31 July 2006

"Tongues" across the water: response to Adrian, part three

by Dan Phillips, Blog Hog
The Story thus Far
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!"

Note about Comments

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—
Challenges from the book of Acts

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 end—in fact, after the end—of 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, yes—tongues, 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, then—whether that's at the close of the Canon, or the return of Jesus, or the next Republican Convention—does every believer lose the Holy Spirit? Surely not.

Challenges from 1 Corinthians

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 inoperative
So 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?

More Adrian:
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 it—except 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 that I personally possess 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 on—I 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 hermeneutic—that an ambiguous verse or two should be used to controvert a pile of perfectly clear, unambiguous statements.


A "relief," I say—unless, 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.

A brief sidestep to Romans 8:26

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.

Back to 1 Corinthians 14

More Adrian:
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 unfruitful—that 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.

Why no "killer verses"?

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 so—unless what Paul announced as future to him, in 1 Corinthians 13:8-10, is past to us.

Which, I submit, it is.

Dan Phillips's signature


centuri0n said...

At the risk of being deleted by Dan Almighty, I have some friendly questions to ask -- friendly in the sense that I agree with Dan's conclusion.

As I read through this, um, dialog, I find myself asking puzzled by a few things:

[1] Let's assume for a second that we can imagine at least one choice outside of the "nobody speaks in tongues anymore"/"all believers will speak in tongues eventually" paradigm -- like "occationally, a believer will manifest the gift of tongues like they did at that Pentecost." Does that option change the nature of this argument?

[2] I don't mean to be obtuse, but I'm stuck on the question, "why?" That is, "why hang so much hope on, for example, the manifestation of tongues?" What's at stake that we should be arguing so strenuously over this? See: I think Dan has made a very strong case why we should be concerned about the consequences of charismatic gifts -- because it does say something about the on-going nature of revelation and about Scripture particularly. I don't see the other side (and unfortunately, Adrian is the other side right now) either dispelling Dan's concerns or explaining what they mean here.

[3] What do we do with the content of these charismatic actions? Seriously -- that's the question the charismatic has to answer.

Let's imagine that all of us in this discussion are in a room, and while Dan is very eloquently talking about dispensations and the segments of God's plan I suddenly find myself standing up and speaking in a language even I don't understand, but clearly I am discoursing intently on some subject. I sit back dowwn after 5 minutes, clearly worn out by the event, and then Phil stands up and says, "um, guys? I hate to admit this, but I know exactly what Frank was just saying, and it was this: Dan's wrong, the Holy Spirit is alive and well and causing these manifestations, and to prove it, 2-dozen meatlover's pizzas will arrive as soon as I close my mouth and sit down."

Phil sits down, and there's a knock at the door, and there tands a Domino's guy with meat-lovers' pizzas.

Now completely seriously: besides eat the pizzas, what do we do with that? How's that effect our faith life?

Libbie said...

Frank, I'd say a big outpouring of pizza-prophecy like that would significantly downgrade our dependence on the Holy Spirit speaking to us through the bible. But that may be just me.

Dan, I vaguely recall Dr Peter Masters suggesting that the 'earnestly desire the gifts' suggestion was never an exhortation for each individual, but was directed at the church as a whole, which significantly alters the charismatic understanding of each believer 'seeking' gifts.

DJP said...

Frank, you're trying to get me in trouble. I didn't use the "D"-word once!

They're interesting questions. How about if I leave it, and ask if folks at least try to interact with something that is actually IN my post, at least some of the time?

DJP said...

Yes, Libbie, I think that's in the right direction. Otherwise, it doesn't make sense with what Paul just said back in chapter 12.

centuri0n said...


Like I said, I was running the risk of being deleted.


DJP said...

You like living on the edge, I understand.


It's your business.


Libbie said...

Now, what would be really funny would be for you to get no responses at all, because everyone realizes that they are just beligerent and/or lazy readers.

You've even intimidated Frank away - who else would dare?

*sincerely hopes the strongarm tactic does produce some good on-topic discussion*

DJP said...

I doubt I strong-armed Frank. He fears no man, and certainly no Dan. He's just a nice guy, and I'm too slow to keep up with his thinking.

I know a lot of folks actually are following this conversation. It's early yet out here on the left side of the Colonies. Folks will want to digest, see what questions stand out. Some are waiting for part four. But this is the one with a lot of what folks were calling for from the start.

And it was the most work! (c:

philness said...

First we should taste the pizza to see if it is of the Holy Spirit. If we detect any pork we shall send it back.

Dan, I thank you for all your efforts on this topic. It was truly a blessing for me.

I have often associated charismatic folk with that of the extreme WWF fan. It seems something is a little off chemically in the brain in that they so enthusiastically desire it to be real that it actually becomes real for them. Wait, dont cats have something similar to this in their brian that causes them to.....oh, never mind.

I say we should all get out there and incorporate more exercise in our diets now that we've been dosed a healthy portion of sound biblical protein by Dan.

ddd said...

Hello Dan,

I have been following your series so far, and I have noticed that you said that you have written a book on the subject which has not yet been published. I am somewhat interested in the subject, having came from a moderate charistmatic background. Perhaps you should consider publishing it, really, for our edification.

Mike-e said...

I agree with ddd! even if its an independent, self-published work...do it! We could all use it!

Other than that, great post Dan!

maranatha man said...

Thank you for your excellent post (all three). Your argument is biblically sound.

Thank you for the time and effort you put into this study.

DJP said...

Thanks, y'all. Self-Using a so-called "vanity" press does have a bit of a stigma for me, but I haven't utterly ruled out the idea.

centuri0n said...

... don't we know a guy in the publishing industry ... ?

Finrod said...


I must commend you for patiently and systematically answering Adrian. I get too frustrated in such dialogues because (to me) most charismatics don't have a position but seem to just jump from one proof-text to another. I have yet to see a coherent, systematic theology of tongues from the charismatic postion that was exegetical rather than experiential. That is not to say that one or more might not exist, just that I've never seen one.

Again, my hat is off to you for the work you're doing here.

Gummby said...

DJP: have you thought about the NET Bible folks?

ajlin said...


I've been living in Auburn, AL the past year and was living in the Atlanta area before that. (I am moving to Louisville to attend SBTS a week from today.) The past two congregations I've been a member of are basically Reformed in theology- the one in the Atlanta area being heavily influenced by MacArthur, the one here in Auburn being more influenced by Piper, but holding to the 1689 Baptist Confession. Due, primarily, to some non-cessationist statements made by Piper as well as the influence of CJ Mahaney through the Together for the Gospel conference, issues of cessationism have been a topic of conversation for some time among the young men in both these congregations. I am writing to say that your recent posts on this topic have given me greater clarity than ever about the biblical basis for cessationism and I plan to help broadcast your articles on this subject among my friends. I would like to see a greater emphasis, however, on positive teaching from cessationist elders about what the Holy Spirit does in the believer's life, particularly in regards to exploring the illumination of the Spirit.

In Christ,

DJP said...

Thanks, Andrew, for your kind encouragement.

And I totally agree with you. The positive should be presented. I think the cessationist position is a very positive, joyous, liberating position -- but the label starts you off by defining you in terms of what you DON'T believe. I lamented at length about this very thing.

So I have usually tried to come at this truth from the positive angle. Hard to do entirely when you're responding to challenges and questions, even from as nice and positive a guy as Adrian.

Annette Harrison said...

Mike said:

I have yet to see a coherent, systematic theology of tongues from the charismatic postion that was exegetical rather than experiential. That is not to say that one or more might not exist, just that I've never seen one.

Mike --- Just for the sake of investigating other views, and not particularly addressing tongues per se, but rather "signs and wonders," you might read with interest, albeit not necessarily agreement, what John Piper has to say on this controversial and difficult subject. I doubt that many would accuse him of being incoherent.


Jason E. Robertson said...

Dan, we Covenant guys don't have so much trouble with Peter's quoting of Joel. We understand Peter to be proving to the Jews that this is the "last days" of the Old Covenant. He was pointing out that the "last days" of the Old Covenant were marked with signs just like Joel said they would. Further, we understand the now that the transition of the Old to the New has been completed with the coming of the Messiah and the completion of the New Testament that "tongues" are no longer in use.

And, Dan, keep this up with Adrian. I think it is an important discussion that has "theological fingers" that reach into many issues such as the sufficiency and authority of Scripture.

vegemitechristian said...

Where is it appropriate to comment in general on cessationism/charismaticism etc., if anywhere? This thread okay, or wait for part 4?

Paul said...

Your posts have been very helpful to me and I would like to thank you for all the hard work that you have put into them. Your arguements are clearly based upon scripture and do seem to be based upon a consistent and literal approach to the text.
These posts will be filed on my PC for future reference.

drew@jonah said...

This has been a really great read. I'm a "reformed charismatic" who's hoping to lose the latter altogether and your insight has been concise, addressing all of the texts that I grew up with but in a totally different light. Thanks for doing this.

Richard D said...

Running the risk of being off-topic and ending up the target of Delete-O-Guy, wouldn't "VegemiteChristian" be considered an oxymoron?

vegemitechristian said...

who u calling a moron? down here we'd feed ya to the dingos for saying that. or maybe even worse, we might drink your beer!

Kaffinator said...

Hi Dan,

I’ve lurked here long enough a) to see past your gruff and uncompromising exterior and learn to really enjoy your posts (this series being no exception), b) to have a deep respect for your interpretation of scripture according to solid gospel principles, and most telling, c) to have actually learned your first name. So I’m sad to say I find your interpretation of 1 Cor 13:8-10 problematic.
Paul’s analogies of verses 11 and 12 pair up with what Paul starts in verses 9 and 10. We have what is childish, faulty, and limited contrasted with what is mature, perfect, and complete. Looking back at your treatment of vv9-10, we have a problem. When you put “scripture” on the right hand side and revelatory process on the left, you have Paul saying that a faulty and incomplete “process of revelation” somehow eventually forms something that is inerrant and complete. Are you sure you want to make that analogy? Do we achieve perfection by aggregating error?

Looking deeper at the analogies, we have comparisons between something of a limited type compared to something of a complete or perfected but otherwise similar type on the right. Children reason, they just don’t do it very well. Dim mirrors reflect, but they don’t give you face-to-face level vision. But your reading of the vv9-10 analogy completely breaks the pattern with a process on the left and a work product on the right. Paul is a master craftsman of analogy and is therefore above this sort of erroneous comparison.

Thus, I prefer the interpretation that says “the perfect” that “comes”, is the perfect knowledge of Christ that we will experience upon His return. This seems to solve all of the problems above, in addition to the problems you raised with gender neutral term and other semantics.

Sadly, this interpretation robs cessationists of what appears to be their one and only proof text (judging from the emphasis this passage always gets). But I’m less concerned about defending or attacking cessationism, than I am concerned with understanding what Paul really meant. And I see no reason here to think he was talking about scripture.

Joanna Martens said...

Thanks dan for this post. It is very encouraging to follow along your arguments. I find them relative where God has placed me in school (vanguard university in costa mesa, CA). They have assemblies roots- all about the tongues and healings... Feeling at times I am the only reformed chick ever to walk the campus, i realize the major problem today is the lack of Bible-education. No one knows a thing about their beliefs and doctrine and simply would rather argue in circles than sit down and study themselves.
Thank you for being diligent to post these blogs-

Taliesin said...


Good post. I generally agreed with your points, but don't agree with your interpretation of 1 Corinthians 13:8-10. Interestingly, given their different views on "miraculous gifts" both Piper and Macarthur agree that the perfect in v.10 is the next age. Their view is that 1 Corinthians 13:12 clearly indicates that the next age is what Paul's discussing (we will not know as we are known until then). (See Macarthur's commentary on 1 Corinthians and the link Annette provided to Piper above for a more thorough discussion of their views.)

That said, like you, I disagree with that view, though I find it more plausible than the completion of the canon argument (because of v.12). I see Paul saying "perfect" here in the sense of mature (consistent with v.11). This seems consistent to me with the fact that the "miraculous" gifts appear to be ending before the canon is even complete. As the church was more firmly established, the "outward" gifts ended, leaving the generally more mundane but more important gifts (1 Corinthians 12:22).

This view, however, allows for the miraculous gifts to occur in places where the gospel has not yet penetrated. I'm not saying it must, or even does, happen, but I allow for that possibility.

Noldorin_Calvinist said...

Again, excellent job. I see many others have been blessed by your exegesis. If it is alright with you, may I broadcast your posts on my blog as an excellent argument for cessationism?

DJP said...

Kaffinator -- thanks for the kind words and serious engagement with the text.

You say this:

Sadly, this interpretation robs cessationists of what appears to be their one and only proof text (judging from the emphasis this passage always gets)

By force of will and charity, I'll take you at your word; but this sure sounds like the statement of someone who hasn't read this post, let alone the series. Is this my "one and only proof"? I did directly address that question in this very post. Have I emphasized that passage? In fact, I've only referred to it in two ways:

1. The fact that this text directly states that prophecy, tongues, and revelatory knowledge are all temporary. I explicitly stressed the fact that my appeal to it in this connection had nothing to do with when they shall cease, but merely with the stated fact that they shall cease. You haven't said a word to controvert that fact.

2. I think I only gave my interpretation of it once, in response to Adrian's question

If you're saying that my interpretation of 1 Corinthians 13:8-10 was a major feature of my own argument, either you haven't read that argument, or you haven't read it well. And if that isn't what you're saying, then what sense does your statement make, as a comment on this post, when this post directly contradicts your assertion?

Then you misrepresent me, and reject that misrepresentation.

You say that I "have Paul saying that a faulty and incomplete 'process of revelation' somehow eventually forms something that is inerrant and complete." I said nothing of the sort. There was nothing "faulty" whatever about each piece that was given; prophecy is inerrant, or it is not prophecy. Tongues by definition are words given by God. A piece-by-inerrant-piece process ended with a completed and inerrant product. Your criticism falls to the ground.

You similarly shoot wide of the target in your criticism of my supposed handling of Paul's analogy -- about which I actually said next to nothing.

This does get close to something I did say: "But your reading of the vv9-10 analogy completely breaks the pattern with a process on the left and a work product on the right. Paul is a master craftsman of analogy and is therefore above this sort of erroneous comparison."

The fault is neither in Paul, nor in the interpretation you're criticizing. The fault is in your reading of Paul.

You don't connect a process with a product? So, after I have written the fourth part of this series, the process won't be complete? The piecemeal posts (parts 1, 2, 3 and 4) won't form a whole, whereupon my writing of this particular series won't be completed?

Is assembling a jigsaw puzzle not a process? Is there anything wrong with any single piece, other than the fact that no piece is the whole puzzle? And once the process of assembly reaches its goal, you don't have a completed puzzle? You just keep trying to stick in more and more pieces?

As I say, the problem is neither with Paul, nor with the interpretation.

He's talking about revelation. He describes it as an ongoing process, bit by bit. Will it ever be completed? Yes; and a really good Greek way of describing the completed product would be to teleion.

DJP said...

Taliesin -- now, I know you're not trying to get me into an argument with John MacArthur... on this site!


What is it about v. 12 that you think is "clearly" completely changes the subject from a growing body of revelation to the next age?

Kaffinator said...

Dan Almighty,

First I need to emphasize to say that I think you are doing an absolutely bang-up job responding to Adrian, and I am really enjoying this set of posts. Honestly. So much so that it pains me to think that you might waste precious moments replying to me instead of working out the fourth and/or fourth-and-a-half part of the series. If you are Mr. Incredible, I am Incrediboy. I’ve studied your moves (“A snake is not a cat!”), I know your catchphrases (“The name is DAN! @*#&$!”). My rocket boots are strapped on and I’m ready to get on board.

So, then, to be accused of not just misrepresenting but perhaps of not even having read your post? Well…well FINE then! (Will this dismissal be enough to turn me into a psychopath who builds a machine that will ultimately defeat you? Only time will tell…but perhaps if I can defend my post we can avoid this dire fate.)

Have you, thus far, over-emphasized 1 Cor. 13:9-10? No, I say you have not. Your posts have corrected erroneous interpretations of other passages, or faulty logic thus derived, and been true to the topic at hand: a proper understanding of tongues. But as far as a Biblical prediction of the termination of the gifts goes, this is indeed the only passage I have seen here that might address the matter. Hence my comment, which was not addressed at you but towards cessationists in general (many of whom have wisely abandoned use of the passage).

> A piece-by-inerrant-piece process ended with a completed and inerrant product. Your criticism falls to the ground.

But you’ve only demonstrated my point. I merely placed your interpretation back into its context to see what Paul would have been teaching, had Paul been referring to the progressive revelation of scripture in verses 9-10. And it doesn’t fit.

Let me explain it another way. Line up the analogies according to your interpretation (partial bits of scripture and the completed Bible) and see how they sit with you.

The book of Romans IS TO the entire New Testament AS infantile reasoning and speech IS TO mature reasoning and speech. OR…

The book of Luke IS TO the entire New Testament AS the image in a crummy mirror IS TO seeing someone face-to-face.

Are you comfortable with those analogies? I’m not. Because, as you put it, a piece-by-inerrant-piece process ended with a completed and inerrant product. Luke and Romans are neither childlike nor dim. Ergo, Paul did not have them in mind in verses 9-10.

Try this on for size instead:

Our present knowledge of God (though guided by scripture) IS TO our future knowledge of God AS infantile reasoning and speech IS TO mature reasoning and speech.

Come on now, isn’t that better?

> You don't connect a process with a product? So, after I have written the fourth part of this series, the process won't be complete?

Of course they are connected. But the other analogies are not about processes (by what process does a dim mirror actually become a face-to-face meeting?) No, they are each about the discontinuous replacement of an imperfect and immature thing with a perfect and mature thing. Such as, the replacement of our imperfect knowledge with perfect knowledge of God (cf. 1 John 3:2).

Well I’m probably beating a dead horse now so it’s time to stop.

Taliesin said...


I know you're not trying to get me into an argument with John MacArthur... on this site!

Why this site? :) But, no, I'm not. I'm merely pointing out something that I didn't expect, which is that Macarthur doesn't link "the perfect" to the canon. I went to his commentary on 1 Corinthians after reading Adrian's post specifically to get the "definitive" argument for why the perfect is the canon, and then he said it wasn't. [FYI. Macarthur does see the end of tongues in this passage. He makes a detailed argument that I will not try to sum up here.]

What is it about v. 12 that you think is "clearly" completely changes the subject from a growing body of revelation to the next age?

Let me get back to you on this as I have to go to work and I'd rather give a good response than a quick one.

DJP said...

Kaffinator -- leaving aside any crimes you or I may or may not have committed against 1 Cor 13:8-12...

...that is the funniest start to a comment I can remember reading in some time. All appeals to Pixar films work with me!

jeff said...


Excellent POst. thank you for the thourough study and careful exegesis. I have enjoyed this series thus far. I once had a student who swore that tongues were for today because her grandmother spoke in Mandarin Chinese and had never done so before. My mother-in-law believes Benny Hinn can heal you if you touch the TV while he is on. So the role of the sign gifts in contemporary Christian experience has been a topic at the forefront of my studies the past few years, and I am still studying to understand what the Scriptures say on this topic.

In regards to your post, what is your take on the differences in expiration in 1 Corinthians 13:8 of the various gifts? According to your very literal translation:

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.

So prophecy and knowledge will be rendered inoperative, but tongues will cease of themselves. Is there a real significance in this distinction?

Thanks Dan! Keep up the excellent work!

Steven Dresen said...

I've just found a flaw in the use of 1 Corinthians 13, now you guys agree that glossa refers to language rather then gibberish. Now why wouldn't it be more reasonable to assume that that is exactly what Paul means when he says languages will pass away, that would seem to be the most reasonable view. I mean if we take the Bible literally then we see that Paul is saying languages will cease.

DJP said...


Taliesin said...

Dan wrote:

What is it about v. 12 that you think is "clearly" completely changes the subject from a growing body of revelation to the next age?

I started to do an exegesis on this section to explain my view, then realized your question wasn't about my view. What I wrote was: "Their [Macarthur/Piper] view is that 1 Corinthians 13:12 clearly indicates that the next age [both actually identify this with the eternal state] is what Paul's discussing."

So, without trying to get you to argue with Macarthur but trying to answer your question, both Macarthur and Piper (and on this I would agree with them) see the context (1 Corinthians 13:8-12) to be about love's superiority because it endures even into the eternal state (it "never fails").

The gifts, in contrast, continue to, but not into, the eternal state. For Macarthur, only prophecy and knowledge continue. For tongues, he uses something of the argument to which Jeff points. Macarthur cites Revelation 11:3 (the two witnesses) as proof that prophecy continues past the rapture. For Piper, all three gifts including tongues continue, though I'm reasonably certain that what Piper and Macarthur mean by prophecy and knowledge is different.

Macarthur advances five reasons for identifying the perfect with the eternal state:
1) It matches gender (neuter).
2) It allows prophecy and wisdom to continue through the tribulation.
3) It fits with the emphasis on the eternal nature of love.
4) It fits with face to face, a description of our glorification.
5) Only in heaven will we know as we are known.

I assume the difference in the exegesis begins with your statement that the subject of this section of 1 Corinthians is about a "growing body of revelation".

ddd said...

Eh Dan,

you could try out Xulon Press. Rather reasonable price for publishing books.

Adam Omelianchuk said...

On 1 Cor 13:

First, the context is about the superiority of love to the gifts (vs. 1-7) and he sums up his argument that, unlike the gifts, love will abide forever (vs. 13). It is not about some "finished product" of divine revelation.

Second, the passage is eschatological. Vs 12 is the classic "already/not yet" hermeneutic of Paul's New Creation theology:

For now we see in a mirror dimly [already], but then face to face [not yet]. Now I know in part [already]; then I shall know fully [not yet], even as I have been fully known [already].

The question that must be asked is "Known by what?" A future inerrant text that would be fully recognized in the 4th century? Paul's hope of seeing "face to face" looks to only then and that and not beyond? No. The langauge is personal. The wording "seeing face to face" recalls OT language of encountering God (Gen 32:30, Judg 6:22, Ex 33:11, Deut 5:4, 34:10, Ezek 20:35). Further, Paul's knowing as he is known--an obviously personal phrase--refers to the day that his inability to understand God and his work will disappear, not to a day when we will have all the right divinely revealed propositions ready to be systematized--albeit only correctly--by the Reformers in the 16th century.

Peter Kirk said...

Dan, a couple of points to clarify some of your very dodgy exegesis.

First, on Acts 2:17-18, you seem to imply that you understand this to refer to the authoring of Scripture. Thus you seem to restrict "all flesh ... your sons and daughters ... my male servants and female servants" to the Apostles, and the very few others who wrote Scripture. Was the audience restricted to the apostles' parents? Were any of the Scripture authors anyone's daughters? Is "all flesh" to be understood as referring to something like a dozen people at most? No, surely the clear intention of Peter, as reported by Luke, is to say that in these last days (or is today a period after the last days?) this prophecy can be applied to everyone, that all can expect to prophesy. This is of course precisely in agreement with what Paul wrote in 1 Corinthians 14:1, that all should aspire to prophesy.

And then, referring to 1 Corinthians 14:21-22 and Isaiah 28:11-12, you wrote "The "tongues" Paul writes of are the "tongues" Isaiah wrote of, and those "tongues" are human, foreign languages." I don't think so. Look at the context in Isaiah 28. In verses 10 and 13 we have the very words which God uses to speak to his people: צַו לָצָו צַו לָצָו קַו לָקָו קַו לָקָו tsaw latsaw tsaw latsaw qaw laqaw qaw laqaw. These are NOT words in any foreign language, at least as far as I know. Most Bible translations do a disservice by trying to translate the words as if they were Hebrew, although really they are not, they are nonsense syllables (in fact I wouldn't blame you for suggesting that they are something like some modern charismatic "tongues"!). The point is that they are supposed to be some kind of nonsense baby talk - and (in v.13) they are not supposed to be a comprehensible message, because God's purpose is that it should not be understood.

This is of course a rather complex issue, but it certainly does not support your contention that biblical tongues are always real human languages. In fact it is probably a counter-example, to go along with other counter-examples such as 1 Corinthians 14:4. And (apart from your suggestion that Paul is saying that speaking in tongues is something one should not do, refuted by v.18) the only argument you have to dismiss the counter-examples is that they contradict Paul's "own flat-out and in-so-many-words statement that tongues are human languages" - which is in fact not at all "flat-out and in so many words" referring to ALL tongues but a quotation from a rather complex and obscure passage in Isaiah which does not necessarily refer to all tongues or to human languages at all. So, it seems to me, you are using the unclear to explain the clear, the opposite of how you should do exegesis in such circumstances.

In part 2 you wrote, "An ironclad case can be (and has been) made from Scripture that tongues were always supernaturally acquired human languages." Is this your ironclad case? (Where by the way is there any indication that the tongues of Isaiah 28 were supernaturally acquired?) It seems that your iron cladding is in fact very thin and rusty, and can very easily be demolished by the sword of the Spirit, the word of God, which has supernatural power to destroy strongholds. And since all of what you wrote in part 2 depends on this "ironclad case", now that that case has collapsed the whole of part 2 has been invalidated. In fact I don't think much is left of any of your arguments.