Saturday, July 07, 2007

Considering the claims of the cessationists

The Pyromaniacs (Phil Johnson) have posted a good article in support of cessationism. If you’ve read my blog for any time, you know that I am not a cessationist (I’m not a Pentecostal or Charismatic, either). I share the views, generally speaking, of those in the continuationist camp. That is to say, I believe that the so-called “sign gifts” (the utterance of wisdom, the utterance of knowledge, the working of miracles, prophecy, distinguishing between spirits, various kinds of tongues, the interpretation of tongues, etc.) did not cease with the death of the apostles and the completion of the New Testament canon. Now, before you get the idea that I’m some wild-eyed, rolling on the ground fanatic (and those that know me realize how far-fetched that would be), the only reason I hold to this view is because I have never been convinced from Scripture that these gifts of the Spirit ceased. I have heard many of the arguments for cessationism (and I’m sure there are a many other arguments I have not heard), but I have found none of them convincing.

Until today.

It’s not that Phil Johnson or any of the commenters on his post produced any Scripture texts to prove conclusively the cessationist’s position. Rather, a few of the comments, particularly those by some ex-Charismatics, got me to thinking. On this issue of the gifts of the Spirit and Pentecostalism, you could say I’m still on a journey. At one time, many years ago, I was actually quite sympathetic to the Charismatic movement. Over the years, however, I’ve witnessed for myself some of the foolishness and nonsense that goes on in church in the name of “the Holy Ghost.” I’ve discovered that some people will believe anyone or anything that claims to speak in tongues or have a “word from the Lord” or acts like they have “the Holy Ghost” (there is a certain way to “act”, you know). Over and over again, I’ve seen and heard people elevate their experiences above Scripture and sound doctrine. Because of the utter foolishness of some Pentecostals and Charismatics that I knew, I was sorely tempted to swing my theological pendulum from being sympathetic to Charismatics to being totally against anything Pentecostal-Charismatic. It was only because I could not find any proof in the Scriptures that these things had ceased to be that I did not totally reject “sign gifts.”

What I read at The Pyromaniacs today, however, has seriously motivated me to rethink my position. Above all, I want my beliefs and doctrine to be biblical. I’ll change my mind in a second if I see that I’m out of sync with Scripture. I do not want to advocate anything that is in error. As I said, so far, I do not find any conclusive proof in the Scriptures that the sign gifts have ceased. However, as I survey the religious landscape, I see a whole lot of foolishness going on, supposedly under the power of “the Holy Ghost” (As God would have it, just yesterday, I got to the part in Arnold Dallimore’s biography of George Whitefield where Dallimore describes how John Wesley interpreted physical “manifestations” as a “sign” from God that he should preach against Predestination. And just to be sure that it was the will of God for him so to preach, Wesley cast lots.).

So, I encourage you to read Phil Johnson’s article on cessationism and the comments afterwards. Then let us together examine the Scriptures to see if these things are so.

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