There was a little girl, who had a little curl, applied directly to the forehead. When she was good, she was very, very good. When she was bad, she was horrid!
Speaking of Team Pyro…
As a frequent reader there (Pyromaniacs), frequent writer here (To Be Continued…), I’ve known sooner or later it would happen. I find myself pretty much in their camp on most things–with one major exception–which happens also to be the subject of this blog–Continuationism. I knew eventually I’d have to post something to be applied directly to the horrid.
I figured I’d wait until one of the crew posted some cogent argumentation for Cessationism, and then counter with a well-reasoned, insightful, exegetically-based, Biblical response. But then Dan Phillips today offers a 26-worder in which he basically says: “Don’t bother.”
His pithy posting we can reproduce in toto (plus title):
Tersely put: “continuationism” self-refuting
The very fact that “continuationists” acknowledge the need to make their case to Christians by argument is, itself, a devastating and sufficient refutation of the position.
Now what are we to make of this epigram, which would seem to be a low and inside pitch, or to change metaphors, a little bit of choir practice? Mr. Phillips, sir, you force me to bring out the numbers.
1. As best as I can decipher his meaning, being a bear of little brain, I would paraphrase thus: Continuationism is about the showy-stuff. If you can’t show me the showy stuff, what good is to give me a bunch of telly stuff? Cessationists of this ilk are prone to refer to certain gifts as “spectacular” or “dramatic,” with razzle dazzle like a kind of magic show:
Give ’em an act with lots of flash in it, and the reaction will be passionate.
While a manifestation of the Holy Spirit may well be impressive, especially to those to whom His work is directed (e.g. 1 Cor 14:24-25), we would be wrong to expect Him to put on a show for us. His effects are deeper, directed toward spirit, heart and mind: “upbuilding and encouragement and consolation” (1 Cor. 14:3); conviction of “sin and righteousness and judgment” (John 16:8).
2. Behind this statement lies a number of Cessationist misconceptions about how “spiritual gifts” work. This type of argumentation (much in the MacAruthur tradition) I call the Unicorn and Jackass show. Insist on a unicorn: a mythological beast, which never existed: such as a “gift of healing,” with which an individual is endued (something like an X-man super power), operating at will, always efficacious, instantaneous, permanent, irreversible. Or inerrant oral prophecy, which neither the Old nor New Testaments teach (the Scriptures yes, oral prophecy, no.) Then with this expectation bring out the jackasses. This can be done in as few as two words: Benny Hinn.
3. Note the formulation of his statement. Quotes around continuationists. Why? The use of “need” (always a red flag for misleading argumentation). I’d like to know who he is purporting to quote here as “acknowledging” this or that. Who knows? Maybe it’s Team Continuo here. I doubt it, but we do acknowledge the importance of Biblical argumentation.
4. Which makes it odd, coming from a blog that otherwise highly values “argumentation,” appeal to Scripture and right reason, that one of them would denigrate such in this case.
5. So often Cessationists accuse their Continuationist bretheren of basing their view on experience rather than the Scriptures–all the while doing this very thing themselves, as in this case.
6. So often Cessationists accuse their Continuationist bretheren of being “an evil and adulterous generation [who] seeks for a sign,” and then themselves insist on a “spectacular” sign, or else they will not believe the Scriptures.
7. It is the Scriptures themselves that teach Continuationism. We see both in the direct teaching of our Lord (John 14: 12) and of His apostles (1 Cor. 12-14), that it is the Father’s will, and to His glory that the Body of Christ continue Christ’s empowered ministry between Pentecost and Parousia. One looks in vain for valid support of the notion that any of this would cease within the first century.
8. We are called to pursue these gifts (1 Cor. 14:1), but to do so we must be convinced that the Scriptures do in fact teach that they are for today as well as for the first century. This cannot be done by experience, but only by examining the Scriptures. Whatever we do, we must do in faith, and faith must be grounded in the Word. Thus argumentation.
9. So anyway, if we show you something “spectacular,” you say, there are “lying wonders.” Just because it’s supernatural doesn’t mean it’s of God. Or if we demonstrate something clearly from the Scriptures, you ask “Tell me about your most recent spectacular miracle.”
10. A Continuationist is not one who can say “Lookie-lookie what I can do.” It’s not about possessing an ability in oneself. It is one who says, “Look here in the Word of God. Shall we not believe what God tells us?”
11. You might as well have someone who insists God is not doing that “prayer” thing any more. God is not answering prayer any more. Go on, show me. Pray something and lets see what happens. Sure, you hear stories about God answering prayer with specific fulfillment, but this is always somebody’s neighbor’s cousin’s hairdresser. Face it, these answers–if they happen at all–are coincidence, wishful thinking, psychosomatic. We many wonder at our lack or efficacity at prayer, when the Bible promises so much (James 5:16).
12. Anyway, to hold to Continuation is not to say that all happens now as it did for Christ and the apostles. Or that history has shown a constant and even presence of these gifts without fluctuation. What continues is God’s purpose, design, and provision, not His church’s specific performance in what He has provided. It is thus with every other aspect of the life of the Church. Why should “spiritual gifts” be any different. Some things nearly lost must be rediscovered (such as salvation by grace through faith), and the Church must always be seeking in the Scriptures to return to the faith taught by the apostles.