Wednesday, March 28, 2007

And the “fight” continues

Actually, it’s not a fight. When I was a kid in school, it took at least two people to make a fight. If one person doesn’t fight back, then the situation is just somebody getting “beat up”. On the blogs, the cessationists are beating up charismatics and continuationists.

In case you don’t know, I consider myself a continuationist. That is to say, I don’t believe that God has revoked any of His gifts to the Body of Christ; I believe all the gifts of the Spirit continue (hence, the term, “continuationist”). Cessationists consider the so-called “sign gifts” (see 1 Corinthians 12:8-10) to have ceased with the death of the apostles and the completion of the New Testament canon. So, basically, when the apostle John completed The Revelation and “kicked the bucket”, that spelled the end, or cessation, of most of the gifts of the Spirit. I have long considered the cessationist position to be pure “hogwash”. Scripture states clearly that “when the perfect comes, the partial [prophecies, tongues, knowledge] will pass away” (1 Corinthians 13:10). When I compare 1 Corinthians 13:12 with 1 John 3:2 and Ephesians 4:11-13, it seems clear (to me, at least) that the “perfect” is the return of Christ. So…since Jesus ain’t back yet, guess what? All the gifts are present and operative in the Body of Christ! That seems simple enough. But, hey, what do I know? I don’t read Greek, after all. However, I do read English, and this is what I understand my Bible to say.

I don’t consider myself a charismatic because, as I have always understood the term, a charismatic is a person in a non-Pentecostal church who has experienced the Pentecostal “baptism” with the Holy Spirit, with the “evidence” of speaking in other tongues (at least this is the definition I learned some 21 or 22 years ago; if it has changed since then, no one has let me in on it). I cannot say without a doubt that I’ve had this experience, therefore, I don’t consider myself a charismatic. However, I am open to whatever gifts or experiences God desires for me.

John Piper, Wayne Grudem, C.J. Mahaney and others, are all continuationists with influential conference and writing ministries that are having an effect in changing attitudes towards the present-day ministry of the Holy Spirit. I think cessationists are simply reacting out of fear and defensiveness because people are being convinced of the biblical rightness of the continuationist position. As an example, just read these articles from the “Pyromaniacs”, and the comments that follow: here and here.

Let me say, I understand the cessationists’ concern. I have seen and heard—live and in color—my fair share of aberrant teaching, emotionalism, fanaticism, and the like. But, it seems to me that some of my cessationist brothers and sisters in Christ have a nearly irrational fear of anything that is beyond their control or emotional in nature (they also seem overly confident they have God all figured out). In other words, they fear that which they don’t understand. Well, this is how I see it: First of all, God is God. In other words, He can do anything He wants to do. God is a super-natural Being, therefore, He can work in super-natural ways. God can do things you won’t understand! Get used to it! Secondly, God created people with emotions. If we can shout, holler, jump and dance at sports events, what’s wrong with ecstasy in response to God? Every week, millions in America cry over “Extreme Makeover Home-Edition” and “The Oprah Winfrey Show” (TV shows). For goodness sakes, God is greater, more exciting, more awe-inspiring, more thrilling and more marvelous—by far—than either Oprah or a home makeover! God is worth being emotional about! Plus, it makes sense to me that when frail humanity meets God, there will, of necessity, be an emotional reaction. We simply can’t encounter God—really and truly encounter Him—and remain unmoved. So, I think the cessationists are responding out of a misplaced sense of fear and defensiveness. In my opinion, they need to “chill out.”

On the “other side”, I find the articles of brothers like Adrian Warnock and Dan Edelen to be much more balanced and reasonable. I commend them to you. At the very least, I think we should all be more excited about God and what He, through Christ, has done for us than about anyone or anything else in the world. I’m just sorry that I’m not more excited, more emotional, more “fired up” for God. I pray that God would melt the coldness and hardness in my heart, and stir my soul once again.


Anonymous said...

Hi Wyeth! I popped over via the links you cited at Pyromaniacs. This was a very good post, and I'm in total agreement with you.

I actually just blogged a post last Sunday about it. You can read it here.

In embracing the doctrines of grace/sovereignty of God 2 1/2 years ago, I've come to have a change in beliefs about the spiritual gifts. I was a cessationist, now I am not. :)

Kyle said...

The term I'm starting to hear a lot of nowadays is "renewalist," which is probably the worst term ever. It refers to all Christians, in any denominations that are experiencing a "renewal" in their churches and worship. If you believe in jumping up and down at church, you're a renewalist. If you believe in speaking in tongues, you're a renewalist. If you believing in falling asleep in church, apparently you're not a renewalist.