Don’t become a cessationist – Live the life we read about in the Bible.
Over the next several days I’ll be posting more videos by Torben Søndergaard addressing issues within the church that have arisen over decades through a lack of discernment and a lack of regard for God’s word.
Those issues are not one sided.
Søndergaard refers to the danger of falling into two extreme ditches if eyes are taken off the road between them; the road we are supposed to walk – the narrow way of Jesus.
Mostly attention is given to manifestations of both the flesh and deceiving spirits that have been accepted by many in the church as being the work of the Holy Spirit. But warnings are also given about the temptations of becoming a “heresy hunter” viewing all spiritual experience as being of the devil.
Those falling into the two ditches of charismania and cessationism have too little regard for the word of God, casting aside those parts that would challenge the error they have fallen for.
While pointing out various manifestations that he identifies as being either fleshly or demonic, Søndergaard avoids condemning those who have been deceived into thinking the Holy Spirit is at work. In fact he suggests that the Spirit IS at work, but not in the way assumed.
A few days ago in a recent post I wrote about Satan’s attempts to distract from the work of God and how we need to practice TRUE discernment when judging what’s going on so that we don’t reject the genuine along with the false.
Søndergaard believes that some of the manifestations evident among many charismatics can be due to the Holy Spirit’s presence causing unclean spirits to react; and that the manifestation of those evil spirits is unfortunately being interpreted by the undiscerning, as evidence of the Holy Spirit Himself. Therefore instead of the demon being cast out – their effects are being encouraged and sought.
Søndergaard also cautions against rejecting everything a charismatic group or individual does or teaches just because they are in error in in this particular area. He highlights the need for real discernment between the Godly and them ungodly, and not a complete rejection of everything.
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: https://onesimusfiles.wordpress.com/2014/02/11/cessationist-evasion/ )
In previous posts I’ve given my reasons for believing in the validity of on-going Spiritual gifts*.
To date I’ve still not seen or been given any argument (supportable by scripture) that could even half convince me that God has withdrawn any of the Spiritual gifts described in the New Testament.
I’ve already addressed the most common “scriptural” claim given by cessationsists – found in 1 Corinthians 13*.
The only recent “evidence” I’ve been given came in the form of a question on a cessationist blog: “how do you explain the fact that the gifts were absent from the church between, say, 100AD and 1900AD?”
My first attempt to answer that question didn’t make it past moderation. The moderator/blog owner wouldn’t approve it.
The question is based on an assumption that ignores available evidence. There are many post-apostolic references to the continuation of miracles in the church, recorded in the writings of the early church fathers. I easily found many sources giving details of their writings – which are too numerous and too lengthy for me to quote at length. Instead I’ll point to these articles here:
A link to the above articles was posted on the offending blog in response to his request for an explanation for the alleged almost 2000 year absence of gifts. The comment and the link to the articles didn’t get past moderation.
*(see here for my reasons and my comments regarding 1 Cor 13): https://onesimusfiles.wordpress.com/2014/01/09/are-we-mature-enough-not-to-need-gods-gifts/ )
Here is a link to the relevant part of the cessationist blog mentioned above:
“For the time will come when they will not endure sound doctrine, but according to their own desires, because they have itching ears, they will heap up for themselves their favourite celebrity teachers” (2 Tim 4 slightly paraphrased)
In following the arguments being presented by cessationists, I’ve seen little more than duelling with celebrities – where one celebrity preacher is quoted against another. First we had John MacArthur’s Strange Fire, then we had Frank Viola’s rebuttal, Pouring Water on Strange Fire, and Michael Brown’s Authentic Fire. These then became the focus of a cessationist response*.
I am still waiting for BIBLICAL evidence that God has withdrawn any of the Spiritual gifts. I’m still waiting because there is no such evidence.
Criticism of “charismatics” is NOT scriptural evidence, no matter how much that criticism is deserved
Yes, a sizable segment of the charimsatic “movement” promotes and practices terrible things, claiming to be motivated by the Spirit, but even if ALL claimed charismatics were the same that would still not be evidence supporting cessationism.
The problem with Charismatics arises NOT because Spiritual gifts have been withdrawn and therefore everything “charismatic” must be counterfeit – but because many “charismatics” have fallen for celebrity worship, following the word of big name men and women instead of the word of God; running from conference to conference, speaker to speaker instead of taking time to search the scriptures.
But non-charismatics are no less guilty of that, following the word of their own celebs instead of HONESTLY addressing scripture themselves.
Ironically, while charismatic excess is being cited as evidence of the cessationist viewpoint, most of that excess has NOTHING to do with biblical Spiritual gifts. Most of the aberrant behaviour and manifestations at the centre of charismania is extra-biblical. It is not even a counterfeit of biblically cited gifts. But, even their claimed expression of things that do have a biblical precedent (such as prophecy) are EASILY exposed as false by holding them accountable to biblical standards.
As well as the example of false charismata, the remaining cessationist evidence comes from their perceived lack of genuine charismata. That includes making judgements according to their own assumptions about what genuine gifts should be like. For example, tongues is dismissed by some because they insist tongues should always be recognisable earthly languages, used only for spreading the gospel. Both parts of this claim can easily be refuted by referring to Paul’s statements that someone speaking in a tongue speaks to God not man, and also refers to praying in a tongue as the spirit praying. This doesn’t fit the above mentioned cessationist preconception.
Here we have two issues, firstly a wrong preconception of what gifts should be, and secondly the lack of experience of the gifts as defined by those wrong preconceptions. In these I see very little difference between the extreme charismatic and the cessationist. Both have abandoned scripture as their standard of truth and have turned to experience. One assumes their strange experiences are from the Spirit (even when those experiences don’t stand up to scriptural scrutiny) the other assumes THEIR lack of experience** of anything must mean the gifts are no longer valid (despite that claim not standing up to scriptural scrutiny).
What the cessationist fails to consider is that their lack of experience may come down to their lack of expectation. Their denial of the gifts kills any possibility of them having faith to exercise or experience gifts themselves. Paul said “If your gift is prophesying, then prophesy in accordance with your faith” , and yet how can someone have faith to prophesy at all if they deny the possibility? Likewise with other gifts; how can anyone expect to experience those gifts in their own life if their faith’s foundation is built on denial, if they refuse even the possibility of genuine gifts?
“let him ask in faith, with no doubting, for he who doubts is like a wave of the sea driven and tossed by the wind. For let not that man suppose that he will receive anything from the Lord; he is a double-minded man, unstable in all his ways.”
If that is true of the double minded man, the man who doubts – what about the single minded man who does not doubt but strongly believes the wrong thing? Someone so convinced that Spiritual gifts aren’t valid that they have absolutely no expectation of experiencing them?
*examples of which can be found here: http://hipandthigh.wordpress.com/2014/01/20/reviewing-authentic-fire/?relatedposts_exclude=4838 and at this site: http://mennoknight.wordpress.com/
**in a reply to a comment from me, one cessationist blog owner admits that his belief is based on him not seeing any “practical evidence” of the gifts. http://hipandthigh.wordpress.com/2014/01/24/authentic-fire-chapter-2-review/comment-page-1/#comment-10916It has nothing to do with scriptural evidence – claiming that both (cessationist) MacArthur and (charismatic) Michael Brown both provide scriptural support for their (opposing) views, however he qualifies that by saying MacArthur makes a “strong case”. And yet… WHERE IS THAT “strong” CASE?
Today I followed a link to an article on John MacArthur’s website and found this statement at the top of the home page:
“Unleashing God’s Truth One Verse at a Time”.
Excuse me Mr MacArthur, the bible wasn’t written in “verses”. It wasn’t written to be addressed “one verse at a time”. That approach is guaranteed to lead to error, resulting in false doctrines that are supported by out of context proof texts.
It’s therefore not surprising that MacArthur has fallen for (and promotes) some very harmful theology (including, but not limited to, an unholy trinity of Calvinism, Cessationism and Supersessionism), a very scary thing when he has such a devoted following, and no less dangerous than the extreme charismanics he has been targeting recently.
God’s truth doesn’t need to be “unleashed” – He has already revealed His truth and it just needs to be received. A good starting point for us is to ask God to give us a love of the truth, and then receive that love when it is given. Another helpful step is to respect the ministry of the Holy Spirit, the Spirit of Truth, who has been sent to teach and equip followers of Jesus instead of denying His continuing work.
May our love of the Truth and desire for it exceed our love of any theology we may have been taught – and be greater than our love for the theologians and teachers who introduced us to it.
Some Cessationists have supported their stance by saying that Charismatics/Pentecostals are “Spirit-centred” instead of “Christ-centred”. Apart from this NOT being scriptural evidence for their theology*, can anyone truly be “Christ centred” if they create a division between Christ and the Spirit as if there’s a possibility of an either/or situation? As if anyone can be Christ centred without giving the Holy Spirit the recognition given to Him by Jesus?
I am wondering why Jesus said this:
“…everyone who speaks a word against the Son of Man will be forgiven, but anyone who blasphemes against the Holy Spirit will not be forgiven.”
Why can speaking against Jesus be forgiven but not blasphemy against the Holy Spirit?
What kind of importance does JESUS place on the Holy Spirit in that statement?
If we reject the Spirit and His continuing work (including His gifts) then aren’t we also rejecting the Jesus who promised to send the Spirit as well as rejecting the Father who sends Him in Jesus’ name?
* Whether Spiritual gifts continue to be valid or not should not be determined through judgement of the actions or beliefs of any group. The validity of ALL doctrinal viewpoints should be determined through reference to the scriptures.
A few years ago I wrote a lot about the false beliefs and practices of extreme charismatics. Recently I’ve been writing quite a bit about the equally false beliefs of cessationists.
I see these vastly different groups as the opposite sides of the SAME counterfeit coin – a coin minted to dishonour the Holy Spirit.
Almost five years ago I wrote the following article. It seems relevant enough to recent discussion to repost it and add the question: How much do we genuinely desire the Truth?
TRUTH or Tolerance and Compromise?
(originally posted here 26 May 2009 http://onefiles.blogspot.com.au/2009/05/truth-or-tolerance-and-compromise.html )
It is becoming increasing evident that the teachings of men have replaced the authority of scripture in the church’s theological foundations. The evidence has become overwhelming. Rather than accept and trust scripture, people will go to all kinds of lengths to explain why it doesn’t mean what it is clearly saying.
We have Calvinism redefining salvation and the means by which God has made it available. Then there are the extreme charismatics who have redefined signs and wonders and have turned God’s love into an expression of His desperation to be accepted. And what about the “extreme prophetic” and the “New Apostolic Reformation”? They’ve created new definitions of the prophetic and apostolic.
No matter which direction we turn there’s someone trying to improve on the truth God has provided in His written word.
I don’t know how many feel the same kind of frustration that I’ve been experiencing increasingly over the last year. From regular involvement with a variety of blogs and forums I’m coming across more and more people who are content to tolerate clear cut doctrinal error.
The first clear (recent) examples came in response to concerns about Todd Bentley and his Lakeland “revival”. No matter how weird and perverse things became there were always those who jumped up to defend what was happening. No matter how aberrant the preaching; no matter how many flaky prophecies were given; no matter how much occultic mysticism was mixed with a sampling of bible quotes – there was always a stridently vocal cheer squad singing the “revival’s” praises and condemning the ‘heresy hunters”.
Even Bentley’s open immorality was not enough to open the eyes of many. Instead the support continues.
But the modern day charismanic circus is only one aspect of the problem. The deceiver knows that you can’t tempt everyone with the same flavours. There are other things he provides for the unwary to taste. Those without a sweet tooth, who are not attracted to fluffy, sugary carnival treats, might prefer something a bit meatier; something with more substance. While the extreme charismatics prefer a scripture-lite approach that shuns “traditional interpretations”, others cling to traditional teachings as if they have the authority of scripture itself. They prize scripture – as long as it’s been filtered through a trained and ordained intermediary. We are made to think scripture is beyond the average believer and contains mysteries that are best left to those more qualified to seek out its truths.
And so centuries’ old traditions are passed from generation to generation and defended ferociously should they be challenged.
My personal journey over this last year (and more) has included experience with these opposite extremes of Christian tradition. One group interprets scripture through a centuries old theological system while the other group seems to make things up as they go along.
One group gives lip service to the authority of scripture while in reality authority is given to their theological tradition and how IT interprets scripture.
The other group gives lip service to scripture while in reality giving authority to spiritual experiences and glib clichés.
One group esteems long dead theologians the other adores the flamboyant man (or woman) of the hour.
In these different groups it seems that the Word of God and the Spirit of God are pitted against each other. One is governed by established doctrines, and interprets scripture according to those doctrines. The other is governed by “the Spirit” and interprets scripture according to “spiritual” revelation.
There are obviously some very distinct and irreconcilable differences between these two groups. And yet they have at least one common factor. Both in reality have applied some kind of condition to their approach to scripture that takes away the average believer’s relationship with God’s word. Those average believers are TOLD what can be believed and how it should be believed. They are told that scripture doesn’t necessarily mean what it seems to mean, promoting the understanding that a (traditionally) college trained or a (charismatically) anointed teacher is required to convey what scripture really saying.
Of course, the extent of how this affects the church is immense and it would be impossible to go into every aspect of the problem. But to the person who wants to know and understand the truth, and is willing to spend the time and make the effort required, the truth is easily accessible. Everyone reading this blog has the means and the ability to search the scriptures for themselves because they can obviously read. But are they willing to utilise that ability?
To a great degree we have been conditioned to believe that scripture is hard to understand and that we need someone to explain it all and to share its hidden secrets. We lack confidence. But we should recognise that it is not only a lack of confidence in ourselves – we are lacking confidence in the God who desires to make Himself known through the revelation of scripture. We lack confidence in the One who promised to send His Spirit to be our teacher, and we lack confidence in His Spirit’s ability and willingness to teach us.
The conditioning process that has distanced us from scripture has also worked by giving us an expectation of how scripture should be approached. Our exposure to scripture has been through “texts” – often meaning isolated verses that are expounded upon at length by an appointed teacher of the word. In most cases little attention is given to context and meaning is given to the selected “text” that indicates some kind of special insight has been needed to get to what was really meant by that text.
Through this experience, we ourselves then try to delve into parts of scripture according to the same method used by the teacher. We dig around and try to find the deeper things hidden within those parts of scripture. And this is usually done before the student has developed even a rudimentary understanding of how the whole bible fits together, and what its overall revelation is about.
There is little understanding of how God has related to mankind throughout history and there is little understanding about the significance of God’s relationship with Israel. To most believers, the Old Testament account is a total mystery – beyond a few half remembered stories of certain bible characters.
Now I’ve waffled on and on about this for long enough. A lot of it I’ve touched upon before on this blog and on others. But is the message getting through? Is what I’m saying having any effect?
It seems not. From what I’ve read elsewhere people are quite content to cling to their personal traditions and to tolerate the traditions of others. Relativism is alive and thriving within the “church” and it has been demonstrated time and again in some of the responses my writings have received.
While I have made it abundantly clear that I am totally opposed to Calvinism and its abhorrent “doctrines of grace” – those Calvinists that have been most ferocious in their responses to me have at least shown a devotion to those things that they believe. They recognise the exclusivity of their beliefs and see little room for compromise. The same can not be said for so many others who demonstrate (though they would surely deny it) that they accept the relativity of “truth” – that what is true for one person is okay for that person, and what is true for me is okay for me. There is a clear opposition to any idea of bringing correction to others – such actions would be seen as divisive, and it seems like division should be avoided at all costs, even if it meant compromising on the truth.
Recently I have seen time and again how people will twist scripture in every direction possible to avoid accepting what it clearly states. All kinds of mental and logical gymnastics are performed to come to an understanding that contradicts or ignores what would be unavoidable if only the actual words of scripture were accepted for what they actually said.
Why do so many persist with this wilful blindness? And why do so many let them persist, all in the name of keeping the peace?
Cessationist theology adds a strong ironic aspect to Paul’s introduction to his teaching on Spiritual gifts in 1 Cor 12:
“…concerning spiritual gifts, brethren, I do not want you to be ignorant: You know that you were Gentiles, carried away to these dumb idols…”
Why mention past involvement with “dumb idols” in an introduction to spiritual gifts: Spiritual gifts that reveal God as living, active and speaking to and through His people?
The cessationist view gives me a hint why.
I thank God that He continues to speak and act to and through His people. That He is true to His word, continuing to equip believers with the gifts His word promises. That He is different to the dumb idols referred to by Paul.
The attack* on Spiritual gifts is part of a bigger picture – an attack on the Holy Spirit Himself. I’ve been noting how much importance that the NT gives to the role of the Holy Spirit within the believer, and yet that importance is barely recognised.
It seems significant that one of the first things said about the adult Jesus was John the Baptist’s statement:
“I have baptised you with water, but He will baptise you with the Holy Spirit“
The fact that this simple statement is referenced so many times (in Matt 3, Mark 1, Luke 3, John 1, Acts 1, and Acts 11) and linked with the events at Pentecost and what happened to Cornelius, should encourage us to think about the relevance to believers today. And also make us wonder why the majority of the church ignores or tries to repudiate what is described.
So what does the NT say about the Holy Spirit and His relationship with believers? There are far too many references to go into in a blog post, but here are a few examples from the gospels and Acts.
1) Jesus will baptise believers in the Holy Spirit (Matt 3, Mark 1, Luke 3, John 1:33. Acts 1, Acts 11)
2) He is given by the Father to those who ask (Luke 11)
3) He is the Helper, sent by the Father in Jesus’ name (John 14)
4) He provides power enabling believers to be witnesses for Jesus (Acts 1)
5) He is poured out by Jesus and fills believers, resulting in clear evidence of that filling (including tongues, praise and prophecy (Acts 2, 10 and 19))
6) He is a gift given to those who repent and are baptised in the name of Jesus. (Acts 2)
7) He gives boldness to speak the word of God (Acts 4)
8) He is given to those who obey God (Acts 5)
9) He is received through prayer (Acts 8)
10) Jesus was anointed with the Spirit and power, and went about doing good and healing all who were oppressed by the devil and Paul was filled with the Spirit (Acts 9 and 10)
11) He is poured out “even on the Gentiles” (Acts 10)
12) Believers have not necessarily received the Holy Spirit (Acts 19)[refer again to points 2, 8 and 9 above for posssible reasons]
I wonder how relevant these things have been to our own Christian lives – or are they things we’ve never considered?
See previous post.
* I see this attack comes from two camps. The cessationists who deny the present day validity of the gifts, and also the unbiblical excesses of sections of Pentecostal/Charismatic groups that give cessationists their entire argument against the gifts.