Are Tongues for Today? Part 3

Originally published as a single article: “Tongues—Are They for Today?,” DBSJ 14 (2009). Read Part 1 and Part 2.

The argument from the purpose of tongues as attesting new revelation

The purpose of miraculous capacities in the early church was not limited to the attestation of divine messengers, but also included the attestation of their revelatory message (Heb 2:4). This is not to suggest that miracles were never expressions of divine compassion or that tongues never had a didactic function (see, e.g., Acts 2:5–12), but, as Saucy notes, “the primary purpose of the miracles was as signs of authentication pointing to God, his messengers or spokesmen, and their message, which was the word of God.”1 This seems to be the reason that the term “sign” (σημεῖον) is regularly used to denote tongues. A sign, by definition, is an “indication or confirmation of intervention by transcendent powers.”2 Attention here is on the subordination of the sign to that which it signifies—viz., that God is breaking into the natural order to disclose himself in some way.

Paul makes this point clearly in 1 Corinthians 14 when he notes that the edifying value of tongues is lost unless the tongues either attend or contain prophecy for the church. He writes, “If I come to you speaking in tongues, what will I profit you unless I speak to you either by way of revelation or of knowledge or of prophecy or of teaching?” (1 Cor 14:6). In short, he regards the existence of signs apart from prophecy (that to which the sign points) as a profitless distraction. And while Paul admittedly allows for the interpretation of tongues to supply the necessary prophecy, he notes that this is abnormal in the church—tongues are normally means of assuaging skeptics (14:22), not conduits for revelation.

Peter echoes this sentiment when he describes the “prophetic word [i.e., Scripture] made more sure” by virtue of the miracle of transfiguration (2 Pet 1:19–20). Commentators are divided whether the verse is describing Scripture as “more sure” than the miracle of the Transfiguration, or as “more sure” because of the miracle of the Transfiguration. In either case, however, our point is made: the role of miracles is subordinate in function to the inscripturated Word. Once that inscripturated Word has been sufficiently attested, the major function of miracles and tongues disappears.

It is here that my greatest concern with tongues comes to the fore. If the foregoing is true, then the continuance of tongues implies either (1) that Scripture is a source of revelation that is inadequately attested or (2) that Scripture is a source of revelation that is insufficient for the needs of the present dispensation (violating the spirit of such texts as 2 Timothy 3:17 and 2 Peter 1:3–4). At best this understanding threatens Scripture’s unique authority and causes people to neglect Scripture in favor of other, more direct sources of instruction and guidance, and at worst it opens up the faith to an unbounded host of non-orthodox additions and emendations.3 It is difficult to see how the continuation of tongues and prophecy can coexist with the doctrine of biblical sufficiency, and even with the first-order doctrine of sola scriptura. And if church history tells us anything, it tells us that the denial of sola scriptura has functioned time and again as the threshold for heterodoxy in the development of the Christian church.

The argument from the purpose of tongues as kingdom markers

In Hebrews 6:5 we discover that the miracles performed by our Lord and by the early church described as the “powers of the age to come.” Dispensationalists have long used this text as decisive in arguing for cessationism—tongues are not for this age, but for the kingdom age, and so we should expect them to be suspended after Christ’s kingdom offer has been rescinded and the kingdom program has been properly adjusted to the present NT arrangement.

I believe this is still a sound argument. However, the widespread popularity of “realized eschatology” that swept through Christianity at large in the 1930s, overtook evangelicalism in the 1950s, and finally penetrated dispensational theology in the 1980s and 1990s, has tended to overturn this argument. As we noted earlier, the newest arguments for continuationism are much less rearward in focus, and correspondingly more forward-looking: tongues are not a lingering expression of an ancient church practice, but an anticipatory expression of eschatological hope. Seizing on the apparent fulfillment language of Acts 2:16–21 with reference to Joel 2:28–32, these argue (1) that the prophecy of tongues in Joel 2 is clearly eschatological in nature, (2) that its fulfillment began in Acts 2, and finally (3) that we should expect this eschatological practice to continue and even to expand in the life of the church as it approaches the end of the age. Many, in fact, seem to regard the eschatological argument for continuationism as unassailable.4 The following syllogism, adapted from Douglas Moo’s similar syllogism with reference to healing, has direct implications for the issue of tongues and prophecy:

  1. Where the kingdom of God is present, tongues and prophecy are present.

  2. The kingdom of God is present in and through the church in our day.

  3. Therefore tongues and prophecy must be present in and through the church today.5

Moo goes on to qualify the conclusion to say that “the presence of the reign of God in and through the church makes miracles of healing possible, but not necessary,” noting that the latter understanding smacks of an “over-realized eschatology” that sees the kingdom present in all of its fullness. Moo concludes that “biblical balance is best preserved if Christians remain open to the exercise of miraculous healings but do not insist on them.”6

Looking objectively at this syllogism, I find the logic impeccable—if the major and minor premises are in fact valid. And it is not surprising that progressive dispensationalists, who have embraced not only the major premise (A), but also (at least in part) the minor premise (B), have begun to cautiously embrace more open views on tongues—there remains little in their system to preclude this.7 But traditional dispensationalism, which holds to a postponed kingdom and thus rejects minor premise (B), is able to deny the conclusion and argue positively for cessationism. In fact, one might go so far as to argue that traditional dispensationalism alone can successfully argue for cessationism.8 Not all, of course, are thus inclined. Robert Saucy (a progressive dispensationalist), for instance, denies that inaugurated eschatology demands tongues, arguing that while the church enjoys some of the spiritual/redemptive benefits of kingdom life, the full manifestation of the physical/empowering benefits of kingdom life remain future.9 Richard B. Gaffin (a non-dispensationalist) argues that tongues belong properly to redemptive history and not church history, noting that the “waiting” church does not have all of the kingdom benefits promised to the eschatological community of the redeemed.10 But while these attempts to maintain a cessationist position are noteworthy, they seem to reflect a bit of arbitrariness in application that is difficult to maintain. I am convinced that by far the most ironclad defense of cessationism lies in the hands of the traditional dispensationalist who sees tongues as expressions of powers of a kingdom in abeyance, as markers of an age still to come (Heb 6:5).

Joel 2 in Acts 2

The scope of this paper does not permit a full defense of the traditional dispensational view of the kingdom. This has been effectively accomplished elsewhere.11 But it does seem relevant to at least answer the specific question of the use of Joel 2 in Acts 2. At first blush Luke does seem to be suggesting that Joel’s kingdom promises are being fulfilled as the newly inaugurated kingdom begins to blossom: “This is that which was spoken by the prophet Joel” (Acts 2:16, KJV). And in continuationist literature, this is regularly assumed to be true without argument. However, as we begin to compare Acts 2 with Joel 2, an astonishing discovery emerges, viz., that none of the details of Joel’s prophecy find fulfillment in Acts 2: (1) the events in Acts do not take place “after the Great and Terrible Day of the Lord”; (2) the Spirit is not poured out on all mankind; (3) dreams and visions do not occur in Acts 2, and there is no clear indication that prophecy occurs either; (4) blood, fire, columns of smoke do not make an appearance, and (5) the concealment of the great luminaries does not occur. In fact, the one miracle that we do find in Acts 2—tongues—is ironically not predicted in Joel.12 As such, we have a great hermeneutical conundrum on our hands. Several options emerge:

  • Some, particularly of the more covenantal persuasion suggest that Peter has simply recast Joel’s prophecy and that the prophecy is fulfilled in its entirety at Pentecost.13

  • Some suggest that Peter is employing a combination of pešer techniques and “advance typology” to supply “eschatological application to a present situation” by the “use of text alteration or wordplay by a divinely inspired figure.”14

  • Some suggest that Peter sees Joel’s prophecy as having an extended fulfillment or multiple fulfillments such that the fulfillment has begun, but awaits completion.15

  • Some suggest that Peter was simply speaking analogically, that is, suggesting a point of similarity between the events predicted in Joel 2 and the events occurring in Acts 2—viz., the supernatural outpouring of pneumatological powers. In this case there is no fulfillment at all, only a point of similarity.16

I am convinced that fidelity to the plain, unalterable, and infallible text of the OT makes the first two options not only implausible, but incompatible with inerrancy. The third might be plausible if only there were at least one piece of the Joel prophecy actually fulfilled in Acts 2. In view of the fact that this is not the case, I am convinced that the analogical understanding of Peter’s language is to be preferred. In this case, the exercise of tongues in Acts 2 is not to be associated with the arrival of the kingdom, but is, instead, a kingdom marker, that is, a signal of a shift in God’s kingdom program that heretofore had been a mystery. As such, tongues in Acts functioned in the absence of the completed Word of God to confirm, specifically (but not exclusively) to the Jews, the viability of the dramatic change in how a believer is to rightly relate with God in view of the dissolution of sacrifices, the setting aside of the Law, the unfolding of God’s new dispensational vehicle, the church, and the unlikely inclusion of Gentiles in that body. All these changes, which a Jew would naturally view with a skeptical eye, merited proof from God that they were, indeed, legitimate changes—proof that a shift in God’s kingdom program had truly occurred. And this proof came, very often, in the form of glossolalia.

Editor’s note: the conclusion of this series will discuss tongues and the church.

Notes

1 Robert L. Saucy, “Open but Cautious,” p. 106. Saucy goes on to observe that tongues are not employed in the book of Acts to attest teachers, but only prophets, that is, those who served as direct spokesmen for God as the “first witnesses” of Christ (p. 109).

2 BDAG, s.v. “σημεῖον” p. 920.

3 I would be remiss at this point to ignore the protests of conservative continuationists, many of whom cling tenaciously to the inspiration, inerrancy, and authority of the Bible. Wayne Grudem, for instance, argues that the allowance of miraculous gifts in the church today need not conflict with “a strong affirmation of the closing of the New Testament canon (so that no new words of equal authority are given today), of the sufficiency of Scripture, and of the supremacy and unique authority of the Bible in guidance” (Gift of Prophecy, p. 18). These doctrines may be maintained by a continuationist, he affirms, if we recognize that, unlike OT prophecies, “prophecy in ordinary New Testament churches was not equal to Scripture in authority but was simply a very human—and sometimes partially mistaken—report of something the Holy Spirit brought to someone’s mind.” By thus assigning fallibility to modern-day revelations, prophecies, and by extension tongues, Grudem ostensibly safeguards the priority of the biblical record.

To me this explanation creates a great number of problems (e.g., an inexplicable dichotomy between OT and NT prophecy; renegade, non-authoritative, private revelations that are divine in origin, but which are also unverifiable and potentially untrue; etc.) and solves none. Grudem’s protests notwithstanding, it seems impossible to integrate Grudem’s continuationism with his affirmation that “Scripture contains all the words of God he intended his people to have at each stage of redemptive history, and that it now contains all the words of God we need for salvation, for trusting him perfectly, and for obeying him perfectly” (Grudem, Systematic Theology, p. 127). For a thorough rebuttal of Grudem see Waldron, To Be Continued? pp. 61–79; F. David Farnell, “Fallible New Testament Prophecy/Prophets? A Critique of Wayne Grudem’s Hypothesis,” TMSJ 2 (Fall 1991): 157–81.

4 See, e.g., Gordon D. Fee, God’s Empowering Presence (Peabody, MA: Hendrickson, 1994), pp. 822–26; Craig Keener, Gift and Giver, pp. 52–57, 96–98; Douglas A. Oss, “The Pentecostal/ Charismatic View,” in Are Miraculous Gifts for Today? 266–73; Jack Deere, Surprised by the Power of the Spirit: Discovering How God Speaks and Heals Today (Grand Rapids: Zondervan, 1993), pp. 224–25; Graham A. Cole, He Who Gives Life: The Doctrine of the Holy Spirit (Wheaton, IL: Crossway, 2007), p. 255.

5 Douglas J. Moo, “Divine Healing in the Health and Wealth Gospel,” TrinJ 9 (Fall 1988): 197.

6 Ibid., pp. 197–98.

7 See, e.g., Ryrie’s prediction of this in his Dispensationalism (Chicago: Moody Press, 1995), p. 177; also Bruce A. Baker, “Progressive Dispensationalism & Cessationism: Why They Are Incompatible,” Journal of Ministry and Theology 8 (Spring 2004): 55–88.

8 Moo makes this very point in his article, albeit in a somewhat backhanded way. He notes that [traditional] dispensationalists “should not necessarily expect divine healing in our day because the kingdom is not, in fact present.” Moo dismisses this view, however, as out of step with the evangelical consensus that the kingdom has been inaugurated, and concludes, “The kingdom is indeed present in our day, and we should expect to see signs of that kingdom” (Moo, “Divine Healing,” p. 197).

9 “An Open but Cautious Response to Douglas A. Oss,” in Are Miraculous Gifts for Today? pp. 302–4.

10 “A Cessationist Response to Douglas A. Oss,” in Are Miraculous Gifts for Today? pp. 285ff.

11 I recommend Alva J. McClain’s The Greatness of the Kingdom (Winona Lake, IN: BMH, 1959) as the best exemplar here. While McClain’s view of the kingdom differs (sometimes significantly) from the understanding that emerged from the Dallas school of theology (e.g., titles by Chafer, Walvoord, and Pentecost), they resonate together in placing the Messianic kingdom in the future. The mystery “form” of the kingdom advocated by the latter group is not to be confused with the already/not yet understanding of the progressive dispensationalist view of the Messianic kingdom.

12 In Roy Beacham’s excellent summary of this passage, he concludes sagely the “time, substance, and referents” of the fulfillment are all wrong—nothing matches! (“The Analogical Use of Joel 2:28–32 in Acts 2:15–21: A Literal Approach,” in The Holy Spirit: Bible Faculty Leadership Summit [Allen Park, MI: Detroit Baptist Theological Seminary, 1998], pp. 109–10) .

13 E.g., John R. W. Stott, The Message of Acts (Downers Grove, IL: InterVarsity Press, 1990), p. 73.

14 E.g., Daniel J. Treier, “The Fulfillment of Joel 2:28–32: A Multiple Lens JETS Approach,”40 (March 1997): 18.

15 E.g., Darrell L. Bock, Acts, BECNT (Grand Rapids: Baker, 2007), pp. 112ff; Walter C. Kaiser, Back to the Future: Hints for Interpreting Biblical Prophecy (Grand Rapids: Baker, 1989), p. 43.

16 See. e.g., Beacham, “Use of Joel 2:28–32 in Acts 2:15–21”; Thomas D. Ice, “Dispensational Hermeneutics,” in Issues in Dispensationalism, ed. Wesley R. Willis and John R. Master (Chicago: Moody Press, 1994), p. 41. For a helpful hermeneutical discussion of this use of fulfillment language in the NT, see Charles H. Dyer, “Biblical Meaning of ‘Fulfillment,’” in Issues in Dispensationalism, ed. Wesley R. Willis and John R. Master (Chicago: Moody Press, 1994), pp. 57–69.


Mark Snoeberger has served as Director of Library Services at Detroit Baptist Theological Seminary since 1997, and as a part-time instructor here since 1999. Prior to coming on staff at DBTS, he served for three years as an assistant pastor. He received his M.Div. and Th.M. degrees from DBTS in 1999 and 2001, respectively. Dr. Snoeberger earned the Ph.D. in systematic theology in 2008 from Baptist Bible Seminary in Clarks Summit, PA. He provides pulpit supply for area churches on an active basis and teaches in the Inter-City Bible Institute. He and his wife, Heather, have two sons, Jonathan and David.

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There are 40 Comments

Ted Bigelow's picture

Thanks again, Mark. I really look forward to your final installment.

As a fellow cessationist, I'm confused by the "kingdom marker" position. Perhaps you can straighten me out. You wrote:

"I am convinced that by far the most ironclad defense of cessationism lies in the hands of the traditional dispensationalist who sees tongues as expressions of powers of a kingdom in abeyance, as markers of an age still to come (Heb 6:5)."

But can a marker deny the thing it marks?

Do I misunderstand? To me, it seems the "kingdom marker" argument is counter-intuitive. Are we saying that God used kingdom powers to show the kingdom was in abeyance? Was He using an aspect of the kingdom to show the kingdom itself wasn't here? Isn't that counter-intuitive? Can it really be that God was using tongues, which you say was a kingdom marker, to display to 1st Century Jews that His kingdom was not present? Why would God prove His kingdom is in abeyance by miraculously displaying one of its markers?

Based on this logic, I might be tempted to see cessationism as more than a bit contradictory, and wish to embrace continuationalism, unless we want to claim dispensationalism is our hermeneutic.

Why wouldn't a Jew, who is looking for the miraculous kingdom based on the OT prophecies, assume that the miracle of tongues actually showed him the church is a manifestation of the promised kingdom?

Further, why should tongues cease through out the church age if they actually prove to the Jews that the promised Jewish kingdom is not yet here?

And now that the canon is complete, is it too a kingdom marker that shows the kingdom is not here?

Aaron Blumer's picture

EditorAdmin

Ted, I think your question is partly answered here...

Snoeberger wrote:
the exercise of tongues in Acts 2 is not to be associated with the arrival of the kingdom, but is, instead, a kingdom marker, that is, a signal of a shift in God’s kingdom program that heretofore had been a mystery. As such, tongues in Acts functioned in the absence of the completed Word of God to confirm, specifically (but not exclusively) to the Jews, the viability of the dramatic change in how a believer is to rightly relate with God in view of the dissolution of sacrifices, the setting aside of the Law...

So I think the logic is not so much "tongues were a signal that the kingdom is postponed" as "tongues were a marker of a shift in the kingdom scheme of things" ... but it does still seem a little fragile.

(On this point, I personally think Saucy and Gaffin's solutions draw lines that are less crisp and sharp but more sturdy.)

Views expressed are always my own and not my employer's, my church's, my family's, my neighbors', or my pets'. The house plants have authorized me to speak for them, however, and they always agree with me.

Steve Davis's picture

Mark Snoeberger wrote:
If the foregoing is true, then the continuance of tongues implies either (1) that Scripture is a source of revelation that is inadequately attested or (2) that Scripture is a source of revelation that is insufficient for the needs of the present dispensation (violating the spirit of such texts as 2 Timothy 3:17 and 2 Peter 1:3–4).

The if/then either/or statements are set up to assure a certain outcome which makes any continuance of tongues under any circumstances impossible. I would add a third possibility.

The continuance of tongues implies that although Scripture is adequately attested and sufficient for the present age it is not available or accessible to all people. It is in missionary encounters in Cornelius-type situations that we should not be surprised to find the exercise of tongues which have nothing to do with the fake tongues "movements" of our day.

Mark Snoeberger wrote:
I am convinced that by far the most ironclad defense of cessationism lies in the hands of the traditional dispensationalist who sees tongues as expressions of powers of the kingdom in abeyance, as markers of an age still to come (Heb 6:5).

This is probably correct. If traditional dispenationalism [with its offer and rejection of the kingdom and with the kingdom now in abeyance ] was clearly supported by Scripture then adopting this lens nicely dispenses with tongues. However traditional dispensationalism finds fewer and fewer proponents [which is not in itself a gauge of its veracity ] and its kingdom position is due to the adoption of a hermeneutical system which is not unassailable. Since traditional dispensationalism is not "ironclad" neither is its defense of cessationism.

Ted Bigelow's picture

Aaron Blumer wrote:
I think the logic is not so much "tongues were a signal that the kingdom is postponed" as "tongues were a marker of a shift in the kingdom scheme of things" .

So tongues pointed to the church as some kind of kingdom shift?

If that is Mark's point, my question still remains, can a marker deny the thing it marks?

The point dissolves into continuationism - the new kingdom is here - and hey - tongues marks it.

This is why, if I understand rightly, Mark's argument that tongues is a kingdom marker is an argument for continuationism.

Aaron Blumer's picture

EditorAdmin

I think Dr. Snoeberger will probably weigh in when he gets some time. I'm very interested in how he'll respond to the issues Ted has raised.
As for Steve's... this is an angle on the question that is somewhat new to me and I do find it interesting.

Steve, are there sources you can link us to for digging into that "third possibility" in more detail?
My impression is that the kind of continuationism you are describing is significantly different from what Piper and others have articulated.

Views expressed are always my own and not my employer's, my church's, my family's, my neighbors', or my pets'. The house plants have authorized me to speak for them, however, and they always agree with me.

Mark Snoeberger's picture

These are good questions--questions with which all sides of the debate struggle. I'd love for the argument to be cleaner, but it is what it is. Here are the salient exegetical points drawn from Hebrews 6:5 as I see them:

(1) That miracles are "signs of the coming age" argues that they are not signs of the present age. In view of this, while I accept Moo's syllogism as logically valid, I don't accept on exegetical grounds his minor premise (that the Kingdom is present in and through the church in our day)--if it's still coming, then it's not here.

(2) That the readers had "tasted" these gifts argues, however, that a foretaste of Kingdom life had been experienced in the first century (cf., e.g., Matt 12:28).

The task, then, is to develop a model that incorporates these two key points and accounts for all the miracles that occur in the Gospels and in Acts. To me the best solution is to say that the miracles, in general, are somehow associated with God's Kingdom program and that, specifically, they mark not only the presence of the kingdom, but also mark such details as (a) Christ's offer of the kingdom and also (b) the legitimacy of the progressively revealed mysteries of the kingdom. As such, once the offer is withdrawn and the mysteries confirmed, the miracles exhaust their function for the NT era.

I'll concede that the model is a bit unwieldy, but it seems to make sense of all the data.

MAS

Mark Snoeberger's picture

Steve,

The position that tongues persist today only in closed-access missions contexts I would say is the most biblically sensitive of all the continuationist models. It preserves the identity of tongues as genuine languages, retains something of an attesting function, and parallels to a degree the first-century setting. All that being said, however, I still have some doubts--in no particular order, and not all apply equally to everyone who holds to a variation of your proposal:

(1) The primary point of tongues is not to communicate divine truth, but to attest to the validity of revealed truth in the absence of a more authoritative source of attestation (so 2 Peter 1—the miracle of the Transfiguration faded once it has corroborated the message).

(2) The attestation seems to come specifically to those who lived in the era of insufficient NT Scriptures—those for whom no NT Scriptures existed—not merely for those who don't have access to them (cf., in principle, Luke 16:29-31).

(3) Once the Scriptures are given in all their sufficiency, the normative pattern seems to be Romans 10—faith comes by hearing the Word of God from those sent to proclaim it.

(4) The perceived need for tongues in missions contexts often (though not always) rests on dubious theological foundations, e.g., (a) that the Scriptures are not self-attesting, (b) that people are "out there" seeking God and God must step in with extraordinary means to help them directly because the Church has failed to carry out the Great Commission, etc.

In short, I'm not sure that the closed-access missions contexts today equate to the first century context.

MAS

Steve Davis's picture

Aaron Blumer wrote:
As for Steve's... this is an angle on the question that is somewhat new to me and I do find it interesting.

Steve, are there sources you can link us to for digging into that "third possibility" in more detail?
My impression is that the kind of continuationism you are describing is significantly different from what Piper and others have articulated.

This article might be a good place to start.

http://www.frame-poythress.org/poythress_articles/1996Modern.htm

Steve Davis's picture

Mark Snoeberger wrote:
Steve,

The position that tongues persist today only in closed-access missions contexts I would say is the most biblically sensitive of all the continuationist models. It preserves the identity of tongues as genuine languages, retains something of an attesting function, and parallels to a degree the first-century setting. All that being said, however, I still have some doubts--in no particular order, and not all apply equally to everyone who holds to a variation of your proposal:

(1) The primary point of tongues is not to communicate divine truth, but to attest to the validity of revealed truth in the absence of a more authoritative source of attestation (so 2 Peter 1—the miracle of the Transfiguration faded once it has corroborated the message).

(2) The attestation seems to come specifically to those who lived in the era of insufficient NT Scriptures—those for whom no NT Scriptures existed—not merely for those who don't have access to them (cf., in principle, Luke 16:29-31).

(3) Once the Scriptures are given in all their sufficiency, the normative pattern seems to be Romans 10—faith comes by hearing the Word of God from those sent to proclaim it.

(4) The perceived need for tongues in missions contexts often (though not always) rests on dubious theological foundations, e.g., (a) that the Scriptures are not self-attesting, (b) that people are "out there" seeking God and God must step in with extraordinary means to help them directly because the Church has failed to carry out the Great Commission, etc.

In short, I'm not sure that the closed-access missions contexts today equate to the first century context.

Mark.
If you're "not sure" then maybe you're more open than I thought to this proposal. Neither of us has absolute certainty about the correctness of our positions. But it's good that we can challenge and be challenged.

I think there is a good argument to be made from I Corinthians 13:8-12 for the use of gifts in pioneer missionary encounters. The gifts primarily functioned in the life of the church during its infancy. This passage treats the coming of the perfect and the passing of the partial. I’m not arguing here for a particular position of “that which is perfect” although even at the coming of Christ we will not have prefect knowledge. The comparison is between infancy and maturity. The gifts mentioned here belong to infancy. We should not expect to find them operative where biblical Christianity has taken root.

In the early church the gifts became no longer necessary. When that took place we don’t know. Some might argue for the final writing of Scripture by John in Revelation or when the canon was completed/recognized/available? And did the cessation of gifts take place every place at the same time? We don’t know, at least I don’t. However it is doubtful that all prophetic utterances, all exercise of tongues, all words of knowledge ceased immediately at the same time in every place. We would expect a gradual non-necessity and diminishing of these gifts as churches matured and were made aware of the God’s completed and sufficient Word. This is why I can oppose the counterfeit movements while allowing God to work in accordance with early church patterns in similar situations.

We do not have to accept every claim to the supernatural exercise of gifts as authentic, surely not where the accessible Word of God can be proclaimed as the sole authority for faith and practice. Neither do we need to fear that God may work in ways that we may never, need never experience. I have no expectation to speak in tongues here in the West. Yet I have no reason biblically to doubt that tongues might be exercised missiologically in situations of encounter and stages of infancy which parallel the first century context.

Bob T.'s picture

The subject of Hebrews 6 is salvation based on the final offering of the Messiah. The subjects were "enlightened, tasted of the heavenly gift, partakers of the Holy Spirit, and tasted of the good word of God." At Pentecost we see the Holy Spirit Baptizing into the Body of Christ, anointing the church with authority, making gifting more extensive, but doing so with pouring out that which was promised at Jeremiah 31:31 as part of salvation through the New covenant.. The Jeremiah prophecy is not fulfilled as the Spirit not poured out on "all flesh." Rather it appears that the principle of the new work of the Spirit is involved. The full power awaits the Kingdom which is to come. The new Covenant becomes the basis for the promises given. Thus we see that the "power of the age to come" is what the present believers participate in. However, the other promises of the Abrahamic Covenant are connected to the coming and yet future kingdom. We today participate in the Abrahamic covenant through the principle of the New Covenant of Jer. 31. But the other aspects such as the land and the eternal throne await the Messianic kingdom. We tase the power but are not in the Kingdom where the full power is to be manifested.

The phrase "the powers of the age to come" at Heb. 6;5 appears to be referring to our salvation based on the principle of the New covenant Spirit outpouring. Miracles, tongues, or markers, do not appear to be the subject. Hebrews 6:5 does not appear to be referring to miracles but to the future kingdom blessings of the Spirit that is connected with our salvation now and received in part or in principle now. The Kingdom is yet future. We should pray for its coming (Matt.6:9-13). It is to be visible and authoritative over all.

I wrote a 47page paper on this subject for George Ladd. Fortunately, he read it on one of his sober days and gave me a good grade though writing his differences all over the paper. Progressive Dispensationalists have given in to a kingdom view similar to Ladds. He viewed his view as non Dispensational.

To me there is a clear and certain way of understanding the reasons why tongues, miracles, and prophecy ceased. This has to do with the Jewish nature of revelation and the Messiah, the Jewish nature of the Apostles, the qualifications and nature of the Apostles of Christ, and the fact that such signs and wonders are connected with the Apostolic establishment of the NT assembly.
With the passing of the Apostles of Christ we have the passing of the authentication of revelation and the Gospel of the Jewish Messiah Rom. 3:1-2; Acts 1:20-26; 2Cor.12:11-12; Heb. 2:1-4; 1Cor. 12-14).

1 Cor. 12-14 is the clear teaching passage regarding the temporary nature of tongues, prophecy, and the temporary knowledge they give.. The partial passes as the child grows up and the more complete (not perfect) comes. This will happen when we, the church, are pursuing love, which trumps gifts, and when faith ,hope, and love are remaining in the church. There is no mention of the return of Christ or His person or presence in the context. The subject is the temporary which is immature in light of the more complete which the church shall have now. They are going to pass while the churches are in ministry. Some very good scholars have spoken and written as to this passage teaching cessationism. The greater biblical context is the Apostolic ministry.

I have stated some of this in my posts regarding part 2 of this series. My posts were probably too long and not clear or concise enough. I shall attempt to put it all together in a more clear and concise outline form.

I may have some disagreement on this passage with Mark Snoeberger . However, I am in agreement with his position and many of his arguments. I appreciate his efforts very much.

Ted Bigelow's picture

Our brother Mark asserts that the “powers” professing believers taste in Hebrews 6:5 includes tongues. This is the crux of his "tongues as kingdom markers" argument.

However, this meaning of powers in Hebrews 6:5 is by no means certain, and better alternatives have been suggested, such as healings (c.f. Heb. 2:3-4). Healing did in fact mark out the kingdom of God, but not tongues. Let me explain.

Healings accurately reflected the glorious ministry of Jesus Christ, who went about healing (c.f. Luke 6:19, Acts 10:38). From His perspective, they were an indisputable marker of His kingdom (Mat. 11:4-5, Mat. 12:28, Acts 3:6). In opposition to healings, tongues didn’t in any way reflect His ministry, or His Kingdom. He did not speak in tongues, nor did He instruct the apostles, representative of His kingdom, to do the same while He was among them.

In other words, tongues were not a marker of the kingdom He brought. The “tongues as kingdom marker” argument needs to be dropped. In so doing we will better understand why cessationism is the Bible’s own position.

Tongues reflected the truth that the glorious gospel of salvation is now for all peoples in the church age without the mediation of national Israel (Acts 2:4, Acts 10:46). This was the very lesson the Jewish believers in Jerusalem at first struggled with (Acts 11:1-2, Acts 11:17-18).

One other point.

Our cessationism rests on a close and careful reading of the text, and will outlast the continuationist position for this very reason. We just need to be consistent. Mark writes “tongues are normally means of assuaging skeptics (14:22), not conduits for revelation.” This sentence continues two popular misunderstandings of tongues that need to be put to rest in order for us to provide a cogent biblical understanding of the spiritual gift of tongues.

First, tongues didn’t "assuage critics," but was sign of judgment on the Jews; instead it judged them. Paul’s inspired use of Isa. 28:11-12 in 1 Cor. 14:21 delineates this judgment: “and even then they will not listen to me, says the Lord." This judgment called tongues helps establish our point that the kingdom promised to the Jews awaits a future fulfillment. At present the nation is under judgment, but they are not forgotten. God was still showing individual Jews, through tongues, His intense judgment to their nation in a way they could “back track.” Through the use of Isa. 28:11-12, God was using tongues to show the Jews that their present judgment was analogous to the Babylonian captivity, in which the Jews heard a men of strange tongues (Babylonian speech) speaking to them of their God’s judgment. Therefore, through tongues, God was providing a sign to Jews to repent, leave the apostate nation, trust in the Messiah, and join the Church.

Second, and by far the more common misunderstanding, the spiritual gift of tongues certainly was a conduit of revelation: “For one who speaks in a tongue does not speak to men but to God; for no one understands, but in his spirit he speaks mysteries” (1 Corinthians 14:2). Tongues speakers spoke “mysteries.”

“Mysteries” are revelatory by definition and practice (1 Cor. 2:7) and like the spiritual gift of prophecy, revealed previously unrevealed truth (1 Cor. 13:2, 1 Cor. 15:51, Eph. 3:4-5). Prophecy was a more efficient means of sharing revelatory truth with the congregation than tongues, and was thus to be preferred by the assembly above tongues (1 Cor. 14:1). But tongues was definitely revelatory, and as such, extremely authoritative. So authoritative, in fact, that no continuationist is willing to grant them their original force. So let's not join them them in their "dissing" of 1st Century tongues. The continuity position, at every level, tames the real gift of 1st Century tongues to something so lame it is unrecognizable from a biblical view point.

So let’s not try to cede our continuationist friends ground needlessly!

Tongues are not a part of the kingdom, as they would claim, nor did they mark the kingdom.

Tongues were authoritative revelation, not something less. As revelation from God, they were to be obeyed asthe word of God.

Let's respectfully grant tongues their proper 1st Century context. The practice started on the birthday of the church, not in the “inbreaking of the kingdom” – the ministry of Jesus. This kingdom was rejected by the nation’s leaders and will be restored at a later time (c.f. Acts 3:21). Tongues only ever belonged in the church (not the kingdom), and served an important 1st Century function. They were a means of revelation to people of differing nationalities that God was now accepting men apart from Israel, for He was speaking revelatory NT mysteries to them in their native languages. They also served a purpose of judgment on the nation of Israel, condemning unbelief, while simultaneously displaying that God has not rejected His people whom He foreknew (Romans 11:2).

Steve Davis's picture

Ted Bigelow wrote:
Tongues were authoritative revelation, not something less. As revelation from God, they were to be obeyed asthe word of God.

Ted:

You quote I Cor. 14:2 to show that mysteries were revelation. However the verse also states that the speaker is not speaking to men and that no one understands them. I don't see how mysteries that no one understands can be authoritative revelation. Something else is going on here. Perhaps a bit of sarcasm on Paul’s part? And of course many interpreters see a difference between the tongues at Corinth (ecstatic speech) and languages in Acts. Were you limiting the revelation to tongues in Corinth or in Acts also? Of the three historical occurrences of tongues in the Book of Acts I fail to see authoritative revelation. Is that what Cornelius was doing - giving revelation that needed to be obeyed? I think tongues as revelation is not a "clear and careful reading of the text" and does not support a cessationist reading. I see how you get there but it’s a tortuous path.

Alex Guggenheim's picture

Mark Snoeberger wrote:
In short, I'm not sure that the closed-access missions contexts today equate to the first century context.

Steve Davis wrote:

Mark.
If you're "not sure" then maybe you're more open than I thought to this proposal. Neither of us has absolute certainty about the correctness of our positions. But it's good that we can challenge and be challenged.

I too noticed this disqualifying statement by Snoeberger. And like a mouse in a peanut butter factory, Steve Davis was happy to seize it.

Your article began with the expectation of a conclusion and if it offers one it certainly now must battle with this statement of uncertainty or was this simply specious diplomacy that needs to be withdrawn and a statement of certainty submitted?

Because if indeed it is the case that you are "not sure" you offer nothing more than the continutionists. And I must say this wasn't the tenor of first 2 articles and even not this one.

I am also still interested in this banner argument of Steve Davis' with regard to the hermenuetic and theology that justifies reducing the context of Cornelius to the novel point that if we can find a scenario today that contains enough similar elements but not all the elements of Cornelius' context, as Davis asserts, the view that there is biblical allowance for the continued use of apostolic supernatural sign gifts in such tailored contexts is permissible.

Steve Davis's picture

Alex Guggenheim wrote:
Mark Snoeberger wrote:
In short, I'm not sure that the closed-access missions contexts today equate to the first century context.

Steve Davis wrote:

Mark.
If you're "not sure" then maybe you're more open than I thought to this proposal. Neither of us has absolute certainty about the correctness of our positions. But it's good that we can challenge and be challenged.

I too noticed this disqualifying statement by Snoeberger. And like a mouse in a peanut butter factory, Steve Davis was happy to seize it..

Mouse in a peanut butter factory! I would’ve expected cheese but I love peanut butter! However you certainly make too much of Mark's "not sure." He has presented fine articles presenting his position and to arouse the specter of "specious diplomacy” goes too far. Maybe you should be the one to withdraw your statement. Or maybe not everyone is as sure as you are about things which are unsure.

Ted Bigelow's picture

Hi Steve,

Commenting on 1 Cor. 14:2, you write: “I don't see how mysteries that no one understands can be authoritative revelation.”

Well, of course we know God understands the tongue! But Paul is here referring to the practice of uninterpreted tongues in the church service. People in the worship service were speaking a tongue privately, to themselves, and not praying for interpretation. They needed, and received in 1 Corinthians 14, instruction. So did the church as a whole.

Surprisingly to many cessationists, Paul does not disparage tongues in this passage, for interpreted tongues have the same practical value as prophecy: “greater is one who prophesies than one who speaks in tongues, *unless he interprets,* so that the church may receive edifying (1 Cor. 14:5). There isn't any sarcasm in the passage at all. It is crucial instruction to an erring church that was utterly gifted.

Both gifts, tongues and prophecy, speak “mysteries.” Both communicate divine revelation with absolute authority. Paul tells us that tongues speakers give “some revelation or knowledge or prophecy or teaching” in their tongues speaking (1 Corinthians 14:6, 1 Corinthians 14:30). All of that overlaps in the realm of speaking gifts, but those things are very authoritative. Hey, if the bugle gives an indistinct sound, who will prepare for battle (14:8)? The bugle in an army was an authoritative summons to immediately obey the commanding officer. The tongues speaker, speaking without interpretation, is like that indistinct bugle. Everybody in the army goes, “huh?”

Tongues with interpretation is so authoritative it might call the entire church to immediate duty. Don’t fall into the Pentecostal trap and downplay it from the truly spectacular gift it was. They do that becasue they don't have the real thing.

Yes, many interpreters claim there was a gift of unintelligible tongues, but the Scripture never affirm that position. Look at what Paul writes:

“There are doubtless many different languages in the world, and none is without meaning, but if I do not know the meaning of the language, I will be a foreigner (Barbarian) to the speaker and the speaker a foreigner (Barbarian) to me. So with yourselves, since you are eager for manifestations of the Spirit, strive to excel in building up the church” (1 Corinthians 14:9-12).

Paul is dealing with known human languages in chapter 14, or else these verses lose their implication that it is these kind of tongues that must be interpreted. The church is only built up when the unintelligible human language (a tongue) is interpreted (1 Cor. 14:16-17).

I agree with you that tongues in Acts is not necessarily authoritative revelation. I argued for this point in the last thread on Mark’s previous section to his article.

However, when Paul talks about “speaking in tongues more than you all” (1 Cor. 14:18), he is being literal – more than them all, i.e., the entire church put together. Given Paul’s sober-minded desire to speak 5 words “with his mind” (i.e., prophesy) than speak “10,000 words in a tongue (v. 19), he probably spoke in tongues in numerous missionary contexts.

Aaron Blumer's picture

EditorAdmin

Alex wrote:
Because if indeed it is the case that you are "not sure" you offer nothing more than the continutionists. And I must say this wasn't the tenor of first 2 articles and even not this one.

Alex, he expressed uncertainty about one point. This is far from offering "nothing more than the continuationists" by several parsecs.
I took his "not sure" as polite way of saying "I doubt your point" which is not even close to "I doubt my own points."
But if one reads it as the latter, there's still a huge difference to note: most of the continuationists express certainty that tongues have not ceased. This is not the same at all as expressing uncertainty that they have ceased in one particular scenario.

Views expressed are always my own and not my employer's, my church's, my family's, my neighbors', or my pets'. The house plants have authorized me to speak for them, however, and they always agree with me.

Alex Guggenheim's picture

Aaron Blumer wrote:
Alex wrote:
Because if indeed it is the case that you are "not sure" you offer nothing more than the continutionists. And I must say this wasn't the tenor of first 2 articles and even not this one.

Alex, he expressed uncertainty about one point. This is far from offering "nothing more than the continuationists" by several parsecs.
I took his "not sure" as polite way of saying "I doubt your point" which is not even close to "I doubt my own points."
But if one reads it as the latter, there's still a huge difference to note: most of the continuationists express certainty that tongues have not ceased. This is not the same at all as expressing uncertainty that they have ceased in one particular scenario.

The fine print is always worth the time. If you notice I stated "if this is the case". I don't know what the case is, I will wait for clarity from Mark Snoeberger. Maybe he will strengthen his language on the point. BTW I too took it as likely being a polite rejection of Steve Davis' point but again, with hope the point will be made clear I will wait.

Anne Sokol's picture

Some of these SI article on the topic of cessationism, tongues, etc, have raise a question in my thoughts. I never thought much about these topics before, so I probably should have more questions, but here is the main one right now.

What does cessationism mean and not mean? wikipedia defines this as: "In Christian theology, Cessationism is the view that the miraculous gifts of the Holy Spirit, such as tongues, prophecy and healing, ceased being practiced early on in Church history. The opposite of Cessationism is Continuationism."

OK, my question is this: Does being a cessationist limit me to not believing that God can communicate today in an un-usual way or not directly through the Bible?

repeat another way, Does being a cessationist mean that I believe God only communicates through the Bible and the preaching of the Bible?

Or, does being a cessationist mean that I believe God will never use sign gifts again? Sign gifts being tongues and miracles (and dreams?)?

I mean, I think that God can and sometimes does communicate Himself or certain things to us in direct, personal ways, sometimes through our thoughts or through some other function of the Holy Spirit. But on the other hand, I have a charasmatic friend who clicks her tongue when we pray (like speaking in tongues?) and I really doubt that this is a work of the Holy Spirit. But I wouldn't say that God never communicates to us personally outside of revealed Scripture--like when someone is seeking His will about something. But that's not a sign gift . . .

So i'm just a little confyoozed about this topic in general, what it's common sensical limits are of cessationism, you know?

Ted Bigelow's picture

Hi Anne,

In cessationism (C1), we are speaking of the theory that the revelatory gifts (apostolicity, tongues, prophecy, knowledge, etc.) and testifying gifts (healings) ceased being given by the Holy Spirit. Those who are continuationist (C2) disagree, and claim these are gift for the church through out its age.

Most C1ers totally accept God can do anything He wants to at any time He wants to! Its really quite fine with us!

He can use dreams if He wants to, He can heal if He wants to. He can miraculously guide if He wants. What we are denying is that these are spiritual gifts still being given to the Body, says, as the gift of helps, or teaching are still given, to be exercised at the user's will.

Hope that helps provide some freedom. Don't be thinking miracles, but spiritual gifts.

And you really need to work on your spelling in places too.

Anne Sokol's picture

Ted Bigelow wrote:
Hi Anne,

In cessationism (C1), we are speaking of the theory that the revelatory gifts (apostolicity, tongues, prophecy, knowledge, etc.) and testifying gifts (healings) ceased being given by the Holy Spirit. Those who are continuationist (C2) disagree, and claim these are gift for the church through out its age.

Most C1ers totally accept God can do anything He wants to at any time He wants to! Its really quite fine with us!

He can use dreams if He wants to, He can heal if He wants to. He can miraculously guide if He wants. What we are denying is that these are spiritual gifts still being given to the Body, says, as the gift of helps, or teaching are still given, to be exercised at the user's will.

Hope that helps provide some freedom. Don't be thinking miracles, but spiritual gifts.

And you really need to work on your spelling in places too.

thanks, that makes a lot of scents. Biggrin

Aaron Blumer's picture

EditorAdmin

Anne, the question of whether the Spirit communicates information to us beyond what is written is really a separate one but comes up often in the cessation/continuation debate because it is related in several ways. For example, the relationship between the gift of tongues and continuing revelation, the relationship between the gift of prophecy and continuing revelation.

Some of us also feel a strong need to try to draw a thick black line in this area because of the abundance of abuses and the way getting inside info from the Spirit bypasses Scripture and suggests it is not sufficient.
Personally, I lean toward the view that the Spirit does a couple of things in particular within us today:
1) He convinces us of the truth of Scripture, enabling faith (this is not additional information, but something He does to the will/affections... a response to the information we have in Scripture)
2) He helps us see the significance of Scripture for us personally and the situations we face. This is not quite help with "interpretation" but rather helping us see what we need to do about what we have interpreted. This is what many mean by "illumination." It's also what I believe "guidance" properly refers to. To me, there isn't much difference.
3) I don't personally know why He could not/would not aid in the normal cognitive work of reading and understanding the Bible: the interpretation part. Here, we'd be talking about something ineffible--to use Snoeberger's term from part 1. I'm calling this in particular "ineffible," because I couldn't possibly say how it works or when it happens... nor do I know when it has happened and when it has not.
4) Other... throwing this in because I've got two or three other scenarios bouncing around in my head that I haven't sorted out yet (like, in what sense is the Spirit communicating something when a church body decides "with one accord" to act in some way?) Smile

Anyway, it's my belief that these seldom if ever involve information beyond what is written. They are not revelation. If there is a legitimate place for special revelation from the Spirit, it has to be a small one because the Spirit has given us His Word, Scripture and has declared that through it "the man of God may be complete, thoroughly equipped for every good work." (2Tim.3:17)

Views expressed are always my own and not my employer's, my church's, my family's, my neighbors', or my pets'. The house plants have authorized me to speak for them, however, and they always agree with me.

Richard Pajak's picture

Aaron Blumer wrote:
Anne, the question of whether the Spirit communicates information to us beyond what is written is really a separate one but comes up often in the cessation/continuation debate because it is related in several ways. For example, the relationship between the gift of tongues and continuing revelation, the relationship between the gift of prophecy and continuing revelation.

Some of us also feel a strong need to try to draw a thick black line in this area because of the abundance of abuses and the way getting inside info from the Spirit bypasses Scripture and suggests it is not sufficient.

.Anyway, it's my belief that these seldom if ever involve information beyond what is written. They are not revelation. If there is a legitimate place for special revelation from the Spirit, it has to be a small one because the Spirit has given us His Word, Scripture and has declared that through it "the man of God may be complete, thoroughly equipped for every good work." (2Tim.3:17)

Exactly what is the Scripture sufficient for? I have always understood it is sufficient in informing us of all we need for salvation
It surely has not revealed everything that there is to know (for our knowledge is incomplete and partial). As long as there is fallen man there will be all kinds of abuses whether it be be in charismatic or cessationist circles. This just the nature of man.
Even if, as you appear to, do allow for a small place for special revelation then by your standard you are saying the Scripture does not completely reveal God's will to us.
Being on the continuationist side of the fence I don't have that problem. To me God speaks in Scripture and outside of Scripture because I don't think we can put God into a chest marked Scripture and try and sit on it so as, if it were possible, to try to keep God from working as He so chooses. God inspired Scripture but is bigger than Scripture, Scripture is surely only a partial revelation of God, He is much bigger and greater than we can get to know in our fallen state and, I suspect even in Heaven when we see Him face to face, and know Him as we are known of Him, I reckon we still won't know the half of all there is to be known about Him.
In fact without the Spirit working and convicting then the Scripture or rather the message of Scripture would be of no use to us. It would be a dead book without the activity of the Holy Spirit.

Richard Pajak

Mark Snoeberger's picture

Richard, I'd like to do a little bit of point-by-point interaction. Forgive me this bit of pedantry.

Richard Pajak wrote:
Exactly what is the Scripture sufficient for? I have always understood it is sufficient in informing us of all we need for salvation.

2 Timothy 3:17 says that Scripture thoroughly equips for every good work and 2 Peter 1:3-4, everything necessary for life and godliness. This seems a bit broader than you suggest.

Richard Pajak wrote:
It surely has not revealed everything that there is to know (for our knowledge is incomplete and partial).... Scripture does not completely reveal God's will to us.

True. Much of God's will remains secret (Deut 29:29). But while the Bible does not reveal everything there is to know, it does reveal everything we need to know. That's the cessationist's point of argument.

Richard Pajak wrote:
I don't think we can put God into a chest marked Scripture and try and sit on it so as, if it were possible, to try to keep God from working as He so chooses.

This is a continuationist argument that really needs to be laid to rest as quickly as possible. No cessationist is trying to limit God (as though this is possible). What we are trying to say is that, based on the Scriptures in hand, we believe that God himself has chosen to limit his revelatory impulse today. You can disagree with that--no problem. But the incendiary red herons do not forward the discussion.

Richard Pajak wrote:
Without the Spirit working and convicting then the Scripture or rather the message of Scripture would be of no use to us. It would be a dead book without the activity of the Holy Spirit.

This statement could stand some refinement. Yes, the Holy Spirit's work of illumination is necessary to cause men to embrace God's Word for what it really is and to submit to it (1 Thess 2:13, etc.). But we are talking now about a work of the Spirit in the human disposition that attends special revelation--the regeneration of the mind and will. What the continuationist is suggesting is something entirely different--additional special revelation.

I might add also that I hesitate to describe the Bible as "a dead book without the activity of the Holy Spirit.." It has an intrinsic message that is plainly understandable to all by the received laws of language. The Spirit is necessary to incline us to its self-evident message, not to reveal to us additional, hidden messages.

MAS

Richard Pajak's picture

Greetings Mark,
On what scriptural grounds do base the assertion that it reveals ALL we NEED to know ( Other than for salvation...and I acknowdge the other areas you mentioned) . What if there is something we need to know in our life or some leading we need to know and more importantly what if God wants to tell us something important that requires some urgent response on our behalf. God would not be limited only to cessationist endorsed ways of doing so or at least I can see no Scriptural backing to suggest that. I am not into random Bible finger dipping in order to get the revelation I need from the Scripture. In saying that I am not one of those that gets that still small voice telling me some extra Biblical instructions, unfortunately I am all too earth bound and unreceptive to these spiritual leadings but I believe Scripture teaches it so irrespective of the paucity of my own spiritual cloud 9 experiences I cannot in all honesty deny what is clear Scriptural teaching as regards the ways the Holy Spirit expresses Himself.

With regard to the illumination of the Spirit in convicting people being a work which ATTENDS special revelation I would have said the conviction WAS the revelation not just merely attending it and as I see it is the Spirit's present activity revealing to someone their sin or the truth of Jesu's message. If each conversion is from a unique special revelation to the individual in order to draw them to Christ then special revelation is really quite a common occurence.

Putting God in a box is not meant to be a red herring as that appears to be the practical result of cessationist teaching though it be denied by them.
What's that saying?...if it looks like a duck, quacks like duck etc it probably is a duck.

Richard Pajak

Aaron Blumer's picture

EditorAdmin

Richard, you have 2 Tim 3.17. Dan Philips also has a great article on this subject at Pyro .. http://teampyro.blogspot.com/2010/05/is-this-central-issue-in-christian_...

On putting God in a box... it's not as bad a thing as it sounds.
1) He is in some boxes/limitations because of His character: being righteous He cannot sin; being all-knowing, He cannot be confused or surprised; etc.
2) He is in other boxes--forunately for us--by His own choosing: He promises to justify, adopt, transform and eventually glorify those who believe the gospel: having said so, He is now unable to do otherwise. This is a great, great box I'm glad God is in!
3) Anything else He indicates in Scripture He will not do is also a self-imposed "box" we would do well to accept and appreciate.

So the real question is what does the Bible teach about continuation/cessation and the "putting God in a box" thing turns out to be irrelevant after all (because the question "should we limit God in this way?" is really just a restatement of the question "Does the Bible teach that God works in this way?")

Need to know
I'll give you this, though... there is some murkiness on the "need to know" question. I've wrestled with this a good bit myself when thinking about biblical counseling and the role of information from the sciences. For example, if God wants me to preach on Sunday but my tire goes flat on the way, I "need to know" how to change a tire in order to preach. The Bible won't give me that information. But it's not that simple either because we always have to ask "need for what?" If the "what" is obedience, then what is out of my control is not a matter of obedience. So I "need to know how to change a tire" in order to get to church and preach but I don't "need to know" in order to obey. See the difference? In a few years, I might have it thought through the rest of the way!

But one thing is very clear to me: the Bible is all we need for doctrine, reproof, correction and instruction in righteousness. The Spirit said so.

Views expressed are always my own and not my employer's, my church's, my family's, my neighbors', or my pets'. The house plants have authorized me to speak for them, however, and they always agree with me.

Mark Snoeberger's picture

Richard,

That I have all I need to know for life, godliness, and every good work I derive from the two texts I mentioned--2 Peter 1:3-4 and 2 Tim 3:17. I may THINK I need more, but I don't. And it is on the basis of these texts that I don't think God "wants to tell us something important that requires some urgent response on our behalf." I take these texts to mean that he has given me a fully sufficient Bible adequate for every decision I need to make.

Granted, the Bible doesn't tell me how to change a tire or do open-heart surgery (I do think Van Til is on to something when I defines biblical sufficiency as the Bible speaking to everything in terms of terms of preconditioning intelligibility in every discipline, but this does not mean that the Bible contains all truth). But it does contain everything I need for godly living. That does not mean the Spirit has no function. He supplies assent (1 Cor 2:14) and eagerness to discern and do what he says (Tit 2:14). Above all he gives wisdom (Jas 1:5) in response to prayer--skill in applying what God has said to my particular, God-given personality, desires, skill sets, etc. But this does not add up to additional cognitive data.

Final Question--If the Bible is a "dead book" apart from the personal encounter with the Spirit above the text, and extra-biblical communication of divine revelation is a "common occurrence," then why should the Bible occupy such a high place in Christian practice? If (to quote Daniel Fuller) "the words of the text play no essential role in conveying meaning," then why do we need them? IOW, what stands between your position and a fully-orbed neo-orthodox view of Scripture as a mere Hinweis? Please don't misunderstand me to say that you believe this, but what keeps you from this?

MAS

Richard Pajak's picture

All I am saying is that being as the natural man cannot discern the things of the Spirit it needs the Spirit to convict that person. I don't see it simply as a matter of reading the Bible and being convicted of its truth by the printed word, however much meaning it might convey, but unless the Spirit actively convicts a person, the printed text itself will not bring about repentance.
I see it as the Spirit opening the eyes through the Word.
I don't think you can divorce the active operation of the Spirit from the text, although a person may beconvicted without the printed text simply by the preaching of the gospel, but I think that this again requires the active work of the Spirit in the preacher...I think the Spirit can give the preacher the words that will bring conviction but this again I see as an active operation of the Spirit.
My ignorance of this "Hinweis" and "fully -orbed neo orthodox view" means this is jargon to me. I am sure you can clarify briefly what you mean by this as I really am in the dark on this.
If a preacher brings me under conviction by the preaching I see this as an extra Biblical activity of the Spirit. If He convicts me from Scripture I see this as Biblical.
I see the Bible as detailing the path, being my guidebook or map but the Spirit as providing the light so that I understand, walk in and can be empowered to be what He wants me to be.
If I read the Scripture I ask that the Spirit will speak to me through it. In that sense I see the Word without the Spirit as dead.

Richard Pajak

Mark Snoeberger's picture

Richard Pajak wrote:
All I am saying is that being as the natural man cannot discern the things of the Spirit it needs the Spirit to convict that person. I don't see it simply as a matter of reading the Bible and being convicted of its truth by the printed word, however much meaning it might convey, but unless the Spirit actively convicts a person, the printed text itself will not bring about repentance.

No problems here. I agree completely. The efficacy of Scripture's message is tied to the Spirit's illuminating work. The Holy Spirit must illumine the mind to embrace the truth of Scripture and do what it says. But we've strayed from the point.

My argument is that the Holy Spirit does not supply INFORMATION or MEANING additional to what is in the text. The meaning is in the text in all of its glorious sufficiency. The Spirit merely opens my heart to receive it. I need nothing else.

[quote=Richard Pajak ]My ignorance of this "Hinweis" and "fully -orbed neo orthodox view" means this is jargon to me. I am sure you can clarify briefly what you mean by this as I really am in the dark on this.[/Quote ]

Neo-orthodoxy teaches that the Bible is an inadequate medium for revelation and acts merely as a pointer (a Hinweis) to the divine encounter above the text, where revelation really occurs. In fact, the encounter need not necessarily be tied to the Bible at all, because God chooses when and where he will pierce through and reveal himself existentially to a person.

My giant concern here is that the value of the Bible is diminished in this model, and in fact could possibly evaporate entirely, leaving us with pure, unadulterated existentialism.

MAS

Anne Sokol's picture

I know a lot of charasmatics. we do pro-life work together in Ukraine. they have dreams, visions, speak in tongues, etc.

but i'm not sure they would call this special revelation, as it's defined here. I think they just consider it a way God speaks to them personally, maybe corporately for certain direction for their organization or whatever. for them, the way God reveals Himself in the Bible is the center. they don't see these questionable communications as a salvific revelation or something of that nature.

so i think there is a little confusion here because what's being described here as a typically charasmatic (or whoever) use of these gifts is not neсessarily what all or most of them are saying/believing. maybe if you listen to their gurus in writing? but just from what I know of my charasmatic friends and aquaintances . . . something is a little quirky in this conversation.

Quote:
True. Much of God's will remains secret (Deut 29:29). But while the Bible does not reveal everything there is to know, it does reveal everything we need to know. That's the cessationist's point of argument.
this is one place these two groups might be talking past each other. Does the Bible reveal everything I need to know? About certain things like salvation. But there are other essential questions for me personally that God can use other ways to guide me--reason, principles, or personal communication. For example, I wanted to be a missionary for years, but God always said no. How did He say no? Every "door" was open. But I just knew in my heart, from God, that if i went, I would be sinning, it was not God's will for me (at that time). That is personal, direct communication from God to me. Was it special? I'm not sure how that is defined . . .

Aaron Blumer's picture

EditorAdmin

There is a difference between "speaking" and "guiding." I think we'd all agree that He guides, but this would include wisdom and illumination, and both of these would relate as well to providential indicators that one choice is better than another.

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a way God speaks to them personally,

They may not call this special revelation, but there is no way to have God speaking to us without having him say something. The something would have to be revelation, unless He is just toying with us or speaking deceitfully--both I'm sure all would agree He would not do. So really, "special revelation" is all that can properly describe it, whether one owns the label or not.

Views expressed are always my own and not my employer's, my church's, my family's, my neighbors', or my pets'. The house plants have authorized me to speak for them, however, and they always agree with me.

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