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Cessationism is the belief held by some protestants that the miraculous gifts of the Holy Spirit, such as prophecy, do not occur in present day. The general thinking is that these gifts "ceased" at the completion of the canon, closing any new revelation.

What is the basis for this belief? I'm interested in Biblical, logical, empirical and historical arguments.

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To be perfectly accurate, it's a belief held by some protestant denominations; certainly not all (for example, the Pentecostal churches). –  Lawrence Dol Jan 10 '12 at 3:57
Right - I didn't mean to imply that all protestants held it. Only that it was protestant in origin. –  Eric Jan 10 '12 at 16:44

2 Answers 2

up vote 7 down vote accepted

I do not think you can have discussion about cessationism without mentioning 1 Corinthians 13:

1 Corinthians 13:8-10

8 Love never fails. But where there are prophecies, they will cease; where there are tongues, they will be stilled; where there is knowledge, it will pass away. 9 For we know in part and we prophesy in part, 10 but when completeness comes, what is in part disappears.

The question is, what Paul talking about? It seems that at some point in time, either in the past or in the future these gifts will not be taking place or would have stopped taking place. When will this happen? Paul gives the answer in verse 10, "...when completeness comes".

So the cessationist argument, using this as proof text, generally is centered around the meaning of 'completeness'. They would argue the completeness came at the end of the apostolic age.

Mark Driscoll gives a very thorough treatment of the text here, in which he comes to an anti-cessationist conclusion, but extremely thorough none-the-less, and worth a read.

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I'm not down-voting because I believe you are representing what some cessationist's proffer as a biblical rationale and am thankful for the link provided, but I can't help but comment regarding "They would argue the completeness came at the end of the apostolic age" - surely there must be more to it than this??? –  bruised reed Apr 2 at 6:30
Good answer. It is true that these verses have been used a basis for cessationism. Even if you don't believe in tongues or prophesy in the present day, you would have to acknowledge that knowledge has not passed away. In fact, knowledge is increasing. The verses make it quite clear that all 3 will pass away when completeness comes. –  Matt Aug 19 at 21:21

The argument for Cessationalism tends to be empirical rather Biblical.

  1. While there is significant evidence for glossalia in the NT writings (it is mentioned heavily), by the time of the Church Fathers (1 Clement, Didache, Polycarp, etc...), the evidence is scant.

  2. During most of recorded church theology (everything from say, Origin, Jerome, etc... to the Azusa Street Revival in 1900, this gift seems to have largely bypassed written record.

  3. This is often excused / explained by the idea that the gift of prophecy and miracles was superceded by the written Word of God. Another idea is that the gifts were no longer being used for their intended purpose.

The presence of miracles in Jesus' testimony, for example, was clearly given "in order that you might believe" (see Mark 2:8, Matt 17:26) and not for show (e.g. Luke 11:28-32). In Acts 2, the toungues were given as a miracle to substantiate the authority of the Apostles (those who would be 'sent out'). But, as Paul indicates in 1 Cor 12, the showy gifts like toungues and prophecy were causing divisions amongst believers.

As mentioned by Software Monkey, Pentecostal churches explicitly reject Cessationalism. The aforemention Azusa Street Revival (and modern manifestations such as the Toronto Blessing) are, for the Penetcostal movement, the evidence of their legitimacy. The term, of course, refers to the contrary position held by non-Pentecostals.

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1900? Only if you conveniently ignore 70 years of Mormon history, with numerous recorded instances of the Gift of Tongues and other spiritual gifts in use. And Joseph Smith gave at least one sermon in which he discussed the contemporary usage of such gifts in other branches of Christianity, so it was by no means only a LDS thing. –  Mason Wheeler Jan 11 '12 at 17:17
CLARIFICATION: Whether or not the gifts were present before the Pentecostal Movement, the general perception of many to most most Cessationists is that they were not. –  Affable Geek Mar 21 '12 at 14:21

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