Sunday, November 17, 2013

Glorifying God: Leveling the Cessationist / Continuationist Battlefield

This is an article that was introduced by this article and provides one of two examples for it.

I also want to mention that I won’t address every single issue relating to the larger theological debate, but to demonstrate how glorifying God opens the door for understanding his purpose in the theological tension.

There has been debate among Southern Baptists recently regarding the activity of the Holy Spirit among the people of God. In some ways this is a simpler debate than what I addressed in the previous article, but the tension is still there.

The core of the debate stems from a difference in the way we understand how God speaks to us. Continuationists point out that the Bible never directly says that the charismata (miraculous gifts) were supposed to cease. This is a fair observation. It’s also a similar argument non-Trinitarians make that the Bible never mentions the Trinity. However, since we see that the Bible still teaches the Trinity one aspect at a time, it is viable that the Bible could teach that the charismata have stopped. Nevertheless, it’s a somewhat more tenuous position than the Trinity. It’s only a degree of rationale removed from that used by Harold Camping, for example, to promote his unique (and now rather obviously incorrect) eschatology.

Nevertheless, Cessationists make this case. But their issue has an additional rationale that is related to how we know what is to be included in the canon of scripture. In other words, if God is causing people to speak in tongues that they don’t know or prophesy the future in such a way as to direct people what they are supposed to do, that means that we should have some material today that should be added to scripture. So there’s a presuppositional argument for making the connections in scripture that they do.

There is far more to the debate than this. To be fair, Continuationists don’t think that prophesy today should be included in scripture and Cessationists don’t think that all charismata have utterly ceased.

One big argument that Cessationists make is that Continuationists enable false claims. My first observation here is that it doesn’t falsify the Continuationists to point out their abuses. However, there should be no claim to charismata without serious discernment to ward of false claims.

That is where glorifying God comes in. False claims are exclusively a result of seeking to glorify the bearer of the alleged charismata (and, in the case of some professional charlatans, to line their pockets) rather than glorifying God.

How does this work out?

For Cessationists, legitimate charismata happen. Given that the goal of the Holy Spirit is to glorify Christ by revealing him to us, that is precisely what such charismata will do. Outside of this result, the charismata should be suspect. For Contiuationists, since the charismata will only result in glorifying Christ through leading us to his known revelation to us, much of what passes as charismata are not legitimate.

If our focus is turned upon the glory of our Lord, Jesus Christ, in his work on the cross and his divine sovereignty over us according to the revelation that we have by virtue of the same Holy Spirit who inspired it, then there is no debate. The false bearers of charismata should be duly rebuked by both Continuationists and Cessationists alike while legitimate charismata should be received with gratitude by both for pointing people to the true Christ of the Bible.

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