Continuationism

From the Archives: Are There Two Levels of NT Prophecy?

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(Originally posted in April of 2011)

Did all the miraculous gifts of the Spirit, such as tongues and prophecy, cease with the completion of the New Testament? If we take the position that prophecy continues in some form, is such a view compatible with the conviction that God has given us all the authoritative revelation He intended to give (that the canon of Scripture is closed)?

In 2011, Dr. Bruce Compton (Detroit Baptist Theological Seminary) presented a paper on these questions at the Preserving the Truth Conference. What follows is a summary reflecting my understanding of Compton’s analysis. (An updated version of the paper is available here.)1

The two levels of prophecy view

Since Dr. Wayne Grudem’s work has been foundational for many who believe in a continuing gift of prophecy, Compton’s paper focuses on Grudem’s view2 that the NT speaks of two levels of prophecy: apostolic and non-apostolic. Grudem maintains that apostolic prophecy was authoritative and inerrant in the same way that Old Testament prophecy was and that this form of prophecy ceased when the NT Scriptures were completed. Read more about From the Archives: Are There Two Levels of NT Prophecy?

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Reflections on Strange Fire and the Problem of Continuationism

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John MacArthur proved once again why his ministry has endured and has the kind of influence that few men ever attain. Last week the folks at Grace held the Strange Fire conference. Unfortunately I was not able to attend and I heard only bits and pieces of the live stream. I hope to listen to the entire conference as I travel to Romania this week for a graduation next Sunday. Some may think that posting a piece on the conference without having heard much of it is premature. But let me say thank you to John and the men and women who endured the opprobrium of the Charismatics to bring some needed criticism to a movement that has created no small amount of international controversy. Most American Christians are only familiar with the Charismatic movement’s American permutations. As pernicious as some of these are, the international manifestations are far worse. For this reason, the conference was a necessary warning. Let me explain.

In recent years, I have made 18 trips abroad to countries as diverse as Zambia, India, Romania, Russia and the Ukraine. Pentecostalism and the Charismatic movement have reached all of these places, with some very devastating effects. It should be noted that from a historical standpoint, nearly all world Charismaticism is rooted in early American Pentecostal sources that have been exported around the world. Modern international developments may be indigenous, but most of the early ideas came from early 20th century American Christianity. Read more about Reflections on Strange Fire and the Problem of Continuationism

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Signs? Prophets? Miracles?

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Reprinted with permission from Baptist Bulletin Sep/Oct 2013. All rights reserved.

Council on Dispensational Hermeneutics meets

CLARKS SUMMIT, Pa.—“Traditional dispensationalists do not have a place where we can go to talk to each other,” says Mike Stallard as he welcomes the Council on Dispensational Hermeneutics, meeting on the campus of Baptist Bible Seminary, Clarks Summit, Pa.

Stallard, the seminary dean, is explaining why the council was formed in 2008, and why the steering committee has planned two days of talk. Lots of talk.

Thirty theologians sit at the front of the room at long tables, members of the council. Most of them have their laptops open, looking at papers while the author reads them to the group. The wonky presentation style is familiar to anyone who has attended an academic conference, except the schedule leaves plenty of time for questions. Stallard describes it as “more of a discussion group than a presenter group.” Read more about Signs? Prophets? Miracles?

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Miraculous Gifts: If They Ceased, Why?

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So far in this study of cessationism (Part 1, Part 2, Part 3), we have considered the what question and the when question. Per the what question, cessationists conclude that what took place in the New Testament (with regard to the miraculous gifts) is not happening in the church today—even if charismatics are using biblical terminology to refer to non-biblical practices.

Per the when question, cessationists conclude (on the basis of passages like Ephesians 2:20) that the miraculous and revelatory gifts were intended only for the foundational (apostolic) age of the church. Thus, they should not be expected to continue after the time of the apostles.

But this raises the why question: Why were these gifts given, such that they are no longer necessary after the foundation age ended?

At least three purposes are designated in Scripture.

Purpose 1: a sign.

The miraculous gifts were given as a sign by which God authenticated His messengers during a time of transition from Israel to the church. That purpose was no longer necessary once the transition was complete and the church was firmly established.

A primary purpose of the miracles and healings that Jesus performed was as a sign to authenticate his claims (cf. John 2:11, 23; 3:2; 4:54; 6:2, 14; 7:31; 10:37–38; 12:37; 20:30). As Peter told the Jews at Pentecost: “Men of Israel, listen to these words: Jesus the Nazarene, a man attested to you by God with miracles and wonders and signs which God performed through Him in your midst, just as you yourselves know” (Acts 2:22). Read more about Miraculous Gifts: If They Ceased, Why?

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A Case for Cessationism

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With all of this as a backdrop (see part 1 in this series), the question is reduced to this: Is God giving authoritative revelation on par with that which He has given in the past, much of which has been inscripturated, or is He not? If He is, then the church of Christ needs to take note and come into compliance with the modern prophecy movement, following its revelations as it would Scripture. But if the Lord is not revealing His inspired word today, then we need to reject the claims of the modern prophets and expose these supposed revelations for what they are. This means the position taken by most on prophecy—cautious but open—is untenable. The cautious but open crowd is skeptical of the claims coming from the prophetic movement and they are suspicious of the many “words from God” that so many evangelicals are claiming. Still they hesitate to embrace cessationism. They are concerned about limiting God or, as it was mentioned above, “putting God in a box.” To this let me make two replies:

  • It is okay to put God in a box if God, in fact, is the One who put Himself in that box. In other words, God can do anything He wants to do, but we expect God to do what He says He will do. If God has put Himself in the cessationist box we can embrace and proclaim it.
  • Taking the open but cautious view really does not hold up. Either God is speaking today apart from His Word or He is not. If He is speaking, how do we determine which of the multitude of messages people claim are from Him and which are bogus? If, with Grudem, we have eliminated the tests of Deuteronomy 13 and 18, how are we to evaluate all these revelations? How do we know to whom we should listen and whom we should ignore?
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