According to Monergism.com:

In Christian theology, cessationism is the view that the charismatic gifts of the Holy Spirit, such as tongues, prophecy and healing, ceased being practiced early on in Church history. Cessationists usually believe the miraculous gifts were given only for the foundation of the Church, during the time between the coming of the Holy Spirit on Pentecost, c. AD 33 (see Acts 2) and the fulfillment of God's purposes in history, usually identified as either the completion of the last book of the New Testament or the death of the last Apostle. Cessationists are divided into four main groups:

  • Concentric Cessationists believe that the miraculous gifts have indeed ceased in the mainstream church and evangelized areas, but appear in unreached areas as an aid to spreading the Gospel (Luther and Calvin, though they were somewhat inconsistent in this position).
  • Classical cessationists assert that the "sign gifts" such as prophecy, healing and speaking in tongues ceased with the apostles and the finishing of the canon of Scripture. They only served as launching pads for the spreading of the Gospel; as affirmations of God's revelation. However, these cessationists do believe that God still occasionally does miracles today, such as healings or divine guidance, so long as these "miracles" do not accredit new doctrine or add to the New Testament canon. Richard Gaffin, John F. MacArthur and Daniel B. Wallace are perhaps the best-known classical cessationists.
  • Full Cessationists argue that along with no miraculous gifts, there are also no miracles performed by God today. This argument, of course, turns on one's understanding of the term, "miracle." B. B. Warfield, J. Gresham Machen, F.N. Lee.
  • Consistent Cessationists believe that not only were the miraculous gifts only for the establishment of the first-century church, but the so-called fivefold ministry found in Eph. 4 was also a transitional institution (i.e., There are no more apostles or prophets, but also no more pastors, teachers, or evangelists). For more information, click on Wikipedia.

According to Wikipedia:

  • Full cessationists believe that all miracles have ceased, along with any miraculous gifts.
  • Classical cessationists assert that the miraculous gifts such as prophecy, healing, and speaking in tongues ceased with the apostles. However, they do believe that God occasionally works in supernatural ways today.
  • Consistent cessationists believe that not only were the miraculous gifts only for the establishment of the first-century church, but the need for apostles and prophets also ceased.
  • Concentric cessationists believe that the miraculous gifts have indeed ceased in the mainstream church and evangelized areas, but may appear in unreached areas as an aid to spreading the Gospel. Daniel B. Wallace describes himself as a concentric cessationist and describes the other cessationist viewpoints as "linear".


How do continuationists view each different type of cessationism?

For example, I personally believe that concentric cessationism seems to be very close to continuationism, depending on how "unreached area" is defined (interesting related answer). What would a concentric cessationist be missing out on by not fully embracing a continuationist worldview, according to continuationists? Same question for the other three types of cessationism.

2 Answers 2


An appeal is made to Martin Luther being an "inconsistent" concentric cessationist. That observation is also true among many of his followers in the various parts of the Lutheran church today. However, it is the nature of good theology to have a dialectical approach, which can result in clarification & nuance for greater precision in making doctrinal formulations.

The difference between concentric cessationism and an open but cautious concentric continuationist view of the charisms has more to do with following, which can be summarized in the acrostic YIELD:

  1. Yearning to be filled with the Holy Spirit is an important part of continuationist teaching. Is there a yearning to pray for and be filled with the Holy Spirit? Even though God in His sovereignty might desire to hide Himself and not leave any discernible tracks of supernatural activity, it's still a good Biblical practice. Martin Luther advocated praying for the Holy Sprit and even felt comfortable writing a hymn of invocation, Come Holy Spirit, God and Lord. However, the current (LCMS) Lutheran Catechism "Questions & Answers" section is deficient in the regard. But, most likely, it is just a matter of time before Lutherans catch up to what the Catechism of the Catholic Church (1995) states. In sections 2670 and 2671, the Catechism of the Catholic Church has solidly come out in favor of praying for the Holy Spirit:

    ...the Church invites us to call upon the Holy Spirit every day, especially at the beginning and the end of every important action.

  2. Intellectually understanding what the Bible says about the charisms is important, even if God might desire to withdraw His supernatural presence. Romans 10:17, “Faith comes by hearing and hearing from the Word of God.” Also, Galatians 3:5, “God gives you His Spirit and works miracles in you …because you have heard about Christ and have faith…” An important operating assumption of concentric continuationism is to communicate the worldview of the Christian faith in all of its supernatural aspects and implications for today. C.S. Lewis urges in his book Miracles that Christians need to develop a nose like a bloodhound for the concealed assumption that miracles are impossible, improbable or improper. In exhorting Anglican priests and youth leaders back in 1945, he writes:

    Do not attempt to water Christianity down. There must be no pretence that you can have it with the Supernatural left out. So far as I can see Christianity is precisely the one religion from which the miraculous cannot be separated. You must frankly argue for supernaturalism from the very outset. (God in the Dock)

  3. Entertaining the possibility that one can have an expectation deficit for the charisms, due to not having the pure receptivity of prayer, is an important aspect of concentric continuationism. The manifestation of the charisms is historically connected with pure receptivity of faith in the general, but not absolute guaranteed, promises of God in the answering of prayer for miracles. The Scriptural backing for this would be Matthew 13:58, and Acts 14:9. The famous 19th century church historian, Phillip Schaff observes:

    …the Holy Ghost, when first entering into humanity, came with peculiar creative power, copiousness, and freshness; presented a striking contrast to the mass of the unchristian world; and by this very exhibition of what was extraordinary and miraculous, exerted a mighty attraction upon the world, without which it never could be conquered… in times of great awakening and of the powerful descent of the Spirit, in the creative epochs of the Church, we now and then observe phenomena quite similar to those of the first century…(Apostolic Church)

  4. Little things can also be gifts. For example, concentric continuationists would embrace prayer connected polysyllabic euphonious sounds as likely candidates for being identified as jubilation species of glossolalia. A careful reading of 19th century European exegetical scholars demonstrate a view that the Biblical gift of tongues can range from a repetitions of short phonemes (e.g. jazz scat like pre-linguistic speech known only to God) to that of great variety and complexity (e.g. foreign languages like that on the day of Pentecost) - all according to God's Sovereignty. For example, George Stoechardt writes (emphasis added):

    There were various kinds of speaking in tongues. One who had this gift would, moved by the Spirit, with his tongue bring forth pleasant sounds or songs, unintelligible, or only partly intelligible, to the hearers, perhaps even not understood by the person who produced these sounds… the Spirit moves the inner spirit of man to utter euphonious sounds… unintelligible both to the hearers as well as the speaker himself. (George Stoechardt’s 19th Century Commentary on 1 Corinthians, pages 73 & 83)

  5. Displaying of tongues can be frowned upon, even in private settings, by concentric cessationists. Concentric continuationists would have a fundamental openness in allowing people to privately express glossolalia prayer and then putting those prayers into vernacular words. See A. Thistleton on the gift of interpretation. Also, Fr. George Montague writes about the gift of interpretation providing a rational shape to something enigmatic like an oracular utterance or vision or a dream (George Montague’s, The Spirit & His Gifts, p. 34). The proper venue for such activity would be along the lines of an Alpha Course Holy Spirit weekend in which time is dedicated to teaching and being sensitive to the controversial elements of tongues, lest unbelievers would perceive it as simply polysyllabic babbling and/or cessationists as manipulative heavenly gibberish.

The above, for followers of Martin Luther in the Lutheran tradition, is in harmony with 19th and early 20th century Lutheran Church theologians. Prior to the rise of the Pentecostal/Charismatic movements, they held to an open but cautious view of the continuation of charisms in missional situations. For example, the famous exegetical scholar, Dr. William Arndt in a conference paper that he gave in 1930, writes (emphasis added):

Let us not say: The Bible teaches that the charismatic gifts were confined to the early Church. In my conviction we cannot prove that the Bible carries such teaching…There are no Scripture passages… by means of which we can prove that the extraordinary gifts possessed by Christians in apostolic timeswere intended for, and given to the Church of early New Testament times only. (Concordia Theological Monthly, Vol. 1., 1931)

Theodore Graebner, the editor of the Lutheran Witness and professor at Concordia Seminary at the same time as William Arndt, also warned against those who tended to over react to the early Pentecostal movement (emphasis added):

The Scriptures do not limit the promises of His special gifts to the age of the apostles, and so we have not right to condemn anyone who believes that this gift (healing) exists today... (Faith Cure, p. 7, CPH, 1929)


I have been told that when they train cashiers to reject counterfeit bills, they do not use any actual examples of counterfeit currency. Instead, they teach them in detail the special security features built into authentic legal tender.

In the following passage, we see that some Jezebel Spirit had compromised believers through sexual immorality and idolatry: (bold emphasis added)

Revelation 2:18-29 NIV “To the angel of the church in Thyatira write: These are the words of the Son of God, whose eyes are like blazing fire and whose feet are like burnished bronze. 19 I know your deeds, your love and faith, your service and perseverance, and that you are now doing more than you did at first. 20 Nevertheless, I have this against you: You tolerate that woman Jezebel, who calls herself a prophet. By her teaching she misleads my servants into sexual immorality and the eating of food sacrificed to idols. 21 I have given her time to repent of her immorality, but she is unwilling. 22 So I will cast her on a bed of suffering, and I will make those who commit adultery with her suffer intensely, unless they repent of her ways. 23 I will strike her children dead. Then all the churches will know that I am he who searches hearts and minds, and I will repay each of you according to your deeds. 24 Now I say to the rest of you in Thyatira, to you who do not hold to her teaching and have not learned Satan’s so-called deep secrets, ‘I will not impose any other burden on you, 25 except to hold on to what you have until I come.’ 26 To the one who is victorious and does my will to the end, I will give authority over the nations— 27 that one ‘will rule them with an iron scepter and will dash them to pieces like pottery’—just as I have received authority from my Father. 28 I will also give that one the morning star. 29 Whoever has ears, let them hear what the Spirit says to the churches.

Later in the above passage, we find out that an additional dynamic was at work. The statement is made

**to you who do not hold to her teaching and have not

learned Satan’s so-called deep secrets**

which I am going to split in two:

To you who

  1. do not hold to her teaching
  2. have not learned Satan’s so-called deep secrets


  1. Darkness can have a teaching. Do not hold to it.
  2. Darkness can make up (or have) even more teaching -- in this case, "deep secrets" -- which you should not even learn.

I am constantly amazed at how prolific is the Father of Lies. I have studied miracles in particular for many years now, and there seems to be no end of them.

At least 3 resurrections, at least 4 fallen angels cast out, many healings of all kinds, including many cancer healings, and my own back was healed, and I have at least one more miracle I could relay.

My recommendation is that we stop spending time trying to figure out why some people say miracles don't happen today, and instead do our own research that, if we evaluate the "historical proof", or testimony, and its weight of evidence, as in a typical legal trial, we should eventually be able to prove that verifiable miracles have happened in the past recent history (you can start with the Great Awakening in America), and therefore miracles have not ceased.

Brother Yun, who wrote the book, "The Heavenly Man: The remarkable true story of Chinese Christian Brother Yun", fasted from both food and water for 74 days. He did this in the presence of hostile witnesses, his prison cell mates, and the guards, who eventually caught on. The communist officials thought he was performing a hunger strike to make the government look bad. So a lot of people knew what was going on -- 74 days is a long, long time! I believe that Yun is still alive today, so you could ask him about the fast and all of the other miracles he knows about. Just be prepared to spend a few hours listening! Here is an excerpt from the book:


After I was carried back to my cell, the guard kicked me and shouted, “How dare you speak and eat today after you have been quiet for so long? I will skin you alive! You wait and see!” He slammed the iron door shut as he left the cell. The cell leader insulted me, “You are a fake! You pretended to be dying every day. I’m alive and well in prison even though I’ve killed and raped women. You came to the prison because you believe in Jesus and you’re dying like a sick dog.” One of the other prisoners was a Muslim. He snarled at me, “How dare you preach Jesus against our nation’s laws? You deserve to die. The heavenly law will judge pigs like you!” All the prisoners knew I was very weak and needed to be carried everywhere I went. They hadn’t heard me say one word for many weeks, but when I heard these insults the Holy Spirit came upon me. I stood to my feet, much to their amazement, and proclaimed in a loud voice: “Fellow prisoners, I have a message from my Lord. Please listen carefully!” Everyone was astonished that I could stand and speak with such power and authority. I was just a bag of bones. They had been placing bets on when I would die, but now I was standing before them speaking with a loud voice! I told them, “Friends, God sent me here especially for your sake. The day I entered this cell I told you I’m a pastor who believes in Jesus. The first night I sang to you and shared Jesus’ salvation with you all. You have all closely watched me and you know I haven’t taken a single grain of rice or one drop of water for 74 days. I ask you, over several thousand years of history, who has ever seen anyone do this for 74 days and live? Don’t you realize this miracle is a demonstration of God’s mighty power and his protection over me? “Now my Lord has allowed me to stand before you to let you know that Jesus is the true and living God. How dare you continue in your sin, doing evil things! Friends, when the judgment day comes how do you plan to escape hell? Only Jesus can forgive you! “This day the Lord has mercy on you and offers you an opportunity to repent and receive forgiveness of your sins. All of you should kneel down before Jesus Christ, confess your sins, and ask God to forgive you. How else will you escape the punishment of hell?” After I spoke it was as though a bomb dropped on the men! They couldn’t help themselves. The cell leader was the first to come and fall on his knees. He cried out, “Yun, what must I do to be saved?” The other prisoners also knelt down, including the Muslim. They cried out in a loud voice, “What must we do to be saved? How can we be forgiven by God?” Every one of those sin-hardened men received the Lord Jesus Christ, repenting of their sins with many tears. They also felt guilty for the way they had treated me. I forgave them in the same way that Joseph forgave his brothers. I encouraged them by saying, “You intended to harm me, but God intended it for good to accomplish what is now being done, the saving of many lives.” Genesis 50:20. Because we didn’t have much water available, I used a few drops to baptize each one of them. A prison guard in the hallway outside our cell heard the commotion and rushed to the door. He stood rooted to the floor for several minutes without saying a word, totally amazed at what he witnessed. The entire atmosphere in the cell was drastically transformed. These sin-hardened men now had new tender hearts. Their language and behaviour totally changed. Previously hatred and selfishness reigned in cell number two. Now, joy and peace reigned. For days the men walked around with tears in their eyes, amazed at how the Lord had poured out his mercy on them. When they were allowed into the yard they took every opportunity to share the gospel with prisoners from the other cells. In this way the gospel was preached throughout the prison and many repented and believed in the Lord!

The Heavenly Man (pp. 118-120, Location 1700/4553). Lion Hudson LTD. Kindle Edition.

If you need any further proof that the cessationistic arguments should cease, let me know.

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