Moving the Theological Goalposts

goalpostsThe goal posts of the cessationist argument have been moved.

After choosing not to post my link to articles detailing post apostolic examples of the gifts still in use, the “Hip and Thigh” blog owner says:

Everyone is aware of post apostolic miracles. I am completely aware of what Sam Storm believes about supernatural happenings after 100 AD. But none of those examples he supplies demonstrates the continuance of gifted people, just that God acts supernaturally at certain times in response to prayer or in the working out of his providence. That is something no “cessationist” as they are called, disagrees with.

So now it seems every historical case of gifts in action is not evidence of the gifts in action, and therefore their continuing availability. Those cases are merely examples of God’s response to prayer or the working out of His providence.

Now the argument is being shifted from the continuance of Spiritual gifts, to the “continuance of gifted people”. And since those gifts allegedly ended with the last of the apostles the term “gifted people” seems to refer to the original apostles.

But the gifts in question have nothing to do with “gifted people” (apostles), and everything to do with a GIFTING God.

The issue isn’t about “gifted people”. The issue is the continuation of the gifts of the Spirit and miracles provided by the God that the apostles worshipped and promoted.
The one and only God who is just as real and no less active in the world today. Any absence of gifts and miracles is not due to a Divine recall or Divine inactivity, but due to human factors (such as lack of belief in the availability of gifts due to false teaching).

Are the Spiritual gifts HE made available to the body (not just the apostles) for the building up of the body, still needed and still available today?

Did he restrict those gifts to an elite apostleship?

Was their practice limited to an elite apostleship?

Did God withdraw any of those gifts after the last of the apostles?

Are those gifts still valid, available and practiced today and throughout history, even from 100AD to 1900AD and to the present day?

Yes! As attested by the absence of biblical evidence that they would be withdrawn soon after Paul wrote about them, and by the presence of historical evidence that they HAVE continued (some of which can be found at the links provided in my earlier post here: )

8 thoughts on “Moving the Theological Goalposts

  1. Moving the Theological Goal Posts Addendum.

    After submitting the above post I thought more about the reply I received from the “Hip and Thigh” blog owner and saw what could be the central misconception behind his views. I then posted the following reply to his blog and wait now to see whether he deletes it or not.

    Fred you said: “God acts supernaturally at certain times in response to prayer or in the working out of his providence”

    And what do you think the gifts of the Spirit are – and even the miracles worked at the hands of the apostles?

    Were they not also supernatural acts of God? Or do you suggest there was some power within “gifted people” like the apostles that was used apart from God’s providence?

    The continuing issue here is whether God continues to intervene in this world by His Spirit through the same gifts revealed in scripture. There is no biblical evidence to suggest that those gifts would be withdrawn very soon after Paul wrote about them, but there IS evidence of their continuation, as you have admitted, although you try to redefine that evidence.

  2. The reference to “gifted people” in the quote from the “Hip and Thigh” blog brings to my mind the same kind of idea prevalent in the Pentecostal/Charismatic church today: that there is a kind of “anointed” elite with a closer connection to God.

    In a similar way the non-charismatics have their trained and ordained ministers to whom they need to turn for their theological needs
    These are two false ideas that make ministry the domain of an elite “priesthood” bridging a gap between God and the everyday believer.
    However, the ONLY intermediary needed by any of us is JESUS.

  3. Apparently, people have trouble communicating about this (whether or not the trouble has to do with honesty and forthrightness and so on). It is understandable that people would get from reading the Bible that various people are/were given various gifts (and that you put these gifts or people together to form a body). Like a body has a foot, someone is seen to be the person (or one of a couple or few) to heal others. As I have alluded to previously, I tend not to see things exactly that way because I think many, if not all, gifts are available to any believer, in the Spirit, as needed or inspired by the Spirit. I hope your inquiry in this matter is productive and harmonious or harmonizing going forward.*

    [* I mean that I see potential in this nugget you are seeing and pursuing.]

    Also, a note: Even in congregations who do recognize gifting as current and not ceased, even when they are more of a mind to think as I have described above rather than to seek stars or special “anointed” people to be healers and prophets and so on, many still have educated leaders, leaders who are responsible for the congregations.* Thus, there is still the habit of combining pastor and teacher (while not necessarily in the sensationalized form of a television evangelist or teacher or radio personality). Of course, many places have uneducated teachers too. And some sources of education are better or worse than others. It makes sense to me that a pastor and a teacher should not have ignorant minds.

    [* I mean one for a congregation, not the kabals of self-appointed prophets or apostles.]

  4. Hi Marleen, people from various traditions all seem to have the idea of the “ruling priest” specially chosen by God to run a church, or to conduct all ministry and if we need anything, from advice to prayer, THEY are the ones to turn to.

    If the everyday members of a church should get it into their head that they were actually members of a body, all intended to serve (minister to) each other and that the only head is Christ, that would be a challenge to the position and authority of the “ruling priest”.

    Churches were supposed to be “overseen” by a group of elders (who fulfil certain moral criteria), and maybe a fellowship could have apostles. prophets, evangelists, pastors and teachers as members who are not necessarily elders of that fellowship. But throughout most of church history ALL of the various ministries have been compressed into one and given the title “pastor” or “reverend” or “minister” etc, until most of the genuine biblical ministries have been forgotten, dismissed – or assumed to have been withdrawn.

    So far my main focus on cessationism has been on correcting their view that the gifts of the Spirit are no longer valid but an equally wrong perception is that the ministry gifts (often referred to as the fivefold ministries or “ascension” ministry gifts) are also no longer valid.

  5. I look at all the gifts pretty much the same way, except that the overseers or pastors responsible for congregations (as well as apostles and evangelists when they are in pastoral or overseeing functions) absolutely must meet higher moral criteria (as you said). [And, as I indicated, I don’t think schools for them, leading to ordination are bad either… if they are actually good and don’t mainly shut off thinking skills.]

    In a certain type of society — such as when it is commonplace to have one wife, no mistress or concubine or harem, no girlfriend on the side or ex-wife or previous baby mommy, etc. — there really would be many people who could serve as pastors and so on. [But I guess we’re acknowledging, too, that some places aren’t up to speed, so to speak, and it isn’t normal to have just a wife.]

    I sure should have said, before, that I certainly do agree with you that we don’t need intermediaries and that we shouldn’t be expecting a leader to be all things. But my main point was that it’s understandable a person reading the Bible might genuinely perceive that particular people had been given gifts like healing during apostolic days.

  6. Hi Marleen, a problem arises however when it is assumed that the only ones to be given gifts like healing were those original apostles – and therefore those gifts passed away when those apostles died out; when someone determines (against biblical evidence) that only a select few in the past were “gifted people” and that for some reason, when those people died, so did the gifts.

    We can see from the NT that more than the apostles displayed gifts of healing. Jesus Himself sent out 70 to preach and heal the sick (clearly more in number than the 12 existing apostles), then later in Acts there was Stephen who was not one of the twelve who did “wonders and great signs”, and Philip did miracles in Samaria (not to be confused with the apostle Philip who stayed in Jerusalem with the other apostles when the persecution caused the rest to scatter.

    And Paul lists gifts of healing as available to the body (writing to the church at Corinth) not as gifts solely for the apostles. And James writes of healing through anointing oil and the prayer of faith, involving church elders.

    The whole idea that healing and miraculous gifts were the sole domain of the apostles or specially “gifted people” of a very short period in history quickly falls apart… and that doesn’t even touch the historical accounts from the early “church fathers”… or the other gifts.

  7. It does seem obvious gifts like wonders and healing weren’t only given to the first apostles or apostles generally [for anyone who thinks there are/were apostles beyond the twelve]. And it does seem to me it’s also a problem (albeit often possibly an “innocent” one) to think in terms of gifts being only given or available to particular people or “gifted people” even if more than apostles are included in the idea.

  8. So many of the cessationists that I’ve come across, like MacArthur, are Calvinists, and in so much of their theology they tend to get things back to front: like believing regeneration precedes faith and repentance.

    In this case it’s as if gifts were only available to “gifted people” (who are no longer around) instead of God continuing to give gifts to ordinary believers through the Spirit.

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