04 November 2005

Rubber prophecies

First off, thanks to everyone who left a comment on yesterday's post. I spent the day yesterday dealing with members of my family who are ill, running a chauffeuring service to the local medical clinic and cooking soup. Everyone in the fam seems to be improving, but I had no time Thursday for answering blog comments.

Before we finish with the subject of modern prophecy, I do plan to deal with the question of Spurgeon's opinion on private revelation. (This is one of only three or four issues on which I would dare to disagree at all with the Prince of Preachers, and it turns out to be a fairly minor disagreement.)

I'll also recount how Jonathan Edwards and George Whitefield disagreed on the question of private messages from God—and how Cotton Mather's faith was nearly shaken when he believed God had guaranteed him specific answers to certain prayers, but then those answers never materialized. I also intend to comment on Henry Blackaby's paradigm for being "led" by the Spirit in Experiencing God. If interest in this subject is sustained long enough, I may also point out some examples of how subjective impressions "from God" are the basis for some of Bill Gothard's most questionable teachings.

But everything in its time.


Today I want to pick up on something I said yesterday: I remarked on how commonplace and how easy it is for modern prophets to reinterpret, twist, and radically reshape their own prophecies in their blind desperation to manufacture "fulfillments" for bogus forecasts.

Want a specific case in point?

One of the best-known and most notorious examples of this began in the late 1970s, when Oral Roberts claimed he saw an enormous vision of Jesus, 900 feet tall. Roberts said the colossal apparition ordered him to build a hospital—a 60-story structure in south Tulsa. It was to be called "The City of Faith."

Roberts built the building, but no more than three floors of the skyscraper were ever used as a hospital. More than a decade after the original vision of the 900-foot Jesus, 80 percent of that immense building was still vacant and had never had any tenants.

The promised cure for cancer never materialized, either.

By January of 1987 the City of Faith was burdened with so much debt that Oral Roberts announced to the world that the Lord had visited him again. This time, he said the Lord told him that unless Oral raised eight million dollars to pay off the debt within two months, the televangelist would die. The great Oral Roberts Death Watch of 1987 became one of the biggest religious news stories of the year.

In the final hour before the deadline, a dog-track owner in Florida gave Oral Roberts a check for the money he needed. (I suppose at least part of the complex prophecy was therefore "fulfilled" when Oral Roberts survived.)

But to this day, Oral Roberts insists that all his predictions about "The City of Faith" were legitimate prophecies. Genuine messages from God. In 1989, Roberts explained to Charisma magazine that despite appearances, the City-of-Faith fiasco completely accomplished everything God really intended all along. Roberts said God had finally given him a new message that explained the whole thing:

God said in my spirit, "I had you build the City of Faith large enough to capture the imagination of the entire world . . . . I did not want this revelation localized in Tulsa, however. . . . "

As clearly in my spirit as I've ever heard Him, the Lord gave me an impression. "You and your partners have merged prayer and medicine for the entire world, for the church world and for all generations," He said. "It is done."

I then asked, "Is that why after eight years you're having us close the hospital and after 11 years the medical school?"

God said, "Yes, the mission has been accomplished in the same way that after the three years of public ministry My Son said on the cross, 'Father, it is finished.'" ["Oral Roberts: Victory Out of Defeat," Charisma (Dec. 1989), p. 88.]

So in the mind of Oral Roberts, his massive failed prophecy, which was played out across the front pages of the secular press, was no embarrassment at all. In Roberts's imagination, his white-elephant monument to modern false prophecy is comparable to the finished work of Christ.

If you can twist your interpretation of the divine plan after the fact like that, there is no reason ever to regard any prophecy as false.

I could give a long list of similarly famous failed prophecies. Benny Hinn made a whole string of them in 1989. As he looked forward to the nineties, Hinn claimed God had shown him several important events that would surely come to pass within the decade. Fidel Castro would die sometime in the 1990s, Hinn prophesied. He also said the homosexual community in America would be destroyed by fire before 1995. A major earthquake was supposed to cause havoc on the east coast before the year 2000.

None of those things happened, of course. But it has not stopped Hinn from making more fantastic prophecies. In 2000 he predicted that Jesus would appear visibly, in person, at one of Benny Hinn's own healing crusades. It hasn't happened yet, but thousands of Hinn's followers are convinced that it will. And the expectation has boosted attendance at all of Benny's meetings.

An almost invincible gullibility has infected the modern charismatic and evangelical movements, creating an environment in which virtually anyone can make any bizarre prophecy he wants. If it turns out to be wrong, people will either forget or reinterpret the prophecy. And if the prophet happens to get one prediction right or even partially right, people will eagerly publicize that one correct guess as irrefutable proof that the prophet is inspired by God.

That type of "prophecy" is in no sense a "gift" from God. It is superstitious charlatanism, no better than the palm-reader in the ramshackle house with neon lights who bilks people out of their life savings by pretending to see the future.

Note: I am not now making any argument about cessationism vs. the continuation of miraculous gifts.

Whether you are a cessationist or not, you ought to be able to see that fatuous predictions which never come true are false prophecies, not legitimate spiritual gifts. And false prophecies are irrefutable proof that the mouthpiece who utters them does not really speak for God. If the contemporary church—including both charismatic and cessationist believers—cannot come to grips with that fundamental reality, then the only spiritual gift anyone ought to be seeking is the gift of discernment.

Frankly, we have an overabundance of professing prophets and tongues-speakers these days, and precious few men with real discernment.

Phil's signature


wisdomofthepages.com said...

I predict that you will get a lot of comments on these posts.

Looking forward to your forthcoming thoughts on Edwards, Whitfield, and Spurgeon relating to this subject.

Brad said...

Stop the kicking on charismatics already- seriously- take note- you're stuck on it. I stumble onto your blog occasionally and you have nothing else to say. Let me highlight some shortcomings of the critical (clear throat) Intellectuals:
-mindless hammering of those that say nothing against you- point me to one website that attacks your POV from a charismatic.
-least loving, dry, sad as a cranky neighbor with a forced fake smile.
- did i mention nonstop judgment,recitation of flaws in charismatic movement?
- Legalistic and in love with dead guys.
- And again, making a living off of beating up charismatics- it's a great way to make a living if you can find it.


Mike Perrigoue said...

Where are all of these people that believe in these men and their prophesies? I see them on tv fainting and crying and stuff...but I guess I've always imagined them as "extras", you know a paid part of the show.

I just can't imagine who and where these people are. I live in the Seattle area so we don't have much call for charismatics 'round here!

People really fall for this stuff? Even before I was saved I thought it was such a crock! I have family in Kentucky...maybe I'll ask them.

candy said...

It is late and I won't comment much right now, but I will say that it is interesting that the most extreme examples are being used in this article. There are many much more sober minded charismatics...and reformed too....who are also disgusted with people like Oral Roberts and Benny Hinn. If I remember correctly, Martin Lloyd Jones believed in the gifts for today. C.J. Mahaney, Adrian Warnock, John Piper, highly respected men believe in the gifts for today. I don't see any of these guys going off on strange tangents with weird words of prophecy.

Unknown said...

Does often seem that if the gift of prophecy has continued that the gift of discernment may have ceased. (We) Charismatics need to get humble and be prepared to have things rigorously tested. Too easily we presume we know what God has said.... might be right sometimes... guarenteed to be wrong often.

Still not sure what a genuine prophecy would specifically look like....


William Dicks said...

I am a Reformed-Charismatic myself with strong emphasis on the first label.

I wrote a post for my blog on the issue from a charismatic point of view. I have been charismatic since way back in 1980 and only recently (1998) became fully convinced of the Doctrines of Grace.

Unfortunately, I am still stuck in an Arminian charismatic church (reasons too long to go into here--email me if you want ot know) which is a well respected church in our city, and what Phil writes about here is so spot on. There are all kinds of prophecies and teachings that they go into, and when these prophecies fail, they kind of hope that people have forgotten about it and then ignore the issue.

On Brad Meyer's comment (the first '-'), there are charismatics out there that belittle cessationists. Just ask Google? He will tell you all about it.

When I came out of the "closet" (no... not that closet) in about 2001-2002 as a Calvinist in my church, the first response was that I have left God and I am ignoring the Holy Spirit and that I am sowing confusion. Suddenly, here was someone that differed fundamentally from them and I became a sub-class Christian.

Spiritual peer pressure is still a very strong and effective means in charismania to control their people. That is, if the church is not led by a man like Piper or Mahaney.

Mike said...

Yes,I think discussion about Edwards, Whitefield, Spurgeon and some of the other legitamate theologians in the world will be of most benefit.
I know that you are not trying to setup a strawman, or at least i hope, but I just want to remind everyone that the lies of men like Roberts and Hinn do not in any way detract from possible truth of other men.
Having said that, I repeat my point from yesterday that all Christians (especially those who are not cessationists) ought to be bold about warning against false prophets.
The twisting of God's word by some is disgusting and it attacks my soul. I thank God that there are great men who are willing to write boldly against these lies. I just pray that their faulty(my opinion of course) view does not discredit these legitamate concerns. The bible clearly speaks of Prophets and false prophets. Whether we believe prophets continue or not does nothing to change the point that many false prophets still exist. For this reason, i applaud Phil's efford to call them out and hopefully spare many from their traps.

In Christ alone,

Mike said...

Quick question...
Are there any Cessationist powerhouses out there besides the MacArthur/GCC/TMC/TMS camp and Dallas seminary? I have read the stuff my MacArthur and stand completely unconvinced and have yet to find anything too convincing out of Dallas.

Side note - I am not a prophet nor do I claim to be so don't try to stone me ... but in 2002 I made a prediction that I thought that within 10 years MacArthur would abandon his Cessationist views. Again not a prophecy ... just the way i suspect things will work out. If this does happen ... wow. I still remember when Limited Atonement was accepted! Anyway, we shall see.

In Christ alone,

Chris Hamer-Hodges said...

I think you should be clear in the distinction between false prophecy and false prophets. There are indeed false prophets out there, but one false prophecy does not a false prophet make. Would you discredit a teaching ministry after one duff sermon?

All prophecy should be weighed, regardless of who it comes from. A genuine prophet may bring an off the mark prophecy, and even a false prophet can bring a genuine prophecy at times (e.g. Baalam). But the gift of prophecy should never be despised.

I would also point out that the gift of prophecy is a gift to the church, and will be in operation wherever the Spirit is at work, even if it is theologically rejected. It may not come with "thus says the Lord" or wild predictions about the future. But if you have a prayer meeting where men stirred by God are praying, if you have an ear to hear, you will hear what the Spirit is saying to the churches!


Jeff Jones said...


Looking forward to the rest of the series!


Read some of Gaffin's work sometime. He is probably the most articulate and careful defender of cessationism out there today. He's Orthodox Presbyterian, I believe - many Presbyterians / Reformed / Reformed Baptists are cessationists.

brad meyer:

Pointing out charismatic excesses is not "kicking" on charismatics. We have a Biblical obligation to refute error, and to do so publicly. People like Oral Roberts, Benny Hinn, and the Toronto Blessing crowd have brought shame on the name of Christ by their false prophecies, taking His name in vain, and by their barnyard antics.

I really appreciated your comment:

"Legalistic and in love with dead guys."

Last I checked, Pentecost wasn't yesterday. Your comment s a sad symptom of modern charismatic thinking - "we need something fresh, something new, something novel and exciting - otherwise it's not worth my time!" We have much we could learn from the great teachers of the past. Many of the problems in the modern evangelical church today would have been avoided if more value was placed on theology and doctrine - the teachings of many of these "dead guys." Living or dead, there are many Christians whose lifelong study of God's Word make them well worth listening to.

I'll point out that the Bible itself was also written by a "bunch of dead guys." Providing that you don't share the views of some commenters on the previous post - who derided the Holy Scripture as merely "words on a page" and thus less relevant then "fresh revelation" - you'd agree that they still speak.

Jerry Wragg said...

As I mentioned yesterday, Gaffin's chapter in "Are Miraculous Gifts for Today?" is definitive and exegetical...
Mike - This "Four Views" book is helpful because Saucy (Open but cautious), Storms (Third wave), and Oss (Pentecostal/Charismatic) offer rebuttals to Gaffin's defense, each from their respective theological camps.

Udarnik said...

Good word Phil... To oversimplify, I generally see believers fall into two opposite errors when considering prophecy, both covered in 1 Thessalonians 5.

We either despise prophetic utterances:

1 Thessalonians 5:19 & 20 Do not quench the Spirit; do not despise prophetic utterances...

Or, we embrace them uncritically:

1 Thessalonians 5:21 But examine everything carefully; hold fast to that which is good...

I vote for tongues with interpretation and prophecy weighed or judged in the assembly ala 1 Corinthians 14.

By the way, have you ever noticed how many bogus prophecies begin with "my little children" or carry a harsh, "drive-by" rebuke to "lukewarm" Christians?

Udarnik said...

Oh, and on the cessationist side, I think the classics have always been Gaffin's Perspectives on Pentecost, Walter Chantry's Signs of the apostles: Observations on Pentecostalism old and new and Victor Budgen's Charismatics and the Word of God: A Biblical and Historical Perspective on the Charismatic Movement. While I come to different conclusions on the matter, these guys do a good job... particularly Gaffin.

For a thorough exposure to the issues, I would follow the discussion between Gaffin (instructor) and his student at Westminster, Wayne Grudem, in print and in journal articles on the subject. They get into all the nooks and crannies.

Michael Russell said...

I don't think I'll wind up disagreeing with much of your content, but I do think you're mixing the health & wealth charlatans in with some charismatics. Roberts, Hinn, Tilton, Hickey, etc., may have charismatic jargon and beliefs, but I wouldn't categorize them as charismatics or as representative of most charismatics. Most charismatics - like most of us, I suppose - are driven by psychological reasons more than theological ones.

As for Chris' distinction between "false prophecy" and "false prophets," there is none. Deu 18.20: ‘But the prophet who speaks a word presumptuously in My name which I have not commanded him to speak, or which he speaks in the name of other gods, that prophet shall die.’

One strike and you're out. God does not make mistakes; His true prophets do not make mistakes, either. You either bat 1.000 or you're dead.

And teaching is not equivalent to prophecy: the former is your understanding of God's words; the latter is God's word straight from His mouth. We are to correct or run off false teachers, but nowhere in Scripture are we told to kill them. But to be a false prophet or to utter false prophecy? That is a capital offense.

Chris Pixley said...

Like jerryw and bo salisbury, I find Gaffin's work particularly salient. Perspectives on Pentecost was especially helpful in my own study of the issue.

Jerry Wragg said...

Chris -
On Prophecies that fail, scripture is abundantly clear that every true prophet spoke for God, and that every word was His. In fact, the accuracy of every detail was the heart and soul of the test for authenticity (Deut. 18:21-22). Some charismatics claim that 1 Kings 13:7-32 demonstrates that a prophet of God can be mistaken, but an exegetical case for this prophet's divine commission cannot be made from the textual data.
The argument for a "lower authority" kind of prophecy today (which then opens the door to possible minor inaccuracies) has been attempted by some (Grudem,Carson, et.al.), and you will find Gaffin's chapter a helpful and thorough exegetical response to them (regardless of where you land).

If you're going to hold the view that prophets today can be inaccurate, you will have to resolve some issues and questions:
(1) You have no possible objective standard for checking a prophet's call or message (did he misunderstand God?---did God give wrong information about the future? [possible for Open Theists]).
(2) There are no definitive (and I mean with passages as definitive as other clear matters of faith for God's people) examples from scripture of "less authoritative" words spoken directly from God through a person. You would think that for such a crucial part of one's walk with Christ there would be more than a few ambiguous texts (given the overwhelming number of passages on unity with Christ throughout the New Testament). Are we to rest the entire case for "lower authority" prophecy upon Agabus (Acts 11 & 21), or the "testing" of 1 Cor. 14:29? Seems like a stretch for such a deeply important matter for our daily walk as believers.
(3) Why aren't such "words from God" equal with scripture? (many attempts to answer this have been offered, but already presupposed in every answer is that God does "freshly reveal" on a practical, everyday level).
(4) Finally, how can scripture be the "final test" when these alleged revelations deal with specific and personal details not given in scripture? This questions seems fair enough. One of my dear continuationist friends held fast to his "the Bible is the final word on the matter" conviction, but none of his "lower authority" revelations could be checked by scripture since they involved such specificity for his life. He finally conceded that the only test left was whether "good things came from it".

Anyway, thanks for considering these things...

theinscrutableone said...

Phil, I wish you hadn't brought up Oral Roberts and the $8M fiasco. :-) When that incident took place, I happened to be right in the thick of things. I was teaching computer science classes at Oral Roberts University, and also attended a class titled "Signs and Wonders" that was team-taught by Oral Roberts, Larry Lea, and whichever charismatic luminary happened to be in the Tulsa area. Although I made every effort to be a good "company guy" and not outwardly criticize Roberts for his absurd prophecy, I recall that many people on campus didn't hesitate to state _very_ critical opinions about the man who put their bread on their tables.

(Incidentally, I recall that Roberts' original prophecy claimed that God had told him to raise $8M _annually_ to fund medical missionaries. Of course, it didn't take long before he changed his story to leave out the "annual" part of the prophecy, but the fact remains that raising $8M one time failed to fulfill the original prophecy.)

Looking back, I think the Oral Roberts $8M incident was a crucial turning point for me, as it was at or shortly after that time that I started to exercise discernment regarding the spiritual gifts I saw practiced. At first, I tried to exercise moderation: throwing out the bad stuff (gold fillings, prophetic calls to worship Mary, etc.) while holding fast to whatever didn't blatantly contradict Scripture. However, time and experience taught me that my attempt to balance the sure word of Scripture with the uncertain and often mistaken word of modern-day prophecy was doomed to failure. After many occasions in which I put my hope in a prophecy only to have my hopes dashed, I struggled with major doubts regarding the trustworthiness of God's Word _period_. Finally, I decided that I had enough, and purposely put all of my prophecies, dreams, and visions on the shelf in favor of the Scriptures alone.

To those of you who are trying to find a moderate non-cessationist position, I wish you well. I certainly respect your willingness to speak out against the extremists (Oral Roberts, etc.) in the charismatic camp. In fact, a handful of non-cessationists were very helpful to me during my exodus from charismaticism (D.R. McConnell and Hank Hanegraaf in particular).

However, I encourage you to consider whether the gifts of tongues, prophecy, etc., we see in operation today are in fact the same gifts described in Scripture. If they are not the same gifts, then they ought to be rejected as counterfeit. I can testify as an ex-charismatic that although I heard countless messages via alleged tongues, interpretation, and prophecy, not a one of them turned out to be an instance of the _Scriptural_ versions of these gifts. In every single case, the utterance, if not overtly false in doctrine or prediction, bore no true fruit of the Spirit. They bore none of the marks of a true word from God. If my experience is typical, then I would ask of those who hold that these gifts are still in operation, my question would simply be, "Where?"

More importantly, I urge you to carefully consider the ramifications of attempting to reconcile the trustworthy and sufficient Scriptures with the frequently untrustworthy word of modern-day prophets. Although an attempt to balance Scripture with a non-extremist view on spiritual gifts might seem to be the way of moderation, in practice I've found that the very existence of uncertain prophecy tends to put Scripture itself into doubt.

Scribe said...

How then do we deal with Jesus Christ as a prophet? Mt 10:23, "For assuredly I say to you, you will not have gone through the cities of Israel before the Son of Man comes." Or Mt 24:34, "Assuredly, I say to you, this generation will not pass away till all these things take place." Or the simple, "I am coming soon" (Rev 3:11).

Are these prophetic utterances? Or rather metaphorical speech? If we stretch even the words of Jesus beyond their "plain sense," then it is not surprising that modern day prophets and "apostles" receive "words of knowledge." So much of religion in general inhabits a realm of deep irrationality and confusion. I am tired of hearing from otherwise respectable Christian people, "God told me to..." We have enough difficulty interpreting the Bible, never mind the inane babblings of Oral Roberts and his ilk.

Udarnik said...

Yeah, when I hear "God told me..." or "the Lord led me..." the antennae go up immediately and the balognameter is activated.

I'm skeptical of modern gnostics who hear from the Lord on everything, particularly when God has a word for others through them.

The same goes for, "brother, I have something to share with you..." That usually means I'm in trouble. And, if they want to "share something" with me "in love," it's time to don the fire retardent suit.

These kinds of folks bring ridicule upon genuine Spirit given wisdom and revelation.

Scribe said...

Is the bolagnameter patented, and where can I get one!? ;) You would have thought seminaries would dispense them at graduation.

Adrian Warnock said...

Rubber prophecies prove nothing except some peoples gullibility

I have put my oar in over on my blog in a post entitled Rubber prophecies prove nothing except the gullibility of some people

PyroManiac has been at the game of charismatic-bating.........

Chris Hamer-Hodges said...

Surely even cessationists believe that God still speaks?!

We have no problem when God is communicating into our situation, and we would still check this against scripture to make sure we were hearing right, without reaching for the stones the minute we realised it was not God, but something from ourselves.

So the question is, if God can still communicate in this way to us, would he not communicate in the same way to us for someone else? And how would we communicate this to them?

You can have all your debates on whether this is prophecy or not, and what authority such revelations have, but to deny that such things take place is to claim that God has gone mute. Or that we under the New Covenant are less able to hear the voice of God than those under the Old.

One final question: If all prophecy has the same authority as scripture, why are not all of the instances of prophecy in the scriptures recorded for us as scripture? Where are the utterances of the Corinthian prophets or of Philip's daughters? The scripture does refer to instances of prophecy that are not included in the sufficiency of the inspired and inerrant scriptures.

puritanicoal said...

Pointing out the obvious fallacies of Hinn, Roberts, etc., is like shooting fish in a barrel.

Read the following and see if you can guess (not Google) who wrote it.

"In the previous section I argued that "signs and wonders" in the New Testament were not the prerogative of apostles only. The "seventy" performed them (Luke 10:9,17), deacons performed them (Acts 6:8; 8:6), Galatian Christians performed them (Galatians 3:5), Corinthian Christians performed them (1 Corinthians 12:9-10). Since signs and wonders were not the prerogative of the apostles, there is no New Testament warrant for inferring that these miracles were to cease after the apostolic age.

In fact, I want to argue in this section that the New Testament teaches that spiritual gifts (including the more obviously supernatural or revelatory ones like prophecy and tongues) will continue until Jesus comes. The use of such gifts (miracles, faith, healings, prophecy, etc) give rise to what may sometimes be called "signs and wonders." Therefore signs and wonders are part of the blessing we should pray for today.

There is no text in the New Testament that teaches the cessation of these gifts. But more important than this silence is the text that explicitly teaches their continuance until Jesus comes, namely, 1 Corinthians 13:8-12."

Interesting, huh?

Phil Johnson said...

It kills me how all the same reflex continuationist arguments are instantly dragged out and recited without regard to the actual substance of the discussion.

I made it a point to underscore the fact that the issue I'm concerned with here is the abuse of prophecy, not cessationism per se. I even put that statement in bold, red type.

Let me say it again: the issue under discussion in this series of posts is the contemporary epidemic of false prophecy, not yea or nay on cessationism. I have no intention of arguing the cessationist-continuationist point in this series. I'm arguing, rather, about the dangers of narcissistic subjectivity, where people begin to act as if the voice of God resides their own heads and speaks through every subjective impression they feel. This is not a uniquely charismatic problem. I've already said I'm going to be discussing how this problem has troubled Christians ranging from Cotton Mather and George Whitefield (both Reformed non-charismatics) to Henry Blackaby (a southern Baptist).

What is shocking is the way non-cessationists who do acknowledge that false prophecy is a serious problem seem less concerned about the dangers of false prophecy than they are about the "dangers" of cessationism. That's why even though I have not yet actually argued in favor of cessationism, that subject has dominated the comments thread, and one or two of the responses so far (both yesterday and today <cough>Brad Meyer</cough>) have even bordered on hysteria, practically begging me (or should I say "threatening" me?) not to deal with the issue at all! Wow.

The subtle implication is that my continuationist friends see the proliferation of false prophecy as a necessary evil, and they imagine that pointing it out and trying to analyze it is inherently threatening to their whole theology of the Holy Spirit.

A few specific responses:

Brad Meyer: It's obvious you haven't been reading the blog much. You ought to do so before making such wild and angry generalizations about it. As far as I can recall, this is the first series of posts that has dealt with anything so close to the heart of the charismatic issue. The charismatic error certainly hasn't been a major theme or a central focus here. Some of the things you posted yesterday, however, suggest that what you really object to is not my non-cessationism, but my conviction that Scripture speaks with absolute authority.

Candyinsierras: Stay with me. I already listed several not-so-extreme examples I intend to deal with. It makes sense, however, to start with the best-known and most audacious example. I have to say, though, that I reject the suggestion that Oral Roberts is some sort of obscure fringe extremist. As far as the broad charismatic movement is concerned, Roberts is as mainstream as it gets, and guys like Mahaney and Storms are the odd men out. In fact, no single figure in the 20th century had more influence on Pentecostalism and Charismaticism than Oral Roberts. He straddles the pentecostal and name-it-claim-it movements. He's hardly an obscure wacko whom I dredged up out of nowhere for dramatic effect.

Mike: John MacArthur is about as likely to become an Open Theist as he is to become a charismatic. Which is to say it's not going to happen at all. Sorry, buddy, but you're way off on that prediction. I promise.

Chris: See JerryW's reply to you and the resources he recommended. The idea that a true prophet can speak false prophecies is absurd enough, but we're not talking about one false prophecy among hundreds of true ones. The very best of modern prophets has a success ratio of less than 40 percent true prophecies. I'll cite documentation of that in the days to come. But if you have the notion that someone like Paul Cain was almost always right and only occasionally and incidentally wrong, you need to take a closer look at the phenomenon. My own suspicion is that most modern prophecies—by a very wide margin—are false. That's my real point here,

dr_mike: See above. I'm not confusing the Word-faith movement with other charismatics. I'm saying that when it comes to treating subjective impressions like the voice of God, the same danger exists whether you are Hindu, word-faith, conservative charismatic, non-charismatic continuationist, or inconsistent cessationist.

I'm also going to point out that while there is much in Scripture that urges us to heed Scripture, I see no warrant whatsoever in the Bible for ordering one's life around anything a voice in your head says to you. Real prophets, even in Scripture, were exceptional cases, and that's why Scripture itself establishes a no-tolerance policy when it comes to false prophecies.

Again, I'm not at present making any deliberate argument for cessationism. I realize, of course, that when one looks honestly at the reality of the modern phenomenon, one is practically forced to the conclusion that this is nothing at all like the biblical gift of prophecy. And if the true gift cannot be found anywhere operative today, in the past century of pentecostal movements, or reliably at any point in church history since the first century, a person could be excused for thinking that the gift ceased sometime before the end of the apostolic era. Again, that is not the argument I'm making. But neither do I fault those who look at the facts of church history alongside the present reality and infer cessationism.

Still, that's not the debate on the table at the moment. I mention it only because so many commenters already have. If we could get back to the actual point of the post, that would be good.

FX Turk said...

This topic kills me. One of the massive problems with these fellows is that they completely trample other people's willingness and ability to treat God's actual words with any kind of credulity.

People who are accustomed to being let down by what "the Lord" says don't have any way to have confidence in what God actually does say.

They make me sick. I don't sell their books, and I tell others not to read them. They are poison.

Frank Martens said...

I remember a family friend really getting fired up about the "Omega Code" book. The one that claimed it could predict when things were going to happen by doing a computer calculations on the Septuagent or something.

Wack, completely wack... I think one of the predictions was a nukeular world war in the years 2003/2004.

Phil Johnson said...

inscrutableone: Why did you remove that post? That was a great post, and it would have saved me a lot of time, because you answered the questions well. Put it back.

Centuri0n: for the record, I trust your magic 8-ball, fallible as it is, about as much as I trust my best charismatic friends when they start their sentences with, "the Lord told me to tell you..."

Chris Hamer-Hodges said...

I would love to carry on this debate, but I've just realised... since less than 1% of people blog, and the vast majority of blogs are pointless and have nothing to say, there can't be anything worthwhile in doing so... in fact it probably means that blogging is not for today... ;-)

Brad said...

man cessationist just sounds like a sexy term- like someone that's really alive. let's just say it "cessationist"- one who ceases.
Phil, there is a non-stop drumbeat against charismatics BY CHRISTIANS- yes, at your blog too- pull this leg it plays jingle bells.
Had no idea that the Reformed movement was so pure and without charlatans of their own. Would just ask that maybe there's another kickball out there...

Ray said...

Phil -- I agree with your statement; one of the things I noticed right up front was that you attempted to defuse the current commentary by adding several caveats stating the PURPOSE of the post. (Mind you, these are even in RED!)

How unfortunate it is that we, as a body, have become so polarized and dogmatic that we simply do not read any more. We see what we want to see, and go racing off to post a counter!

As you know Phil, I have done this on your site, at least once, and was forced (albeit gently) to go back and read what had actually been written. (Phil did not force me, my own conscience reacting to his post did it!)

Anyway, I can attest to the danger of this type of nonsense. We are not cessasionists per se, but we have seen the damage that runaway nonsense like this provokes.

Yes, Oral Roberts is an extreme, but let me provide two very unknown people, (I will not mention names), who caused as much damage in the local body as OR.

First, a pastor who started to get 'visions' and made statements such as 'God spoke to me'... Through his 'visions' and 'encounters' he led the people down a very bad path and when the leadership tried to counter him (in private), he simply fired them... He ended up embezzling a bunch of money, putting the church under, and also ran off with another man's wife and abandoned his own family. (by the way, he is now preaching at another church; we tried to warn them, however...)

Second, there was a man in our church who stood up for weeks in a row and told the people in a 'prophetic' manner that they were not seeking the Lord, and they needed to 'get right' with Him. 'Thus says the Lord...' was his first words. This man was also in charge of a ministry (his own para-church ministry). Over time the people in the ministry saw him as divisive and power-hungry. This minstry has now all but faded into obscurity. However, before it did, he had an affair with one of the people involved in the ministry.

Now, you can make all the arguments that you would like about the relatively benign nature of this stuff, or that there are bad apples everywhere, and I would agree, but what I have seen is that these men target people who have very little maturity in the Word.

That is the counter to this type of disease. If people know the Word they can quickly discern the foolishness that passes for 'enlightenment' in many cases.

BTW, BOTH of the men listed above, stated that GOD TOLD THEM they were unequally yoked! And therefore, they were simply doing what the Lord 'led them' to do!!!

Amazing, and it occurs much more frequently than some would like to admit... I have experienced it in two different churches within the last twenty years.

Ray said...

brad meyer -- again, you prove the point that Phil has made... You do not read, you are simply reacting...

Phil has listed several REFORMED people who believed that the gifts were for today, and he will address them...

The problem that I see with your posts (and I am NOT a cessationist) is that the issue cannot even be addressed without an overreactionary, ad hominem attack...

It is interesting to me that you feel comfortable creating a straw man and burning him down, all the while complaining that Phil has done that very same thing..

Brad said...

Chris, 400 yards on the Green! In fact, do we really know that Christianity is for today? Let's vote.... all those in favor?
I'll check back in a week or so to see what kind of love Phil baby's spreading now.

Mike said...

"John MacArthur is about as likely to become an Open Theist as he is to become a charismatic. Which is to say it's not going to happen at all. Sorry, buddy, but you're way off on that prediction. I promise."

Yeah and in '96 we would have heard the same about Limited Atonement so who knows. It is trully amazing that you would put this in the same category as becoming an Open Thiest. There is an article out regarding "I'd Rather be an Arminian" where a person claimed they'd rather go to an Arminian church that rejected the Doctrines of Grace rather than go to a Paedo-Baptist church (another minor issue). I should hope that we could at least have some common ground and say that this is not even in the same boat as Open Theism. If it would take just as much to persuade someone to become an Open Thiest as it would to become a Continuationist ... I really must wonder.
Lastly, no need for promises, especially something that you have no control over. Our Lord and James are very clear on this point. I know your point and believe you, no need for flippant promises.

"Mike - This "Four Views" book is helpful because Saucy (Open but cautious), Storms (Third wave), and Oss (Pentecostal/Charismatic) offer rebuttals to Gaffin's defense, each from their respective theological camps."

I actually have read that, but I found Saucy's position to be the most defensible and I do not think it was severely undermined by any of the others. Gaffin on the other hand ... I'm not so sure. In any case, I may go through that book one more time.
If I am wrong about this issue ... I want to put myself in the place where I would be able to see truth. I'm not sure if everyone is willing to do the same.

"What is shocking is the way non-cessationists who do acknowledge that false prophecy is a serious problem seem less concerned about the dangers of false prophecy than they are about the "dangers" of cessationism."

Any error in dividing God's word is serious. That includes false prophecy as well as falsely proclaiming errant doctrine. Furthermore, there have been pleanty who oppose your cessationist viewpoints who have agreed with your points regarding Roberts, Hinn, etc - Myself being one of them.

"Pointing out charismatic excesses is not "kicking" on charismatics. We have a Biblical obligation to refute error, and to do so publicly."

As long as you grant the same freedom to those who oppose your views then I think we all can agree. I have found it no coincidence that whenever Cessationists begin to argue for their point they begin by attacking views like Roberts/Hinn etc. You have not yet moved to arguing for Cessationism, but it is certainly coming. I see absolutely nothing wrong with stating from the open that these people have nothing to do with the cessationism debate. Certainly you would agree?

In any case, to set the record straight:
I fully agree with Phil on his assessments of Oral Roberts, Benny Hinn, his author friend, etc. I see these as "strange doctrines" that ought to be pointed out and guarded against. I also agree that SOME people who hold to a more charismatic view of the gifts are more liable to twist/distort plain scriptural truth in order to accomodate fresh revelation. I also disagree completely with Brad Meyer who has claimed that following scripture alone is like becoming a dried up prune. I think the bible makes it clear that the scriptures are sufficient for leading a life of Godliness.

In Christ alone,

Phil Johnson said...

Mike: My remark wasn't very clear, and I apologize for that. I wasn't suggesting any necessary moral equivalence between Open Theism and charismatic doctrine. I wasn't categorizing the two things together. I was simply underscoring how extremely unlikely it is that MacArthur would ever become a charismatic.

BTW, I don't know of anyone who ever would have said MacArthur's view on the extent of the atonement was fixed in concrete. In point of fact, he held to a Calvinistic view of the extent of the atonement at least as early as 1995. That's when he preached his famous message on 2 Corinthians 5:21 dealing with the issue. Unknown to MacArthur, S. Lewis Johnson happened to be in attendance that day and later said the portion of that sermon where MacArthur dealt with the extent of the atonement was one of the best explanations of the subject he had ever heard.

candy said...

Thanks Phil for addressing my concern. I am a charismatic, and have been reformed for a few years. Even when I attended a charismatic church, I was alarmed by much of the charismatic movement. Many charismatics will argue that Oral Roberts was NOT mainstream. For one thing, the Name it Claim it group, has always been considered heresy by many. I have done a lot of research into heretical beliefs by people professing the Signs and Wonders movements, Kingdom/Dominion Theology movements, blah, blah, blah movements and personally believe that much of the charismatic movement is heading towards apostosy, and also taking on a new age flavor of mysticism, so I consider your post on false prophecy to be important. On the other hand, I do believe the gifts are for today and that many in the charismatic movement are moving towards more theological maturity and discovering the Doctrines of Grace. Just for your interest...some time ago some guys in the Signs and Wonders movement had a "prophecy" that the Christian Body would be split by the "grays" and the "blues". The grays were the stodgy "pharisees" that relied on the Word of God. The blues were the group that relied on "God's new revelations". If the grays did not jump on the new revelations bandwagon, God was going to strike them dead! This was a prophecy "given" to more than just one leader in the Signs and Wonders movement. These things ARE alarming and we do well to be discerning in these times.

Bobby Grow said...

Chris said:

"One final question: If all prophecy has the same authority as scripture, why are not all of the instances of prophecy in the scriptures recorded for us as scripture? Where are the utterances of the Corinthian prophets or of Philip's daughters? The scripture does refer to instances of prophecy that are not included in the sufficiency of the inspired and inerrant scriptures."

II Tim. 3:16 says:

"All scripture is inspired by God, profitable for teaching, reproof, . . ."

The point being scripture and what prophets say are distinct things (i.e. "scripture" is inspired, the text, not the author). Sure God can bear witness to His people apart from scripture (i.e. all of creation Rom 1), but w/o the scriptures, as the lens, we end up interpreting "other" witnesses to God from a distorted perspective; many times "worshipping" "these witnesses" rather than recognizing their instrumentality.

P.S. You should realize that there is a distinction between "forthtelling" and "foretelling" when defining prophecy. Most of the time, even with OT prophets, it is forthtelling, not foretelling--this is the typically the emphasis of prophecy; i.e. a call from God for His people to live Holy lives I Jn 3:1-3--this is even the basis for foretelling proph.

Daniel Calle said...

Here in South America we have a lot of these weird "prophets" like Cash Luna (a really funny name), Yiye Avila, and others.

I´m looking forward to your next posts on this interesting topic.

MSC said...

Wow!!! - S. Lewis Johnson said that? He has long been one of my theological hereos and perhaps one the most under-rated theologians and exegetes of the latter half of the 20th century. Cool! Is he still alive?

Mike said...

"I was simply underscoring how extremely unlikely it is that MacArthur would ever become a charismatic.

I see. I am perfectly fine with this statement. In fact, I would agree to it to a large extent (although I still have by hunch that the position could be recanted). I apologize if I jumped the gun on your comments. The benefit of the doubt should have been given. In any event, this thread (supposedly) is not yet affirming any cessationist arguments. While I sense that those are coming, I will wait for those posts before I argue against the ceasing of all gifts.

In Christ,

Kurt said...


Thank you for all your insight and good instuction. I look forward to learning more in the future.

Keyser Soze said...

Can anyone who holds to the general Charismatic position give any legitimate examples of these gifts in action today? While I'm confident that the Scripture is clear (both in word and context) that they are no longer in place, I would certainly revisit that confidence if I were to see or reliably be told of even ONE legitimate occurrence/display? While most Charismatics understandably hate being associated with the frauds, I also have yet to see anyone in this movement display a legitimate use of these argued-about gifts....If they are indeed part of today's church....WHERE ARE THEY???

marc said...


If you want evidence of miraculous gifts, I'll be raising the Minnesota Vikings from the dead this weekend. Just watch and see.

Seriously, your contention that you're already confident in what scripture teaches but might change if you saw or were told of a reliable account of miraculous gifts seems to put an emphasis on expereince over and above interpretation of the word.

If you are already convinced, my guess is you will never see any evidence to the contrary or reliable account because your assumption will be it is unbiblical and therefor not of God. Your conclusion will naturally cause you NOT pray for gifts of tongues or prophecy, etc. I'm not saying experience isn't important but that ones view based on ones understanding of scripture colors how one sees/ experiences.

theinscrutableone said...

Sorry I deleted my (rather large) comment, Phil. I deleted it because I wanted to strictly obey your instructions to not carry on the debate regarding cessationism. :-) Since I don't know how to bring my comment back from the grave, I'll have to do my best to rewrite the jist of it from scratch.

First, in response to those who ask whether cessationists believe that God speaks to believers today: yes, He most certainly does, but He does so through the Scriptures as illuminated by the Holy Spirit. Note that the ministry of the HS is absolutely essential; if we hear the Word preached but lack His illumination, it will be dead to us, so we need His ministry to apply His word to our heart and to our situation.

At this point, many folks will ask, "But don't we need the specific guidance of the HS to give us direction?" What they are saying is that Christians need something that's often called "the still small voice" of the Spirit to give us guidance, and that if we lack such guidance, we run the risk of getting hopelessly off-track. In answer, I would argue that such a view grossly underestimates the sovereign control of God over whatsoever comes to pass through His work of Providence. Our God not only ordains the ends but also the means through which His ends are brought to pass. Given that God is in control of all the events of our lives, the believer is obiliged simply to consult and obey God's Word whenever he needs to make a decision. When the Scriptures leave the believer free to do whatever he chooses, then we can do whatever we think best, trusting that God will weave our free choices into his sovereign plan, thus working all things together for our good. Therefore, there is no need for to believer to seek or expect special revelation from the Holy Spirit: God will direct his steps just fine without such a revelation.

Next, I went into the subject of the office of the prophet. Basically everyone agrees on one thing: the type of prophet we see in the OT just doesn't exist today. There's no man or woman on the face of this earth who brings forth words from God that are 100% accurate and 100% in agreement with what God has previously revealed through the Prophets and Apostles. Thus, those who claim that the office of prophet or gift of prophecy still exists are forced to change the marks of that office. According to these folks, the prophet of today is not infallible. His words can and often do err. For justification, they will point to the prophecies of Agabus and assert that Agabus was partly wrong so therefore other NT prophets may err as well. Additionally, they will infer from Paul's instructions to test all prophecies that prophets will sometimes be wrong. However, it is far from clear that Agabus erred in his prophecies. I've read a book by at least one Biblical exegete that demonstrates that in fact Agabus' recorded prophecies were indeed 100% accurate. As for Paul's instructions, it is dangerous to draw such an inference on silence. He might just as well have expected his readers to know that they were to _expel_ anyone who falsely prophesied from their midst!

I know that some may be saying, "I agree that the office of prophet has ceased, but what about the gift of prophecy? I believe that the gift but not the office is still in operation." OK, let's suppose that there is a distinction between the gift and the office: that someone might occasionally prophesy without being a prophet. If that is possible, then where is the Scriptural support for the fallible, error-prone gift of prophecy we see today? The answer is simply that there is no support for such a gift. There is no warrant for inferring that Paul or any other NT writer was allowing for a non-authoritative gift of prophecy. In fact, I would suggest that the primary grounds for arguing for a change in the nature of prophecy is to explain away the woefully unreliable quality of today's prophecy.

Given the lack of Scriptural support for any kind of change in the qualifications and marks of the office of prophet, I would argue that we must conclude that an NT prophet is no different than an OT prophet. Thus, even if we were to concede that God has not officially withdrawn the gift of prophecy or the office of prophet, anyone with eyes to see must acknowledge that not a single man or woman who bears the Biblical marks of the office is walking the earth today.

Finally, I addressed the question of prophecies that didn't find their way into Scripture. Obviously, such prophecies certainly took place, but we're given no reason to think that God judges non-enscripturated (a new word??? :-) ) prophecies with a looser standard than those that made their way into Scripture. Quite the contrary: every utterance of a true prophet, whether it made it into Scripture or not, was 100% trustworthy. The only difference between such prophecies and the ones that have been passed down to us is that God didn't see fit to preserve them. Otherwise, they were exactly the same insofar as inspiration and trustworthiness are concerned.

In saying all this, I'm not trying to prove cessationism, but merely to explain that there is excellent reason to believe that whatever is going on today in the name of prophecy has nothing to do with the Bible's idea of prophecy. If there were a true prophet today, you better believe I'd be paying close attention to what he had to say because a true prophet speaks for _God_. Until/unless one arises, I'm just flat unwilling to listen to the low-grade type of "prophet" that nowadays passes for the real thing.

Mike said...

" Can anyone who holds to the general Charismatic position give any legitimate examples of these gifts in action today?"

I am not a charismatic by any stretch of the imagination, but this question struck me. We do not form doctrine based on whether we can see it or not. Just as Pentecostals should not craft doctrine from their experiences, cessationists should not craft doctrine from a lack of experience (I myself would definitely be in the lack of experience category).

So, my point restated, even if there were absolutely Zero verifiable instances in the world, this would not allow us to create a cessationist doctrine.

In any case, this type of discussion is probably best left for future threads or every single post that Phil makes could result in exactly the same thing.

Keyser Soze said...

Marc - I put "might" and "confident" in there because I do not feel I can say with 100% dogmatic certainty that to be the case. I confidently believe that the Scripture is clear on the matter. I guess I'm open to the fact that if I see Phil raise a dead guy tomorrow (or in a even more miraculous event - you doing so to your Vikings), I would be open to examining my confidence. Maybe a better example would be if someone was able to provide an definitive manuscript of Revelation that is dated 95AD to a Preterist, they would then have to seriously look at their eschatology - not by "experience" but by pure facts. I am not an "experience" guy at all - I guess I am just open to being proven wrong by facts on things that are not 100% certain. It can never be proven to me that Christ was/is not God - it is fact that He was/is. I do not claim that either view of the gifts use are in that bag. Hope I was clear - call me out if not.

FX Turk said...

Phil -- two questions which you can either answer or toss in the ashcan:

(1) Do you consider yourself "called" to the ministry? If so, what do you mean by that?

(2) Given that I'm a dyed-in-the-wool cessationist and I reject that signs and wonders are the common fare of the work of the church, I'm asking: "Under what circumstances do you think God would use signs and wonders today, if at all?"

Phil Johnson said...

inscrutableone: I deleted it because I wanted to strictly obey your instructions to not carry on the debate regarding cessationism. :-) Since I don't know how to bring my comment back from the grave, I'll have to do my best to rewrite the jist of it from scratch.

No worries. Sorry you had to rewrite it. My plea to get back on track wasn't meant to stifle discussion of issues that have already been raised. For everyone's future reference, there's usually no need to remove already-posted stuff if you think after posting you might have accidentally made a rule violation. If I felt that strongly about it, I could remove it myself.

In this case, I realize the cessationism debate isn't really totally off topic. It's just not the direction I had originally planned to go with this series.

However, no less than my redoubtable friend Dr. Adrian Warnock has persuaded me to take up the issue of cessationism after this series on modern prophecy plays out. I figure if someone of Dr. Warnock's stature can't acknowledge the dangers of false prophecy without feeling compelled to change the subject to a defense of charismatic non-cessationism, perhaps we DO need to take a look at the cessationist issue.

(Sorry, Brad Meyer and any other Pat Robertson aficionados who might be lurking. I'm not just trying to tick you guys off. Really. Hey, I can even relate to your irritation. I get the same way every time Robertson opens his mouth—and, after all, he has a lot more influence than I do.)

Anyway just for good measure, I'm going to repost the original edition of TheInscrutableOne's comment. Fortunately, the system sends me a copy of every comment by e-mail, so I have it. (Don't you wish you knew that before you rewrote it, Inscrut?)


theinscrutableone said...

Chris, thanks for your questions. Since I'm a former non-cessationist who's turned cessationist, perhaps I'm qualified to offer at least partial answers to them.

First, I believe that God still speaks today, but only through the Scriptures as illuminated by the ministry of the Holy Spirit. When we read the Scriptures without the ministry of the Spirit, they will be dead to us, but the Spirit acts to apply them to our hearts.

There are those who argue that God must still speak directly to His people through another means (often called the "still small voice") in order to direct their steps, but I would argue that such a view fails to take into account God's sovereign control over whatsoever comes to pass through His works of Providence. In fact, the combination of Scripture plus God's sovereign control through Providence makes direct revelatory guidance unnecessary. Of course, there are instances recorded in Scripture in which God did provide direct guidance, and He's certainly capable of providing such guidance today should He choose to do so, but yet such guidance is ordinarily unnecessary. Our sovereign Lord is quite able to direct a missionary to a certain town in a certain country without recourse to direct revelation.

For my part, I can testify that God is well able to guide His children solely through Scripture and Providence. When I bought my house, I prayerfully made decisions based on Scriptural principles, and God directed me to the very place that was best for me. Although He did not speak directly to me at any point, He nonetheless worked out my decisions and the decisions of others to direct me in exactly the right way.

Secondly, this cessationist would readily agree that there have been true prophecies that were not recorded in Scripture. However, I would argue that such prophecies were just as inspired--just as much from the mind of God--as those prophecies that did find their way into Scripture. Moreover, all of the prophets, even those whose prophecies are 100% lost to us today, bore all the marks of a true prophet. Prophets were necessary as God's revelation (Scripture) was being gathered, but not all true prophecy was intended by God to become part of Scripture.

If there were a man or woman walking the earth who bore all the Biblical marks of a true prophet, including 100% accuracy and 100% fidelity to Scripture, I would most certainly pay great heed to such a prophet and would wholeheartedly encourage all believers to do so. However, no such person walks the earth today. Instead, we have folks who fall woefully short in embodying the marks of a true prophet. The lack of such accurate and trustworthy prophets is obvious to those who believe in the perpetuity of the office of prophet, so they find it necessary to infer a drastic change in the office of prophet between the OT and NT. They must argue that the NT prophet can and does err. They often refer to the recorded prophecies of Agabus and point out alleged errors in his prophecies as support for their position. With all due respect, this argument just doesn't hold water. In particular, capable exegetes have demonstrated that the recorded prophecies of Agabus were in fact 100% accurate. The other alleged evidence for the fallibility
of NT prophecy, such as Paul's instruction in 1 Corinthians to test the prophets, is equally flimsy, since one must argue from silence to infer that Paul was permitting the Corinthians to keep the speaker of a false prophecy in the church; he may just as well been inferring that they ought to kick out the false prophet on the first offense.

In a nutshell, this cessationist's view is (1) the believer has no need of direct revelation from the Holy Spirit for decision-making or any other purpose, but continues to enjoy the illuminating ministry of the Holy Spirit as he studies the Scriptures, and (2) the office of prophet hasn't changed between OT and NT, and the so-called prophets of today fail to bear the marks of the true office.

Posted by theinscrutableone to PyroManiac at 11/04/2005 08:15:26 AM

Rob Wilkerson said...

Great thread...very challenging to me having just made the 'jump' to the continuationist pond. Oops! I forgot...that's not what Phil is talking about here. But whether he tacitly implied it or not, the post will very naturally challenge us 'charismatics' with needful objections.

Phil's post here is dealing primarily with predictive prophecies...things which even those of us in Sovereign Grace Ministries would fear and tremble over if (and when) such a word would be (and seldom is) given.

I wait with eager anticipation to read from Phil about the other forms of prophecy that, in my experience, are truly amazing feats (I'm setting myself up with this word) of God's goodness, graciousness, kindness, and mercy. These kinds of acts are too numerous to record, truly amazing when they occur, and if nothing else can be at least relegated by my cessationist friends as the mercy of God to strangely communicate to those of us who are ignorant!

Thanks Phil.

Habitans in Sicco said...

Brad Meyer--what the heck are you talking about?

You: Stop the kicking on charismatics already- seriously- take note- you're stuck on it. I stumble onto your blog occasionally and you have nothing else to say.

Me: I Googled Pyromaniac for the word charismatic and found exactly 15 uses of the word. Most of them are not even from Phil, and not one of them reflects the sort of thing you claim you have encountered here. In the entire history of this blog, the issue has practically never even been raised.

Or were you speaking "prophetically" when you posted that little blast?

BTW, I also googled your name and discovered every time you have every commented here you have started off angry.

Perhaps you are a cessationist when it comes to the fruit of the Spirit, huh?

candy said...

There are those who argue that God must still speak directly to His people through another means (often called the "still small voice") in order to direct their steps, but I would argue that such a view fails to take into account God's sovereign control over whatsoever comes to pass through His works of Providence. In fact, the combination of Scripture plus God's sovereign control through Providence makes direct revelatory guidance unnecessary.

If that is your argument against prophecy, then why not use the same argument against prayer? I had a real struggle reconciling prayer and God's sovereignty until I realized that prayer is communication with God in line with his sovereignty and a greater call to trust in Him. Wouldn't true prophecy hold the same value? A call to trust in God. Bear in mind, that I do not think there is much true prophecy coming out of highly visible charismatic avenues, but I have witnessed the use of prophecy as a means of encouragement to a believer's walk and life. Not the weird woowoo stuff, but words that line up with scripture, and in fact, many times scripture itself.

candy said...

oops...i was quoting inscrutable..at the beginning of my last post.

theinscrutableone said...


Great question, in fact it's a question that I've struggled with myself. Why pray if God controls everything and pre-ordains everything that has come to pass? First of all, because He told us to pray. That in itself is more than enough reason to pray! Second, prayer is not so much a matter of telling God about stuff we desire; instead, it's a way we demonstrate how much we depend on Him to sustain and provide for us. Third--and this is a great mystery--God ordains both our prayers and His answers to them, thus weaving our prayer life into the outworking of His Providence. Thus, we pray not to change God's mind but rather as a means to express our creature-to-creator relationship with Him.

theinscrutableone said...

Phil wrote:

Anyway just for good measure, I'm going to repost the original edition of TheInscrutableOne's comment. Fortunately, the system sends me a copy of every comment by e-mail, so I have it. (Don't you wish you knew that before you rewrote it, Inscrut?)

Yes, I wish I had. I nearly gave myself a headache trying to remember all the stuff I'd written before. I'll send you a bill for the asprin. :-)


BlackCalvinist aka G.R.A.C.E. Preecha said...

Interesting. I just had this very discussion with a sister in Christ on a secular board. I'm wondering what in the world do I need to do to get the point about the primacy of scripture across to them....

Folks already hit the point that there are no 'OT-style' prophets in existence today, but I'd like to tack on that comparing one's dreams and visions to those of the OT prophets puts them on too high of a standard. I don't think this point has 'sunk in' with many of my charismatic brethren yet, so they keep doing it.

I still like Steve Camp's comments about a guy in his audience one day that claimed to have a prophecy for him.

steve said...

I used to be Pentecostal until God told me that Pentecostalism was wrong! :-)

Phil Johnson said...

Steve, I'm just really glad you weren't foreordained to be an Arminian.

Bhedr said...

This was such a good comment! Hear it again>The subtle implication is that my continuationist friends see the proliferation of false prophecy as a necessary evil, and they imagine that pointing it out and trying to analyze it is inherently threatening to their whole theology of the Holy Spirit.<


Mike Perrigoue said...


And God predestined you to make that comment back to Steve!

Mike said...

I again wanted to apologize for going off topic and some of the other things. However, an example came to mind that I hope may shed some light on this.

Suppose you know a very popular and well read Arminian who is often defending Libertarianism and what not. If he began a particular series criticizing various Hyper Calvinists then I would imagine you would have mixed emotions. You would want to shout Amen at times, but you would constantly be aware that at any moment he could easily shift this into a strawman attack against evangelical calvinism. Knowing that, in your Amen-chanting, you may want to repeatedly note that you agree but that this is Not characteristic of Evangelical Calvinism and that these examples do nothing to undermine calvinism.

Does that make sense? Or better, can you at least see the perspective that some of us are coming from?

In Christ alone,

lycaphim said...

Lots of interesting responses to your interesting post. I even look forward to how you handle Edwards, Whitefield and Spurgeon- even more because they were cessys (My own abbrv. of cessationists hehe).

BTW, I have blogged some thoughts on "Reformed Charismatic":


Phil Johnson said...

Mike: "Does that make sense? Or better, can you at least see the perspective that some of us are coming from?"

Not really. I'm usually the first guy to join a dogpile on hyper-calvinists. I think they are just as bad as the rankest kind of free-willers, and they pose just as serious a threat to the set of biblical doctrines Calvinism stands for.

That's really my whole point. If I were a charismatic who truly cared about biblical truth, I'd be at the forefront of the critics who are dealing with the goofballs.

Instead, we often see guys like Grudem embracing and identifying with (for a time at least) the whole Vineyard movement, Piper waffling on whether to discount the "Toronto Blessing" nonsense, and Sam Storms lending his weighty credibility to the Kansas City prophets.

I fear that there's something in the non-cessationist perspective that is inherently inhospitable to good judgment. To be clear: I'm NOT saying non-cessationists never show good judgment; I'm thankful for many who have done lots of hard and excellent work in confronting charismania. But I am saying that the lapses of judgment even among the best charismatics are far too frequent and too ill-timed to write this off as a minor concern.

Sorry. I wasn't going to get into that, but you asked.

Mike said...

I think you possibly missed my point. First, I'd like to say that I agree with you that some of the solid evangelicals whom you mentioned should be more critical of certain events/people before possibly leading others astray. I think there point is that they do not want to have an a priori rejection of anything unless it directly speaks against biblical truth.

In any event, here was my point:

You and I both would join in calling out the hyper-calvinists and exhorting them to repent and come to correct understanding. However, I would think that (1)if this took place on a blog that often is promoting Arminianism and (2) is often characterized by setting up this hyper-calvinists as a strawman for evangelical calvinism, then you would probably me more careful in your support of their criticism. You may fully agree, but I would think that you would want to make sure that all were aware that the attacking of Hyper Calvinism is NO WAY undermines the credibility of the true doctrines of grace.

I think the same situation is applicable here. I am not suggesting that you are setting up a strawman, but it is often the way that these arguments begin. I've simply tried to A) Agree with your criticisms but B) in such a way that makes it clear that we can easily reject Oral Roberts without rejecting views that say Wayne Grudem holds.

Anyway, I hope I have made my points clear enough that whether anyone agrees or disagrees with me, they will understand both my views and my intent in posting.

In Christ alone,

Mike said...

"I even look forward to how you handle Edwards, Whitefield and Spurgeon- even more because they were cessys (My own abbrv. of cessationists hehe)."

I just want to make sure that I am reading this correctly. Are you saying that C.H. Spurgeon was a cessationist? Hopefully I am reading it incorrectly.


Unknown said...

Phil said: If interest in this subject is sustained long enough, I may also point out some examples of how subjective impressions "from God" are the basis for some of Bill Gothard's most questionable teachings.

Just wondering which ones you may be thinking of ... how one must rid their homes of Cabbage Patch dolls so you don’t give Satan a foothold into your home, or perhaps one of his more recent rhemas on the brightness of ones eyes is the key to ones spiritual state.

I for one would love to see your take on some of Gothards subjective impressions, since it seems not very many people are willing to take on many of his false teachings that have left thousands of people in a state of quasi spiritual waste land.

And while your at it (like you have so much time on your hands) I believe you promised TulipGirl months ago a blog or two on Ezzo;)


suzi said...

"The inscrutableone" your post was worth reading the two and a half or three times on here. I think I need to come here with my dictionary in hand. It seems to me that some people enjoy making things much more complicated when they really aren't. This ought to be an interesting series Phil and one I think you'll be responding too quite a bit. Thank you

theinscrutableone said...


Regarding the all-too-common lapses of judgment shown by some of the best charismatics, I'm reminded of a comment that was once made to me by the pastor of one of the Pentecostal churches I attended. I started attending his church a year or so after my ORU adventure came to an end. A sermon he preached against the WoF movement was instrumental in directing me to exercise spiritual discernment. However, when I confronted him one Sunday regarding a blatantly false prophecy that had been given in the morning service, he commented, "Sometimes we have to allow a little wildfire in order to let the true fire burn," and went on to caution me about having a critical spirit. I think such a statement is most revealing. In the charismatic world in which I once moved, the fear of possibly missing out on what God might be doing was so great that a considerable degree of error was often overlooked.

In contrast, the notion that the church ought to tolerate error in order that the truth would have its way is utterly alien to Scripture. Far from being something that is to be tolerated lest the church "miss God", error ought to be refuted and rebuked wherever and whenever it is found. If God has commanded the church to stand steadfast against false doctrine and practice, it is absurd to fear that He will accuse us of "quenching the Spirit" if we strive to obey His commandment. God is not so weak that we will be able to "miss Him" so easily as many fear. Remember that the NT contains only one warning against quenching the Spirit compared with many warnings against false prophets and teachers. Is it right to fear "quenching the Spirit" so much that we neglect our duty to beware of false prophets?

As you rightly say, Phil, those who hold to the perpetuity of spiritual gifts ought to be the _most_ diligent to rebuke the false prophets in their midst. That so many are so negligent in their duty to guard their flocks against spiritual wolves is tragic.


dogpreacher said...

Coming from a background of the Pentecostal/Charismatic side of things...Being a musician in the CCM industry...


I seem to do better with a direct/confrontational(scripturally) approach....but hey, I imagine Pyro is having the effect a sovereign God wants HIM to have on some too!!

Thanks Dave(theinscrutableone), I couldn't have said it better. TRUTH MATTERS!

grateful for grace,
The DOGpreacher

Brad said...

Habitans in Sicco, did you search the blog for charismatic leaders, concepts, etc. na- wouldn't help you deflect my point.
Yup, a little angry that people who would be embarassed to admit that God "spoke" to them, want to speak for Him. Here's where all the lovers of dead guys say "Scripture speaks to us." No, Scripture introduces us to Christ and His Spirit guides or "speaks" to us. And in response to someone earlier who said "Hey, dead guys wrote the bible"- not in my theology.
Sorry folks, yeah I get a little angry at those spreading lifeless theology who routhinely mock those who say nothing to them.
Hanegraff's heard in all 50 states.

lycaphim said...

C.H. Spurgeon on cessationism:

"These works of the Holy Spirit which are at this time vouchsafed to the Church of God are every way as valuable as those earlier miraculous gifts which have departed from us"

(Met. Tab. Pulpit, 1884, Vol. 30, 386 ff)

As for John Edwards:

"Since the canon of the Scripture has been completed, and the Christian Church fully founded and established, these extraordinary gifts have ceased."

(Charity & Its Fruits, 29)

Jeff Jones said...


Not in my theology either. However, you were the first one to say "in love with dead guys." The theologians and post-apostolic fathers of the church you were sneering at in your comment are not "dead" either.

That's what I was pointing out.

The anger simmering in your comments should lead you to examine whose theology is "dead."

Pay attention to how the other non-cessationists here are responding. They're doing a far better job representing your position than you are.

Back to everyone else:

There's been some great discussion on this thread between adherents of both sides that has NOT degenerated into name-calling and ad hominem. Let's heed their example, and perhaps we can all learn something here. As a guy who finds himself sitting very uncomfortably on the fence here and is desperate to jump off it to safety, I can say that there are some of us who have a stake in this discussion.

Heated comments are distracting and unwelcome...

Mike said...

Phil is apparently going to do an entire post about Spurgeon's beliefs on this issue. I'm confident that he will not try to claim that he was a cessationist. However, if he does, then you will be able to read my response in that thread.


Rob Wilkerson said...

I'm resonating very much with the implications of the hypercalvinism arguments. Hypercalvinism doesn't make Calvinism wrong. Calvinists who don't evangelize their children give a bad name to Calvinists, yet do not prove, by their actions, that Calvinism is erroneous. There are various forms of 'ugly' Calvinism that do not make Calvinism biblically erroneous.

I'm sure everyone sees where this argument goes. The errors in the charismatic movement, and more particularly the ones Phil refers to here (false or 'rubber' prophecies) give charismatics a bad name, but do not prove that the charismatic movement is erroneous, nor that their view of prophecy is unbiblical.

Perhaps the biggest error we make in our logic and reason, often times (especially me included) is to presume that an error in someone's thinking or living means their whole mindest or lifestyle is erroneous. That is fallacious thinking. I don't like it when people 'write off' the good I do because of the sin I commit. One of the beauties of the cross and implications of justification is the emphasis on the good that we do perform, even amid our foibles, foul-up, and fumbles.

The charismatics I know are especially grateful for justification and propitiation! And while they are ashamed of their sinfulness, and deeply aware of their humanity and of the noetic effects of sin, they also seek to throw themselves, in an uninhibited form, into all the gifts God has given His church, including prophecy.

(And again, I'd point out in passing the biblically-based charismatic's understanding of predictive prophecy as compared to that of the 1 Corinthians 14:2 kind. Both are biblical, but we tread with fear and trembling when one thinks he or she has been given a predictive prophetic word.)

Phil Johnson said...

Mike: "I'm confident that he will not try to claim that he was a cessationist."

It's not a matter of "trying" to claim that Spurgeon was a cessationist. He was. It's a matter of fact. His belief that the Spirit of God often led him in remarkable ways is not to be confused with any claim that he possessed miraculous gifts. Spurgeon, together with every other significant Christian figure in his generation, and virtually all theologians for centuries before, regarded it as self-evident that the miraculous gifts described in Scripture were apostolic signs that have ceased, rather than permanent possessions of the church for all time.

In his sermon #75, for example, Spurgeon speaks of "miraculous gifts, which are denied us in these days...." See also the quotation Lycaphim cited (above), where Spurgeon clearly designates the miraculous gifts as "departed"—i.e., belonging uniquely to the primitive church.

You'd have to look pretty hard to find any authentic non-cessationists from Spurgeon's era.

As a matter of fact, this whole debate over cessationism is one that would never have arisen at all except for the claims of the pentecostals and charismatics of the 20th century. Practically no one (certainly no one with any significant degree of credibility) in the 19th century seriously believed the sign-gifts had continued unabated since the apostolic era. That such a notion exists today is owing only to a willful naivete, buttressed by a historical revisionism that demands that we gullibly accept almost every purported miracle in church history (including some highly superstitious Roman Catholic ones, some by quasi-Christians, and others from gnostic sources) as if they were all unquestionably genuine.

That's why I think there is indeed a burden of proof on contemporary charismatics to demonstrate that someone, somewhere is actually practicing apostolic-quality gifts, and seeking to exercise them in a biblical fashion. I reject the notion that the burden of proof lies entirely on cessationists, and that it must be shown by pure exegesis, without recourse to any other kind of evidence.

If that were the standard, I frankly can't see how any non-cessationist could accept the reality that the canon of Scripture is closed.

My argument is going to be that all true Christians are cessationists to one significant degree or another. No one really believes that everything that happened in the apostolic era is truly, genuinely, and demonstrably happening today. (The out-and-out charlatains are the only ones who pretend to believe that, and—for example—command diseases to depart in the style of Acts 3:6.)

But if you're prepared to argue otherwise, I hope you are ready to meet a reasonable standard of proof.

candy said...

I will try to sum up what I struggle with as a charismatic/reformed Christian. I will give an example using Jonathan Edwards (hopefully I have this info correctly in a nutshell). When he wrote A Treatise Concerning the Religious Affections, he was trying to strike a balance betweeen Chaucey, a pastor who centered on a intellectual understanding of Christianity and Davenport who was all about emotions and experiences. He addressed the excesses of Davenport more than anything else. He did want to state that we do need to have an intellectual understanding of our Christianity but that we need to have a passion for God as well. I don't miss the tongues weirdness. I don't miss false prophecy. I don't miss the flash. What I do miss is the freedom to worship/praise/sing to God. I have a hard time with....Turn. To. Page. 431. We. Will. Now. Sing. Nearer. My. God. To. Thee. Now don't misunderstand...I love hymns. I also love to lift my hands in praise to God. I love to sing contemporary songs and hymns. Jonathan Edwards did not seem to see a problem with a passionate Christianity, just with the same things we struggle with on TBN and other avenues of weirdness.

Rob Wilkerson said...


A quote, then a question or two (or three).

First, to quote you: "That's why I think there is indeed a burden of proof on contemporary charismatics to demonstrate that someone, somewhere is actually practicing apostolic-quality gifts, and seeking to exercise them in a biblical fashion. I reject the notion that the burden of proof lies entirely on cessationists, and that it must be shown by pure exegesis, without recourse to any other kind of evidence."

Now the question. What are 'apostolic-quality gifts'? Is this a reference to 2 Corinthians 12:12? If so, what are signs and wonders? In your view, were signs and wonders only performed by the apostles? If so, what is the significance of this?

My point in asking the questions is the part about 'someone, somewhere' practicing these gifts. If the apostolic-quality gifts were signs and wonders, and if these signs and wonders were only performed by apostles, then yes the argument is air-tight that such apostolic quality signs and wonders cannot be practiced today.

I'd be one of those you'd describe as a 'mild charismatic' (a Sovereign Grace Ministries kind of 'mild charismatic'). And we would agree that 'apostolic-quality' gifts you refer to, if you and I mean the same thing by them, are not in operation today. That is to say that there were only a certain number of apostles who performed these signs and wonders. They are dead. Thus, there have been on others who have the same authoritative position to work such miracles and speak/write Scripture.

However, and you knew it was coming, if the Scriptures demonstrate that some apostolic-type gifts were also commended in ordinary Christians, say in 1 Corinthians 12-14 (e.g. healing, prophecy, etc.) then what other proof must the contemporary, reformed, biblically-based, 'mild' charismatics provide as to the continuation of some of these similargiftings other than what the text already says, and the practices and experiences already existing in these churches?

(P.S. Through this subject, your famous tenacity finally pulled me from being just a reader and occasional commentor to one who interacts with you with fear and trembling!)

Mike said...

My argument is going to be that all true Christians are cessationists to one significant degree or another. No one really believes that everything that happened in the apostolic era is truly, genuinely, and demonstrably happening today. (The out-and-out charlatains are the only ones who pretend to believe that, and—for example—command diseases to depart in the style of Acts 3:6.)

I think I would definitely agree. In fact, you will soon learn that my view is not necessarily that Any, much less all, of these things happen. My argument will be that there is no justifiable biblical reason to be a cessationist. Furthermore, I will argue that the very finger that cessationists point (namely that other's are creating doctrine to suit experiences) is exactly what most cessationists do.

In any event, we will begin to look at Spurgeon whenever you decide to post regarding him. However, I think that it is important to remind everyone that Spurgeon's views are not a trump card (certainly not one that trumps scripture). I think you made the same point on another blog.

In Christ alone,

Phil Johnson said...


What I really had in mind when I used the expression "apostolic-quality gifts" is just the ability to exercise the powers of healing, prophecy, and signs and wonders as gifts—repeatedly, controlled (to some degree) by the gifted individual, without any embarrassing failures, just the same way the gifts are described in the early chapters of Acts.

I wasn't deliberately making any distinction between miracles done by apostles and those done by their close associates. "Apostolic gifts" in the sense I intended it refers to all the miraculous gifts that were operative in the early apostolic era—not just the gifts possessed by the apostles themselves, but those exercised by their associates as well.

Tacitly, you have acknowledged that you yourself believe the office and sign-gifts that pertain to apostleship are no longer operative. So you yourself are a cessationist of sorts. That's what my earlier post was pointing out. I believe Mike would probably hold to a similar kind of cessationism, though he brushed this point off without any serious response to it.

My question is simply this: What exegetical considerations lead you to the conclusion that the canon is closed, the office of apostleship is no longer open, and any of the apostolic sign-gifts have ceased?

Notice Mike's whole argument just above. He claims "that there is no justifiable biblical reason to be a cessationist." The problem with the way he is so narrowly defining this is that by the very same standard, there is no "justifiable biblical reason" to insist that the canon is closed or that apostleship isn't a viable office for today.

And not just Mike, but several other non-cessationists here have already made it clear here that they don't want to hear historical or theological arguments for cessationism. They will be satisfied with nothing less than a purely exegetical argument in favor of strict cessationism. They want a Bible verse that says the gifts have ceased—a single proof-text.

So where is your verse that proves the apostolic office has ceased and new portions of Scripture are not still being written?

Because it seems to me that the issues are the same. How can you believe in the cessation of apostleship and the closure of the canon without an indisputable proof text, and then demand an indisputable proof text for the cessation of other miraculous features of the apostolic era? And if you can point to Scriptures (as I suspect you will) implying that the apostolic office was temporary, why would those verses not also be sufficient grounds for believing the apostolic gifts have ceased?

MSC said...

Have you read Robert Thomas' comments on Revelation 22:18-19 (Exegetical Commentary Vol. 2) as signifying the end of the revelatory gifts? Curious to know what you think. Obviously not an indisputable passage, but interesting nonetheless.

Dan said...


Thanks for tackling this topic! (Even though it's taking more of your time to manage than a standard comic book cover post. :-)

People around me often attribute personal decisions to "God told me to do x..." I think that it's their way of squashing / trumping any discussion over their potentially unpopular choice. Because it wasn't their decision, it was "God speaking to them."

This habit(?) cheapens God's Word when they attribute most any whim to God's direct will without regard to the Bible's teachings on prophecy.

I'm really looking forward to the rest of this series!

Mike said...

And not just Mike, but several other non-cessationists here have already made it clear here that they don't want to hear historical or theological arguments for cessationism.

I would appriciate either a quotation or a retraction. I have had made no such claim and to suggest otherwise is bear false witness. I have simply said that Spurgeon's beliefs are not a trump card. Since you hold to Sola Scriptura, you agree with me. This, however, obviously does not mean that the great saints of old have nothing to add to the discussion. So again I would ask that you do not misrepresent me.

They will be satisfied with nothing less than a purely exegetical argument in favor of strict cessationism.

Yes, when it comes to creating doctrines that specifically go against what the bible teaches, I would like at least one verse that says something. Then again, I can hear the Romans saying something similar to Luther: "That Luther fellow, he will settle for nothing less than an exegetical argument in favor of works righteousness".

They want a Bible verse that says the gifts have ceased—a single proof-text.

Yes, in order to form a doctrine then I think you ought to be able to point to at least one verse or better yet a thematic strand throughout the bible that points in a given direction.

why would those verses not also be sufficient grounds for believing the apostolic gifts have ceased?

There is nothing to suggest that the gifts we see in the New Testament correspond the the apostles. If you gave any sort of biblical reasoning that suggests, implies, or states that when Apostles leave the scene so do gifts ... then I will hand this argument to you and join you in promoting cessationist belief. However, I suspect you cannot do this.

This habit(?) cheapens God's Word when they attribute most any whim to God's direct will without regard to the Bible's teachings on prophecy.

When their actions contradict a command or principle set forth in scripture then you are absolutely correct. However, you will note there are many people who have already been mentioned (piper for example) who would never be listed in this category. So, again, while there may be SOME that err on this point, it is not necessary and is certainly not a reason to create a non-biblical doctrine like cessationism.

In Christ alone
... and maybe for this thread:
Sola Scriptura,


John Schroeder said...

I understand fear and misunderstanding of the gifts, but not utter denial. I find myself, in some ways, wishing cessasionism were teh case, but I cannot think it is. See my full comments here

Rob Wilkerson said...


You raise a fantastic point that is incredibly and easily missed. The theological conclusion rest upon a theological argument rather than a 'proof text' or exegetical argument, don't they?

If I have no single text to say that the apostolic type gifts ceased with their death, but rather reasonably argue from there that when they 'died off' so did their category and giftings, then the same reasonable arguments should apply to the continuationist arguments. This whole thing can't be about proof-texting, and that's why I'll never ask for any.

From my viewpoint, the textual considerations for the continuation of the miraculous gifts - some of which are comparable to the apostolic-quality gifts, and some of which are not - are simply found in the various giftings passages - 1 Cor. 11-14; 1 Peter 4; Eph. 4; etc. I see nothing inherently stated within those texts to suggest that the gifts mentioned there have or ever will cease.

Therefore, for me at least, the fact that the apostles died, while necessarily pointing to a cessation of their office and category of giftings, doesn't necessarily point to a cessation of the similar giftings ascribed to other believers...who are even encouraged to earnestly desire them.

Thanks for continuing to point out to my fellow charismatics here the absolute folly of asking for proof-texts. All this ends up doing is becoming a biblical lightsaber duel. It is only by a reasoned piecing together of these textual puzzle pieces that we can come to any conclusion. So I'd say to my charismatic brothers that the arguments either for or against must go deeper than looking for a text that says the gifts have ceased, or looking for one that says they'll continue past the apostles and the close of the canon. While some are content to argue on that superficial level, it is truly not that easy, clearcut, black and white.

theinscrutableone said...


I've been interested to see the comments regarding the question of apostolic vs. post-apostolic prophecy. I've done some thinking about the subject. If you'd like, please feel free to read my thoughts here. In this post, I explain my concerns with one of the prime implications of a universe with two kinds of prophecy: a two-tier system of inspiration and divine authority. I hope my thoughts will help to shed light on this issue without causing unnecessary heat. :-)


Brad said...

What is the most significant, consequential truth God has revelealed to you or "spoken to you" beyond Scriptural text?

deleted said...


whoa. let the can of worms be opened, and it was so...

despite my total agreement with your original thoughts toward "the movement" i'd like to share personal history, if you'll permit me to do so, that expresses the danger and damage the view of open prophecy etc can bring...

as a youth pastor, years ago, at a "bapticostal" church, that my wife and I went to work for not knowing how drastically it's charismatic/pentacostal (or whatever you want to call it) tendencies were as it's name was still "....Baptist Church", we were horribly hurt and embarrassed.

we can't have children. there is a medical condition that prohibits me from being able. however, after about six months at this church, and attempting, mind you, to be open minded~get along~not be so "polarized" as one blogger put it~ we began to "wonder" and "suppose" about the gifts for today and feel like we'd been theologically "left out" in our baptist upbringings.

i went to the pastor there and expressed to be Scripturally prayed for by the elders of the church for healing for my inability to bear children. that same morning, in the service, unexpectedly, i was called infront of the church. the pastor told the entire church about my condition and then proceeded to tell me that "GOD" Himself had revealed to him that i was supposed to receive my healing that morning. i wanted SO BADLY to believe this! then things got really weird...

he brought out the communion elements and asked me to "by faith" partake with him in communion and thereby recieve my healing once the elements were received "by faith" as a public sign to the church of my faith that i WOULD BE HEALED...

did anyone else catch that?

God had told him that I would receive my healing that morning..according to what he told the whole church...now there were conditions~and signs? my faith to recieve God's healing was in question????

i felt so ashamed and stupid! i partook (sp?) of the elements all the while begging God TO heal me. as soon as I ate and drank the whole church went nutzo.

THEN! a woman came up to the pastor and asked for the microphone. he immediately gave it to her without reservation. she then told the whole church that GOD had just revealed to her that in 30 days my wife would be pregnant.

i just sat there on my knees at the altar, still pathetically and ashamedly begging GOD to heal me weeping all the while. they brought in my wife and she came beside me and (she was working in the nursery and didn't even know what was happening at the time)the PROPHECY was repeated. the church rejoiced and the service was a real hit...

my wife and i did all we could to live by faith that GOD had spoken. but my mind kept going back to the PROPHECIES and God's Word kept creeping into my mind and it finally dawned on me:
When God prophecies that something is GOING to happen, it does not mean that my faith can or cannot affect that thing one way or the other! my poor wife went and began shopping for baby clothes and we got a stroller and literally began rearranging our lives for the new addition that we were whole heartedly believing God had promised us.

i remember how people would ask my wife if she was pregnant yet constantly. when she would say "no, not yet, at least that I'm aware of..." they would rebuke her immediately and tell her that she was not speaking in faith. again, if God said it was going to happen, what did it matter if she said she was or wasn't physically pregnant yet or not?????? as we continued very close to the 30 day mark the people began telling us that even if she was pregnant beginning on day 30 it would take several months to show up and be noticeable etc. etc. etc.

the 30 days came and went, folks.

then, the people of the church began investigating. why had this not happened? what was the trouble? they asked us SO MANY questions!! some blamed my wife's parents for not having faith for the promise. others blamed my wife for not having faith. others blamed me for not having faith. somehow, WE, i repeat, WEEEEEE had failed......but didn't GOD tell my pastor this was GOING to happen and didn't GOD tell that SISTER that in 30 days it would happen???? then the ladies of the church met with us and told us that they too had seen a vision and it was that the sister who had spoken GOD's prophecy over us was right, but spoke it incorrectly. we were to be pregnant by the time that i was to be 30 YEARS OLD!!!!!

my wife and i couldn't take it any longer, our conservative family thought we were off the deep end, and so did i at that point. some of our family don't even know about that story and it's been years and yes, i'm over 30!!

not once, were the folks who claimed to be God's prophets ever dealt with. not once were they ever questioned. our youth and and spiritual immaturity had to go through that experience to help us understand just how dangerous it is to believe that prophecy is for today. it means that man can do what he wants and get away with it how ever he wants if he just tacks on a quick "thus saith the Lord".

we've returned to our conservative Biblical heritage and have finally found our peace. we can see that God is calling us to adopt and we believe we're obeying His call to do so. but to answer your blogs original thought and question as I understand it from the BIBLE and personal experience (not with Roberts or Hinn, but mid sized well known church in the texas area) NO. Prophecy is Genesis to Revelation and we can live our Christian lives and still be ok with that!
I challenge the folks out there who view it differently to look at Deuteronomy 4:2, 12:32; Proverbs 30:5-6; Galatians 1:8-9; and Revelation 22:18-19. We have what God WANTS us to have concerning the past, present and future. Leave it alone and seek HIM THEREIN!

and yes, folks, we have forgiven those who hurt us and moved on, although it took years for us to get over it. we now look back on the experience with thankful hearts that we've come to understand the truth...

Jim Crigler said...

I want to second candleman98's request for more critique of the Big Red Notebook (tm).

Bill Gothard's rejection of all the music he doesn't like as being unspiritual is laminated to his belief in the tripartite nature of man. Could you deal with that at some point as well? RC Sproul said that tripartite-ism (some of the terminology philosophers use should gag a maggot) is a route to all kinds of serious error. And Kim Riddlebarger called it a "beachhead for gnostic influences." Or do you believe in the tripartite nature of man? Or is that bit of theology more esoteric than you want to deal with here?

Rob Wilkerson said...

Pastor Casey,

I'm pained by your experience, and it hurt just to read it. Three thoughts come to mind. First, if anything it shows the necessity of a prophecy to be examined just as the Scriptures teach. Second, these folks were presumably well-meaning folks who probably genuinely loved you and wanted a child for you...though they manifested it in unbiblical ways. Third, this bad experience was undoubtedly a turn-off to the charismatic, but a bad apple that doesn't have to ruin the whole batch.

Praise God that you are receiving the care and guidance you need through more substantial and Scriptural means. And thank you for bearing your soul in the comment section of a blog! What humility this demonstrates to us.

Phil Johnson said...

Rob Casey: Wow. Thanks for illustrating so poignantly what's wrong with inventing "prophecies" out of subjective impressions. I don't think it's an overstatement to say the sort of thing you experienced at the hands of those false prophets was evil.

Jim Crigler: I agree that tripartitism is a sinkhole that sucks people directly into the morass of gnostic tendencies. Carey Hardy led a great seminar in which he made that very point at last year's Shepherds' Conference.

Regarding Gothard, Ezzo, and other popular teachers whose dogmatism is always most pronounced, it seems, when they are exegeting their own extrabiblical fantasies: All those things are in my list of blogtopics I eventually hope to get to. It's a big pile of stuff, and I just can't manage them all at once. So please be patient; I'm not finished with Gothard yet.

bob said...

One things confuses me about all of this. Are we to conclude, on the basis of these "rubber prophecies" that other aspects of these people's "ministries" are invalid? I am thinking particularly of the healings during Benny Hinn's crusades. Surely this is not all psychosomatic excitement on the part of the audience. (Although I'm sure there are plenty who would argue that it is).

I suppose I have always found that Benny Hinn, in particular, strikes me as more genuine than other Christian TC personalities. Obviously at least some of his prophecies have turned out to be rubber (and we debate over whether or not this means that all his prophecies are suspect by implication) but I feel almost as if I would lose some of my youthful innocence to cynicism is it were to turn out that the apparent healings on his show are as rubber as the prophecies.

Diane R said...

First of all, there is a difference between Pentecostals and Charismatics but many today want to group them all together.
Unfortunately, some Pentecostals, like the Word of Faith people are not very accountable, while the denominational ones (i.e. Foursquare, A/G, COGIC)) are more so.
As for the Charismatics, the movement started out fairly well in the 1970's but got hijacked IMO by the Vineyard and then that opened Pandora's box which has led now to just bizarreness with Peter Wagner, the Toronto "experience" and so forth.

The BIG problem of course is one of accountability. I was a member of Jack Hayford's church for eight years and prophecy was responsible and not flaky.

The Charismatics and independent Pentecostals on the other hand often play what I call "the good old boy game." They often make a big show of submission to authority when the "authority turns out to be none other than "good 'ole boys" like themselves. It's a real "I will scratch your back if you scratch mine" state of affairs.

Believe me, this is terribly wrenching and embarrassing to all of us true Pentecostals and some Charismatics.