Dluxe's World

Thursday, September 14

Discontinuing cessationism: The Scriptures (Prologue)

Well, WWWednesday is behind us, I'm already behind on my class readings, and I can't stop thinking about all this 1 Corinthians stuff. So, rather than wait, let's keep moving and dive into the thing... Ok? (Hopefully, we do better than this gal!)

Just a little pre-dive cleanup duty: Coramdeo (CD) asked some questions in the comments of a previous post that deserve clarification here on the 'main page'.

In that posting, I made note that I attend a "functionally cessationist church". CD fairly asked, "Since I've used the expression "functional cessationist" too, why don't you also define what you think it means?" Why I'd be happy to!

In speaking of my own church, I was simply trying to be descriptive (rather than applying some technical definition). Our church's doctrinal statement makes no specific mention of our position on the ongoing operation of the sign gifts of the Holy Spirit. However, if you walk in our church on a Sunday you will not see the gifts functioning in our corporate worship. So, I was calling our church 'functionally cessationist' because we simply function as a cessationist church whether or not that is specifically a point of doctrine for us. Just to be fair, I expect that our church's elders likely would land in the cessationist camp if the issue was brought up and tackled.

So, that was a practical definition rather than a technical one. If you were to ask me to technically define 'functional cessationism' I might come up with something like this: A functional cessationist sees no specific scriptural mandate for the gifts to have ended operation at a specific point in the past. However, observation of the church at large shows that the sign gifts have ceased (implicitly stating that the gifts as manifested in most corners of modern charismaticism are 'out of line' with scriptural norms). So, while the gifts have ceased function for the time being, the Holy Spirit can, and perhaps will, sovereignly dispense those gifts in the future.

The other clean-up item: CD said, "I do think this issue, like others, may not be simply binary. I find myself ... often holding the "excluded middle" in many matters. If my uncertainty on this matter were a matter of sloth or weakness of leadership, shame on me. But can I hold a prinicpled middle-ground? perhaps..."

I surely hope that there's a "principled middle-gound" to be held, since that seems to be where I'm going to land... Ok, perhaps I'll be a little off-center. My point originally was not to imply that this is a binary, 'either/or' kinda issue. I certainly think that we're discussing something of a continuum of views, any one gradation of which may be correct. I'm not challenging the adoption of a 'moderate' position, but rather the adoption of such a position without choosing to study the Word and let it inform our opinion.

As believers, we must stand somewhere. We must wrestle with the text and come to a conclusion about what we believe and why. The 'middle' is fine if that position can be validated scripturally.

Many people exhibit a tendency with issues like this to just say, "Yeah that's a toughie!" and avoid the topic altogether. In doing so, they really choose to land nowhere rather than left, right, or center.

The purpose of these posts is/will be to examine the Biblical statements on the operation of the gifts of Holy Spirit (with few biases, Lord willing). I want to land where I believe the "Scriptures and plain reason" demand that we land. If that's on the far-left or far-right, let's say "Amen, Lord make it so in us". If it's somewhere in between, let's say the same thing. Either way, let's affirm not only the position but the all-important foundation of that position: the Testimony of God's Word.

Now, that's 'Sola Scriptura'.

Here's the roadmap: I expect that picking through 1 Corinthians 12 thru 14 is going to take four more posts, at least one of which is going to approach epic proportions... I want to work through this as quickly as I can (in order to keep pace with my other responsibilities) but I also want to be prayerful and considerate with the text. So, bear with me. Expect something like the following to materialize:
Then, all that will remain is for me to draft a summary post and dodge the barbed jousts from all of you. *smile*

Those of you who know me know that I'm a stickler for context... Taking verses, or even sections of verses, in isolation can introduce problems. With that in mind, I'd humbly ask that those of you reading along with these posts would take the time to read the entire section of 1 Corinthians that's 'in play' at least a couple times. Get the feeling for the whole message before we break it up into tasty, bite-sized nuggets. Click Here to give it a read.

And keep praying... Above all else, pray.

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