Where Are You on the Continualist/Cessationist Spectrum? (See Definitions in Explanatory Post)



After some recent discussions on SI, I have come to see that the continualist/cessationist issue is truly a spectrum.

So here are my definitions. I am no Joel Tetreau when it comes to taxonomy, but I will do my best. A:

Bedrock Cessationist believes not only that "sign gifts" are no longer given, they believe God's Word actually teaches that they would cease when the Bible was completed (or at the end of the apostolic era or after the destruction of Jerusalem or some other event in early church history).  They also believe that God never gives visions, dreams, or leadings apart from Scripture or godly wisdom.

Hard Cessationist believes what the Bedrock cessationist believes about gifts, but believes God might be sending dreams of Jesus to the Muslims in Iran, for example, or might lead a believer to make a choice apart from direct Scripture or seeming wisdom.

Observant Cessationist believes that the sign gifts are not given today because their supposed current manifestations do not match what the Bible says those gifts were like. The prime example would tongues as foreign languages in Scripture.  Since we can produce no documented cases of people speaking in foreign languages they never heard or learned, it follows that those speaking in ecstatic utterances do not have the real gift of tongues. The Observant cessationist does not believe the Scriptures link the cessation of spiritual gifts to any event, but rather sees them as regulated by God's sovereign purposes. God is neither obligated nor constrained to give every spiritual gift.

Soft (aka, "functional") Cessationist believes very much like the Observant cessationist, but he factors in what he may not know.  He is skeptical about claims to speak in tongues, for example, but is open to the possibility if God has a purpose. But if such gifts are given, they are the real deal.  He may, for example, believe that the sign gifts are sometimes manifested where the Gospel is newly established or where persecution allows. He is quite skeptical of claims to these gifts, but is open to the possibility.

Skeptical Non-committal believes that the sign gifts are probably not given today, but, either way, he wants nothing to do with them.  His position is more pragmatic than theological.

Soft Continualist believes that the sign gifts are given today, but not as frequently as claimed. He does not think it is God's will for all believers to speak in tongues, and believes every believer possesses the Holy Spirit.  He sees no claim in Scripture that sign gifts will cease (at least until some eschatological event), and he is perhaps perplexed about their absence over the centuries.  He may or may not view tongues as a language other than an earthly one.  Grudem and Carson would be in this category.

Standard Continualist believes that all the gifts are functional today, but not necessarily all the offices and not necessarily in the same way. This groups does not believe in modern apostles (in the since of the authority of the twelve), and usually believes in a second blessing (baptism of the Spirit subsequent to salvation), the sign of which is speaking in tongues.  The Health and Wealth Gospel is often part of this grouping, but not always.

Hard Continualist believes that all the gifts are manifested today, might believe in apostles, and places much stock in visions. Whether being slain in the Spirit, resurrecting the dead, and overcoming all illnesses, this group is a catchall for the extremes, including but not limited to, snake handling. The Health and Wealth Gospel is often part of this belief system.

Note: Your position might vary on a point here or there, so please choose the position that is closest, unless your position is so different that you are forced to choose "other."

Bedrock Cessationist 
28% (8 votes)
Hard Cessationist 
24% (7 votes)
Observant Cessationist
0% (0 votes)
Soft (aka, "functional") Cessationist
38% (11 votes)
Skeptical Non-committal
3% (1 vote)
Soft Continualist
7% (2 votes)
Standard Continualist
0% (0 votes)
Hard Continualist
0% (0 votes)
0% (0 votes)
0% (0 votes)
Total votes: 29
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There are 8 Comments

josh p's picture

That was great Jim. I had to look at your link to see what you were talking about. I was wondering if my theological knowledge was lacking.

Ed Vasicek's picture

Jim, I didn't think there could be a more cessationist position than Bedrock!  Very creative.

"The Midrash Detective"

Aaron Blumer's picture


I went with hard. Though I probably mean something different by "sending" (dreams) and "leading." On the latter, I believe God leads all the time providentially, by bringing relevant biblical truth to mind, by convicting the conscience of right vs. wrong, and by helping us think wisely....  probably including freeing us in various ways from our own stupidity so that we reason better. (I just don't believe we can ever be 100% sure this sort of intervention has occurred, so that we can claim to know the mind of God apart from what He has revealed in Scripture.)

The dreams thing is tougher because it sounds like I'm splitting hairs. But to me, the difference matters because of what you can claim afterwards. When I say I believe God leads providentially, I mean that He uses the circumstances of life to influence how we think and how we see things. We all dream all the time, just like we take wrong turns on the way to the store, bump "randomly" into friends we haven't seen in years, pick up a book recommended by a friend, etc. All these things can influence how we think and the choices we make, and are used by God to lead. So... sure, a dream could do that. But I can't say my dream was God certainly revealing  truth to me. If I did, I'd also have to claim it was infallible, because just as God cannot lie, He cannot reveal incorrectly. 

Mark_Smith's picture

Whenever I am tempted to go too hard on the cessationist position, I recall 1 Cor 12:1-3

"Now about the gifts of the Spirit, brothers and sisters, I do not want you to be uninformed. You know that when you were pagans, somehow or other you were influenced and led astray to mute idols. Therefore I want you to know that no one who is speaking by the Spirit of God says, “Jesus be cursed,” and no one can say, “Jesus is Lord,” except by the Holy Spirit."

God is not a mute idol. He still speaks. Who are we to limit Him?


Aaron Blumer's picture


We could not limit Him if we wanted to. Our task is to discover what limits He is placing on Himself in this age.

If He chooses to be silent, as far as new revelation is concerned, that would not make Him "silent." He speaks through the Scriptures (Rom 10.17).

Mark_Smith's picture

The problem is Aaron, God has said otherwise. We can and do limit Him. Not because of our powerful strength, but because of our authority and the role God has given us to play out. Psalm 78:41 clearly communicates that Israel's repeated sins limited what God would do with them in various seasons. You can see that over and over again in Judges as well. God eventually acted, but they missed out on a lot due to their sinful behavior. 

Jesus in Mark 6 and Matthew 13 said He didn't act in Nazareth because of their unbelief. They limited Him. I love it when Jesus angers the Jews by reminding them that there were many who were starving in Israel, but only an outsider woman had faith for a miracle. Also, many Jews had leprosy, but only an Assyrian general was healed. Why? Because Israel lacked faith.

We limit God all the time!

Aaron Blumer's picture


None of these passages describe God as limited. What is limited is our own opportunities to participate in what He is doing. This is also what's happening when Jesus weeps over Jerusalem in the Gospels and says He wanted to gather them under His wings but they wouldn't let it happen.

God has never been limited by anything other than Himself. This is pretty much what it means to be God.