I wrote about how "tongues of angels" is a red herring, when it comes to explaining the gift of tongues. Adrian replied, never saying what he thought about the premise of that post, but saying a lot about charismatics and cessationists. In response, I commented about how long Adrian's post was... then began an immensely longer, three- (no, four-) part reply. Part one was followed by part two, like a starving dog following a meat truck.
Which brings us to part three, wherein I respond to a series of Scriptures that burst forth from Adrian's gattling gun.
And we still don't know whether Adrian thinks that angels in their livingroom turn to each other and say, "Wah bobba loo-bop, ba-lop bam boom!"
Nobody has to read any of these posts. Well, my poor wife, Valerie. But no one else! Okay, my oldest son, Matthew. But that's it! As to the rest of you, please don't bother to comment on this one, until and unless you've read Adrian's post and my three. Mine is a building argument. If I suspect you've overlooked this request, I count myself free to ignore you at least, or delete your comment, so as not to let the discussion be sidelined or mired. I will be Judge, Jury, and Delete-O Guy. I have the power, and I'm not afraid to use it. Just so we're clear.
Having said that
Adrian swings this fish at my head:
Why does the passage Peter then [in Acts 2] quotes [from Joel 2] speak of the Spirit being poured out on "all flesh" in the "last days" if we cannot experience this? Are we now living in the days after the last days? If the gifts were only to authenticate the Apostles, why the wide extent detailed here?Why does Peter speak of the Spirit being poured out? Because He was.
This really needn't be a very long answer. What is Adrian's point? Because some of the people on whom the Spirit was poured out on Pentecost spoke in tongues, everyone (or anyone) must do so now? Unless Adrian wants to paint God into the box of always having to do everything exactly the same way no matter what the developments of His plan, it's difficult to see what this has to do with our discussion.
Just answer this, Dear Reader: was God authoring Scripture then, by His outpoured Spirit? I'll help you: the answer is "Yes."
My next question: Is God authoring Scripture today, by His outpoured Spirit?
If you answer "No" to just that question, you grant the principle that there may be phases, chapters, movements, openings and closings in the unfolding plan of God. You have accepted the principle of cessationism.
If however any of you answer "Yes, the Holy Spirit is still authoring new Scripture today," then please (A) say so plainly, (B) tell us what books we need to staple to the backs of our Bibles, and (C) don't call yourself a "Reformed" Charismatic.
Adrian moves on:
How do you explain it when Peter says at the end of his speech that the promise "is for you and for your children and for all who are far off, everyone whom the Lord our God calls to himself" He is clearly referring to the same thing that they had experienced that day? Peter says (to quote the KJV) "this is that," and yet we are not allowed to experience that" according to the cessationist and in direct contradiction to Peter's universal promise.Adrian doesn't actually quote the passage in Acts 2 at length. So I will. Here Peter quotes Joel:
"'And in the last days it shall be, God declares, that I will pour out my Spirit on all flesh, and your sons and your daughters shall prophesy, and your young men shall see visions, and your old men shall dream dreams; 18 even on my male servants and female servants in those days I will pour out my Spirit, and they shall prophesy" (vv. 17-18)That's the part Charismatics quote. And there you go: "this is that," last days, Spirit poured out, sons and daughters prophesying, visions, dreams, the whole nine yards. Therefore, tongues are forever! QED, right?
Well now, hold on. I seem to remember Acts 2 is longer than eighteen verses. Isn't it? What are the next two verses?
And I will show wonders in the heavens above and signs on the earth below, blood, and fire, and vapor of smoke; 20 the sun shall be turned to darkness and the moon to blood, before the day of the Lord comes, the great and magnificent day.Okay, now; so if verses 17 and 18 must obviously mean that everybody will be speaking in tongues at every church meeting for the next twenty-plus centuries... doesn't it equally obviously mean that there must be signs in heaven and on earth, blood, vapor, all those special effects, at every church meeting, for the same duration? Yet I don't even remember those things happening on Pentecost, let alone for the last two thousand years. (I might also mention that tongues have never even been claimed to be a fixture of Bible-believing Christianity, from the second century until the twentieth.)
So maybe the meaning is not as self-evidently a slam-dunk for continuationism as bro. Warnock seems to feel?
But I note something else, as well. The Joel citation comes at the beginning of Peter's sermon, in vv. 17-21. But Adrian links that citation directly to the what comes at the endin fact, after the endof the sermon, in the babysprinklers' favorite verse: Acts 2:39.
Now, I'm no professor of hermeneutics, but when Peter says "This promise," shouldn't I ask "Which promise?", and not just assume that I know, or read in a favorite verse? Shouldn't I look at the immediately-preceding words to see if I find my answer?
If I do that, here is what I find: "Repent and be baptized every one of you in the name of Jesus Christ for the forgiveness of your sins, and you will receive the gift of the Holy Spirit." So the promise is that repentant believers will receive forgiveness of sins, and the gift of the Holy Spirit.
What cessationist denies that? Certainly not I.
Acts 2:39 is a challenge to the cessationist position only if every time I see "Holy Spirit," I must think "Oh, yestongues, prophecy, apostles, writing the Bible, stuff like that."
But if we go there, then we have a problem with the whole Bible. This verse says that every believer receives the Holy Spirit. But Paul says that not every believer, even then, was meant by God to be a prophet nor a tongues-speaker. Did that mean that not every believer received the Holy Spirit?
Also, Paul expressly says that tongues and prophecy were temporary gifts (1 Corinthians 13:8). After they cease, thenwhether that's at the close of the Canon, or the return of Jesus, or the next Republican Conventiondoes every believer lose the Holy Spirit? Surely not.
Then we leap with Dr. Warnock to a totally different question:
What exactly is it about 1 Corinthians 13 that leads some to assume that the cessation of gifts is tied to the completion of Scripture rather than to the return of Christ?Well, again, that's fundamentally simply answered. Let's quote the apostle. Here is my fairly literal translation of the Greek text:
Love never falls. Whether there are prophecies, they will be rendered inoperative; or whether there are tongues, they will cease of themselves; or whether there is knowledge, it will be rendered inoperative. 9 For we are knowing piecemeal, and we are prophesying piecemeal; 10 but whenever that which is complete comes, that which is piecemeal shall be rendered inoperativeSo here Paul contrasts the piecemeal (to ek merous) with the complete (to teleion). What is it that Paul expressly says is piecemeal, or partial, at that time? Well, it isn't certainly isn't Jesus, or His return. No, Paul explicitly says that it is revelatory knowledge and speech (cf. v. 2). So what would be the complete thing, the complete element, that answers to the partial? Jesus? He's certainly not a neuter, and the phrase is in the neuter gender. The Second Coming? Awfully odd way to put it, wouldn't you say"whenever that which is perfect, that perfect thing, the Second Coming, comes"?
No, I think if we didn't have a sectarian dog in this hunt, and just were thinking it through, the most obvious answer wouldn't be that hard to discover. Paul contrasts a then-present process of revelation, piece by piece (to ek merous), with the finished product (to teleion). The most natural answer, then, is the completed product of that piecemeal revelatory process. In a word, Scripture.
I'm sure a lot of people are madder than wet cats at this point. I am not demanding that anyone agree. (You should, of course; but I don't demand it [insert smiley face here].) But I do demand that you grant that I have answered Adrian's question head-on: "What exactly is it about 1 Corinthians 13 that leads some to assume that the cessation of gifts is tied to the completion of Scripture rather than to the return of Christ?" If you didn't know, now you do.
Not all cessationists take this view, of course. But I came around to it, reluctantly and meanderingly. But study of the passage has led me to hold it firmly and confidently. (Yes, I've read Gordon Fee's commentary. To say that I find it, and him, unconvincing, would be charitable.)
Here is an important aside about that phrase, "Reformed Charismatic." I'd think that a bare minimum of being "Reformed" would involve affirming the five sola's, agreed? And one of those sola's is sola scriptura. Does the Reformed Charismatic think that the process of revelation has been completed? If the first part of that label means anything, he should say "Yes." When folks like me challenge them on this point, in fact they tend to stamp their feet, beat their chests, turn purple, and insist, "Yes!"
Well, if revelation is complete, then why do they think that the to ek merous still dribbles on and on? Did the completion of the Canon mean anything? It is easy to see the purpose of scattered occurrences of genuine revelation before the Canon's completion; what would be the purpose of a low-level dribble after that completion? Is the modern dribble really revelation? If so, why hasn't the Bible gotten any bigger? If not... why is it so important, again? Is it low-level revelation? What in the world would that be?
Why does Paul clearly state in 1 Corinthians 4:5 [sic; 14:5] that he wants them all to speak in tongues? Why, if tongues is only ever intended as a proof to the unbeliever would he want them all to do it? Why would he need them all to do it? At most, one or two would suffice to get the point across, and given the moral state of the church in Corinth, desiring still more people to speak in tongues seems almost irresponsible!Why, indeed? What do you think the apostle means, Adrian? Do you think Paul actually is saying that he believes every one of them should speak in tongues? Do you think that Paul forgot that he had just said, in 12:30, that not everyone can or should speak in tongues, because the Spirit sovereignly apportions to each according to His will (12:11)? Do you think Paul means that they should all speak in tongues at the same time, even though he will forbid this in just a bit (14:27)? Is there maybe another possibility?
And besides, is the verse about tongues? I'm sure you've read the whole thing. It isn't about tongues at all, is itexcept to make the point that tongues are inferior to prophecy?
Perhaps we're not taking Paul's tone correctly. He uses what is often a weaker volitional term, thelo. The ESV "I want you all to speak in tongues" rather puts Paul at odds with himself. Better to render "I wish," like the NAS, the NET, the NKJ and others render it. Because of their childish, schismatic divisiveness, perhaps the apostle is saying in effect, "Sure, it'd be nice if you all spoke in tongues: exercised correctly, it is a useful gift, and you'd have one less childish dividing factor. But what I really wish you would value is prophecy" (see the context).
And, back to our overarching topic, I really don't see any interpretation by which Paul is saying, "It is and always will be crucial to healthy Christian living that people babble incoherently like sugar-high toddlers, because it makes them feel good!"
Then Adrian grabs me by the collar, picks me up, and shakes me vigorously, demanding an answer to this:
Why, on the one hand, are we at liberty to ignore Paul's clear commands to the Corinthians to "eagerly desire spiritual gifts" and to "not forbid speaking in tongues" (1 Corinthians 14:39) when, on the other hand, we are expected to accept all of his other commands to local churches as applying to us today? If these two commands do not apply to us, which other of Paul's commands also do not apply? How are we then meant to decide which of Paul's commands we are going to obey and which we are going to ignore?Well, I certainly apologize if I've been ignoring Paul's clear commands. It isn't my aim, I assure you. I appreciate Dr. Warnock's concern; it'd be a terrible thing for me to do.
Now... which "clear commands" was I ignoring, again?
Is it to "eagerly desire spiritual gifts"? How am I ignoring that, exactly? Am I to desire all the spiritual gifts? Surely not; Paul made clear that this is not our sovereign God's design, back in chapter 12. So if I haven't been given tongues, am I ignoring Paul if I don't seek to bend the Spirit to my will, and constrain Him to give me what He hasn't chosen to give me? Surely not.
So, does it mean that somebody always has to desire tongues, or prophecy? Well, Paul simply cannot mean that. He just finished saying, in so many words, that they are temporary gifts (13:8f.). At some point, they'll be gone. Are we still to desire them then, after they've ceased and gone inactive? Surely not. So, if Adrian agrees with Paul, then he must agree that, at some point, no Christian will be expected to desire tongues and prophecy.
If so, brother Adrian agrees with the cessationist.
We're only quibbling about when that point came, or comes.
So then again, is my sin that I am I ignoring Paul's command that I not forbid to speak in tongues (14:39)? But I've never done that in all my life. In fact, I have never known, read of, or heard of anyone who has ever forbidden anyone to speak in tongues. In fact, let me just round on all the pastors who read this blog and say: don't you dare forbid anyone speaking in tongues according to Paul's directions!
There, is that better?
Oh, but one more thing before we move onI do have to note that the apostle never says that we should not forbid someone from interrupting a meeting so he can spout off a flood of gibberish, or babble, or nonsense, or babytalk. In fact, it is incumbent on every pastor to forbid behavior like this, since God is not a God of disorder (1 Corinthians 14:33).
What's more, we know that God wants every one of us to grow up (Ephesians 4:15), He wants us to mature (Hebrews 5:12-14), He wants us to put away childish things (1 Corinthians 13:11), He wants us to stop being babies (Ephesians 4:14), and act like men (1 Corinthians 16:13). And it's worth a note that Paul arguably associates piecemeal revelatory gifts with a childish state, that we should get beyond (1 Corinthians 13:11).
I'm very concerned that many professing Christians in general, and many Charismatics in particular, regularly ignore these clear apostolic imperatives. Will Adrian join me in admonishing ourselves, and all our readers, to grow up?
Now, I'm sorry, but I'm not sure I can make sense of this:
If tongues are always human languages and never unintelligible, what function did they serve in the churches and why would God use them to communicate a message to His people in some way? (1 Corinthians 14:5)What's with the "if"?
Paul's church-historian travelling companion Luke certainly depicts tongues as spoken (not merely heard) known human languages (Acts 2:4-11). Adrian's fellow-physician, the good doctor Luke, was well-travelled throughout the churches, he knew Paul's teaching well, and he repeatedly used the same word that Paul used (glossa) to describe the gift (Acts 2:4, 11; 10:46; 19:6; cf. 1 Corinthians 12:10, 28; 13:8; 14:2, 4, 6, 9, 13, 14, 18, 19, 22, 23, 26, 27, 39). I have never yet seen glossa used in Greek literature to mean babble, or gibberish. Certainly it doesn't mean gibberish in Luke, and certainly Paul expressly rules out babble or gibberish as having any value for anyone (14:7-11, 16-19, 27-28). This creates a simply immense presumption that they are talking about the same phenomenon. It would require extraordinary, unambiguous, and explicit evidence to shift that presumption.
What's more, Paul expressly says that by "tongues" he means intelligible human speech, specifically in a foreign Gentile tongue. Where? Here:
In the Law it is written, "By people of strange tongues and by the lips of foreigners will I speak to this people, and even then they will not listen to me, says the Lord." 22 Thus tongues are a sign not for believers but for unbelievers, while prophecy is a sign not for unbelievers but for believers. (1 Corinthians 14:21-22)Paul is citing Isaiah 28:11-12, which in turn may well echo Deuteronomy 28:49. Now, there is no honest, rational doubt that these passages refer to Gentile tongues, heard as a sign of God's judgment of the nation of Israel (cf. 14:22). The "tongues" Paul writes of are the "tongues" Isaiah wrote of, and those "tongues" are human, foreign languages. That is what Paul said.
What a relief, eh? Let Paul speak for himself, and all makes sense. We needn't shoulder the insurmountable burden of explaining why Paul and Luke, traveling partners, coworkers and friends, should write within less than a decade of each other, and use the exact same words to describe two totally different gifts. We needn't invent nutty rationalizations for why neither would pen a syllable of acknowledgment or explanation. We needn't fantasize wildly as to why Luke would knowingly contradict Paul, writing after he did, and knowing well of Paul's Corinthian ministry (cf. Acts 18). We needn't force Paul to contradict himself by ruling out any value to gibberish on the one hand, but charging God with imposing it on saints, on the other. We needn't adopt an insane hermeneuticthat an ambiguous verse or two should be used to controvert a pile of perfectly clear, unambiguous statements.
A "relief," I sayunless, I suppose, we've wed ourselves to an indefensible, traditionalistic interpretation. Unless we're committed to finding a way to "dumb down" Biblical tongues so as to accommodate their modern counterfeits. If we are so "wed," I think this would be one divorce that God would not only approve, but demand.
This is already a very long post, and I refuse to break it into two posts again. So let's skip to a few more that I think are more significant, and not repetitive. To wit:
If Romans 8:26 is not referring to praying in tongues, then to what exactly is it referring? "Likewise the Spirit helps us in our weakness. For we do not know what to pray for as we ought, but the Spirit himself intercedes for us with groanings too deep for words."Simple. Paul means exactly what he says: the Spirit intercedes for us with prayers unspoken by us.
In more detail: Paul expressly says the Spirit's intercessary groans are "unspoken" (alaletois; "too deep for words" is a paraphrase, and a bad one at that). They are His intercessions ("the Spirit himself intercedes for us"). They are the Holy Spirit's prayers for us to the Father. They are not our prayers. That is what Paul says.
This would make another good "red herring" post. Why a verse which clearly speaks of (A) unspoken prayers, uttered (B) not by us but expressly by the Holy Spirit, ever was taken to refer to prayers (A) spoken (B) by us, is simply a marvel. Yet no one to my knowledge argues that Hebrews 7:25's revelation that Christ Jesus "always lives to make intercession for them" refers to any kind of prayer we make.
What exactly does 1 Corinthians 14:9 mean if it doesn't mean what it appears to mean"So with yourselves, if with your tongue you utter speech that is not intelligible, how will anyone know what is said? For you will be speaking into the air." It sure sounds like something unintelligible to me!Paul is saying don't do this. Read the context. What is your question? Do you disagree with him, Adrian? I trust not.
Why does Paul speak specifically about praying in a tongue"For if I pray in a tongue, my spirit prays, but my mind is unfruitful." (1 Corinthians 14:4 sic; 14])if tongues are only ever human languages for the purpose of unbelievers hearing a message?Again, this is something Paul is saying not to do. Would anyone suggest that Paul wants to be unfruitfulthat is, to furnish no fruit, no benefit, to others? That cannot be. The apostle has expressly said that the purpose of all gifts is the edification and benefit of others, of the body of Christ (12:7; 14:26; cf. 10:24). Nothing in this verse even hints that Paul is contradicting his own flat-out and in-so-many-words statement that tongues are human languages (see above).
Why does 1 Corinthians 14:26 make clear that tongues are one of the gifts for building up the church if they are only ever real languages for evangelism?As we've shown, Paul says that tongues are real languages. I'm not smart enough to argue with the apostle, so I'll let his flat statement guide my interpretation of anything that might be ambiguous. Paul also says that translated tongues can benefit the church. To my memory, I have never argued that they were only used for evangelism.
Most importantly of all, if the Bible never intended that we get the impression that gifts are for today, why are there not any real "killer verses" to make it clear to us that this is not the case?There aren't? I believe I've given and/or linked to several such verses, already.
Every description of tongues and prophecy in the Bible is a "killer" verse . Allow me to allude to our "standard of proof" discussion from the previous post. Every description of a real cat is a "killer verse" to anyone who wants to wave a snake around and call it a cat. Similarly, anyone who wants to babble and burble, and call it tongues; or pop off gauzy generalities or inaccurate predictions and call it "prophecy," is condemned and rejected by every Biblical description of the real, legitimate phenomena. No such widespread, well-documented phenomena as described in the Bible has ever characterized Biblical Christianity, from the second century to the present day. The charismatic movement has tried for one hundred years, and so far the best it has come up with is an attempt to redefine everything, covering up its consistent failure by trying to define down the Biblical exemplars.
And there is no Biblical explanation why this should be sounless what Paul announced as future to him, in 1 Corinthians 13:8-10, is past to us.
Which, I submit, it is.