Category Archives: continuationism

Turkish De-light

By Marv

Do not quench the Spirit. Do not despise prophecies, but test everything; hold fast what is good.  (1 Thes. 5:19-21)

Is there any book of the Bible we could do without? For example, would Christian doctrine suffer from the omission, say, of Proverbs? What about 1 and 2 Chronicles? Aren’t they largely redundant, not to speak of some tiresome genealogical material? And Revelation–apart from that curse thing–what if it were just to disappear completely, instead of having to be Docetized into docility as so many are wont to do?

While we’re at it, what animals could we vote off the island? Whole classes, perhaps. Got to go with reptiles, I think. I’d be sorry to say goodbye to the cute gecko who sells me insurance, but to get rid of snakes…! Insects, maybe: no cockroaches, fire ants, hornets. No butterflies either, but I’d get soon over it.

How about colors? I’m not overly fond of orange. Sunsets would be the losers, but how practical are they anyway?

Fortunately, authority in such matters have not been given over to the likes of us. What God has given–what He has provided by the good pleasure of His will–exists for His own purposes and according to His manifold wisdom.

The apostle was speaking on a particular subject, but his words must certainly have a general application:

For everything created by God is good, and nothing is to be rejected if it is received with thanksgiving (1 Timothy 4:4).

If this principle holds in regard to foodstuffs, how much more does our Lord mean us to receive His bounty in regard to the vital interworking among the members of Christ’s body? Paul instructs us in no uncertain terms in this regard:

But as it is, God arranged the members in the body, each one of them, as he chose. If all were a single member, where would the body be? As it is, there are many parts, yet one body. (1 Cor. 18-20)

Who of us will venture to say that God has chosen ill? No one, surely. Or we should hope. And what are these parts, specifically, that the apostle is referring to? He gives us a few examples:

For to one is given through the Spirit the utterance of wisdom, and to another the utterance of knowledge according to the same Spirit, to another faith by the same Spirit, to another gifts of healing by the one Spirit, to another the working of miracles, to another prophecy, to another the ability to distinguish between spirits, to another various kinds of tongues, to another the interpretation of tongues. All these are empowered by one and the same Spirit, who apportions to each one individually as he wills. (1 Cor. 12:8-11)

The Spirit wills. God chooses.

What about me? Don’t I get a vote? Well… no, in fact. We have not been consulted. We only work here.

Still, isn’t there quite a bit of this we really could do without? Can we not have a perfectly healthy church while making some strategic omissions from this list? Let’s say in my opinion some of these “gifts” have outlived their usefulness, are now more cumbersome than useful, more problematic than practical. Are these–less desirable bits–really necessary?

Well, I’m sure I don’t know, but I do have the Word of God to guide me:

The eye cannot say to the hand, “I have no need of you,” nor again the head to the feet, “I have no need of you.” On the contrary, the parts of the body that seem to be weaker are indispensable, and on those parts of the body that we think less honorable we bestow the greater honor, and our unpresentable parts are treated with greater modesty, which our more presentable parts do not require. But God has so composed the body, giving greater honor to the part that lacked it, that there may be no division in the body, but that the members may have the same care for one another. If one member suffers, all suffer together; if one member is honored, all rejoice together. (1 Cor. 12:21-26).

Is it too much of a stretch to conclude that if we cannot say “I have no need of you” that we do have need? Perhaps the Spirit was wise after all in willing, God in choosing.

How comes then Mr. Frank Turk of Pyromaniacs with his Open Letter to Mark Driscoll, which is a response to Driscoll’s Resurgence video post Four Points of the Movement (highly recommended), in which Driscoll attributes (hard) Cessationism to “worldliness.” In Mr. Turk’s open letter he responds with  a series of affirmations and denials? Observe, please, how many times and in how many different ways he can say “I have no need of you.”

I deny that this work [the personal action of God the Holy Spirit for the life of the Church] necessarily includes speaking in tongues (as in Acts 2 as well as in so-called “private prayer langauges”), healing the sick or raising the dead by explicit command, prophecy in the sense that Isaiah and John the Baptist were prophets, or any other “sign-and-wonder”-like exhibition. That is: I deny that these actions are necessary for the post-apostolic church to function as God intended. (emphasis mine).

Now a number of misconceptions are evident here as shown by his use of such words as “exhibition,” but from Paul’s list quoted above, Turk explicitly says “I have no need of you” to gifts of prophecy, healing, working of miracles, tongues. Lest we misunderstand:

I deny that this activity [“signs and wonders”] is common, normative, necessary, or in the best interest of God’s people to been seen as common, normative and/or necessary. God in fact warns us against seeking signs rather than the thing signified repeatedly in the OT and NT. (emphasis mine)

Not “in the best interest of God’s people” is Turk’s evaluation. Paul, on the other hand says “To each is given the manifestation of the Spirit for the common good.” (1 Cor. 12:7). Whose advice shall we take here?

What about “common” or that magic word “normative”? Let’s say we take it above even the apostle’s pay grade for some indication of how common we ought to expect works of power to be:

Truly, truly, I say to you, whoever believes in me will also do the works that I do; and greater works than these will he do, because I am going to the Father. Whatever you ask in my name, this I will do, that the Father may be glorified in the Son. (John 14:12-13)

These are the words of our Lord, in His farewell address on the eve of His crucifixion. The works in question are those overt acts of God’s power that achieve the Father’s goals, under His authority, in the Spirit’s power, and engender faith in those who see:

Do you not believe that I am in the Father and the Father is in me? The words that I say to you I do not speak on my own authority, but the Father who dwells in me does his works. Believe me that I am in the Father and the Father is in me, or else believe on account of the works themselves. (vv. 10-11)

Do not miss Jesus’ stated goals of our doing His works: “that the Father may be glorified in the Son.” (13)

Just a word about Mr. Turks reference to “sign seeking.” In the body of his open letter he proclaims himself to be well versed in “what actual Cessationists believe.” Evidently, this includes one very hackneyed and spurious misapplication of Matthew 16:4, which I have pointed out elsewhere falls more to the charge of Cessationists than Continuationists. Far from requiring miracles to overcome disbelief, we may join with the early church in their well-received prayer:

And now, Lord, look upon their threats and grant to your servants to continue to speak your word with all boldness, while you stretch out your hand to heal, and signs and wonders are performed through the name of your holy servant Jesus.” And when they had prayed, the place in which they were gathered together was shaken, and they were all filled with the Holy Spirit and continued to speak the word of God with boldness. (Acts 4:29-31)

Apparently, God was pleased to do so, even if Mr. Turk would rather not:

 I deny that explicitly-supernatural outworkings, or events the Bible calls ‘signs and wonders’ (e.g. – Acts 2:1-11, Acts 3:3-7, Acts 5:1-11, Acts 9:32-35, etc.) are either normative or necessary for the on-going life of the church.

I would have thought this included the “word of knowledge,” but then Mr. Turk makes a negative assertion which would seem to require omniscience on his part to make:

I deny that there is any man alive today who is gifted to perform miracles as Christ and the Apostles where gifted to perform miracles.

I will not presume to point to such a person either, though by our Lord’s own words in John 14:12, if I believe Jesus Christ, I ought not strongly doubt that He knew whereof He spoke.

How are we to account Mr. Turk’s denials, which–not to put too fine a point on it–would seem to run directly contrary to the Scriptures, apostolic authority, and the teaching of the Lord Jesus Christ?

In the topsy-turvy world of Ray Bradbury’s Fahrenheit 451, firemen no longer put out fires but start them. What are we to say of this world, which sees a “Pyromaniac” with no qualms against quenching? Farbeit from me to resort to Driscoll’s W-word, but it seems to me that the Church really does need all the good gifts that the Father has chosen, the Son promised, and the Spirit willed, since there’s still some “world-tilting” to do.

Pyro Techniques?

By Marv

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.

Defining “Charismatic”

By Marv

The conversation continues over at Parchment and Pen, between Cessationist C. Michael Patton and Continuationist Sam Storms. The current round aims at definition of terms, particularly asking the question: “What Does it Mean to Be Charismatic?” Each one has proposed a theory and definition, first Patton, then Storms.

Patton proposes a spectrum (graphically a wedge), in which the main players fall into the following range:

1. Hard Cessationists: These establish a category of “sign gifts” with which to box and then toss certain gifts described in the Bible. They employ Biblical and Theological arguments to demonstrate that these were always temporary, their limit being perhaps the close of the Canon or the death of the apostles.

2. Soft Cessationists: These are similar to (1) but do not object to reports of Acts-like activity from the mission field. This is what I call “long ago or far away.”

3. Continuationists: These see in Scripture (a) no indication that any gift is temporary, and (b) affirmative indications that they are ongoing. They are understood to be multi-purpose, not narrowly confined whether as a Canon stop-gap, a gospel frontier tool, or the particular property of the apostles.

4. Charismatics: These are exactly as (3) but whereas, apparently Continuationists approve passively, Charismatics pursue actively.

Evaluation:

This scale has merit, and reflects an accurate observation of the realities on the ground. The labels are problematic, however. It may be true that a theoretical, but non-practicing approver of the ongoing activity would self-identify as a Continuationist, as he/she affirms “continuation”–but would reject the label Charismatic. On the other hand, many who passionately pursue these gifts would self-identify as Continuationists, and might or might not identify with Charismatic. This is because Continuationist is a broader, more generic term. It would include Pentecostals, Charismatics, Third-wavers, and some who fall in none of these camps. Calling Patton’s category number (3) by the name of the entire set in which his (4) also falls entails a semantic error. Better to balance each side with two kinds of Cessationists on one side and two kinds of Continuationists on the other. Hard and soft? Perhaps. Passive and active? Hmm. Probably not. What this difference is does need to be further defined.

Storms picks up on the concept of pursuit, à la Paul’s exhortation of earnestly desiring the gifts (1 Cor. 14: 1, 12, 26, 39), as a key distinguishing criterion. Accordingly he sees six categories:

1. Those who don’t know what to think of the whole issue, Biblically, theologically, historically. Under this circumstance, these cannot be reasonably expected to pursue the said gifts.

2. These believe that the Sciptures positively affirm the continuation of the gifts in question. Paul’s injunction then is binding on the conscience.

3. These believe the Scriptures positively affirm the cessation of the gifts in question. Paul’s injunction is thereby obsolete, moot, and null and void for today.

4. These do not believe the Scriptures positively affirm the cessation of the gifts in question, but hold the opinion that they have ceased on other-than-Scriptural grounds or at least within a penumbra of Scriptural teaching. This puts them in the position of disregarding an explicit Scriptural injunction on the basis of rather less than explicit Biblical warrant to do so.

5. These for whatever reason hold the opinion that certain gifts mentioned in the Bible have continued while others have not. The corresponding response then would be to pursue those that have continued and not those that have not.

6. These hold either that the gifts in question possibly continue or definitely continue, and yet they do not pursue them actively. Storms points to this postion as a sin of omission.

If I understand him correctly, Dr. Storms would apply the terms Continuationist and Charismatic interchangeably to category (2), which is where he places himself.

Having distinguished the terms, he further characterizes what it entails to be Charismatic/Continuationist, as power in Christian experience and ministry and divine immanence and relational imminancy.

Evaluation:

I am not sure whether his classification system focuses on what each class actually do or what they should do. But this may simply be my reading of his meaning. In general, his basing his schema on pursuit is a helpful one, as it does seem to be–in both his and Patton’s treatments–a sine qua non of what it means to be a Charismatic. Of course, we here at To Be Continued… place ourselves in category (2) along with Dr. Storms, and so we are more likely to align with his understanding.

I would like, in summarizing, to underscore and develop briefly the important point that Sam Storms makes at the end of his post. I do not know whether he would specifically agree with me on this, but one of the reasons I prefer the term Continuationist to Charismatic is that etymologically Charismatic has to do with the concept of “spiritual gifts.” My contention is that while “gifts” is certainly a Pauline term for the particular way empowered ministry is distributed in the Body, a better center of focus for this aspect of Pneumatology is Christ’s own teaching that the Church would continue His Spirit-empowered minsitry in the same way He did it, between Pentecost and the Parousia. Talking about this gift or that gift tends, in my perception, to marginalize the topic, almost as if it were an optional add-on to the basic package, which some take and others leave.

Quite the contrary, may I suggest that Pentecost brought the church a specific connectedness, a plugged-in and turned-on direct line of communication with the Father and Son through the Spirit. That we are meant in all things, to function on-line, with constant input and output of information and power, seeing and hearing what the fallen world is blind and deaf to, acting as agents under authority–is integral equally to sanctification, communion, worship, evangelism, prayer, and the overt manifestation of divine power seen in the various “gifts.” Divine imminance, relational intimacy, ongoing revelation, miraculous ministry, efficacious prayer, passionate devotion to our Lord are descriptions of what ought to be pursued by a disciple of Jesus Christ, because they are descriptions of the manner of life and ministry of Jesus Himself.

The Word/Message of Knowledge

It’s been a few weeks now since I posted my article on the gift of the word, or message, of wisdom. As I mentioned, we have been currently going through a series on the gifts of the Spirit from 1 Corinthians 12:8-10 at Cornerstone. This series should wrap up next Sunday.

If interested, the audio preaching-teaching sessions can be listened to or downloaded from our podcast or from iTunes.

In this article I want to focus in on the gift of the word, or message, of knowledge, which is referred to in 1 Cor 12:8 just after the message of wisdom.

What Is The Gift?

As I mentioned with the gift of the message of wisdom, the Greek could be more faithfully translated here as ‘message of knowledge’. Some might still prefer ‘word of knowledge’. The ESV translates as utterance of knowledge. Again, this is a small case of semantical preference. Continue reading

The White Dove Inn

By Marv

Three theobros, friends, colleagues, agreeing on much, differing on some things, sitting around the studio in relaxed but intelligent banter–joined together with joy, but for a serious purpose. And the podcast is ours to enjoy, to learn, to be edified by. It’s great stuff. I keep thinking though–all it needs is Rod Rosenbladt periodically saying “That’s HUGE!!!”

(If you don’t have a clue what I am talking about check out this other worthy audio theofest.)

C. Michael Patton, dean or some such title of Credo House ministries is the indefatiguable superblogger of Parchment and Pen. I admit I came for Daniel Wallace, but I stayed for CMP. Within the last couple of years he has bared his soul more than a bit, particularly with regard to his contemplation of the subject of “spiritual gifts.” In a series of eight posts he explained “Why I am not  Charismatic.” Readers of To Be Continued will be familiar with it, as with our point by point response.

Back he comes, and not alone. For a new round the venerable Sam Storms partners with CMP to provide a balancing continuationist perspective. The whole shebang starts off with this podcast, featuring Michael, Sam, and a third voice Tim Kimberley. Three DTS-grad Okies. Now that’s balance, I must say (being an Oklahoma-born DTS grad myself).

Listen to the podcast, part of their Theology Unplugged series as a bit of an intro to the discussion. The meat will be the blog posts, however, and we already have the first two: an opening salvo by Patton “Why I am/not Charismatic: My Story,” not to be confused with Storms’ “Why I am/not Charismatic: My Story.”

First course: appetizers. We digest so you don’t have to.

First C. Michael Patton’s Story:

1. Raised in non- even anti-Charismatic soil (DTS-grad pastor) Michael experienced plenty to leave a foul taste in his mouth: a church split over “the gifts,” repulsive silliness and downright abuse, embarrassing excess at a pal’s church. Charismatics behaving badly: barking, flopping, issuing inane and insipid “words,” sealed the deal.

2. MacArthurism (“Are you now or have you ever been a member of the Charismatic party?”) loaded him with Bible-based proofs to match his mood.

3. So how did a guy like him end up at a place like UBSS, which he describes as a”Third Wave” Bible college? Open prophesying, unabashing tonguing, their name was Legion, for they were many. But with Grudem as the Systematic Theology? Harvard, Westminster, Cambridge, ETS pres, Calvinist–and Charismatic. Does not compute.

4. Since then voice after voice with theological and Biblical heft have articulated and explained a cogent, coherent Continuationist understanding: Fee, Mahaney, Piper, Moreland… (Time provented him from mentioning Scott & Marv apparently…)

5. Where is he now? Standing on the edge of the chasm–the Cessationist side, underwhelmed by the arguments that keep him there, but not able (willing) to make the leap to the greener grass on the other side.

6. It is a consummation devoutly to be wished, however. With loved ones who really, really needed healing–this one is personal.

And now for Sam Storms’ story:

1. Dallas Seminary and Believer’s Chapel: meat-lovers’ milieu both, and where folk not only think, but know the Charismatic wing is full of wingnuts. Now that’s a solid foundation for a future of Cessationism.

2. It was in Oklahoma where the wind came sweeping down the plain. While pastoring in Ardmore, he read D.A. Carson, and his Cessationist pseudo-foundation crumbled under his feet.

3. He came to the realization that the Bible taught Continuationism, but he remained embarrassed by the unsophisticated, overly emotional, underly intellectual crew he’d have to associate himself with if he went with the Bible instead of his background.

4. Yet he took the plunge. Preaching through Acts, and presenting a doctrinal study on the Spirit, he led his church not only in reading about the “stuff” but doing it. Somehow he managed the paradigm shift in his congregation without the whole thing blowing up in his face.

5. Catching up with Jack Deere, whom he had known at DTS, and who had made a similar journey, Sam was renewed in the gift of tongues he had known but came to disdain two decades earlier. He eventually found himself ministering at Kansas City Fellowship for seven years–more than a small step for a man from Believer’s Chapel.

6. After a brief stint teaching at Wheaton, he returned to KC and started Enjoying God Ministries. Today he is a pastor in OKC, where, like someone else, he spends his time proclaiming the kingdom of God and teaching about the Lord Jesus Christ with all boldness and without hindrance.

We are in for a remarkable discussion, with these two. Topics foreshadowed in the podcast include:

  • Terminology: Charismatic vs. Continuationist.
  • History: Through the centuries and three “waves” in the twentieth century.
  • Distinction from Faith Movement and Prosperity Theology.
  • What about the lingo: “sign gifts,” “normative”?
  • How serious should we take things: accepting? practicing? pursuing?