What is a Cessationist?…or Why I think We Need Another Term

When you think of the word ‘cessationist’ what comes to mind? Typically, I’ve seen these characterizations;

  • Opposite of a continuationism
  • One who no longer agrees the gifts of the Spirit are in operation
  • No miracles
  • Prophets and apostles no longer exist
  • Not all gifts are in operation; some have ceased
  • God no longer speaks beyond scripture

person holding bibleIt’s a mixed bag that unfortunately brings some baggage in discussions involving continuationism vs. cessationism OR discussions regarding if God still speaks today. Given the above descriptions, what is that exactly? It’s a problem because when you say the word it means different things to different people. Even under the rubric of continuation of all gifts, some cessationists avow this happens but not in the manner.

Wayne Grudem is amongst the continuationists but one who adheres to the sufficiency of scripture as God’s word. In his Systematic Theology he says this about prophecy; Continue reading

Are You Quick to Bully Competing Theological Viewpoints?

For Christians, it typically does not take long to formulate an opinion about viewpoints we disagree with. I find too often though that people are quick to beat up on viewpoints they don’t agree with and cast them in the worst light possible. What’s worst is when that happens without having all the information.

For this reason, it is always a good idea to learn about competing viewpoints from people who actually advocate for that position. If we learn of that position from those already opposed to it, it’s pretty much like joining forces with the school bully who beats up on those they feel deserved to be beat up without any logical reason why that kid deserves bullying (not that anyone deserves bullying).

I wrote about this (here) a while ago after studying Origen in a theology elective, History of Exegesis. I had a certain concept of Origen’s exegesis that was completely blown out of the water having actually studied him. But that led me to three conclusions that I expound on in the article:

1) Always examine original sources

2) Temper your disagreement through fair analysis

3) Submit to learning

Often this means resisting the reactionary response. But also it means looking for ways to reconcile competing positions where possible in the interest of Christian harmony. Now some ideas are dangerous and threaten to uproot the tenets of the Christian faith. But we need to be careful even in this charge, especially when citing something as heresy since we will necessarily throw adherents under that bus. Asking the “so what?” question and following that out to it’s logical conclusion is always helpful.

Throwing the Book

I’ve noticed this tendency in on-line dialogue with Christians to respond to a comment by just quoting scripture or a string of passages. I’ve seen this in blog, discussion forum and Facebook comments. Now I think it’s reasonable for Christians to quote Scripture. However, when we respond by only quoting a verse or passage of Scripture, it sends a message. It communicates a few things I think.

  • We’re really not interested in hearing what the other person is saying
  • That other person obviously does not know Scripture
  • We have the holy upper-hand, so to speak
  • We are right and they are wrong

Whatever the reason, it says I really am not interested in dialoguing with you. There are other problems with responding with only proof-texts, as well, especially with a string of proof-texts. One of the main issues is addressing the context. I’ve written more about that here. But again that takes communication. Throwing a passage of scripture at someone is not really communicating.

However, one exception that comes to mind is quoting something in support of what they are saying or as a means of edification. Because at that point, it’s not really dialogue anyway but something more akin to pressing the Facebook “like” button.

So here’s a radical idea. Perhaps we should talk to the person first. Make sure we understand their perspective correctly. Identify with them as a person. When quoting scripture, explain why that passage is relevant to the discussion or use it as support of your point. What that communicates is that you are willing to engage with person and what they are communicating.

Otherwise, it can have the impression that we are throwing the book at someone and preaching at them rather than talking to them.