Justin Taylor at Between Two Worlds has just posted on an article by Vern Poythress he calls ”The Best Essay Ever Written on Spiritual Gifts Today.” I’m rather inclined to agree. I don’t think I’d express everything exactly as Dr. Poythress does, but given that caveat, I think he is exactly on target.
One commentator referred to Dr. Poythress’ approach as a “middle way” between Cessationism and Continuationism. I don’t think I’d call it a “middle way.” Dr. Poythress himself, in his title, indicates he considers what he says to be “within Cessationist theology. “ Shhh, don’t tell the Cessationists, but it sounds to me like what I mean by Continuationism.
The article is fourteen years old, having been published in JETS in 1996. He calls it: ”Modern Spiritual Gifts as Analogous to Apostolic Gifts: Affirming Extraordinary Works of the Spirit within Cessationist Theology.”
Tweaks I’d make:
1. Dr. Poythress says that modern spritual gifts are “analogous” to “Apostolic gifts.” It isn’t completely clear to me from his article, but I’d say not only modern gifts but also ancient non-apostolic spiritual gifts were, in Poythress’ words, analogous to Apostolic gifts.
2. I’m not quite sure apostles should be said to be exercising “Apostolic gifts” or simply their apostolic ministry. I mean, Jesus wasn’t exercising “gifts” when He ministered in power. I think the concept of “gifts” come in when we get to the non-apostolic members of the Body of Christ.
3. I also would try to find a different word than “inspired” to express what Dr. Poythress means by it. I prefer to reserve it for the Scriptures, in that the work of the Spirit extended to the writing. I don’t think “people” or “gifts” ought to be modified by the adjective “inspired.”
4. “Analogous” might be very, very slightly weak for the relationship between the apostles’s ministry and non-apostolic, including modern gifts, but I think I might be inclined to accept it, provided I clarify that ancient non-apostolic gifts and modern gifts are real spirtiualgifts, not just analogs of real gifts.
Note, these tweaks are all terminological. As far as the substance is concerned, run, do not walk to read his essay.