This post is part of a series responding to C. Michael Patton’s eight-part series at Parchment and Pen “Why I am Not Charismatic,” which is also conveniently available for download as a single e-book here. This is in response to part one.
Glad we could have this chat. You know, Paul warns us against wrangling about words, but your first post was mainly geared toward setting some definitions. So I think we’d better start with some of the terminology.
1. First of all, “Charismatic.” Looks like we’re going to get tangled up there. You seem to want to use this as a blanket term, the way I’d use “Continuationist.” Trouble is, it isn’t a blanket term. It’s a reference to a specific movement, circa mid-20th century, and adherents of that movement. Now you might think it ought to refer to any non-cessationists, for etymological reasons, and you might even hear folk using it that way, but I can’t agree.
First of all, early in the 20th century the Pentecostal movement sprang up, and as far as I know they did not refer to themselves as Charismatics, even though they’d fit your definition.
They had other distinctions, a particular doctrine about the baptism of the Holy Spirit, a second blessing. Also they tended to found new denominations. Mostly, I guess, because no one else would have them. Anyway, at some point, a couple of generations or so later, their practices started to catch on among non-Pentecostals. These people bought into the second blessing, baptism of the Spirit thing, with some modificatons, but stayed in their own denominations, and spread their understanding there. They called themselves Charismatics.
Now, there are others who overlap with these people in terms of finding Biblical practices such as prophecy and healing… well, Biblical… Yet these people were never part of the Charismatic movement, and distance themselves from a great deal of the teaching and practice of that movement. For example, they may not at all buy into the baptism of the Spirit thing à la the Charismatic movement.
So what do you call these people, who don’t self-identify as Charismatic, but are not Cessationist? Well, Continuationist works well for me. And that’s what I am. (As if you haven’t already figured that out from our blog title.)
I understand that in part two you are going to refer to “Continuationism,” and you say “all Charismatics are Continuationists.” And you should have said “not all Continuationists are Charismatics.” But you didn’t; you said, “all continuationists, properly speaking, are charismatics (even if you must use a small ‘c’).”
Now, Michael, you had been going pretty well there, until then. Maybe you can correct it on the next reprint. (heh, heh, I know it’s an e-book…)
Look at it this way. I hear a lot of people misuse the term “dispensationalist” as if it meant “cessationist.” Now some people even think all dispensationalists are cessationists, which is also wrong. But what if I decided, well, doggone it, I’m just going to use the word that way anyway. So I say something like, “all cessationists, properly speaking are dispensationalists (even if you must use a small ‘d’).” I mean, it does nothing, really, to the other guy, but it sure makes me look uninformed. Just sayin’, Michael.
Nevertheless, I realize this is a bit unfair, since you’ve already written all your posts. So anyway, I’ll read “Continuationist” when you say “Charismatic.” But I might bring it up again. Probably will.
2. The next word I want to bring up is “normative.” That’s a great one. I’m not sure I’ve heard anyone use it except a Cessationist (and by the way, I should disclose, I used to be one). What does it even mean, anyway? Does it mean the same as normal? I google it, and I still can’t find anything that really fits in this context. It’s simultaneously kind of an empty word and a loaded word. Now, that’s hard to pull off.
Does it mean “something everyone should expect in his or her Christian life?” I guess that would mean pastoring a church is not “normative.” Does it mean when you see it happening, you don’t have to automatically assume it’s fake? Well, I guess not, because you seem to believe in divine healing, and yet wouldn’t exactly call it “normative.” Does it mean something God intended for the Church to be engaged in throughout the Church age? Well, I think we’re getting somewhere with this one, but there certainly seem to have been ebbs and flows in history, for whatever reason.
There was a period of time when for some centuries Israel had no prophets. Does that mean prophecy wasn’t normative for Israel? Or should we really describe historical oddities in a different way?
3. I love it that you define some gifts as ordinary and others as extra-ordinary. Hey, here’s a question for you: are the extra-ordinary gifts normative? Heh, heh. You picking up a hint of circularity there, Michael? You practically say a Charismatic is one who believes the extra-ordinary is normative. It’s kind of like saying X is someone who belives you can see the invisible or hear the inaudible. It’s a great schtick, really it is, Michael.
Only, yeah, you’re really begging the question by this “extra-ordinary” business. It prejudices the discussion. Similar ways to treat this are to refer to these as “dramatic” or “spectacular.”
The fact is, you’ve gotten yourself latched onto a faulty idea from the start. Yes, God’s acts in our lives do often commend themselves as being of divine origin, unexplainable otherwise. They do in fact, in a sense, make the invisible visible. They call attention to the reality of God, his eternal power and divine nature, and such. That is, they bring glory to him. Yet what has that effect on someone maybe very, very ordinary. It ought to be the case when looking at the starry sky, for example. It’s something we experience when prayers are answered, divine timing, that sort of thing.
But these aren’t characteristic of prophecy on the one hand and not of teaching on the other. Or healing, but not encouragement. When any of these are done in the power of the Holy Spirit, the extra-0rdinary, i.e. divine and not merely human, heavenly and not merely mundane, nature of these acts commend themselves.
4. That brings us to supernatural. Honestly, Michael, you are a teacher. I suppose you avow the gift of teaching. Anyway, I guess you see it as “normative.” Yet it is not supernatural?
My goodness, your very faith is the gift of God given to you through the Spirit. You can’t even believe in Christ apart from a supernatural act of God. Cessationists are fond of saying conversion is the greatest miracle of all. And so it is. Yet, beyond that the obvious point goes missing. Your ability to analyze, to express yourself, to persuade may all be “natural” abilities, but when you teach in the Body of Christ–I mean if you’re doing it right–you are exercizing the power of God through you. Read Acts 1:8 for goodness sake.
Michael there are no non-supernatural gifts of the Spirit, none. To make that distinction for the so-called sign gifts is simply a failure to properly grasp what God is doing through his Body the Church.
5. So let’s talk about “sign gifts.” This is something of a personal bête noir for me. I have a particular post just on that term. I don’t need to repeat myself, or my other recent post on Heb. 2:3-4, but that verse states that God co-testifies to the gospel by the gifts of the Holy Spirit. It doesn’t say sign gifts, some gifts or the extra-ordinary, non-normative, spectacular, or dramatic gifts. In fact, it says through signs, wonders, various miracles AND gifts of the Holy Spirit. May we not understand from the Word of God that any gift ministered by the Holy Spirit functions as God’s witness to salvation in Christ?
6. I won’t take issue with your definition of Cessationist. You lay out some particular claims made by this perspective. You make a lot of distinctions, categories, lists to help define this camp. I’m sorry, Michael, but I find this truly a house of cards: revelatory, confirmatory, temporary, permanent. (Egad, there’s that monstrosity “pastor-teacher.” Don’t get me started!) Ever feel your boxes are a tad artificial? Hey, I don’t think your charts are normative.
Essentially, by your own description, you say Cessationists are those who make the following assertions:
a. Certain spiritual gifts serve to (and have the purpose of) confirming the gospel, while others don’t. [I’ve already spoken to this one.]
b. There is no other (primary/significant) reason for these confirmatory gifts to exist apart from this purpose.
c. The close of the Canon makes this sole purpose of these confirmatory gifts obsolete.
d. Since they are obsolete, we know that God no longer performs them through His church.
But, Michael, there is not a single one of these propositions that is taught in the Bible.
Yet the ongoing Spirit-empowered ministry of the Body of Christ is present all through the New Testament: The Upper Room Discourse (John 14-16), Acts, Rom. 12, 1 Cor. 12-14, Gal. 3:5, Heb. 2:3-4, and so on.
It’s there, but it’s obsolete, and should be understood to be such? Is it like the Constitution of the U.S. the text of which still refers to senators as chosen by state legislatures, and still contains language about that deplorable 3/5 compromise? Only we know when we read them they are no longer in force?
So where are the amendments to the the New Testament, Michael? Cessationists seem to be those who proclaim phantom amendments to our Church Constitution.
All Continuationists are really saying is, old orders are good orders.