Just a brief post today in the same series as this one and this one, and if you haven't read this one especially, don't comment in the meta. I recognize my usual approach to blogging is really to drop 5 pages into the bandwidth and people find that a little strident, so I'm trying to do 1-pagers on this topic to keep the virtual violence at a minimum. I failed to the tune of 2.5 pages today, so I apologize.
What I have said so far is that we agree on more than we disagree on, and that one particular advocate of the continualist view makes a pretty broad error in his refutation of the cessationist view.
But here's the thing: this same advocate, from whom I have learned more about the faith than I could count in a brief blog post, has also said this:
When Paul and Barnabas reported to the Council in Jerusalem, it says, “All the assembly fell silent, and they listened to Barnabas and Paul as they related what signs and wonders God had done through them among the Gentiles.” ...This is the same man who, when arguing against the cessation of miraculous gifts, said (as we noticed last time):
Now what about today? Should we be expecting the same miraculous confirmations of our witnessing today? My answer is yes, but not in the same measure that the apostles experienced this miraculous power. The reason I say yes is that I don’t see any compelling reason given in the New Testament that God has declared a moratorium on miracles. But I do see lists of miraculous gifts for the church (not just apostles) in 1 Corinthians 12:8-10. So I think God intends to bless his word and his people with miracles in our day—extraordinary works of divine power that go beyond the laws of nature.
The miracle working power of the apostles was only PART of what authenticated their authority. If the only thing that set the apostles apart as authoritative and true was their signs and wonders, then false prophets could claim the same authority and truth, because Jesus and Paul both tell us that false prophets will do signs and wonders to lead people astray.My first thought there is that you can't have it both ways -- either the miraculous signs are given "to bless his word and his people", or they are likely to "lead people astray".
If I were a wily continualist, I would say, "cent, that's reductionistic -- because we know that false teachers can use the actual Gospel truths to lead people astray. For instance, good works are historically a place where people are derailed from faith in the actual Gospel of grace, and you would never say that therefore we should abandon good work, would you?"
No, of course I would not say to abandon good works: I would say don't worship them; don't pretend that your good works are your ticket to heaven. But I would say that the New Testament unequivocally says that those who are born again in spirit materialize something in the flesh, something in this world which shows they are bought by Christ -- and by discernment, we ought to be able to tell when someone is putting on a show of good works for the sake of deceiving, and when someone is working out their faith with fear and trembling.
And this same logic ought to stand up when it comes to the alleged gifts. That is, if someone claims to be working in the Spirit, performing signs and wonders in the name of Jesus Christ, we ought to be able to know whether they are false prophets or fellow workmen in the Gospel.
So my point here is that making unclear distinctions like the somewhat-confusing ones, above, doesn't make the continualist case any more convincing. It seems, in fact, to make it all the more slippery -- which brings me personally to the place where I need some actual apostolic help in sorting the problem out.
And I'll come back to that next week.