Phil Johnstone has picked up a gauntlet rather inadvertently dropt by Adrian Warnock so while the tribulator finishes off dealing with the so-called ‘rubber prophecies’ and the North London Reformed Charismatic searches for a colaborator and tries to sideline David Wayne by making him referee (!), I thought that I’d get my retaliation in first and prepare the ground for the cessationist exegesis by asking:
How should a Cessationist deal with ‘Reformed Charismatic’ phenomena?
1 By not placing the limitation at God’s door.
a) God can do anything he chooses to do.
b) God does permit unresolved conflicts to arise within the body of Christ and he permits them for our good.
c) When we draw lines to map out exact limits for ourselves, God delights to give us cases to deal with that don’t fit our guidelines.
2 By not conceding that those spiritual things that should properly be considered to continue are the property of the charismatic side of our coming together.
a) We should not rename ‘miracles’ as ‘extraordinary providences’ and, truly, seeing ordinary providences as being miracles has generally more to do with personal dispositional outlook than with any particular view on the continuation of gifts.
b) Healing ought to be expected just as much by the Reformed cessationist as by the Reformed charismatic. Two corollaries of this are that healings should not be dismissed as spurious just because they take place in an emotional atmosphere and that holding that the proper place for healings is in private at a visitation by the elders is not a cessationism issue.
c) Vision, especially as part of conversion experience (and in that case, even more especially with conversions from Islam) and especially when death is near, is to be embraced by the cessationist no less than by the charismatic.
3 By accommodating as much of the charismatic interpretation of the triple cessation of word gifts as can be achieved.
a) With prophecy in a context where prophecy along the lines of the Grudem definition is expected, cessationists should be no more sceptical about the truth of what is said than the charismatics are. However, just because we cessationists believe that prophecy per se has ceased doesn’t mean that we cannot insist that the New Testament record of the operation of prophets shows great stress being placed on there always being more than one of them there while they prophesied.
b) About tongues it has to be admitted that the cessationist is not going to accept that the glossolalia indulged in today is a spiritual gift (sorry, charismatics.) However, it ought to be admitted that its practice in private does seem to have the general effect of refreshing the mind. Seeing glossolalia as a mind game, no more spiritual than chess, sudoku or the cryptic crossword might seem insultingly condescending but it isn’t meant to be. There are cessationists who practice it and they needn’t be ashamed of doing so.
c) When it comes to knowledge, cessationists need to get back to recognising that someone saying, ‘The Lord told me that …’ is, historically speaking, just a manner of speaking that some people have, and that there need be no more claim of special spiritual insight by the charismatic who uses it than by a cessationist. On the other hand, cessationists should feel as free as a charismatic to respond to the supercilious, ‘The Lord told me to tell you that …’ with something like, ‘That’s funny, because he hasn’t told me the same thing.’ (For both cessationist and charismatic we need to be sure that God hasn’t already convicted us about such-and-such before giving the snappy answer.)
Altogether, it would be easier if the Reformed charismatic were to be converted to the cessationist exegesis and it would be easier if there weren’t cessationists who think that they have ‘good and necessary’ cause to extend cessation to healing, vision and miracles as well. (I knew someone once who thought that he must get married on the grounds that the gift of celibacy has ceased! No!) It seems to me that a willingness of cessationists to trust their charismatic brethren far enough to accommodate them to the extent marked out above should go a long way towards prompting charismatics to look again to their interpretation of 1 Corinthians 13.