Wednesday, December 14, 2005

On Spiritual Gifts

Until now, I have refrained from posting anything on the raging debate between cessationists and continuationists. In case you are unaware, some of the most popular blogs have been posting on this topic for several months now. Cessationists argue that the miraculous gifts ceased with the early apostles. Continuationists argue that these gifts are still active in the Church. I guess I could be labeled as a cautious continuationist. I certainly believe the gifts are still available to the Church but am unsure of all the ins and outs of their purposes and practices today.

Tim Challies is doing a series of interviews with two scholars on each side of the debate. The final interview was posted today. Wayne Grudem (the continuationist) said something today that I just want to highlight:

Cessationists hold their position because they personally have not experienced any of the miraculous gifts, not because they are convinced from Scripture.

As I talk to cessationists, I find this to be true. Read the interviews for yourself and then let me know what you think.


Dallas Taras said...

I would like to know your thoughts on the comment. Are we to be governed by our experience or the Word?

justin said...

I think the comment in bold is exactly right.
No doubt, we are to be governed by the Word. This is the problem with the cessationist argument. They are arguing from experience and not from Scripture (even thought they would never admit this).

Tim Challies said...

"Cessationists hold their position because they personally have not experienced any of the miraculous gifts, not because they are convinced from Scripture."

I could reply that continuationists hold their position because they personally have experienced what they feel are the miraculous gifts.

Either way we are in violation of the principle of Sola Scriptura since as Protestants we testify that Scripture alone is our infallible, normative guide.

justin said...

Thanks for commenting Tim.
However, I am a continuationist and have never experienced the miraculous gifts in my own life. I just read the Bible and see that God gives to His church these gifts and no evidence for them to have ceased.

Tony K. said...

I think Dr. Mohler is a prophet – though he would deny it. Many people who claim the gifts are from groups that do not hold sound doctrine. The Sovereign Grace people and Wayne Grudem have done a lot to move me toward the open side. If I were to have a manifestation I would first question myself.

On the flip side. Do you believe in demonic gifts? Like a supernatural ability to deceive. Or more common, the gift of criticism (common in many Baptist congregations).

Tim Challies said...

"I think Dr. Mohler is a prophet – though he would deny it."

James White's book "Scripture Alone" has a chapter called "Definitions: More Than Half the Battle." I suspect that a whole lot of the controvery regarding cessationism and continuationism centers around definitions. If we could agree on definitions, we would be much closer to agreeing on how the gifts are or are not used. As it stands, though, we cannot even agree on what the gifts are (or were). How much less, then, can we agree on how they are, or are not, manifested.

Rob Tombrella said...

Agreed. The very fact that we preface certain gifts by calling them "miraculous" (as opposed to the less-than-miraculous? gifts distributed to hell-deserving sinners)means that we need to work together in defining our terms. As a once die-hard cessationist, I am uncomfortable with the "status" that comes when we define any gift as miraculous--and treat others as "normal." I think more cessationists would be open to tounges and prophecy if we put them on the same playing field as gifts like hospitality, helps, and administration.

Phillip M. Way said...

how come so many of the gifts suppossedly still in operation today look nothing like the NT gifts? I mean, if the gifts do not follow the Scripture then they are false and fake, right?

Yes we need to define the terms, but we also need to define how the gifts were/are to be used. 1 Cor 14 gives a list of specific requirements for the use of tongues. Just a look at a few of them disauqlifies most of the tongues we see today!

For example - tongues (by definition, a known human language, just not known to the speaker!) are to be spoken by one person at a time, no more than 2 or 3 at a service, and an interpreter must be present! Yep. See 1 Cor 14:27-28. When was the last time you saw it done that way?

We definitely need to define the terms and the guidelines for discerning if a gift is even spiritual in nature!


blake white said...

I am also a continuationist, but have never experienced any of the "miraculous gifts." I like Grudem (and Piper's) definition of prophecy. His seems more faithful to the whole of Scripture. I actually witnessed tongues done according to biblical guidelines at the Brooklyn Tab, which is not known for its sound doctrine. Storms has written about tongues and known languages here: