Cessationism Followup

Thanks to all who provided feedback on my previous post on Cessationism. I think that spiritual gifts are an interesting topic. I think that much of cessationist thinking began as a reaction to some bad Pentacostal/Charismatic theolgy and behavior. Many Pentacostal/Charismatic believers in their zeal for gifts (especially tongues) developed an exclusive and somewhat arrogant theology that teaches "spirit filled" believers that they are special because they do this or that - especially speaking in tongues. In reaction non-tongues-speaking believers countered with Cessationim ... apart from my experience 30 years ago I may have been a Cessationist.

So, if any of you are still reading, I would like to pose a few questions:
1) If God doesn't need these gifts any longer then why bother to put them in 1Corinthians in such detail? Just to give us something to fight about? Or was Paul just giving us a history lesson?

2) Does God no longer need us to minister to each other? Is the model we embrace today a we-have-the-bible-and-don't-need-the-Spirit paradigm? Is ministry now reduced to fleshly wisdom, power, speech and discernment?

3) Is there a lack of reality and transparency in some (large) Charimatic ministries that hype all sorts of healings and miracles? I know that I want to vomit every time a network news show probes into some televangelist's ministry and finds people that are evasive and unaccountable.

4) Does Cessationist theology come out of the pain of being sick and/or having prematurely lost loved ones? I honestly struggle with this idea. Losing my first wife after years of prayer for her and ministry to her was very difficult and challenging.

5) Are people tired of 'super spiritual' people talking down to them? I know that I have dificulty listening to some of these folks on TV ... of course I also have difficulty with the fundamentalist televangelists.

6) Does the bible give us an unbalanced view of spiritual gifts? It seems that the scripture gives us the highlights of the apostles' ministry and could make it seem that healings, miracles and spiritual gifts were the norm for everyday life.

7) Do our expectations around spiritual gifts get in the way? My friends Tony and Livie have a healing ministry and have witnessed all sorts of miraculous healings. Yet they would tell you that healing is a percentage game ... to see one person healed you have to pray for many many people ... not all are healed ... the gift is God's to give not ours.
And here are a few thoughts that Paul from Exiled from Groggs posted at He Lives:
Who are "missionaries" - not mentioned as such otherwise in the Bible? Wright suggests that they are people exercising the gift (not the office!) of apostleship - which then opens up whole areas of further discussion about what missionaries are supposed to do.

On what biblical basis do we distinguish between the "charismatic" gifts and the "gifts of the Spirit" that are given to all believers for the edification of the whole body?

Given that prophecy is fundamentally and has always been "forth-telling" God's will that he has already made known, rather than "foretelling" the future, are we clear that this is definitely not what is happening when certain preachers are speaking?

There are others. However, for me, "cessationist" is another label that has come to seem an oversimplification of what the Bible has to say, and probably closes down debates and builds walls rather than allowing people to think.
Seems that the older I get I have more questions than answers. With regard to gifts I know that I have settled one question in my heart ... whether you are a Cessationist or not ... if you love Jesus then you are my friend and my brother or sister. In the essentials unity, in all else charity.


  1. Sorry to "blog" on your blog, KB..but you posed these questions, this is my take on the subject:
    1. I believe that these gifts are important, still exist, but with God's will. They are not our gifts. When someone is healed, the one who prayed is not the healer. The gift was granted to the healed. 2. If the Bible was a "this is the way it was and this is about God up to this point" there would be no point. God is the same today, yesterday, tomorrow. 3.These people make me sick, too. Prophets don't profit off of others. 4.During the time of the New Testament, there was no New Testament. Paul was operating on the Old Testament scriptures, and the new things revealed to him. He knew that he was a new creature in Christ. So, he knew that life was now more than the Old Testament. So, as time progresses, why would we think that..as time progresses, it stands still in the New Testament as far as signs and wonders are concerned? No, we don't always get what we want. We get what God wants. This existence is so small, so trivial compared to the next one. The only thing that matters now is love.
    5.Yeah, I get tired of people speaking loudly in tongues without an interpreter. They're just showing off. God gave me a prayer for someone once, in tongues...it came after much questioning on my part. I delivered the "message" to the person..then asked God to work that gift through someone else! I know that it's supposed to be wonderful. I just wasn't ready for it. 6.I don't see them as the "norm" except that we probably don't notice things as much as we could. Haven't you ever met anyone that was wise beyond their years, or beyond others? Or someone that knew just what was going to happen in a situation? Or someone who has organizational skills beyond the norm? Or someone with a caring, healing touch? I guess I'm saying that a miracle doesn't have to be huge...I see "little" ones every day.
    7. Yes, our fleshly expectations get in the way. We're human. We're selfish. We want, want, want. And yes, the gift is from God..not us. WE get in the way of His work, which continues today. I've seen and experienced miraculous healing...and yet 2 people in particular that I love suffer terribly with awful disease.

  2. Ok...I'll go. But I doubt I'll say anything you've not heard already.

    1.) Why bother?
    Because the Church in Corinth needed to hear what Paul had to say. Is everything in the NT applicable to us today? Of course not. For me, the gifts are just one of those things.

    2.) We are absolutely supposed to minister to one another today. Anything less than that is not of Christ. I pray for others that God would heal them. I pray that God will remove a situation from someone's life. I believe whole-heartedly that my Father still cares about His people and those yet to be adopted.

    3.) I cannot speak on this because I have zero experience with it.

    4.) For me? No. I've not been sick. I've not had excessive pain in my life. But even if I did, and God opted to not "fix" it, I would chalk it up to the same thing Paul did...His grace is sufficient for me.

    5.) I tend not to watch Cpreachers on TV. I guess I have just been turned off to them. And typically, I don't feel talked down to by super-spiritual folks. But that's probably because most of te Christians I hang around are more humble than me. (I wonder if they would feel talked down to by me, though...;-))

    6.) I don't think it's unbalanced. On the contrary, I think it is obvious that the brothers and sisters back then knew of the gifts, and knew those who were in possession of them. I am also led to believe that the miracles were part of everyday life in the NT.

    7.) Ah...the one I was waiting for...
    We see in every situation in the Bible that when an apostle, or someone to whom to apostles passed the gift of healing, set out to heal someone, they healed them. It was not a percentage game at all. The Biblical examples are that the lame were healed and the dead were successfully raised each time the brothers set out to do it.
    Why is it now a percentage game? Why are there no Biblical recordings of an unsuccessful healing in the Book of Acts?

    Regarding Karen's answer for number 6: I know even of non-Christians who have been given the very same gifts you mentioned. I'm not sure that Christians hold the monopoly on those.

  3. DK, I never said that those gifts were Christian-only. God works in many ways.

  4. Sorry, Karen. In the context of the rest of your comment I assumed that is what you meant.

    My Bad.

  5. DK, there was no offense taken....just clarifying my statement. God's a really big God.
    1 Corinthians 12:
    4 There are diversities of gifts, but the same Spirit. 5 There are differences of administrations, but the same Lord. 6 There are diversities of operations, but it is the same God who works in ALL.

  6. Good stuff Karen & DK!

    DK, did you see Paul's comments (I added shortly after my initial post)? What do you think about:

    "On what biblical basis do we distinguish between the "charismatic" gifts and the "gifts of the Spirit" that are given to all believers for the edification of the whole body?

    Also, DK I'd probably disagree with you about ...

    "The Biblical examples are that the lame were healed and the dead were successfully raised each time the brothers set out to do it."

    ... because of the very small amount of miracles reported over many many years of apostolic ministry. Either there were many miracles not reported or miracles were simply not that prevalent. The apostles ministered more years than Jesus and had fewer reported miracles. Not sure why we idolize them as being specially called to minister miracles when, in proportion to their number, they didn't have that many miracles.

  7. Hey KB!

    Sorry to be gone far too long. I missed a good one.

    I am not a cessasionist, but I'm not a charismatic either. I believe the gifts are still active (as your testimony shows with force!) but that they are faked some part of the time. They were faked badly in the church in which I was converted, and I've never been in another charismatic church, so I don't have much to go on, but that's my impression.

    The issue of cessation (I learned from pyromaniac - with whom I often don't agree, but he documents well) is not the outworking of the gifts, but the inworking of the Spirit. Cessationists really believe the issue is special revelation. They don't believe the Spirit speaks to us particularly, but only through the scripture. They resist anything that smells remotely of mysticism, and to them charismata is just a hyper-emotional form of mysticism.

    I reject that position both on the grounds of scripture and of experience. God interacts with His people today. Miracles are rare, but the arrival of the canon did not signal the end of our need for God - here, now, and knowable.

    Thanks, brother!

  8. This deal is like so many others in modern life: people want the labels before they do the work. People call themselves "Artists" before they've done more than dabble with paint. They've ignored the long work of practice and learning that real artists have put in.

    They ignore the hours of wrestling with God that the apostles did, the years spent working with God to learn how He does things. In short, many people want the gift of the Spirit without being bothered by the Spirit Himself.

    God is God. I think that if he finds someone really open to His Spirit, that person will do all kinds of things, but not necessarily the obvious ones.

  9. Sorry it took so long to get back to you, KB. I have been trying to balance a bunch of "stuff" and haven't been abel to put much thought into the question.

    I am not sure we even need to distinguish between the gifts. In the first century, God gave all the gifts to those whoever He chose to. But for the sake of argument, I'll try to explain my reasoning.

    The way I see it, we can see a very distinct difference between the "charasmatric" gifts and the "gifts of the Spirit." The charasmatic gifts appear, at least to me, to be "on or off" gifts. Either a person is healed...or he isn't. Either a person is raised from the dead...or he isn't. It was clear that the person with the gift had just performed a miracle with that gift.

    The case is not so evident with the gifts given to all Christians. Two people may have been given the gift of administration. But one will have it in a greater degree than the other. You cannot say that about a healing. For instance:

    Healer 1: "Oh look! The Lord used me to raise that guy from the dead."

    Healer 2: "Yeah, well I just raised another guy from the dead...but he's still a little limp."

    Obviously I am just being humorous with the example. But the point stands that charasmatic gifts are either on or off without varying in degree.

    Two disciples may have the gift of encouragement, but they will vary in their strength.

    The same cannot be said of prophecy. If someone was given a prophecy from the Lord, they got the whole thing and it was all correct. It wasn't like Agabus prophecied that there was going to be a plague or a flood, and it turned out to be a famine.

    Do you see what I mean by "on or off"?

    As far as the number of Biblical examples of miracles goes, I say the same thing about that as John said about the things Jesus did

    "Jesus did many other things as well. If every one of them were written down, I suppose that even the whole world would not have room for the books that would be written." (John 21:25)

    We are given just enough examples to know that the gifts existed and were performed often. But god, being the Efficient One, apparently did not feel it necessary to include any more than were needed.

    Just my thoughts on it.

  10. Thanks DK. Guess we'll have to agree to disagree on this one. I don't see the difference that you see between the results of the apostles in the first century and what goes on today.

    My first wife was healed of blindness in one eye and I have witnessed one notable miracle in the Phillipines when I saw a deaf person healed. I have also seen others healed with lesser problems like back problems. I have also had a personal experience with tongues. So I guess maybe that is why I haven't closed the door on spiritual gifts.

    Blessings to you.

  11. Fire enough, KB. I can agree to disagree, and still think you're wonderful to know.

    But c'mon...admit that you cracked up when you read the "two healers" dialog, didn't you?
    I was still laughing over it last night! (oh...I just kill myself...)

  12. That was s'posed to be "fair" enough. (heh-heh)


I love to get comments and usually respond. So come back to see my reply.
You can click here to see my comment policy.