Saturday, May 02, 2015
Reflections On Cessationism (The view that certain spiritual gifts have ceased)
I’m saddened by the confusion brought into the Church by the so-called Charismatic Movement. This is not intended to be a comprehensive treatise on the subject, but just a vehicle for setting out some comments I made in a Facebook discussion, with the hope that they may be helpful to someone who has experienced that confusion.
I won’t include the comments of others in the following (you probably can intuit them), but here are a few comments I made:
1. No one I know of says the gifts of the Spirit have ceased in general.
2. Many, however, including me, believe that the SIGN gifts have ceased.
Short reasons (as opposed to writing a book):
a. They were signs/wonders to authenticate the apostles in establishing the New Covenant — see Acts 14:3; 1 Cor 14:22; 2 Cor 12:12; Eph 2:20; Heb 2:3,4.
b. Comparing the true miraculous sign gifts of the Church of Acts with today’s nonsensical gibberish “tongues” and inaccurate “prophesy”, convinces me of the overt deception (including self-deception, sadly) of today’s supposed tongue-talkers and prophesiers.
c. What has been the result? A Trojan Horse brought into the Church to undermine the Scriptures, teaching that FURTHER revelation is needed, through these sign gifts. But all it has brought is confusion.
NUMBER TWO (In response to recommending D.A. Carson, a non-cessationist)
I’ve read Carson, Piper and Grudem [all non-cessationists whom I respect otherwise] on this subject and found them unsatisfying. Here’s why:
What they have proven exegetically, I believe, is that God COULD THEORETICALLY give someone the gift of tongues or prophecy today without violating the Bible.
But so what? The real question is this: IS HE DOING SO?
The answer, I believe, is as obvious as the pink elephant in the room — no.
And the problem with the nice-sounding argument that we must test today’s tongues and prophecies is that the Trojan Horse has swelled to an estimated 500,000,000 “charismatics” in the world today!
And by the time Diogenes and his lantern find an honest man (to use a comparison), and get through 400,000,000 of them, “testing” as he goes, and 400,000,000 of them are found to be phony, he still will swear that there might be a real one in the last 100,000,000!
And all 500,000,000 of them already swear that THEY are the real deal, shouting “shambala donna duego shabeeki”, or “Thus saith the Lord, ‘My people, and you are my people, seek me this day while I may be found, for dark days lie at your door, blah, blah, blah'” and call it tongues and prophecy.
Or to put it another way, I’m not a so-called cessationist because I think God could never theoretically give these sign gifts to anyone ever again — I’m a cessationist because it’s obvious to me that He is not doing so, and has not done so for many many years.
Sorta like He has “ceased” parting the Red Sea.
And though Carson and Grudem mean well, they are merely adding to the confusion.
NUMBER THREE (In response to the friendly accusation that I’m acting as if I’m omniscient on whether sign gifts have ceased)
I admit to a tiny bit of agnosticism on the subject, which is why I repeatedly use the term “theoretical”, but my agnosticism is on the level of theorizing that God might be parting the Red Sea, or at least the Jordan River, at this moment — though I’m pretty confident that tomorrow will show that He didn’t, just as I’m pretty confident that tomorrow will show that no biblical tongue talkers or prophets will cross my (or anyone else’s) path today.
I know these people.
I was heavily into it in the early ’80’s. I’ve met thousands personally, and witnessed tens of thousands second-hand. I’ve heard their “tongues” and heard their “prophecies” and witnessed their delusions as they laid hands on cerebral palsy patients and literally declared them healed while the victim of their delusion sat twisted in their wheel chairs — then brought guilt and shame on the victim because they didn’t have enough faith.
I’ve never met ONE who was not clearly self-deceived, or a blatant deceiver, or often both.
It’s tragic and confusing to the average person in the pew, who often feels superior because he is “Spirit-filled” (AKA tongue-talking) or feels a confused emptiness because he isn’t.
In the midst of the tragic stuff, there is occasionally humor. I’ll never forget the speaker at a Full Gospel Businessmen’s meeting in about 1982.
He declared from the podium, “I yoothed to have a thpeach impedimal, but God healed me.” Even the charismatic crowd had a hard time not chuckling. You could not tell that guy he still had a speech impediment.
And the Trojan Horse confusion marches on.