Friday, November 18, 2005

Cessationism vs. Continuationism

There is a debate going on throughout the blogosphere (I haven't followed it all) about whether or not the gifts of the Holy Spirit have ceased. Prophecy is the gift in question in this particular thread. If you believe they have ceased, then you are a cessationist. If you believe the gifts are still around today, then you are a continuationist. I have no idea what you are if you're undecided. Though I'm sure someone has a term for it.

I am a continuationist because God said that the gifts would not cease until that which is perfect has come, meaning the return of Jesus Christ. (I Corinthians 13:9-10) And unless we are all in Hell and don't know it, Jesus has not yet returned for His bride and Hell isn't so bad afterall. NOT! So, first and foremost, I believe the word of God. Second, I have experienced some of the gifts myself. I've been healed miraculously on more than one occasion; I've been given a word of knowledge two times by people who didn't know me from Adam and they were spot on; and a specific word of knowledge went out about someone who needed to be healed and from that day forward a gradual healing took place in my life (not the tobacco addiction I spoke of in the comments section on Phil's blog). I have NO doubt in my mind that those healings and words were directly from God and no cessationist can take that away from me. They are entitled to their opinion and are at liberty to disbelieve if they so choose, but I've lived it and I know that I know that I know it happened to me. There is more, but it would take too long to explain.

Having said all that, I am now very cynical of anyone who professes to be a prophet or speak a word of knowledge due to all the charismania that has gone on throughout these past couple of decades as well as other personal experiences. I have experienced men and women who have said, "Thus saith the Lord" and I know that it was not "Thus saith the Lord" because it either did not line up with scripture or the person did not do everything they said the Lord told them to do. There is more to the story, but it is too long to go into right now. I've also had someone try to push me down so as to make it appear that I was "slain in the spirit." I resisted so hard that it hurt my neck and the person got mad at me for "not going down." I do not find being "slain in the spirit" in scripture, but I also do not totally discount it because God could knock me out cold if He wanted to by His very power. There is more on this subject that I've had experience with, but it is too long to explain.

In terms of the continuation of prophecy, Phil has asked the continuationist to name just one prophet who has been 100% accurate in their prophecies. Of course he's only thinking of the nationally and globally known Kim Clements and Benny Hinns of the world: proven false prophets. Also, we're merely a few readers of his blog and not a true sample of the entirety of Christendom, so who's to say that there isn't someone out there who does know of someone who is 100% accurate in their prophetic utterances. But I think Dan Edelen has posted an excellent response to the whole issue which echoes my sentiments exactly. I hope that anyone reading will take the time to read Dan's entire post.

Here is an excerpt.

The problem, and I'm totally sympathetic to Phil's complaint about bogus prophets, is that the scientific rationalism and "We're rich and enlightened so we don't need God" attitude only kills the miraculous among people who don't believe it. While this may be prevalent in the West, it does not negate the fact that God is going to do supernaturally miraculous kinds of things (that some claim don't happen anymore) among people who still take Him at His Word concerning the gifts. This is why revival is sweeping China and other less scientifically-indoctrinated cultures and is missing the West.

In other words, I think that predictive prophetic utterances that are truly of the Lord are rare in the West. But experience does not trump Truth! That our experience of prophecy today is rare does not mean that it is non-existent or rare in places around that world where those who speak predictive prophecy prophesy in obscurity.

God has a history of taking away from those who do not appreciate what He has given them and giving to people who do. Just because the wind has died down here in our anti-supernatural, rationalistic country does not mean that there are not prophets even now speaking to the Church in China and in places where people are willing to believe because belief is all they have.

So no, I can't give Phil names of any 100% accurate predictive prophets in 2005 (because tracking supposed prophets is not my calling), but neither can he prove that none exist elsewhere in the world, either today or at any time since the death of the apostles--especially since some leading Calvinists of yesteryear were definitely prophesying, hearing the audible voice of God, and having visions in a Europe not yet overcome by anti-supernaturalism and the Enlightenment.

Phil Johnson:

What I am concerned with in these posts is prophecy as new revelation, period. The foretelling/forthtelling distinction may not be terribly helpful, because someone who claims to have "a special word from God" for you might not, technically, be telling the future; yet he is claiming to be an agent of new divine revelation.

I've asked twice for Phil, or someone else, to provide us an example of what is meant by "new revelation." So far, no one has bothered to do so. Maybe Phil just hasn't gotten around to it yet since he's been out of town. Another poster referred me to a book by Rick Joyner called The Harvest. I appreciate the information, but I'm just looking for a quick example or definiton.

Phil Johnson:

Yet inconsistently, without any clear biblical statement or warrant for their opinion, they simultaneously insist that there was a major shift in the nature of the prophetic gift sometime between the Testaments—so that NT prophecy is supposed to be fallible and utterly unreliable, and yet be embraced as divine revelation.That's why they insist that we should evaluate NT prophecy by a totally different standard from the one given to us in the OT.And that, on the face of it, is an absurd position.

I have to agree with Phil on this one. God did not change His standards on prophecy. True prophecy is still infallible; else we would not know a person to be a true prophet or not.

I particularly liked Dan's challenge to Phil and hope Phil will at least comment on the challenge. But I'm not holding my breath.

Phil's burden of proof for charismatics is to spotlight one modern prophet who is 100% accurate. For the purpose of exceptions, I would like to turn that around on Phil (especially in the light of his post's conclusion above) and have him prove that beginning the day after John died, not a single accurate prophetic word has been uttered by anyone in the rest of Christian history. Now that's a burden of proof!

1 Corinthians 13:9-10 For we know in part, and we prophesy in part. But when that which is perfect is come, then that which is in part shall be done away.

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