I was raised in a Baptist family. This part of my life is vital to talk about because this reveals the roots of my beliefs. Baptists fought against the carnal church of their day. Many have been put into prisons, and many died for their beliefs. They formed the fabric of the Evangelical Churches as we know it today. Historically we can trace it the back to John Smyth, an English Separatist Pastor in Amsterdam who started to water baptize people. There is one thing that made them stand out from all other reformers. The adults who confessed their faith had to be fully immersed in water to be considered baptized. Origins of Baptist Denomination are not this simple. Water baptism spread in England under anabaptists movement and offshoot from Puritans. It went from a Dutch republic to England and finally to the American Continent. In 1638, Roger Williams established the first Baptist church in North American colonies. The way it made its way to Russia is through the First and Second Great Awakening in the 18th and 19th century in the United States, resulting in missionaries going to every continent and spreading the good news.
Early on, one of the significant views that Baptists adapted was Dispensational Theology. Dispensationalism is an interpretive system that teaches biblical history in light of a number of successive administrations of God’s dealings with mankind, which it calls “dispensations.” John Nelson Darby was the one who developed it into a Theological system. Around 1830, he was contemplating on Isaiah 32, and he concluded that prophecy required a future fulfillment of Israel’s kingdom. We are all familiar with this very well, the millennium kingdom on earth after the church is lifted up into heaven. John Nelson took this theological system all over Europe and United States in hopes of getting converts for Plymouth Brethren. His attempt failed in gaining converts, but the eschatological doctrine took hold among Baptists and many other denominations. This theological system is important because one of the dispensations was the beginning of the Church era. This beginning marked the start of the dispensation of grace. I’ll connect this in a moment.
Around the same time, another view was adopted by many denominations including baptists and that is Cessationism. Cessationism is a doctrine that teaches that spiritual gifts such as speaking in tongues, prophecy, and healing ceased with the apostolic age. I hope you see the connection here. Cessationism was there to give validity for dispensational theology. One of the first major influential writers that popularized this view was Benjamin B. Warfield. His research showed that there is no objective evidence to prove miraculous events in the mainstream church. This evidence would be convincing if it were not for the era that preceded it. Let’s not forget they were responding to the carnal church, and they wanted to separate themselves from it. At the same time, they did not want to fall behind the intelligentsia of Christianity. Reasonable doctrines and responses were needed to satisfy that. I will expand on this further in the book. There was animosity towards Catholics and politically infused church. Any separation was a good separation as long as they had good reasons to show they were right. These two views mashed so well together for many denominations, they satisfied most of the things that the world was looking for.
Coincidently or not, Cessationism gained its popularity and theological structure not from the demands of newly formed denominations but from something much more substantial, and that is the Enlightenment Age. The same influence drove all sides of Christendom, and that is reason. “Reason” was the king of faith. Around that time it was typical for the Protestant church to criticize the Catholic church for its fake miracles. “Reason” was the heavy hitter in that culture. “Reason” became the most important element during the enlightenment while putting the element of relationship, beauty or goodness on the second spot. It is, precisely, during the Enlightenment Age the attack on the supernatural was formed using reason. At the end of the Enlightenment Age, God no longer was this extraordinary Being in our world. God governed the world with empirical scientific realities. Right after enlightenment age many like B. B. Warfield started to compose historical cases against supernatural phenomena, they were out to prove that Cessationism was the reality ever since the first century. They were after historical evidence to prove their side. Those are bold claims in today’s world because the evidence is far from obvious. Yet, many today, including me in my earlier life held to it so earnestly. Let me give you a glimpse of what it does look like. Early Church fathers Tertullian claimed that the noblest Christian life is to exorcize evil spirits—to perform cures.” Justin Martyr, who wrote around A. D. 150, stated that Christians were able to drive out those demons that the pagans were helpless in casting out. Church father Origen (martyred ca. 253), noted that Christians cast out demons merely by prayer and simple adjurations which the plainest person can use. We have to jump to the fourth century to Constantine’s conversion to see data that is different. Jack Hayford writes about a drastic loss of Charismatic activity when the Roman emperor Constantine’s conversion and the emergence of ‘Christendom’ in the fourth century. He writes “The Catholic mystical tradition continued to allow for a few saints possessed of ‘heroic holiness’ to exercise some of the gifts, but such holiness was reserved, in the minds of most, for the clergy and religious (bishops, priests, monks, and nuns), not for the masses of ordinary Christians”. Eventually, “by the year 800—more or less—a desire for baptism with the Holy Spirit had disappeared.” Following the collapse of the Roman Empire, intellectual darkness and economic regression occurred in Europe. The dark age was a disaster for the church and charismatic movement. Not until the Enlightenment Age do we see the resurgence of supernatural in the camp of Huguenots. The St. Bartholomew’s Day massacre was the origin of Cevennes prophets (Huguenots), to which John Wesley later referred. David Smith wrote in “The Life and Letters of St. Paul, “the spiritual gifts of the Apostolic Church reappeared — miracles of healing, prophecy, and talking in tongues.”. This was during the time of severe persecution in 1685. By 1689, Pentecostal experiences were quite common among the Huguenots of the Cevennes. They thought those were the End of Days. Three hundred plus years later we know that they and their prophecies about end times were wrong. In conclusion only after the enlightenment era do we see any solid formation of Cessationist view? We see writing such as Charles Hodge’s Systematic Theology (1872-1873) and Counterfeit Miracles by B. B. Warfield (1918). Very conveniently it puts us at Post-Enlightenment age into Industrial Revolution Era as a response to intelligentsia issue with the church. It was during the Age of Enlightenment we see something very significant happen. These facts resound so much with my own life experience. It took me down the wrong path in the same way it took the church into false doctrines.
History can be tricky at times but also so enlightening in figuring out the roots of our beliefs. All who were born into Christian families were taught their beliefs since their early age. So only searching out the historical roots will help us change our false beliefs and start to make sense and untangle our personal issues in life. My issues dealt with supernatural, which takes me all the way back to Enlightenment Age. I hope this is helping many of you understand the roots of your beliefs as well.
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