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Here is a summarized version of the 7 arguments for Cessationism by Tom Pennington reiterated at the Strange Fire conference (source):

  1. The unique role of miracles - For authentication of the messenger(s). God worked miracles through unique men - Moses; Elijah and Elisha; Christ and his apostles.

  2. The end of the gift of apostleship - Apostleship was a church office gift (1 Cor 12:28; Eph 4) that ceased with the death of the Apostles.

  3. The foundational nature of the New Testament apostles and prophets - Apostles and prophets laid the foundation of the Christ' Church (Eph 2:20-22).

  4. The nature of the New Testament miraculous gifts - Alleged "miracles" reported after the Apostles are not of the same type, e.g., disparity between modern day healings and NT healings; "Tongues" gibberish vs. known languages, etc.

  5. The testimony of church history - The practice of apostolic gifts declined even during the lifetimes of the apostles. Even in the written books of the New Testament, the miraculous gifts are mentioned less as the date of their writing gets later.

  6. The sufficiency of Scripture - The Spirit speaks only in and through the inspired Word.

  7. The New Testament governed the miraculous gifts - Whenever the New Testament gifts of tongues was to be practiced, there were specific rules that were to be followed. These rules are not followed by charismatics today.

See the linked article above for the full exposition of the arguments.

How do Continuationists rebut them?


Related:

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  • Are you looking specifically for non-LDS perspectives? (To complement your linked question which seeks an LDS perspective) Commented Aug 29, 2022 at 1:40
  • 1
    @HoldToTheRod Not necessarily. I am open to answers from any group that is comfortable with the label of continuationist, regardless of where they stand on the LDS vs. non-LDS discussion.
    – user50422
    Commented Aug 29, 2022 at 2:00

3 Answers 3

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I'll offer a Latter-day Saint's perspective


1. The unique role of miracles - This objection loses force against a faith that believes God has authorized messengers on the earth today. We believe Joseph Smith was a prophet of God, and performed miracles. I should add that we believe that miracles are not only given to authenticate prophets. E.g.

has the day of miracles ceased? Or have angels ceased to appear unto the children of men? Or has he withheld the power of the Holy Ghost from them? Or will he, so long as time shall last, or the earth shall stand, or there shall be one man upon the face thereof to be saved? Behold I say unto you, Nay (Moroni 7:35f-37a)

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2. The end of the gift of apostleship - we believe the office of apostle was restored to the earth in modern times (see Articles of Faith 1:6)

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3. The foundational nature of the New Testament apostles and prophets

Laid the foundation or are the foundation?

I suggest the genitive construction τῶν ἀποστόλων ("of the apostles") in Ephesians 2:20, and the ontological statement about Jesus Himself that follows it (not He made the cornerstone, He is the cornerstone), very much favors "are the foundation". It is not that the apostles laid a foundation and left it; they are the foundation.

If one argues that being part of the foundation means that apostles are no longer needed, one could likewise argue that Jesus, being part of the foundation, is no longer needed? I emphatically disagree.

I believe that the ministry of the apostles is a critical function in God's ongoing work. Just as God was able to authorize (through His chosen channels) Matthias, James ben Joseph, Barnabas, and Paul to officiate as apostles after the calling of the original 12, He can (and I believe He does) appoint apostles when & where the time is right, and that this was a significant feature of the restoration of the fulness of the Gospel of Jesus Christ in modern times.

I don't believe Jesus' participation in the work of salvation is done; He is not a passive observer. His atoning sacrifice has been performed, but He remains actively involved in the development and progression of humanity. So too the offices He instituted to join Him in taking His good news & His covenants to the ends of the earth.

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4. The nature of the New Testament miraculous gifts - the existence of inauthentic examples does not mean that all examples are inauthentic--this logically does not follow. My own experience with the gift of tongues is that it facilitates communication across languages, as it did in Acts 2.

I am aware of modern examples closely corresponding to many of the miracles reported in the New Testament.

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5. The testimony of church history - I have written two other posts (here & here) discussing this topic. Because I believe in a Great Apostasy and a modern Restoration of the fullness of the Gospel of Jesus Christ, some degree of decline in miraculous events in the interim does not surprise me.

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6. The sufficiency of Scripture - The Spirit speaks only in and through the inspired Word. - I do not believe the Holy Spirit is on a permanent replay, only able to use today a subset of inspired teachings from the past. I believe the Holy Spirit can speak on any matter that is needful (see Moroni 10:5), and I believe in modern revelation.

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7. The New Testament governed the miraculous gifts - this objection specifically opposes the practices of the charismatics. I am not a charismatic, so this is not an objection to any of my personal beliefs. I do believe that God is a God of order.

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Conclusion

Central tenets of Latter-day Saint continuationism are captured by the Articles of Faith:

6 We believe in the same organization that existed in the Primitive Church, namely, apostles, prophets, pastors, teachers, evangelists, and so forth.

7 We believe in the gift of tongues, prophecy, revelation, visions, healing, interpretation of tongues, and so forth.

8 We believe the Bible to be the word of God as far as it is translated correctly; we also believe the Book of Mormon to be the word of God.

9 We believe all that God has revealed, all that He does now reveal, and we believe that He will yet reveal many great and important things pertaining to the Kingdom of God. (Articles of Faith 1:6-9)


Disclaimer: these thoughts are products of my own study and do not constitute official statements by The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints

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I will offer a Lutheran perspective.

  • The unique role of miracles & testimony of church history - Lutheran theology on the charismatic gifts is that they are not marks of the church, but part of what constitutes the church in certain situations. They tend to occur at certain axial kerygamtic points in which God desires to deal with us, in light of special conditions. These conditions appear as a concentric ring that is ever expanding and dissipating, as specific missional situations warrant God's interaction with charismatic gifts being manifested.

  • This axial kerygamtic view is also known as concentric continuationism. This view recognizes that there may not exist a solid contiguous stream of testimonial church evidence for miracles in every place and time. That being stated, there is an abundance of evidence for sporadic continuation of the charisms subsequent to the final death of the last of the canonical (i.e. eyewitnesses of Jesus) apostles. The key question for strict and normative cessationists is how they deal with the abundant patristic evidence, as mentioned here.

  • The end of the gift of apostleship & foundational nature of the New Testament apostles and prophets - The core apostles (i.e. the twelve, plus Paul grafted in) functioned as overseers of the eyewitness testimonies of Jesus. They verified the canonical books. The Hebrew prophets composed the Old Testament. Ezra, the prophet scribe was the last one to do the final editing. The church was built on the foundational “apostolic” and “prophetic” Scriptures. For Martin Luther’s view of the Biblical canon see this post.

  • Those "core" apostles who were eyewitnesses of Jesus left behind an apostolic office of the ministry. Those in this secondary office did not have the authority to write Scripture or even add to what was written. In a secondary, broad sense, the apostolic gift was given as a preaching and equiping office for the ongoing foundational expansion of faith communities and the initiating of new ministries. See 1 Cor. 3:10 Acts 14:4, 14 and, perhaps, Gal. 1:19.

  • The 19th century Lutheran Synodical conference theologian, Adolf Hoenecke, notes:

  • The ordinary preaching office is the continuation of the
    extraordinary apostolic office, a continuation God himself wants. It
    is of divine institution in and with the apostolic office... It is
    certain from Scripture that the ordinary preaching office is
    essentially the same as the apostolic office.

  • Any theology that the core apostles (i.e. eyewitness of Jesus) have appeared to the church fathers in later centuries (e.g. Apostolic Constitutions), so as to add to or embellish canonical Scripture, is alien to traditional Lutheran theology.

  • In Lutheran theology the prophetic office continues also among the ordained clergy. As evangelical catholics, this would be in agreement with that described by the U.S. Catholic Conference of Bishops on et cum spiritu tuo, viz, referencing the clergy (emphasis added):

  • What do the people mean when they respond “and with your spirit”? The expression et cum spiritu tuo is only addressed to an ordained minister. Some scholars have suggested that spiritu refers to the gift of the spirit he received at ordination. In their response, the people assure the priest of the same divine assistance of God’s spirit and, more specifically, help for the priest to use the charismatic gifts given to him in ordination and in so doing to fulfill his prophetic function in the Church.

  • The sufficiency of Scripture - The 17th century Wittenburg theologian, John Quenstedt writes:

    We must distinguish between revelations which pertain to, or attack, an article of faith, and those which concern the state of the Church or the State, social life, and future events; the first we repudiate; the latter, however, some hold, are not to be urged with any necessity of believing, nevertheless are not to be rashly rejected. (F. Pieper, Christian Dogmatics, Vol. 1, p. 211)

  • For a discussion on the God's guidance through angelic or Spiritual impressions see this SE post. The post explores the possibility of angelic guidance as occurring in unusual situations. After all, if the devil and his minions can plant temptations in the mind, why can't the good angels plant good thoughts & impulses in the mind?

  • One person in church history, a close friend of Martin Luther's, might fit into one of those categories. His name is Johannes Brenz. In the book, "The Charismatic Luther" by Eddie Hyatt, the following is mentioned:

  • Johannes Brenz, another Lutheran reformer, was warned by an 'inner voice' of the approach of the Spanish army at Stuttgart. The inner voice instructed him to go to the upper city, find an open door, enter it and hide under the roof. He obeyed, found the door and hid as the voice had instructed. His hiding place was visited by a hen that daily laid two eggs for him until the danger was past. (p. 34)

  • For a discussion of the nature of the ongoing apostolate, both lay and clergy, see the discussion here.

  • The nature of the New Testament miraculous gifts - For the nature the nature of tongues being a devotional gift, see this post. A documented case among Lutherans, of it surfacing as a known foreign language is discussed in this post.

  • On the nature of the gift of interpretation, see this post.

  • On the nature of gifts of healings see this post.

  • The New Testament governed the miraculous gifts - In continuationist theology there is an emphasis on proper teaching, not just about the abuses, but also about the proper use of spiritual gifts. On the importance of having a pure receptivity of prayer in relationship to the general promises related to the distribution of spiritual gifts, see here.

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    Thank you for your excellent and scholarly answer! Thoroughly enjoyed reading it! Very informative! Commented Sep 3, 2022 at 13:16
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+50

These 7 points, while interesting and thought-provoking, do not themselves present a cogent argument against the manifestation of miracles, healings, or gifts. I went ahead and read the article that you are referencing, and I will try to respond to them point by point. It should be noted that I agree with much of the spirit of what is written in the article, and myself am very critical and skeptical of modern miracles (more on that in my closing testimony), and the charismatic movement in general, but I do not hold to cessationism because I find it 1. logically untenable, 2. unbiblical, 3. ahistorical.

  1. The unique role of miracles - For authentication of the messenger(s). God worked miracles through unique men - Moses; Elijah and Elisha; Christ and his apostles.

This is a very limited interpretation of miracles, and a borderline misrepresentation. While I agree that God used special miracles 'to authenticate messengers' that He sends, there are many other miracles in the whole of the Bible; while outside of the Biblical record itself, there are countless testifications of miracles in the varying Christian traditions. (here is one)

In summary, many miracles are worked through important people; many others are worked through ordinary people. Miracles are done by God to minister to people's needs and to glorify Himself, not exclusively 'to authenticate messengers'.

  1. The end of the gift of apostleship - Apostleship was a church office gift (1 Cor 12:28; Eph 4) that ceased with the death of the Apostles.

I totally agree with this point, there are no more Apostles, however, it's non-sequitor to the argument against miracles. Apostles are not needed for miracles to take place, which is why there were miracles both before and after the time of the Apostles and performed by many people other than prophets or Apostles (one of the coolest miracles in the NT is biolocation - which is performed by Philip, who was not an Apostle). In the original article, the author says "[the lack of apostlelship now] indicates there has been a major change in the gifting of the Spirit between the apostolic age and today." No, the lack of Apostles in our time indicates that the office of the Apostles no longer exists, because the requirement for Apsotleship in Acts is having walked with Jesus. This is irrelevant and unrelated to miracles. The implied relationship between the two is not born out of the text.

  1. The foundational nature of the New Testament apostles and prophets - Apostles and prophets laid the foundation of the Christ' Church (Eph 2:20-22).

Again, I agree with this point, the New Testament period was a foundational period for the church, that is why the canon of scripture was written during this period but is now closed. But there is nothing explicit in the NT that states this somehow applies to miracles or the gifts given to the church. The argument they are presenting is that miracles were only for the time of the early church, but they haven't presented any evidence (beyond speculation) to justify this interpretation.

  1. The nature of the New Testament miraculous gifts - Alleged "miracles" reported after the Apostles are not of the same type, e.g., disparity between modern day healings and NT healings; "Tongues" gibberish vs. known languages, etc.

This is also not a cogent argument. Even if the kinds of miracles happening today were not comparable to the ones in the NT (which I would take issue with), that would not in itself disprove their existence; if anything it would only necesitate the contemplation of 2 classes of miracles.

  1. The testimony of church history - The practice of apostolic gifts declined even during the lifetimes of the apostles. Even in the written books of the New Testament, the miraculous gifts are mentioned less as the date of their writing gets later.

This is also not proof. The later life of the Apostles is not extensively covered in the NT, so any reference to the number of miracles that happened is speculative at best. John, however, was said to have been boiled in oil in his old age, and survived (miracle?). The article goes into more detail on this point, but the sources and time periods represented are cherry picked - 7 sources across 2,000 years (and half within the last 200 years) in no way represent an authoritative or complete view of church history. What about the countless testimonies of missionaries across the globe that have witnessed miracles?

  1. The sufficiency of Scripture - The Spirit speaks only in and through the inspired Word.

While I wholeheartedly agree with the sentiment in the article surrounding this point: "The Spirit speaks only in and through the inspired Word. He doesn’t call and direct his people through subjective messages and modern day bestsellers. His word is external to us and objective.", ie, the message of God is objective and we don't need best sellers or special people to tell us things from God, the argument is patently false because it represents circular reasoning. If the spirit only speaks through the inspired word, but the Spirit spoke to inspire the word, then this proves that the spirit speaks outside of the inspired word. If God was capable of speaking to and through people in the Bible, what makes us think He has now lost this capability?

Note: I am highly skeptical of people that have a 'word' from God - I always test it against what the scriptures themselves say (because they are infalable, compared to people's thoughts and inner impressions) and weigh the whole thing with prayer. But sometimes, God actually speaks or leads people through impressions or internal factors (to use the language of the original article), and that cannot be discounted. The fact that scriptures were inspired in the first place is testimony to this.

  1. The New Testament governed the miraculous gifts - Whenever the New Testament gifts of tongues was to be practiced, there were specific rules that were to be followed. These rules are not followed by charismatics today.

Whether or not the rules are followed by some charismatics today does not prove or disprove the existence of the gifts; this is a huge non-sequitor. Obviously, people in the New Testament themselves did not always follow the rules - which is why Paul wrote extensively to correct their use of the gifts in the first place.

The fact that some people don't follow the Biblical rules governing the gifts only proves that people haven't changed at all since the time the rules were written.

The best example of the faulty logic in this argument is when we apply it to other gifts. Take the gift of teaching for example. There are many false teachers, who obviously don't follow the rules of teaching - does this mean that the gift of teaching doesn't exist, simply because there are false teachers? Should the gift of teaching be banned or stopped because not everyone follows the rules? What about the gift of faith? Or the gift of hospitality?

This last point more than any other highlights the foundational problem with cessationism, and that is that it believes and accepts some gifts and not others; cessationism draws the line at what they call 'the sign gifts' - but this distinction of 'sign gifts' does not exist in scripture, nor does scripture ever instruct us to throw some gifts out and keep others. The main verse that is used to support this idea in cessationism ("when completeness comes, what is in part disappears.", 1Cor13:10) is in no way clear - and doesn't even represent the straightforward reading of the text; hermeneutically speaking its eisegesis.

In closing, while I would never base my beliefs on experience alone (which is why I took the time to try and address the points in question logically while reasoning from scripture), I personally have experienced a couple of miracles. This includes being healed once myself, having seen people healed immediately after praying for them, and experiencing the gift of speaking in tongues (glossolalia) and speaking in foreign tongues (I woke up able to understand Spanish after two weeks of prayer, when I could not previously speak the language at all, and have been fluent since then for 15 years).

While I referenced missionaries, I should point out that I myself am a Christian evangelical missionary of 15 years serving in Central America. I can only count a couple of miracles that I've seen, but have heard of dozens more other missionaries in the area. The reality is that I am still convinced that the biggest miracle of all is the salvation of the lost, followed by the miracle of changed lives - and if I had to choose between the obviously supernatural miracles - or the changed lives and hearts, I would choose the second 100% of the time.

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  • Excellent rebuttal. And welcome to the site :-). I would only object to the following points: I totally agree with this point, there are no more Apostles - the answers here would beg to differ. that is why the canon of scripture was written during this period but is now closed - this answer would beg to differ.
    – user50422
    Commented Sep 3, 2022 at 4:18
  • The argument for the end of the apostleship in the link you shared isn't a very good one. My perspective is a little different. The same can be said about the argument laid out for the closing of the canon in the second link you shared. I am assuming that neither of these positions are yours? Thank you for the welcome :) Glad to be here Commented Sep 3, 2022 at 13:25
  • I am assuming that neither of these positions are yours? - My current position is that I am not convinced by the claims that the gift/office of apostleship has ceased and that the canon is closed. I'm still open to the possibility of both continuing.
    – user50422
    Commented Sep 3, 2022 at 14:44
  • Well ask the question, tag me in the comments, and I will provide my answers :) I am open and eager to discuss it! :) Commented Sep 3, 2022 at 15:26
  • Just out of the oven: According to believers in the cessation of apostleship, who was the last apostle and why?. Regarding the canon, this question has already been asked in the past: What are the biblical arguments that the Bible canon is closed?
    – user50422
    Commented Sep 3, 2022 at 16:21

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