obvious one that is lacking is of course SELF-CONTROL.

vegemitechristian said...

Okay, let's stick to the points in the posts! I only have a couple to point out:

(a) You are right to interact with the Grudem view (as I had hoped!) - just be aware that his is not the only view, albeit probably one of the most well known. I am mainly talking here of Gordon Fee (another well respected pentecostal scholar), who does not share Grudem's view of prophecy. Fee sees no problem with NT prophecy as being "in line" with OT prophecy. I believe he also disagrees with Grudem's views on the "apostles and prophets" bit in Ephesians 2:20 (if I have understood Fee correctly). I don't have references to quote on hand, but will try and do some digging on Fee's view (I am thinking that the relevant tome is "God's Empowering Presence").

(b) I am still struggling with this para.
"But notice this: if you acknowledge that the canon is closed and the gift of apostleship has ceased, you have already conceded the heart of the cessationist argument."

What is the heart of the cessationist argument? I am not quite making the connection between acknowledging a closed canon (I do), and conceding the heart of the cessationist argument. Could you elaborate?

(c) (Working my way down your post) - When you say that charismatics admit that the gifts today are of a lesser quality...on the one hand I am nodding in agreement, as I understand what you're saying. On the other hand, I am wanting to say (to Grudem as well as youreself), "why do we have this view that their is a lesser quality of the gifts?" I see that prophecy in the NT, at least in Corinth, had to be "evaluated". I see that healing doesn't always happen etc. This is quite funny - I think you are helping me to define some disagreements I have with Grudem!

In this line of thinking then, I would have to say that the Apostles were particularly empowered greatly with miracles etc. Whereas perhaps there was less in (for example) Corinth. This is actually in keeping with Grudem in the sense that he talks about intensity of gifting (see his Systematic). For example, someone might have a gift of evangelism - doesn't mean they are a Billy Graham. But they might have a particular empowerment in that area in their own life's context.

In essence, I am (here at least) suggesting that "modern" charismatic gifting is no different to "apostolic age" gifting (hey - He's the same Holy Spirit!) - but there are different manifestations of gifts, and there are different "strengths" of gifts. And I dare say that in Jesus we see the ultimate in these things, with the 12 apostles coming next, with others following. I don't mean to suggest that this means 2000 years later gifts have to be extremely weak! I simply mean there is a priority of order from Christ down. After all - the 12 apostles are on the 12 thrones next to Jesus in heaven, right? It won't be you or I.

(d) One point to mention, although not contained in the post I believe is relevant: I don't think I've ever been of the understanding that the 12 Apostles (and perhaps those most closely associated with them) had this supposed ability, "to go around healing etc. at will". This comes up extremely often in cessationism discussions. I don't get this from any theologian, just my own reading of the bible - I have never gotten the idea of some kind of "at-will" power of the apostles etc. Paul didn't heal everyone willy nilly it would seem.
Even if a cessationist wants to talk about scripture writing as the gift of prophecy - then I see it here as well. As far as I know, not everything that (for example, Paul) wrote became Scripture!

So, I don't subscribe to the charismatic idea (or cessationist denial) of saying - "he's a miracle worker", "he's a faith healer" No! Simply, the Holy Spirit gifts whatever, whenever, and through whoever he so sovereignly wishes! I get this from Corinthians. (No, I don't think that means we can't say that someone doesn't have a gifting in a certain area - hopefully you can see my distinction, even if worded poorly)

I'll leave it there for now. Good post!
Aussie Steve

lionfood said...

Not to derail but irRational:

"Just how much heresy are you allowed before you are completely outside?" :-(

- well, if you were ever "inside" then I imagine a whole lot. If by "inside" you mean inside the kingdom that is - We don't jump in and out right?

irRational said...

Oh sorry! No of course we don't jump in and out. I mean we can't know another's heart and no one will be perfect in their theology this side of heaven. What I meant to say was how much imperfection can a person have in their understanding before they are not to be considered saved? Or conversely, how much understanding must one have to be truly saved? It's especially troubling when it seems the deeper one delves, the more troubling beliefs you find in that other person.

Brad Meyer said...

I'm embarassed for you.
"2Cr 12:12 Truly the signs of an apostle were wrought among you in all patience, in signs, and wonders, and mighty deeds."
Mr. Sola Scriptura gives one oblique biblical reference to substantiate his view? Basing the rest of his argument on what men say about other people in their books? And makes a populist appeal to "Hey, you're probably a cessationist, too."
Does this pass for lofty theological debate nowadays?
God help us.

Jim from OldTruth.com said...

The idea that these gifts are "of lesser quality than the gifts we read about in the New Testament" may not relate to the "hearing from God" phinominon however. Either you are hearing a private message from God, or not. That can't be an issue of degree, although I can see what Phil is saying about the other gifts being a matter of degree. Good point Phil.

I had a Charismatic friend once tell me that Reformed Theology was wrong because God told him that, in his prayer closet. When I asked him to show me from scripture, he refused, and said it was an inner sense that the Holy Spirit gave him. It's that kind of "feelings instead of bible" that I think is the biggest problem in the Charismatic movement.

Perhaps that's a different topic than cessation however, and it does extend outside the Charismatic camp as well.

Brad Meyer said...

I'm sorry... Let me reiterate to you Sola Scripturas out there:
Has he given you ANY BIBLE IN HIS EXPLANATION? Has anyone looked up/researched the ONE VERSE he quoted???????????????

Mike Garner said...

Scripture says the miracles were apostolic signs (2 Corinthians 12:12), and therefore by definition they pertained specifically and uniquely to the apostolic era.


Wow! I sincerely hope that this is not what any person would consider exegesis. The verse makes absolutely no reference to miracles belonging to the apostolic era. The verse says that true marks of an apostle includes miracles. Therefore, in order for one to be considered an apostle, they ought to be demonstrating "sings, wonders and miracles". There is absolutely no comment on miracles outside of apostles and any such comment is a poor argument from silence or simply reading your own views into the text.


As for biblical arguments

It is indeed telling that in this paragraph the sole scriptural reference is this singular example and your point is nowhere to be found in the verse.


There is no more or less biblical warrant for this view than for any other kind of cessationism.

The bible gives some clear guidelines for what were looked for concerning true apostles. Scripture lists this in a list of biblical leadership positions but then gives us only guidelines for selecting elders and deacons. Assuming we were going with the argument that apostles had entirely ceased, we could at least make a biblical case for it. Unfortunately, there is nothing that would remotely allow us to do that in regard to miracles, tongues, etc. In fact, we have scripture that points directly to the contrary (such as a statement that we should not forbig the use of tongues). When the best that we can do is use the absurd arguments such as 2Cor 12:12, then it should be evidence that one's position is weak.

However, you did make at least one good point. I do believe that it is inconsistent for those who demand biblical evidence for the cessation of Spiritual gifts to then require the canon to be closed. I'm actually one of the strange folks who would not make that demand. I certainly reject any cultic claims by the Mormons or any other groups. I would require over-whelming evidence for addition of anything and certainly do not expect anything to be added. However, allow me for a second to assume your eschatological views, then we will have Jesus running around down here for 1000 years. If he were to make any decrees, for example, and want them to be captured by any of His saints and then made to be "scripture", then I would have no problem with this. I see no reason why we must necessarily close the canon. I do see the huge problems that could result, such as the Book of Mormon, Doctrines and Covenants, and Pearl of Great Price that the alleged-Church of Latter Day Saints use. That is something that we must reject.
However, to create a doctrine simply because of possible errors that could ensue rather that from biblical teaching is an error. I believe it is the error of cessationists and I believe it is the error of those who necessitate a closed canon. If that makes me a cult member, false-teacher, or non-evangelical then I suppose I will have to accept that slander.

Mike Garner said...

Oh yes.

Let me again remind everyone that I would distance myself from the likes of Brad Meyer and company. While we made similar points, namely that the exegesis of 2Cor 12:12 is seriously lacking, we do not hold the same view on this at all.

mike

Catez said...

Steve,
Totally off the topic but I figured you were an Aussie or a Kiwi with the handle Vegemite Christian. (I like vegemite myself - I'm in NZ).

pgepps said...

Well argued, Phil.

I am slightly uneasy with the argument, "we all agree the canon is closed, ergo we are all cessationists," because it seems to place our consensus a little bit too much in the driver's seat. It is good irenic argumentation, though.

Can we establish more firmly than on consensus grounds that the canon is *closed*, and not just that there are at present no candidates for canonicity? I'm presently more inclined to the latter view, for canon as well as for, say, tongues--with a greater degree of skepticism about the likelihood of a new canonical text being discovered than about a new instance of miraculous, Gospel-proclaiming language "ability."

But the "skepticism" I feel compelled to maintain inclines me to believe I am "probably a cessationist" in the sense you discuss, even if I'm not technically, theologically, willing to commit to teaching "God doesn't ever do that anymore."

Cheers,
PGE

irRational said...

Brad: I can only speak from my own experience ;-), but it was through reading the Bible that I came to be a cessationist. Specifically, I thoroughly researched the Holy Spirit: who He is, what His job is, etc. (I used no book but the Bible for this task) and because of what I found there, I had to leave the charismatic church I was attending.

lionfood said...

"Men at Work" are well known for their bizarre and fringey continuationist views by the way.

Brad Meyer said...

Mike:
Thanks for the support, bud. Good grief...

irrational:
Then you should have no problem explaining where in the bible you got your cessationist view from..

Catez said...

Men at Work? Do you come from a land downunder? If not you are definitely on the fringe... (eating vegemite may redeem you)

Catez said...

Has anyone looked up/researched the ONE VERSE he quoted???????????????

I said I had. That's why I simply asked for some further explanation. (I think you might benefit from Men at Work).

Brad Meyer said...

irrational:
One does not "research" the Third Person of the Godhead. You get to know Him.

lionfood said...

Has the book Mega Shift been brought up in any of these conversations? I've yet to read it, but a good friend of mine has and read me several supposedly well documented cases from the book in which people who had died, even up to four days dead - we're raised with laying of hands and prayer.

I'm guessing this might fall into the heretical apostolic group Phil was referring to?

irRational said...

Hmm I really hope you aren't saying that we don't get to know God by reading the Bible. Also, this study took months. It cannot be summed up in a few lines on the comments of someone else's blog.

Mike Garner said...

Mike:
Thanks for the support, bud. Good grief...


Sorry Brad. I will not be forced into aligning with you when you have in the past and continue to say things that are unbiblical. It is my opinion that the truth in this matter is lost by certain charismatic churches (which is perfectly captured in several of your posts) who elevate this "feeling the Spirit" above Scripture and reject Sola Scriptura. That is exactly what you do. I cannot support a view that undermines the truth. I cannot and I will not.

In Christ alone,
mike

Brad Meyer said...

irrational:
You used the term "researched" the Holy Spirit. Did you research your wife or did you get to know her?

Brad Meyer said...

Mike:
The others you take comfort aligning yourself with, apparently have no problems that Phil's argument is not based on Scripture but on man's views. Is this thing on?
PS What have I said that does not align with Scripture?

irRational said...

Well let me see...hmmm if you wanted to get to know me...you might do a little research, perhaps click my name and view my blog. In which case you would get to know me a little better and you'd know I'm female and most likely don't have a wife. :-) Point made. Obviously you don't view Scripture the same way I do (as Mike has so aptly pointed out) in which case this conversation is fruitless so I will not continue it further.

Matt said...

I second Catez, Phil. Could you epand on this verse (2 Cor 12:12) and perhaps provide further scriptural evidence on the point?

Of course, we all realise that you are busy with other ministries as well, so we'll wait until you're ready. WON'T WE, GUYS? (And gals, apologies irRational.) :) My, it's bracing in here.

Matt said...

Hey, I just realised. Phil's asleep right now (I hope). Wow. Sometimes I forget that the world is round ... Hehe. Is there a deeper meaning in that?

Ryan DeBarr said...

Phil,

I think your definitions are wanting. I find no Scriptural grounds to argue that "sign gifts" have ceased. While I've never personally seen one (and don't think that modern "Pentecostal" tongues are legit), I don't automatically reject anyone who claims to have witnessed a miracle.

I've always known the line between cessationism and non-cessationism to be drawn at what one believes the Scripture says.

Chris HH said...

> Absolute non-cessationists exist only at the bizarre fringe of the charismatic movement.

Are you saying this applies to everyone who believes in the continuance of apostolic ministry? Interesting. I never realised I was bizarre or fringe before. Just because I believe what the Bible says about church government.

Since you believe, I trust, in the heart of Sola Scriptura (all our beliefs and practises in the church must be based on the authority of scripture rather than the traditions of man) can you point me to any scriptural alternative of church government than local elders appointed by apostles?

Even in the NT we see a continuance of the apostolic ministry beyond the original 12: Mathias, Paul, Barnabus, James the Lord's brother and others.

It is a false argument to assume that because some self-appointed apostles abuse their position, that all who are recognised to operate with this gift to the body of Christ are also "inevitably" going to abuse their position too.

Ephesians 4, says that this ministry along with prophets, evangelists, pastors and teachers, will remain until we all reach unity of the faith, attaining to the full measure of Christ. So the cessation criteria couldn't be clearer. We still need apostles today.

I'm not ashamed to be a real continuationist. And you can call me what you like!

David C. Kanz said...

After reading the critical text folks I truly wonder if they were not/are not looking for more books which qualify as Scripture.

It is interesting that Westcott and Hort did not believe it was possible to ascertain the content of the originals yet put together texts which they believed do represent the content of the originals...maybe the charismatic position is a result of the lower criticism which has gutted fundamentalism and evangelicalism of speaking with authority in any real way.

DJP said...

Well put as usual, Phil.

It was this fact that started my exit from Charismaticism. I was a Charismatic because I saw no text that said, in so many words, "After the Apostle John buys it, the following gifts will be no longer valid:...."

But then one of the first chips in my foundation was just the point you made: at that time (1970's-1980's), no one I knew of actually argued that ALL of the gifts were in continuance JUST AS in NT days. This established the premise that the position that demanded a specific text, with the wording I sought, was not really a position anyone was prepared to defend consistently and to the wall. Proof: no Biblical Christian believed (nor believes) that the Bible is being expanded day by day. God's battle-plan has phases. Just like in the Bible.

This opened my mind to re-evaluate Charismaticism Biblically. Soon, I came to the position that, while all gifts might theoretically be available, no Biblical Christian was documented to have exercised the revelatory and attestational gifts for the better part of two millennia.

And then there was 1 Corinthians 13:8-10. Charismatics have a traditionalistic interpretation of that passage that, imho, doesn't stand up well (nor does the arrogance with which, say, a Gordon Fee slaps down his opinion as if it were ipse dixit fact). But that aside, EVERY reader has to grant that Paul saw certain gifts as having a shelf-life. So it wasn't a question of WHETHER. It was a question of WHEN.

Further Biblical study convinced me that we were, and are, well past the WHEN-point.

Steven C said...

Keep going Phil. Learning new things I wasn't aware of before.

Steve said...

djp said:

"Soon, I came to the position that, while all gifts might theoretically be available, no Biblical Christian was documented to have exercised the revelatory and attestational gifts for the better part of two millennia."


That pretty well sums the conclusion I came to after two years of intensive research of Scripture, several books written by those on both sides of the issue, AND attending churches on both sides of the issue. In fact, I attended multiple churches on the continuationist side, and the evidence I saw and my discussions with the continuationists kept coming up wanting.

One of the major problems my charismatic and Pentecostal friends couldn't answer was this: The spiritual gifts God has given us are with us at all times. Those who have the gift of preaching, teaching, mercy, administration, etc. exercise their gifts on a consistent basis. Their gifts are continuously manifest. It's not like there's some kind of "on/off" switch, and sometimes the gift works, and sometimes it doesn't.

Not a single one of my charismatic friends could point to anyone who consistently exercised true miraculous gifts. While some of them pointed to tongues speakers in an attempt to support their argument for continuationism, not a single one of those tongues speakers spoke true foreign languages, per the pattern established in Acts 2. Anyone who attempted to point to healers ALWAYS had to concede the healer had no real control over the gift--that it "came and went" as if there were some kind of "on/off" switch. By contrast, in Acts 3, Peter was very deliberate and very much in control of his gift to miraculously heal the lame beggar.

As I considered the evidence in my own search, it was simply too overwhelming. The arguments for continuationism simply are not strong enough or consistent enough. I suspect this is what has led Grudem et al. to concede to a view that today's gifts are "lesser" than those of the apostolic era.

Grudem's view, of course, cannot help but make us wonder: Does this mean that the gifts of teaching, mercy, administration today are ALSO exercised at a lesser capacity than in the apostolic era?

donsands said...

"But now God has set the members every one of them in the body, as it has pleased Him. ...the members should have the same care one for another." 1 Cor 12:18,25

Good thoughts from Phil. Good words of wisdom, and words of knowledge.
If I have a gift from God, then I am to see that it is used to honor Jesus Christ and the gospel. It is for the edifying of other believers.
And it needs to be contained within the Apostles doctrine. This debate will go on until the last trump.
I go back and forth with this whole thing.
I see so much superficial gifts, and it grieves me. I would love to see someone with the gift of miracles, healing, and tongues. And especially the gift of interpretation like in Acts 2:8.
I hope to listen and learn and grow in His grace and knowledge.

"But covet earnestly the best gifts: and yet shew I unto you a more excellent way."

Finrod said...

Good post, Phil. A little weak on the biblical support but, if I understand you correctly, this was just an introduction to the issue, not a full declaration of your position and Scriptural reasons for it.

Just to be contrary, however, I wonder if your argument about the canon proves more than you intended. Are you saying, because we believe that the canon of Scripture is closed and no new revelation is being giving, that God does not speak to anyone today? Are you denying the tradition of "calling," e.g., being "called to the ministry"?

I'm not trying to derail this into a debate over theories of inspiration and revelation, but I think my question is relevant and reasonable given the conclusion you reach with your own closed-canon argument.

For the record, I am a cessationist and believe in a closed canon; I do not believe in any kind of extra-biblical "call" to the ministry. Just so you know where I'm trying to come from.

Carla said...

Hi Phil,

I enjoyed your post on this. However, as a dogmatic Sola Scriptura adherent :o) I would have liked to see more Biblical support for your position. I realize that you were addressing the words of the continuationists and how they themselves even hold to some form of cessationism, however. (I'm hoping this was just an introductory address, and your next one :o) will contain rich Biblical support for the cessationist view)

In that regard, the one quote that stood out for me was your quote of Grudem which says:

there is almost uniform testimony from all sections of the charismatic movement that [today's] prophecy is impure, and will contain elements which are not to be obeyed or trusted.

If there is almost uniform testimony from all sections (assuming he meant mild mannered continuationists all the way to the extreme charismatics?) then we have a problem with this view.

I can't help think of what the 'test' was for the OT prophets who had "impure" prophecy. As one friend says "they took them outside the city and rocked them to sleep". (Deut.18:20-22)

If in fact, modern prophecy is one of the gifts of the Holy Spirit, it certainly cannot be impure in any way, MUST always come to pass, MUST always be something that would be possible to confirm with the written word, and must NEVER be something that would have "elements which are not to be obeyed or trusted".

It certainly cannot be both ways. Unless of course what we're actually dealing with here is yet another example of re-defining terms. That seems to be quite prevelant in modern day evangelicism.

If we can re-define the word prophecy to mean something other than a divinely inspired word from God Almighty, then it would make a little more sense why some would argue for the gift of prophecy to be in use today. Of course I still go back to Grudem's quote. Impure... elements not to be obeyed... not trustworthy.

I suspect someone else has already brought this up, and likely in a more effective way than I just did, but there are my thoughts all the same.

SDG...

Dan said...

Before we go too far, keep in mind that most of the arguement for cessessionism is based solely on observation. That is, I haven't seen anyone doing prophesy or healing or whatever, so it must have stopped.

I'm from a church much more on the cerebral side of the scale (more at risk of dousing joy) than the charismatic end (where they are more at risk of not getting solid food).

Strictly logically (there isn't a whole lot of Scripture on either side, which makes sense), if I have part of the Triune God living in me, I should be able to do more amazing works than anyone in Scripture.

That is not to say I have, just that's a logical conclusion.

I think making theological conclusions based only on observation is a poor way to go. God didn't speak for hundreds of years, but that didn't mean there was no God.

Just accepting your point for now, there may not have been Apistolic-style gifts for 2 millenia, but that doesn't mean they don't exist.

I'm hestitant, however, to accept the premise that there haven't been these gifts in 2,000 years. Because of how I am, I usually dismiss people who heal / talk in tongues / whatever, but that doesn't mean that they can't actually do those things.

It just means that I have a prejudice against them as probably being false witnesses and fraudulent. I haven't made a whole lot of effort to actually prove it either way.

My fallback position is that God can do anything He wants to in His timing. The fact that I declare there has been a cessation of gifts in no way binds Him.

DJP said...

Dr_Mike,

Speaking only for myself, not for Phil, I do see the issues as related. Particularly, imho, it relates to the issues of the sufficiency of Scripture, and the will of God.

An earlier thread very quickly went aside to the important, related issue of God's will (i.e. "If there isn't some sort of ongoing sorta-revelation today, how do I know which showing of The Lion, the Witch and the Wardrobe God wants me to attend?"). I blogged on that, maybe it will be of some use. Well, I can hope.

(c8

Chris HH said...

djp said:

"Soon, I came to the position that, while all gifts might theoretically be available, no Biblical Christian was documented to have exercised the revelatory and attestational gifts for the better part of two millennia."

You don't know your Church history. Read section XVIII of Eusebius. In his section against the Montanists he quotes references to genuine modern prophets to contrast them with, and uses continuationism as a case against them too


1 In this work he mentions a writer, Miltiades,259 stating that he also wrote a certain book against the above-mentioned heresy. After quoting some of their words, he adds:

"Having found these things in a certain work of theirs in opposition to the work of the brother Alcibiades,260 in which he shows that a prophet ought not to speak in ecstasy,261 I made an abridgment."

2 A little further on in the same work he gives a list of those who prophesied under the new covenant, among whom he enumerates a certain Ammia262 and Quadratus,263 saying:

"But the false prophet falls into an ecstasy, in which he is without shame or fear. Beginning with purposed ignorance, he passes on, as has been stated, to involuntary madness of soul.

3 They cannot show that one of the old or one of the new prophets was thus carried away in spirit. Neither can they boast of Agabus,264 or Judas,265 or Silas,266 or the daughters of Philip,267 or Ammia in Philadelphia, or Quadratus, or any others not belonging to them."

4 And again after a little he says: "For if after Quadratus and Ammia in Philadelphia, as they assert, the women with Montanus received the prophetic gift, let them show who among them received it from Montanus and the women. For the apostle thought it necessary that the prophetic gift should continue in all the Church until the final coming. But they cannot show it, though this is the fourteenth year since the death of Maximilla."268

Chuck said...

I certainly see the point Phil is driving at, and I would have to assume this is merely an introdcutory post; there's no way this is all he has to say about the topic. One thing I seem to notice in some of the comments (or at least get the impression)is an equivocation of "miracles" and "gifts." The two cannot and must not be equivocated. Take for example the comment about people who died, were prayed over, and then rose from the dead. Let's assume that it really did happen (though I am not necessarily convinced). Is this the same as the apostolic gift? It seems that an actual would in some sense be restricted to a specific person. It says Paul healed Eutychus: he had been given the gift. In the case of modern miracles, I would never say God would not answer prayer in order to defy the laws of nature. What I reject is the idea that a person can and will be empowered by the Spirit of God so as to look like the apostles did. Nitpicky perhaps, but something I've been chewing on.

Travis said...

Phil,

I agree with you in your assertion that the "Grudenite" charismatics are simply cessationists to a lesser degree.

However, I think you demonize the "open canon" crowd a bit too broadly. Cessationists used to talk the same way about evangelical charismatics.

What I'm wondering is how Paul's apostolic commission is different in method and form than a "modern-day apostolic commission" would be (that is, a man who was not numbered among Jesus' disciples being visited and commissioned by the risen Lord).

My question isn't necessarily a practicle one (there's this book I want canonized); it's more along the lines of the continuationist argument ("if the Scriptures don't seem to be saying 'x,' why are we holding to it?").

And though I don't necessarily have a problem with the implications, wouldn't your statement include the Roman Catholic Church as a cult? (To this day, a Pope can write something that is considered to be of equal or greater weight than the formerly-received Scriptures.)

Stephen A Morse said...

Is Brad Meyer another REV JAMES JACKSON?

Phil; I really appreciate your simplicity and the clearheaded thinking. Certainly we are all some form of cessationist and I, for one, am looking forward to your follow-up.
In order to understand a little more about this I wonder if you could help me see, or maybe some of the other commenters could explain to me why it is important to make these distinctions (please don't simply say "because the Bible says so" and don't tell me where it says it.). Example: When I speak to someone about 'free will' or God's sovereignty, the discussion usually comes down to personal automony. The reason that the said individual insists on having this 'freedom' has to do with their value of human liberty. This is what is most valuable to them. For me it is God being God. I would rather err on that side than on the other.
In this argument... what is at stake? Is it 'sola scriptura'? Is there some area of personal liberty involved?
Thanks for your help!

SDG

James Spurgeon said...

Carla, I think your comments are some of the most poignant on the whole page.

Brad Meyer, I got to know my wife by interacting with her, communicating with her, and experiencing her. We get to know the Spirit the same way and all of that comes about through the Scripture.

lionfood, every time I read one of your comments I get a bit paranoid and start thinking Who can it be now?

The rest, I think your pleas for Scriptural exegesis and your cries of angst that you haven't seen it yet would be legitimate if Phil had pronounced this one post as the end-all argument for cessationism. But I think it was quite clear that he was only setting up one point and trying to establish common ground before going into further argumentation--argumentation which hopefully will include more exegesis of Scripture.

Romans 8:25 (ESV)
But if we hope for what we do not see, we wait for it with patience.

Libbie said...

*mouth wide open in shock*

Are people really arguing for the possibility that there might be more scripture forth-coming? I've got a really nice bound volume of a book I'd like to share with you, and you can check it's veracity by praying for a burning sensation...

I do wonder if Phil anticipated that curve-ball. I mean, sure, it's a argument in response to the post title, but wow. Some scary alleyways of delusion loom ahead...

I've read the book Phil quoted, and I found it very helpful in trying to unpack a lot of these questions.


My understanding of 2 Cor 12:12 in this context is along the lines of 'an apostle's authority is confirmed with signs and wonders. If everybody was suppsed to perform signs and wonders, then what good would they be as signs of authority??'

Brad, you're so sweet. I got to know my husband personally. Mostly over e-mail from university. He shared lots of personal information with me. When I got home again, I didn't walk up to the first handsome chap and have a snuggle. It was reasonably important that the person I communed with from then on was the same one who had been writing to me. I'm picky like that.

candyinsierras said...

I have posted a wonderful audio conversation amongst men who claim cessationism/continuationism...Al Mohler, Ligon Duncan, Mark Dever, C.J. Mahaney. The conversation runs parallel to the discussions on this forum. HT:Reformation Theology.
http://candyinsierra.blogspot.com/

suzi said...

Sometimes one verse is all you need. Thanks, Phil this was even understood simply and clearly by myself and very well put!

Have a good day!

Suzi

BugBlaster said...

Libbie, it appears that Phil may have been right in yesterday's entry. If some very truly think that the canon is still open, then this discussion very truly is a non-starter. There would simply be no common ground upon which to have a discussion. Instead there would only be a yawning unbridgeable chasm.

Impacted Wisdom Truth said...

JAMES:

Thanks for that comment. I agree, I think Phil is just laying the groundwork for further discussion at this point.

My take on the post is this. 2 Corinthians 12:12 is a logical starting point for the discussion. Why? Because it speaks to the purpose of the sign gifts. Can one truly expect today to possess these gifts if one does not qualify purposefully and scripturally as one that needs them?

Paul is defending the legitimacy of his apostleship by appealing to the fact that he performed “signs and wonders and miracles” among them, and that proves he is not an “inferior apostle” but a “true apostle.” Thus the sign gifts authenticate the message by authenticating the messenger, and thus they authenticated Paul as God's apostle.

That is why the question of apostleship is so important; are there "true apostles" today that are performing "signs and wonders and miracles"? Even charismatic writers are conceding that the gifts today are "lesser." So how can anyone today claim to be a "true apostle" by demonstrating a "lesser" gift?

The question is, if these gifts are for the purpose of authenticating whether one is or is not a true apostle, is God giving these gifts to non-apostles today?

lionfood said...

James 5
14: Is any sick among you? let him call for the elders of the church; and let them pray over him, anointing him with oil in the name of the Lord:

15: And the prayer of faith shall save the sick, and the Lord shall raise him up; and if he have committed sins, they shall be forgiven him.
...................
I agree the power of the "super-Apostles" as Paul describes them is not available today as far as Prophecy and Canon - God had revealed His will for our lives fully. I do however beleive God when He says the same Spirit that rose Christ is in us as believers.

Again and again it seems this argument is experience vs. experience, here's a question would anyone here not lay hands and pray for a hurting brother or sister because "God doesn't work like that today." ?

Denise said...

I have to be honest here, Phil (please don't take this the wrong way).Grudem isn't the typical Charismatic, and I think that's a problem here. Talk to the run of the mill Charismatic/Word of Faither and its leaders and you will see they do indeed, hold to a NT view of prophecy and prophets/apostleship today. That is precisely why they say "Touch not Mine anointed and do my prophet no harm!".

At any rate, even if you do disagree with this assessment (I not only talk to Charismatics, I was one for nearly 15 years), the heart of the issue for me, at least, is that "Reformed" doctrine is seen as harmonious with the 5 Solas and the TULIP. The foundational Charismatic theology is very man-centered. With "Thus saith the Lord" and living by dreams, visions, prophesies, etc, this is hardly Sola Scriptura. This is a club, where you are not included unless you have certain experiences. One is seen as les spiritual, even under God's judgment, if he/she hasn't any of the sign gifts.

In fact, to be honest with ya, any experience to "prove" the gifts are still in operation today denies Sola Scriptura.

I would suggest reading SGM's paper on the Empowering of the Spirit--there they lower the bar to include not just the Pentecostals and Charismatics, but also the Third Wave folks. This is definitely troubling. Read what the Third Wave is and you'll see the problem, if you didn't with Pentecostalism and Charismaticism.

http://www.sovereigngraceministries.org/pdf/teaching/holy_spirit.pdf

Denise said...

Carla,
Just read your comment. I once talked to a Charismatic type who said that the 100% rule for fulfilled prophecies is now 60%. I'm not kidding. Is it any wonder why no Charismatic (I include WOFers and Third Wavers here)is willing to discipline/rebuke/write off the likes of Benny Hinn or Kenneth Copeland?

DJP said...

Libbie,

As I think I remarked on yesterday's thread, this discussion will show some folks' real priorities.

Have you heard about the fellow who was sent to the psychiatrist because he believed that he was dead? The psych was getting nowhere with him, then hit on an idea.

He set the fellow the task of learning all he could about death and dead bodies. The fellow went at it with a will, and came back to the doctor's office loaded with documentation.

"Are you done?" the doctor asked. "Have you mastered the subject?"

"Yes," the man replied. "I think I have."

"Tell me, then," began the psych, feeling very clever. "Do dead men bleed?"

The fellow checked over a few documents, then shook his head. "No. No heartbeat, no circulation; so the dead do not bleed."

At this the doctor produced a lancet, leaned across the desk, and speared the man's hand. Ruby drops of blood dropped down.

The man was ashen, completely taken aback. "How could I be so wrong?" he exclaimed.

"Dead people DO bleed!"

This response you're noting, "Well then -- maybe the Canon is open!", makes me think of that. "If the fact of the closed Canon challenges my pet notions and favorite passtimes... then maybe the Canon IS open!"

Carla said...

James,

thank you for your kind words. To be honest, I had to look up the word poignant. It's not everyday someone connects that word to something I've said. :o) (Don't tell Frank Turk about this, he might revoke my wooden nickel as his best potential sidekick!)

At any rate - I really do look forward to this (dare I use this word?) dialog. I hope folks will keep their emotions in check and simply appeal to the Scriptures on this subject. It really is important to know why you believe what you think you believe. It's these kinds of exchanges that sharpen us on that front.
______

Surph: the 100% rule is now 60%? I wonder if this is in line with the "lesser" business? My question to that would obviously be, where in the Scripture can we find this teaching that the Holy Spirit will gear-down His gifts from 100% infallible to 40% "out-in-left-field-at-times"?

Having spent only 4 years in a charismatic Pentecostal church (as opposed to your 15), I know exactly the kind of responses you mention. This is part of the reason I'm glad Phil has decided to take this on. It's VITAL to the way we view God, where we stand on this topic. If, through this exchange, our view of Him is brought up to a higher, Biblical standard, then He will be glorified and it will all be worth it.

SDG...

Steven C said...

Stephen A Morse...I don't know you but you pretty much put into words what I would have liked to have said but didn't. What is at stake here? It isn't so much as whose right and whose wrong that interest me, it's what is at stake if one continues on a coarse that another does not. I think that makes sense....

Joe Fleener said...

For those who believe the cannon is still open or there is at least the possibility something could be added to the cannon.

Or for those who believe it is possible for someone today to make a prophetic utterance that is truly, directly from God.

How would you evaluate either of the above?

What criteria would you use to determine if this written document should be added to the cannon?

What criteria would you use to determine if this person’s prophetic utterance is truly from God?

I can only assume you have some such criteria. I feel confident you would not accept just anything anyone claimed to be prophecy or inspired text.

Denise said...

Rick Joyner a prophet and receiver of visions says “There is a prophet named Bob Jones who was told that the general level of prophetic revelation in the church was about 65% accurate at this time. Some are only about 10% accurate, a very few of the most mature prophets are approaching 85% to 95% accuracy. Prophecy is increasing in purity, but there is a still a long way to go for those who walk in this ministry” (The Prophetic Ministry, Rick Joyner- Morningstar Prophetic Newsletter. Vol. 3, No. 2, p. 2).

Jabbok said...

Phil,
Your post was precise and to the point without a lot of additional baggage. I hope there will be a few more posts on the subject and I hope you will persue the same course of reasoning all the way to "The Lord Spoke to me..."

Denise said...

C. Peter Wagner is one of the propegators of the Third Wave movement---the movement CJ Mahaney/Sovereign Grace Ministries invites to membership referred to in their "The Empowering of the Holy Spirit" paper.

“Pentecostal theologians have made the helpful suggestion of distinguishing the logos word of God from the rhema word of God.... The rhema is regarded as a more immediate word from God which we do not find in the 66 books of the Bible” (Engaging the Enemy, by C. Peter Wagner (Ventura, CA: Regal Books, 1991), pp.15-16).

“...[one] among rapidly increasing numbers of others who believe that a valid source of divine knowledge comes through what some would call “extrabiblical revelation.” I daresay that the standard- brand evangelical doctrine of “logos only” that we were taught might now find a place on an “endangered doctrines” list, about to become extinct” (C. Peter Wagner, Confronting the Powers (Ventura, CA, Regal Books, 1996) p.55).

Check out this list of prophets: The National School of Prophets May, 2000 the speakers were: C. Peter Wagner, Jack Deere, Chuck Pierce, Jim Laffoon, Mary Crum, Cindy Jacobs, Kingsly Fletcher, Barbara Yoder, Dutch Sheets, Mike Bickle, Bill Hamon, John Eckhardt, Ted Haggard.

See http://www.letusreason.org/Latrain22.htm for a fuller treatment of these "prophets", "apostles", and "prophecies."

Denise

Rusty said...

Very enjoyable post Phil. You made me think, and I also learned a few things =)

I look forward to your future posts on this subject

--The Rusted One

REV ME HORN said...

Hi Phil
I enjoyed your first installment. If you take the Cessationist Position the Book by Thomas Edger "Miraculous Gifts" is an Excellent resource. Michael

Mike Garner said...

"What criteria would you use to determine if this written document should be added to the cannon? "

In the New Testament era we see Jesus coming, granting authority to them and then stating that the Holy Spirit would guide them and make them able to remember what he had said. We then had these people pen words that were in conformity with the rest of Scriptural teaching. Furthermore, there was practically uniformity in thinking as to the fact that this was Scripture.

In order to even consider it, I would think that it would probably require Jesus coming back to grant this same authority to some, strict adherence to what is already written, and consensus among the church that it was in fact Scripture.

Again, I certainly do not think there will be any more Scripture. However, I'm just saying that to have a Doctrinal position that does not allow it is not biblical. Very similar arguments could have been made to close the canon during the inter-testamental era. As for the quotation in Jude, unless someone is claiming that this is the last book to be written then the argument fails.


In Christ alone,
mike

Jonathan Moorhead said...

Good post Phil. Since Eph 4:11ff lumps both kinds of gifts together and says they will all be operative “until we all attain to the unity of the faith, and of the knowledge of the Son of God . . .” (v.13), doesn’t that necessitate total continuation or total cessation?

Since we are agreed that some gifts ceased, I am comfortable saying that all gifts ceased around the apostolic period and what we see today is analogous to what was practice in the early church.

Libbie said...

Mike,

I'll be honest, your hypothetical positing sounds feasible, but I honestly think it's betraying a somewhat low view of the sufficiency as is of scripture.
I am truly at a loss to know, if scripture gives us the faith once delivered, what could be added to it? Scripture is God-breathed and useful for lots of things so that the man of God can be thoroughly furnished, as in complete. Why would Jesus Christ be holding something in reserve if it was important to know?
The essence of the closed canon, in my understanding, is not some exclusionary doctrine to stifle the voice of God. It's a glorious proclaimation that God has spoken all that we will ever need to hear, and He had it commited to writing so we wouldn't need to rely on fallible impressions etc.

Closed = finished = hurray!

Mike Garner said...

Hey Libbie,

but I honestly think it's betraying a somewhat low view of the sufficiency as is of scripture.

Well, I guess that this could only be confirmed by knowing me, seeing my church, or knowing my theology. I hold strong Reformed Evangelical beliefs with and definitely affirm Sola Scriptura. I actually believe that my view reflects a higher view of Scipture. I demand that Doctrines come from the bible rather than originate out of a desire to avoid possible problems.


I am truly at a loss to know, if scripture gives us the faith once delivered, what could be added to it?

Well, that is what I tried to address. Is it your contention that Jude was the last book written? If not, then your point is lost. What might Jesus decide to add at a later date? Who knows? I certainly do not think that anything needs to be added as it is sufficient. However, I see no reason to necessarily limit God on this. I can see Jews making very similar arguments 2000 years ago. I can see Sammaritans making the same arguments for anything outside of the Torah.

Scripture is God-breathed and useful for lots of things so that the man of God can be thoroughly furnished, as in complete.

Are we now suggesting that nothing needed to be added after 2Timothy? You seem to be alluding to 2Tim 3:16-17 to suggest that it is complete. If that is the case, then Scipture would be complete at that point... right?



Why would Jesus Christ be holding something in reserve if it was important to know?

Because God works that way - I don't know why. I'm sure Adam and Eve would have liked the entire Bible. I bet the Jerusalem Council would have been a lot easier if they had the entire Canon at that point. I'm sure Old Testament prophets would have liked to have the entire Scriptures to know what they were talking about. But God does not work in that way. The Gospels are Very important but do not even show up until at minimum 20 years after the death of Jesus.



It's a glorious proclaimation that God has spoken all that we will ever need to hear

Right, I know that you see it that way. I simply see that as presuptuous and I would not be as quick to suggest to know the mind of God especially in light of the fact that God does reveal himself progressively and we have had long breaks in the canon before.


Hopefully that clarifies my view.

In Christ alone,
mike

BugBlaster said...

Wow. 65% fails your driver's test, but 65% is sufficient to be a bona-fide predictive Prophet of the infallible God.

65% right on average means 35% wrong on average. Just my opinion, but such C- prophecy is at best useless, and at worst misleading and dishonest. And depending on the volume of prophecies and the types of prophecies being made by an individual, 65% right may just be dumb luck. And what happens if I dip down to 63%?

What kind of gift is useless? Does God really give useless gifts?

I'm very curious to see the scriptural support for a less-than-two-thirds-accurate prophetic gift.

Steve said...

Libbie said:

"It's a glorious proclaimation that God has spoken all that we will ever need to hear, and He had it commited to writing so we wouldn't need to rely on fallible impressions etc.

Closed = finished = hurray!"


Well said, Libbie!

Kyle said...

Phil, good post. I'm looking forward to your further thoughts!

(dan) Before we go too far, keep in mind that most of the arguement for cessessionism is based solely on observation. That is, I haven't seen anyone doing prophesy or healing or whatever, so it must have stopped.

The entire edifice of the modern charismatic movement is based solely on observation. The only reason there exist any "Reformed charismatics" today arguing along the lines of Grudem is because of Azusa Street and the impact it has had on the church. (If anyone wants to look into the history of the Azusa Street Revival and the characters and events leading up to it, I'd love to see your take on just how biblically-oriented it was.) Observation is not necessarily illegitimate in arguing either way, but it must of course be examined in light of Scripture. That is, does what we observe comport with the testimony of Scripture?

(moonlight blogging) In the case of modern miracles, I would never say God would not answer prayer in order to defy the laws of nature. What I reject is the idea that a person can and will be empowered by the Spirit of God so as to look like the apostles did. Nitpicky perhaps, but something I've been chewing on.

This is not nit-picky at all! It is, in fact, absolutely vital to make the distinction. In discussions I have had with Charismatics/Pentecostals on this issue, what might commonly be called "miracles" (esp. extraordinary healing, etc.) are frequently attributed to the ongoing ministry of the miraculous gifts. So when I've said that the miraculous gifts have ceased, some have wondered in disbelief how I could possibly deny that the Spirit still intervenes in the world! It's not a matter of the bare fact of His intervention, but rather of the MEANS. And the cessationist position is that certain of the means are no longer in operation because they have fulfilled the purpose for which they were intended, i.e., to establish the authority and validity of the apostolic ministry.

(lionfood) Again and again it seems this argument is experience vs. experience, here's a question would anyone here not lay hands and pray for a hurting brother or sister because "God doesn't work like that today." ?

And here, for example, we have a case in point of the need for the distinctions which "moonlight blogging" was mentioning. "lionfood," what James is describing is not one of the miraculous gifts.

Libbie said...

Hey Mike,

Well, I guess that this could only be confirmed by knowing me, seeing my church, or knowing my theology.

This isn't a personal issue, remember. I didn't mean that you had a low view of scripture across the board in every area of your life, I said a low view of scripture as is. Perhaps saying an incomplete view of sufficiency would sound less pejorative.

I demand that Doctrines come from the bible rather than originate out of a desire to avoid possible problems.

Well, this was rather the point I made about my understanding of a closed canon. It emphatically isn't 'Quick, typeface the contents page, or we're going to get in real trouble!' It's not an avoidance of problems mentality at all. It's a celebration.

Is it your contention that Jude was the last book written?

Are we now suggesting that nothing needed to be added after 2Timothy? You seem to be alluding to 2Tim 3:16-17 to suggest that it is complete. If that is the case, then Scipture would be complete at that point... right?

Perhaps it's the word 'closed'. Maybe it conjures up the same negative images as 'Limited' does in TULIP.
I don't think there was a sell-by date, and certain scriptures - like the 2 Timothy one - can only be used to defend the veracity and inspiration of the scriptures wrriten chronologically before that.
I've never understood the closed canon to be something decided upon because the end of the first century was reached, time's up. If that was the case, then yes, it would be a fairly silly position to take.

I said: It's a glorious proclaimation that God has spoken all that we will ever need to hear

Right, I know that you see it that way. I simply see that as presuptuous and I would not be as quick to suggest to know the mind of God especially in light of the fact that God does reveal himself progressively

I'm not following how it's presumptuous to call the Word of God, applied to our reborn selves by the Holy Spirit, all we need for our Christian walk.
In many ways I'm still working through these issues myself, as an ex-JW turned ex-charismatic. Perhaps I'm hyper-sensitive to suggestions like this. One of the reasons I am so glad Phil has created space to thrash these things out.

James Spurgeon said...

Libbie and Mike, I just posted something on my blog which directly discusses the differences you two have been quibbling over. Briefly, let me say that I believe in a closed canon for precisely the reasons that Mike is pointing out. What I mean is, the apostolic age is over and because I deny apostolic succession I must believe the canon of Scripture is closed until Christ returns. At that time, we don't know what will happen concerning inspired Writ. Until then, there are no more apostles and based on that I am reasonably sure there will be no more inspired writings. The Church was founded upon the apostles and prophets. It does not need to be re-founded.

Frank Walton said...

Can someone recommend a book that holds to the cessation view in detail? Thanks.

DJP said...

There are a number of good ones, Frank. One of my favorites is Charismatics and the Word of God, by Victor Budgen. Thomas Edgar's Miraculous Gifts also has some good content, as does MacArthur's Charismatic Chaos.

Yankeerev said...

Phil,

Thanks for the article -- good stuff and an interesting perspective from Grudem, et. all.

I grew up in a Charismatic home where my father was a Pastor. I saw the abuse of Prophecy first hand. But the blind would hold on if "part" of the prophecy held true.

That being said, there was a genuine love for God and a passion for His will. That legacy still remains, but thankfully it has been complemented by a passion for the Word.

It is a shame that some are coming out of the stalls with sarcasm and attack on their minds. I am reminded that you desire to have a frank dialogue over the issue, not trying to dodge them mudd being slung as you blog. So, for those who cannot control themselves, would you please grow up. For those who have responded with questions or genuine criticisms, I would suggest we seek to keep the atmosphere of fellowship pure.

Keep it coming....

Yankeerev

Mike Garner said...

James Spurgeon,

I do think it is consistent for a Cessationist to have a Necessarily closed canon. I think the inconsistency is found on continuationists on this one. Now, I believe you are consistently wrong on this issue, but the consistency is definitely something that we should all strive for. This would be the admonition I'd give to continuationists.

Libbie,
I didn't say it was presumptuous to claim that the Scriptures are sufficient. The Old Testament was sufficient for a life of Godliness for a person living in the Inter-testamental area. The New Testament is sufficient for a life of Godliness for us. I simply think that it is presuptuous to suggest that God could Never add to the canon when it is clear that He reveals himself progressively.


Now, the 2Timoth, Jude, and Revelation quotations are key because they are often thrown around to suggest a closed canon. It becomes even better when people start quoting the Deuteronomy passage and I think there may be one in Proverbs. The Deuteronomy passage is the best for proving the point. We should not add to the Word of God. The Word of God is sufficient. The question is whether we have the Full Word of God at this point. As I stated, I think that we do, but I would allow for the possibility that God still has a right to add to it at any point that He would like.
Now, here is the question. In light of the Jude or 2Tim passages, we must ask, if they suggest a closed canon, when does this take affect? It could not be speaking in retrospect and it could not be speaking of that exact moment in time or else we could have no Scripture written later. But then, if we allow Scripture written later then why can we allow 10 years but not 2010 years? The obvious answer is going back to the Apostolic authority and Apostolic age (especially from a Cessationist point of view). However, as I sugested before, God could grant that same authority and confirm that authority in the future.



The practical difference between you and I is very little. I do not think that there would be any new Scripture and demand such a high view of it that it is not likely without the Return of Jesus. You believe in a closed canon. Practically, we both aren't going to have any added Scripture. My point is simply that God could do so. Phil might agree on this point: I'd say that any consistent Continuationist would have to allow for the possibility that the canon is not closed.

Ephemeral Mortal said...

Another Good treatment of theis issue is "The Final Word" by O.Palmer Robertson. ISBN 0851516599

Kyle said...

(frank walton) Can someone recommend a book that holds to the cessation view in detail? Thanks.

Perspectives on Pentecost, by Richard Gaffin.

Via Crusis said...

Thanks Phil,

Dr. Mike said, "Are you denying the tradition of "calling," e.g., being "called to the ministry"?
I would have the same question. I would share your stance on a closed Canon, and Sola Scriptura. Is there such as thing as "hyper-cessationism" that wouldn't allow a calling to ministry? I wouldn't expect a literal verbal calling. But what about 1 Tim. 3:1, ..."if a man desires the office of a bishop, he desireth a good work."- a calling as it were. Psalm, 37: 4 " Delight thyself also in the LORD; and he shall give thee the desires of thine heart." I would say that as you delight yourself in the LORD, He changes the desires of your heart to more Christlikeness. That this transition to us as spirit-filled believers feels seemless. And that for some this may manifest in the desire for the office of a bishop. The qualifications for said office then follow.
Also: As a independent fundamental baptist church we, gather deacons, and elders in the laying on of hands and annointing for newly ordained pastors and the sending of missionaries. We add retired/veteran police officers and military members to this list when we consecrate new officers and military members who are starting duty here or being sent overseas. This is in light of Romans 13:4 Do you then have to deny the tradition of Calling and Sending to be cessationist?

Ellen said...

It hits me today that one of the reasons I generally doubt "today's prophets" (still don't know where I stand on cessation) is that they primarily only have good things to say.

Biblical prophets came along when the people of God were being bone-headed and needed a "clue by four".

If a prophet is telling people only that which they want to hear - that is generally not the message of God.

Gummby said...

While we wait for Phil to "do more exegesis," can anyone give me Scriptural warrant for prophecies from God only being right 65% of the time?

No, wait--make that being right less than 100% of the time. I don't care what era we're in, we're talking about God here, not Miss Cleo.

Give me a single illustration from Scripture of it happening or show me the verses that show this gift is now operative in a diminished form, and I'm willing to listen.

Otherwise, this conversation really is a non-starter, and exegetical or not, Phil's comments stand.

rabbi-philosopher said...

Periodically I attempt to listen to charismatic preaching. I try to start with a positive attiude and I'm determined to find the nuggets of truth. But darned if I don't walk away time and time again frustrated and irritated. (Anecdote: I'm listening to the New Covenant Ministries preaching one morning and Wiley Tomlinson's wife, Jeena, is doing the preaching. She says "God told me something this week I want to share with you; no, put away your Bibles it's not there." That kinda message frustrates me no end. I can hardly bear it.) I have so badly wanted to feel a kinship with my charismatic brethren ( and sistern too) but you're either expositing THE WORD, with some attempt at accuracy, or you're just engaged in "bull shoveling." I remember a friend giving me a long tape of a message by John Kilpatrick who had such a big part in the Brownville revival. The message was an hour plus and it was quite interesting and it NEVER exposited Scripture. It didn't even touch Scripture and I'm thinking to myself; can you have true revival and not be teaching Scripture? Puhleese. Preachers that just talk and don't even attempt to exposit drive me batty. My non-charismatic preacher friends can frustrate me when they wander off to make Scripture fit their message agenda but I've historically found the charismatic preachers to be much worse. Sometime I'm more concerned that the teaching gift has ceased to say nothing of the apostolic gifts. Sigh; enough rant for one day.

SJ Camp said...

This discussion demonstrates one thing: how difficult it is for us in contemporary evangelicalism to think biblically, to develop our theology and make our arguments by the Word of God alone.

1 Peter 4:10, "As each one has received a special gift, employ it in serving one another as good stewards of the manifold grace of God."

Campi

Shane McGrath said...

What I'm getting from this discussion is the need to make sure that we all start with the same working definitions of terms.

Also, there still hasn't been a scripture given that states that the gifts have ceased. At best, we are getting "deduced" reasonings for Cessationism.

Ellen said...

Okay...

when was the last time you heard a modern day prophet use Ecclesiastes 8:7 “Since no man knows the future, who can tell him what is to come?” (Are we supposed to be asking "prophets" about our future?)

or Romans 8:24 “For in this hope we were saved. But hope that is seen is no hope at all. Who hopes for what he already has?” (If a "prophet" does manage to get our future right, does it interfere with our hope?)

Mike Garner said...

Ellen,

God knows the future and at times has chosen to speak through Prophets. In any event, the main thrust of prophecy is not the predictive element.

Also, the hope is about our Glorified bodies (when we are no longer in this fallen world with our fallen bodies). And again, the role of the prophet is not to satisfy curiosities about the future.

-mike

Matt Waymeyer said...

If a debate arises over whether or not dinosaurs still roam the earth, I, for one, would have no problem with the man who begins the discussion by asking if anyone has seen one lately.

Jacob Hantla said...

Ellen,
Check Acts 11:27-28 amd 21:9-11
-Jacob

Steve said...

Shane said:

"there still hasn't been a scripture given that states that the gifts have ceased."

If it were that simple, someone would have discovered that "one verse" by now and saved us from all this protracted discussion. :)

I find it interesting that some sharp minds on both sides of the issue didn't arrive at well-formulated opinions until after a lot of intensive study of Scripture and consideration of the arguments and evidence on both sides. That should tell us something.

Phil hasn't finished presenting the cessationist view yet, so it's a bit premature to ask, "Where's the Scripture support?" But here's one thought to consider: A good student of God's Word can draw conclusions on an issue by using the biblical standard as his starting point, and examining modern-day phenomena and seeing if it matches up to the biblical standard. For example, God's standard for prophets was 100 percent accuracy. That standard is "set in stone" for us, and has not changed. No one since the apostolic era has matched that standard. The so-called manifestations today most definitely do NOT match the biblical standard. So when cessationists arrive at their conclusions about the gift of prophecy (100 percent accuracy), they are basing their conclusion on the pattern originally set in the Bible. In this sense, the cessationist perspective IS based on Scripture.

Brad Meyer said...

It boils down to, "Hey, every claim to miraculous events I see, appears to be a hoax. Therefore, the Bible must say somewhere that the gifts would end at the end of the apostolic era." Chuck Schumer believes the Constitution has a right to an abortion in it. That doesn't make it so. Where exactly does the Bible define the term "APOSTOLIC ERA?"
This is majority rules on the basis of our experience- cynical unbelief. We are not called to lower the level of expectation from the All-Powerful God of the universe. We are called and mortally challenged to BELIEVE.

Mat 17:19 Then came the disciples to Jesus apart, and said, Why could not we cast him out? And Jesus said unto them, Because of your UNBELIEF: for verily I say unto you, If ye have faith as a grain of mustard seed, ye shall say unto this mountain, Remove hence to yonder place; and it shall remove; and nothing shall be impossible unto you.
Mar 9:24 And straightway the father of the child cried out, and said with tears, Lord, I believe; help thou mine UNBELIEF.

Mike Garner said...


If a debate arises over whether or not dinosaurs still roam the earth, I, for one, would have no problem with the man who begins the discussion by asking if anyone has seen one lately.


If we had verses in the bible that told us that they existed and gave no hint that they had died out, then told us to seek the dinosaurs, and then told us not to forbid such dinosaurs, I would want some sort of evidence beyond "I haven't seen any dinosaurs lately" to conclude that we ought not look for them. This would only be amplified when we had many Christians claiming that they had seen dinosaurs.


In Christ alone,
mike

Mike Garner said...

Phil hasn't finished presenting the cessationist view yet, so it's a bit premature to ask, "Where's the Scripture support?"

I would be more inclined to follow that except for he has tried to use some Scriptures (2Cor 12:12 is the most obvious example) but has used them entirely unappropriately. Furthermore, the key issue that Cessationists have thrown out is that people like Benny Hinn, Oral Roberts, and company are unbiblical. When they point to these folks they are quick to cite every reference that they have. Unfortunately, when it comes to examining our own views, often we grant ourselves more lattitude than we do with others.

In Christ alone,
mike

Brad Meyer said...

Mike,
Masterful!

Via Crusis said...

Brad Meyer:
Why do you mention the Third Person of the Godhead. By your reasoning, there shouldn't be a Trinity, there is no Prooftext. Scripture is full of passages that logically infer the truth from the creation week to Revelation.

vegemitechristian said...

Hi everyone,
I have been really blessed and refreshed today, by reading a couple chapters out of Vern Poythress' book, "Symphonic Theology". They addressed "miracles" which I realise is not quite "prophecy", but then again, we haven't managed to stick to prophecy anyway! No doubt a reading (even a skim read) of the early part of the book would help for context (as miracles are merely a test case for what he has been talking about), however, the chapters are worthy of your attention. I think a lot of us would come away from those chapters as "cessationist-continuatists", at least in regards to miracles. Why? Because it is all dependant on what we mean by miracle. For example: we are cessationists with regards to the resurrection of Christ (it was a one-time event). Yet we are resurrection continuationists - we live in the power of his resurrection now. Our own glorification and resurrection is based on (and therefore a continuity of) Christ's resurrection. This is just one example.

I think these two chapters would bless many of us with perspective in discussing cessationism and continuationism.

I also believes it affirms my own (as a continuationist) slight disagreement with Grudem's view (or at least how I have understood his wording, which may not be his actual view!). That is, that I don't like this idea of so called "modern gifts" being of a "lesser quality. No, they all stem from the same source - God! So, I can say as a continuationist (with Fee and in opposition to Grudem as far as I can tell), that miracles, healings, and YES, prophecy, revelation etc. are "in line" with not only NT, but OT prophecy etc. It is all from God working in us and through us to His glory. BUT that does not mean that I cannot affirm the "unique acts of God in which he accomplished salvation" such as the exodus, the cross, pentecost etc. and that those events are described in God breathed words in Holy Scripture.

Key quote (for me) from these 2 chapters:

"The Bible itself indicates both continuity and discontinuity between foundational acts of God in Bible times and the present day. In our teaching we want to say everything that the Bible says and help people who are one-sided to come to grips with their imbalance."

.....Anyway, read them for yourself - chapters 9 and 10. Free online!
http://www.frame-poythress.org/Poythress_books/Symphonic_Theology/bst9.htm

Cheers
Steve

vegemitechristian said...

Link was too long to take you straight to the chapter. This should be fine:
http://www.frame-poythress.org/poythress_books.htm#symphonictheology

Chapters 9 & 10 were what I was referring to.

John Schroeder said...

There are some looney charasmatics out there, the Benny Hinn's of the world. There are also some pretty high and dry reformed cessasionists types, most of the examples of which I can think of right now, you would not know. You know who they are though. People more or less afraid of the Holy Spirit.

I think everybody in this thing has been arguing against those archetypes, when few, if any, of us actually fit the bill.


Read the rest of my post here.

pgepps said...

Well, this is interesting.

If we believe in the sufficiency of Scripture, and that the final word on any matter which comes up among the body is what the Spirit is speaking throughout the Scriptures, then it would seem to follow--as Libbie will have it--that truly foundational doctrines will be found in the Scriptures already revealed.

However, those Scriptures do not reveal anything about the scope of the canon, whatsoever. They testify to the plenary, verbal inspiration, infallibility, authority, perspicuity, and preservation of Scripture, and to many features of its nature, but at no point do the Scriptures tell us precisely which writings will be in it.

Rather, from what the Scriptures tell us, and in keeping with the instructions of Christ to the Apostles, and the Apostles to the first-century churches, we know that the Spirit's work was recognized and received in the canon we have.

My point is that the deduction goes from Scripture to each individual case, but from each individual case to the canon of Scripture is an inductive process.

I think it misrepresents the sufficiency of Scripture to argue deductively from the canon, because the canon is built *up* from the testimony of the Scriptures being received in the churches, but the "closing" of the canon is strictly a churchly judgment call. Good one, but not axiomatic.

I cannot think of any argument I would advance, or any entailment I avoid, by taking this position. I simply don't wish to lead others to stumble when they discover that "canon" is an entirely extrabiblical notion. Better if their teaching has proper foundations.

My objection to strict cessationism is the same; it is seeking to buttress an induction (all the charismata that are not the same as the apostolic gifts) by finding a principle with deductive force (there will be no gifts like those again). The principle of the sufficiency of Scripture requires that any such axiom be, itself, founded in Scripture. Cessationism isn't.

I remain a non-charismatic, not-expecting Paul's-second-letter-to-Corinth to-show-up, definitely not interested in any new revelations unless they can be recognized as God-given by the *entire* visible church (fat chance), but also unwilling to teach "God will never do that again," believer in what the Spirit speaks in Scripture...

Cheers,
PGE

pgepps said...

before someone does a gotcha:

see 1 Cor 5 for the "missing" letter of Paul to the Corinthians. It would, of course, be the "first" and not the second, making ours the second and third. If, that is, the Lord had chosen to preserve it for us.

Apparently, He didn't. And I see no reason to expect that to change.

Cheers,
PGE

Ellen said...

Ellen,

God knows the future and at times has chosen to speak through Prophets. In any event, the main thrust of prophecy is not the predictive element.


Exactly - so why do we flock to the so-called "prophets" of today, wanting to know the future?

As for the passages in Acts, okay, they referenced the future - and it wasn't telling the people that it was going to be rosy.

I blogged about that ib my blog yesterday.

David Van Essen said...

I read this entire thread with some interest. My background is that I spent the first 28 years of my life in a cessationist church, and the past 5 years in a "reformed charismatic church."

One thing that strikes me as odd about all of the posts here is the lack of any references to the persecuted church in other parts of the world, like Southeast Asia (India and China), the Middle East (Muslim world), and elsewhere where the work of God is happening in a powerful way.

Perhaps the most powerful impact of the work of the Holy Spirit in the believer's life is in Acts 1 where it says that "You will receive power after the Holy Spirit comes upon you, and will be witnesses unto me..." So the work of the Holy Spirit is to give us boldness in proclaiming the gospel of Jesus Christ. So our expectation with regards to the work of the Spirit is boldness in proclaiming Christ. That's for here and now in 2005. Whether that expresses itself in charismatic gifts or not, we should all be much more concerned about the boldness or lack thereof that we display in our personal lives for Christ than whether miracles do or don't occur today.

All I can say is, we need to look to the example of the persecuted church in Asia, where believers are praying on their knees, for fear of their lives, for hours at a time, and witnessing powerful miracles. They don't have the time to figure out whether or not the gifts are for today, they are just praying in faith for God to move on their behalf and in the work of spreading His gospel!

Kyle said...

(david van essen) They don't have the time to figure out whether or not the gifts are for today, they are just praying in faith for God to move on their behalf and in the work of spreading His gospel!

Well, perhaps they'd have more time to pray if they didn't have to worry about weighing each and every spurious "prophecy" they encounter.

Really, I don't understand this attitude at all. If it makes the positive difference in the church that the charismatic camp claims, or the negative difference which cessationists claim, then it's important to figure it out. Most especially for evangelism!

A Human Bean said...

I could spend hours tearing apart your arguements for cessationism, especially because there is not an ounce of Biblical evidence for it. However, I will just say this. True continuationist are not on the fringe. They are mainline evangelical believers who believe the Bible is completely true. The closing of the canon also has nothing to do with cessationism. Also, just because some continuationists say the gifts are of lesser quality today, does not mean most believe this. It is actually another arguement with no Biblical basis. I challenge anyone to take the Bible and use it to prove cessationism.

Mark Barnes said...

Well, it looks like I'm one of those rare "absolute non-cessationists" (I believe all the spiritual gifts in the NT are still in operation today.) But I am definately not "at the bizarre fringe of the charismatic movement" (I am not even a charismatic), and I certainly have never even met an apostle, nevermind declared sometime to be one.

We really must get away from this notion that apostleship is a spiritual gift, and therefore all continuationists must believe in apostles today in order to be consistent.

But even if the gift of apostleship was around today, Phil's argument would make no sense. He accuses continuationists to actually be cessationists because they believe that some miraculous gifts have ceased. But by exactly the same logic I could describe him as a continuationist because he believes that some spiritual gifts do continue. You can't have it both ways (and 'spiritual gifts' is much more of a biblical term than 'miraculous gifts', and is therefore preferable.)

I've posted about this very recently here and here, so if you want read more, head over there and I won't clog up this blog!

OzPhantom said...

"If you believe any of the miraculous spiritual gifts were operative in the apostolic era only, and that some or all of those gifts gradually ceased before the end of the first century, you are a cessationist.

If you believe all the spiritual gifts described in the New Testament have continued unabated, unchanged, and unaltered since the initial outpouring of tongues at Pentecost, you are a continuationist."


So I guess that makes me a partial continuationist or a partial cessationist. In a nutshell, setting up this dichotomy is the reason why many have missed the point of the blog to begin with and why there is so much dust been kicked up. The moment that I become "partial" is a negation of both the definitions in quote. And of course, the continuationists will call me a partial continuationist, whereas cessationists will align me with partial cessationism...as the blog implies.
Point being: labels can be greatly misused or misapplied. In cases like this, it can also lead to a form of discreet ad hominem. The cessationist definition quoted above can be used to accuse those of putting God in a box, whereas the continuationism definition can be used to imply a denial of sola scriptura. Both of these are unfair. So can one hold to the points that Phil Johnson sets forth, without being labelled outright by any of the definitions he outlines from the beginning?

Monergismo.com/Felipe Sabino said...

Great post!
I have translated this article!

http://www.monergismo.com/textos/dons_espirituais/voce_cessacionista_phillip.htm

Rebecca said...

Phil, I dont really know what your point is in this article. Are you arguing that all miraculous gifts have ceased. If you are, that's hilarious. I laugh at anyone who says that. As someone who has been touched miraculously by God, its silly, ludicrous. For someone to make that claim is to call liars the testimony of hundreds of thousands of christian brothers and sisters from all over the world.

However, if that's not your point, why did you write this article? I dont know if we can prove anything about apostles, whether everytime they prayed somebody was healed, or whether there are still people who operate in the gifts at a similarly high level somewhere in this world. Nor did all of the apostles write scripture, yet many were recorded with supernatural gifting.
I wouldnt really argue that there are people who operate at teh same level as apostles in the new testament, but i cant argue against it either. How can I with so little evidence either way. Furthermore, not everything the apostles said was scripture, or totally correct. All you need to do is read about Paul's rebuke of Peter or his own treatise on his flesh to know that. Or through others, perhaps his refusal to accept John Mark.

Anyway, I just hate how good academics and teachers who claim to think according to logical systems of thought, can so blatently overlook its principles when it encounters theology that they ardently exposit. We are all prone to these errors, but we should be open to acknowledging and seeking them out when pointed out by others