Q8 for Bryan: A third question about abuses

I promise this will be my last question about abuses, but it will run a little long. :-)

Elsewhere in your answers, you made it clear that you think abuses aren’t really that important.  That’s an odd position for a guy who, as we discussed over lunch, thinks that the natural tendency of Reformed believers is to be either legalists or spiritually-powerless against their own sins.  That is: you can see that the gift of discernment has its own pitfalls, but you are somehow squeamish regarding the obvious pitfalls of Charismatic practices.

Some churches claim to be Bible-believing churches, but the way they read the Bible frankly causes them to do all manner of abusive things, including the emotional and personal abuse of believers and unbelievers alike.

Some churches claim to use the signs of the church as Christ commanded them — that is, Baptism and the Lord’s Table.  However, the way they use them (for example, rebaptizing people over and over, or including both believer and unbelievers at the eucharist) abuses both the sign and the people who are receiving them by deceiving them about what they are doing.  It puts people spiritually in harm’s way.

It’s clear, it seems to me, that every good and Godly thing can be abused, and there are consequences to doing so.  Why would the Spiritual Gifts be any different?

I definitely agree with you that every good and Godly thing can be abused, and that the spiritual gifts are not excluded. In terms of potential for abuse, they are no different. I wouldn't be writing all of this if I thought abuses weren't important. Of course, that's why you're asking "Why the pattern of easily pointing out the pitfalls of reformed discernment yet remaining hesitant to answer concisely about the pitfalls of charismatic practices?" 
My simple answer to that question: I've more experience with the weaknesses and abuses on the Reformed side. I'm just more familiar with what it's like to operate out of a reformed cessationist paradigm and how it influences thinking on this issue...I think. Conversely, I've very little actual exposure to abuses on the charismatic side. 

Perhaps this story will help. Go here If you've time to read a little more of the backdrop to my response to this question. I couldn't include it here because of word count, however, my points below correlate with what I've written there. 
To respond to your wording of my view being that "the natural tendency of Reformed believers is to be either legalists or spiritually-powerless against their own sins", I'd like to say three things.
1. I understand my story in living out the Christian life within a Reformed cessationist paradigm is unique. I don't automatically project it on anyone else nor do I think John Macarthur would ever endorse any of the things I've done in the name of discernment or his name, especially while living a double life. 

Furthermore, some of the godliest, faithful, and most loving men I've known are cessationists.

In my limited understanding of things, the gifts of the Spirit stem from an intimate relationship with God, a way of relating to Him that I think includes the confidence that God still speaks individually to His children just as he has throughout biblical history. I personally think intimacy with God cannot be nurtured if one is in any state of paralyzing uncertainty of whether or not he or she is His child or if they're convinced He's mostly resistant or even reluctant to communicate with them normally on a very personal level. So, I think it's worth exploring how issues around identity (including but not limited to assurance of salvation) and intimate friendship with God play in to and affect the reformed cessationist view and experience overall.     
2. There may be someone reading this whose experience in the Reformed cessationist paradigm has been exactly opposite. I get that. But I think, if I may use a broad brush, the very things which are foundational to all of the Christian life in the Spirit --Identity as a son or daughter & Intimate friendship with God--are two things at least in my experience, tended to be weaknesses in the reformed cessationist camp. Of course I'm in no way saying cessationists don't have a rich relationship with God. There are many cessationists who walk more intimately with God and look more like Him than I do, many that I can learn much from.  

To address my own tendency to legalistic relating--I would like to start asking myself as I go through my day--"Father, am I engaging with you and your purposes right now from a place of intimate companionship or intimidated compliance?" For me this can reveal if I'm working to please God (outside relationship) or walking with God to advance His Kingdom. Whether it's prophesying or expository preaching, casting out demons or holding strange fire conferences, I think the tendency for all of us is to do things outside of intimate relationship our Father and without a view to do His will by the power of the Spirit of God.      
Also it may be good to say something here about Christlikeness and your comment that I've badly misread the analogy of being like Christ and am attempting to make you guys feel impoverished with my views of what it means to imitate Christ and carry out His ministry. I think the main thing I seek to imitate or should seek to imitate as one who is in Christ, is Christ's intimacy with the Father. All of His authority and power flowed from His relationship with His Father, and His character and ministry were lived out in the Power of the Holy Spirit. How should we be different?  
Those who say, "Lord Lord, did we not do this and do that..." are obviously presenting these works to Jesus as the basis for why they should be accepted. They neither knew God nor were known by God. There's obviously a form of power there that has nothing to do with Identity and Intimacy (being known by God). It's a sober warning for everyone, not just charismatics. But the charismatics who I know-- love Christ, want to know Christ,want to love like Christ and make Him known. They seek to walk intimately with the Father, and seek to carry out His will in their daily lives by the power of the Holy Spirit. To suggest that since we believe we should carry on those works of Jesus mentioned in that passage necessarily puts us specifically at a greater risk of being the very group he's talking about is a misguided application of that passage.       
3. Because of my own journey, because of the testimony and teaching of scripture, and because of my greater familiarity with what living in the Reformed paradigm generally is like, even if I am wrong on some of what I've written here, I am persuaded that cessationists have far more to learn from their Continuationist and Charismatic brothers than they do to criticize and condemn.
That's why I think the pitfalls of the cessationist camp are on my front burner. I really do feel like they've, as in the Strange Fire conference, took extreme steps in cutting themselves off from some of the very men and things that could strengthen their walk with the Lord and the churches they lead. Sadly, they've attempted to extinguish them.     

Q8 for Frank: Is the Kingdom of God here today?

In an interview on this documentary film, J.P. Moreland speaks about how, in the western American church, the power of God has been reduced down to debates about the gifts of the Spirit, but how that to him is rather a side issue. He goes on to say that the more fundamental questions should be, regardless what you believe the gifts to be or not to be, are: 1. Is the Kingdom of God here today and is it to be manifested in power? 2. Are we to conduct and carry out the ministry of Jesus as He did, and if so, is healing and demonic deliverance supposed to be a part of that ministry?

How would you answer those two questions?     

To answer concisely:

(1) I do think the Kingdom of God is here today -- and I think it looks a lot like the description of it in Acts 2 (and 
Galatians, Ephesians, both letters to the Thessalonians and so on).

(2) You have badly misread the analogy of what it means for the believer to be like Jesus.

Let me expand on those answers so I am not misunderstood.  I'd also like to point out that I answered them in substance already in a previous question, but I'll answer them again here to be as clear as possible.

I think that at the end of Acts 2, we get a description of the church which is sort of invincible -- it doesn't really leave any questions unanswered regarding what the Apostles are bringing when they tell Israel to know for certain that Jesus is both Lord and Christ.  In spite of its impact on my word count, I'll cite it here again in full:
[The Believers] devoted themselves to the apostles' teaching and the fellowship, to the breaking of bread and the prayers. And awe came upon every soul, and many wonders and signs were being done through the apostles. And all who believed were together and had all things in common. And they were selling their possessions and belongings and distributing the proceeds to all, as any had need. And day by day, attending the temple together and breaking bread in their homes, they received their food with glad and generous hearts, praising God and having favor with all the people. And the Lord added to their number day by day those who were being saved.
So when Paul tells the people in Jerusalem that the one who is Lord even to David has risen from the dead, and then adds them to the assembly of believers in baptism because they have repented of their sin, somehow he doesn't create a kingdom of dragon-slayers or wonder-workers.  He instead creates a community of people who did a lot of things "day by day," but it turns out not so much the things you think are necessary for the life of the church.

Let's be clear that as a premise of this discussion, I have conceded that if there are a continuation of signs, they are Apostolic in nature, and therefore there ought to be Apostles performing them -- but they have to be the same signs that the Apostles were demonstrating.  So while it is interesting that you have found J.P. Moreland to be someone demanding that we believe in and perform Apostolic signs, it's funny that you and Moreland have sort of walked away from the Acts 2 definition of the church to something else where everybody is an Apostle of some kind -- as opposed to the Apostles being a special class of believers with a specific gift and mission.

I ask the reader of this exchange to ask himself or herself: if Moreland and Bryan are right, and the Kingdom needs exorcists and healers, why is the daily life of the church in Acts 2 plainly lacking in such things?  Why is the daily life of the church far more ordinary when it is described by Luke and later by Paul (in Galatians, Ephesians, both letters to the Thessalonians and so on)?

I think the answer to that question lies in the misunderstanding Bryan demonstrates in his attempt to make us feel somehow impoverished if we are not sufficiently like Jesus.  It's strange that this is his gambit, because the places where the NT says we ought to strive to be like Jesus -- for example, in humility, in service, in love for other people, etc. -- don't include the places where Bryan would turn to say the NT teaches a continuation of the Apostolic gifts.  Ironically, the one place where people do turn to Jesus and say, "did we not prophesy in your name, and cast out demons in your name, and do many mighty works in your name" (Mat 7:21-13), Jesus says to them, "I never knew you."

I think we should be like Jesus - in the ways the Bible says we should be like Jesus.  But insofar as we ought to be His Kingdom, the Bible spells out a lot of ways that is manifest - and none of them are related to whether or not we perform supernatural signs and wonders.  

(740 words)

Q7 for Bryan: More about Abuses

I thought your response to Q2 did 2 things: (1) it ignored your own argument in Q1, and (2) it blamed the Cessationist as somehow intransigent for asking a pretty basic question about an allegedly-necessary attribute of the church — which is, “how can I know if we are doing it right?”

In 1 Cor 14, Paul says, “the spirits of prophets are subject to prophets,” by which he means that somehow there is a right and necessary constraint of these manifestations to therefore keep good order and edify the church.  (He explains why in 1 Cor 14:6-15)  If Paul has commanded that there be spiritual gifts used in the church, he demanded they be used in a proper way.  That’s what I mean when I ask about spiritual abuses.
What am I not understanding when I see a disconnect between Paul's approach and yours -- which seems to say that anything goes?

No matter how I clarify, there will be cessationists who after reading this post will come away saying something like, "See..see...they refuse to be held to account, they're crying foul at the slightest objection and are demanding to be able to do whatever they want without us even raising an eyebrow." But if that's what you take away, you're missing the point. But as I've already stated in my introduction: 
"Who is it, really, that’s crying foul? This hard cessationist camp and expression are like the abusive bullying husband who pushes his wife’s buttons and pushes her buttons and pushes her buttons, waiting until she finally explodes and shows him some nice dark colors and teeth, so he can then punish her for it and demand she not have any buttons to push."   
Cessationists aren't intransigent for asking the basic question, "how can I know we are doing it right?"--if that's indeed what they are sincerely asking. But that's not what I've heard you or cessationists ask or say--as if they were earnestly seeking spiritual gifts and wondering if they are doing it according to Paul's instructions, which you are right, are instructions for those who ARE obeying or sincerely want to obey his other commands to pursue love and earnestly desire gifts. It's not intended for those who are acting like self-justifying disobedient naysayers with a knack for deflecting, to use against those who've actually got skin in the game and are taking the risks.   
From the beginning there has been these condescending demands that we provide better answers for cessationist questions concerning abuse, as if you guys really do assume God views you and your position on this as superior and has you here as the referees to blow the whistle on everyone else and tally up who's met your requirements and who hasn't, who's paid their dues with the answers you want and who hasn't. And as I've stated elsewhere, as an ex-Macarthurite I know what it’s like to know I’m going to be accused of some form of Phariseeism and to pre-defend myself by claiming to be just a martyr for the truth, so it has been no surprise to see that kind of talk among you guys play out as usual.
What I have heard you "ask" is, "We believe what you're practicing is demonic clairvoyance and/or cheap counterfeits and that it's probable you are not even a part of the body of Christ, but, for the sake of argument, I'll concede the gifts are for today--so...given that gracious concession, can you show me the real deal which only looks like [fill in the blank] and how you and I can both know that YOU are doing it right?"
The disconnect is not because I'm an anything goes guy (far from it), the disconnect is because I simply refuse to play that game...I won't play into this inflated fantasy of y'all's that you deserve better answers than what you've been getting simply because you are who you are as opposed to us question marks. You've attributed genuine acts of the Holy Spirit to Satan while kicking your heels. You don't get a pass on your own blasphemy because you're confident you're confronting blasphemy or because you've written fifty commentaries. 
If this means I'm accused of not considering abuses to be a big deal, then so be it. That's simply not true. But I can't help you much there as long as you've a higher tolerance for your own unbelief and mockery than my inability or unwillingness to account for what everyone who claims to be charismatic, does with the gifts. 
Are there abuses? Yep. Abuses/misuses in all sizes...extra small to 5x, tall to venti. Yet, those who sincerely begin to grow in their gifts discover the pitfalls and how to avoid the various misuses and abuses. And there is one book that comes to mind, devoted specifically to the gift of prophecy, if you're interested in a starting place for learning how healthy practice can be encouraged and maintained within a specific body.
But as it is, you guys are obviously not seeking to understand as someone who really wants to know how you can know you are doing it right, but as someone who is asking us to supply the very ammunition that you aim to shoot us with. You're coming at this more like a tax collector who doesn't pay his own taxes. That's why I'd agree that cessationists are being hypocritically intransigent.

Q7 for Frank: Kingdom Warfare

It seems that there is an inseparable and necessary relationship between the display of Kingdom authority by the Spirit of God and the gifts/manisfestations that the Spirit has given to the Body of Christ that serve as essentials for effectively engaging in spiritual warfare.

1. Since it’s true (as far as we know biblically) that some physical and spiritual conditions are directly caused by Satan or demons, but not all are, how should one go about discerning or knowing that on a case by case basis in order to pray for healing more effectively?

2. Do you believe that the church is designed and intended to be a re-representation of Jesus’ ministry?

Frank answers:

Well, that's two questions, not one -- but you're inside your word limit.


I like your tough stance that this is the basis for the necessity of the Apostolic gifts.  That's actually a lot more rigorous approach than most continualists would attempt to stand on.  What bothers me about it is that it is logically from the Bible, but somehow this conclusion is not supported by the Bible.

Here's what I mean: from the Bible, we can logically deduce that "wisdom" is a Christian virtue.  (factually, it's also explicitly stated, cf. James 1)  Because "wisdom" is crucial to live the life of faith, the Bible gives us sheaves of instruction in wisdom -- for example, the book of Proverbs.  If we accept that, logically, the Bible says you need the apostolic gifts to discern supernatural problems, why doesn't the Bible give us specific instruction for that gift or virtue?

My response to your assertion is that the Bible does in fact give us guidance for discerning supernatural causes in this world, but that in each case (for example, "test the spirits") the Bible tells us to use the common gifts of wisdom, discernment, and maturity to determine spiritual causes.


I don't know how to answer that question because I don't know what you mean by "re-representation."  I know for certain that the local church is established to declare the Gospel and live out the necessary consequences of the truth of the Gospel.  I think that looks like the end of Acts 2.  The local church should look like the church looked at the end of Acts 2.

What's striking about that, description, by the way, is how ordinary it is.  
They devoted themselves to the apostles' teaching and the fellowship, to the breaking of bread and the prayers. And awe came upon every soul, and many wonders and signs were being done through the apostles. And all who believed were together and had all things in common. And they were selling their possessions and belongings and distributing the proceeds to all, as any had need. And day by day, attending the temple together and breaking bread in their homes, they received their food with glad and generous hearts, praising God and having favor with all the people. And the Lord added to their number day by day those who were being saved.
When we look at how that church operates, only the Apostles were doing miraculous things -- the rest were doing ordinary things which look like the fruit of the Spirit in Galatians -- joy peace, patience, goodness, self control, love.

To that end, I'm willing to accept that there are Apostles which are necessary for the church today -- if you can produce the fellows doing what those Apostles in Acts were doing as "Signs and Wonders."  But the rest?  It's fairly ordinary for people who are regenerate and who are living a life of repentance.

Q06 for Bryan: How can I obey that command?

In Q1, you said plainly that you can’t imagine any other answer than that the Apostolic Gifts are necessary for the life of the church.  I can imagine 2 other answers immediately: (1) They are not necessary, but they are useful for [insert list here], and (2) They are not necessary, but they have helped me personally grow closer to God.

Your response is that the Apostolic Gifts are necessary because they are commanded.  I am in favor of carrying out the commands of God.  For example, God gives us the command to be wise, and gives us the book of Proverbs to understand what wisdom looks like.  God commands us to be chaste and gives us both the Law and the implications of the Gospel to explain what sexual purity looks like (for example, Eph 5, 1 Cor 5-6-7, Rom 1, Lev 18).

Even though Carson rejects your view that Paul is issuing a command in 1 Cor 14, let’s assume it is a command.  Where do the implications of this command get worked out in either the OT or the NT? Asked another way, how will I know that I am obeying God in the use of the so-called Spiritual Gifts?

I'd like to answer your question in three parts: One,address briefly whether or not Paul is issuing a command...I'd rather not just assume it. Two, give a few reasons why the gifts are necessary. Three, provide some thoughts on how to obey this command.

Is Paul issuing a command? 

For sure I did say that I can't imagine why Paul would command us (really the Holy Spirit through Paul) to earnestly desire certain gifts for the building up of the church, if they weren't necessary. The language and repetition used is strong, it's hard to imagine Paul's original readers having a discussion on whether or not earnestly desiring prophecy is necessary for the building up of the body of Christ after Paul repeated himself three times to earnestly desire the gifts and specifically that gift. If it isn't a command, what kind of strong exhortation is it? Certainly what Paul said (whether command or optional but weighty exhortation) warrants a different response than trying to dismiss what he did exhort us to do with appeals to... what?... Benny Hinn? Seriously, I'm beginning to wonder who's really empowering Benny Hinn-- the continuationists who you say are giving him incidental credibility simply because of what they believe or hard cessationists who with all their boasting about wisdom, discernment and Sola Scriptura, when it comes to this text would rather let Benny Hinn speak louder than the Holy Spirit and Paul, and then unabashedly call pretty much everything the Holy Spirit does that makes them uncomfortable, a demonic counterfeit.         

The argument that earnestly desiring the gifts is a command is not the only reason I'd give for concluding that the gifts are necessary (more on this in a minute).  However, I think it's clear that we are commanded. Sam Storms has a post on this worth reading before you continue to read here. Taking your word for it, as far as D.A. Carson's view that earnestly desiring gifts isn't commanded, I don't know what to say except that I respectfully disagree. Sorry D.A., I like your accent and all, but I'm just a concrete floor guy from Arkansas who spent some time in Recovery and hasn't read your book, but even I know your conclusion, at least on the surface level, isn't exactly what should be called exegetical sobriety. Given his theological pedigree, that statement probably is more brass than brain, but perhaps a few observations below can prove otherwise, even if just a little. 

If Paul wanted to clarify that these things he was writing weren't clear commands of the Lord in his mind, he could have done so with language like he employed in I Corinthians 7:6,12, 25. Instead, in I Corinthians 14:37 he chooses to make it clear that the things he is writing are a command of the Lord just before his last exhortation of three to earnestly desire to prophesy and clear imperative to not forbid speaking in tongues.  If any of his exhortations in this context were not commands and could be viewed and relegated to mere-good-actions-if-you-want-to, it would not be consistent with the overall force of the passage or with his pattern of carefully clarifying what is or isn't a command from the Lord if indeed it were questionable. Furthermore, what do we think Paul personally expected of those who read his letter or heard it?

In addition, Pursue Love seems to be a pretty clear command. Would you argue that it isn't?  So what does a suitor do if he earnestly desires a young woman and the gift (grace) of marriage? Does he not pursue her and marriage? Does he not pray for her? Does he not give her some serious attention? Does he not annoyingly ask, seek, and knock persistently if he needs to? Does he wait to pursue the woman and marriage until he's mature in love, or does it take the woman and marriage to mature him? Oh I'm trailing off, but look, the point is that pursue love and earnestly desire go together in thought in this passage, it seems silly to argue and conclude that it says Pursue Love, not necessarily Pursue the gifts, therefore, earnestly desire is not really a command on the same level. Sounds a little stretchy sketchy. After all,what do we call a guy who eagerly desires a woman, but never really gets around to pursuing her? 

A few reasons why the gifts are necessary for the life of the church:

1. D.A. Carson does however view the perfect and face to face  in I Corinthians 13: 10-12 to be the return of Christ, right? The question I have for those that will concede that this passage refers to the time when the church will see Christ face to face and that that is when the gifts will cease, is, what is it then about Christ's return that will render these gifts useless? In other words, what purpose and function are these gifts serving and providing that only seeing Christ face to face will put an end to? I submit to you that these gifts purpose and essential function are to increasingly (the more we build up) manifest the Presence of Jesus in and through the church (The Body of Christ) by the Spirit to continue to advance the already but not yet Kingdom of God over against the Kingdom of Darkness. And this involves all the gifts the Holy Spirit sovereignly chooses to give.  

2.  The gifts are necessary in order to keep us interdependent and together dependent on the Holy Spirit to carry out our mission as the Body of Christ--mainly to re-present the ministry of Christ and advance His Kingdom. No one person has them all. The gifts are essential in discipleship and an essential component of manifesting the Kingdom of God. The point of Paul's body metaphor (for that matter all of I Corinthians 12) doesn't quite make sense if the gifts aren't necessary for the life of the Church. It would be like saying you're okay that the Body of Christ has everything but its feet or arms, pinky toe, or maybe even just a head. But I think a good look at the state of the overly institutional expression of the church reveals there needs to be a recovery of what it looks like for Christ to be Head of His church and for each member to come with something to give (manifestation for the common good; building up; ministry) rather than to just consume one man's teaching gift. Our maturity in Christ and maturity in love are dependent on it (Ephesians 4:1-16). That's a big controversial convo in itself but still in my opinion points to the necessity of all the gifts, especially in the mind of Paul. 

3. The gifts are necessary for engaging in spiritual warfare. There is too much on this point to discuss here considering I'm way over my word limit, but the reality is that we have a defeated yet still formidable and crafty enemy. Discovering how the gifts serve an essential/necessary function in advancing the Kingdom of God over the Kingdom of Darkness should be enough in itself to convince anyone of the necessity of the gifts. To neglect to seriously consider the vast practical evidence for this is unwise.

So, your question: How do you obey this command and how do you know that you are obeying God in the use of the so-called Spiritual Gifts? 

The specific command we are discussing is I Corinthians 14:1--"Pursue love and earnestly desire the spiritual gifts, especially that you may prophesy."

1. To pursue love and eagerly desire obviously involves the emotions and actions. I guess you could either argue that since these involve the emotions and emotions can't be commanded, then these can't be commands. Or, you could consider John Piper's writings on Christian Hedonism which in essence teach that in the Bible the pursuit of pleasure or happiness and pursuit of God aren't at odds with one another...namely because scripture commands us to be happy in God. That is, God can command emotions and require things of us that we can't turn on and off like a faucet, and that built in to the priority of simple obedience to God is obedience to the commands in scripture for us to find our Joy and happiness in Him--that is, heart realities rather than mere actions that we feel we have very little if any control over. In fact, Piper wrote a book called, "When I Don't Desire God: How to Fight for Joy" for those of us who want our joy to be in God but still in our day to day find more comfort in a cup of coffee.  I could see him writing a sequel, "When I Don't Desire Spiritual Gifts: How to Pursue Love, Prophecy and Occasionally Tongues ". So, all of that to say, I think there are both inward and outward evidences that indicate you're being obedient to the Spirit's command here...and certainly whether or not we are pursuing love and earnestly seeking these gifts can be evidenced both in passion and practice.

2. I've already mentioned a few things practically in a previous post so I won't repeat them here. Ultimately, I think obedience to this command encompasses believing, desiring, asking, seeking, knocking, and trusting, as a son. In our first posts on this blog, I mentioned the importance of identity and our unity as sons (Romans 8:14-16, Galatians 4:5-6). The reason our identity as sons is crucial is because it gets to the heart of our confidence in the security of our intimate relationship with the Father and trust in His goodness. No other passage in Scripture in my opinion best describes where our heart should be on this issue than all of Luke 11.

I can't go in to all of it, but the portion that strikes me as most applicable to what we're discussing here is: (italics and bold all mine) "What Father among you, if his son asks for a fish, will instead of a fish give him a serpent; or if he asks for an egg, will give him a scorpion? If you then, who are evil, know how to give good gifts to your children, how much more will the heavenly Father give the Holy Spirit to those who ask him!" Notice, the son asks for things that nourish his body...he's hungry. What father (though we're evil) would then give him something that would strike and poison him? What is significant is that one chapter before this passage, you read Jesus say to the Seventy-Two, "Behold I have given you authority to tread on serpents and scorpions, and over all the power of the enemy, and nothing shall hurt you."

 I think the idea the passage is communicating to us is that if we, His sons, ask our Heavenly Father persistently for something or gifts that are designed to be nourishing (namely the gift of the Holy Spirit here), we can trust His heart and that He surely won't give us something hurtful, evil, or demonic. He's not going to give us the very opposite of what we are asking for. In fact, that would be impossible for Him to do so, because of who He is, and whose we are.

At the heart of earnestly desiring spiritual gifts (manifestations of the Spirit Himself) is childlike trust in our Heavenly Father, that when we ask for gifts that nourish/build up the Body of Christ, he for sure won't give us things that are harmful. So we can ask, seek, and knock (earnestly desire) without fear. We can put our confidence in the goodness of the Father rather than the power of the enemy to deceive us, after all, we too have been given authority in Christ to tread on serpents and scorpions and over all the power of the enemy anyways. 

It may be hard to believe, but perhaps there is, ironically, much more to submitting to the Lordship of Christ and true discipleship than even the Macarthur camp is comfortable accepting, but who is rather, in this case, strangely at peace with mocking and denying.  

Endnote from Frank: one of the premises/agreements Bryan and I made when we started this exchange is that there was a word count limit for these posts -- 750 words.  

Q6 for Frank: A Common Misunderstanding

One of the common misunderstandings that some charismatic and continuationists have of the cessationist position is that cessationists are anti-supernatural, deny the possibility of miracles, and don’t pray for healing. However, we know that isn’t true. In light of that, what then would you say is the most significant obstacle(s) you encounter when praying for those that are sick?

Frank's Answer:

I don't have any obstacles in prayer, especially for healing, except for my own laziness.  I think the misconception here is very clear: the apostolic gift (cf. Acts 2:43, Acts 3, Acts 5:12) of healing is not merely a prayer which we offer in the hope that God might answer it through providence, medical wisdom, or even the potential for a miracle: it's plainly healing done upon command or touch, and the assurance that the healing will take place is certain.

It confuses the objection of the Cessationist to say that somehow Cessationists don't believe in prayer.  The question is simply not whether Cessationists believe they ought to pray for healing.  The question is if the apostolic gift of healing by touch or command is still an active gift in the church today.

Q05 for Bryan: The Rest of Christianity

What should be done by the larger body of Christ if the orthodox inside Charismatic circles aren't doing what is called for in your previous answer?

I think the only thing I really called for in my previous answer was an avoidance of two errors (immature & blasphemous charismania and immature & blasphemous cessationismania). If a cessationist with a larger platform wants to shoot down (not literally of course) wolves like Mike Murdock with a slug, then I might want to video that myself, maybe even do a little cameo somewhere. But if a cessationist with that larger platform wants to shoot down Shepherds like John Piper, Wayne Grudem, and Sam Storms (and by implication Matt Chandler and a host of others, including sheep) with buck shot in order to get to con-men like Mike Murdock, then obviously we've got some problems.

Now, I don't put John Macarthur and those in his camp anywhere near men like Mike Murdock, neither do I consider John Macarthur or cessationists, wolves. There are probably some among you, which is amazing really, cause some of you guys have rifles pointed out the back of your heads. However, I would like to see the larger body of Christ address hard cessationist expressions like the Strange Fire conference in a more seriously loving but harsh way...one that matches the degree of seriousness and tough love of the Strange fire conference and still punches your gut while asking you to have a sense of humor about yourselves. When I first started watching the Strange Fire conference introductory videos, I wondered in disgust why or how long continuationists with the larger platforms would tolerate such a crusade and mockery of the things they sincerely know to be true and beautiful. Then I had to realize, that some of the men that I think should respond with some grit and spit (I'm an Arkansas boy), probably have good and wise reasons not to. Maybe they've experienced enough battle to know it's time to just "leave them alone".                                  

But I think the idea here is what do we think you guys should do if we (the orthodox) inside charismatic circles aren't doing what you think we should be doing, right?

My initial thoughts:

1. Explore in more detail how these guys with the larger platforms are already addressing your concerns you say are not being dealt with. I've read John Macarthur's letter to his continuationist friends, so I know John acknowledges that some work has been done here (primarily with the prosperity gospel), but is not enough in his view. While I've stated before that I don't think any amount of addressing concerns will satisfy cessationists, because what they really want to see is an abandonment of our modern use of the "gifts", there is still more evidence than you realize that those who are "orthodox" and consider themselves to be in the "charismatic movement", are indeed "policing" it.
2. Meet face to face with those orthodox continuationists and charismatics to discover why exactly they're willing to continue their practice even after the Macarthur letter/book and the conference. Find out why Grudem refuses to remove his endorsement of Jack Deere's books. Explore exactly why John Piper asks His Father in childlike faith for the gift of tongues. If these men are brilliant theologians and you've benefited from their ministry and books, is it not logical to give them more of an ear as to why even after such a strong expression against them with your conference and in the book, they still won't change their mind on the issue? I think logically you've have to assume that there is more truth to what they're teaching and defending than what you currently understand.

3. Sincerely ask the Father, not me, "What would it mean for me to obey, or to even want to obey, I Corinthians 14:1 if I conceded that it was something I should be doing for the edification of the Church and for Your glory?" Ask Him every day.

4. Sincerely ask the Holy Spirit, with other believers in a small gathering, to display His healing and revealing ministry among you. Ask Him to speak to you in any way He pleases. Then listen together. Consider having someone like Jack Deere and/or Wayne Grudem to come to your church to teach on the subject.

5. Explore how the spiritual warfare motif is evident in both the Old and New Testaments, how that battle is going on today practically throughout the world, and how the gifts fit in to a warfare worldview and the overall goal of advancing the Kingdom of God through the church. On this note, you might even consider visiting somewhere like the Village first or speaking with some other pastors there, especially those over the counseling ministries, to get an idea of what it looks like to work with, with the help of someone with the gift of discerning of spirits, persons who are demonized. There are other ministries elsewhere that deal more consistently with those issues as well, but the point is that being aware of how the gifts are used in those contexts may be very helpful.    

After seeking to do these things and possibly experiencing/understanding the "real thing" more so that you can more adequately identify the counterfeit, meet with larger platform continuationists and charismatic pastors, discuss the concerns you still have, and start developing a plan together to purify your own belief and practice and then shooting the obvious false teachers and developing strategic ways to sort through what could be counterfeit signs and wonders that could deceive the Church.

If this seems like I'm asking too much from cessationists, then at least perhaps consider how we can come together to engage in war against the real enemy and to advance the Kingdom of God in Truth, Love, and Power even if we couldn't agree completely on the issue of the of the gifts.

Q5 for Frank: Passages for Cessationism?

What passages from the Bible do you use to support your cessationist perspective?

Frank Answers:

For the sake of this discussion, Bryan, I have conceded that the Bible teaches that the apostolic gifts will continue, based on Carson's exposition of 1 Cor 12-14.  There's no sense in it for me to go backwards on that.  As we discuss this broad topic, you should take it for granted that I think the Bible teaches us that the gifts given to the Apostles continue, and that my conclusion of cessationism comes from something other than an explicit statement by the Bible that the gifts will cease.

I think there’s something that all continualists overlook broadly in their grand rhetoric of obedience, biblical conformity, and worship of the Holy Spirit: the real argument presented by the so-called serious and sober charismatics for the phenomena exhibited in continualist circles.

I think the best, most theologically-cogent arguments for continualism are the ones presented by Wayne Grudem, D.A. Carson, Sam Storms, and Vern Polythress.  Those are the ones we on the other side are always pointed to for the sake of our souls, anyway.  Nobody’s pointing me to Benny Hinn’s Good Morning Holy Spirit to reform my pneumatology.  But in those writings, the first things which is presented to the reader is this: whatever it is that is happening today, even though it’s the same Holy Spirit doing these things, what we have is demonstrably a lot less than what happens in the NT.  In fact, there is a cottage industry out there working to explain what sort of prophecy it is you fellows are providing when in fact it doesn’t even have the weight or accuracy of Balaam’s prophetic announcements.  So while they say they are making the Biblical case for whatever this stuff is, the first argument from them is that what we experience today is not quite the same as what Peter and Paul did in Acts – let alone when the 70 went forth from Jesus.

That, frankly, is where I put on the brakes.  Rather than unpack the entire canon of Scripture for you to make a case from the Bible that if there are no Apostles, then there are no Apostolic gifts (which seems like a pretty good argument to me, to be clear) – and allowing that to explain the poverty of the experience your side exhibits – I choose to allow that the Bible doesn’t ever assign dates to anything in the future from the writer’s perspective.  In spite of the statement from Paul that says all gifts will cease (cf. 1 Cor 13), rather than try to get you to admit that it does in fact say that I’m willing to take your reading of it at face value, and then let you march in the examples.

See: you can say, for example, that Reformed theology usually leads to legalism or Phariseeism.  As a mostly-Reformed guy, I have three reactions to that: [1] Scripture says otherwise, [2] I concede there are those who abuse reformed-ish doctrine and fall into the ditches, and [3] I would demonstrate that the vast majority of reformed-ish people are in fact not legalists but are instead sound disciples of Jesus.  It’s startling to see no continualist willing to track down this path – and for the most part, because they know for certain it puts their views in a wretched light

In that way, my cessationism is in fact provisional – waiting for you to produce speaking in tongues like they did in Acts 2, command healing like they did in Acts 3, and prophetic utterances/experiences as in Acts 9.  You say the Bible says the Apostolic gifts continue?  Please present them.  I am utterly willing to change over when you show me the continuation, but I can’t do it when you trot out weak counterfeits -- gibberish accompanied by spasms, headaches and back aches that end, and the hunches you remember turned out to be right but not the ones you can’t remember were wrong – and expect me to not look with the eyes God gave me.

We’re talking about the God who spoke all of creation into existence, and who raised Christ from the dead, and who gives is Scripture today.  When your version of his activities look like the panel discussion at a New Age healing and wellness convention, I’ll at least hold out for something more credible before I change my mind.