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.