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I don't have an explicit source at hand to cite, but sometimes I've heard Continuationists put forth the argument that "the counterfeit proves the real", "the counterfeit proves the original", etc., meaning that Satan would not produce a counterfeit version of a gift of the Spirit if there wasn't a genuine, Godly counterpart. Other times I've heard analogies such as "it would be irrational to burn all dollar bills just because counterfeit dollar bills exist, you just have to learn to discern between genuine and counterfeit dollar bills". The underlying assumption here is that Satan always seeks to imitate or mock God in some way, and, therefore, for each good gift that comes from God, Satan has devised a counterfeit, corrupted version to deceive people.

In syllogistic form, a general version of the argument could be worded as follows:

  1. If Satan or his demons perform or promote a deceitful manifestation, behavior or experience, there must be a parallel, uncorrupted, genuine, Godly version of it.
  2. Satan or his demons promote a corrupt, deceitful version of X.
  3. Therefore, there has to be a parallel, uncorrupted, genuine, Godly version of X.

I acknowledge that the wording of the argument is not the most rigorous, but hopefully you get the idea. I also hope that it should be readily clear that the argument is valid (i.e. the conclusion follows logically from the premises), so for the argument to be regarded as sound we would only have to check whether the two premises are true, and this would obviously depend on what specific X we are talking about. An example nobody should have issues agreeing with would be to have X = 'sex': there is an immoral version of sex, but there is also a genuine, Godly version of sex (within the covenant of marriage, out of love, etc). Another example is X = "food consumption": there is gluttony (bad), but there is also a healthy, responsible way of eating (good). And so on and so forth. And notice that nobody would think that "eating healthy" is no longer for today, or that "sex within marriage" is no longer for today, just because deceitful, counterfeit versions of them exist. Thus, Continuationists would argue that the same intuition can be extended to the gifts of the Spirit, and to the supernatural in general. For example:

  • Demonic encounters still happen today. Therefore, divine and angelic encounters still happen today.
  • Satan and his demons still communicate deceitful special revelations to people today. Therefore, God still communicates genuine special revelations to people today.
  • Satan and his demons still perform deceitful miracles today. Therefore, God still performs genuine miracles today.
  • Satan and his demons still speak to people today. Therefore, God still speaks to people today.
  • Satan and his demons still grant counterfeit "baptism of the Holy Spirit" experiences today (e.g. see Kundalini awakening). Therefore, God still grants a genuine baptism of the Holy Spirit today.
  • Satan and his demons still bestow deceitful occult powers to people today (e.g. see witchcraft, the occult, siddhis). Therefore, God still grants gifts of the Spirit to people today.
  • Etc.

How do Cessationists respond to "the counterfeit proves the real" argument?

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  • 3
    I am not a cessationist (therefore no answer) but I would point out that Satan often uses good things that God has bestowed and, working in conjunction with our sinful natures, makes us perceive them wrongly. I might perceive, for example, that the physical pleasure that God has provided me through my wife is my right and her duty and become blind to her needs and the real purpose of sex. In that case Satan has not introduced anything other than a lie. Aug 9 at 23:16
  • 1
    The fact that an imitation exists suggests that its authentic counterpart either exists, or has existed, or will exist; but that does not imply that the two are contemporaneous.
    – Lucian
    Aug 10 at 2:22
  • 2
    "The counterfeit proves the real" is a dangerous postulate to hold. If I knew you held it I would have no trouble deceiving you.
    – Joshua
    Aug 10 at 21:31
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To make your syllogism more obvious for the Cessationists's argument, switch:

  • "Satan or his demons" to "Elvis impersonators"
  • "Godly version of X" to "Real Elvis singing 'Love Me Tender'"
  • "deceitful version of X" to "Elvis impersonator singing 'Love Me Tender'"

Adding the implied "today" in the 3 sentences, we come up with:

  1. If Elvis impersonators perform or promote a deceitful manifestation, behavior or experience, there must be a parallel, uncorrupted, genuine, Real Elvis Presley singing 'Love Me Tender' (today).
  2. Elvis impersonators promote a corrupt, Elvis impersonator singing 'Love Me Tender' (today).
  3. Therefore, there has to be a parallel, uncorrupted, genuine, Real Elvis Presley singing 'Love Me Tender' (today).

But Cessationists believe that:

  1. the Real Elvis Presley stopped his official singing engagements in 1977. God never promised that the intensity of signs and wonders occurrence would be the same today as in the time of Jesus and the 12 apostles. They would respond to people who quote Mark 16:17-18 that they misread the verses. Contrast this with what God DID genuinely promise that He will continue doing to this day, Matt 28:19-20:

    19 Therefore, go and make disciples of all the nations, baptizing them in the name of the Father and the Son and the Holy Spirit. 20 Teach these new disciples to obey all the commands I have given you. And be sure of this: I am with you always, even to the end of the age.

  2. even if the Real Elvis Presley still plan to sing today, no one can predict the appearance because the Real Elvis is not dependent on the activity of the Elvis impersonators. In other words, God has complete freedom and his plan does not depend on Satan's activities. In fact, Jesus warned "For false messiahs and false prophets will rise up and perform great signs and wonders so as to deceive, if possible, even God’s chosen ones." (Matt 24:24). If God DOES heal today, it is out of his compassion, his freedom, and his plan to win the hearts of new converts. No one can predict when God (or the Real Elvis Presley) will act.

Therefore, according to Cessationists there is no causal connection between Satan's deception and God's producing miracles. In other words, "the counterfeit does NOT prove the real".


Follow-up comment:

even though the Real Elvis is not dependent on the activity of the Elvis impersonators, the impersonators are dependent on the activity of the Real Elvis. So, based on the impersonators, you still can infer stuff about the real Elvis, because of the backward implication. Now, this is not a perfect analogy, as the real Elvis is mortal, not eternal. But in the case of God and Satan, Satan is monitoring to the best of his ability all moves of God, and therefore, if you see Satan doing stuff, you can infer that he's probably reacting to God doing stuff too.

Cessationists would respond to the comment:

  1. You said: "the impersonators are dependent on the activity of the Real Elvis ... in the case of God and Satan, Satan is monitoring to the best of his ability all moves of God". What is the basis of this belief? The devil will use any trick and opportunity to lure people into the wrong notion of God, regardless whether God acts today or not. Similarly, the proliferation of Elvis impersonators are purely for profit (we haven't seen Real Elvis sightings lately, according to Cessationists), or during costume-wearing in Halloween trick and treats. For Cessationists, the activity of the impersonators are especially suspect (since it's relatively rare compared to apostolic times) and in no way implies the pattern or existence of contemporaneous genuine moves of God.
  2. You said: "based on the impersonators, you can infer stuff about the real Elvis." This is patently and dangerously wrong! If I have never seen the real Elvis, I could easily believe the impersonator Elvis in the video linked above to be the real one since he sang so well, the audio & video is sharper, and the radio host says "Goosebumps! Honestly ... goosebumps!". We should NOT learn about the Real God from today's signs and wonders, rather we learn only from what the Bible says about God. Signs & wonders then were only to authenticate past apostles and signs & wonders today are only to show tangibly God's love for us, but not to learn something new about God from those!
  3. Believers should not derive the presence of God by signs and wonders alone, since God is continuously working in other ways, primarily by the Holy Spirit's gentle loving guidance in our hearts. Genuine signs and wonders should always be treated as a surprise gift and should lead to a more genuine relationship with God.
  4. Let's say the believers were deceived by counterfeit signs and wonders (thinking they come from God). If they then increase their devotion toward the real God, the deception didn't work and Satan would have failed.
9
  • When you say that premise 1 is false, do you actually mean that premise 1 is not properly justified (i.e. that we don't know if it's true or not)? Because to prove that it is false, you would need show that it is logically inconsistent or find scriptural evidence that explicitly contradicts it. Aug 10 at 1:35
  • @SpiritRealmInvestigator Updated the answer to better refute the argument. Aug 10 at 2:27
  • I think the arrow of causality is backwards in the continuationist argument: Satan imitates God, not the other way around. Therefore, if Satan is performing deceitful acts, there is a high probability that he's taking inspiration from what God is doing. When God moves, Satan moves in response with counterfeits and deception to discredit the genuine work of God. Satan produces counterfeit tongues to discredit genuine tongues, Satan inspires deceitful prophecies to discredit genuine prophecies, etc. Aug 10 at 2:30
  • @SpiritRealmInvestigator After reading Craig Keener (a good continuationist) I'm more open to God working miracles today. But yes, I agree with you that for the bad continuationists "the arrow of causality is backwards" and what we have to be alert is the purpose of deception: to lead people into false doctrines. Aug 10 at 2:39
  • 2
    +1 The key is noting the time element. Once you do that, this particular argument against Cessationists falls apart. Aug 10 at 4:47
7

No.

Just to be clear, I'm a Continuationist, but I think that argument is totally invalid. You can't derive anything about God from what Satan is doing, because the whole purpose of what Satan does is to lead people away from God. Sure, he can (and does) trick people by mimicking what God does, but he can also trick people by creating entirely new things that play on human weaknesses.

For instance, take greed and the lust for power. Does God ever demonstrate a greed for material possessions? Does He ever demonstrate a desire to gain more power? No, of course not. However, it's something that Satan actively spreads among the people of the world, because it leads people away from God (and often leads them to harming other people).

5

Cessationists aren't atheists; of course God could perform powerful miraculous signs through his people today. Cessationists teach that even though God could do this, he doesn't as it is not part of his strategy and purpose for the church.

Cessationists teach that miracles occur in distinct clusters in the Bible: Moses, the judges, Elijah and Elisha, Jesus and the Apostles. For great time periods before Jesus God's people did not experience miraculous signs. Then we come to Jesus, who performs many of the greatest signs of all time, to show that he is not just one of God's many prophets, but God himself come in human flesh. Then he ascends, and his Apostles perform many signs. The purpose of those signs is to authenticate their ministry, to show that they are continuing Jesus's mission, and to authenticate the scriptures they would write.

Many cessationists would say that there could be places today where God does still perform miracles through his people, perhaps in places where the Gospel is going for the very first time. That's not really who cessationists argue against. Generally their focus is on the worst abuses of continuist theology, who even many continuists would oppose, those in Pentecostal churches who teach that modern prophetic revelation supersedes the scriptures, those who teach that everyone can and should speak in tongues, against the Bible's teachings that there are a diversity of gifts and against its teachings that the full indwelling of the Spirit comes in faith, and those who run healing ministries which bully people by saying that anyone who isn't healed lacks faith.

If we look at those "gifts", I'm not even sure that the "counterfeit proves the real" argument even applies. There has never been a time when prophetic revelation supersedes the scriptures - when the Apostles received prophetic visions it would sit alongside the scriptures, or be used to write the scriptures, but never over the top of the scriptures. The NT teaches us to careful judge prophetic messages, to test them, not to say that prophetic messages must be accepted without question. Some but not all continuists would question whether glossolalia ever occurred in Acts, instead saying that all the stories fit much better with speaking real human languages. And the healings of healing ministries are rarely of the blind-receiving-sight kind. How many sore backs did Jesus heal? No doubt he did heal some, but his healings were never limited like that. Healing ministries may claim more dramatic healings do take place, but they always seem second or third hand, there's never indisputable proof. I believe God does still perform miraculous healings, but they don't happen because of healing ministries or a spiritual gift of healing. There are people who get cured of cancer with no medical explanation. Our God is powerful, and good.

1
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The purpose of sensational events is to distract from the gospel itself : the godly, sensible, sounding forth - by real preaching - of the truth of the gospel once delivered to the saints.

The 'reality' is the gospel itself, not (supposedly real) sensational events.

Therefore the argument, that the existence of sensational events (of any kind) pre-supposes the existence of some other, supposedly 'genuine' sensational events : is not a valid argument.

2
  • Didn't Jesus, the apostles and the early church in general perform "sensational" events along with the preaching of the gospel? Aug 10 at 0:37
  • 4
    @SpiritRealmInvestigator Yes, indeed. To draw attention to the gospel, to draw attention to the inauguration of the New Testament. Now, we are aware of those singular events which stand out in history. They draw attention, in history, to the foundation that was laid. It is a distraction to attempt to repeat such signs. We are to address ourselves to the gospel itself, wherein is declared Jesus Christ and him crucified. I want to hear of justification, of redemption, of reconciliation, of propitiation. I neither need nor want sensational events. I am just not interested.
    – Nigel J
    Aug 10 at 5:53

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