Want Some Answers ???


I had made this comment (1) somewhere and Jon (either a ThD or PhD) responded (2) -

(1) Do I misunderstand what you people claim? Perhaps if you are a Pentecostal you might answer a few concerns? Charismatic's claim, "We need to proclaim divine healing and the baptism of the Holy Spirit". I ask, where does the Bible say that?

The Bible does say the 'sign' gifts given the early church ceased (Mk.16:20 Heb.2:3-4 note the pasted tense). The gift of tongues, healing, miracles and prophecy "vanished away" when the purpose for which they were given ended [1 Cor.13:8f]. Not the first time God gave miraculous endowments for a limited period [ie children of Israel in the Wilderness]. So those who think they have what God once gave the early church must be deluding themselves. Like in Acts 2 - God gave real known spoken languages, to witnesses to the Jews, but today what people obviously have is gibberish, which they make up (Ac.2:7-12).

Also consider the damage done by so-called 'faith healers' and their failed claims. Such an emphasis on bodily healing distorts the gospel. In Pentecostal worship its disconcerting to see the orchestrated emotionalism and people loosing control. How can this be a 'moving of the Holy Spirit' when God has given a Spirit of self control [Gal.5:22-23 2 Tim.3:1-3]? Surely what people need is a revival back to the Bible and the plain Gospel? Feel free to correct my misunderstanding.

(2) Greetings Doctor,

Thanks for your reply, although you must be very busy. Your comments interest me and I would love to reflect. I mentioned that by the end of the apostolic period the apostolic message was complete so the revelatory gifts 'ceased' to serve purpose. You comment -

>>This hermeneutic clearly based on a temporal, canon-within-a-canon, progressive revelation approach. I believe that the nature of the NT canon is such that ALL of it applies to ALL people at all times. I have a very high view of scripture in this regard. I cannot agree with you that some parts of the NT have a lesser binding force on us than other parts.<<

Not that some parts have 'lesser binding force' than others, but that some are understood and applied differently than other parts. Because scripture is written to different people at different times and we must "rightly divide the word of truth" [2 Tim.2:15]. For example, in one passage the disciples were told don't take a purse and don't go to the Gentiles [Mt.10:5-6 Lk.10:4-16], and yet in another they are told do 'take a purse' and do go to the Gentiles [Lk.22:35-36 Ac.1:8]. In the Gospels we have the teaching of Christ to His disciples, but in the Epistles we have the explanation and instruction of Christ to the church. We don't ignore one because of the other, but we do apply them differently, recognizing some verses were written for unique, never repeated events.

I would say that the Bible is a 'progressive revelation' in particular, a 'final revelation'. Although some disagree, arguing the current instances of charismatic prophecy are divine revelations equal to Scripture. I would see this as abandoning the uniqueness of Scripture as the only Word of God, and leading to the problem where experience undermines the authority of ALL Scripture.

I mentioned tongues are not alluded to, or hinted at, in the Apostolic fathers [Chrysostom stated categorically that it ceased by his time]. The only tongue speakers during the first 500 years of the church were branded as heretics. You wrote,

>>Most scholarship today seems to affirm that not only historically, but theologically, until Chrysostom, the church supported the continuation of the charisms, especially prophecy, "in all the church until the end" as one father put it (it's in my book, and in an article by Gary Shogren from the anti-charismatic Biblical Seminary in Pennsylvania, on the use of 1 Cor 13:8-10 in the early church, Journal of the Evangelical Theological Society, 1999, I think.) The Montanists were declared heretics, although the movement was very widespread and even included Tertullian, only because they claimed exclusive possession of prophecy, not because they claimed spiritual gifts.<<

Yes the church did not experience a continuation of the genuine sign gifts given to the early church. Several local church councils instead of supporting, condemned Montanism. So "the mainstream church was left with a heightened appreciation of the apostolic teaching, and prophecy in all forms (rather than continuing) virtually disappeared from the church". [p.444 New Dictionary of Theology Inter-Varsity Press 1988]. Perhaps Eusebius explains why (regarding Montanus) - "And he became beside himself, and being suddenly in a sort of frenzy and ecstasy, he raved and began to babble and utter strange things...Some of those who heard the spurious utterances at that time were indignant and rebuked him as one possessed under control of a demon... And he stirred up besides two women and filled them with the false spirit, so that they talked wildly and unreasonably and strangely." [Eusebius 'Church History' vol.1 Nicene and Post Nicene Fathers eds. Scaff/Wace Eerdmans 1961 v.16 pg.231].

So indeed, Montanus had similar characteristics to modern Pentecostal prophets. Yet the genuine gift of tongues given to the early church mentioned in the earliest books of the NT seems to have faded out of view. After First Corinthians, in all of Paul's 12 epistles there's no mention. And Peter, James, Jude and John also have no mention, which is significant.

Tongues were intended as a sign to unbelieving Israel. They signified that God had begun a work with Gentiles and would now speak to all nations and languages. So were a sign of the transition between the old and new covenants. With the establishment of the church a new day dawned for God's people. Once the period of transition was past the sign was no longer necessary. Today there's no need for a sign to show that God is moving from the single nation Israel to all nations. History and Scripture indicate tongues ceased. You wrote,

>>This reading of the passage 1 Cor 14:20-25 could only be made by a dispensationalist! I don't know how one could read into this passage an elaborate scheme of Israel and the Gentiles! The issue is one of spiritual perception and hardening brought about by the misuse of tongues before "unbelievers" who had a chance of repenting. See Rengsdorf's article, semeion, in TDNT, 6 <<

I doubt the apostolic period is the norm for Christian experience. God has the power to repeat the special gifts, but He doesn't because His plans and purposes for that era are fulfilled and those today are different.

1 Cor.14:20-25 says that tongues were a sign to "unbelievers rather than believers". The OT says that because Israel had rejected God's message, He would speak to them through a "foreign language" [Is.28:11] - this was a sign to them of their rejection of God's Word. So in 1 Cor.14:22 the point is made that the Corinthian's should not insist on using tongues so freely in the gatherings of believers - rather they should use prophecy.

Tongues then were a sign and special significance to Israel, which they don't have today. The early church at the seaport of Corinth was mainly Jewish, so tongues had purpose there during the transition from Judaism to Christianity. The gibberish today has no purpose (or meaning). You wrote,

>>Ultimately, the issue here is not about spiritual gifts. It's about the canon of scripture, it's inerrancy, infallibility and inspiration. The Bible clearly says, with reference to various spiritual gifts, "The eye cannot say to the hand, 'I have no need of you!" That statement is the essence and spirit of cessationism!!<<

It's far more common for those who claim the apostolic gifts to say those who don't have them are 'spiritually dead'. And they lean on their experiences as infallible and inspired as Scripture. To me Scripture is my guide in determining doctrine and nowhere do they say, to seek a 'Baptism of the Spirit'. You wrote,

>>The Bible explicitly makes the generalization: "The charismata and calling of God are NOT withdrawn." Cessationism denies the Word of God at this point and says they ARE withdrawn. The Bible commands us <<

Perhaps you are referring to Rom.11:29. This verse refers to God's calling of Israel and His gifts to Israel [Rom.9:4-11]. Paul is simply assuring the Roman Christians that God would fulfil all of His promises to Israel [Rom.11:26], it does NOT refer to the permanence of spiritual gifts. You wrote,

>>"Desire earnestly the best gifts, ESPECIALLY that you may prophesy. . . . do not forbid to speak with tongues." Cessationism flatly contradicts these clear commands from the throne of God Himself. <<

Paul says 'forbid it not' in as much as tongues was a legitimate gift at that time. Today, it's amazing how many 'flatly contradict' the clear restrictions placed on tongues by Paul in chapter 14. Five words in a known language were better than 10,000 in an unknown tongue. Those who seek tongues today become preoccupied with it and their 'feelings' and experiences are often weird, without self-control and contrary to the 'clear commands of' God's Word. You wrote,

>> I believe in the whole canon of scripture. Not just passages that agree with my preconceived theology. So, it is BECAUSE I believe in the holy, fully inspired, inerrant, infallible word of God that I believe in the continuation of spiritual gifts. <<

My high view of Scripture also includes the concept that the canon is closed. No need for prophets, tongues etc in the church today. There is no fresher or more intimate revelation than Scripture [1 Tim.3:16-17]. Just as the close of the OT was followed by silence, so the close of the NT has been followed by the utter absence of new revelation in any form. That's why the early Christians did not universally recognize any more written or verbal prophecy as divine truth from God.

Although Pentecostals deny they are trying to add to Scripture, their views on prophetic utterances, gifts of prophecy, and revelation do just that. As they add (however unwittingly) to God's final revelation, they undermine the uniqueness and authority of the Bible. New revelation, dreams and visions are considered as binding on the believer's conscience as the book of Romans or John. We should not play loose with the issues of inspiration and revelation, they help us distinguish between the voice of God and the voice of man. Men were executed under the OT law who professed to speak for God but did not [Deut. 13:1-5]. If we subvert the uniqueness of the Bible anyone can say anything and claim it is God's Word and no one would have the right to deny it.

I would say the Holy Spirit does lead us into God's truth and directs us into God's will for our lives. But He does it though God's Word, never apart from it.

Good to have contact. Thanks for your time.

His Reply -

>>Here's an article written by a man from a cessationist school (Christianity Today) that I think you may find interesting. I think we have far more in common on this issue than it appears. God bless you."<<

That's it, nothing else (much "in common" on this, I doubt it).