Wednesday, August 31, 2011

What Cessationism Is Not - The Cessationist Stink (Part 9)

This is a lengthy but extremely helpful and well researched article that responds to many of Mark Driscoll's assertions about Cessationism.

What Cessationism Is Not
By Nathan Busenitz (Nathan is a lecturer at The Masters Seminary - hoping to be sitting in one of his classes this time next year!)
11 August 2011

Much ado has been made (both on this blog and elsewhere) about the recent “anti-cessationist” comments of a popular Seattle-based pastor. I don’t desire to enter a war of words, or become embroiled in an online controversy. But I do hope to make a helpful contribution to the conversation.

Over the last few years, I’ve enjoyed investigating the historical record regarding the charismatic gifts, especially the gift of tongues. And I can only hope that the above pastor, and his co-author, will treat the material responsibly in their upcoming work on the subject. (Who knows, maybe they’d be open to a two-views book?)

I would also hope that, in the process of critiquing the cessationist position, the authors do not create a straw man version of cessationism. (I’ll admit that, based on what I’ve read so far, I’m afraid the straw man is already under construction.)

Nonetheless, in an effort to dismantle a fallacious misrepresentation before it is built, I offer the following four clarifications about what cessationism is not:

1. Cessationism is not anti-supernatural, nor does it deny the possibility of miracles.

When it comes to understanding the cessationist position, the question is not: Can God still do miracles in the world today? Cessationists would be quick to acknowledge that God can act at any time in any way He chooses. Along these lines, John MacArthur explains:

Miracles in the Bible [primarily] occurred in three major periods of time. The time of Moses and Joshua, the time of Elijah and Elisha, and the time of Christ and the apostles. . . . And it is during those three brief periods of time and those alone that miracles proliferated; that miracles were the norm; that miracles were in abundance. Now God can interject Himself into the human stream supernaturally anytime He wants. We’re not limiting Him. We’re simply saying that He has chosen to limit Himself to a great degree to those three periods of time. (Source)

Cessationism then does not deny the reality that God can do whatever He wants whenever He wants (Psalm 115:3). It does not put God into a box or limit His sovereign prerogative.

But it does acknowledge that there was something unique and special about the age of miracles and miracle-workers that defined the ministries of Moses and Joshua, Elijah and Elisha, and Christ and His apostles. Moreover, it recognizes the seemingly obvious fact that those kinds of miracles (like parting the sea, stopping the rain, raising the dead, walking on water, or instantly healing the lame and the blind) are not occurring today.

Thus, cessationists conclude that:

The apostolic age was marvelously unique and it ended. And what happened then is not the normal thing for every Christian. The normal thing for every Christian is to study the Word of God, which is able to make us wise and perfect. [It] is to live by faith and not by sight. (Ibid.)

But can God still do extraordinary things in the world today? Certainly He can, if He chooses to do so. In fact, every time a sinner’s eyes are opened to the gospel, and a new life in Christ is created, it is nothing short of a miracle.

In his helpful book, To Be Continued?, Samuel Waldron aptly expresses the cessationist position this way (on p. 102):

I am not denying by all this that there are miracles in the world today in the broader sense of supernatural occurrences and extraordinary providences. I am only saying that there are no miracles in the stricter sense [of] miracle-workers performing miraculous signs to attest the redemptive revelation they bring from God. Though God has never locked Himself out of His world and is still at liberty to do as He pleases, when He pleases, how He pleases, and where He pleases, He has made it clear that the progress of redemptive revelation attested by miraculous signs done by miracle-workers has been brought to conclusion in the revelation embodied in our New Testaments.

So, the question is not: Can God still do miracles?

Rather, the definitive question is this: Are the miraculous gifts of the New Testament still in operation in the church today–such that what was the norm in the days of Christ and the apostles ought to be expected today?

To that, all cessationists would answer “no.”

2. Cessationism is not founded on one’s interpretation of “the perfect” in 1 Corinthians 13:10.

For that matter, it seems there are almost as many views of “the perfect” among cessationist scholars as there are commentators who write about 1 Corinthians 13:8–13. Space in this article does not permit a full investigation into each of these, but rather a cursory explanation of the major positions.

The Different Views

(1) Some (such as F.F. Bruce) argue that love itself is the perfect. Thus when the fullness of love comes, the Corinthians will put away their childish desires.

(2) Some (such as B.B. Warfield) contend that the completed canon of Scripture is the perfect. Scripture is described as “perfect” in James 1:25, a text in which the same word for “mirror” (as in v. 12) is found (in James 1:23). Thus partial revelation is done away when the full revelation of Scripture comes.

(3) Some (such as Robert Thomas) contend that the mature church is the perfect. This view is primarily based on the illustration of verse 11 and on the close connection between this passage and Eph. 4:11–13. The exact timing of the church’s “maturity” is unknown, though it is closely associated with the completion of the canon, and the end of the apostolic era (cf. Eph. 2:20).

(4) Some (such as Thomas Edgar) see the believer’s entrance into the presence of Christ (at the moment of death) as the perfect. This view accounts for the personal aspect of Paul’s statement in verse 12. Paul personally experienced full knowledge when he entered Christ’s presence at his death (cf. 2 Cor. 5:8).

(5) Some (such as Richard Gaffin) see the return of Christ (and the end of this age) as the perfect. This is also the view of most continuationists. Thus, when Christ comes back (as delineated in chapter 15), the partial revelation we know now will be made complete.

(6) Some (such as John MacArthur) view the eternal state (in a general sense) as the perfect. This explanation interprets the neuter of to teleion as a reference to a general state of events and not a personal return of Christ. This view overlaps with both numbers 4 and 5 above in that, according to this view: “For Christians the eternal state begins either at death, when they go to be with the Lord, or at the rapture, when the Lord takes His own to be with Himself” (John MacArthur, First Corinthians, p. 366).

Of these views, I personally find the last three more convincing than the first three. This is primarily due (I will confess) to the testimony of church history. Dr. Gary Shogren, after doing an in-depth study of some 169 patristic references to this passage, concludes that the church fathers overwhelmingly saw the perfect in terms of something beyond this life (most normally associating it with the return of Christ, or with seeing Christ in heaven). Even John Chrysostom (who was clearly a cessationist) saw it this way. While not authoritative, such historical evidence is difficult to dismiss.

In any case, my point here is simply this: The interpreter can take any of the above positions, and still remain a cessationist. In fact, there are cessationists who hold to each of the positions listed above (as the names I’ve listed indicate).

Thus, Anthony Thiselton notes in his commentary on this passage: “The one important point to make here is that few or none of the serious ‘cessationist’ arguments depends on a specific exegesis of 1 Cor 13:8–11. . . . These verses should not be used as a polemic for either side in this debate” (NIGTC, pp. 1063–64).

3. Cessationism is not an attack on the Person or work of the Holy Spirit.

In fact, just the opposite is true. Cessationists are motivated by a desire to see the Holy Spirit glorified. They are concerned that, by redefining the gifts, the continuationist position cheapens the remarkable nature of those gifts, lessening the truly miraculous working of the Spirit in the earliest stages of the church.

Cessationists are convinced that, by redefining healing, the charismatic position presents a bad testimony to the watching world when the sick are not healed. By redefining tongues, the charismatic position promotes a type of nonsensical gibberish that runs contrary to anything we know about the biblical gift. By redefining prophecy, the charismatic position lends credence to those who would claim to speak the very words of God and yet speak error.

This, then, is the primary concern of cessationists: that the honor of the Triune God and His Word be exalted—and that it not be cheapened by watered-down substitutes.

And how do we know if something is authentic or not? By comparing it to the written testimony of Scripture. Does going to the Bible to define the gifts mean that we are bypassing the Holy Spirit? Quite the contrary. When we search the Scriptures, we are going to the testimony of the Holy Spirit Himself to discover what He has revealed about the gifts that He bestowed.

As a cessationist, I love the Holy Spirit. I would never want to do anything to discredit His work, diminish His attributes, or downplay His ministry. Nor would I ever want to miss out on anything He is doing in the church today. And I’m not the only cessationist who feels this way.

Because we love the Holy Spirit we are thankful to God for the Spirit’s amazing and ongoing work in the body of Christ. His works of regenerating, indwelling, baptizing, sealing, assuring, illuminating, convicting, comforting, confirming, filling, and enabling are all indispensable aspects of His ministry.

Because we love the Holy Spirit we are motivated to study the Scriptures that He inspired to learn how to walk in a manner worthy, being characterized by His fruit. We long to be filled by Him (Eph. 5:18), which begins by being indwelt with His Word, which is the Word of Christ (Col. 3:16–17), and being equipped with His sword, which is the Word of God (Eph. 6:17).

Finally, it is because we love the Holy Spirit that we long to rightly represent Him, to understand and appreciate His purposes (as He has revealed them in His Word), and to align ourselves with what He is doing in this world. This more than anything else gives us reason to study the issue of charismatic gifts (cf. 1 Cor. 12:7-11). Our goal in this study has to be more than mere doctrinal correctness. Our motivation must be to gain a more accurate understanding of the Spirit’s work—such that we might better yield ourselves to Him in service to Christ for the glory of God.

4. Cessationism is not a product of the Enlightenment.

Perhaps the easiest way to demonstrate this final point is to cite pre-Enlightenment Christian leaders who held to a cessationist position. It is, after all, difficult to argue that John Chrysostom’s fourth-century theology was a result of 18th-century European rationalism.

In bringing this blog post to a close then, here are ten leaders from church history to consider:

John Chrysostom (c. 344–407):

This whole place [speaking about 1 Corinthians 12] is very obscure: but the obscurity is produced by our ignorance of the facts referred to and by their cessation, being such as then used to occur but now no longer take place.

(Source: John Chrysostom, Homilies on 1 Corinthians, 36.7. Chrysostom is commenting on 1 Cor 12:1–2 and introducing the entire chapter. Cited from 1–2 Corinthians, in the Ancient Christian Commentary Series, 146.)

Augustine (354–430):

In the earliest times, the Holy Spirit fell upon them that believe and they spoke with tongues, which they had not learned, as the Spirit gave them utterance. These were signs adapted to the time. For there was this betokening of the Holy Spirit in all tongues [languages] to show that the gospel of God was to run through all tongues over the whole earth. That thing was done for a sign, and it passed away.

(Source: Augustine, Homilies on the First Epistle of John, 6.10. Cf. Schaff, NPNF, First Series, 7:497–98.)

Theodoret of Cyrus (c. 393–c. 466):

In former times those who accepted the divine preaching and who were baptized for their salvation were given visible signs of the grace of the Holy Spirit at work in them. Some spoke in tongues which they did not know and which nobody had taught them, while others performed miracles or prophesied. The Corinthians also did these things, but they did not use the gifts as they should have done. They were more interested in showing off than in using them for the edification of the church. . . . Even in our time grace is given to those who are deemed worthy of holy baptism, but it may not take the same form as it did in those days.

(Source: Theodoret of Cyrus, Commentary on the First Epistle to the Corinthians, 240, 43; in reference to 1 Cor 12:1, 7. Cited from 1–2 Corinthians, ACCS, 117).

Note: Proponents of continuationism, like Jon Ruthven (in his work, On the Cessation of the Charismata), also acknowledge cessationist views in other church fathers (like Origen in the 3rd century, and Ambrosiaster in the 4th century).

Additionally, to this list, we could include the most well-known name of the middle ages, the 13th-century scholastic, Thomas Aquinas.

But let’s jump ahead to the Reformation and Puritan eras.

Martin Luther (1483–1546)

In the early Church the Holy Spirit was sent forth in visible form. He descended upon Christ in the form of a dove (Matt. 3:16), and in the likeness of fire upon the apostles and other believers. (Acts 2:3.) This visible outpouring of the Holy Spirit was necessary to the establishment of the early Church, as were also the miracles that accompanied the gift of the Holy Ghost. Paul explained the purpose of these miraculous gifts of the Spirit in I Corinthians 14:22, “Tongues are for a sign, not to them that believe, but to them that believe not.” Once the Church had been established and properly advertised by these miracles, the visible appearance of the Holy Ghost ceased.

(Source: Martin Luther, Commentary on Galatians 4, Trans. by Theodore Graebner [Grand Rapids, Michigan: Zondervan, 1949], pp. 150-172. This is from Luther’s comment on Gal. 4:6.)

John Calvin (1509–1564):

Though Christ does not expressly state whether he intends this gift [of miracles] to be temporary, or to remain perpetually in the Church, yet it is more probable that miracles were promised only for a time, in order to give lustre to the gospel while it was new or in a state of obscurity.

(Source: John Calvin, Commentary on the Synoptic Gospels, III:389.)

The gift of healing, like the rest of the miracles, which the Lord willed to be brought forth for a time, has vanished away in order to make the preaching of the Gospel marvellous for ever.

(Source: John Calvin, Institutes of the Christian Religion, IV:19, 18.)

John Owen (1616–1683):

Gifts which in their own nature exceed the whole power of all our faculties, that dispensation of the Spirit is long since ceased and where it is now pretended unto by any, it may justly be suspected as an enthusiastic delusion.

(Source: John Owen, Works, IV:518.)

Thomas Watson (1620–1686):

Sure, there is as much need of ordination now as in Christ’s time and in the time of the apostles, there being then extraordinary gifts in the church which are now ceased.

(Source: Thomas Watson, The Beatitudes, 140.)

Matthew Henry (1662–1714):

What these gifts were is at large told us in the body of the chapter [1 Corinthians 12]; namely, extraordinary offices and powers, bestowed on ministers and Christians in the first ages, for conviction of unbelievers, and propagation of the gospel.

(Source: Matthew Henry, Complete Commentary, in reference to 1 Corinthians 12.)

The gift of tongues was one new product of the spirit of prophecy and given for a particular reason, that, the Jewish pale being taken down, all nations might be brought into the church. These and other gifts of prophecy, being a sign, have long since ceased and been laid aside, and we have no encouragement to expect the revival of them; but, on the contrary, are directed to call the scriptures the more sure word of prophecy, more sure than voices from heaven; and to them we are directed to take heed, to search them, and to hold them fast, 2 Peter 1:29.

(Source: Matthew Henry, Preface to Vol. IV of his Exposition of OT & NT, vii.)

John Gill (1697–1771):

[Commenting on 1 Corinthians 12:9 and 30,]

Now these gifts were bestowed in common, by the Spirit, on apostles, prophets, and pastors, or elders of the church, in those early times: the Alexandrian copy, and the Vulgate Latin version, read, “by one Spirit”.

(Source: John Gill’s commentary on 1 Corinthians 12:9.)

No; when these gifts were in being, all had them not. When anointing with oil, in order to heal the sick, was in use, it was only performed by the elders of the church, not by the common members of it, who were to be sent for by the sick on this occasion.

(Source: John Gill’s commentary on 1 Corinthians 12:30.)

Jonathan Edwards (1703–1758):

In the days of his [Jesus’] flesh, his disciples had a measure of the miraculous gifts of the Spirit, being enabled thus to teach and to work miracles. But after the resurrection and ascension, was the most full and remarkable effusion of the Spirit in his miraculous gifts that ever took place, beginning with the day of Pentecost, after Christ had risen and ascended to heaven. And in consequence of this, not only here and there an extraordinary person was endowed with these extraordinary gifts, but they were common in the church, and so continued during the lifetime of the apostles, or till the death of the last of them, even the apostle John, which took place about a hundred years from the birth of Christ; so that the first hundred years of the Christian era, or the first century, was the era of miracles.

But soon after that, the canon of Scripture being completed when the apostle John had written the book of Revelation, which he wrote not long before his death, these miraculous gifts were no longer continued in the church. For there was now completed an established written revelation of the mind and will of God, wherein God had fully recorded a standing and all-sufficient rule for his church in all ages. And the Jewish church and nation being overthrown, and the Christian church and the last dispensation of the church of God being established, the miraculous gifts of the Spirit were no longer needed, and therefore they ceased; for though they had been continued in the church for so many ages, yet then they failed, and God caused them to fail because there was no further occasion for them. And so was fulfilled the saying of the text, “Whether there be prophecies, they shall fail; whether there be tongues, they shall cease; whether there be knowledge, it shall vanish away.” And now there seems to be an end to all such fruits of the Spirit as these, and we have no reason to expect them any more.

(Source: Jonathan Edwards, Sermon entitled, “The Holy Spirit Forever To Be Communicated To The Saints, In The Grace Of Charity, Or Divine Love” on 1 Corinthians 13:8.)

“Of the extraordinary gifts, they were given ‘in order to the founding and establishing of the church in the world. But since the canon of Scriptures has been completed, and the Christian church fully founded and established, these extraordinary gifts have ceased.”

(Source: Jonathan Edwards, Charity and its Fruits, 29.)

To this list, we could add other names: James Buchanan, R. L. Dabney, Charles Spurgeon, George Smeaton, Abraham Kuyper, William G. T. Shedd, B. B. Warfield, A. W. Pink, and so on. But, admittedly, they are post-Enlightenment historical figures.

So I guess we’ll have to save their testimony for a different post.

Go On To Part 10
Go Back To Part 8
Go Back To Part 1

Tuesday, August 30, 2011

Mark Driscoll's Pornographic Divination - The Cessationist Stink (Part 8)

Phil Johnson was the one who uncovered that shocking video of Mark Driscoll where he describes the "visions" he gets from God. This is an issue that is very serious and Johnson wisely decided necessitated a response:

Pornographic Divination
by Phil Johnson
15 August 2011

In a post last week, I pointed out that the preposterous claims, unhinged behavior, and spiritual quackery that are so prominent at the charismatic movement's lunatic fringe are by no means limited to the outer edges. Goofiness and gullibility are necessary byproducts of a belief system that fails to take seriously the principle of sola Scriptura and its ramifications (i.e., the authority and sufficiency of Scripture).

Here's a sample of the kind of thing I was referring to: The video below features Mark Driscoll, claiming the Holy Spirit regularly gives him graphic visions showing acts of rape, fornicators in flagrante delicto, and sexual child molesters in the very act. WARNING: This is an extremely disturbing video, for multiple reasons:

This is bad teaching. The biblical "Gift of discernment" has nothing to do with soothsaying and everything to do with maturity, clear understanding, the ability to make wise and careful distinctions, and (especially) skill in differentiating between holy and profane, clean and unclean, truth and falsehood (Ezekiel 44:23; Hebrews 5:14).

The counsel Driscoll gives is bad counsel. If by his own admission Driscoll's divinations are not "a hundred percent always right," he has no business accusing people of serious sins—including felony crimes—based on what he "sees" in his own imagination. Much less should he encourage his congregants to dream that they have such an ability and urge them to "use that gift."

The salacious details he recounts are totally unnecessary. They serve only to reinforce the concern some of us have raised: Why does Driscoll have such a fixation with obscene subject matter, ribald stories, and racy talk? The smutty particulars regarding a counselee's tryst in a cheap hotel are not merely unnecessary; "it is disgraceful even to speak of [such] things" (Ephesians 5:12).
For that same reason (among others), these yarns aren't even believable. The Holy Spirit's own eyes are too pure to behold evil, and He cannot look on wickedness (Habakkuk 1:13). So why would He display pornographic visions to Mark Driscoll, whose mind and mouth are already too lewd anyway?

This proves that cessationists' concerns are not far-fetched. Reformed charismatics frequently complain that it's unfair for cessationists not to expressly exempt them when we criticize the eccentricities of the wacko fringe mainstream of the larger charismatic movement. But Reformed charismatics themselves aren't careful to distance themselves from charismatic nuttiness. John Piper was openly intrigued with the Toronto Blessing when it was at its peak. (If he ever denounced it as a fraud, I never heard or read where he stated that fact publicly.) Wayne Grudem to this day endorses Jack Deere's Surprised by the Power of the Spirit, despite the way Deere lionizes Paul Cain. Sam Storms aligned himself with the Kansas City Prophets' cult for almost a decade. I can't imagine how anyone holding Grudem's view of modern prophecy could possibly repudiate what Driscoll insists he has experienced. Does anyone really expect a thoughtful analysis or critique of Driscoll's view of the "gift of discernment" (much less a collective repudiation of this kind of pornographic divination) from Reformed charismatics? I certainly don't.

Thus we see that the leaky-canon view leaves the church exposed—not only to the whimsy of hyperactive imaginations, but also to the defiling influence of an impure mind as well!

Thanks Phil, and for the record, as someone who has defended Driscoll in the past, I can do nothing but 100% agree with Phil Johnson's commentary here!

Go On To Part 9
Go Back To Part 7
Go Back To Part 1

Monday, August 29, 2011

Should Reformed Charismatics Get A Free Pass - The Cessationist Stink (Part 7)

More from Phil Johnson today examining the culpability of charismatics with reformed theology with regard to the current debate over cessationism, continuationism, and the YRR crowd. Phil's response to Mark Driscoll's "revelations" will be posted tomorrow.

Should Type-R Charismatics Get a Free Pass?
Does the fact that we are "together for the gospel" necessitate our being "together" [or even silent] on the matter of charismatic claims as well?
by Phil Johnson
02 November 2007

A prodigious wacko fringe has always been one of the charismatic movement's most prominent features. In little more than a century, the Pentecostal and Charismatic movements have spun off so many bad doctrines and bizarre characters that I have a thick dictionary in my office just to help me keep track of them all.

Furthermore, I'm convinced it's not just some kind of fantastic cosmic coincidence that has loaded the movement with an unusually high number of charlatans and heretics. I've suggested on more than one occasion that a major reason the charismatic movement has produced more than its fair share of aberrant behavior is because the distinctive doctrines of charismatic belief foster gullibility while constantly seeding the movement with all kinds of whimsy. Specifically, the charismatic belief that it's normative for Spirit-filled Christians to receive extrabiblical divine revelation through various mystical means has opened the door for all kinds of mischief.

I would not for a moment deny that there are some relatively sane and sensible charismatics who love Scripture and generally teach sound doctrine while avoiding most of their movement's worst errors. I think they represent a fairly small minority of the worldwide charismatic community, but they do exist. A few of them are good friends—even longtime friends—of mine. I have friends (for example) in the Calvary Chapel movement, which is mildly charismatic in doctrine but whose worship is generally more Bible-centered than even the typical non-Charismatic seeker-sensitive church. As a matter of fact, my chief concern about the Calvary Chapel movement would not even be their advocacy of charismatic views, but their increasingly aggressive campaign against Calvinism.

That's not all. I have warm affection and heartfelt respect for most of the best-known Reformed charismatic leaders, including C. J. Mahaney, Wayne Grudem, and Sam Storms. [Let's call them "Type-R Charismatics."] I've greatly benefited from major aspects of their ministries, and I regularly recommend resources from them that I have found helpful. I've corresponded with the world-famous Brit-blogger Adrian Warnock for at least 15 years now and had breakfast with him on two occasions, and I like him very much. I'm sure we agree on far more things than we disagree about. And I'm also certain the matters we agree on—starting with the meaning of the cross—are a lot more important than the issues we disagree on, which are all secondary matters.

But that is not to suggest that the things we disagree on are non-issues.

Candor, and not a lack of charity, requires me to state this conviction plainly: The belief that extrabiblical revelation is normative does indeed "regularly and systematically breed willful gullibility, not discernment." Even the more sane and sober [Type-R] charismatics are not totally exempt from the tendency.

Remember that Paul Cain and the Kansas City Prophets found an amazing amount of support from "Reformed Charismatics" on both sides of the Atlantic, even after it was clear to more objective minds that the "prophets'" were regularly and systematically issuing false prophecies.

And that fact ought to have been clear very early. In 1989, the senior Kansas City prophet, Bob Jones, acknowledged that he could claim an accuracy rate of no higher than two-thirds. By 1991, Jones was utterly discredited because of his own sexual misconduct with women who came to him seeking prophetic counseling.

Shortly after that (in early 1992), John MacArthur, Lance Quinn, and I met with Paul Cain and Jack Deere in John MacArthur's office at Jack Deere's request. Deere wanted to try to convince John MacArthur that the charismatic movement—especially the Vineyard branch—was on a trajectory to make doctrinal soundness and biblical integrity the hallmarks of Third-Wave charismatic practice. He brought Cain along, ostensibly so that we could see for ourselves that Cain was a legitimate prophet with a profound gifting.

But Cain was virtually incoherent that day. Lance Quinn remarked to me immediately afterward that it seemed as if Cain had been drinking heavily. (In retrospect it seems a fair assumption that this may indeed have been the case.) Even Deere apologized for Cain's strange behavior that day, but Deere seemed to want us to assume it was because the Spirit was upon Cain in some unusual way. They both admitted to us that Cain's "prophecies" were wrong at least as often as they were right. When we cited that as sufficient reason not to accept any of their prophecies at face value, they cited Wayne Grudem's views on New Testament prophecy as justification for ignoring the errors of prophecies already proven false while giving credence to still more questionable pronouncements.

That meeting was extremely eye-opening for me. Deere was unable to answer basic questions about certain practices Lance and I had personally observed him participating in at the Anaheim Vineyard just a few weeks before that meeting. Specifically, we asked him about two "prophets" whose public words of knowledge in the morning service were flatly contradictory. (The dueling prophets were apparently using their "gifts" to air out a dispute over some decision the church's leaders had recently made.) Deere acknowledged that the prophecies that morning were contradictory. And he could not explain why John Wimber let both prophecies stand without a word of explanation or clarification. (He seemed to shrug off our concern by speculating that perhaps even Wimber wasn't sure which prophecy, if either, was the true one.) Again, he appealed to Grudem, perhaps the most theologically sound of all charismatics, as justification for accepting the two prophets' gifting as legitimate anyway.

I left that meeting amazed that anyone would give credence to such "prophets." But several of the best "Reformed Charismatic" leaders—all citing Grudem for authority—continued to give credence to Cain, the Kansas City Prophets, and others like them for a long, long time. Some of the Reformed Charismatics who lent Paul Cain undue credibility did not really renounce him as a prophet until about twelve years later, when his personal sins finally came to light.

(And it may be stretching things to say everyone concerned actually "renounced" Cain's supposed prophetic gifting even then. He has lately made something of a comeback. [Jack Deere's book still touts Cain as a super-prophet, and the book was recently released in Romania, where it has left a massive amount of confusion in its wake. Wayne Grudem's endorsement of the book remains unaltered. I recently wrote him to ask if Cain's moral failure would spur him to modify or remove his endorsement of Deere's paean to Cain, and Grudem wrote to asssure me that his endorsement of the book still stands.])

As long as Reformed charismatics justify the practice of encouraging people to proclaim "prophecies" that are unverified and unverifiable—and which frequently prove to be wrong—I'll stand by the concern I expressed: even the very best of charismatics sometimes foster unwarranted and unreasonable gullibility.

And gullibility about whether God has really spoken or not is seriously dangerous.

When a false belief is truly dangerous and comes replete with the kind of long and dismal track record extrabiblical revelation brings with it, it's not "uncharitable" for those who see the danger and are truly concerned about it to sound a shrill warning rather than humming a gentle lullaby.

My charismatic friend, Dr. Warnock, insists that I have been uncharitable because I have stated my opinion about the dangers of charismatic doctrine without explicitly exempting him and others whom he likes from my warning against gullibility. It makes him "uncomfortable" to read such things on our blog as often as we post them (even though the vast majority of our [2007] posts on the charismatic issue [were in fact] made at his behest).

I have to say in reply that his appeal to how our posts make him feel, while he declines to give any rational or reasonable explanation for why he thinks our candor must be motivated by a lack of charity, is an echo of the very tendency that I think is so dangerous in the charismatic mindset.

I do realize some people are uncomfortable with such a firm stance against the charismatic position. I'm equally uncomfortable with the charismatic position itself. Let's both remember that our respective comfort levels are not a reliable gauge of our brothers' charity (or lack thereof), and let's try to focus on the actual issue under discussion.

Go On To Part 8
Go Back To Part 6
Go Back To Part 1

Saturday, August 27, 2011

You Are Probably A Cessationist Too - The Cessationist Stink (Part 6)

We're going to be hearing a lot from Phil Johnson in the coming week as I post some of his responses to Mark Driscoll (not least of which the Driscoll video from my previous post) and John Macarthur's letters to the YRR ("young, restless, and reformed"). But as an intermission for the weekend, as we all take a collective breath to reflect, I think this article that Phil Johnson wrote in 2006 is exceedingly helpful clarification for those of us who are trying to be discerning at this time. Whether you are a "continuationist", a "cessationist", or just plain "confused", this article will help us all understand these terms in a more clearly defined way. This is necessary in light of the huge misconceptions out there as to what cessationism really is. This is not an attempt to get continuationsists to "accept cessationism into their hearts" but it will alleviate many of their fears and give a clearer picture of what the actual theological differences are. Hopefully you will agree that these differences are not grounds for warfare and maybe you will also see that you are probably a cessationist too - read on and you'll find out what I mean . . .

You're Probably A Cessationist TooBy Phil Johnson
11 January 2006

If you believe any of the miraculous spiritual gifts were operative in the apostolic era only, and that some or all of those gifts gradually ceased before the end of the first century, you are a cessationist.

If you believe all the spiritual gifts described in the New Testament have continued unabated, unchanged, and unaltered since the initial outpouring of tongues at Pentecost, you are a continuationist.

It's pretty hard to find a real continuationist. Absolute non-cessationists exist only at the bizarre fringe of the charismatic movement. They are the sort of people who like to declare one another "apostles," claim (and inevitably abuse) all the apostolic prerogatives, sometimes invent fanciful stories about people raised from the dead, and twist and corrupt virtually every category of doctrine related to the gospel, the atonement, or Christian discipleship and self-denial.

But evangelical charismatics (especially the Reformed variety) do not really believe there are apostles today who have the same authority as the Apostles in the early church. Some may use the term apostle, but they invariably insist that the apostleship they recognize today is a lesser kind of apostleship than the office and gift that belonged to the apostles in the first century.

Now, think through the implications of that position: By arguing for a lesser kind of apostleship, they are actually conceding that the authentic, original New Testament gift of apostleship (Ephesians 4:11) has ceased. They have in effect embraced a kind of cessationism themselves.

Note: There is no more or less biblical warrant for this view than for any other kind of cessationism.

Nonetheless, every true evangelical holds to some form of cessationism. We all believe that the canon of Scripture is closed, right? We do not believe we should be seeking to add new inspired material to the New Testament canon. We hold to the faith that was once for all delivered to the saints (Jude 3)—delivered in the person of Christ, and through the teaching of His apostles, and inscripturated in the New Testament. We believe Scripture as we have it is complete. And those who do not believe that are not really evangelicals. They are cultists and false teachers, who would add to the Word of God.

But notice this: if you acknowledge that the canon is closed and the gift of apostleship has ceased, you have already conceded the heart of the cessationist argument.

That's not all, though. Most leading "Reformed charismatics" go even further than that. They freely admit that all the charismatic gifts in operation today are of a lesser quality than the gifts we read about in the New Testament.

For example, in Wayne Grudem's book The Gift of Prophecy in the New Testament and Today (Wheaton: Crossway, 1988)—probably the single most important and influential work written to defend modern prophecy—Grudem writes that "no responsible charismatic holds" the view that prophecy today is infallible and inerrant revelation from God (p. 111). He says charismatics are arguing for a "lesser kind of prophecy" (112), which is not on the same level as the inspired prophecies of the Old Testament prophets or the New Testament apostles—and which may even be (and very often is) fallible.

Grudem writes:

there is almost uniform testimony from all sections of the charismatic movement that [today's] prophecy is impure, and will contain elements which are not to be obeyed or trusted.

Jack Deere, former Dallas Seminary prof-turned charismatic advocate, likewise admits in his book Surprised by the Power of the Holy Spirit (Grand Rapids: Zondervan, 1993), that he has not seen anyone today performing miracles or possessing gifts of the same quality as the signs and wonders of the apostolic era. In fact, Deere argues vehemently throughout his book that modern charismatics do not even claim to have apostolic-quality gifts and miracle-working abilities. One of Deere's main lines of defense against critics of the charismatic movement is his insistence that modern charismatic gifts are actually lesser gifts than those available in the apostolic era, and therefore, he suggests, they should not be held to apostolic standards.

Again, consider the implications of that claim: Deere and Grudem have, in effect, conceded the entire cessationist argument. They have admitted that they are themselves cessationists of sorts. They believe that the true apostolic gifts and miracles have ceased, and they are admitting that what they are claiming today is not the same as the charismata described in the New Testament.

In other words, modern charismatics have already adopted a cessationist position. When pressed on the issue, all honest charismatics are forced to admit that the "gifts" they receive today are of lesser quality than those of the apostolic era.

Contemporary tongues-speakers do not speak in understandable or translatable dialects, the way the apostles and their followers did at Pentecost. Charismatics who minister on the foreign mission-field are not typically able to preach the gospel miraculously in the tongues of their hearers. Charismatic missionaries have to go to language school like everyone else.

If all sides already acknowledge that there are no modern workers of signs and wonders who can really duplicate apostolic power, then we have no actual argument about the principle of cessationism, and therefore all the frantic demands for biblical and exegetical support for cessationism are superfluous. The real gist of our disagreement boils down only to a question of degree.

In a very helpful book, Satisfied by the Promise of the Spirit (Grand Rapids: Kregel, 1996), Thomas Edgar writes,

The charismatic movement gained credence and initial acceptance by claiming their gifts were the same as those in Acts. For most people this is why they are credible today. Yet now one of their primary defenses is the claim that [the gifts] are not the same [as those in the New Testament.] Faced with the facts, they have had to revoke the very foundation of their original reason for existence. (p. 32)

As for biblical arguments, in Scripture itself, there is ample evidence that miracles were extraordinary, rare events, usually associated in some significant way with people who spoke inspired and infallible utterances. It is obvious from the biblical narrative that miracles were declining in frequency even before the apostolic era drew to a close. Scripture says the miracles were apostolic signs (2 Corinthians 12:12), and therefore by definition they pertained specifically and uniquely to the apostolic era.

Go On To Part 7
Go Back To Part 5
Go Back To Part 1

Friday, August 26, 2011

Mark Driscoll's Shocking "Revelations" - The Cessationist Stink (Part 5)

After Mark Driscoll lobbed his grenade into the cessationist camp quite a few people were upset. Not because he took an opposing stance, but because of some strong misrepresentations of their theological position. Quite frankly, I can understand why many people disagree with the cessationist view that some of the ministry gifts we find in Acts have now ceased. Though I lean in the cessationist direction I can see strong biblical arguments for Driscoll's continuationist position. I have to concede that my sympathies for the cessationist position are fuelled by my many experiences of charismaniacs losing their marbles and doing a lot of colateral damage in the process. I see the biblical arguments for cessationism but I am not yet fully persuaded on those grounds. But when Driscoll comes out and equates cessationism with "worldliness", a denial of the miraculous, and something that stems from atheism, he is completely wrong and at least needs to be taken to task over these outrageous claims.

This has led to increased scrutiny of Mark Driscoll's ministry to try and understand his theological framework. This scrutiny led to Phil Johnson uncovering some video footage from 2008 where Driscoll discusses "visions" that he gets from God. Phil Johnson has responded to this video and I will post that tomorrow. Below I have posted the aforementioned video footage but I must warn you. I find the content of this video to be extrmely disturbing and actually something that leaves a huge question mark hanging over Mark Driscoll's ministry. I wrestled with the issue of whether to post this video but since many of my friends are avid students of Mark Driscoll's teaching I think it necessary to let them see this for themselves. Ok you've been warned!

Go On To Part 6
Go Back To Part 4
Go Back To Part 1

Thursday, August 25, 2011

Macarthur's Second Letter To The Young Reformers - The Cessationist Stink (Part 4)

John Macarthur's letters to the "Young, Restless, and Reformed" (YRR) have certainly become a major talking point on the world wide web. It proved strong medicine for this YRR blogger:

The best analogy I could give is that of a young adult being scolded by a parent. When I read MacArthur's post I can't help but feel that he's the dad who is disappointed in how I've turned out (i.e. I'm not like him) and I'm the son who thinks, 'My father just doesn't get me.' . . .

Was that really necessary? Is that really going to win a hearing with the crowd he's 'admonishing'? Or is it merely a dig so that all the MacArthurites around the world can rejoice that they've struck down another foe?

I feel like he doesn't get me. It seems like he's so angry at Mark Driscoll that he hasn't taken the time to get to know me. Like the father who thinks his son is the same as the rock stars on MTV. That's Driscoll, not me.

Sure, for some fashion may be a thing. But it's not for me. I just don't care about clothes, as long as things are done decently and in order. Even his analogies fall short. A lot of people in our generation don't wear suits to weddings or to court. Or to funerals for that matter. It's not that I pay careful attention to Abercrombie; it's just that I don't think what I wear to church is nearly so crucial to the gospel as you.

This series seemed to me like it could be a really good thing. I honestly was looking forward to reading it, once I preached some truth to my heart. But this tone and these opening observations make it hard. Very, very hard.

Correction is always hard. One of the ongoing conflicts that rages in my mind so often is when one of my elder peers warns about the dangers of modern music styles. On the one hand I find myself disagreeing with him because I zero in on the theological content without being concerned with style (though I would say that some styles are so chaotic that the content gets lost in all the noise). On the other hand I remind myself of my fallen nature, that my rebuke is coming from a godly man who is definitely wiser than me, and that I will probably be the wrong party in most of our disputes. But I still don't buy my friend's counsel. I know I could be right but remind myself that invariably I am impetuous and wrong. I have no easy answer in this realm where preferences and hermeneutics collide. I just try to proceed with humble caution and heed Scriptures counsel to extend my undivided attention to those elders who have proven themselves as godly and wise. If in doubt, I almost always lean on their counsel.

One of my Australian friends once said to me that "the most annoying thing about John Macarthur is that he is always right." Granted that is hyperbole, nonetheless Macarthur has stood as a pillar of gospel truth for decades among the shifting sands of evangelical trends and he does seem to invariably get it right in historical hindsight. So let's close our mouths, sit down, and listen to Macarthur's second letter:

Grow Up
Advice for YRRs (part 2)
July 25, 2011
by John MacArthur

If I could impress on Young, Restless, Reformed students just one word of friendly counsel to address what I think is the most glaring deficiency in that movement, this is what it would be: "Brothers, do not be children in your thinking. Be infants in evil, but in your thinking be mature" (1 Corinthians 14:20).

I'm very glad the ranks of YRRs are growing numerically. Many good things about that movement are full of promise and potential. In order to fulfill that potential, however, this generation of Reformers desperately needs to move past the young-and-restless stage. Immaturity and unrest are hindrances to spiritual fruitfulness, not virtues.

When Paul told Timothy, "Let no one despise you for your youth" (1 Timothy 4:12), he wasn't suggesting that Timothy should forbid people in the church to disapprove if the pastor were to display immaturity, juvenile misbehavior, youthful indiscretion, or other traits of callow character.

Much less was the apostle suggesting that Timothy should cater exclusively to young people while purposely marginalizing the elderly. That, I'm sorry to say, is the kind of advice we sometimes hear nowadays from many self-styled church-growth experts: Pastors must be innovative, stylish, agents of change. You have got to appeal to young people. They are the only demographic that really matters if the goal is to impact the culture.

And if elderly people in the church prove to be "resisters," just show them the door. Give them the left foot of fellowship. After all, "There are moments when you've got to play hardball."

But for heaven's sake don't dress for hardball. HCo. clothes and hipster hair are essential tools of contextualization. The more casual, the better. Distressed, grunge-patterned T-shirts and ripped jeans are perfect. You would not want anyone to think you take worship as seriously as, say, a wedding or a court appearance. Be cool. Which means (of course) that you mustn't be perceived as punctilious about matters of doctrine or hermeneutics. But whatever you do, do not fail to pay careful attention to Abercrombie & Fitch.

I sometimes think no group is more fashion-conscious than the current crop of hipster church planters—except perhaps teenage girls.

But, someone protests, Scripture does say, "Let no one despise youthfulness."

We frequently hear that text cited to make that argument. But Paul's point to Timothy was precisely the opposite: Don't give anyone a reason to criticize you for being immature, "but set the believers an example in speech, in conduct, in love, in faith, in purity." Paul was not suggesting that Timothy should exaggerate his youthfulness or wear it as a badge of distinction; he was urging the young pastor to cultivate maturity beyond his years.

Charles Spurgeon understood the principle. He became pastor of London's largest and most famous Baptist congregation at the age of 20, less than five years after his conversion. But he consciously and diligently sought to display maturity beyond his years—especially in his manners and his approach to ministry. At age 40, he reflected on the brevity of his own adolescence: "I might have been a young man at twelve, but at sixteen I was a sober, respectable Baptist parson, sitting in the chair and ruling and governing the church. At that period of my life, when I ought perhaps to have been in the playground . . . I spent my time at my books, studying and working hard, sticking to it."

As I have shown elsewhere, evangelicalism's childish fascination with teenage fashions, milk rather than meat, and trivial entertainment rather than serious doctrine is deeply rooted in a pragmatic ministry philosophy. It is not "Reformed" in any sense but is a classic expression of man-centered free-willism—what Colossians 2:23 refers to as "self-made religion." It is the antithesis of the Bible's emphasis on the sovereignty of God and the unadulterated gospel as the power of God unto salvation. Instead, it begins with the assumption that the lost must be won by sheer gimmickry—through the cleverness of human ingenuity or the supposed appeal of worldly fashion.

That, of course, is precisely the philosophy Paul rejected and refuted in 1 Corinthians 2:1-5.

One might think any movement that formally affirms Reformation doctrine would be at the vanguard of opposition to the jejune faddishness that has plagued evangelicalism for the past few decades. But that has not always been the case with today's Young and Restless Reformers. As the YRR movement has taken shape, some of the best-selling books and leading figures in the movement have been completely uncritical (and in some cases openly supportive) of seeker-sensitive-style pragmatism.

Worse, the fads and gimmicks some prominent YRRs seem to want to be known for are much more sinister than the shallow diversions that seeker-friendly churches were playing around with twenty years ago. Judging from certain church websites and pastoral blogs, a sizeable core of young men in the YRR movement are perfectly happy to give the world the impression that cage fighting, beer-drinking, cigar-smoking, hard-partying, and other forms of bad-boy-behavior are the distinguishing marks of their religion. Meanwhile, many others who identify with the movement evidently think any talk of holiness—not to mention any concern for taste or propriety—is tantamount to the rankest sort of legalism.

Such an opinion reflects a carnal immaturity that must not be encouraged. When smutty talk and lascivious subject matter from the pulpits of 40-year-old pastors are routinely defended by an appeal to the "youthfulness" of the offender, someone's maturity meter is badly askew. It is a serious problem. The movement cannot survive or prosper under leaders who are stuck in perpetual adolescence—no matter how much they talk about manhood and thump their chests to demonstrate their machismo.

Those who exhibit such behavior are out of their element claiming to be Reformed. Maturity is a necessary virtue for those who would be truly effective in ministry. "Solid food is for the mature, for those who have their powers of discernment trained by constant practice to distinguish good from evil" (Hebrews 5:14). That is a desirable—and honorable—goal: Strive for it.

"Not that I have already obtained this or am already perfect, but I press on to make it my own, because Christ Jesus has made me his own. Brothers, I do not consider that I have made it my own. But one thing I do: forgetting what lies behind and straining forward to what lies ahead, I press on toward the goal for the prize of the upward call of God in Christ Jesus. Let those of us who are mature think this way" (Philippians 3:12-15).

As we will see, this letter is certain to ruffle plenty of reformed feathers!

Go On To Part 5
Go Back To Part 3
Go Back To Part 1

Wednesday, August 24, 2011

The Pyromaniac Response To Mark Driscoll - The Cessationist Stink (Part 3)

Mark Driscoll's provocative statements about cessationism were bound to draw a quick response. And Frank Turk over at the Pyromaniacs blog was one of the first to respond with his "Open Letter To Mark Driscoll". I think Frank nailed it and also gave much needed clarification on many of Driscoll's inaccuracies concerning cessationism. For these reasons I have decided to post the vast majority of his lengthy response. It'll be a long ride today but well worth sticking around to the finish. Take it away Frank:

[Concerning the sermon video] I have to say that you had me pretty much "amen-ing" for the first 27 minutes, I spent the next 27 minutes wondering if you had completely lost your mind.

I'm a guy who was saved out of rank atheism and into faith in Christ without a preacher or mentor. God answered a desperate prayer from me in one night and literally changed me from wholly-immoral to reasonably-self-controlled, and grateful. After seeing my sin and my savior while reading the book of John, God planted the whole seed-bag of spiritual fruit in me in one night (without an audible voice to follow it or explain it). It took me two years to fully understand what happened to me, and in that a pastor and a local church did much for me. So it's not possible to paint me as a guy who doesn't believe in miracles. I am one, and I think every who believes is also one.

I also come to your video with some insider baseball. I know (and I think most people who are familiar with A29 know) that there is resentment in your camp toward John MacArthur's 1992 tome Charismatic Chaos. It's probably a holdover from the Vineyard's resentment toward that book, which is a hold-over from the old-timer Azuza Street crowd. The trope is that Dr. MacArthur slandered a lot of good men in that book, and has never apologized for it, so how does he get a pass for being a straight shooter? In that respect, my perception of your reproach here is along the line of looking to give some back for the original work which, I think, changed a lot of the terms of engagement on this issue and marginalized "charismatic" theology in wholly-orthodox circles for the last 2 decades.

Of course, you personally have a lot at stake in the debate because you're unabashed to say that God audibly called you to be a pastor. Unlike the armies of men before you who claimed such things after the death of John in Patmos, most of whom thereafter jumped the doctrinal and/or moral shark, you have remained relatively inside the bounds of orthodoxy and orthopraxy. However, we have to be wise enough to understand that your claim is part of the issues at stake and see that as the lens through which you see the whole picture. After all: if the cessationist is right, how do we frame up your claims? Are they completely fraudulent, or is there another use for them?

We here at TeamPyro are well known for not pulling any punches when it comes to daGifts. I even was pleased to discover that my most-favorite [self-authored] PDF on this subject is linked by our friends at So let me suggest to you that, if there is anyone at the popular level who is more serious and more well-documented on an on-going basis as to what actual Cessationists believe, I'd like to meet him. Maybe he's the one you were talking about when you said this:

Now some of you will have resistance to this and let me tell you why, this will be very controversial, it may be because you are worldly. Cessationism is worldliness. Let me explain it to you, you've got Renee Descartes "Cogito ergo sum", I think therefore I am. In an effort to defend Christianity from some of its critics, he begins with his epistemological presupposition: "Where will I start? I think therefore I am". So the two founding, if you look at this like a Jenga game, the first two pieces that get laid down in something called the modernistic enlightenment project, individualism and rationalism. "I think", that's in "I'm an individual and my mind, my brain, the three pounds of me between my ears", that is the essence of what it means to posses the "Imago dei", to bear the image and likeness of God. Out of that what invariably comes is the modern enlightenment project, based upon individualism and rationalism. Now, out of this comes as well skepticism, after a while you start reading in the Bible, "Jesus walked on water?". You start becoming skeptical of supernatural claims. So it's like William Barclay come[sic] along " well maybe he's walking along the shore of the water and it look like he was walking on the water", we're trying to find ways to explain away what the Bible says plainly. Because it doesn't fit cleanly within a modernistic, rationalistic uh paradigm of thinking. So in that way Christians start thinking more like Hume than C.S. Lewis. Alright?

Hume is really the modern rationalistic thinker who set in motion opposition to the supernatural, to the miraculous. So it starts with rationalism, individualism as part of modernism, this leads to skepticism, right?. If there is a God, then God created the world, and to use the language of Al Pacino in the devil's advocate, he's now an absentee landlord, and that he's left us here and he's governing life as we know it by a set of laws; but he's so sovereign that he's gone, he's not transcendent and imminent, just gone. What happens then is the assumption is made that none of these natural laws can be violated, therefore the supernatural is impossible if not unlikely.

This plays itself out in three ways: Number one, there's atheism. There is no God, there is no supernatural, there is nothing beyond the physical material world that can be objectively tested and retested according to scientific methodology. There is a vestige of modernism that tries to accommodate the spiritual aspect and it becomes deism. Where there is a God but this "god" is not involved in our world, he doesn't break in and violate natural law; the supernatural is not possible. This is Thomas Jefferson who sits down on the white house with a set of scissors and cuts all of the miracles out of the bible and publishes something called The Philosophy of Jesus Christ. This includes Unitarians, this includes very liberal mainline so called Christian denominations who are basically deists. There is a god, he is far away, doesn't have anything to do with us and the miracles can all be explained away, they are primitive, superstition, myths, misunderstandings. So it goes to Atheism, Deism and this will be controversial, Cessationism.

Now you know why I haven't said this publicly, I'm not sure I have a helmet big enough to deal with it, I'm gonna get battered a lot. But I believe that a result of modernistic worldliness in Christian form is hard cessationism. And that is saying: God could do a miracle but He doesn't and He won''t, but He could. So within that God's not really speaking, God's not really working and the supernatural gifts are not in operation; Healing, revelation, speaking in tongues, those kinds of things they are over in the God-used-to box. Even though I was reading this book that said he was the same yesterday, today and forever.

And so their argument even comes down to 1st Corinthians 13 which gets turned into origami, right? When the perfect comes the imperfect disappears, we'll see him face to face, the perfect is Jesus. The perfect is Jesus. But then what happens is, to defend this sort of modernistic rationalistic, cessationistic position, we throw up the craziest cooks in the charismatic camp and say well you don't want that do ya? uh no, no we don't. If it's nothing or that it's a real coin flip, cause neither is the real win.

Now, Pastor Mark: where to start? I'll be excited to read your book when Justin Taylor has approved it for publication as I am dying to see the historical evidence for the continuation of the gifts in the first 3 centuries of the church when it cannot be found in any of the primary sources for that period. You say elsewhere in the talk that you have it, and I'm looking forward to you showing us your evidence. When guys like Justin Martyr, Irenaeus, Tatian, Clement, and Tertullian don't mention it at all, and they are framing the first post-biblical case for Christianity, and they can't possibly have modernistic, rationalistic, individualistic Enlightenment biases because it's 14 centuries too early for that, I hope you have something more than self-confidence and a winning smirk to carry the day.

To the rest of this, I'm really just agog. On Twitter, to your defenders there, I have said it plainly: who exactly are you talking about? Given the time and the tone you have committed to this topic -- giving it as much time in front of this group as you gave to both Reformed theology and Compementarian roles for men and women combined -- one must think it's a rampant pathology. In all seriousness, you wave-off the too-numerous-to-count Prosperity crowd and the barking-dog Pentecostals, but you call out standard-issue presbyterians as if they are the ones making the church look like a geek show. You make a point to name the Presbys as a class at the end of this section, and you make it clear that while you mention "hard" cessationists, you mean anyone who doesn't have a prophet in his church. So my off-the-cuff reaction to this stuff is, "You must mean someone: name two men who believe this stuff as you have framed it." Maybe you mean Warfield and Machen?

I myself have been uncharacteristically-cagey in naming names when it comes to my campaign against watchbloggers and bad apologists, but it's funny: when I spell it out, people know exactly who I am talking about. The right people take offense. Some of them self-immolate and make my hobby more like reporting than commentary. But in this case -- that is, your case -- I can't think of anyone who believes what you have recounted here, even among the three of us at TeamPyro. None of us, for example, believes "God could do a miracle but He doesn't and He won't, but He could." We all believe in the efficacy of prayer, the gifting of the believer for service, the indwelling of the Holy Spirit, the work of sanctification, and the acts of God in providence. For the record, we also believe in the local church and its work as a light on a lampstand which is not because it is full of such swell people. We believe in John 13-15, and in 1 Cor 12-14 -- and we can point to the exegesis of guys like John Calvin and Augustine of Hippo as pre-modernists who believe what we believe literally over and against what you say you believe.

But, of course, like the gents who come before you in this debate, conceding that to the cessationist view is out of the question. It is either all or nothing, and to say that there are things which all believers can and will experience because God is the God of the living without saying that prophecy, tongues and specific gifts like apostolic healing and authority is somehow not reckoned as a choice. What sets you apart, of course, is that you say that if the church doesn't have functional Jesus(es) in it, it's just atheism.

So here's the formal response to your video, in the form of affirmations and denials:

1. I affirm that Reformation theology requires the personal action of God the Holy Spirit for the life of the Church.

I deny that this work necessarily includes speaking in tongues (as in Acts 2 as well as in so-called "private prayer langauges"), healing the sick or raising the dead by explicit command, prophecy in the sense that Isaiah and John the Baptist were prophets, or any other "sign-and-wonder"-like exhibition. That is: I deny that these actions are necessary for the post-apostolic church to function as God intended.

2. I affirm that miracles happen today. No sense in prayer and believing in a sovereign God if he's not going to ever be sovereign, right?

I deny that there is any man alive today who is gifted to perform miracles as Christ and the Apostles where gifted to perform miracles.

3. I affirm that God is utterly capable of, and completely willing, to demonstrate "signs and wonders" at any time, in any place, according to his good pleasure and for his great purpose.

I deny that this activity is common, normative, necessary, or in the best interest of God's people to been seen as common, normative and/or necessary. God in fact warns us against seeking signs rather than the thing signified repeatedly in the OT and NT.

4. I affirm the real presence of the Holy Spirit in the church of Jesus Christ as Jesus said He would be present in John 13-15.

I deny that this means that all believers or even all local churches will be equipped with apostles called and equipped as the 12 and Paul were called and equipped. A telling example is the role of apostles in delivering Scripture to the church.

5. I affirm that the normative working of the Holy Spirit in the life of the church begins with conviction of sin and regeneration, and continues through sanctification, and through the outworking of personal gifts (e.g. - Gal 5:22-23, 1 Cor 13:4-7) for the edification of the (local) church.

I deny that explicitly-supernatural outworkings, or events the Bible calls "signs and wonders" (e.g. - Acts 2:1-11, Acts 3:3-7, Acts 5:1-11, Acts 9:32-35, etc.) are either normative or necessary for the on-going life of the church.

6. I affirm the uniqueness of the office of apostle in the founding of the church.

I deny the necessity of apostles for the on-going life of the church.

7. I affirm that leadership in the church is a task wholly-empowered by the Holy Spirit to men meeting the scriptural qualifications, and that the objectives of this leadership are wholly-defined by the Holy Spirit explicitly through Scripture and implicitly as the gifts of leaders are applied to a real people in a local church.

I deny that church leadership is like business leadership - that is, a system of techniques that have outcomes measurable by secular metrics of success - and further deny that merely-competant management processes yield the fruit of the Holy Spirit.

Before I close up, another amusing thing happened last week as I warmed up to write this. A young fellow in an A29 church told me that you welcome real cessationists as pastors into Acts29 without any qualms. Let's say that he's right for a minute here and that your practice is better than your rhetoric -- something we are all usually guilty of. How do we take this talk seriously at all if your main goal was really to watchblog a strawman at your home-team conference? I think it's hard enough to take you seriously most of the time because you aren't all that serious. When you have that sort of lite demeanor (which I share) and then you start adopting the approach of your worst critics (that is: the most meaningless of your critics; the ones who are simply bad, undiscerning critics), you're not going to pick up any of the middle ground.

All that said, if you are actually writing this book, bone up on the subject a little. Recognize, for example, that there are at least 4 different camps of cessationists and that most of them are really enemies of the same sort of thing I think you are yours are the enemy of: spiritual abuse, immaturity, heterodoxy, and blasphemy toward God and disrespect for church.

If you want to be some kind of cautious continualist: fine. Super. Live it since you heard God call your name. But be at least as cautious to those who disagree with you are you are toward the rank heretics in the Emerg* camp. You're willing to add some nuance to your approach to them, and most of them have come clean as enemies of faith in Christ. The men you oppose here, and call diests and atheists, are not enemies of Christ. You'd be best served to think and speak a little more carefully about this if your real concern is the church of Jesus Christ.

My thanks for your time to read 10 pages single-spaced, and to give an ear to a member of the PajamaHadijn. I hope this letter finds you well, and in God's good graces. Grace and peace to you - Frank Turk

Go On To Part 4
Go Back To Part 2
Go Back To Part 1

Tuesday, August 23, 2011

Macarthur Tells The Young Reformers To Grow Up And Keep Reforming - The Cessationist Stink (Part 2)

Yesterday I started a two week series which will document the two huge internet debates that have blown up over the last few weeks. One of the debates, which is about cessationism, was discussed yesterday and featured Mark Driscoll's bomb dive into the ring with some very strong words against the cessationist position. I think we will come to see in subsequent posts, that regardless of one's view, Driscoll's portrayal of cessationism was inaccurate to say the least.

Today we will look at the first shot fired in the other debate, which was John Macarthur's first letter to the rapidly growing movement of "young, restless, and reformed" - an exciting movement which is recovering Calvinist theology and Gospel purity whilst maintaining a certain level of cool edginess and cultural savvy. Though I am covering these two debates side by side over the next two weeks, I am doing so because of the very strong overlap between the two. In fact, I think it is entirely plausible that Driscoll's sermon against cessationism may well have been a response to this letter by Macarthur which was the first in a series of four:

Grow Up. Settle Down. Keep Reforming.
Advice for the Young, Restless, Reformed
Wednesday, July 20, 2011
by John MacArthur

It has been five years since Christianity Today published Collin Hansen’s article titled “Young, Restless, Reformed.” Hansen later expanded the article into a book with the same title (Wheaton: Crossway, 2008). He has carefully documented a very encouraging trend: large numbers of young people (college age and younger) are discovering the doctrines of grace, embracing a more biblical and Christ-centered worldview, and beginning to delve more deeply into serious theology than most 20th-century evangelicals were prone to do.

In short, Calvinism, not postmodernism, seems to be capturing the hearts of Christian young people.

Hansen cites evidence that Calvinistic seminaries are growing. Several new national conferences feature speakers committed to reformed soteriology (R.C. Sproul, John Piper, Al Mohler, Mark Dever, and others)—and these conferences are consistently full to overflowing with students. Books rich with meaty doctrinal content rather than relational fluff have begun to show up on Christian best-seller lists. There is even a surge of interest in Jonathan Edwards.

Hansen’s original article gave some definition and a name to this developing movement. That article finally brought attention to a powerful trend that theretofore had been all but ignored by Christianity Today’s editors. (They had been preoccupied for a decade or more with Emergent and postmodern fads, open theism, and various currents drifting in a totally different direction.) But (in Hansen’s words): “While the Emergent ‘conversation’ gets a lot of press for its appeal to the young, the new Reformed movement [is arguably] a larger and more pervasive phenomenon [with] a much stronger institutional base.”

Five years later, the so-called Emergent Church is now in a state of serious disarray and decline. Some have suggested it’s totally dead. Virtually every offshoot of evangelicalism that consciously embraced postmodern values has either fizzled out or openly moved toward liberalism, universalism, and Socinianism. Scores of people who were active in the Emerging movement a decade ago seem to have abandoned Christianity altogether.

But young, restless, Reformed students (YRRs) still seem to be multiplying and gaining influence. I’m very glad for most of what this movement represents. It seems to be a more biblically-oriented, gospel-centered, theologically-grounded approach to Christian discipleship than this generation’s parents typically favored—and that is most certainly to be applauded.

YRRs have by and large eschewed the selfishness and shallowness (though not all the pragmatism) of seeker-sensitive religion. They are generally aware of the dangers posed by postmodernity, political correctness, and moral relativism (even if they don’t always approach such dangers with sufficient caution). And while they sometimes seem to struggle to show discernment, they do seem to understand that truth is different from falsehood; sound doctrine is opposed to heresy; and true faith distinct from mere religious pretense.

It is overall a positive development and a trend to be encouraged—but the YRR movement as it is shaping up also needs to face up to some fairly serious problems and potential pitfalls. So I have some words of encouragement and counsel for YRRs, and I want to take a few days here at the blog to write to them about their movement, its influences, some hazards that lie ahead, some tendencies to avoid, and some qualities to cultivate. (A few men on our staff will also join the discussion with a few thoughts of their own.)

Our chief concerns have to do with immaturity, instability, and inconsistency in the YRR movement. It is clear from Scripture, of course, that people who are young need to aim for maturity (2 Peter 3:18; Ephesians 4:13; Hebrews 5:12-14)—not perpetual adolescence. Scripture likewise makes clear that it’s better to be “like a tree planted by streams of water” (Psalm 1:3) than to be constantly restless. And one cannot be genuinely “Reformed” and deliberately worldly at the same time. The two things are inconsistent and incompatible. To embrace the world’s fashions and values—even under the guise of being “missional”—is to make oneself God’s enemy (James 4:4). Many supposed reformations have faltered on that rock.

No one is truly Reformed who is not constantly reforming.

In all candor, some of the ideas YRRs seem most obsessed with—starting with their standard methods for reaching the unchurched and “redeeming culture”—seem to be holdovers from the pragmatism that dominated their parents’ generation. If we profess theology that recognizes and honors the sovereignty, majesty, and holiness of God, our practice ought to be consistent with that.

It is a wonderful thing to come to grips with the doctrines of grace, and it is a liberating realization when we acknowledge the impotence of the human will. But embracing those truths is merely an initial step toward authentic reformation. We still have a lot of reforming to do.

And let’s face it: the besetting sin of young Calvinists is a brash failure to come to grips with that reality.

I’ll elaborate more on these points in the days to come.

That was spicy to say the least Dr. Macarthur, but with a 40 year track record of Gospel fidelity and faithful biblical exposition we would all do well to soberly meditate on your counsel and eagerly await your next letter!

This saga has some major twists in the plot that will unfold over the coming days including some startling older audio of Driscoll that has now surfaced - so I hope you will stay tuned!

Go On To Part 3
Go Back To Part 1

Monday, August 22, 2011

Mark Driscoll Fires His First Shot - The Cessationist Stink (Part 1)

The entire internet nearly blew up over the last week with all the shots fired in the latest theological debates in cyberspace. Some of the issues being raised are too important to ignore and the public nature of the debate makes it pointless trying to leave the major characters nameless. It is also a busy time for me as I prepare for two sermons and a debate all in the Danish language.

I will be preaching at Christianskirken in Århus this thursday 25th August at 7:30pm. They have asked me to preach about following Jesus in modern Denmark so I will be preaching out of Ezekiel 36:25-27 and the fact that we cannot follow Jesus unless we are born again. The sermon will be in Danish. The address for the meeting is Christiansgården, Frederikshaldsgade 15, 8200 Århus N, Denmark. More announcements will follow later regarding the upcoming evolution debate and evangelism lecture.

But for now, I will start unpacking two major debates currently in process that do overlap to a certain extent. I am unsure as to which of these shots was fired first and/or whether one was a response to the other. But what has come out of all of this is the need to better understand what cessationists really believe (whichever side of the fence you are on), the need to understand the inherent dangers that can swirl around even the most conservative of charismatic leaning people, and the deep ditches that line the sides of the exciting highway or resurgent reformed theology. For those who have not been perusing the latest offerings from Mark Driscoll, John Macarthur, Phil Johnson, and Frank Turk then you are going to love the assortment of articles and videos that will be posted here over the next two weeks. Much of it is pure gold from great Christian minds that needs to be shared with the widest possible audience. So, aside from a smattering of personal input, the next fortnight is going to cover much of what has happened thus far.

To whet your appetites today, I am posting the recent sermon from Mark Driscoll that provoked a lot of response from those of the "cessationist" persuasion. Cessationism is a position that evokes a lot of emotion but I am hoping that those of you who feel this way can rein it in for a few days so that perhaps you will get a clearer understanding of what cessationism actually holds to and what it doesn't hold to - you might be surprised. For what it is worth, Mark Driscoll is a guy that I like a lot with an immature streak that tends to upset me (this does not absolve my own immaturity but neither does Driscoll's public profile leave space for it). As what all too often happens with Mark, the following sermon travels along nicely and then takes a sharp turn at the 27 minute mark. What Driscoll says here is problematic on several levels, not least of which is that it is an innaccurate assessment of cessationism - a camp I do not belong to but have strong sympathies for. Have a look if you have the inclination and we'll discuss it further over the coming days:

Go On To Part 2

Saturday, August 20, 2011

Just Added - On Christian Doctrine

Augustine's historic treatise on Christian doctrine has now been added to the resource library.


Category: Heroes, Puritans, And Reformers
Click Here To Order
In On Christian Doctrine, Augustine helps readers discover, teach, and defend the truths of Scripture. According to Augustine, in order for Christians to fully understand Scripture, it should be interpreted with faith, hope, and love. He helps readers recognize and interpret figurative expressions and ambiguous language. Augustine suggests that readers consult original translations and commit difficult terms to memory. He also suggests we familiarize ourselves with the meaning of frequently used symbols, such as "shepherd" and "sheep." For those who teach the Scripture to others, he says we must teach in honesty - not for self-seeking purposes. This text offers an impressive wealth of practical wisdom for reading the Bible. It is evident that Augustine earnestly wanted his readers to understand God's Word.

Friday, August 19, 2011

Exposing And Expelling Heretics (Part 7)

Today we pick up from where we left off on our expository journey through the Epistle of Jude. Jude represents the first expository assignment I have been tasked with in our church plant in Denmark - Kristuskirken. Though short in length, Jude is a letter jam packed with information on why we should hunt down false teachers that conceal themselves in the church, how we should identify them, and that we as Christians should go to war against them secure in the knowledge of being kept in the safety of God's preserving grace. Much of the credit for this series must go to John MacArthur whose teaching on this Epistle has been my major source.

1 Jude, a servant of Jesus Christ and brother of James, To those who are called, beloved in God the Father and kept for Jesus Christ: 2 May mercy, peace, and love be multiplied to you. 3 Beloved, although I was very eager to write to you about our common salvation, I found it necessary to write appealing to you to contend for the faith that was once for all delivered to the saints. 4 For certain people have crept in unnoticed who long ago were designated for this condemnation, ungodly people, who pervert the grace of our God into sensuality and deny our only Master and Lord, Jesus Christ. (Jude 1-4)

In John 6 we see a great apostacy when Jesus has a great crowd following Him and most of them leave because of Jesus’ hard sayings. In the Old Testament apostacy always refers to Israel when they abandon God and Jeremiah 2 is a great example of this. But let’s look again at verse 4 of Jude as we head to one of the very controversial parts of Jude and perhaps in all of the Bible. Jude describes these apostates as people "who long ago were designated for this condemnation“. We know that this apostacy had been prophecied long ago, even as far back as Enoch before the flood of Noah. Jude says in verses 14 and 15 that:

It was also about these that Enoch, the seventh from Adam, prophesied, saying, "Behold, the Lord comes with ten thousands of his holy ones, to execute judgment on all and to convict all the ungodly of all their deeds of ungodliness that they have committed in such an ungodly way, and of all the harsh things that ungodly sinners have spoken against him." (Jude 14-15)

But there is even more to this. We have already discussed how Jude comforts the believers with the doctrine of their election. Those who God elects He calls, those who God calls He keeps. The same is true of these apostates. These are false teachers that God has already appointed to damnation. This is a doctrine which I cannot deal with by pretending it is not in Scripture. I cannot deal with it by ignoring it. And I cannot fully explain it within the infinite mind of God. But I will tell you what the Scripture says of it. When Arminians ask if I believe in double Predestination I find it to be a redundant and antagonistic term. Antagonistic because they find the idea of God predestining people to damnation to be repulsive. Redundant because I can't see how God's Sovereign predestination could mean anything other than everyone being predestined otherwise God is not Sovereign. But there is far more to the equation than the oversimplified Arminian objections as we shall see from Scripture.

First of all we should not argue with God about anything because He made everything, He owns everything, and He knows a lot of things that we don’t know:

Am I not allowed to do what I choose with what belongs to me? Or do you begrudge my generosity? (Matthew 20:15)

Second, the wicked serve their own evil desires, but this still ultimately serves the sovereign purposes of God:

The LORD has made everything for its purpose, even the wicked for the day of trouble.(Proverbs 16:4)

Third, even though God works all things together, including evil, for His glory – they are fully responsible for their sin.

You refuse to come to me that you may have life. (John 5:40)

Fourth God desires to see wicked people come to repentance:

Have I any pleasure in the death of the wicked, declares the Lord GOD, and not rather that he should turn from his way and live? (Ezekiel 18:23)

The Lord is not slow to fulfill his promise as some count slowness, but is patient toward you, not wishing that any should perish, but that all should reach repentance. (2 Peter 3:9)

And fifth, though we struggle to understand this, all these things fit together in the infinite mind of God:

You will say to me then, "Why does he still find fault? For who can resist his will?" But who are you, O man, to answer back to God? Will what is molded say to its molder, "Why have you made me like this?" Has the potter no right over the clay, to make out of the same lump one vessel for honorable use and another for dishonorable use? What if God, desiring to show his wrath and to make known his power, has endured with much patience vessels of wrath prepared for destruction, in order to make known the riches of his glory for vessels of mercy, which he has prepared beforehand for glory — even us whom he has called, not from the Jews only but also from the Gentiles? As indeed he says in Hosea, "Those who were not my people I will call 'my people,' and her who was not beloved I will call 'beloved.'" "And in the very place where it was said to them, 'You are not my people,' there they will be called 'sons of the living God.'" (Romans 9:19-26)

This is a difficult subject and these verses are well worth meditating on. This is a real subject but one I prefer to leave in the hands of the Sovereign God Whose work is perfect and all His ways are just. As Abraham said "shall not the Judge of all the earth do what is right" (Genesis 18:25b). I also recommend RC Sproul's very helpful book on this subject - “Chosen by God”.

To be continued in three weeks time . . .

Go On To Part 8
Go Back To Part 6
Go Back To Part 1