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Cessationism versus continuationism

Cessationism versus continuationism is a Christian theological dispute concerned with the question whether the charismatic gifts are currently in operation.

Historically, the Catholic, Lutheran, Methodist, Moravian, and Pentecostal traditions of Christianity have been continuationist while the Continental Reformed and Presbyterian traditions have been cessationist.[1]

Contents

Problems in the disputeEdit

An important problem in the dispute between continuationists and cessationists is the difference in understanding key concepts relevant to the dispute, such as concepts related to the ministry of a prophet, i.e. 'prophet,' 'prophecy,' 'revelation,' etc. Further, there are different understandings of charismatic gifts, e.g. certain cessationists interpret some of the gifts, such as 'prophecy', 'the word of knowledge', 'the gift of faith' in natural terms,[2] while others attach a supernatural character to all charismatic gifts.[3]

Another important question is whether the principle of sola scriptura would be violated if the charismatic practice were followed. Given the significant difference in conceptual frameworks that are in play, there is a difference in understanding the logical relation between the principle of sola scriptura and the continuationist thesis: is this a relation of compatibility? Moreover, some continuationists, e.g. Charismatic Roman Catholics, do not subscribe to sola scriptura; there would not be much shared common ground for such continuationists and the principled cessationists. As such, the dispute would lose much meaning, since the whole principled cessationist rationale for the denial of continuationism would be begging the question. Appealing to sola scriptura, in the context of the discussion with a charismatic Roman Catholic, is question begging. A Charismatic Catholic would ask, "Why should we accept sola scriptura in the first place?"

Restrictions on the topicsEdit

Disputes of interest about charismata may therefore be cut back to those in which both disputants accept sola scriptura. Also of interest, however, are those disputes where cessationism is founded upon grounds of principle and not on empirical observations of counterfeit miracles, fake prophecies and similar. Proving that some cases of miracles are counterfeit does not show that all cases of miracles are inauthentic.

The following main issues then figure:

  1. The question of the implications of 1 Corinthians 13:8-12
  2. The question of sola scriptura
  3. The question of the implications of Ephesians 2:20
  4. The question of the authority and verification of modern prophecies
  5. The question of non-revelatory gifts
  6. Disagreements about the interpretation of historical data concerning the cessation of the gifts in the early Christian church.

Issues (2)-(5) are very closely related because they revolve around the meaning of key terms such as 'prophet' or 'revelation', and their bearing on sola scriptura.

The first two issues show the main cessationist concerns about charismata and reveal the underlying rationale for cessationism. The sections below describe what kind of disagreements emerge between cessationism and continuationism in their respective understandings of the gifts, and further issues then arising from these disagreements. Different understandings of charismata give rise to various tensions in the dispute.

Cessationist understandingEdit

1 Corinthians 13:8-12Edit

Charity never faileth: but whether there be prophecies, they shall fail; whether there be tongues, they shall cease; whether there be knowledge, it shall vanish away. For we know in part, and we prophesy in part. But when that which is perfect is come, then that which is in part shall be done away. When I was a child, I spake as a child, I understood as a child, I thought as a child: but when I became a man, I put away childish things. For now we see through a glass, darkly; but then face to face: now I know in part; but then shall I know even as also I am known.

The principal reason for the cessationist denial of the continuation of the gifts is their appeal to the closure of the canon. Implicit in their appeal is their understanding that the closure of the canon marked the end of the manifestation of charismata. However, the main continuationist objection is that the Bible does not offer any clear (explicit) text that would support Cessationism, although some strong cessationists, such as Robert L. Thomas and Walter J. Chantry, appeal to the text of 1 Corinthians 13:8-12 as a proof-text for cessationism.[4] Therefore, the interesting question is how both camps in the dispute understand 1 Corinthians 13:8-12. In this context, the issue is how to interpret the expression in v. 10, "when that which is perfect is come …", which speaks about an event associated with the cessation of the gifts ("… then that which is in part shall be done away" is the second part of v. 10).

Continuationists understand the key expression "that which is perfect to come" as referring to the Second Coming of Christ, and, thus, the timing of the cessation of the gifts is associated with the eschatological event of Christ's Coming.[5] An argument for such interpretation is that our knowledge, v. 9, is in a state of imperfection (“in part”) because “that which is perfect” has not yet come, but when it does come, our knowledge will cease to be imperfect ("which is in part shall be done away"). Since the event of Christ's Second Coming will bring forth the completion of our knowledge, a continuationist argues that Christ's Second Coming is the candidate that best fits the description of the expression "the coming of that which is perfect". It is also pointed out that the expression "face to face" most likely refers to the state of heavenly glory.[6]

Some cessationists, such as John F. MacArthur, would agree with the continuationists that "perfection" refers to Christ's Second Coming, but interpret "prophecy" and revelatory gifts in natural terms.[7] Other cessationists, such as moderate and empirical Cessationists, would agree with the continuationist interpretation, but disagree with John F. MacArthur about the natural character of the gift of prophecy.[8] A moderate cessationist would say that 1 Corinthians 13 cannot serve as a proof-text for cessationism because of its many obscurities. Their explanation why the Bible is obscure on the question of the cessation of the gifts is that the gifts will reemerge and be in operation during the Great Tribulation. Thus, the gifts, from a moderate cessationist perspective, will be in operation before Christ's Second Coming; see Moderate cessationism.

However, most cessationists will disagree with the continuationist interpretation and will point out that the event of Christ's Second Coming is an instantaneous event.[9] The Greek term used for "perfect" is teleios (Strong's No. 5046), signifying a process of growth until completion, and not an instantaneous event. In support of this interpretation, it is pointed out that Paul's talk of perfection is illustrated with the metaphorical image of a child's growth unto manhood.[10] Concerning the expression "face to face", such cessationists would compare the expression to the Old Testament usage of "face to face" and point out that the expression was used to signify the perfection of the prophetic revelation given to Moses. In other words, the prophetic revelation of God's words through the Mosaic pact was depicted as a perfect revelation that was given "face to face". Paul similarly used the same expression to signify the coming of the perfect completion of the New Testament revelation.[11]

The "uniformity of prophecy" argumentEdit

Introduction

For principled cessationists, who reject continuationism by appealing to the principle of sola scriptura, the main issue is the logical relation between sola scriptura and the continuationist thesis. They contend that charismatic gifts would represent a second infallible source of authority for the Church, and therefore sola scriptura would not hold. Rather, the authority of the Scriptures would be regarded according to the principle of prima scriptura. A principled cessationist contends that a charismatic continuationist view subscribes to the strong sense of prima scriptura.[12] An argument for the incompatibility between continuationism and the principle of sola scriptura is the "uniformity of prophecy" argument.

The "uniformity of prophecy" argument is a cessationist argument based upon biblical observations of how prophetic ministry was practiced and how a prophet's words were treated in the Old Testament. It is interesting for two reasons: (1) it shows the underlying reason for the cessationist denial of the gifts, and (2) it purports to be direct biblical evidence for cessationism in that the premises of the argument are not meta-biblical, but rather descriptive statements of biblical observations concerning the ministry of a prophet. An example of a meta-biblical premise is a direct appeal to the principle of sola scriptura, while an appeal to an interpretation of a set of biblical passages (biblical observations or data) would constitute, in this context, a biblical premise.

The argument makes three observations about the nature of prophetic speech.[13]

Premises (biblical observations)
  1. the authoritative force of a prophetic self-declaration
  2. the uniform authority of prophetic words
  3. the divine origin of a prophecy

The first observation is that a prophetic speech begins with a strong and authoritative declaration such as "and so says the Lord", signifying the divine character of the speech, i.e. that it is spoken in the name of the Lord. The point with the first observation is that spoken prophetic words are God's direct words.[14]

The second observation is that orally spoken prophecies were assigned the same authority as written acknowledged prophecies. Consider, for instance, the great prophets Nathan and Elijah. These two prophets were as great in authority as Isaiah and Jeremiah. Yet there are no canonical books written by Nathan or Elijah. Moreover, prophecies from such great prophets would surely not be characterized as second-rate. Thus, their prophecies could, in principle, be included in the canon, had they been written down and preserved.

The third observation is that the source of true prophecies is the same; namely they stem directly from God.

Richard B. Gaffin makes a similar observation on the extent of a prophetic authority:

The issue is the inspired, Spirit-worked origin of prophecy and its correlative authority. The words of the prophet are the words of God and are to be received and responded to as such.[15]

He would object to the view that there is "a distinction between different levels of prophetic authority",[16] and would agree with the three observations above.[17]

Conclusion

All three observations above lead cessationists to conclude that a prophetic speech, once verified, is an infallible and divine speech, where God directly addresses people and which enjoys the same authority as written acknowledged prophecies. Thus, a cessationist's main motive in denying the continuationist thesis is that they are not prepared to accept the authority of new prophets. A cessationist is not prepared to accept the authority of new prophets precisely because it would commit them to the view that the authority of new prophets is the same as that of biblical prophets such as Jeremiah and John.[18]

The continuationist response and further issues

A continuationist would not have such worries because they attach a weaker sense to the terms 'prophet' or 'prophecy' in that they limit the authority and the scope of prophecy. A continuationist would say that a prophecy would not contain new doctrinal content. They would also point out that every true prophecy given today has to be consistent with the Bible. The Bible has greater authority, a continuationist might say, because it is by the Bible that the prophecies are tested. The Bible is the paradigm of true prophecies. Furthermore, every oral prophecy has to be tested and verified, while this is not the case with the Bible; see the section: the continuationist understanding of the verification of prophecy.

Thus, in the dispute over charismata, the questions regarding sola scriptura give rise to further issues such as the authority, scope and verification of modern prophecies, covered in the next sections.

Continuationist understandingEdit

On the Cessation of the CharismataEdit

Dr. Jon Ruthven's seminal work in On the Cessation of the Charismata[19] and What's Wrong With Protestant Theology?[20] provide a scholarly refute to cessationism and contends for the continuation of all spiritual gifts as part of the ongoing New Covenant experience for disciples of Jesus in Christianity.[21] The major proponent of cessationism, B.B. Warfield, defended fundamentalism and Calvinism against the growing theological liberalism movement of the late 19th century. Dr. Jon Ruthven refuses Warfield's work in Counterfeit Miracles[22] and draws one's attention to the biblical emphasis of scripture being that of the ongoing full operation of the charismata (spiritual grace gifts). The issue of modern-day cessationism can be traced back to The Reformation led by Martin Luther in the 1500s. It was in the Reformers attempt to distance themselves from the Roman Catholic Church and the Radical left wing Reformers (Thomas Muntzer, Anabaptists), that the doctrine which viewed closed the ongoing working of miracles, signs and wonders, healing and prophecy was attached to Calvin and Luther. Cessationism actually goes back further in history to paganism and Judaism of Jesus’ day. The leaders of Jesus’ day saw the “word” as memorization and reciting of the Law, the Torah. It was the claim of blasphemy against the tenants of cessatonism by which Jesus would be arrested and later crucified. In present day, cessationism is a much larger issue in North America than it is in other parts of the world (Asia, Africa, Eastern Europe). Dr. Jon Ruthven takes on one of the most revered Reformed Calvinist scholars, B.B. Warfield, and his published work on cessationism, Counterfeit Miracles,[23] in an effort to breath the life of Scripture into churches, seminaries and discipleship. B.B. Warfield (1855-1921) was a professor of didactic and polemic theology at Princeton Seminary from 1887-1921. In the late 1800s, Warfield and Princeton University were the last defense against the growing popularity of Liberalism, Irvingnites, the Wesleyan “higher life” and Keswick movements.

B.B. Warfield's view was that the goal of the charismata was to accredit true doctrine or its bearers, and the belief that though God can providentially act in usual ways, miracles are limited to the Biblical era. Miracles are seen as proving doctrine and once the canon was sealed and the last Apostles died, it was not needed. This presupposition no doubt is traced not so much to Scripture which we will show, as it is to the grievance the Reformation had against the Catholic Church who claimed that their post-Biblical miracles, signs and wonders validated their doctrine. We observe evidentialism in the early church fathers' writings in defense of the Church against Judaism. Warfield was highly influence by the work of John Calvin and rarely deviated in his thinking. A second major influence to Warfield was the Enlightenment epistemology of Scottish Common Sense philosophy (SCSP). Ruthven notes that it was Warfield's Calvinist roots that objected to the Roman Catholic and the Enlightenment era SCSP realism that challenged post-Biblical ecclesiastical miracles. The writing of Conyers Middleton, who John Wesley objected to, were taken by B.B. Warfield as his own. Middleton's (and Warfield's) historical methodology towards miracles is outlined as follows:[24]

1.Miracles are of such a nature and performed in such a manner as would necessarily inject suspicion of fraud and delusion.

2.That the cures and beneficial effects of them were either false, imaginary or accidental.

3.They tend to confirm the idlest of all errors and superstitions.

4.The integrity of the witnesses is either highly questionable or their credulity renders them unworthy of any credit (Ad Hominem argument)

5.So trifling as to excite nothing but contempt.

Historical Perspective:

B.B. Warfield used a two leg approach in his defense of cessationism in which he attempts to perform a critical analysis based on a 'historical leg' and a 'scriptural leg'. Ruthven concludes that Warfield's concept of miracle, is internally contradictory and as a result useless. Ruthven agrees with Warfield's premise that the function of the charismata determines its duration based on the emphasis of Scripture. Scripture explicitly states, Ruthven opines, that the function of the charismata is not for the accreditation of apostles and true doctrine, but for the edification, exhortation, encouragement and equipping of all believers for further service. Warfield attempts to ride two incompatible horses. In his fight against Liberalists who rationalize and de-mythologize or allegorize New Testament miracles, Warfield has a faith oriented, super-naturalistic and subjective position. However, he switches 'horses' when it comes to the view towards post-Biblical miracles and takes a common sense, naturalistic, objective and scientific approach. It is evident that the very argument Liberals take against the validity of New Testament miracles, Warfield, a fundamentalist, takes the same Liberal arguments and uses them in his position against post-Biblical era. The work of Dr. Randy Clark and Dr. Jon Ruthven both conclude that this invalidates Warfield's polemic.[25]

Scriptural Perspective:

One would expect given B.B. Warfield's pedigree and proficiency in Scripture he would present a balanced and succinct hermeneutic exposition on what Scripture says about the ongoing charismata. Surprisingly, he spends very little time exegeting Scripture to support his claims. Further, he violates his own hermeneutical principle to comprehend how the original audience would have understood the text. Warfield fails to address two major doctrines of Scripture, that of the Holy Spirit and the Kingdom, both of which lend credence to the continuation of the charismata. Like Calvin before him, the current role of the Holy Spirit is seen only in the steps of salvation (ordo salutes). Warfield's pneumatology fails to account for the great Old Testament promises of the specifically prophetic Spirit to be poured out upon all eschatological generations who believe, beginning with those in the New Testament era (Isaiah 44:3, 59:21; Joel 2:28-29; Acts 2:4,38). Jesus preaches the Gospel of the Kingdom in both word and deed; and it is such miracles that are the manifestation of the Kingdom on Earth as it is in Heaven. It should be pointed out that Jesus demonstrated and taught all these things and then had the disciples (both the 12 and the 70) imitate him in doing the same thing as a practical extension of Jesus’ own activities. Preaching the kingdom in word and deed with miracles continues in Acts and in the ministry life of Paul and others.

Jon Ruthven draws our attention to three primary Scripture passages that establish the foundation of charismata’s continuation until Jesus’ return (parousia), none of which are addressed by Warfield. The charismata are eschatological and express the contemporary presence of the future Kingdom of God for the church as highlighted below:[26]

1 Corinthians 1:4-8— This text talks of extraordinary charismata that will continue until the return of Christ (parousia). Paul tells us that the Corinthians do not lack any spiritual gift.

1 Corinthians 13:8-13— Spiritual gifts have a direct correlation to eschatology. The charismata are a means to and end and part of the commission Christ gave his followers. Spiritual gifts will have an end but that does not occur until the end of the age when Christ returns.

Ephesians 4:7-13— This is a parallel passage to the above verses. Part of the governmental structure of Christ's body, the Church, is the fivefold office gifts being administered. Once again the operation of the gifts are tied to an eschatological outcome. Karl Barth stated, “It is assumed that the church at all times needs the witness of apostles and prophets; further, Paul does not anticipate that the inspired and enthusiastic ministry was to be absorbed by and disappear into offices and officers.”[27]

Summary of Warfield and Cessationism:

In his attempt to protect Christian orthodoxy against the errors of liberalism and rationalism, B.B. Warfield's own biases blind him from the reality of the New Covenant Spirit in our post Biblical era.[28] Both Luther, Calvin and Warfield censure the ongoing operation of the charismata which is critical to the church and parousia of Jesus. Dr. Jon Ruthven points out that the New Covenant Jesus came to initiate and in which we live is one where believers walk in all the gifts of the Spirit and a prophetic lifestyle with God. The Gospel Jesus preached was that of the Kingdom of God, and the New Covenant which we now live in is based upon the outpouring of the charismata through the Holy Spirit. All of this will continue until we reach the perfect man and Christ returns (Eph. 4:11-13). The ongoing prevalence of cessationism in the Calvinist reaches of the North American church (though noticeably absent in other parts of the world) has had much influence on the models of discipleship, leadership and education in place today.

Dr. Jon Ruthven's polemic exposes the core underlying principle of the Kingdom of God that is normative— God is present, and He is not silent. Biblical emphasis theology highlights the grand narrative of God speaking directly to his children (past and present) as they overcome by virtue of the Messiah, Jesus. Ruthven expands on this idea: “The central theme of the Bible is that the word of God is revealed directly to the human heart resulting in a testing in confrontations with evil— all with the goal toward intimacy with God.” Miracles and the charismata do not prove the gospel or doctrine; they are an expression or manifestation of the Gospel itself. Jesus came to model the veracity of this kingdom principle as he ratified the covenant and imparted the Spirit of God with fire and power in the New Covenant.[29]

The authority of prophecyEdit

Some continuationists, such as Wayne Grudem, make a distinction between two kinds of prophets, foundational and non-foundational prophets.[30] The foundational prophets were those Apostles that were also prophets, while the non-foundational prophets would be prophets that were not among the Apostles. This distinction is significant in the dispute because a continuationist, by appealing to this distinction, can avoid the conclusion that modern prophecies may have content with new doctrinal import. Only foundational prophets could come up with prophecies with new doctrinal import that serve as the foundation of the Church. Grudem would agree that the apostolic and foundational prophetic ministries were gone while contending that the gift of prophecy is still in operation, because not all possessors of the gift of prophecy had the foundational ministry of a prophet. Thus, there are still non-foundational prophets in the Church because they do not add something new to the foundation in the way that prophecies with new doctrinal import would.

Other continuationists, such as Craig Simonian, make a similar distinction between prophecies carrying a canonical weight from prophecies that do not.[31] Simonian sees in Moses as "an archetype of a unique strand of prophets which was ultimately fulfilled in the Messiah as indicated in the New Testament."[32] Such archetype of prophets had a canonical authority and not all prophets were of that archetype. Other prophets received revelation via visions or dreams, and as such did not carry the foundational weight. Thus, a continuationist does not accept the cessationist premise of the uniform authority of prophets.

Simonian cites several biblical observations supporting the distinction between canonical (foundational) and noncanonical (nonfoundational) prophets. Some of these biblical observations are reports of people who began prophesying after the Spirit of God had fallen upon them: e.g. Numbers 11:25, when elders started to prophecy; and 1 Samuel 10, when Saul prophesied. In these biblical reports, it is observed that people spontaneously prophesied when the Spirit of God had fallen upon them, although they were not ordinarily prophets. Simonian notes that "what Saul prophesied was not recorded that day and it is likely that his prophesies lacked any lasting significance."[33]

The verification of prophecyEdit

A continuationist will further point out that the Bible is an indispensable guide for the verification of prophecies.[34] Verification in this context means an evaluative conclusion by some reliable test that something is true. Falsification, on the other hand, means an evaluative conclusion by some reliable test that something is false.

How is a prophecy verified (or falsified) by the Bible? A continuationist understands the test by judging the doctrinal content of a prophetic message against the teachings of the Bible. If the content or implications of a prophecy contradict the teachings of the Bible, the prophecy in question is false.

In addition, most continuationists would further contend that a prophecy given by a non-foundational prophet can contain both true and false elements, and for that reason the Scriptures command Christians to test prophecies (cf. 1 Corinthians 14:29, 1 Thessalonians 5:20).[35] Thus, a continuationist concludes that modern prophecies do not represent an infallible source of authority for the Church and, as such, the principle of sola scriptura is not violated.

Disputes concerning the authority of propheciesEdit

Both cessationists and continuationists agree that Christ's Church is built upon the foundation of prophets and apostles; no other foundation is allowed. This means that the doctrines of the Church are built upon the apostolic and prophetic foundation as well (cf. Ephesians 2:20).

And are built upon the foundation of the apostles and prophets, Jesus Christ himself being the chief corner stone; In whom all the building fitly framed together groweth unto an holy temple in the Lord.[36]

Thus, the cessationist concludes, if the gift of prophecy is in operation nowadays, then the prophetic foundation is in effect today and was not completed by the end of the first century. Therefore, modern prophecies could, in principle, add new doctrinal content to the Scriptures – new doctrinal elements not necessarily in contradiction with the Scriptures.

What one sees above is how the cessationist notion of prophecy plays here. The continuationist notion would not reach the cessationist conclusion precisely because the continuationist scope of modern prophecies is limited, i.e. it holds that they are not of foundational character. Continuationists, such as Wayne Grudem can readily agree with cessationists that we no longer have foundational ministries such as the apostolic and prophetic ministries, as referenced in Ephesians 2:20.[37] These ministries ended at the beginning of the second century. Nevertheless, the gift of prophecy is still in operation because not all possessors of the gift of prophecy had the foundational ministry of a prophet. Thus, there is a distinction between foundational and non-foundational prophetic ministries. A non-foundational prophetic ministry would not involve prophecies with new doctrinal import and, as such, would not contribute anything to the foundation of the Church.

Some continuationists, such as Craig Simonian, make a similar distinction between canonical and noncanonical prophets. They would maintain that not all prophets have a "canonical authority" by observing two strands of prophets in the Old Testament (see the section "Continuationist Understanding") and that this pattern continued in the New Testament.[38]

Cessationists would have a different interpretation of biblical data and not reach the same continuationist conclusion concerning the non-foundational authority of "lesser prophets". A cessationist would concede that some prophets, such as Moses, were greater in the clarity and reception of God's revelation, but not conclude that they were greater in authority than prophets who had less clear revelations. A cessationist would raise many questions concerning these "lesser prophets": Although there were occasions that the Spirit had fallen upon some persons, who were not ordinarily prophets, why would their prophecies had a lesser authority? Were not their words spoken in the name of the Lord? Would not this imply that, at the moment of their prophetic speech act, they were the very mouthpiece of God? Would not their word be infallible in the virtue of being God's word?

A continuationist would disagree and explain why a non-canonical oral prophecy, even though it is inspired by God, is nevertheless fallible. The question of fallibility of noncanonical prophecies is dealt in the section "Disputes concerning the verification of prophecies".

Disputes concerning the verification of propheciesEdit

An important issue concerns the question of the verification of prophecies. The Scriptures command Christians to test prophecies (cf. 1 Corinthians 14:29, 1 Thessalonians 5:20). Would this imply that a prophecy can be a mixture of both true and false elements? Most continuationists would answer positively to this question.[39]

From the cessationist perspective, however, it is odd to say that a prophecy given by a genuine true prophet, i.e., a prophet who was inspired by God's Spirit, can be a mixture of both false and true statements. A cessationist would question the inteligibility of such notion of true prophecy. How can a prophet be entitled to declare "and so says the Lord" and utter false statements, as if the Lord's words were deceptive?[40]

A continuationist reply is that an oral prophecy might be fallible due to the human fallibility. C. Samuel Storms gives an explanation of how can prophecies be fallible.

The key is in recognizing that with every prophecy there are four elements, only one of which is assuredly of God: There is the revelation itself; there is the perception or reception of that revelation by the believer; there is the interpretation of what has been disclosed or the attempt to ascertain its meaning; and there is the application of that interpretation. God alone is responsible for the revelation. (...) It is infallible as he is. It contains no falsehoods (...) Error enters in when the human recipient of a revelation misperceives, misinterprets and/or misapplies what God has disclosed. The fact that God has spoken perfectly does not mean that human beings have heard perfectly.[41]

A cessationist would be skeptic towards such a continuationist theory of inspiration due to the following problems:

First, Deuteronomy 18:20-22 teaches that a false prophet, who speaks presumptuously in the name of the Lord, is exposed by discovering falsehoods in his prophetic predictions. Deuteronomy 18 is about oral prophecies, and thus, it is about noncanonical prophecies. If it is allowed that true prophecies contain error, a cessationists contends that it would not be possible to distinguish true prophets from false prophets who presumptuously speak in the name of the Lord.

Second, there is no ground for restricting the continuationist theory of inspiration only to noncanonical prophecies. Consequently, canonical prophecies might be fallible as well. If fallibility of canonical prophecies is allowed, a cessationist would point out that the continuationist theory of inspiration would violate the principle of sola scriptura because sola scriptura teaches that the Scriptures is the only infallible authority for the Church.

In the logic of prophetic self-declarations, a genuine prophecy is treated as divine and infallible. A cessationist, thus, concludes that a prophetic self-declaration does not carry any weight if the spoken prophecy is treated as human and fallible.

Implication of the closure of the canonEdit

According to the cessationist perspective, the fundamental problem of continuationism can be formulated as a following question:

Let us assume that we have tested a prophetic utterance and are certain that it is true: God is the source of the prophecy. Why should not this prophecy enjoy the same authority as the canonical prophecies of the Bible?

The above problem concerns the question whether new prophecies would enjoy the same authority as the canonical prophecies of the Bible. According to cessationists, the canon would be open if the gift of prophecy is still in operation. Some continuationists misconstrue the cessationist appeal to the closure of the canon as if cessationists do not acknowledge noncanonical revelations and, then, try to show that the Bible makes clear of the existence of noncanonical revelations.[42] However, the cessationist question regarding noncanonical revelations is about their authority. The cessationist appeal to the closure of the canon does not imply that cessationists do not acknowledge the existence of revelations not included in the canon. The cessationist point is that such noncanonical revelations would enjoy the same authority as the canonical. Consequently, new prophecies and revelations would likewise enjoy the same authority as the canonical prophecies and revelations of the Holy Scriptures. Therefore, noncanonical revelations could, in principle, be included in the canon, had they been written and preserved. The cessationist main concern is how would modern prophetic speech differ in authority from the inspired speech of canonical prophets and apostles.[43]

A continuationist reply to the cessationist challenge is to appeal to the distinction between canonical and noncanonical prophecies, but at the same time downgrade the authority of noncanonical revelations.

Thus, the dispute concerning the implication of the closure of the canon revolves around two related issues regarding noncanonical revelation:

  1. Is the continuationist differentiation of degrees of prophetic authority valid?
  2. Is the cessationist thesis of the uniform authority of prophecies valid?

The question of the non-revelatory giftsEdit

A continuationist would question the cessationist rationale as a general ground for maintaining cessation of all gifts. What about the non-revelatory gifts, such as the gifts of power?[44] How would these gifts violate the principle of sola scriptura? According to most cessationists, a person with the gift of power is also a prophet.[45] From cessationist perspective, healings and miracles were always signs associated with the divine confirmation of the genuineness of a prophet in periods when God revealed new truths with respect to the doctrine. Within cessationist framework, miracles and healing are signs of apostleship and prophethood, and, thus, are seen in the context of the formation of new doctrines, cf. Acts 2:43, 2 Corinthians 12:12.[46]

See alsoEdit

NotesEdit

  1. ^ Živadinović, Dojcin (2015). "Wesley and Charisma: An Analysis of John Wesley's View of Spiritual Gifts". Andrews University Seminary Student Journal. 1 (2): 53–71.
  2. ^ John F. MacArthur, Charismatic Chaos, endnote 20, p. 389
  3. ^ Robert L. Thomas, Understanding Spiritual Gifts, chapter one.
  4. ^ Robert L. Thomas, Understanding Spiritual Gifts, Appendix A "First Corinthians 13:11 Revisited: An Exegetical Update." Walter J. Chandry's fifth section of Signs of the Apostles
  5. ^ The other two candidates for "perfection" is (1) the maturity of the church, and (2) the completion of the canon. However, Christ's Second Coming (parousia) is the candidate that best fits into the continuationist theory. Most continuationists, such as D. A. Carson, argue for parousia as the best candidate; e.g. D. A. Carson, Showing the Spirit - A Theological Exposition of 1 Corinthians 12-14, pp. 67-72 (Baker Books, Grand Rapids, Michigan, 1987)
  6. ^ D. A. Carson, Showing the Spirit - A Theological Exposition of 1 Corinthians 12-14, pp. 70-71 (Baker Books, Grand Rapids, Michigan, 1987)
  7. ^ John F. MacArthur, Charismatic Chaos, endnote 20, p. 389
  8. ^ Richard B. Gaffin would agree with the continuationist interpretation, see his Perspectives on Pentecost, p. 109 (Presbyterian and Reformed Publishing Company, New Jersey, 1979), but disagree with the natural character of the gift of prophecy, Perspectives on Pentecost, p. 59. However, Robert L. Thomas would disagree with John F. MacArthur on both accounts: (1) the gift of prophecy is a miraculous gift having a predictive quality, Understanding Spiritual Gifts, p. 33, 61, 117 (Kregel Publications, Grand Rapids, 1999), and (2) 1 Corinthians 13:11 teaches about the cessation of the gifts, Understanding Spiritual Gifts, pp. 78-84, 188-190 and Appendix A "First Corinthians 13:11 Revisited: An Exegetical Update."
  9. ^ Robert L. Thomas, Understanding Spiritual Gifts, Appendix A "First Corinthians 13:11 Revisited: An Exegetical Update," argues that to teleion cannot mean "the perfect", but that it means "mature" or "complete" by showing how the Greek term was used in the NT and in all Greek literature. Walter J. Chandry is another example of a Cessationist that interpret "perfection" in the text as referring to the completion of the Canon; see the fifth section of his Signs of the Apostles
  10. ^ Walter J. Chandry's fifth section of Signs of the Apostles
  11. ^ Walter J. Chandry's fifth section of Signs of the Apostles
  12. ^ This cessationist contention is presented in the entire cessationist literature expressing the worry that new prophecies and revelations are addition to the canon. For references: Robert L. Thomas, Understanding Spiritual Gifts, Appendix C and Appendix D; John F. MacArthur, Charismatic Chaos, Chapter 2; Richard B. Gaffin's view of the foundational character of prophecy in Perspective on Pentecost and his article "A Cessationist View", in the anthology Are Miraculous Gifts for Today - Four Views, p. 42 (Zondervan, Michigan, 1996), etc.
  13. ^ These observations are implicit in various cessationist works, such as in Richard B. Gaffin's discussion about the foundational character of prophecy in Perspectives on Pentecost, Chapter 4, Section B "Prophecy (the Christian prophet)". Other noted cessationists would agree with the first and third observations, such as Robert L. Tomas, John F. MacArthur, Walter Chandry, etc. All will regard prophetic ministry as foundational, but some will agree with the thesis of uniform authority of prophets with some qualifications. For instance, Robert L. Thomas' work Understanding Spiritual Gifts would regard the ministry of prophet as foundational. He is of the view that all apostles were prophets, but not vice versa. Those prophets, who were not apostles, had a lesser authority than that of the OT prophets and the Apostles. Nevertheless, all principled cessationists would agree that prophets were involved in a foundational work, and their authority was, thus, canonical. See for instance Robert L. Thomas' discussion on this subject in Understanding Spiritual Gifts, Appendix C "The Spiritual Gift of Prophecy in Revelation 22:18" and Appendix D "Correlation of Revelatory Spiritual Gifts and New Testament Canonicity."
  14. ^ Aleksandar Katanovic, "The force of the prophetic self-declaration" Archived 2016-10-16 at the Wayback Machine, in: "The End of Charismatic Gifts." Virtually all principled cessationists make this point about infallible and divine character of a prophetic speech. To mention some: Richard B. Gaffin, Perspective on Pentecost, p. 72 (Presbyterian and Reformed Publishing Company, New Jersey, 1979). Robert L. Thomas, Understanding Spiritual Gifts, p. 176 (Kregel Publications, Grand Rapids, 1999). O. Palmer Robertson, The Final Word – A Biblical Response for Tongues & Prophecy today, pp. 2-3 (The Banner of Truth Trust, 2004). W. C. Klein "Prophetic inspiration" in Prophecy, Prophets, Dictionary of the Bible, p. 804 (2nd Edition, Edinburgh, 1963)
  15. ^ Richard B. Gaffin, Perspectives on Pentecost, p. 72 (Presbyterian and Reformed Publishing Company, New Jersey, 1979)
  16. ^ Richard B. Gaffin, Perspectives on Pentecost, p. 68 (Presbyterian and Reformed Publishing Company, New Jersey, 1979)
  17. ^ See Richard B. Gaffin's discussion about the foundational character of prophecy in Perspectives on Pentcost, Chapter 4, Section B "Prophecy (the Christian prophet)"
  18. ^ All principled cessationists would agree with this; the entire cessationist literature is about this very point, such as works by Richard B. Gaffin, Robert L. Thomas, O. Palmer Robertson, John F. MacArthur, etc.
  19. ^ Jon., Ruthven (2011, ©1993). On the cessation of the charismata : the Protestant polemic on post-biblical miracles (Rev. ed.). Tulsa: Word & Spirit Press. ISBN 9780981952628. OCLC 756761638. Check date values in: |date= (help)
  20. ^ Mark., Ruthven, Jon (2013). What's wrong with protestant theology? : tradition vs. biblical emphasis. Tulsa, OK: Word & Spirit Press. ISBN 098195264X. OCLC 853649340.
  21. ^ Ruthven, Jon Mark (2011). On The Cessation of the Charismata. Tulsa, Oklahoma: Word & Spirit Press. ISBN 9780981952628.
  22. ^ 1851-1921., Warfield, Benjamin Breckinridge (1972). Counterfeit miracles. Edinburgh, UK: Banner of Truth Trust. ISBN 085151166X. OCLC 462046751.
  23. ^ 1851-1921., Warfield, Benjamin Breckinridge (1972). Counterfeit miracles. Edinburgh, UK: Banner of Truth Trust. ISBN 085151166X. OCLC 462046751.
  24. ^ CONYERS., MIDDLETON (2015). FREE INQUIRY INTO THE MIRACULOUS POWERS : which are supposed to have subsisted in the christian... church, from the earliest ages through several suc. [S.l.]: FORGOTTEN BOOKS. ISBN 1331582717. OCLC 983138564.
  25. ^ Clark, Randy. "Biblical and Historial Answers to Cessationism DVD Teaching". www.globalawakening.com. Retrieved September 1, 2018.
  26. ^ Ruthven, Jon Mark (2011). On the Cessation of the Charismata. Tulsa, Oklahoma: Word & Spirit Press. pp. 107–140. ISBN 9780981952628.
  27. ^ Ruthven, Jon Mark (2011). On the Cessation of the Charismata. Tulsa, Oklahoma: Word & Spirit Press. p. 133. ISBN 9780981952628.
  28. ^ Randy, Clark (2018). Eyewitness to miracles : watching the Gospel come to life. Brown, Joshua,, Gunther Brown, Candy,. Nashville, TN: Emanate Books. ISBN 9780785219057. OCLC 996759072.
  29. ^ Ruthven, Jon Mark (2013). What's Wrong with Protestant Theology? Traditional vs. Biblical Emphasis. Tulsa, Oklahoma: Word & Spirit Press. ISBN 098195264X.
  30. ^ Wayne Grudem, The Gift of Prophecy in the New Testament and Today, in his exposition of Ephesians 2:20
  31. ^ Craig Simonian, "A Challenge Against the Cessation of Prophesy," section "PROPHESY & PROPHETS IN THE OT
  32. ^ Craig Simonian, "A Challenge Against the Cessation of Prophesy," section "PROPHESY & PROPHETS IN THE OT
  33. ^ Craig Simonian, "A Challenge Against the Cessation of Prophesy," section "PROPHESY & PROPHETS IN THE OT
  34. ^ Virtually all continuationists agree on this point, See for instance Don Codling, Sola Scriptura and the Revelatory Gifts, pp. 130-131 (Sentinell Press, Rice, 2005); D.A. Carson, Showing the Spirit: 1 Cor 12-14, pp. 163-164; Douglas A. Oss, "A Pentecostal/Charismatic View," in: Are Miraculous Gifts for Today, p. 279.
  35. ^ Wayne Grudem, The Gift of Prophecy in the New Testament and Today, 70-79, 104-5. See also Carson, Showing the Spirit, 95. M. M. B. Turner, on whom Carson is dependent, writes, "The presupposition [of 1 Corinthians 14:29] is that any one New Testament prophetic oracle is expected to be mixed in quality, and the wheat must be separated from the chaff" ("Spiritual Gifts Then and Now," Vox evangelica 15 [1985]:16 [emphasis Turner's]). A similar position is taken by D. Atkinson, Prophecy (Bramcote, England: Grove Books, 1977) 13-14, 16-17. See also a defense for the fallibility of non-canonical prophecies in: C. Samuel Storms, "A Third Wave View," in Are Miraculous Gifts For Today?, pp. 207-210
  36. ^ Ephesians 2:20-21
  37. ^ Wayne Grudem, The Gift of Prophecy in the New Testament and Today
  38. ^ Craig Simonian, "A Challenge Against the Cessation of Prophesy," section "PROPHESY FROM THE INTERTESTAMENTAL PERIOD TO PENTECOST."
  39. ^ Wayne Grudem, The Gift of Prophecy in the New Testament and Today, 70-79, 104-5. See also Carson, Showing the Spirit, 95. M. M. B. Turner, on whom Carson is dependent, writes, "The presupposition [of 1 Cor 14:29] is that any one New Testament prophetic oracle is expected to be mixed in quality, and the wheat must be separated from the chaff" ("Spiritual Gifts Then and Now," Vox evangelica 15 [1985]:16 [emphasis Turner's]). A similar position is taken by D. Atkinson, Prophecy (Bramcote, England: Grove Books, 1977) 13-14, 16-17. See also a defense for the fallibility of non-canonical prophecies in: C. Samuel Storms, "A Third Wave View," in Are Miraculous Gifts For Today?, pp. 207-210
  40. ^ More about cessationist interpretation of the command to test prophets, see R. Fowler White, "Gaffin and Grudem on Ephesians 2:20 – In Defense of Gaffin's Cessationist Exegesis", part III. 7. "Explicit Passages on Prophecy by Non-Apostles"
  41. ^ C. Samuel Storms, "A Third Wave View," in Are Miraculous Gifts For Today?, pp. 207-208
  42. ^ Don Codling, Sola Scriptura and the Revelatory Gifts, pp. 63-70
  43. ^ As an example of such cessationist concern, see Richard Gaffin, "A Cessationist response to C. Samuel Storms and Douglas A. Oss," in: Are Miraculous Gifts For Today?, pp. 293-294 (Zondervan, Grand Rapids, Michigan, 1996)
  44. ^ See an explanation of all charismatic gifts in: Aleksandar Katanovic, "The Nine Gifts of the Holy Spirit," Archived 2016-10-16 at the Wayback Machine in: "The End of Charismatic Gifts." The given explanation is similarly hold by other cessationists, such as Robert L. Thomas, see his Understanding Spiritual Gifts, chapter one.
  45. ^ Most cessationists are strong cessationists, see Wikipedia entry Strong Cessationism
  46. ^ It is safe to say that all Cessationists agree with the perspective of the confirmatory gifts such as John F. MacArthur, Charismatic Chaos, p 244 (Zondervan Publishing House, Michigan, 1992); Robert L. Thomas, Understanding Spiritual Gifts, pp. 31-33 (Kregel Publications, Grand Rapids, 1999), Richard B. Gaffin, "A Cessationist View," in Are Miraculous Gifts for Today - Four Views, p. 42 (Zondervan, Michigan, 1996), etc.

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