Cessationist or not?

Dan and I have were recently discussing the differences between cessationism and a continuationist view of spiritual gifts in the context of this article on what I'll dub "cessationist healings". In the 12th comment to that article, Tim offers his own definition of cessationism:

Cessationists, quite simply, believe that the miraculous gifts of the Spirit were given for a specific purpose and thus a specific time. These gifts have since ceased. Miracles still happen, but do not depend on the spiritual gifts.

So while we believe that the gift of tongues is no longer operative, we still believe that God can miraculously give someone the ability to speak in a language he does not rightly know. It's just that this person does not have the gift of tongues. We believe that God can still heal miraculously but do not believe that there are people with the spiritual gift of healing. We believe that people can still prophecy (think of John Huss, who before he died, prophecied something like "You are now going to burn a goose, but in a century you will have a swan which you can neither roast nor boil." This prophecy came true in the Reformation, but did not rely on the spiritual gift of prophecy.

So we do not believe that the miraculous has ceased. We believe that the gift has ceased. Most charismatics (or continuationists) do not understand this distinction.

Would you classify the events/views describes in the article as being cessationist or not?


I would suggest reading some of the old books about the Scottish covenanters. For instance, John Howie's Scots Worthies. Some amazing things are reported to have happened. Reading all this certainly challenged my views and made them more nuanced. I'm still a cessationist, but I would certainly never put any limits on what God might do, especially in pioneering mission circumstances.

I talked to a guy in the United States about speaking in tongues. In his church, they have what he calls speaking in tongues quite often. The impression I got from talking to him is that he really believes it's happening. According to him, the Spirit is especially active in some geographical areas more than others.

I'm open to the idea, but I remain skeptical. I watched a video on Google Video a few months ago about a Bible camp run by evangelicals. In one part of the video, they were in the meeting hall and the camp leader said, "Ok, we're going to speak in tongues now," and then she started saying something that wasn't English. I don't know what language it was supposed to be; she could have been making it up for all I know. I was under the impression that speaking in tongues was something that happened when God decided it would happen, not when people decide they feel like doing it. A lot of the kids started talking in other non-English (or made-up) languages; some were crying at the same time, one kid was rolling around on the floor. I'm not sure what to make of it.

Another thing that confuses me about speaking in tongues is that the first time we read about it, in Acts 2, "each one heard them speaking in his own language," like a sort of universal translator, but in Paul's first letter to the Corinthians he talks about having a translator. This would seem to indicate that nobody is hearing the person speak in their own language, which is the exact opposite of what happened in Acts 2. There are two other instances of speaking in tongues mentioned in Acts, and both seem to be of the same variety as in chapter 2, though it doesn't say explicitly.

I've been mulling over the article you referenced, and I've come to the conclusion that, indeed, a miracle happened, but it happened by God and not by man. He said himself that he never felt the same way during subsequent visits to other people.

I was under the impression that speaking in tongues was something that happened when God decided it would happen, not when people decide they feel like doing it.

Take a look at 1 Corinthians 14:27-28. A fair number of the contemporary advocates for prophecy do emphasize some level of control - although control involves the ability to keep silent, not to an ability speak unless they not specially gifted with this.

Some of the pentecostal folks argue that all believers must speak in tongues, whereas the camp that I tend to agree more with argues that tongues are not given to all. I kind of like Mark Driscoll's distinction between charismatics and charismaniacs.

... of what speaking in tongues can be like. I like the following story as a counter-example to the charis-maniac example in "Jesus Camp" (I assume) mentioned above. This is a testimony from October 1948 in Edmonton, Alberta at the Gospel Lighthouse. Similar occurences have happened in my church today (we call "singing in the Spirit"):

"They would start to worship the Lord in song as they
waited for service commencement. The Holy Spirit alone led. Soon, by inner compulsion the great audience would break forth into heavenly language. Like an aeolian harp, the Holy Spirit played upon and directed this large organic instrument. Solo voices would rise and fall, singing beyond natural gifting and ability. Then the vast audience who were also participants would rise in swelling antiphonal response.... This attracted unbelievers even more than the preaching. This praise and worship so released the conscious presence of God, that the new birth came upon many of these during the pre-praise service.... The above happened on a beautiful Indian Summer day in October, about noon. Several blocks away two businessmen were heading
for lunch, when the mighty sound of the Heavenly Choir arrested their steps.

"What's that?" one asked.
"It's an organ," the other replied.
"No, it's a choir," the first rejoined.
"Let's go and see," said the first.

They followed their ears, for the windows of the church
were open. Both were thunder-struck, then awe-struck by the undoubted supernatural manifestation of God. Both as a result yielded their lives to God!

It is possible for the flesh to drum up the Heavenly
Choir, but the Presence of God in His Almightiness does not deign to grace us with His Presence in such departures. We must walk softly with our God. We must walk in unity, in holiness, in heart preparation. We must enter His Tabernacle and Temple by entering into
His gates with thanksgiving and into His courts with praise. We must visit the brazen altar in the spirit of Romans 12:2, and daily offer ourselves as living sacrifices. We then come to the laver to wash our
hands and feet, and see thru the looking glasses of the women that no blemish is upon us because of unconfessed sin."

hard to describe unless you've experienced it yourself... I used to put what I thought God could and couldn't do into my nice little box, so God had to crush my box and show me things I am now ashamed I ever doubted... Don't box God or he'll unbox you!

Also note that tongues are not just a Pentecostal phenomenon, as they have occured throughout church history in some form, though perhaps not necessarily the same as sometimes practiced today:


Also interesting to note, tongues of some form or another are not just common to the Christian church: