Monday, October 22, 2007

History of Gifts?

I've been enjoying various discussions with TheoJunkie (link), who appears to have taken the position that the extraordinary gifts (the so-called Charismata) have not ceased. I still consider him a Christian brother, and I value his thoughts.

That said, I disagree his apparent views on the charismata.

My impression of the history of things is that the charismatic movement is of relatively recent origin, and that it is rather well known among Reformed Christians that Christians (including Christians who preceded the Reformation) have not had the extraordinary gifts since the time of the apostles.

Sure, I recognize that there are legends among the Catholics and Orthodox of miracles of the Saints. I'm not talking about those - for a variety of reasons, most principally because they are poorly documented (in my opinion - and I recognize that if you are Roman Catholic or Eastern Orthodox you probably will disagree with me about how well documented they are).

Let me be more specific, though:

I'm not aware of any Reformed Christian between say 1650 and 1850 (200 years) that claimed to be a prophet, a tongues-speaker, or a miraculous healer.

Can anyone, particularly brother TheoJunkie, identify historical documentation to the contrary?
I suppose that I've got my history right (but I'm open to correction). If I'm wrong:

Were such men excommunicated or welcomed by the Reformed churches?

If I'm right:

What's the explanation for the lack of extraordinary gifts in that two-hundred year period in which the Spirit of God was active in bringing many to salvation?

If I'm wrong, but the men were all excommunicated, I'll have a follow-up question.



TheoJunkie said...


Thank you for your charity. No, I am also not interested in discussing the RCC/etc "saints" and their alleged works.

1) I cannot comment on those who were excommunicated without knowing who they were AND the details surrounding their assertions regarding their alleged gifts. Perhaps you could provide some examples (but this might not be productive, as follows)...

I will say this, however: the existence of false prophets does not mean true prophets are non-existent. There were false prophets even in Old Testament times, yet subsequent (even concurrent) true prophets came. Excommunication of a false prophet (or other Spiritual charlatan) does not mean that true prophets might also have been excommunicated.

2) It seems that it is generally dangerous to formulate a doctrine against the continuation of "X" based on lack of historical documentation (outside of Scripture, as I assume we mutually understand) of the continuation of "X". As an obvious example: Christ continues to live and intercede for believers before the Father, but there is no historical documentation regarding this continuance of his priesthood outside of Scripture.

I do not suggest, as some wrongly do, that every believer is given every gift... or even that every gift is given amongst every local church body... or even that every gift is manifested "somewhere" at any given time.

Rather, I note simply that Scripture makes no distinction between so-called "common Gifts" and so-called "charismata." The Gifts of teaching, wisdom, and discernment are listed and discussed right alongside the Gifts of healing, prophecy (and yes, even tongues-- but of courese, also interpretation). There is no indication that these Gifts are slated to cease, other than Paul's statement that "when perfection comes" they will cease.

It seems therefore, that if perfection has come (whatever that is), then ALL spiritual gifts have ceased (even the "common gifts")... but if perfection has not yet come, then ALL spiritual gifts may still be given by the Spirit "individually as He wills" and/but "for the common good."
... It appears that one must either accept the continuance (even in possibility/potential) of all the gifts... OR one must hold to TOTAL cessationism. There does not appear to be any middle ground.

I think it is clear that such gifts as teaching, wisdom, and discernment, are still given today. Therefore, it appears that total cessationism is not a scriptural option. ...therefore, it appears that we must accept that the Spirit MAY give "to some, individually according to His will," any of the Spiritual gifts.

If we (perhaps) have not witnessed a true manifestation of one of the more "humanly impossible" gifts in 200 (or 2000? or 2? or 20?) years would seem to indicate that the Spirit found that they were not necessary "for the common good" in the period in question.

Note, I do not affirm that we have seen none of the charismata. Neither do I affirm that we have. I speak merely from Scripture, finding in it no indication for their total cessation (and indeed, no evidence that Paul's perfection has come-- for I must say that the faith walk is still like looking through the looking glass-- I for one cannot say that I personally know God "even as I am known" by Him... yet).

Anonymous said...

Anyone who wants to interact on this topic ought to read B.B.Warfield's The Cessation of the Charismata. When one considers the overarching issue of the use of signs and wonders and miracles throughout the Bible, one sees a pattern, and it is not a pattern that we would expect to be repeated.

Turretinfan said...

Godith, that is excellent advice.

Here's a link to Warfield's book (link).

I encourage those who are not cessationists to consider reading and interacting with Warfield's work.


orthodox said...

What use is it looking at history or quoting Chrysostom when your rule of faith is sola scriptura? You'll have to prove what you want to prove from scripture, not from the Fathers or the history of the reformed churches.

Turretinfan said...

O: "What use is it looking at history or quoting Chrysostom when your rule of faith is sola scriptura?"
a) Scripture calls us to make certain factual investigations.
b) Historical information has its proper use, even if that use is not to provide a rule of faith.

O: "You'll have to prove what you want to prove from scripture, not from the Fathers or the history of the reformed churches."

a) No, I only must believe what Scripture says.
b) I am not necessarily prohibited from believing other things, including historical things (such as that Caesar crossed the Rubicon).
c) I'm not trying to "prove" anything here. I'm providing an irritant designed to get people thinking:

i) for you - to get you thinking that if J.Chrys. was plugged into a church that had a continuity of gift, why was he unaware?
ii) for TJ - to get him thinking about the fact that he has more than historical silence to explain when it comes to justifying the reappearance of extraordinary gifts.


Turretinfan said...

Dear TJ,
As to your (1), I'm not aware of any examples aside from the (oft-disputed) witches in Salem, who did not claim to have the Holy Spirit (as far as I know).

I agree that false prophets do not prove that there are no prophets.

As noted from my "fly in the ointment" post, it is not simply a matter of lack of historical documentation, but positive historical documentation of discontinuity of the extraordinary gifts.

I would agree that my ignorance of the continuity of gifts is not a valid argument in favor of cessationism.

I appreciate that you take a "soft" approach to the gifts.

I disagree that the extraordinary gifts are not treated differently. Compare Pentacost with pre-Pentacost.

No one (except perhaps some extreme Pelagian) holds to "total cessationism," for obvious reasons.

What makes you think that the "common good" was ever the reason for the extraordinary gifts?

Is Scripture your source of infallible knowledge? Is Scripture complete? Does the word "perfect" in the verse mean something other than "complete"? I think your answers are "Yes" "yes" and "no."

Is there more to that passage than just the completion of Scripture? Perhaps so. On the other hand, does the principle apply? Why not?

What need is there for revelation if Scripture is formally and materially sufficient?


TheoJunkie said...


ii) ...justifying the reappearance of extraordinary gifts.

It is you that says "reappearance". :) I do not find that they ceased.

My justification does come from Scripture (with zero implication of support for Orthodox's probable agenda).

I find that Scripture does not provide for a cessation of gifts (or of a distinction of gifts). (It does provide for cessation-- but that will occur "when the perfect comes", and this is defined as the point when we know even as we are known). Historical silence (as in, lack of documented evidence for cessation) only supports my understanding of what Scripture says.

You say there is positive historical documentation of cessation... if you note (even in your "fly in the ointment" quote)... this "documentation" is simply an a priori statement. How can you document ANY negative? And this holds with all of these old writers, who can only say things like Chrysostom, such as "And we know these things have long since ceased." No scripture backing (which is the Rule, right?).. just this statement that "we know".

Atheists say "and we know God does not exist." Scientists say "And we know evolution explains humanity." JK Rowling knows Dumbledore is gay. All a priori.

Who, after all, has even met Dumbledore? But, I digress.


1 Cor 12:7 To each is given the manifestation of the Spirit for the common good.
[followed by the full list in vv 8-10, with no pause for distinction]

If "perfect" in ch 13 refers to the "completeness of scripture"... then explain what Paul means by us knowing EVEN AS we are known. Do you, through Scripture, know God EVEN AS he knows you? I don't. I don't even know myself as well as he knows me. Scripture is perfect in revealing God-- and provides the full revelation of God that He will have us know right now. But it does not COMPLETELY reveal God. We have a perfect and perfectly adequate, but incomplete (inherently so and by design), view of God in Scripture. God is infinite, Scripture is finite. God has told us what he will, but that is not all of him to tell.

(But note! I do not say the above to argue for new prophetic revelation about GOD. Only to note that "the perfect" has not yet come...)

"formally and materially sufficient"

TF... it is formally and materially sufficient as the authority and rule of all matters of faith and practice (of faith)... for formulating doctrine, for knowing God in this season, for morality.... for all things that it deals with.

It is not formally and materially sufficient for anything else, nor is it supposed to be.

But neither will a prophet of God utter anything that conflicts with or adds to scripture.