Thursday, August 18, 2011

Confessions of a Cessationist

If you do not know what a cessationist is, then this post may not matter to you anyway. If you are curious as to what this might mean, then I hope that this post might be helpful to you. If you do not know what to think of miraculous sign gifts, then I hope that you will find this post helpful.

What is a cessationist? A cessationist is someone who believes that the miraculous sign gifts that were present in the 1st Century church are not being given to the church today. These would include the apostolic gift, the gift of miraculous healing, prophesy, the ability to write infallible Scripture, and the sudden ability to speak and be understood in a language one is not familiar with.

This is not to say that a cessationist does not believe in miracles or Providence or the influence of the Holy Spirit. We certainly do. We simply do not believe that things are happening in the church now as they were in the early days of the church. I surely believe in miracles. I count my own conversion as a miracle, and every other conversion for that matter.

So why did I become a cessationist? I certainly did not start out as one. I tried very hard to be a charismatic. I was enamored with the supposed 'super-powers' that some claimed to have. They believed that they could speak in an unknown tongue, could lay hands on the sick and heal them, that they could know the secret thoughts of men at a mere glance, and that they were privy to things that would happen in the future. Who wouldn't want that? I knew that God was all-powerful, that He loves me, and that He gives gifts to men. So why should I not desire, even eagerly, these gifts?

My conversion to cessationism, then, came and still comes from two fronts. First, I noticed right away that the supposed miracle-workers were not doing exactly what happened in the Bible. Secondly, I noticed that they were dumbing-down the requirement for prophesy in the New Testament era. It is plain in the Old Testament that anyone who claimed to speak for the Lord God was held to a high standard. A false prophet faced the death penalty. I could not find a single modern prophet who would be willing to be held to that high standard.

Instead, they pretended that after the Holy Spirit was poured out on the church, that prophesy somehow became less reliable than it was in the Old Testament. Now, God spoke to his prophets in a way that could be misunderstood, leading his prophet to prophesy in error. This seemed to me to be patently ridiculous, and it still does.

As for the gift of miraculous healing, I simply never saw anyone "command heal" in a genuine way like Peter or the apostles did. No one, except for the charlatans on TV, were grabbing crippled people by the hand and lifting them up to be perfectly well. I've never seen this happen. Ever. And I have known many believers, and I have been to many churches, and I have prayed over many sick people (some of whom, by the grace of God, have recovered.) But I have never witnessed anyone healed like Peter did it. I have never seen a dead person raised from the dead like Peter did or Paul did. I have never seen anyone heal like Jesus or the apostles.

The very fact that anyone has to go around and argue that these things are present in the church today is a sad sign that they really aren't. No one argued with the signs the apostles performed. In fact, the opposition was miffed because of the fact that "a notable miracle has been done through them (that) is evident to all who dwell in Jerusalem and we cannot deny it" (Acts 4:16). The same thing goes for the miracles of Jesus. This is simply not the case with miracle workers today. It is always anecdotal, they do not heal 100% of the time, and the charlatans rely on mass group suggestion and friendly environments to ply their healing trade. Not one of them has ever gone to a hospital or met a random cripple and healed them like the apostles did. Not one. Every story you hear is someone who has a friend who knows a missionary who raised the dead at a hut in some village in Africa.

I believe in spiritual gifts. I believe that the Holy Spirit Himself is the gift given to every believer in Jesus Christ. I believe that God can lead the believer through His Word and through Providence to make wise and wonderful decisions. I believe that God heals the sick through the prayers of His saints. I just do not believe that there are miracle-working apostolic types among us today, though I believe there are a pile of lying and self-deceived hucksters. It is simply the choice of God who is not building His church by the Acts of Supermen but upon the gospel of Jesus Christ.

My cessationism is that simple, and if evangelicals today had a modicum of common sense and less fear of man, we might be able to get rid of a few of the worst wolves masquerading as servants of Christ, and we would be able to call more of our puffed up brothers to repentance and rid them of their delusions of self-grandeur. Who doesn't need that?javascript:void(0)

1 comment:

Tinker said...

It is wrong to base spiritual foundation on experience or feelings. It must be based on what the bible states - in a whole view not pulling a verse out that is used out of context. Because you have not seen it personally you discount things that you should not. Yes there are questionable things, and possible fraud by others but you should not base your biblical view on others around you. Praying in tongues is "crazy weird" to my carnal mind but the bible states it to be so in some sense. When we fail to have FAITH we faultier and rely on what we know and what is comfortable. My suggestion is to have faith, ask God to keep you be open to His work, ask God to reveal true miracles (but if you don’t believe there is no sense asking) and then wait patiently. Cessationism is the work of the devil – If God wanted you to give lets say a waitress a $50 tip because of her need at that time and it would draw her to God but you don’t listen to God because prophecy is dead – how sad. Is it hard – maybe. Maybe it just how we go about it or just Gods timing. I know God (either directly or through an angel I do not know) has spoken to me where it was an audible voice to me so I knew something. If He speaks and you reject (intentionally) it you fail the first commandment to love the Lord your God.
Blessings, Tim