Why I am Not Charismatic (Part 8): I am a De Facto Cessationist

Ok, after the first seven parts of this series it should be almost clear where I stand on this issue. But I ended the last post by saying that I am neither a continuationist or cessationist. Let me clarify just what I am . . .

I define a Charismatic as one who thinks that the supernatural sign gifts such as tongues, prophecy, healings, etc. are normative for the church today. Therefore, believers should expect them. A cessationist is one who believes that these gifts ceased due to an exhaustion in purpose around the first century (some would say with the death of the last Apostle).

I don’t think that one can make a solid case for the ceasing of the gifts from Scripture. However, I don’t think that one can make a solid case from Scripture for the closing of the canon. I believe that both of these issues are very similar. Could God add books to the Bible if it were his purpose? Of course. Could we cry “foul” and say “You cannot do that because our traditions and councils have said you cannot? No. We (Protestants) believe in the de facto closing of the canon. What does that mean? We believe in the closing of the canon because it, indeed, closed. It is a historical and experiential reality. God just quit adding books to the canon. Only after this does our theology step in and attempt to explain this by saying it closed because soteriological history was completed.

I believe the same about the gift of prophecy, tongues, and other supernatural sign gifts. I believe they have ceased because they ceased in church history (as I argued) and I, personally, have never experienced them. Therefore, I am a “De Facto Cessationist.” Some may call it “Soft cessationist” and that is fine, but I like the term de facto since it describes the reasoning behind my position.

To those of you who are Charismatics out there:

I think that you have to understand my reasoning and the reasoning of those like me. It is not as if we are putting God in a box. We are just being responsible with our beliefs (which are precious to God) by attempting to explain the way we see things. I don’t judge all claims with the same standard. I don’t have a “guilt by association” default drive with this issue, tagging the back of the shirts of all Charismatics with a Benny Hinn label. I respect many who are Charismatic and think they are very bright and have something going on that persuades them to believe as they do. But I have been in the church all my life, traveled the world on missions trips, and partaken in many Charismatic services and never seen anything that would make me change my positions. Were I to see something that compels me to change, I would change.

With prophecy, for instance, if I were to see someone who claimed to be a prophet, speaking on behalf of God, and he, for example, raised someone from the dead, so long as he spoke in accordance with sound doctrine, I would most certainly listen (at least I hope I would). If someone claimed to have the gift of healing and came and healed my mother, I would believe and change my stance. If someone would have healed my sister before she died, again, things would be different. But the fact is that I have not ever witnessed such. I don’t even have any good first hand testimony of such happenings. Sure, I believe that God heals, so coming to me with a story of healing is already in line with my theology. But what I lack—the essential component—is God gifting an individual with the particular gift of healing. Most healings and miracles I have seen come through prayer, not through a divine conduit with this particular gift.

Therefore, I remain a de facto Cessationist.

Two Important Points:

1. Am I Putting God in a “Box”?

I often hear it said that people like me put God in a box due to my unbelief. You need to be very careful with this line of thought. It could very well be that you are the one putting him in a box. Let me explain.

I remember studying the great prayer revivals in American history with John Hannah. While discussing these movements, we, the students, inquired about why God moved so much during this time in our history. His answer was rather odd. He said there was no reason he knew of. He went on to describe similar events where revival did not occur though the actions of men were the same. The moral of Hannah’s lesson was that God moves when and where he will and we just don’t know why.You cannot map Him. You cannot put him in a box one way or the other.

If God chooses to send a prophet or a man with the gift of healing, it is his own accord, purpose, and will which sanctions such. To have a “theology of expectation” not only sets many up for disillusionment, but can also be putting God in the box that you accuse others of. God’s movements are mysterious. It could very well be that a revival breaks out. It could very well be that he decides to gift people with supernatural gifts. It is possible that he could send a prophet to your door. But this does not make it normative. It just says he did it. Praise God.

Remember the passage from the early life of Samuel where Samuel was hearing God’s voice calling him but he did not know it was God? The preface to this narrative is very interesting: 1 Samuel 3:1: “Now the boy Samuel was ministering to the LORD before Eli. And word from the LORD was rare in those days, visions were infrequent.” Why were visions infrequent? We have no idea. They just were. De facto.

2. Is God waiting on me to believe?

Also, you must remember that God’s movements in his people’s lives are not characteristically coy. When he is going to move in your life or mine, he is not waiting for us to believe in certain gifts or movements before we are qualified to receive such. He did not wait for Paul to be a believe before he hit him with a ton of bricks on the road to kill Christians. He blinded him and spoke. De facto, God was speaking. He did not wait for the Apostles to believe in tongues before they received them on the day of Pentecost. De facto, they were speaking in tongues.

If God wanted me to be a Charismatic, I would be one. He is not waiting for me to become one so that he can finally do his work.

The Spirit moves in mysterious ways. Outside of his general promises, it is very hard for us to hold his feet to the fire of the details. We wait, watch, pray, and follow his guidance. We can all put him in a box, but he won’t stay there, believe me.

I am not Charismatic. I am not necessarily cessationist either. I am, right now, a de facto cessationist who lives with a high expectation that God is going to move in the way he will. I hope that I am always ready to follow.

Thus ends the series, de facto.

When commenting, please try to make sure you have read the previous posts. I am sure that they will answer many of your questions.

93 Responses to “Why I am Not Charismatic (Part 8): I am a De Facto Cessationist”

  1. Michael –

    Thanks for the series, and finishing up with your thoughts. Reading through this final article, it does show how experience truly shapes everyone’s theology. Continuationists (charismatics & Pentecostals) are not privy to this reality, though they get labeled as such more than others. Experience shapes every life of every follower of Christ. We can’t get around this. I wrote an article about this on Theologica – An Observation of Cessationism.

    And, you know what, it is ok for our experience to shape our theology. For those who don’t believe so, I don’t think they are willing to deal with reality. We all see God through the lens of our experience. But, as we all know, this is not to be the final and full forming factor of our theology.

    Also, it is possible that we need to define the word normative, for this might be a semantical issue. No doubt many a charismatic & Pentecostal Christians, in their fervour and passion to see God move, have defined this word as ‘expectation in every moment’. I’m not necessarily against such. But as you point out, all moves of God are down to the God-timetable. Not ours. (Yet, as a side note, no doubt expectation should be heightened if a group of people believe they are hearing from God, though this should be weighed and considered with Scripture and wisdom. And this hearing from God is still on His timetable.)

    Yet, also noting there are now estimates of one billion plus Christians in the earth, and knowing how God is moving in some major ways across China, India, Africa, and Central & South America, as well as continuing to work in the western world, we must be willing to recognise that God is regularly moving in such. I know testimonies can be embellished. But I am also aware not all has been embellished. Thus, I would say the possibility of God moving in such today is much more heightened than even in the first century, for the numbers of believers who are passionately pursuing Him is so great. Thus, knowing God has people in possibly all 24 time zones, we should probably recognise such things are more regularly happening.

    Still, and finally, I think it is possible to recognise that there are some pneumatika (Spirit) gifts that are more ‘normative’ than others. Paul seemed to highlight this, at least when the church gathers together, when he taught on prophecy and tongues. It seemed those were more regularly available for the edification of the body when they met together (1 Cor 14). That is why he spent some healthy time going through them and how to faithfully use them. Therefore, it is possible that we could recognise healings and miracles as ‘not as regular’ as prophecy and tongues. After Pentecost, Acts 2:17-18 lets us know that God’s people would be a prophetic community. We don’t necessarily get such a promise with miracles and healings – being for each of the whole community – yet, we know they are available as God gifts.

    Just some thoughts to consider.

    Thanks again for sharing your thoughts.

  2. Thanks Scott,

    “I think it is possible to recognise that there are some pneumatika (Spirit) gifts that are more ‘normative’ than others.”

    Good thought. I think that this really needs to be considered and would certianly fit within the mysterious movements of our God.

  3. I am a “de facto” continuationist because I believe the testimony of my fellow Christians, even though I have not experienced any of the more unusual gifts myself. I think it is spiritually and morally wrong to start from a standpoint that other Christians, my fellow brothers and sisters in the Body, are liars or completely deluded when they testify that they have experienced these gifts. I believe that the Body that Christ describes in His Word, and how He asks the various parts to behave toward each other, requires that we believe our fellow brothers and sisters unless we have reasonable warrant not to. Since thousands of very reasonable brothers and sisters make reasonable claims to have experienced these gifts, I believe them. I also believe that a lot of what is alleged to happen in charismatic churches is fake or untrue; but not all. I think it is unwarranted (or to use one of CMP’s favorite qualifiers “dangerous” “be careful”) to make one’s personal experience normative, or even the personal experience of one’s immediate circle of relationships. If one looks to the wider body of Christ, one would reasonably conclude that God is still active in giving the more unusual gifts, even if for some reason He has not done so in one’s own life.


  4. Why are you trying to look at this through Calvinist eyes? You stated “If God wanted me to be a Charismatic, I would be one”. It seems to me He did want you to have the gifts because He’s the one who offered them. Is there a great fear that if you could see it, then you would have to become Pentecostal?

    We as Pentecostals know that life and death are in the hands of God. We pray for the sick to be healed, and we pray for those about to die to live. But in the end, it’s in the hands of God. I have seen miracle myself. My brother had spinal meningitis and was taken to the hospital. He was 11 years old. The doctor informed us that surgery was the only option or he would die. And after the surgery my brother would not retain his intelligence because the fever had been so high he had brain damage.

    My parents called the pastor who came and prayed for him. My brother was not only healed of the meningitis, he was healed of the brain damage and went on to the US Navy, he also graduated from Northwestern University and is currently a First Lieutenant. So I know the power of God in prayer. Conversely my grandmother had liver cancer and was dying. We kept her at home. Every day she would say she did not have cancer, there was no need to pray for her healing because she was not sick. She died in 2002. My brother had meningitis in 1978.

    Life and death are in the hands of God, but he gives us the authority and commandment to pray for each other. It is written all through the NT.

    For some reason people have this assumption that Pentecostals believe in some kind of overwhelming mass hallucination that makes us believe in God and we all act like crazy insane fruitcakes who blabber tongues like demonic hypnotized puppets who move at the will of the pastor or praise leader. We even put spells on people to make them act crazy also.

    First of all, does the devil enter into your mouth as you praise God?
    God dwells in the praises of His people. Would the devil make you say words, gifts that came from God in the first place? With stammering lips and other tongues God speaks to His people, and they receive rest. Would the devil heal someone in imitation of God? Pray ye one for another that ye might be healed.

    I have been accused of having psychic powers after revealing to someone the words I received by the spirit. The reason the pastor rejected them was because it went against his own plan of who he was putting together to be boyfriend and girlfriend in his church. I disrupted his authority abuse and the people there were afraid of him. Except me.

    Does God want you to have the gifts? Yes, otherwise He would not have offered them freely.But even then, there are things we do, we worship the Lord willingly with our words. We praise Him, sometimes with uplifted hands as the NT commands.We put our focus in our prayers on Him. And we accept there is nothing about us, it’s about Him. These gifts are not just random movements like Tourette’s.

    But I will say again, if we should deny tongues, should we also then deny faith? Because they are listed together. Wisdom and knowledge are the basis. Why is it easy to hold faith, but toss out tongues?

  5. Kara,

    Why do you think that God “offered freely” these gifts? (Do you single out particular gifts for that sense of “free offer”? Does God “offer freely” the gift of administration in the same sense?)

  6. theirishpreacher April 15, 2009 at 8:54 am

    I think that often the difference is one of hermeneutics, namely that people in the different camps are reading the same texts but presuppositions, assumptions and interpretation of those texts are different. Moreover, it is not that the legitimacy of the continuationist experience is being questioned or denigrated per se, more that the interpretation of the experience is questioned on the basis of one’s hermeneutical grid.

    CMP, given how you have described yourself in terms of your stance on this issue, would it be fair to assign to you the label of “pneumatic” as understood and delineated by Drs. Wallace and Sawyer in the book “Who’s Afraid of the Holy Spirit”? Given that we are both similar in our positions, I have been quite happy to use this label. I readily admit though that the traditional labels are breaking down and perhaps are not as accurate in their demarcation of positions as perhaps they were 10 years ago.

    I think also that there is much more commonality between us, only that often definitions get in the way. I come from a cessationist dispensationalist background and have also spent much time in a charismatic/pentecostal environment. Many times I observed the same occurrences, yet different labels (or sometimes none) were used to describe and delineate that same experience.

    Permit me to give one simple example: In the church in which I grew up one never had a “word of knowledge” or a “prophecy” but God very frequently “laid something on one’s heart” to share with another. Often in my experience there was no difference between the two, only in the use of label which was merely a product of one’s hermeneutics.

    I am convinced there is more division than necessary. Of course there is much more to be said and I do not mean to be deliberately reductionistic, but truth is that the pendulum always swings to the extreme and very rarely seems to stop in the middle.

    Grace and peace.

  7. This is slightly off topic, but the comment art about the canon being closed struck me. Even God’s power is probably limited when it comes to adding new books to the canon :)

    I find it much easier to believe in the gift of healing than I do the ability of men to change their minds about the Bible being fixed.

    If God spoke to someone, or some people, and told them to add books to scripture, they would be instantly dismissed as heretics or insane.

    For one thing, because when God speaks it seems like He speaks through unpopular people out of the mainstream, like Jesus. Not through religious leaders or authorities, but in spite of and even against them.

    Maybe we could all wake up one morning with the conviction that it should change and get with the program, I suppose.

    A strict logical conclusion would be that God knew our minds would not be able to accept any changes and therefore did it perfectly right for us the first time.

    That would also be predestination, I suppose, because it implies that we would never change as individuals, and thus societally, in ways that could cause us to need additional information from Him.

    However, if we’re sheep with the potential to go so far astray that He might have to come get us, that we’re all getting it wrong, then that says we could in theory need additional instruction.

    Lots more to think about, sola spriptura, etc. but don’t want to turn this into an essay.

  8. It sounds like it all boils down to ….”I haven’t seen it so I don’t believe it and if I saw it then I would believe it”.

  9. The only difference I see is semantics (or perhaps as the Irish Preacher says hermeneutics). CMP, as I have mentioned in your past installments, you have manipulated your argument so that you can not be wrong. Healings in and of themselves do not prove the “gift”. I suppose instances of miracles, tongues, and prophecy are the same. You have in your mind some criterion for it being a “gift” that I personally think the apostles could not have even met but never the less it works for you because you do not really have a body of evidence to weigh it against. It is interesting that you couple this issue with the cessation of the canon as if that actually decides something with regard to gifts. I think that is another example of trying to manipulate the argument so that you ca not be wrong. (Boo). I do think your point about who puts God in a box is well said and I think quite accurate.

  10. Minnow, the apostles raised the dead. They would most certianly qualify.

    You said, “CMP, as I have mentioned in your past installments, you have manipulated your argument so that you can not be wrong.”

    That is completely unfair. I am not manipulating things. I am completely open to God giving these gifts and even giving me these gifts. What would you have me to do? Just believe even though I have never seen or heard anything compelling me in such a direction?

  11. Please, folks, do not start talking about miracles happening through prayer and equate that with what this post series is about. Go back and reread the first posts.

    It is about someone having these gifts as their spiritual gift. Not about someone experiencing a miracle.

    Otherwise, it is just semantics (which it often is), but then you are not really charismatic according to my definition.

  12. Just believe even though I have never seen or heard anything compelling me in such a direction?

    Michael, I’m sure Jesus would have preferred Thomas to have believed without seeing by simply trusting in his word.

  13. Carol, should I believe that the Canon is still open? If not, what is the difference?

  14. There is a large difference between 1) scripture has changed (de facto, in that gifts once given are no longer given) and 2) scripture will never change (the canon is closed).

    Saying that gifts found in scripture have ceased is much more akin to saying that the canon can change, actually.

    Either scripture is stable forever or it isn’t. The Holy Spirit is irrelevant, because it goes where it wants and does what it does; it could make us all miracle-workers or make the Bible disappear entirely.

  15. Who asked me the question of the gift and administration? Of course those are both free, given by the same God.

    1 Corinthians 12
    1Now concerning spiritual gifts, brethren, I would not have you ignorant.
    2Ye know that ye were Gentiles, carried away unto these dumb idols, even as ye were led.
    3Wherefore I give you to understand, that no man speaking by the Spirit of God calleth Jesus accursed: and that no man can say that Jesus is the Lord, but by the Holy Ghost.
    4Now there are diversities of gifts, but the same Spirit.
    5And there are differences of administrations, but the same Lord.
    6And there are diversities of operations, but it is the same God which worketh all in all.
    7But the manifestation of the Spirit is given to every man to profit withal.
    8For to one is given by the Spirit the word of wisdom; to another the word of knowledge by the same Spirit;
    9To another faith by the same Spirit; to another the gifts of healing by the same Spirit;
    10To another the working of miracles; to another prophecy; to another discerning of spirits; to another divers kinds of tongues; to another the interpretation of tongues:
    11But all these worketh that one and the selfsame Spirit, dividing to every man severally as he will.
    12For as the body is one, and hath many members, and all the members of that one body, being many, are one body: so also is Christ.
    13For by one Spirit are we all baptized into one body, whether we be Jews or Gentiles, whether we be bond or free; and have been all made to drink into one Spirit.
    14For the body is not one member, but many.

    So one God gives different gifts, different jobs, but all are from God and to be used for the body to profit everyone. So which should we leave out? And how can the body be complete without all of them? Should we not use wisdom, knowledge and faith also because they are explicity expected to be used in conjunction with the tongues, miracles and healing.

    If God no longer manifests, then we are in trouble.

  16. Joseph, thanks for commenting.

    You comments do not make any since. Just because God adds a book to the Bible does not mean that the previous books were unstable, does it?

    If God wants to add to his Scripture, he most certianly can. Are you saying that he is mandated to keep his mouth closed in such a way? If so, I would like to know your definition of Scripture.

    Thanks my friend.

  17. Kara, did you read the previous posts in this series?

  18. Carol, should I believe that the Canon is still open? If not, what is the difference?

    Michael, you can believe whatever you want about the Canon. I am not comparing the gifts of the Spirit given to the body of Christ with the Canon.

    If you were to meet someone who God consistently used in the gift of healings or miracles as He did the early apostles and you then believed that all the gifts are for today, how would that change any of the other arguments you have used against continuationists?

    I’m a Pentecostal. I have not seen anyone used in the gifts of healings or miracles in the way we read about in the Bible. But just because I haven’t seen it, does not mean I do not believe it. I haven’t met someone who I would say had the gift of prophecy either. Once again, this lack of knowing a true prophet does not hinder me from believing the gift of prophecy is not something to be earnestly desired.

    I haven’t seen Christ but I believe He lives.

  19. Yes,
    And I commented at some.

  20. Only the Book of Daniel was closed.

  21. Carol, then from my definition, you don’t sound like you would qualify as being a Charismatic, but a soft continuationist. I have often described myself as such.

  22. CMP,
    With respect to you being the owner of the blog, and therefore a teacher of sorts on here I read your subjects and study them. But I am a hardliner Pentecostal, one through experience. And even though you present your thoughts in a very worded way, the underlying message is always going to bent toward Calvinism, whether soft or hardshell.

    And many hardshell Calvinists pick up on this. Pentecostals are not fairly represented as co-Christians. But we have become used to that. It’s not what you outrightly represent, it’s the underlying messages. I get the idea you are Calvinist and that’s ok. I am a Pentecostal and that is ok. But the concepts of spiritual gifts should not be a doctrinal one, but a Christian one. Are the gifts for today’s Christian?

    Now you as a Calvinist respond from Calvinist eyes on the subject. I answer from our viewpoint. But too many times I have heard objections of every nature from Calvinism. Perhaps you have never been called names for being Calvinist, but a lot of us Pentecostals spend most of our conversations trying to get away from having to defend our position.

    But at least you are respectful enough to say why you personally don’t believe it. But too many people in your camp apply your personal views to Calvinism in general.

    So the ultimate question becomes…are the gifts in operation for Christian believers. You say you are not sure because you have not seen compelling evidence as to it still in operation. But personal experience from us believers who accept it are not enough evidence. Why I ask, is our experience regarded little? We testify of the same Jesus Christ as the first church did.

    Are we not in the same body of Christ? Yes. Does not the same Lord administer gifts? Yes. Why would Jesus change the way He does things only for some churches? Perhaps those churches change the way they do things for Jesus.

    CMP, respectfully, I am a Pentecostal. Experience comes with the territory. Miracles happen because God is still a miracle working God and we should never limit Him to fit within our scope of things. We are not the ones in charge.

    I did not mean to make it sound like I was trying to attack you or offend you. You obviously are a very smart guy. And you are my brother in Christ. I know it is hard to accept us, but we’ve been around for a long time and will be here much longer.

  23. Michael,

    A great post and a great series. I really appreciate the way you make the case for what’s normative. It’s not really a case for God always working one way or the other. It’s more a case of God doing what he deems necessary to accomplish his will. I especially liked the way you turned the ‘God in a box’ argument back on the charismatic! It’s just a reminder that we all see as in a glass dimly right now; no one’s theology is perfect.


  24. Kara, thanks for taking the time to write that out, but I have to admit I am completely lost and unable to process anything you have said.

  25. CMP,
    It’s ok. I understand. Aren’t you supposed to be on vacation and not answering blog posts?

  26. CMP,
    The point I was trying to make was summed in Carl’s statement

    Do we continually have to defend “normative” for us because it’s not “normative” for some other churches? This is not a competition with each other. Must Christianity always be viewed through the rose colored glasses of church doctrine? Carl sounds almost proud you almost scored a point on us.

  27. CMP “While I find many of the biblical and theological arguments of cessationism compelling, I would be the first to admit that the primary reason I remain a cessationist is because I have never experienced any miracles, signs, or wonders and I have never seen or heard of a legitimate prophet. If someone were to ask me if I believe that God is still speaking through prophets and giving the gift of healing, I would confess my tentative cessationist beliefs. I have never seen nor heard of a prophet or divine healer, but this does not mean that God is not or cannot work in such a way today.”

    CMP “What would you have me to do? Just believe even though I have never seen or heard anything compelling me in such a direction?”

    Um, yes. It would be called believing and trusting your brothers and sisters in Christ who by the thousands claim to experience the gifts. You can respect Keener, and Moreland, and Grudem, etc., but not believe them? Not because you have an ironclad interpretitive difference, but simply because you have not de facto experienced something convincing? It’s a rather repugnant and toxic way of treating fellow members of Christ’s body who sincerely and reasonably claim otherwise.


  28. Thanks John,

    I get your point about Moreland, et al, but all the experiences that they describe simply amount to God working in miraculous ways. As I have said, this is not charismatic. I am friend with Sam Storms and have discussed this with him as well. Much of it is semantics. But there is some legitimate differences.

    Grudem’s view of prophecy is simply not something you can say “I will just trust him.” His view is much different and necessitates no legitimate verification. Therefore, I am not discounting his experience, I am just saying that his experience does not demonstrate a compelling reason to believe in those gifts.

    What I am saying is that the claims of those charismatics that respect does not point in the direction of the normative continuation of the supernatural sign gifts.

    If I were just to trust in their experience of tongues (which is what it comes down to with many), that would be very irresponsible as none of them can even agree on what tongues are!!

    Therefore, I am taking the most responsible route that I know of. You must understand my decision along with those like me.

    However, I don’t look down upon those who believe otherwise at all. In fact, I often feel as if I am the wrong one who just has not had the experience to convince me. But I am truly content believing that God knows my heart and were he to desire me to have a different view on this, he would make it happen.

  29. I am with you CMP

    Very nice series

  30. Thanks for your reply CMP. I used “repugnant” not because I think that you are personally obnoxious or intentially being offensive, but because your position completely discounts the testimony of fellow Christians who are indwelt by the Spirit of truth and who believe that they are being honest in their reports. Now why do they have the experiences they claim and neither you nor I do? I don’t know, but my lack of knowing and experience should not lead me to be a de facto cessationist. Rather, it should lead me to say that I accept my brother’s testimony as true, and that for any particular incident or occurence of a gift I will test it carefully.

    I also intentionally used the word “toxic” not as a flare or flash or flameup or whatever it is called in blogland, but because the distrusting attitude towards fellow believers is toxic to a Christlike and encouraging relationship. It’s particularly toxic because you don’t have a Biblical argument to point to point to nor a historical one (it seemed to me that the replies on your history post won that point) that one could take issue with. At least with a full on cessationist I know where I stand and I can go right to appropriate issues of hermeneutic and interpretation. However, your stance has as its base a unknown threshold of proof. You won’t believe reports of gifts but we don’t know what it would take to experientially convince you; perhaps you don’t fully know either. The message that sends to non-cessationists is that they are deluded, confused, lying, dysfunctional, or ignorant, or something along those lines, and that at the very least their standard for being experientially convinced is wrong or far too low, and that you won’t believe them even though they are your brothers and are presumably following Jesus in truth and truth telling.

    I also agree with Minnow regarding the shape of the arguments. I don’t agree with her that you’ve been manipulative. However, in the first post you stated that you were establishing the “playing field”. I and others have pointed out that we don’t agree with your categories or definitions or charts and don’t find them helpful. This continues to be true as you don’t fit some authors under your label “charismatic”. It appears that you don’t consider someone charismatic unless that person regularly expresses the more spectacular gifts. Or regularly / frequently heals someone through their prayers.

    I assert that it is inappropriate to use cessationist labels, categories, charts and definitions. Charismatics should be allowed to define themselves, or we should use Biblical ones where they are available. Of course, there is a range of what charismatics self identify as falling within “charismatic”, but that does not mean that we can turn to our own definitions and categories. It means we have to have a more nuanced discussion.

    Although Paul does speak in terms of a gift to this man or that man, it is by no means clear or obvious that he means that the gift is exercised in some regular normative fashion throughout the remainder of that persons life. It could be sporadic. It could be one gift at one point in time, and a different one later. I know that there is a whole literature out there about finding “your spiritual gift” (having read some of it myself) but I find it without Biblical warrant. A large part of the charismatic and pentecostal subculture is also without a Biblical basis.

    Your post series as whole has been good, and thoughtful, and helpful and has generated good discussion and some very good replies. It also seems evident that you are a nice guy and smart and loving. However, I still find your stance of distrust and suspicion and disbelief to be repugnant and toxic for the reasons above. You and others may, of course, disagree.


  31. John CT,
    You said what I was trying to say.

  32. As a former Pentacostal/Charismatic who now holds to a soft cessationist position, I think I can safely speak from both Scriptural standpoint AND experience

    At issue really, is how we read the book of Acts that becomes the dividing line. Continuationists see the occurrences of gifts as normative for us today, whereas Cessationists consider gifts designed for a specific purpose that is no longer needed. The issue is not were all gifts freely given by God, for even the hardest Cessationist would concur that they are. The issue is what is the gift and its purpose. The reason I switched over, so to speak was not because of bad experiences as some would suppose, but because I began to consider gifts in contexts of their purpose AND the revelation of God as outlined in the complete witness of Scripture.

    Having spent many years as a charismatic and one who believed that all gifts were meant for today, I can safely say 2 things about why its hard for folks holding to a continuationist position are hard to persuade regarding cessation:

    1) The experience of corporate worship in charismatic settings seems to give credence to the validity of gifts. There is generally an expectation that something is going to happen because if you are really in a “spirit-filled church” (an unfortunate misnomer), the gifts should be flowing -prophecies, healings, miracles. It does give rise to a bit of sensationalism. So when there are “words from God”, usually accompanied by public speaking in tongues, it produces a sort of “ah ha” credibility.

    2) The experience and expectation of gifts and teaching on these things being normative is read back into the text. So in going through the book of Acts, the expectation is already there that these things are supposed to happen. So the continuationist will read Acts 2, which seems to confirm this experience. But really its because the presupposition is already there that if you are filled with the Spirit, then you speak in tongues and that is supposed to happen today. And so every instance is treated as an isolated and prescriptive event but not considered in context of the transition that was occurring, initiated by Christ for the church age.

    One area of teaching that I would love to see happen more in churches that I think is incredibly lacking, is the prophetic and apostolic agency that were necessary for the transmission of Scripture. I am firmly convinced that the inspiration process is not understood by many and how Acts plays a central role.

  33. Ugh, I meant to conclude that last sentence with “on both sides”. I think I can safely speak to Scripture and experience on both sides.

  34. Phil McCheddar April 16, 2009 at 7:11 am

    CMP wrote: “I have … traveled the world on missions trips … and never seen anything that would make me change my positions.”

    Hi Michael
    Out of curiosity, which parts of the world have you visited? Have you been to central Africa, the Philippines, South America, or China? Or instead only to ‘westernized’ countries?

  35. A continuationist can say to a cessationist, “you are my brother, but you have not yet experienced tastes of the kingdom to come, as gifted to us by the Spirit. Maybe the reason lies in you; maybe in God, but you are still fully my brother”. The cessationist cannot do this, and what he or she does say cannot be taken that way. The cessationist (even de facto) can only say, “you are possibly not my brother but only possessed by demons, or you are in some weak way my brother but you are inept, or stupid, or gullible, or wrong, or your experience is fictitious, or you are deluded, or your experience is not an authentic experience of the Spirit or is invalid, or you are lying, or succumbing merely to peer pressure.”

    But we cannot have a body where brothers and sisters so treat each other. As poet John Donne wrote, “The church is catholic, universal; so are all her actions. All that she does belongs to all. When she baptizes a child, that action concerns me, for that child is thereby connected to that head which is my head too, and engrafted into that body whereof I am a member. And when she buries a man, that action concerns me. All mankind is of one author, and is one volume. When one man dies, one chapter is not torn out of the book, but translated into a better language; and every chapter must be so translated. God employs several translators; some pieces are translated by age, some by sickness, some by war, some by justice. But God’s hand is in every translation, and his hand shall bind up all our scattered leaves again, for that library where every book shall lie open to one another.”

    CMP’s position of “de facto cessationism” is vague and ambiguous and unhelpful. Is it only personally de facto? That is, there just aren’t gifts for him at this time but others do have them? But how is that cessationist? Does it mean that I don’t have them and no one else does either and I won’t believe that they do until I experience something myself that I can’t explain away? But that is as harmful to the body as being fully cessationist. And how does using the word “soft continuationist” help? It doesn’t. It is just a mere admittance that God can do whatever He wants Whenever he wants, coupled with the muttered response “but he ain’t doing the gift thing now”.

    Given the fact that a solid Scriptural argument cannot be made that the gifts have ceased, and given the fact that thousands of Christian brothers and sisters claim to have experienced the full range of gifts, a cessationist position is not one that should reasonably be held and is one that is harmful to the body of Christ. That does not mean that we don’t investigate and point out falsities like the so-called Kansas City prophets.

    It also does no good, and lays out the playing field in the wrong way, to narrowly define gifting and charismata only to those more extreme and fringe represenations and to call everything else miracles. As in, oh that’s not a gift of healing, that’s only a miracle. or, that’s not a word of knowledge, God just laid something on my heart. It does not serve to advance our understanding to allow either the cessationists or the extreme charismatics/pentecostals to possess the entire field and define everything on their terms. For example, I have never read a convincing argument (and so refuse to yield the field on this point) that a gift of the spirit only counts as a gift if the same person exercises the same gift frequently over an extended period of time. I’m not excluding that, but I’m not limiting gifts to that either.

    Suspended belief is not an appropriate nor an available middle ground within the Body of Christ because this issue relates to such a core aspect of one’s life in Christ. It is not like disagreeing over TULIP, or infant baptism. It is more akin to disagreeing over the real presence of Christ in communion, though it is even greater than that. In communion, both Catholics and Protestants can agree that they have experienced Christ in some way. However, to not acknowledge that someone has experienced the gifts of the Spirit is to deny their experience, to deny that there was a manifestation of the Spirit. A so called “soft continuationist” that denies the reality and validity of the experience of charismatics and pentecostals is just a cessationist position dressed up in friendly sounding language that in reality hides a dagger that kills community.

    John who-does-not-speak-in-tongues

  36. LOL
    John who plays basketball and does not speak in tongues.

    You are right when they cessationists do not consider us as their siblings in Christ and go to great lengths to let us know. Unfortunately sometimes it has historically turned out violent and they won’t approach that subject when it is brought up.

    I as a Pentecostal (one who lives according to the experience of Pentecostalism and not so doctrinally), can accept any one of any denomination as long as they accept Jesus Christ as Lord and have repented and received the New Birth. Even marginal ones I can accept because at least they believe in Jesus but have not yet fully come to a great understanding of Him.

    But more so than that, I have friends who are of other religious faith systems and have been commented on about how I through all their objections and arguments can hold on to my belief in Jesus. And challenge them to search the Bible. Not through what I say, but more of how I act.

  37. CMP: you say: “Minnow, the apostles raised the dead. They would most certainly qualify.” Yet deny reports of others who raise the dead or so narrowly define “gift” as to be only a gift if one can heal on demand any and all whom the gifted comes in contact with every time.
    I said: “I have mentioned in your past installments, you have manipulated your argument so that you can not be wrong.” And you replied: “That is completely unfair. I am not manipulating things. I am completely open to God giving these gifts and even giving me these gifts. What would you have me to do? Just believe even though I have never seen or heard anything compelling me in such a direction?”
    I stand by my point that you control the definition of “gift” to the point that you can not possibly be wrong. According to the definition you allow–healing on demand every time every candidate–even Jesus did not have the “gift”.
    Yes there are false prophets, deceptive healings, demonic tongues. That is why we are told to test the spirit. But I completely agree with the points made by John C. T. above.

  38. John C.T –

    A continuationist can say to a cessationist, “you are my brother, but you have not yet experienced tastes of the kingdom to come, as gifted to us by the Spirit. Maybe the reason lies in you; maybe in God, but you are still fully my brother”. The cessationist cannot do this, and what he or she does say cannot be taken that way. The cessationist (even de facto) can only say, “you are possibly not my brother but only possessed by demons, or you are in some weak way my brother but you are inept, or stupid, or gullible, or wrong

    Actually this is entirely the reverse to the way in which things work themselves out in practice – amongst Pentecostals the reasoning is usually “You are not my brother, because you are yet to experience Spirit Baptism”.

    Equally, both positions can be – and often are – reasons for looking down on people taking the opposite view – you simply can’t characterise cessationists as less inclusive than continualists/charismatics/pentecostals. “Maybe the reason lies in you; maybe in God” is usually actually expressed as “Maybe you just aren’t open enough to the things of God”. To believe that a whole group of christians is subject to a category error of this sort is not dissimiliar from thinking that whole group of christians are gullible. The fact is that all of us are prone to this – rightly or wrongly.

    Finally, please look back to the entire series. I do think Michael’s position is fairly naunced and not easily reduced to the sorts of categories you describe.

  39. Minnow, I have never suggested “healing on demand.” I just require evidence upon claim! I certianly don’t think this is unreasonable. If not, any Joe can claim to be a prophet.

    This is certianly not limiting the idea of gift.

  40. I think there is a lot of unnecessary arguing over whether the gifts of the Spirit exist for today.

    To me is just not a matter of whether a church chooses to practice, or not practice them, unless it is their main focus, because in either case it is the gospel and instructions on effective Christian living that should be stressed.

    I personally believe there is more evidence that the gifts do continue to play a role in the church today, but certainly God is not limited by a denominational belief on one side or the other. He canand does by His common grace heal today, through all kinds of ways, both in and outside the church, through both prayer, and secular medical procedures.

    In short, He is neither limited by or bound by the practice of spiritual gifts He has given to believers, but His sovereign decision in the matters of healing and so on, prevails whether they are practiced or not.

  41. ChrisE, yes Charismatics often do look down on those who have not been blessed with their experience. That is not, however, the approach of more mainstream pentecostals and charismatics or of their intelligentsia. But what concerns me more is the inclination or perspective or leaning that is inherent in their theology. To a charismatic, one who has not experienced some of the gifts is lacking, but that does not mean that the christian experience that one has had so far is invalid. However, to the cessationist the experience of the charismatic is necessarily invalid, and the report of it untrue. In teh same vein, the charismatic has no reason to doubt that the cessationist has not experienced the gifts, but inherently the cessationist doubts and disbelieves that the continuationist has.

    CMP has covered a number of topics related to gifts, and to reasons why one might or might not believe, true. But I don’t see how his final position does not result in the problem that I have raised. Perhaps you can reply with why you think his position does not result in the problem I raised (I don’t say “reduced to” because I see no need to reduce his position to anything. His position as it is results in the problem, as far as I can see, but I’m prepared to be wrong).


  42. How would a cessationist deal with with the “parousia,” or “second” “appearance” of Christ? Supposing Christ is not immediately recognizable to all, as in the first appearance?

    No doubt you’ve addressed this somewhere above? Reference?

  43. John –

    I don’t believe that CMP’s position is reducible to standard cessationism, it’s in this context that I used the term ‘reduce to’, in practice I can only see shades of opinion between him and someone like Sam Storms or John Piper (both of whom would be very vociferous that they are *not* cessationists).

    As for mainstream Pentecostals, that entirely depends on who you mean doesn’t it ? Certainly most pentecostal denominations will still cling to their doctrine of a second blessing evidenced by the manifestation of the gift of tongues. And if you haven’t heard major pentecostal teachers cast aspersions on the salvation of cessationists, then you haven’t listened particularly widely.

    As for your contention that we are duty bound to accept the testimony of all our brothers and sisters, I contend that we are also called to discern. That people are easily deluded about spiritual things is not suprising, simply put in our fallen state it’s not something that comes naturally, and even once redeemed it seems to me that this aspect of our nature is something that it takes a long time to build up and restore. That no major pentecostal minister has ever called out the likes of Peter Popoff is just further testimony to me that in general Christians are very bad at discerning a genuine move of the spirit from a false one.

  44. Chris E,
    Not all us Pentecostals fall for the likes of Peter Popoff. And you would probably be surprised to know the actual number of people outside Pentecostalism who receive the doctrine, in the closet of course. I know some.

  45. Not all us Pentecostals fall for the likes of Peter Popoff.

    That may be so – but concern about things like this has generally been expressed after the fact, where was the discernment? Where were the prophetic warnings?

    And this *is* an important point, the doctrine of most charismatics and pentecostals is not even self consistent according to their own reading of scripture, let alone anyone elses.

  46. Many modern Biblical scholars, or course, just read “speaking in tongues,” as a misunderstood metaphor for … just speaking in a second language. I speak a second “tongue” myself. That others understand in their own language.

    I guess you’ve all heard the theory: when the word came out, the polyglot audience in Jerusalem – which included Romans, Greeks, and a dozen other nationalities in the time of Jesus – got excited. And many began talking each in his own second tongue; since there were many of these persons, eventually the whole audience and community “heard the word in their own tongue.”

    It was not one single magical “Ur” language therefore, that everyone magically understood; it was just … a fairly normal process of many persons with a second language, translating from the original (Greek? Aramaic?). Making some clamour and excitement; acting like drunks filled with wine spirits; but … ultimatly being quite effective, in seeing that the word was spread in all tongues … and therefore soon, worldwide.

    In that interpretation, Pentacostals have just misread their Bibles. Are we allowed to suggest simply, that? And criticize P. on that basis?

    Leaving the way open for some other better, new prophets still?

  47. Is this being Christian? The Hatfields and the McCoys? The Union and the Confederacy? This sounds like a family feud!! Some here post in kindness and respect…others have the “intellegentsia” without the love that God said would define us as Christians…having the fruit of the Spirit. I won’t go in to the Scripture references…do the study.
    I am currently in a Pentecostal Church, have been for 20+ years…came out of a totally pagan lifestyle until God called me out of darkness.\o/!!!
    HOWEVER, when He allowed me to study His word, certain teachings of the Pentecostal Holiness denomination began to sound hollow and the soundness of doctrine rang flat because of personal interpretation and personal convictions taught as doctrine. But that does not mean these precious folks are no less in the eyes of God who will hold them to account for how much they loved Jesus. I like what Dr. G had to say and I must admit this is an ongoing mystery to me that I am seriously seeking the mind and heart of God for.
    I would suggest that the office of prophet, however, is still in operation because the Scriptures tell us they(2-Moses and Elijah) appeared with Jesus on the Mount and the Bible speaks of 2 prophets appearing one more time to work MIRACLES on the earth (assuming I am eschatologically in agreement with you)
    We seemingly have a propensity toward the academic application of the possibilities God has declared to be available to those He chooses to Sovereignly empower His people with. We oftentimes categorically classify choice individuals as checking their brains at the door if they believe certain teachings…and the list of denigrating categories grows onward. I wonder if we are separating our intelligence from our minds, as we oftentimes do with our emotions and justify the sin that results from giving in to a feeling? Many Pentecostals are as guilty of sinning from emotionalism ( I heard it today, I believe!) as mainline people sin from lauding their intellectual prowess as rational and logical sense. God is able to transcend this…do we believe He is able?
    “It is He whom we proclaim, warning everyone and teaching everyone in all wisdom, so that we may present everyone mature in Christ.” Colossians 1:28

  48. Dr. G,
    No, not a second language as you might assume. When Peter stood up among the 12 to preach, did he preach in all the languages? No, he preached in his own language.

    If learning a second or third language was all it takes, then Rosetta Stone should be the holiest software on the planet. It completely denies the spiritual language Paul said we are to pray in.

    And the book of Isaiah says “with stammering lips and other tongues will I speak to my people, and this is the rest whereby they might find comfort”

    Now can you name me one non-corrupt language on this planet that brings comfort (the Holy Ghost is the Comforter sent by Jesus)? Can you name me one language on this planet that builds up your most holy faith?

    Now considering the gifts of the spirit listed in Corinthians…wisdom, knowledge, faith, healing, miracles, prophecy, discernment, tongues, interpretation…of all of those listed together in that order, which others should we say are no longer real or effective? Wisdom? Ok toss it out, faith? toss it out as well. God gave the gifts and they are used in that order, so if we can throw one out, we should be able to toss all of them out and none of us should walk in wisdom.

    Second language? I read French, German, and some Gaelic. Does that make me holy? No. Does that make me special? No. And does it qualify me to preach or teach if I know another language? No. If you don’t want the Comforter because you might have to speak a heavenly language, as Paul puts it, that is your business, but by denying it you are missing out on a blessing in your spirit.

  49. At Pentacost, tongues were languages that were understood by the hearers:

    vs. 6: and when this sound occurred, the crowd came together, and were bewildered because each one of them was hearing them speak in his own language.

    The miracle at Pentacost was not that people spoke in tongues, but that tongues were understood by the hearers that resulted in 3,000 believing and being baptized.

    I think the question that should be asked is what were the tongues for? To testify of the risen Christ.


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