Monday, October 27, 2014

A Brotherly Exchange on Spiritual Gifts

Back in the mid 90s, I became best friends with a kid at the church I attended at the time. We shared a love for hockey and computer games, so we were pretty much set for the long term. Over 15 years later now, and we've stayed connected via Facebook and the occasional visit.

Interestingly, we both studied theology in college and when we would reconnect, we'd talk about our discoveries, agreements, and yes, disagreements.

In a recent Facebook exchange, we touched on the topic of spiritual gifts. What initially started with some brotherly theological trash talk (as you'll see) actually turned into a productive exchange. He has, in recent years, become a Calvinistic cessationist (cessationism being the belief that revelatory gifts like prophecy and tongues have ceased with the death of the 12 apostles). I also am a Calvinist, but I believe these supernatural gifts continue today. Some names for this belief would include "charismatic theology" or "continuationism."

After getting a thumbs up from my friend, I decided to post the brief exchange here. I hope you benefit from it.

Me: you'll fit right in... maybe even more than I do...
being that I'm an Acts 29 charismatic... and there's loads of cessationist presbyterians in the group [We were talking about a Calvinistic Facebook group]

Friend: Haha, I feel the reformed charismatics are fewer in number, yes.

I wouldn't even know they exist if not for you.

Me: that being said... I've won the debates I've engaged in in the group on that topic...

Friend: I'm sure a few atheists have made the same claim.

Me: in my opinion, watching a cessationist walk through 1 Corinthians 12-14 is like watching an arminian walk through Romans 9

Friend: Eh. I see how the Bible could allow for it, but like I've said, I don't see the necessity. I don't need tongues, prophesy, etc., when the Bible already tells me what I need to know.

But I don't get bent out of shape like a lot of other people do. If you believe in those spiritual gifts, it doesn't make you a heretic, obviously... to us, anyway.

Me: 1 Corinthians 12:31 is in the imperative my friend.
Sorry... I meant 14:1.
Well... both.

Friend: I get that. And that's why I leave the door open. But when you study the point of the gifts and understand the sufficiency of Scripture, it seems like the point of those gifts is negated.

But, like I said, I respect anyone who knows the Bible well (like you) and concludes that they're valid, since I don't claim the Bible has a "slam dunk" verse that says tongues, etc., have already ceased.

Even though a verse says they "will" cease, but we both know that doesn't necessarily mean they already have.

Though I choose to believe they have.

Me: I think it's pretty clear that the cessation being spoken of in 13 is referring the return of Christ (face to face etc.)
I think the main disagreement is in regard to the purpose of the gifts...
if it were stated that the gifts were bound to the apostolic ministry and that their purpose was the attestation of their authority, then it would be logical that they would cease.
However, Paul's instruction in 1 Corinthians is to the general church population... that's the big thing for me... there are so many non-apostolic people addressed in the New Testament who did not contribute to scripture that are clearly prophetically gifted...
that's generally the area I ask cessationists to address.

Friend: I agree with that. I never said they were bound to just the apostles. But they appear necessary to only that time period because we have the revelation of God's will in the completed canon now.

I agree that if it's for today or when it was in effect, it wasn't discriminant. Maybe not for EVERYONE, but not for just a particular office.

Me: I think the cessationist's concern is generally that charismatics will try to introduce doctrine contrary to the canon... which is obviously legitimate, however...
I find that non-apostles who prophecy, for example, in the book of acts, don't prophecy information regarding the nature of God or doctrine, it is generally personal direction and affirmation of ministry, even toward the apostles above them
like the four sisters (I forget their names in acts)
if this is what paul had in mind (and it's what I've experienced) then it would make sense that a closed canon would not put an end to it.

Friend: I agree with all that. That's why I'm not afraid of it. But like I said, all I need is the Bible when it comes to "general personal direction and affirmation of ministry." Since I know people like you aren't going to add to or twist the Bible, I'm not really concerned. It's the people, like you mentioned, who try to introduce things.

Me: Right... my only exhortation would be to contemplate the "imperative" nature of 1 Corinthians 14:1 etc. We are not always the best judges of what God wants to give us.

Friend: I agree with that too. But even the Old Testament says you can't know a prophesy is from God until it happens anyway. Plus, I can argue that I did seek those gifts when I was at [church we attended together] and came up empty.

Me: Oh, we could talk about the madness that was [church we attended together] all day.

Friend: And like anything you study in the Bible, even if you're looking for God's will, you need to pray and take context into consideration, etc.

Me: Indeed

Friend: Wait, you mean you're not supposed to just shout out in tongues with no one to interpret??

Me: Paul (in regard to general church prophecy) said to test all things... so no disagreement here.

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