Wednesday, November 23, 2005

Attitude in cessationist debate

The cessationist debate, whether spiritual gifts are still continuing today or not, is raging on and many are making categorical statements that tend to put either of the sides on the opposite side of Biblical Christianity.
Millard J. Erickson, in his systematic theology called Introducing Christian Doctrine, 2nd Ed., Baker Academic, Grand Rapids, MI, 2001, p284, looks at this issue in a very level headed way. Here is the quote:
"In my judgment it is not possible to determine with any certainty whether the contemporary charismatic phenomena are indeed gifts of the Holy Spirit. There simply is no Biblical evidence indicating the time of fulfilment of the prediction that tongues will cease. Nor is the historical evidence clear and conclusive. There is a great deal of evidence on both sides. Each group is able to cite an impressive amount of data which are to its advantage, bypassing the data presented by the other group. This lack of historical conclusiveness is not a problem, however. For even if history proved that the gift of tongues has ceased, there is nothing to prevent God from reestablishing it. On the other hand, historical proof that the gift has been present through various eras of the church would not validate the present phenomena. What we must do, then, is to evaluate each case on its own merits. This does not mean that we are to sit in judgment on the spiritual experience or the spiritual life of other professing Christians. What it does mean is that we cannot assume that everyone who claims to have had a special experience of the Holy Spirit's working has really had one. Scientific studies have discovered enough non-Spirit-caused parallels to warn us against being naively credulous about every claim. Certainly not every exceptional religious experience can be of divine origin, unless God is a very broadly ecumenical and tolerant being indeed, who even grants special manifestations of his Spirit to some who make no claim to Christian faith and may actually be opposed to it. Certainly if demonic forces could produce imitations of divine miracles in biblical times (e.g., the magicians in Egypt were able to imitate the plagues up to a point), the same may be true today as well. Conversely, however, no conclusive case can be made for the contention that such gifts are not for today and cannot occur at the present time. Consequently, one cannot rule in an a priori and categorical fashion that a claim of glossolalia is spurious. In fact, it may be downright dangerous, in the light of Jesus' warnings regarding blasphemy against the Holy Spirit, to attribute specific phenomena to demonic activity."
I think that in this discussion of cessationism vs continuationism it would be in the interest of all to remain civil to one another and not to resort to ad hominem attacks against one another.
The fact is that on both sides there are people who have gone through the hermeneutical process and have come to different conclusions. A case in point is Phil Johnson and Adrian Warnock. They disagree on this point; however, they both treat each other as brothers in Christ.
So, remember, when tackling this issue, that the group of people that disagree with you are people, not demons or Satan himself. Therefore, treat them with the love that Jesus demands from us as clearly shown in the story of the Good Samaritan.
Just thinking...

No comments:

Related Posts Widget for Blogs by LinkWithin