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Cessationism and Strange Fire


Excellent, well thought out rebuttal from Andrew Wilson at Theology Matters to Tom Pennington’s case for cessationism given at the recent ‘Strange Fire’ conference

It’s good to face robust challenges to what you believe, every now and then. The more deeply held a belief is, the harder it is to think it through afresh, and the more possibility there is that you will become hardened in a wrong position. To that extent, I’m grateful for John MacArthur and co for putting on “Strange Fire”, an anti-charismatic conference which is nothing if not robust, even if I remain convinced that the tone in which MacArthur in particular has spoken of hundreds of millions of Christians has not been especially helpful. Wrestling with the content of the sessions has been sharpening and illuminating, although admittedly difficult and painful in places.

In this post I want to respond specifically to one of the more measured messages to emerge from the conference: Tom Pennington’s admirably clear case for cessationism. There are two reasons for this – firstly, it is easier to respond to a logically laid out case than a rhetorical appeal, and secondly, it is the foundation for all the other sessions, since (as I’m sure MacArthur and others would agree) if cessationism is not demonstrably biblical, then many of the criticisms of charismatics in the conference carry less weight. (There may be weight to some of them, of course, because one does not need to be a cessationist to be troubled by much of the contemporary charismatic movement. I am myself, for example, for reasons that will become clear if you read this). An extremely helpful and sympathetic summary of all the messages, including the one I’m quoting from here, can be found at Tim Challies’ excellent website.

Continued Here

HT to Dan for posting the link within his post, Charismatics, Cessationists, Strange Fire, Logic, and Bible Truth

10 comments on “Cessationism and Strange Fire

  1. Cessationism has the same problem as Dispensationalism. 1) It has no CLEAR Biblical support. ANYONE can twist the scriptures to say what they want them to if they try hard enough AND sharpen their knives by habitually preaching to the choir whereby no tough questions get asked. 2) It puts God in a box. It requires God to operate within the confines of a certain theological concept. The Bible is full of exceptions to the rules (David eating the shewbread for example.) Thus any theological position which puts an external framework around the activities of God is heretical.

    The concept of Strange Fire, though, is quite valid. Unfortunately, a lot if not most of what passes for the supernatural in charismatic circles is not from God. It is either from the flesh in most cases, or on occasion, likely demonic.

    In many ways John Macarthur is a superb teacher. Unfortunately, where he is off, he is really off.

    The early church learned from the Montanists that not all of the supernatural was from God and they condemned the Montanist heretics as a result, but they nevertheless refrained from descending to Cessationism which is also heretical. But John Macarthur chooses to take an extreme position on this issue which is Cessationism. That does not make him a heretic, but his position on this issue is nevertheless heretical and not to be heeded.

    • Amen George.

      Concerning the recent MacArthur conference, if he had also invited one or two speakers from the other side of the fence–say, Sam Storm, or John Piper, it could have been a very interesting conference! But for whatever reasons he decided against offering any speaking slots to well known and respected teachers who teach the Spiritual gifts are still in operation today. Instead he decided to focus on naming names from the list of known wackos and extremists who are already well-known (in both the pentecostal and charismatic world) to be unbiblical in their beliefs and teachings.

      So really, what was the point of the conference? As i wrote earlier, he and his fellow speakers were only speaking to the choir–to those who already believed as he does.

  2. “Again, this hits serious problems when it comes to 1 Corinthians 12-14, which scholars widely agree refers to ecstatic speech rather than known earthly languages, and to prophetic revelation which needs to be weighed or judged, rather than instantly being added to the infallible canon of scripture.”

    What “scholars” is he referring to? Is it liberal scholars who want to calumniate the Christian faith by making us out to be no different than the babblers of all the other various religions in the world? It is true you know. There are many religions who make the same claims and behave in the same way, producing the SAME so-called miracles. Or is it Charismatic scholars who, taking from their own experience, read that into the text? If I pull up Gill, or Calvin, or any old commentator, who were not dealing with any charismatics or any question one way or the other on the matter, I will not find one who ever thought that the tongues in 1 Cor were anything other than actual languages.

    For example, from Gill’s commentary on 1 Co 12:10:

    “To another divers kinds of tongues— whereby such could speak all manner of languages, which they had never learned, understood, and been used to: this Christ promised his disciples, when he sent them into all the world to preach the Gospel, Mar_16:16 and so anticipates an objection they otherwise might have made, how they should be able to preach it to all, so as to be understood, when they were not acquainted with the languages of all nations; an instance of which we have in the apostles on the day of Pentecost, Act_2:4 and which continued many years after with them, and other persons in the churches; see 1Co_13:2.”

    This is a man who had a working knowledge of either Greek, Hebrew, or Latin by the time he was 11 years old,and who went forward to acquire them all. Why didn’t he notice that “tongues” didn’t refer to any language, but merely to “ecstatic” speech?

    This is where their arguments fall to pieces. Not in their arguments, but in their practice,

    Next is his claim on prophecy. I have heard this claim before that New Testament prophecy was, somehow, operating from a different standard than Old Testament prophecy. On what basis does he make such a claim? Nowhere does it say that the prophecy in the New Testament age would deteriorate and become acceptably of such low quality that now, all of a sudden, we are WEIGHING and judging things. Aye, we always judged, but no doubt he does not mean to judge whether or not the person is a false prophet or not, otherwise he would not have disagreed with the other fellow. And how do you weigh the word of God? Either God spoke it, or He didn’t. Does he think that God would speak to a person in vain, and that His word could get muddled so that only some of it is true, but the rest is false? Why come to this conclusion instead of the natural conclusion… that the man is a fool who merely presumed to be hearing the voice of God in that head of his?

    When it comes down to it, the burden of proof isn’t on the cessasionists at all. It is on the Charismatics who, after hundreds of years of only a few flashy miracles here or there, that all of a sudden every Tom Dick and Harry is having visions of the end times. It is up to them to show that their miracles really do have that quality as found in the scripture, and not that quality that can be found amongst every cult, from the Oneness Pentecostals to the Catholics adoring Mary, or some stage performer like Marjoe Gortner, or Voodoo Priest or drugged out Wiccan, complaining that the spirit of Ra has possessed their bodies.

  3. Ricardo, you’ve made quite a number of statements but other then you (apparently) don’t believe the gifts of the Spirit are still in operation today im not sure how to respond. aha!

    I did come upon two very good messages earlier today concerning the topic and this recent conference. I’ll pass them on for your reading…

    Let this Strange Firestorm be a Lesson

    and from Internet Monk, one of the best messages of the day:

    There Is No Narrow, Pure Stream

    (actually hope others read the one at Internet Monk)

    • Wanted to add one more for you Ricardo. This is also (as was the original post/link) from Theology Matters. And both deal with specifics from the conference in a Christ-like manner.

      Unfriendly Fire

  4. In order for you to be a cessationist you must:
    * Take one verse from I Cor.13 and expand it to mean something where there is no other Scriptural hint anywhere else.
    * Make unscriptural classes of the gifts ( sign gifts, etc.) because most would agree that helps, governments, teachers, etc. are still in effect today.
    * Base your view primarily upon the abuse and misuse of spiritual gifts evident today.
    * Believe that God the Spirit wrote how the gifts operated to a very small group and that many verses are now worthless because the gifts are now obsolete.
    * And most of the argument centers around the “sign gifts: which are connected to the Pentecostal/Charismatic realm primarily.
    * You must deny documented evidence from different parts of the world which point to the miraculous working of the Spirit.

    • Thanks Henry–very good list!

      Your last point is something many Christians never, sadly, hear about. Its true. At the last Christian board/forum i helped out at, we had a missionary to Africa who confirmed this.

      Make unscriptural classes of the gifts ( sign gifts, etc.) because most would agree that helps, governments, teachers, etc. are still in effect today.

      Yes, and that is something i’ve never understood–how they believe they can separate the gifts, believing some are in operation today while others are not, without the word stating it to be so!

  5. Perhaps some of the Cessationist folks who have posted in haven’t heard of the Moravian Brethren, under Count Zinzendorf? They experienced a definite move of God with supernatural signs following (of a sedate and much more Biblical nature than the current NAR people.) They did not experience heaven on earth straight away and some of their meetings descended into arguements and disputes, and also some of their beliefs in the early days were suspect, to say the least. But over time, as they prayed together and stayed together, the Holy Spirit lead them into all truth concerning these matters. As a result of the word becoming a part of their daily routine, ‘fruit’ began to appear in their lives.

    The main fruit of their experiences and their labours were:

    1) a 100 year prayer meeting that ran non stop around the clock,

    2) a truly Christian commune (very rare either then, or now)

    3) and of course, world wide missionary endeavor, to the point where they inspired William Carey and the future Baptist Union some decades later on.

    4) Another ‘fruit’ of their labours was to also heavily influence John Wesley, who had not found God or His will in America. He met them on a return boat trip crossing the Atlantic, and came back to England all charged up, and the Wesleyan revival was the final result. England was saved from the same kind of terrible revolution that France underwent, because the Gospel was preached to rich and poor alike.

    5) the fruit of the Holy Spirit (Gal 5:22) was also very evident in their writings, the hymns they wrote, and their daily lives, as excerpts of the Count’s diary and other eyewitness testimonies of visitors also recorded the depth and spread of that move.

    No doubt there was a ‘Strange Fire’ conference not too far down the road from Herenhaut, depicting them as “these Pentecostals, they’re all tarred with the same brush”? If it hadn’t been for the Count’s kindness ( a fruit of the Spirit,) in taking in these Reformed ‘refugees’ who were under heavy persecution from Rome in their native Czechoslovakia (called ‘Bohemia’ back then) then there may not have been a global Baptist mission or a Wesleyan revival, and England may have resorted to revolution and become a Godless country long before today.

    Austin Hellier
    ‘Continuist’

  6. http://www.christianity.com/church/church-history/timeline/1701-1800/herrnhut-revival-a-golden-summer-11630208.html

    http://www.evanwiggs.com/revival/history/moravian.html

    http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/History_of_the_Moravian_Church

    http://www.revival-library.org/pensketches/revivals/1st_moravians.html

    There’s just a few PJ. I don’t necessarily endorse ‘christian communes’ as many of them have started well, and ended up in disaster, as they were not called of God to be that way. Neither do I endorse public confession of personal sins, as cultish groups have often taken advantage of innocent people’s willingness to perform in that area, but even if the ‘confessor’ is genuine, their sins can be used against them at a later date. We need to be discerning as to what the will of God is for us..

    It seems to me though that Herrenhut (the ‘Lord’s watch’, in English,) was a move that was ordained of God, and the fruit of the Holy Spirit is self evident both in their daily lives and in their missionary endeavours. There are many more references on line, and some books in print. You’ll have to Google them – enjoy!

    Austin Hellier
    Downunder

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