26 July 2006

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

by Dan Phillips

I can now add to my resume that I've been disagreed with, not only by name but by picture as well, and that on an international basis. My parents would be so proud!

Actually, it isn't at all the first time; but our friend Adrian Warnock "got all het up" over my post on the tongues of angels. My roughly 630 words provoked something like 2700 words of response from Adrian. I tremble at the thought of what these larger posts will bring down on my poor old head.

In doing me the honor of raking me over the coals in Christian love, Adrian, God love him (and I mean that), wanders pretty much all over creation. He brings in Spurgeon, Lloyd-Jones, MacArthur, Piper, African missionaries, the Toronto "Blessing," a dozen texts or so, and a crate-full of howler monkeys. Okay, I'm joking about the howler monkeys, but my point is I don't feel at liberty to interact with absolutely everything our brother said. However, since Adrian has done me the honor of coming at my position hammer and tongs, I mean to honor him with a return serve as to some of the statements he made. I only hope that my passion will be as clearly mixed with Christian grace and love as his was, while at the same time speaking as plainly, emphatically, and pointedly as he has done.

I propose three posts in response. In the second, I mean to give semi-rapid-fire responses to at least most of Adrian's text-based questions. In the third, I hope to present some concluding areas of agreement and disagreement.

In this the first response, I'll target what to me is not only the heart of Adrian's post, but of much of the Charismatic bypath. It is found among his final words in the post. It's long, but I want to quote it in toto:
Why do so many cessationists actually argue for the exact opposite of what Jesus Himself says in Luke 11 (see the whole context). Jesus ends the parable by saying, "If you then, who are evil, know how to give good gifts to your children, how much more will the heavenly Father give the Holy Spirit to those who ask him!" The cessationist has to deal with the fact that millions of people today have asked God for an experience of the Holy Spirit, and that in direct contrast to what Jesus Himself said, by definition, if cessationism is true, they have not received the Spirit, but rather something else. Where they have asked for the bread of tongues, they have been given the stone of foolish gibberish. Where they have asked for the fish of prophecy, they have been given the serpent of hallucinatory delusions worthy of a madman. This cannot be right, in my humble opinion, as it makes Jesus Himself into a trickster. At the very least, God should have given us clearer directions in the Bible to manage our expectations and help us ALL to realise that cessationism is the biblical teaching. This issue has clear implications for the doctrine of the clarity of Scripture. If Jesus Himself appears to tantalise these people with an offer to give the Spirit to those who ask and really means something very different to the gift of the Spirit we see in Acts, then surely He would have told us!
I see two critical problems in Adrian's reasoning here.

First, brother Adrian reads a great deal into the text. Our Lord simply asks, if rendered over-literally, "If therefore you, though actually being wicked, know to give good gifts to your children, how much rather will the Father who is from Heaven give the Holy Spirit to those who ask Him?" (Luke 11:13, emphases added). Adrian immediately leaps hither: "The cessationist has to deal with the fact that millions of people today have asked God for an experience of the Holy Spirit, and that in direct contrast to what Jesus Himself said, by definition, if cessationism is true, they have not received the Spirit, but rather something else." Then Adrian immediately goes to prophecy and tongues.

But what has Jesus said in this verse about tongues, or about prophecy? What did He say about any specific and particular manifestation or "experience"? Is there any chance that even one of Jesus hearers would have made the associations Adrian makes? Surely not.

Indeed, here as in other texts (as I'll show, DV), Adrian's proof proves too much.

If Adrian is going to read this passage as an iron-clad guarantee... well, the mind fairly reels with the consequences. This would have to mean that God, on Adrian's stated understanding, will always and ever give whatever specific spiritual manifestation everyone and anyone asks, on any occasion. Nor can we condition it on God's will, nor on our faith -- again, on Adrian's reading -- for our Lord mentions neither. Anything that happens after such a prayer can be charged to God. To fail to do so calls the perspicuity of Scripture (not our handling of it) into serious question.

If it's an ironclad and unconditional guarantee as presented above, then one request by any believer should ever and always result in any spiritual gift he names. God has to do as I ask, for His glory's sake.

Is God really at my command, to that degree? This seems to me to be one of several junctures at which the first word in the phrase "reformed charismatic" is the weaker of the two.

Now, we know that this has never happened thus in church history. Anywhere. Ever. Has anyone ever even taught this? Surely Adrian will deny that this is what he believes. Yet this is where his line of thinking necessarily leads from his way of handling the text, if followed out relentlessly.

Further, this way of dealing with the text plucks it right out of its place in the history of redemption. Did anything change in God's dealings with men, after the resurrection and ascension of Christ, and Pentecost? Ezekiel thought something would change someday (Ezekiel 36:25-27). John the Baptist surely thought something would change (Mark 1:8). John certainly thought something would change (John 7:39). John certainly presented Jesus as thinking something would change (John 14:17). Peter thought something did change (Acts 11:15). Does Adrian? When was that change? What was that change? Does the change at all inform how we handle texts placed before and after it? Does context have any meaning whatever?

This is a common mistake in charismatic thought. The Bible is read as if the great moments of redemptive history -- the descent of the Spirit, the closing of the Canon -- have no real implications. It is as if the Bible should be read as a mural, a large photo, instead of as an unfolding story with movements, climaxes, and openings and closings of acts (Hebrews 1:1-2).

What if we took Adrian at his word, though? His way of dealing with the text means that Jesus has made an unconditional guarantee to give any manifestation of the Spirit to anyone who asks. Jesus is responsible for everything that happens after I ask. If it isn't legit, then He (according to Adrian) is a trickster.

Well, then, let's say I think the Bible could use another book or two. For instance, it could use one that settles this whole Charismatic issue forever.

So what if I ask the Lord to give me the gift of prophetic, inscripturating revelation? What if I ask Him to write those books through me? What if I ask Him to send the Spirit to make me the author of the sixty-seventh book of the Bible?

Isn't Adrian bound by his own thinking either to accept my book, or conclude that the Lord is a trickster?

And what if the book I write after praying for revelation says that Charismaticism is a delusion? What a bind that would put Adrian in!

Or what if I asked for a tongue and an interpretation, said "Wobbedy bop," and interpreted it to mean "Tongues have ceased"? Wouldn't that, on Adrian's reasoning, be chargeable to Jesus' account?

"Oh, no, that's just stupid," someone will reply. "You'd be tempting the Lord. He isn't responsible for every lamebrained thing you do, just because you prayed before you did it!"

Which brings me to my second point.

The Lord is not responsible for every lamebrained thing we do, just because we prayed first.

You see, Adrian's handling of this text really leaves us with only one choice. I was going to write "two choices," but on reflection, Adrian leaves us only one. Everything that happens after we pray has to be of God, or Jesus is a "trickster."

This premise, a faulty one in my estimation, binds good folk like Adrian. It chains them to defend the indefensible, as surely as the Roman Catholic must defend every ruling and appalling error of his sect. Since manifestly nothing that the Charismatic movement has uniquely produced in the last 100 years has ever measured up to the Biblical phenomenon, we have to re-interpret the Bible to fit what is happening today. Because if it's all a fraud and a distraction, then Jesus is a "trickster." And since Jesus cannot be a trickster, we have to come up with some explanation that makes wanna-be manifestations legit. We have to define the Biblical phenomena down, to prop the modern phenomena up.

This is a big reason why Charismaticism is where it is today, the "twenty million people can't be wrong" argument. Can't they? Can ten out of twelve spies be wrong? Can the majority of the nation of Israel be wrong? Is truth settled by majority vote alone? Is that how we do exegesis -- people prayed A, and Z happened, therefore the Bible must mean theta?

I've done lots of stupid things, after praying. Can I bill them all to God? Wouldn't that be cool?

Well, no, if we force ourselves to think it through, it really wouldn't be cool. Sure, there would be the short-term gain of me being able to shrug off responsibility for all the stupid, foolish, and sinful things I've done after praying. But the long-term loss would be inestimable. In short, I'd lose the Biblical portrayal of God. God would be the author of my stupid and sinful behavior. He'd become a fickle imp, and prayer would become a good-luck charm at best, or a get-out-of-responsibility-free card at worst.

Of course, there is an alternative.

We can cleave to the Word above all and through all, and judge our experiences by it -- not the reverse. Is it not a judge of the thoughts and emotions of the heart (Hebrews 4:12)? Is it not forever settled in the heavens, far above the shifting vagaries of our experience, and the passing trends and fads of our culture (Psalm 119:89)? Is it not the means of my fellowship with the Father and His Son (John 14:21-23; 1 John 1:1-3)? Is it not my cleaving to the Word that proves the reality, or unreality, of my claim to be a disciple (John 8:31-32)?

So here's what I am seeing. In direct contrast to all Scripture precedent and command, millions of people have indeed (as Adrian said) asked for revelatory gifts. And not one of them has received anything like what is described in the Bible.

Is God to blame for that? Is God to blame, and the fact of the perspecuity of Scripture suspect, because of their persistence in something very different from what He Himself sets out in His Word?

I knew a pastor once, a man with very strong training in the Biblical languages and sciences. But he had a doctrine of the guidance of the Holy Spirit that led him to believe that he should pray for that guidance, and then whatever followed had to be of the Spirit. His sermons were bizarre, meandering, idiosyncratic affairs. A friend of his (!) likened the way he handled texts to a drunk staggering through a church. His people stopped bringing Bibles. They didn't really need them.

Once, a fellow-believer and I approached him, and shared our concern. We spoke out of genuine love, respect, and care.

"Gentlemen," he said, "before I preach, I ask the Holy Spirit to guide me. If I believed that He was not doing so, I would leave the ministry!"

This trump-card spiritual browbeating worked wonderfully for him at the time. Both of us were young Christians, and we were properly rebuked and appalled. We didn't want him to leave the ministry! We retreated, horrified and abashed.

Of course, the problem wasn't the Holy Spirit. The problem was this man, and his faulty doctrine of the guidance of the Spirit. But like the reasoning Adrian sets out, he had prayed, and so he had to conclude that whatever followed was of the Spirit -- or his whole structure would collapse.

The Charismatic movement is, in large measure, the result of applying that same procedure on a massive scale.

Let me put it more personally and individually still. I can, you know; for I write as one who once thought he was speaking in tongues.

Shall I reinterpret the Bible, to legitimatize my experience?

Or shall I stick with the Bible, and let it judge my experience?

I opted for the second choice. That is why I am an ex-charismatic.

[This series is continued in part two and part three, and concluded in part four.]

Dan Phillips's signature


David A. Carlson said...

so much for that Warnie

DJP said...

Hope not; maybe he can make it an "Except for that dodgy rotter Dan" Warnie.


David Landricombe said...

Having done some very stupid things after praying, including throwing my glasses away because I believed my eyesight would be healed, I have to say that your post, especially the 2nd point, is right on the money.

(BTW, I'm wearing contacts in the photo!)

FX Turk said...

Dude: I so wish that I had written that. Spot on.

I have something to add to your wisdom, Dan, and it's actually on-topic to your essay here: there is also the issue of whether or not every believer is entitled to every gift the Holy Spirit has to give. Is the Holy Spirit the Living Water waterboy (if I can say that and not be interpreted as being glib and profane), or is He God the Spirit who indwells us and is reforming our lives?

See: I think the view that we can, or should, (or in the extreme case, must) manifest gifts like tongues and healing and casting out demons overlooks that the believe experiences the power of the Holy Spirit primarily in personal reformation.

I am not saying that Adrian ignores the matter of personal reformation in this theology: I am saying that his view that we should seek the "supernatural" (don't like that word, but it's the only one that comes to mind) gifts ignores that the reformation of the heart is itself a supernatural act -- one that ought to be the testimony to everyone that we are in fact indwelt with New Life.

FX Turk said...

I also wanted to say "link troll".

because I can.

Mike Y said...


Excellent post! And I don't think it was too harsh at all.

I think there are a couple of problems I am seeing with the volley of arguments on this subject:

1) John tells us "And this is the boldness that we have toward Him, that if anything we may ask according to his will, He doth hear us, 15 and if we have known that He doth hear us, whatever we may ask, we have known that we have the requests that we have requested from Him."

The key here seems to be asking things according to his will. And I really see no positive argument for asking for any of these manifestations of the HS.

2) The second major problem I see is the emphasis on seeking a result or a side-effect. And I find this need for a special gift or a sign to be right up there with the Fundamentalist's overwhelming desire to see converts. At some point, the focus and dependency are misplaced and counterfeits are clearly produced.

Anyway, I am trying to be gentle on this subject as I too have been guilty of some... uh... things-- mostly the whole instant convert mentality.

Kay said...

Thanks Dan,

My reply was woefully inadequate, and really needed some serious Pyro input, which was what dear Adrian requested anyway.

LeeC said...

I do believethat your one point nailed it Dan. I have been struggling to articulate this for some time, always in the most stunted fashion, thank you.

I think much of this concerns our view of who the Holy Spirit is.

When I read that section from Adrian (And Adrian please PLEASE don't misunderstand me here) the first thing I thought of of was when Joseph Smith read James 1:5 "If any of you lacks wisdom, let him ask God, who gives generously to all without reproach, and it will be given him." and then asked for a vision...and recieved one.

All believers have been given something much greaterthan an experience of the Holy Spirit, we have been given Him fully!

Why settle for a handkerchief with your wifes perfume on it when you could have her right here!?

God took me, a fallen depraved sinner of the worst sort, killed my old man, and raised me up anew in His Son, and filled with His Spirit. How much more of a sign or experience could I ask for?

And yet it does not end there, He continues to give me breath, a job, a wonderful wife, children a local body of believers, on and on. To not see that as wonderous seems to take it for granted.

God has continously done acts of healing on my body, sometimes through the work of doctors, but it is HIM who heals none-the-less.

Steve said...

Superb post. Point #1 is especially important because it demonstrates beautifully how one can make a faulty leap from what Scripture actually says to reading in a meaning that's not there.

As you point out, there's no link between what Jesus said and what Adrian has taken it to say.

It's this "missing link" methodology that has contributed to so much confusion within the church today on a myraid of subjects.

Can't wait to see the next post.

Henry Haney said...

Cessationism must be an exhausting activity (what a paradox). I cannot fathom how difficult it must be trying to confine God to a tiny little matchbox. ;)

In a zeal to dimish the experiential component of theology, it is easy to forget that even the Apostles used such as a litmus test for genuine Baptism with/in the Holy Spirit. (Acts 10:46)

DJP said...

Thanks very much, Frank, Libbie -- both of whose writing I admire very much. And Libbie, I thought your post was just great. You'll see that our thinking is quite similar in a number of places.

Yes, Frank, I think you're working at saying something I struggle to express too. It really does concern me. Jesus says "The Holy Spirit," the charismatic immediately thinks, "Oh, right! Tongues!"

Steve said...

Henry: Rather than thinking of it as confining God to a matchbox, think of it as understanding God according to His Word.

The Word establishes the ways in which God works, and thus guides our thoughts about God in the right direction.

Pastor Steve said...

Great post. We have to allow God to make the definitions. I think the "genie in the bottle" syndrome applies here. The Holy Spirit doesn't exist, nor was He given to accomplish our bidding. Solid, Biblical exegesis is really a lost art.

Anonymous said...


Very well done. I appreciated this post very much.

Doesn't Adrian's interpretation also assume that the gift of the Holy Spirit is necessarily experiential? And isn't this the fundamental problem (or one of them) of the Charismatic movement? In other words, if I don't have an experience, then I must not have the Spirit, because the gift of the Spirit is experiential in nature? Maybe I am making an unfair caricature of their position.

Just spitballing here. Your post definitely provoked thought. I had another thought, but lost it while typing this, so I am going to re-read, and you may see another comment from me later! :)

xopher_mc said...

As a charismatic(of the a lot of stuff charismatics do are crazy sort), I think your exegesis on the passage here is much better than Adrian. If you want a text that teaches continuation of the charismatic gifts this is not the one. But it would be a fallacy to argue that as this text does not teach the continuation of charismata that the rest of the bible might not.

Maybe I'll get shot down with this suggestion but here goes. Many charismatics argue for the continuation of the charismata as they see Act as paradigmatic. My contention is that Jesus himself is, in some sense, paradigmatic. That if Jesus was a real human being, like you and I, he worked miracles not because of his innate divine power(which as God he had) but rather through his relationship to the Spirit.

The gospels understand these acts by the Spirit as eschatological- in that they realised in foretaste the reality of the kingdom of God. As the Kingdom of God will not fully come to Christ should we not expect foretastes of such reality in the life of the church? The supreme example of this will, of course, be Christian love but this cannot exclude the possibility of so called miraculous gifts. As good charismatic theology will, unlike the cessationist, take location in salvation history of the church now as its bearings for the reality of charismatic gifts as the in breaking of the eschatological kingdom.

Caddiechaplain said...

Party on Garth . . . . !

Carrie said...

Good stuff, Dan.

I have always leaned hard towards cessationist but to be honest, I never put alot of thought into why. These posts are very helpful in defining my position.

Some of your general arguements could really apply to so many other areas where it seems like people get off the path of good basic biblical common sense. I really enjoy your logic!

Trinian said...

Those poor Christians who have the gifts of service, giving, and mercy. They really should have asked the Spirit for more awesome-sounding gifts. They must not be as devoted to God as that babbling guy over there.


candy said...

As a Continuationist, but as one who no longer speaks in tongues (I agree with Libbie that my experience was mostly psychological), I think Adrian's point about passion for Christ through experience was a good point. Strict intellectualism can be just as extreme and damaging in my opinion. It is the cause of a lot of discord also. So in the extreme case, there can be the "theologically elite" who argue from their vast knowledge and alienate those who don't agree to every jot and tittle, and there can be the "mostly experiential" who argue that the evidences of Christ are to be "felt" to be real, and yet isn't there a place for sober, passionate, balance of our lives in Christ and his gifts to His Body? I think Frank Turk is right in saying one of the problems is thinking that every Christian thinks they should receive every gift from the Holy Spirit.

I cringe when "Toronto Blessing" comes up because that was the most disturbing, apostasy heading movement and was instrumental in me backing wayyyyyy off from the charismatic movement.....but not totally. I think there is room for the gifts to operate in the Body, and that tongues is really the least of the gifts, and yet the one we make the most of.

Dan....your tongues quote was about the funniest quote I have ever read...cuz it sounded like so many "tongues" I have heard!!!

maranatha man said...

Great post! Your argument is so sound, biblical, logical and hermenutical. It is so refreshing to see someone build their thesis by actually examining a biblical text!!!!!

Like Rocky cried out to his Adrian, I cry out to you Adrian to investigate the context grammatically, historically and culturally. There ain't no way bro you could ever get tongues from Luke 11:13!

Anonymous said...

Oh! I thought of it!!

Dan, isn't it more correct to say that gifts are given to the Church, and not to individuals, per se. In other words, they are given to individuals only insofar as they are to be used in the church, and are ultimately a gift to the church via an individual?

Confusing, I know, but in my estimation there is an unhealthy emphasis in the Charismatic movement on the individual rather than the body, so the experience of the individual becomes paramount to the detriment of the edification of the Body. See what I am getting at?

Anyway, that was the deep thought I forgot about earlier!

Michael Russell said...


I want you to know that I prayed for a spirit of discernment before writing this; thus, what I say is from God.

You're right and Adrian is wrong.

How can anyone argue with that?

Seriously, though, I wonder if Adrian actually lives by the claims he has made. He is a psychiatrist, after all, and sees a great many people with serious mental problems and disorders.

My question is this: when confronted with a patient exhibiting auditory and/or visual hallucinations, does he pray for a spirit of healing or does he reach for his prescription pad to prescribe an antipsychotic med or two?

I would think, if what he says is true, that any hospital at which he works must be quickly emptied - or else God is a "nasty trickster."

Henry Haney said...

I see some huge strawmen here. The vast majority of Charismaticdom does not believe God is a big genie in the sky awaiting our next command.

Granted, there is a segment (primarily within WoF circles) that embraces this idea, but most do not. Just like all Calvinists are not fatalistic robots, neither do all Charismatics (or Pentecostals like myself) espouse the silly strawmen systems some of you have constructed.

DJP said...

Mike -- Adrian ...is a psychiatrist, after all....

He is?


Mike Felker said...

Excellent post! Dan, you're arguments are extremely concise and sound. And your writing style is very enjoyable to read. That "book" that's on hold...i'd love to get my hands on it when or if it ever comes out! There seems to be only a few solid, cessationist works out there from a reformed perspective, and I think its about time another one is due! I really enjoyed Waldron's book, but felt it didn't go into enough detail. Something like MacArthur's book but more updating would be very helpful. But again, thanks for your post! Always an encouragement to me.

candy said...

Dan...I felt a bit like saying incoherent words (as apposed to cussing of course) after driving through Sacramento at 7:00pm last night and it was still 106 degrees!

Matthew Self said...

Dan, I find this as among the typically strong arguments of cessationists. I also, however, find the continuist position to have its strong contenders, as well.

Like most of these discussions, we have been reduced to a philosophical argument of church history, Biblical history, and lots of other things that, while acceptable in debate, get away from the claim of both sides of Biblical proof of one or the other. I find it disconcerting, since the discussion is not actually being advanced.

I'm a charismatic who has had a "Toronto Blessing" type of experience. Once. I accept it as authentic, because the fruit that has followed has been a path towards Christian maturity (i.e. Walking in the word, operating on what I know in the Word rather than feelings, and, ironically, less of an emphasis on the visibly supernatural and more of the awesome wonder of the 'main and plain' of the Gospel).

I love Adrian, but I don't really know why he feels compelled to evangelize the members of this blog about charismaticism. All of us already agree on pretty much everything else, and the aim seems awkward.

I'm pretty much convinced that cessationists operate in the gifts unknowingly, and a soveriegn God is not very concerned whether we know where our efforts end and His begins as long as we acknowledge it is ultimately all His good work, towards all His good and just judgment. The credit for any work that advances His kingdom belongs to him. Gifts or no gifts, we serve an all-powerful God who is active today, and is not limited by our categorizations and intepretations.

So it does not seem important to me whether cessationists agree with me or not, only that we all agree on what we're really supposed to be doing in our time here. In that, I believe we have a righteous consensus.

God bless, bro!

Michael Russell said...


Read this old post re Adrian.

DJP said...

I'm having a prophetic word.

Adrian's next post title:


Scott Hill said...

Dan, this post is brilliant.

For a dispensationalist.

Seriously, Dan, you have articulated something I have been trying to put into words for 2 years. Thanks for the post.

Mister Larry said...

Absolutely fantastic. I'd say that Dan was 'Spurgeonesque' in his way with words. I can't wait for "part Two"!

Steven Dresen said...

I have a question for the cessationists. Do you 100% regard continuationism and the charismatic stuff as false teaching? Think over all the implications of your answer before answering.

donsands said...

In Matthew 7:7-11 our Lord Jesus doesn't mention the Holy Spirit.
He says that the Father will give us good things, if we ask Him. Not sure if that has an significance.

Of all the gifts God grants us, His children, His Spirit has to be our most precious. For through the Spirit, the Father and the Son make their abode with us.

The teachings on the Holy Spirit are for me the most difficult to grasp. Very deep things to consider.

Great post, and looking forward to learning and growing in His grace and knowledge.

Steve said...

Henry said: "I see some huge strawmen here. The vast majority of Charismaticdom does not believe God is a big genie in the sky awaiting our next command."

Henry, did you notice Dan did NOT set up huge strawmen, but rather, he responded directly to statements from Adrian? And Dan explored that specific train of thought?

Setting up a strawman means setting up a weak opposition that can be easily confuted. Dan didn't set up anything. He responded to someone else's words.

DJP said...

Thanks, Steve. I sometimes wish there was a way that we could make someone pass a basic test to prove he had actually READ THE POST before he's allowed to comment.

Henry Haney said...

Steve-my comments are not directly aimed at Dan (although I do think some of Adrian's comments are being unfairly caricatured)- there are a myriad of others here commenting.

And I often do read your posts djp (including this one)- sometimes I'm actually challenged in my ways of thinking-so don't lose heart :)

FX Turk said...

steven dresen:

Do you mean, "listen: even a cessationist has to admit that God's spirit is active in this world today?"

Dude: duh.

If you redefine "cessationism" to "the Holy Spirit is doggie-chained to the throne of God and cannot leave heaven for fear of violating the sufficiency of Scripture," then you can start with the argumentative parlor tricks. However, cessationism deals specifically with a part of the work of the Spirit -- not whether or not the Spirit is real, or if He works in the present age at all.

Pastor Steve said...

Steven, yes, I do view it as false teaching, and I shouldn't have to worry about the ramifications. Our job is simply to obey.

Steven Dresen said...

That wasn't where my question was going, my question well to put it more plainly and get to the point the question was to illustrate. If you say that the continuation of spiritual gifts is false teaching...teaching being equivalent to doctrine. That leads you inevitabely to conclude that men such as John Piper, C.J. Mahaney, Sam Storms, Adrian Warnock, and the like , myself included, are all false teachers, which in turn makes this requires you to make 2 Peter 2:1 applicable to us:
But false prophets also arose among the people, just as there will be false teachers among you, who will secretly bring in destructive heresies, even denying the Master who bought them, bringing upon themselves swift destruction.

Do you guys see the logic there?

Pastor Steve said...

It's a view that is in violation of scriptural truth, and it's dangerous. Some may make it more of a hobby horse and more a part of their ministry than others.

There is also a difference between saying that tongues may still be allowed today and that you aren't completely sure, and saying that they are clearly for today and encouraging people to seek after tongues.

To the latter group, I would definitely treat them as false teachers, no matter who they are, or how many books they have written, or how much good they do in other areas.

corinthian said...

Two quick points, or a point a a Q. You ask if anyone has ever taught " God has to do as I ask, for His glory's sake.

Is God really at my command, to that degree?" And yes, I believe Wilkinson did that in Jabez where he clearly says if you pray that prayer, God HAS TO bless you.

2nd As a cessationist, would that cessation include other supernatural gifts like wisdom or healing or just the "charismatic" ones" ? Just curious to where and why lines are drawn. (ps, I agree with yer article, just asking)

Anonymous said...

Wow, excellent posts (after reading the one on your personal blog and the one on the red herring).

It is saddening how one can see a direct line from the rise of Arminianism of Charles *cough*wolf-in-sheep's-clothing*cough* Finney and his direct interest in experience and control of one's salvation with the interpreting the Bible through experience.

I was talking with a charismatic who claimed to speak in tongues, have visions of prophecy, the works and she told me that she would not debate the Bible with me but prove to me that the sign gifts existed by her own experiences. *blink* Truly stunning...

Again great posts...

Soli Deo Gloria

Neil Cameron (One Salient Oversight) said...

As a service to the Christian blogging community, I hereby award Pyromaniacs the One Salient Oversight award.

Criticisms will be made on my website shortly...

Young Fundamentalist said...

Good job, Dan. Just work at not beeing so overweening about it.

Remember that there are at least three ways of looking at any text and we must be open-minded.

Just Kidding!!!!!

Scott Hill said...

Steven Dressen, there are two ways to define false teaching.

One, you teach something that is not accurate to the text therefore you taught something false.

Two, you teach something that is not accurate to the text therefore you taught something false.

I don't think you can always equate a false teacher with false teaching. None of us have everything correct (although some of us are closer than others), but we are all wrong on something. This is shown in your own teaching on tongues. Dan would say I am wrong about my dispenstional views or lack thereof. Does that mean one of us is wrong/false yes it does. You just happen be wrong on the tongues issue.

Steven Dresen said...


You said:
One, you teach something that is not accurate to the text therefore you taught something false.

Two, you teach something that is not accurate to the text therefore you taught something false.

What's the second way to define, it seems to me your repeating yourself there...might be wrong, I've been up awhile so it might just be me.

Steven Dresen said...

hey I have an idea, it'd be fun, we can play a game that continualists and cessationists cane both enjoy. We go to this church site: http://www.seattlefirstbaptist.org
and find something good about the church, the search will be so hard and I dare say impossible it'll keep us busy till Jesus gets back. The one good thing I found on the site was it's a good source for my paper on various Baptist strains. If anyone does find something they can email me at steven.dresen@gmail.com

CuriousSaint said...


Is it wrong to pray for the Holy Spirit to illumine the text, or guide a pastor through the sermon...as well as make the meaning clear to those whom hear it?


Cameron said...

Dan wrote:

Shall I reinterpret the Bible, to legitimatize my experience?

Or shall I stick with the Bible, and let it judge my experience?"

You should stick with the Bible. Which is exactly what cessationists do not do. There is not one Scripture that shows that the gifts will cease, whereas there are a myriad that suggest they will continue.
But when looking at your experience, you notice that the gifts today seemingly fall short of their experience in the Bible. Thus, the cessationist comes up with a doctrine that the gifts must have ceased, since he is not flowing in them. The cessationist makes Scripture fit his own experience.

Matt Gumm said...

One of the primary arguments against cessationism seems to be "but your missing out on ..."

None of these are tongues-related, but I will say that if God wanted me to speak in a different tongue, I sure wish it would be Koine Greek. All the studying makes my head hurt.

What I've missed out on, as opposed to my charismatic friends: basing important life decisions on a prophecy that may turn out not to be true, questioning God when a prophecy doesn't come true, thinking that my serious illness is a spiritual condition due to a lack of faith, and blaming life's struggles on the Devil.

Steven Dresen said: I have a question for the cessationists. Do you 100% regard continuationism and the charismatic stuff as false teaching? Think over all the implications of your answer before answering.

Not everyone can be right, though. Doesn't someone have to be wrong? I would say that everything I've seen in the way of prophecy and healing has been false.

I think there is error, and then there is heresy. Both are damaging, but heresy far worse, at it leads away from the faith.

So, I might consider a paedo-baptistic brother in error, but I would not consider them a heretic. However, if that person also started teaching baptismal regeneration, we would hit the other level.

Charismatic sign gifts fall into a category of error, and they do have consequences on those who use them. I think one of the primary consequences is people who are given false assurance by a word of prophecy, and the doubt of God that ensues when that word turns out to be false. So they hamstring a believer.

Tongues don't bother me that much, though I can't understand them (sound a bit like Morse Code using just the tongue and lips). Prophecy is the one that I think has the deepest negative impact. It should be simple enough to discern true from false prophets, but since prophecy need not be right for a prophet to be a true prophet, that is also rather muddy.

Steve said...

Cameron said: "You should stick with the Bible. Which is exactly what cessationists do not do."

It's very ironic you should make such an accusation against cessationists. Consider Exhibit A: Dan's Response to Adrian, Part One.

In refuting Adrian, Dan holds a microscope up to Scripture and shows where a continuationist argument fails--miserably.

Dan did not use experience to come to his conclusion. He let Scripture speak for itself instead of reading into it a meaning that's not there. I find it interesting you don't even attempt to refute Dan's point. That speaks volumes. In order for your accusation to stand that cessationists don't stick to the Bible, you'll have to refute Exhibit A.

So yes, in fact, a cessationist DID stick with the Bible.

Unknown said...

Dan said that the "tongues of angels" in 1 Cor 13 isn't necessarily Biblical tongues. I don't see how that is a water tight argument for cessationism.

I don't really buy Adrian's response - at least from Luke 11 cos i think that's about getting eternal life not spiritual gifts... but I'm not sure how knocking down some strawman/excess of the charismatic movement proves cessationism...

I want to stay out of this debate.

étrangère said...

Adrian's post on Luke 11 is not good interpretation which Dan's post shows, but it takes a wild leap of the imagination to think that Dan's refutation of that one point proves cessationism. They have addressed tongues of angels and the giving of the Holy Spirit in response to prayer. Since when did that sum up continuationism or cessationism?!

It seems most comments here from cessationists are based on experience - of the daft practice of some charismatics they know, and especially criticising charismatics for basing argument on... experience. Oh, plus the recent experience of 2 samples: the one charismatic who on one specific passage didn't interpret it well and the one cessationist who on that one specific passage did.

Dave, you want to stay out of this debate? You've just commented! :)

Seriously though, I don't imagine the debate going anywhere as they aren't debating the continuation or cessation of certain of the gifts. They're swiping at surface issues.

Matt Gumm said...

Upon further reflection, maybe paedobaptism wasn't the best illustration of my point. Anyone care to help me with a less controversial example?

Jeremy Weaver said...

I can't be a cessationist because I read Scripture literally.

Steven Dresen said...

For all the cessationists who see tongues as literal langauges, you guys say a lot of what is called tongues today sounds nothing like a real language, but if you do your research on linguistics, especially on the Khoisan langauges, there are branches of langauge that are completely unrelated to anyother langauge, that you guys would most probably call gibberish. Hazda a language of a small tribe in the savannah's of Tanzania is a perefect example of this. The following link to the UCLA Phonetics lab arhcive has audio samples of it http://archive.phonetics.ucla.edu/Language/HTS/HTS.html
seriously it's some cool stuff.

DJP said...

étrangère, thebluefish, others similar --

Once again, true enough: neither post "proved" cessationism.

Nor did either post "prove" the virgin birth, the millennial kingdom, creation, the sovereignty of God, nor justification by grace through faith.

Can you point out a paragraph, a sentence, a punctuation-mark, or even a meaningful pause, that indicates that I felt I had "proved" any of those things in those posts?

corinthian said...

I would still like to know, from scripture, how you divide the line between "charismatic" gifts and gifts like administration, hospitality etc, which are also "spiritual " as opposed to just personality traits. When I am witnessing , for example, sometimes ideas or explainations come to mind that I have never encountered before that work perfectly in the situation. It really is the spirit "assisting" me. So , from scripture, where do you draw the lines, or where does God?

Steven Dresen said...


I have a great idea for another post you could do. You could discuss demon possession and exorcism.

Steve Sensenig said...

Can you point out a paragraph, a sentence, a punctuation-mark, or even a meaningful pause, that indicates that I felt I had "proved" any of those things in those posts?


I'm starting to get the sense that maybe your beef is not with continuationism itself, but with charismaticism. Would that be a fair statement to make?

If so, perhaps you can understand how those two get intertwined in discussions such as this.

You have a tendency in topics such as this to use a lot of hyperbole and reductio ad absurdum, and quite honestly, it makes it a bit difficult to know exactly what to respond to.

Anyway, I am curious if I'm at all close on my guess that, in your mind, there is a distinction between charismaticism and continuationism, and if that's causing a bit of a misunderstanding in the comments section.

steve :)

marc said...

Wow! It never occured to me in my many readings of the New Testament that tongues have ceased. But now, after reading this and reading the relevant passages again... well it still doesn't occur to me.

étrangère said...

Dan, my comment was not to criticise you for failing to prove cessationism: I'm well aware that that was not your aim. I commented not so much to you as in this line of comments: because many of your commentators were hailing you as having smashed continuationism, which (as you recognise) is rubbish. You were merely addressing one man's interpretation of a passage.

Having said that, you did invite this spirit in your commentators by generalising at the end of your post. You effectively said (combining your last 3 statements) that Charismatics reinterpret the Bible, to legitimatize their experience. This statement of course is debatable (and largely depends on what you give by Charismatic). Thing is, your post's argument gave you no basis for that generalisation, because you had not really engaged in that debate. It is that generalisation which your cheering crowds picked up on, which some of us then responded to. That's why I said it was a non-debate.

*wry smile* Maybe it was studying mathematics did it to me: I have this thing about generalisation and people leaping imaginatively off someone's argument to go where they want to go... It's not so much about continuationism/cessationism. Or the virgin birth, the millennial kingdom, creation, the sovereignty of God, nor justification by grace through faith :)

Matthew Celestine said...

Great response.

DJP said...

It's a worthy and intelligent guess, Steve, but no.

And as I've tried to explain to you before, what bothers you is that I follow leaky-canon thinking to its logical conclusion, and you don't like where that leads.

Steven Dresen said...

If signs and wonders make the canon leaky why did God confirm the gospel with them in the Bible. They had the word, why did God feel the need to confirm it beyond powerful preaching. Explain how signs and wonders in the Bible did not detract from the proclamation of the gospel and the authority of the word then.

DJP said...

SD -- are you serious?

Pastor Steve said...

Teach the teachable, reach the reachable.

Steven Dresen said...

Yes I'm serious because if you assert that signs and wonders detract from the authority of the word, then there arises a conflict between the preaching recorded in Acts and the signs and wonders God worked. If prophecy negates the canon then Paul was terrible to tell the Thessalonians " Do not quench the Spirit. Do not despise prophecies, but test everything; hold fast what is good." If prophecy is something just for the writing on canonical infalliable Scripture then Paul should have told them to reject all other prophecy. If prophecy negates the canon then there is nothing to test them by. As wel if they are only for the writing of the canon Paul was in error again in his teaching of the Corinthians "5Now I want you all to speak in tongues, but even more to prophesy." or again here " 36Or was it from you that the word of God came? Or are you the only ones it has reached? 37If anyone thinks that he is a prophet, or spiritual, he should acknowledge that the things I am writing to you are a command of the Lord. 38If anyone does not recognize this, he is not recognized. 39So, my brothers, earnestly desire to prophesy, and do not forbid speaking in tongues. 40But all things should be done decently and in order."
Going from a view that tongues and prophecy were either for apostolic confirmation or the formation of the canon requires one to label that as false teaching because Paul is telling nonApostles, non-book writing Christians to seek the gifts, he even goes further to say that all that is a command of God, so in effect God is commanding them to seek gifts for the advancement of the church. If you could correlate the command of God with Paul's teaching and show how those support cessationism and how they don't destory the canon, because I don't think they do.

DJP said...

OK, then, Steve D: since you think that is a serious question, and evidently think it's something that should really rock 5-sola Christians back on our heels, then please hear me: you have NO understanding of the cessationist position.

Let's see whether interpretively rewording your question helps any. You are, in effect, asking:

If claims to revelatory gifts make the now-closed Canon leaky, why did actual revelatory gifts not make the then-not-closed-Canon leaky?

Or, one more time:

If claims to revelatory gifts today challenge the position that revelation is now complete and sufficient, why did actual revelatory gifts not challenge the position that revelation was not yet complete nor sufficient?

Now, I'll just tell you up-front: your response to this will clue me as to whether there's a point to further attempts at dialogue.

Steven Dresen said...

If claims to revelatory gifts make the now-closed Canon leaky, why did actual revelatory gifts not make the then-not-closed-Canon leaky?

that kind of fits the question I was asking.To make it clear where I stand I hold to a closed canon and my view of signs and wonders is similar to that of Martyn Lloyd-Jones. I see it as being that if revelatory gifts are only for the establishment of the Scriptures then there would be no need for anyone in the NT age to seek them. I also see the closing of the canon causing the cessation of miraculous gifts to fall short as an explanation of 1 Corinthians 13. I don't see where the Greek word teleios would lead to the assumption of it being the Bible especially in light of Paul paralleling it to knowing as he is known, and to seeing face to face as opposed in a mirror darkly. If it were the closed canon then plērēs would have been the best word to convey a complete canon of scripture. I used to be a cessationist it was much easier and had a broader range of jokes so if you can make the case I'll be glad to consider it in light of Scripture.

Steve Sensenig said...

And as I've tried to explain to you before, what bothers you is that I follow leaky-canon thinking to its logical conclusion, and you don't like where that leads.

Talk about boiler-plate responses, Dan. What about my comment gave any indication that I was bothered or didn't like your conclusion?

DJP said...

You did not just spring onto this thread newborn, SteveS, like Athena from Zeus' brow. You have a history, I have a memory, here we are.

Steve Sensenig said...

You did not just spring onto this thread newborn, SteveS, like Athena from Zeus' brow. You have a history, I have a memory, here we are.

This from the blogger who can't stand it when someone talks about anything that isn't specifically intended in the current post?!

It sure would be nice to see some consistency in your standards, Dan.

philness said...

Would it be fair to say that if any of us who proclaims Gods word that we are indeed a prophet? Oh wait, I suppose I need to qualify just what we are to be proclaiming. Lets say that I stand out on a street corner in my neighborhood and proclaim the gospel of Christ Jesus, preaching his death, burial and resurrection . Would I be considered a prophet?

DJP said...

Right, Steve, I shouldn't have followed you off-topic. So, as I was saying, and as I've tried to explain to you before, what bothers you is that I follow leaky-canon thinking to its logical conclusion, and you don't like where that leads. As I did in this post.

DJP said...

Off-topic, Philness, but no.

Steve Sensenig said...

I'm sorry, Dan. That has nothing to do with my comment, so I'm not going to follow you off-topic.

Adrian Warnock said...

Sorry for not being able to join the party! Am on a much needed blog holiday as of about 2 minutes time from now! I will have to let all you guys fight it out, and give Dan Phillips a chance to answer as many of my points as he wants to before coming back hopefully as hard but as gracefully as he has!

All I will say today, is that perhaps because I rushed out my post and it was intended to be a series of questions rather than a clear theology of gifts/tongues/experience I fear that Dan is interacting with a postition that is far from my own in this post!

Anyway, Dan, perhaps one useful tip as you progress which I could have done well to follow myself in my own post- try to differentiate clearly between the experience of the Spirit and spiritual gifts. Two things are at stake which in my view are closely entwined. It is for you to show me how we can keep the experience whilst ditching the gifts.

Centurion assumes that we charismatics understand that cessationism doesnt mean that "the Holy Spirit is doggie-chained to the throne of God and cannot leave heaven for fear of violating the sufficiency of Scripture"

I have always perceived cessationists as teaching just that. Please do your best to graciously prove me wrong. Just what DOES the Spirit do in the believers life- what (if any) experience of God can they expect?

My own stereotype of the typical cessationist is that he throws the baby out with the bathwater and ends with a sterile passion-less and essentially powerless Christianity.

I so hope and pray that such a stereotype isnt true of you, and I look forward to reading the rest of your posts when I come back from my rest.

God bless you all greatly!

corinthian said...

Third time asking....
Anyone want to explain where scripture says which gifts cease and which don't? Cessationists, need some Book, and pentacostals, I want to see the barking and "glued to the floor" stuff in the Book too. Is it there?

Chris Tenbrook said...

Tongues refers to a language that puts people on the same page, so to speak. Music is a worldly example (or mathematics). A Frenchman, Turk, Chinese person, and Englishman can understand Mozart's 38th symphony or a mathematical formula.

An actual language that all can understand is not about worldly 'mother tongues' or 'foreign languages.'

This kind of language exists, but a Christian has to not be afraid of the effort involved in active, progressive sanctification. And fear God only (which is the beginning of wisdom). It very much is a matter of the Holy Spirit leading you into it.

Pastor Steve said...

Adrian's favorite word in his post is "experience" and I think that is precisely the problem with charismatics. They are looking for an experience. It doesn's seem to be enough that we see people saved, or that people turn from their sin back to the Savior, or that we have gifted teachers and servants in the church, but we need an experience to prove that the H.S. is still alive and well. Once they have that experience (through whatever man made avenues they receive it), you can no longer argue with them from scripture, because they had this "experience."

candy said...

I think it is simplistic to state that a Charismatic is just looking for an "experience". I think many Christians are looking for a passionate walk with Christ, with all power given in order to evangelize, worship, grow in sanctification. Read some of Martin Lloyd-Jones writings on this subject.

To make the statement that Charismatics (in general) are looking for an experience, and then state an innuendo that to argue from scripture (Many Charismatics do have their well loved and dog-eared Bibles, by the way, to shoot down another generalization)is fruitless with Charismatics is a sterotypical response. It is a bit more complex than that, and I think (again), we need to make a distinction between the lunatic fringe and much more conservative Charismatics.

DJP said...

Candy, just fyi, here are some things Adrian says HERE:

"[You might be a reformed Charismatic if] You are in a reformed church but secretly long for more of an experience of God"

"We believe that receiving the Holy Spirit is a conscious real experience"

"In my view, The Spirit speaks to us not only through The Bible, but also through experiences"

"Experience though secondary is vital because God sovereignly chose to honor his word with signs following. I think that Reformed people are right on doctrine but wrong headed on experience. Most Charismatics are right on experience but wrong on basic Christian doctrine. "

JimSimply said...

First, on this post, Dan is absolutely right. Judging from his tone in responding to some commenters/critics, he doesn't need me to tell him so. Adrian's interpretation of the Lukan Scripture is dangerous at best.

I have to add, however, that I'm surprised to see so much talk about the irrelevance of experience, dismissal of experience even, and yet surely even regeneration and conversion are 'experiences'.

(Incidentally, as Dan has occasionally quoted the dictionary, here's what it says about 'experience':

1. The apprehension of an object, thought, or emotion through the senses or mind: a child's first experience of snow. 2a. Active participation in events or activities, leading to the accumulation of knowledge or skill: a lesson taught by experience; a carpenter with experience in roof repair. b. The knowledge or skill so derived. 3a. An event or a series of events participated in or lived through. b. The totality of such events in the past of an individual or group.)

Clearly, experience is not the enemy. Following Jesus during his ministry was an experience; the outpouring of the Spirit at Pentecost was an experience; John's vision on Patmos was an experience; indeed, our very lives are experiences. Having said that, I add that not every 'charismatic' asks God for an experience. Instead, they ask for what Jesus promised: the baptism of or filling with the Holy Spirit. Manifestations notwithstanding, that is at least sometimes the request.

This article points out the apparently heretical prayers of Cotton Mather and D. L. Moody of whom R.A. Torrey wrote: "The power of God fell upon him as he walked up the street and he had to hurry off to the house of a friend and ask that he might have a room by himself, and in that room he stayed alone for hours; and the Holy Ghost came upon him, filling his soul with such joy that at last he had to ask God to withhold His hand, lest he die on the spot from very joy."

That last sure sounds like an experience, but should we dismiss it because Moody prayed that he might 'get the power'?

Thanks for the reasoned response, all in all.

Pastor Steve said...

Any verses in Scripture where it tells us we are to ask God to fill us with the Spirit?

Steven Dresen said...

pastor steve,

Ephesians 5 makes it pretty clear but you really have to look at the Greek to get the full clarity in English it says:

17Therefore do not be foolish, but understand what the will of the Lord is. 18And do not get drunk with wine, for that is debauchery, but be filled with the Spirit,

The word for filled is plēroō which is present perfect plural passive imperative. So it's something ongoing, it's something done to you, and it's a command. So if I'm supposed to be filled with the Holy Spirit and I'm not God and can't send it where ever I want that means you're supposed to ask God. I think that applies to all of us that aren't God, so the answer is yes it's in the Bible.

Pastor Steve said...

I assumed that would be the passage brought up. But I think the correct understanding is not that we get more of the Spirit, or that God gives us more of Him, or gives us an experience, but rather that we submit to the Spirit and He gets more of us.

At this point, and I may be wrong, I don't see us being told to ask God to fill us with His Spirit. We have the Spirit in His completeness already, given to us upon our salvation. It is then up to us as to how much we allow the Spirit to control us.

Steven Dresen said...

pastor steve,
If that were what Paul was trying to say why not just tell them submit to the Holy Spirit and use hupotassō. Like Paul says and I agree we see through a mirror darkly, it should cause us great humility how little we truly do know of God, we know enough to have faith and lead godly lives but when the subject is the infinite creator and his activities we can be sure that we've only touched the tip of an infinite ice berg so to speak.

Chris Tenbrook said...

I assumed that would be the passage brought up. But I think the correct understanding is not that we get more of the Spirit, or that God gives us more of Him, or gives us an experience, but rather that we submit to the Spirit and He gets more of us. At this point, and I may be wrong, I don't see us being told to ask God to fill us with His Spirit. We have the Spirit in His completeness already, given to us upon our salvation. It is then up to us as to how much we allow the Spirit to control us.

The Eph. quote says it (and Grudem is good on this subject), but also the fact that the Bible says Jesus was given the Spirit 'without measure', and He is the only one to have the Spirit without measure, suggests there is degree and possibility of a greater (if not totally full) measure of the Spirit available to each Christian.

Chris Tenbrook said...

Regarding this subject of being filled with the Spirit, though, it needs to be understood that the flesh wars with the Spirit, and individual Christians simply can't handle a whole lot of the Spirit being in them. A person gets very negative in common ways when they get the Spirit into them (the popular notion is a person will get joyous and content and whatnot). It's a battle. To be able to have more of the Spirit in you you need to increase your ability to contain more, and this is what active, progressive sanctification is all about. It requires effort.

Steven Dresen said...

pastor steve,

Here's one for you to chew on.
Luke 11
13If you then, who are evil, know how to give good gifts to your children, how much more will the heavenly Father give the Holy Spirit to those who ask him!"

Steven Haley said...

(just to add another 'Steve' to the confusing number of them already posting comments... :p)

Quote from Pastor Steve:
"The Holy Spirit doesn't exist, nor was He given to accomplish our bidding. Solid, Biblical exegesis is really a lost art."

I'm really surprised no one picked up on this! What did you mean by "The Holy Spirit doesn't exist", Pastor Steve? Were you just taking a shortcut and actually meant something else, or did you mean exactly what you wrote?

If it's the later, I have to admit I'm confused. What then do you make of all the passages that refer to the Holy Spirit, such as those that mention Him participating in our salvation? For example, Titus 3:5b "He saved us through the washing of rebirth and renewal, by the Holy Spirit" (NIV). Even if you prefer a different translation, I checked others (KJV, NASB, ESV) and they say a similar thing.

Steven Dresen said...


I think that in context we can assume that he believes in the Holy Spirit, I would interpret that sentence to mean that the Holy Spirit doesn't exist to do our bidding and that's not why He was given. Which coming from my Lloyd-Jones-esque view of the Holy Spirit I fully agree with.