07 August 2012

Better word than "cessationist"? Almost! So close!

by Dan Phillips

Labels are a necessary evil. Few of them really capture a position sufficiently, but the alternatives just don't work. What chafes is the frequent necessity of using a well-known label for the sake of communication, but knowing that with it comes unwanted baggage and connotations.

And so for instance — as I've posed before — what do you call yourself if you unreservedly affirm the sufficiency of Scripture and the Holy Spirit's definition of the nature, role and ministry of His gifts and works? What are you? Decades ago, there wasn't a well-known name, then along comes "cessationism."

And so, though we affirm a robustly positive and vibrant position, we find ourselves stuck with negative label.  We're stuck with describing ourselves by what we don't think is currently happening. If it's a PR battle, we lose from the outset. I tried suggesting a more negative (and more accurate) label for the opposition but, as expected, it went nowhere.

I've long wanted (and called for) a positive word, connoting the robust fullness of the position, the happy and God-honoring affirmation that the Holy Spirit had succeeded in His work. He succeeded in affirming the Gospel by His revelatory and attesting works (Heb. 2:1-4), He succeeded in bringing to completion the process of piecemeal revelation (1 Cor. 13:8-10), He succeeded in producing a Word that contains everything we need to know for salvation and service (2 Tim. 3:15-17).

And then it dawned on me:

SUCCESSIONIST!

What is a Successionist? It's someone who celebrates the the Lord Jesus' success in giving the apostles all the information He wanted to communicate through them (Jn. 16:12-15), who rejoices in the Trinity's success in revealing and attesting the Gospel (Heb. 2:1-4), who affirms and celebrates the Holy Spirit's success in producing a truly sufficient Word (2 Tim. 3:15-17). He is a successionist.

So what if it's a coined word? So was Charismatic. So was Cessationist. So are many theological labels.

Ah, but I fear that my newborn is a stillborn. Though I don't think I've ever heard the term used, it turns out that word has been around for a long, long time, and already has many connotations which have nothing to do with my intent.

Sigh.

Oh well, the search continues.

But next to "too late," two of the saddest words in English have to be...

...so close!

Dan Phillips's signature


57 comments:

trogdor said...

Well, this was on my list of "potential Pyro guest posts", but since I couldn't think of how to milk 900 words out of it, here goes.

I propose we start refering to the positions as "Greater Cessationism" and "Inferior Cessationism". Because after all:

1) There are no true Continuationists, so might as well stop pretending
2) We believe that Da Gifts ceased and were replaced by something greater - the complete canon of scripture.
3) They believe that Da Gifts ceased and were replaced with pathetic mockeries of the Biblical versions.
4) You could also read "Greater" and "Inferior" as value judgments on the positions, and you'd be correct.

And that's what you get for posting when I have three minutes left in my lunch break. Party on!

Les Martin said...

If it quacks like a duck... must be a duck.

Why not call it like it is. This is right and that is wrong. You can disagree but that's why you're wrong. :-D

Seriously though, I like trogdor's response... quite a nice way of describing the situation.

Les

Luke Wolford said...

How about "Completionists" or "Sufficientists"

Steve said...

I was thinking of something like Luke's suggestions. What about Confirmationist or Attestationist (a la Heb 1:3-4)? Synonyms abound... Validationist?

Admittedly, these do not quite roll of the tongue, but neither does "cessationist," for that matter.

DJP said...

LOL, the Phantom One-Starrer has arrived. I wonder if he ever even gets past the title or the byline?

DJP said...

Trogdor, you're like an instant post-enhancer. Terrific idea.

Jules said...

Trogdor made my day with "3) They believe that Da Gifts ceased and were replaced with pathetic mockeries of the Biblical versions."

Tom Chantry said...

Brilliant.

I was reading along thinking, "perfectionist" in that the Word of God is perfected, but of course we all know what "perfectionist" means.

I wonder, though, if you can't plunge ahead with "successionist," since the already existing meaning is so obscure.

Consider this, what does "creationist" mean? We all know it means something in terms of the debate between creation and evolution, but the word is much older. But who bothers with creationism vs. traducianism any more? Because the struggle against evolution is much larger and more important, the newer meaning has eclipsed the old. Might not your new meaning of "successionist" also eclipse the old?

theinscrutableone said...

How about "completionist"? Definition: "one who believes that God completed his work of special revelation through gifts of prophecy, tongues, etc., with the writing of the New Testament and the passing of the Apostles."

Dave

Frank Turk said...

"Successationist" sounds like a sneaky Roman Catholic term to me. We believe in the Succession from the Apostles right down to today, y'all.

Now that the thread will be utterly derailed, I'm going back to work.

DJP said...

Inspector No. 47 has left the building.

Manfred said...

I'm with those who hold up "completionist" - it was what popped into my brain (is that a sign?) as I read the column :-)

Andrew Lindsey said...

Also, "successionist" may sound too much like "secessionist," a term you should probably avoid in a congregation where many of your members probably think the state would be better off as an independent republic! (I make that statement due to my previous experiences with Texans. :) )

I like Luke Wolford's suggestions.

Kerry James Allen said...

One Starvationist?

Jeri Tanner said...

I thought "sufficientist", then saw Luke Wolford's suggestion of it. I like it.

Jared T. Baergen said...

I seem to be on Frank's side in all of this. Sounds Catholic.

In reference to cessationism, though, anything that goes beyond or outside of Scripture in any sense is therefore against Sola Scriptura and should be treated as such; words and labels matter not. Although, I also like Tragdor's explanation. Just sayin.

Mike Westfall said...

How about, "Pistitheoteleonist?"

Wish I knew my greek better...

theologicalexegesis said...

DJP,

Why are you so afraid of the idea that God 'could' speak to people's hearts nowadays; in ways, that is, that doesn't contradict and/or supersede scripture's final and authoritative word?

I've read you for quite awhile on this, and the conclusion I've come to with you is that you are afraid of being vulnerable; you want something 'you' can handle and control (i.e. scripture), through lexical, syntactical analyses and the biblical languages. So you just seem 'afraid' of lack of control, and it seems that you have baptized your fear with theological and biblical endorsement.

DJP said...

This — "Why are you so afraid of the idea that God 'could' speak to people's hearts nowadays?" — makes me very much doubt this — "I've read you for quite awhile on this."

Eric said...

theologicalexegisis,

"the conclusion I've come to with you is that you are afraid of being vulnerable"

I'm sure Dan will appreciate being put on the couch and psychoanalyzied. Do you see any hints of an Oedipus Complex too?

Btw, what if I claimed that God told me your psychoanalysis is all wrong and it is in fact you that are afraid of the knowable truths of Scripture and instead long for subjective feelings? Since my word from God does not contradict Scripture (the test you set), will you aknowledge it as authoritative, or will you be "afraid" of the idea that God spoke to me about you?

Eric said...
This comment has been removed by the author.
James Kime said...

Dan, maybe the term Biblicist could be recycled. No? Fine.

Jared T. Baergen said...

Theologicalexegisis:

"Why are you so afraid of the idea that God 'could' speak to people's hearts nowadays; in ways, that is, that doesn't contradict and/or supersede scripture's final and authoritative word?"

First, why would God need to "speak" to anyone outside of His Word, even if it doesn't contradict or supersede His written Word? Couldn't He just use...wait for it...His written Word? Scripture is the means of our sanctification (John 17:17), and thus it is sufficient.

Second, if God spoke outside and/or beyond His written Word, how would anyone else know that it is truly from God? The whole concept is arbitrary. While God does lead us into Truth and directs us towards His will for our lives, He does it through His written Word and never apart from it. Otherwise, it would be inconsistent with what He has already said (1 Cor. 4:6; 2 Tim. 3:14-17; etc).

Third, if God spoke to anyone outside of Scripture, there would be no way to verify it (even if it agreed with Scripture), thus making it arbitrary. When God spoke in Scripture, it was always verifiable(Heb. 2:3-4), but the whole charismatic idea of on-going revelation is inconsistent with God's own character.

Last, all rational arguments aside, Scripture clearly indicates that the Word of God is "more sure" than experience (1 Pet. 1:16-19). We are not to add or take away from Scripture (Deut. 4:2; Rev. 22:18-19), and Scripture alone is a "Lamp unto my feet and a Light unto my path" (Ps. 119:105).

That said, what would be the purpose of God "speaking" to us, or "leading" us apart from Scripture, whether is coincides with what is written or not?

Hillbilly said...

Wow, what lunacy. Every single verse referenced here took how long to be considered scripture?????? Who decided it was scripture? Who decided Psalms was scripture and how long did it take after it was written? Rabbi`s? The same ones who could not see Jesus? Only a fool would trap almighty God in the Bible box. I understand your entire system relies upon it, that’s no reason to deny Gods ability to do anything He wants.
And certainly the New Testament was not decided as being scripture by the church Fathers, the same Fathers who would call this blog heresy. Yes, you very Calvinists would be tried in a council or something like it. Heck, the pyromaniacs would be spending time with the likes of Arius.
Do what Phil did; use your time more wisely rather than constantly trying to prove your flavor of the year is correct. I would be willing to bet that everyone who comments in support on this blog when ministering to others allows their reformed stuff to supersede Christ . Bets anyone?
Oh little Joey, you have to understand that when Jesus came everyone went to hell for 1600 years. He failed at establishing the church. Thankfully the wonderful and well venerated Martin Luther set us on the right path. So , call on Jesus and trust in the reformed tradition and all will be well.
Ha, Christianity is a farce if you guys are the only ones that are correct.

DJP said...

No time at all, God, God, no, disbelieving believing His self-testimony is the real trap since God cannot lie. Praise God for Scripture, the Gospel, and the Reformation's reclamation of the primacy of both. No better thing to do than sow for eternity, since Jesus is the way, the truth, and the life.

Got anything else?

Jules said...

Curious...why do people like theologicalexegisis and Hillbilly find it necessary to post anonymously?

Nash Equilibrium said...

Dan, I can only suggest a negative name for anti-cessationists: Babble-onians!

Sonja said...

My goodness! If there wasn't Scripture, how would I believe? God seemed to use His messengers mightily -- that His words would NEVER return empty. Those blessed feet. :)

Frank Turk said...

I love the drive-by hillbillies who have obviously never read the post or any books who want to shame someone else into doubt.

Hillbilly: if you're not driving by never to return, what if there was at least one passage in the New Testament which demonstrated that the writers thought they were themselves writing the very words of God? Would that change your view at all?

Frank Turk said...

TheoLex:

I can tell you exactly what I am "afraid of" when it comes to this topic. I am afraid of believing in a God who is more like Oprah than like Jesus.

That statement has probably 20 excellent applications to this subject, and I leave them to you to figure out.

Pyrodoggie said...

In the recent decade, the Hollywood God is more of Morgan Freeman than Oprah.

Morris Brooks said...

Successionist sounds like an RC term.

Morris Brooks said...

Oops, didn't see that Frank had already caught it.

Solameanie said...

You gave it the college try, Dan. Very good!

DJP said...

Oh well. Haters gonna hate.

Solameanie said...

As an aside, I would think an hour or so watching most TBN programming would raise the proverbial eyebrow for anyone with a passing knowledge of Scripture.

I know, that was catty of me. But I seriously cringe these days every time I try to watch anything on there for any length of time out of curiosity's sake.

Linda said...

Jared said--->"Scripture clearly indicates that the Word of God is "more sure" than experience (1 Pet. 1:16-19). We are not to add or take away from Scripture (Deut. 4:2; Rev. 22:18-19), and Scripture alone is a "Lamp unto my feet and a Light unto my path" (Ps. 119:105)."---Amen!!

God's word is SOLID and it does not Change while I'm constantly changing. It reflects who God is "I the LORD do not change".. I can read the same solid objective truth that people have read even 1000 years ago and it's is the same truth the same meaning. When I'm constantly changing I can be stilled and calmed and comforted by my Rock whose word is like a HAMMER-Jer 23:29 "Is not my word like fire," declares the LORD, "and like a hammer that breaks a rock in pieces?"

LanternBright said...

Operating on the principle that the more syllables, the better the term, I tender the following:

FULFILLMENTATIONALISM.

You're WELCOME.

Jared T. Baergen said...

Linda:

Amen! I like being reminded that Scripture is a hammer!

Side note: My reference to Scripture as being more sure than experience is incorrect. It was supossed to be 2 Pet. 1:16-19. My mistake.

DJP said...

I love this meta.

So here are a sum of proposals. I like something about (almost) every last one of them, and actually think any of them, including successionist, is better than "cessationist."

"Greater Cessationism" and "Inferior Cessationism."
Completionists
Sufficientists
Confirmationist
Attestationist
Validationist
Pistitheoteleonist
FULFILLMENTATIONALISM

Well done, gang.

Tom Chantry said...

Dan, you missed two:

From theologicalexegisis: "terrified-of-revelation-ist"

And from Hillbilly (who apparently doesn't realize that "hillbillies" are historically Calvinistic supporters of William of Orange from the hills of New York): "farcical-lunicist"

For my part, I'm starting a new sect among the Commentariat®: "actually-read-the-original-post-ists."

DJP said...

May your tribe increase!

Tom Chantry said...

My problem with my own comment is that I actually like the term, "farcical-lunacist." Not for this purpose, of course, but just as a term. I think I need to find a way to use it.

Seth said...

I love this new word DJP! My family and such usually just think I'm negative when we discuss da gifts. Now, I have a positive case. Thanks again!

Kerry James Allen said...

TC, as Dave Barry would say, "farcical-lunacist" would be a great name for a rock band.

Mike Westfall said...

I think "Hillbilly" is a Drive-By-Shootist.

Jules said...

I'm likin' the sound of Completionist.

DJP said...

Mission Accomplishedist.

Jules said...

I like Sufficientists also, but I suspect that for some that may have a negative ring. Such as, "That'll do."

DJP said...

LOL, Jules. Good point.

rockstarkp said...

Even though it sounds like it belongs on the Periodic Table of Elements,

Testamonium
or, Testamoniumites.

Just learned that from the Credo House folks today.

Aaron Snell said...

Tom:

"But who bothers with creationism vs. traducianism any more?"

Me! < waiving hand in an empty field >

Tom Chantry said...

I had to wait 51 hours, but I had a feeling someone would answer that question.

Carl Sanders said...

I have tried this one: "Gift cessationist", contrasting it with "supernatural cessationist". The point is not to constrain what God can and even might do (he can heal, and presumably does occasionally act in surprising ways - at least to us), but to make clear that there is something different about the normal and normative experience of Christians today: the [supernatural/revelatory] gifts are no longer active. Now my term has some fuzziness too (all gifts? only certain gifts?) and there are those who seem to speak as though nothing miraculous of any sort happens today. The latter impression is what seems to drive at least some of my students away from a cessationist stance. A miracle is not necessarily a gift; they took place in the Old Testament prior to the existence of gifts, for example. In any event, it's always a challenge to best describe one's views.

Aaron Snell said...

Well, that it was answered at all is a testament to the high calibre of readers that TeamPyro attracts. Or the weirdos. You pick. O_o

Linda said...

Efficaciousionists


Phew, I learning words and their meanings so all these new terms will just have to wait for me to memorize....

~Mark said...

Carl Sanders said...

I have tried this one: "Gift cessationist", contrasting it with "supernatural cessationist". The point is not to constrain what God can and even might do (he can heal, and presumably does occasionally act in surprising ways - at least to us), but to make clear that there is something different about the normal and normative experience of Christians today: the [supernatural/revelatory] gifts are no longer active. Now my term has some fuzziness too (all gifts? only certain gifts?) and there are those who seem to speak as though nothing miraculous of any sort happens today. The latter impression is what seems to drive at least some of my students away from a cessationist stance. A miracle is not necessarily a gift; they took place in the Old Testament prior to the existence of gifts, for example. In any event, it's always a challenge to best describe one's views.


~Brother, that is the very best and most Biblically acceptable description of "cessationist" I have ever read! In fact, after being wholeheartedly against it because of the descriptions I've always received of it, I may now have to change the name of my stance!

I can agree with your description readily, particularly because it doesn't attempt to present a Scriptural definite without Scriptural definitives.

I would never before have called myself cessationist, but by your description, I certainly would.