Chapter 5: Cessationism under a microscope

Cessationism is the doctrine that spiritual gifts such as speaking in tongues, prophecy, and healing ceased with the apostolic age. The biggest issue against Cessationism is that their response to the problem of vanishment of Charismatic movement is not the only possible answer that is on the table today or at any point in history. Continuationism is the opposing side of that coin that was always there. To claim that Cessationism is or was the only option available is a very arrogant claim. From my life experience, people are never taught both views. And most people claim to the views they were taught from birth and hold to it as if it’s the only truth existed since Jesus Christ. As one of my local pastors pointed out, we all at one time or another hid behind our church walls and bashed the other church doctrines, “those poor schmucks, they don’t know what they are talking about.”

Some today publicly argue with vulgar attitude as if Cessationism is the core belief of Christianity and the fate of Christianity depends on converting people to Cessationism. They literally think that the Devil has possessed anyone who practices gifts of the Spirit. If you are that person then “STOP.” You are a Christian, and it is commanded to you by God to check the truth. First, present yourself as a mature Christian by showing that you are willing to listen, willing to do research, and to check the facts. But, most importantly consider the other side as a loving Christian who is not trying to coerce you, but simply share with you what he has learned. We all are too quick to correct someone’s mistakes, but we are not too quick to recognize that we could be wrong when someone is trying to correct us. Every Christian Doctrine was originated by men from scripture. And that’s the truth. The worst thing you can say to another Christian is “I am on the side of the Bible, and you are not” or “Here’s what the Bible states” in reference to Christian doctrine. Christian doctrines did not come from atheists, they all came from true believers, but because we are human, we make mistakes. Let us look at it this way, if someone presents better evidence, has a university degree in theology, and a bunch of books under their belt, it does not mean they are ultimately right. David Hume is an excellent example of that. Be willing to listen and look into it, chew on it, pray about it and make up your mind. It may take you years to figure it out. It took me years to figure it out. But until then, keep it as an option to fall back on if things start to break apart for you in your doctrinal methodology. Remember, Cessationism is not the only option and never was.

As you can assume, I have a list of issues that Cessationist is facing today. Here is the second issue, they immediately start from having to provide the burden of proof. If someone who never read the bible and reads it for the first time, they would never come out as a Cessationist. It is far from obvious. And if you need to provide the burden of proof, that means your evidence has to be beyond the opposing natural evidence. Judging by the research I have done, they are far from that.

Historically, the evidence does not fall on the Cessationist side. Cessationist view is a relatively recently formulated doctrine. The Enlightenment Age came right after the Reformation Age. And as I stated, skepticism shook the whole church during the enlightenment age. And only after the enlightenment age we see Cessationism being formed alongside Dispensational Theology. Both views were embraced by a newly forming denominations. They saw it as an excellent response to liberal Christianity of their time. On the contrary, I see that it falls so nicely in line with the historical flow of things in favor of how liberal Christianity influenced them to walk away from some of the classical theological claims. As I stated previously, both views, Dispensationalism, and Cessationism, compliment each other so well. In my case, dispensationalism gave baptists a new theological system of dispensations to separate themselves from Catholics, while Cessationism responded to the disappearance of miraculous and aligning themselves with the discovery of scientific laws. History has moved on, and many things have changed. Therefore Cessationist has to respond to a couple of things at this point in time. The enlightenment philosophers have been proven wrong and are now in the hall of shame, and Newtonian physics has been superseded. This historical fact seems to be skipped in Cessationist response to criticism as if it never happened. As if they were never influenced by them. Natural historical evidence points out that it was affected.

Second is the hermeneutic, the methodology of interpretation, that Cessationists used was formed during the Enlightenment Age. This is the methodology that created the mechanical worldview of God. In all fairness, much of the “miracles are a myth in the bible” has been dropped from our literature today. What is being questioned here is the newly formulated doctrines such as Dispensational Theology and Cessationism. Cessationists are rightly accused of using outdated hermeneutics that was developed during the enlightenment age. And that is OK at times, but not when that method of interpretation creates destructive outcomes in a Christian person’s life, as it was in my life. Hermeneutics has drastically evolved since the Enlightenment Age. Some of the well-known critics of the old methodology are Heidegger (1889-1976) and Gadamer (1900-2002). What they pointed out is that the older hermeneutical methods lack the ability to capture the nuance and variability found in human interaction. Heidegger claims that texts cannot be studied by using the same scientific methods that are used in the natural sciences. Biblical text was written using conventionalized expressions of the experience of the author. Thus, using the latest hermeneutical methods will reveal something about the social context in which they were formed, and, more significantly, will provide the reader with a means of sharing the experiences of the author. Gadamer also stated that methodical contemplation is opposite to experience and reflection. Since the burden of proof is in Cessationist hands, they have to go back to the drawing board and reformulate their answer by using the latest hermeneutical methods. At the end of the day, Hermeneutically, Cessationists do not have the upper hand either.

In systematic theology, there are also many objections. The points of conflict are the issue of sola- scriptura and revelatory gifts (prophets). I have not seen anyone respond to the fact that apostle Paul was not really a prophet in a way the Cessationists define them as. To Cessationist, a prophet is primarily a conduit from God. The issue they are trying to resolve is the authority and inerrancy of the scripture. To achieve this, Cessationist assumes that God has to give the word to a prophet without having him/her to interpret God’s message. Hence, keeping the word of God inspired and authoritative.

Here is my response to this objection. To my knowledge, the church has formulated multiple theories of inspiration. Basically, why is the “Bible” considered a word from God? One of them being a dictation theory of inspiration. This theory of inspiration states that God dictated each word to the prophets to pass it on to us, such as an amanuensis or a scribe. This will fit well with Cessationist claim, but the issue is, there is almost no one left who holds to this view anymore. Muslims are the ones who are keeping this theory afloat. They claim the Bible, and the Quran had to be written this way. Intuitively we know that the Bible was not written this way. When Apostle Paul was writing an epistle to Romans, he was writing it freely without some inner voice dictating to him the exact text, word by word. Adding to this, apostle Paul never claimed that he was a prophet, as the prophets of the old testament would. Paul’s epistles became recognized as the word of God after the epistles were written and read by the church. This does not fit with the old testament prophet definition. This point is completely missed in this debate. Today, the majority of the church holds to the “Supervision Theory of Inspiration.” This theory is built on combinations of ideas – Plenary, Verbal, Confluent aspect. Scripture has to be true in its entirety, even Paul’s greeting in the epistle of Corinthians – plenary. Scripture has to be true down to each word – verbal. And scripture is written by two agents, a free human agent and divine agent – confluent. If the bible is the product of free human activity, then it becomes apparent that Cessationist is not taking into account how scripture is defined as being the word of God and what constitutes as being authoritative. On the contrary, Cessationist would say, “To eliminate error and to create authority, we have to eliminate free human activity” but at the same time claim that the bible is written by a free human activity. They want to say Plenary Inspiration implies a Dictation Theory of Inspiration, which is to deny the confluence aspect of inspiration. Basically, their main point of contention is self-refuting. This whole issue has to be revisited and reformulated because at this stage it’s flawed. Any person who takes systematic theology seriously will have to respond to this to hold on to Cessationism.

Let’s add even more substance to the topic of the Inspired Word of God. Today, the majority of scholars agree that the Bible is true in the things it teaches, not says. This puts prophecies in a different categorical treatment. Let me show you why. When Jesus told the parable about the mustard seed in Mark 4:30-32. Jesus said it was the smallest seed, but that is false. Orchid seeds are more modest than mustard seeds. If we want to take the Bible seriously, we have to follow specific rules, or else we are going to make Jesus into a liar. We do not want to make Bible into the Eternal word of God, as Muslims do, but into the Inspired Word of God. In this case, Jesus was not teaching about the mustard seed at all, he was only using the mustard seed as an example. But in the case of prophecies, they have to be true in what they say, foretelling the future events better be correct to the dot. This puts scripture and prophecy in different categorical treatments, they have different qualifiers. From all this, we can conclude that supernatural gifts and offices are treated differently from the canonicity of the scripture. How do we assure inerrancy and authority of the scripture then? The best proposition I’ve heard was that God can naturally know who would write certain parts of the scripture without error. From a systematic point of view, this is possible without violating freedom of will. This is a statistical equation that God can design into the fabric of human history. This, of course, presupposes God is using middle knowledge. God knows what every free agent “would” do in any given situation. This gives him the freedom to design history with free agents writing the scripture freely. This, in my mind, is a systematically coherent response to someone who is worried about the authority and inerrancy of the Bible. Now we are free to talk about the gifts of the spirit or prophets of today’s time without worrying about how they influence canonicity or authority of the scripture. This does not by any means gets the Continuationists off the hook. Why do New Testament revelatory gifts differ from the Old Testament? Why are Prophets not held to the same high standard? These type of questions still have to be addressed.

I believe one can actually build a case on how spiritual gifts assured that the scripture is inerrant. One can make a case that robust design intent is necessary. When different writers support each other, it creates a natural checks and balances system. When revelatory type gifts check each other, it creates accountability and filters out the wrong prophecies. Because there was a multitude of writers and they were all familiar with each other’s work, naturally, this would create a more accurate account. Each receives revelation from God in different modes. Some may receive it by word of knowledge, others may pray and receive a thought, and yet others might receive wisdom. And when they all work together, it creates a sort of natural accountability and a complete understanding of what God is trying to state in a written form. Assuring that many of them would write it just the way God would want them to. God is the designer, and we should not underestimate His ability. We have to consider that there is a purpose to every design intent. God gave us the word of God not just so we hold to it by faith, but that there is every reason to hold to it as well. One of the issues I raise against Islam is precisely due to the lack of reason and trust in Muhammad’s claims. There is no accountability, there is no one to vouch for his theology, he is a self- proclaimed prophet, and claims to have the highest authority. I hope you see the importance of why robust design intent is essential. And how spiritual gifts play an important role in creating a robust design.

Let’s move on to the textual interpretation. Sadly, this is where most of the debates are happening. The main text that Cessationists use is 1 Corinthians 13:8- 12. Cessationists argue that the phrase in v. 10, “when that which is perfect is come …” refers to the closure of the canon. Continuationists state that this refers to the second coming of Christ and at that point, our knowledge will cease to be imperfect. It seems to me that being aware of the latest hermeneutical discoveries a flag should go up in our minds when both sides are arguing using the analytical interpretive method to prove their point of view. Cessationists argue this is the explicit text that supports their view. By far, is this clear, because most agree that there are many obscurities in this text. This is precisely why we need to form and use better interpretation methods. Let’s go to the opposing side of the argument, there’s something ontologically wrong with what Continuationists claim. They claim that we will become perfect in knowledge of God. This is one of the divine attributes that separates God from His creation. We can not possess perfect knowledge, even if we wanted to as creatures, because we are not God. We were never there from the beginning, then how can we claim that we will become all-knowing? This is an excellent text that shows variability in human interaction. We use whatever word we feel is proper to form an idea. Apostle Paul may be using this as a figure of speech to describe the moment we see Jesus face to face and that the knowledge will be available for us because Christ will be able to respond face to face without the necessity of interpretation. I will touch on this subject in my second book. It’s much more complicated then what I can say at this point. There are undoubtedly many interesting views as to what we will be like in heaven.

Apparently there is a slew of text that is being debated, but unfortunately, I am not going to get into every textual interpretation because it should be evident by now that if interpretation methodology, systematic theology, and historical evidence is flawed, then the textual interpretation is erroneous as well. Plus, there’s plenty of textual proofreading from both sides to be convincing, if that is the only evidence required to prove a case. No wonder I got lost in my ways. But to tell you the truth, God did not use book knowledge to lead me to the truth, but he sent me through life experiences to figure it all out. After many years, I came across the reasonable answers that I am sharing with you in this book. I hope by reading about my life and the research I did, helped some of you discover the roots of your Christian beliefs. I do not want you to be ignorant about the gifts of the Spirit. I hope I broke down some strongholds in your life. If you are reading this book in search of a miracle then pray to God right now and He will respond according to your faith.

This takes me to a turning point in my life. My second son, Josiah, was born deaf. This took me deep into the charismatic movement, from Pentecostalism to hyper-charismatic movement to discover the truth about miracles.

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