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According to Continuationists, is it possible to make a case for the doctrine of Continuationism through logical argumentation based on deductive reasoning and Scripture alone (i.e. without appealing to history or other extra-biblical sources)?

In other words, I'm looking for examples of more or less "formal" deductive arguments, consisting of premises and conclusions that logically follow from the premises (and/or previous conclusions), in which the final conclusion is that the doctrine of Continuationism is true and the premises are defended by appealing to Scripture alone. Something like this:

  • Premise 1 (based on passage X)
  • Premise 2 (based on passage Y)
  • Conclusion 1 (from Premises 1 and 2)
  • Premise 3 (based on passage Z)
    [...]
  • Final conclusion: Continuationism is true.

Note: the counterpart question about Cessationism can be found at Can the doctrine of Cessationism be logically deduced from Scripture via deductive reasoning?

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    To be honest, I'm not a fan of these logical deduction questions. I don't think they're any better than the traditional Biblical Basis questions, and because they still depend on subjective and imprecise interpretation of Biblical passages, so they're not really any more logically rigorous.
    – curiousdannii
    Aug 14 '21 at 0:45
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    @curiousdannii - I think the exercise of actually sitting down and writing a deductive argument can be tremendously helpful to asses your own reasoning process. First of all, it makes it much more easier to check if your reasoning is logically valid: does my conclusion actually follow from the premises? Am I being fallacious at some step in the argument? If your argument is objectively valid, then the only room left for subjectivity would be in the arguments for its soundness, i.e., the defense of the premises: are the premises more likely to be true than false in light of Scripture? Aug 14 '21 at 2:12
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    Yes, it can. So can cessation. We can deduce whatever we like from scripture by being careful about what scriptures we choose to include. But it doesn't prove a thing.
    – Nigel J
    Aug 14 '21 at 3:06
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    . . . . by walking in the Spirit and having the mind of Christ, through repentance and by justification by faith and being born of water and of Spirit. In thy light . . . shall we see light. Else we walk by our own darkness.
    – Nigel J
    Aug 14 '21 at 3:09
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    @curiousdannii - isn't that the definition of abductive reasoning though? Sometimes these definitions can become a bit confusing, I acknowledge. Aug 14 '21 at 14:38
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Argument based on 1 Corinthians 13

  • P1. There is a time T when the perfect will come and spiritual gifts such as tongues, prophecy and knowledge will cease. Before T, these spiritual gifts are available. After T, they cease (From 1 Cor 13:1-2,8-10)

  • P2. There will be a time T when we will see face to face. (From 1 Cor 13:12)

  • P3. The time T when we will see face to face is the same time T when the perfect will come. (From 1 Cor 13:9-12)

  • P4. The time T when we will see face to face is the same time T when we will have full access to the mysteries of the kingdom of God. (From 1 Cor 13:1-2,9-12)

  • P5. We don't have full access to the mysteries of the kingdom of God now. (From 1 Cor 13:9 and common sense)

  • C1. Therefore, the time T when we will see face to face has not yet passed (i.e. now <= T). (From P5 and P4)

  • C2. Therefore, the time T when the perfect comes has not yet passed (i.e. now <= T). (From C1 and P3)

  • C3. Therefore, spiritual gifts such as tongues, prophecy and knowledge are still available (i.e. they haven't ceased yet, because now <= T). (From C2 and P1)

  • C4. Therefore, Continuationism is true. (From C3 and the definition of Continuationism)


Defense of the premises

Premise 1. There is a time T when the perfect will come and spiritual gifts such as tongues, prophecy and knowledge will cease. Before T, these spiritual gifts are available. After T, they cease (From 1 Cor 13:1-2,8-10)

This one is fairly uncontroversial, in my opinion. Here are the verses:

If I speak in the tongues of men and of angels, but have not love, I am a noisy gong or a clanging cymbal. 2 And if I have prophetic powers, and understand all mysteries and all knowledge,
[...]
8 Love never ends. As for prophecies, they will pass away; as for tongues, they will cease; as for knowledge, it will pass away. 9 For we know in part and we prophesy in part, 10 but when the perfect comes, the partial will pass away.

It is very clear that these spiritual gifts are regarded by Paul as partial/imperfect, and that they will become obsolete and therefore cease once the perfect comes. In other words, if we call T the time when the perfect comes, before T the gifts are available and after T they become obsolete and get replaced by the perfect.

Premise 2. There will be a time T when we will see face to face. (From 1 Cor 13:12)

This comes directly from verse 12:

For now we see in a mirror dimly, but then face to face. Now I know in part; then I shall know fully, even as I have been fully known.

Explicitly stated, trivially true.

Premise 3. The time T when we will see face to face is the same time T when the perfect will come. (From 1 Cor 13:9-12)

9 For we know in part and we prophesy in part, 10 but when the perfect comes, the partial will pass away. 11 When I was a child, I spoke like a child, I thought like a child, I reasoned like a child. When I became a man, I gave up childish ways. 12 For now we see in a mirror dimly, but then face to face. Now I know in part; then I shall know fully, even as I have been fully known.

It's very clear that Paul is talking about and comparing now vs. then (in the future). Now we have these partial tools (spiritual gifts), but then the perfect will come, and we will see face to face, and we will know fully, and the spiritual gifts will become obsolete and cease. Therefore, it becomes clear that the expressions "see face to face" and "the perfect" are pointing to a same event in the future.

Premise 4. The time T when we will see face to face is the same time T when we will have full access to the mysteries of the kingdom of God. (From 1 Cor 13:1-2,9-12)

Basically the same defense as before. But also, a brief commentary on the expression "mysteries of the kingdom of God". Verse 12 reads:

12 For now we see in a mirror dimly, but then face to face. Now I know in part; then I shall know fully, even as I have been fully known.

Even though it doesn't appear in the chapter, I use the expression "mysteries of the kingdom of God" because the passage very clearly talks about attaining full knowledge, just like we have been fully known (by God). This divine knowledge will be attained when the perfect comes. And it will be complete, unambiguous, not subject to controversies or different interpretations.

Premise 5. We don't have full access to the mysteries of the kingdom of God now. (From 1 Cor 13:9 and common sense)

Perhaps the most controversial premise of the argument. Verse 9 says:

9 For we know in part and we prophesy in part,

Paul acknowledged that, at least at the time verse 9 was spoken, they had partial, imperfect knowledge of God and His mysteries. So premise 5 was definitely true at their time. The question is: What about now (August 2021)? I would argue that we don't have perfect knowledge of God and His mysteries now either. And it's very easy to see why: If we already had perfect knowledge now, then this perfect knowledge should be complete, unambiguous, uncontroversial. If it is not complete, then it is partial, and if it is ambiguous, then it is subject to misinterpretations, misunderstanding and can lead to controversies and erroneous conclusions. But that's exactly the kind of knowledge we have right now: we don't know everything, we haven't figured out yet everything about the laws of physics, we don't know everything about the spirit realm, there are tons of mysteries that will probably be revealed in Heaven which we aren't currently aware of, our understanding of the Scriptures is very imperfect and full of ambiguities, controversies, etc.


Responding to objections in the comments

Objection. It is very revealing (and to be honest, unsurprising) that I cannot find the name of Jesus Christ anywhere in this 'argument'. If the Spirit were truly present in all of this, we would hear of Christ (and not the Spirit) because : Howbeit when he, the Spirit of truth, is come, he will guide you into all truth: for he shall not speak of himself; He shall glorify me: for he shall receive of mine, and shall shew it unto you..

Answer. This is only a problem if it invalidates one or more of the premises. If it doesn't, then I don't see the point of this objection. On the other hand, one could argue that the phrase "see face to face" in verse 12 implies seeing Jesus Christ face to face in Heaven, after the resurrection of the death. See the answers to the related question When shall we see “face to face”? 1 Corinthians 13:12 that quote many similar passages that explicitly mention the person of Jesus.

Objection. Deductive reasoning won't lead to a conclusion based on the weight of Biblical evidence however, which is often what we do want.

Answer. When you talk about the weight of the evidence, that sounds pretty much like abductive reasoning. But different reasoning paradigms are not incompatible with each other. In fact, quite the contrary, you can use abductive arguments, inductive arguments or even other deductive arguments (in short, any kind of argument) to defend the premises of a deductive argument. For example, see this answer that attempts to deduce the doctrine of the Trinity. Another example is William Lane Craig's defense of the premises of the Kalam cosmological argument.


Relevant follow-up question posted on BH.SE by @GratefulDisciple: Can 1 Cor 13:8-10 be used as to prove that radical Continuationism is necessarily true? Stay tuned :-)

Edit: link to my answer to said question.

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  • Comments are not for extended discussion; this conversation has been moved to chat.
    – Ken Graham
    Aug 14 '21 at 18:40
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    +1 for time and effort invested, as well as a clear pattern of thought leading to a reasonable conclusion.
    – RobJarvis
    Aug 16 '21 at 15:11
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    @AlBrown - feel free to post a separate deductive argument if you wish. It would be great to see another answer to the question presenting a different argument from a novel perspective. Aug 26 '21 at 3:54
  • Oh that does make sense. Ok will
    – Al Brown
    Aug 26 '21 at 3:57
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This is parallel to an answer by Spirit Realm Investigator, using the same logic chain, but adds enough details that are significantly different enough to warrant listing it.

If we are going to face simply the exact words in the Scriptures with intellectual honesty, let us carefully do so:

The Text

Focusing only on this section of text, what does it say about the partial and perfect? That is the only question I will address. There are others, but that one is both key and assailable.

1 Cor 13:9-12 (ESV)

For we know in part and we prophesy in part, 10 but when the perfect comes, the partial will pass away. 11 When I was a child, I spoke like a child, I thought like a child, I reasoned like a child. When I became a man, I gave up childish ways. 12 For now we see in a mirror dimly, but then face to face. Now I know in part; then I shall know fully, even as I have been fully known.

The Partial

The partial, which is true at the letter’s writing, is the following state of affairs:

we know in part and prophesy in part

now we see in a mirror dimly

Now I know in part

The Perfect

The perfect will be the following state of affairs:

the partial will pass away

we see.. then face to face.

then I shall know fully, even as I have been fully known.

Definitions

Within First Corinthians, that is our knowledge of the partial and the perfect.

The term “I” refers to the Apostle Paul, and the word “now” refers to the year 53 or 54 AD, some twenty or so years after his conversion. “We” refers to either the authors, Paul and Sosthenes (1 Cor 1:1, ESV); or the authors and the letter’s recipients; or occasionally one might use “we” to refer to some larger group that includes either the authors or both the authors and the letter recipients. The recipients are:

1 Cor 2

2 To the church of God that is in Corinth, to those sanctified in Christ Jesus, called to be saints together with all those who in every place call upon the name of our Lord Jesus Christ, both their Lord and ours:

Interpretation

Because we “see dimly” at the time of the writing, this has to end before the perfect has come. Furthermore “we see.. face to face” must occur. It doesn’t say directly whom is being seen face to face, but any reasonable interpretation would eliminate the possibility that this was achieved by “the books of the bible being finished up and collected together”.

Also, Paul himself at the writing “know[s] in part”, which must change to “I shall know fully”. One might wonder about Paul’s post-death change in knowledge, but that would miss the point, because he is clearly talking about something that’s happening to more than just him and to more than any other single person.

Conclusion

Death aside (for reasons outlined), what occurrence constituting “the perfect”, which happens to more than one person, would make a Paul see face to face if he can only “see in a mirror dimly” at age ~50? What would make him “know fully even as [he has] been fully known” when presently (after twenty years of service) he only knows in part?

This appears to be a monumental, even existential shift in the state of affairs. Has this really taken place? I cannot see a case that it has, with obvious implications.

So by the P1-P5 and C1-C5 listed by SRI, continuationism is true. Finally, while the verse appears to disprove Cessationism outright, I would note it is the only support most cessationists can point to with any confidence. Wouldn’t we think such a shift would be a bit more clear? This could be part of why no Christians thought such a thing for 1,500 years.

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    Interesting thoughts, but what is the deductive argument here? What are the premises? What are the conclusions? How do the conclusions follow from the premises? An overall summary of the deductive argument at the beginning of the answer would be helpful. Aug 29 '21 at 13:55
  • It should be obvious is a direct match to yours. Ok i may add that, perhaps should also stand alone
    – Al Brown
    Aug 29 '21 at 14:00
  • I think there should be a way to bring church fathers and the body through time in via scripture. For someone extremely familiar. Promises about who would be trustworthy perhaps? Something similar? Including what they say about spirits. I just realized more fully how the completion of the bible makes it by definition impossible that the bible could contradict via direct examples. Theres gotta be something in the bible implying what some group should do where the timeline appears to pass 70ad.
    – Al Brown
    Aug 29 '21 at 14:06
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    I made a change. Not the full request but mostly, imo. Nothing below “The Text” changed
    – Al Brown
    Aug 29 '21 at 14:18
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    I see. You basically agree with my overall argument and are only providing further reasons to support it - specifically for premise 5, namely, that we still are in a state of partial knowledge right now and that therefore the perfect has not yet come. Aug 29 '21 at 14:26
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The problem with arguing for a hard form of continuationism is that the New Testament promises of charismatic gifts in Scripture are not necessarily given as an absolute promise for all times and places.

Just like there are general non time bound promises that God will answer prayer, so promises related to charismatic gifts should be understood as general non time bound promises. In other words, all promises for temporal gifts in the Bible should be interpreted as situational/conditional in both context and application and not normative in application.

God, in his sovereignty, may from time to time decide to totally hide himself and not leave any discernible traces of answered prayer. There is no uniformity of spiritual experience that a Christian can lay claim too.

On the other hand, just because the promises of the charisms mentioned in the New Testament were sufficiently fulfilled in the apostolic age, this does not imply that the promises were exhaustively fulfilled in that era as well.

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