Tuesday, September 05, 2006

Wars and Warnock

I may take some time later to comment on some of the latest Christian blog war in which our loveable, if less than agreeable, friends sound off against the enemies of Truth (and by "truth", I of course mean that unique hybrid of Reformed and dispensational, premillennial theology with credo-baptist and denominationally independent distinctives, among others) and usurpers of the Bible (and by "Bible" I mean only those theological conclusions that comport with the above). In the most recent struggle against the forces of evangelical naughtiness (like Christianity Today) it's pointed out that those who accuse faithful defenders (those committed to verbal throat-slitting) of the Truth (see above) with "guilt by association" are actually guilty of guilt-by-association. Similarly it seems that those who accuse them of taking themselves too seriously are, in all seriousness, taking themselves too seriously (apply that formula to every criticism and you can create stunning likenesses of some people's posts before they put out the real thing); -but for now I'll just post this evaluation of the whole mess:


If you're interested in a lengthier evaluation, check out Broken Messenger for two excellent, insightful pieces.

But now for something a good deal more refreshing, I'd point you to the eminently likable and relatively controversy-free Adrian Warnock. Even in debate, he's always the model of charity, and he's recently posted a wonderful closer to a dispute about cessationism. In it he's quoted one of his heroes, D. Martyn Lloyd-Jones, and it was such a good read that I just had to reproduce it here:

"What is being taught in Christendom today is this; that since we have got the New Testament canon, since we have got the Word now, we do not need these direct interventions, we do not need God to speak to us directly, as He spoke to Abraham and to Isaac and to Jacob and these patriarchs. We have got the Word now! Is this superior to the direct speech of God? I think we are mad! There is no other word for this. We are mad. We are meant to be in a superior position to every Old Testament saint because of what has happened in our blessed Lord and Saviour! But this teaching would have us believe that we do not need this direct contact with God now, and that all that has come to an end since the formation of the New Testament canon . . . . .remember that the great point of the whole teaching of the Bible, of all you can deduce from it, is to tell you that God is a God who acts. And our only hope this afternoon is that this is still true. He has not finished acting. He is going on . . . There is only one hope. That is that He is still the living and the acting God. Christ is at His right hand, and He is seated and waiting until His enemies should be made His footstool . . . ."

I have been defending the faith—- and people have praised me for doing it. Rubbish! What a miserable failure it has all been! From now on I am determined to do one thing only, and that is to give God no rest nor peace, until He does prove Himself and show Himself. I have expended so much energy in reasoning with the people about this faith. We have got to do that, it is part of preaching. But if we stop at that, it will avail us nothing. But what I now am concerned about and I am concentrating on is this — asking God to show Himself, to do something,to give this touch, this manifestation of power. Nothing else will even make people listen to us . . . . Nothing is going to call the attention of the masses of the people to the truth of this faith save a great phenomenon, such as the phenomenon of the day of Pentecost, the phenomenon of any one of the great revivals, the phenomenon of a single changed life. This is something that always arrests attention, maybe curiosity — what does it matter? The people come and listen . . . .

We must not be content until we have had some manifestation of the activity of God. We must concentrate on this. This is my plea, that we concentrate on this, because it is the great message of the Bible Let us put it like this: Do we really believe that God can still act? That is the question; that is the ultimate challenge. Or have we, for theological or some other reasons, excluded the very possibility? Here is the crucial matter. Do we individually and personally really believe that God still acts, can act and will act — in individuals, in groups of individuals, in churches, localities, perhaps even in countries? Do we believe that He is as capable of doing that today as He was in ancient times — the Old Testament, the New Testament times, the book of Acts, Protestant Reformation, Puritans, Methodist Awakening, 1859, 1904-5? Do we really believe that He can still do it? You see, it is ultimately what you believe about God. If He is the great Jehovah — I am that I am, I am that I shall be, unchanged, unchanging, unchangeable, the everlasting and eternal God — well, He can still do it.”


Paul Bright and family said...

Hi Sharad,

Great post! I abandoned cessationism, which states, rather conclusively in its doctrine, that God has not, is not, and will not give any kind of special revelation to any person at any time. Combined with dispensationalism, which is necessary since Scripture directly predicts that special revelation will occur if one is premil (not the same as dispensational of course), cessationism is progressing into the older forms of the Anglican replacement theory. Full Cessationists "replace" all gifts with providential talents. I have an unpublished TMS paper on the subject given to me approvingly. I may be splitting hairs, but this is an important hair to split: there is a difference between saying that we do not see the revelational gifts occuring today because of divine providence (or an argument from abstract sovereignty that was completely unannouced in the NT) than saying that special revelation is not seen because it CANNOT ever happen again. The main arguments: The Canon, the Mature Theory (which is just a corollary theory to the Canon Theory), the Authority and Sufficiency of Scripture, all fall short biblically. This is not to say that the arguments are logical, but the SCRIPTURES do not make the same arguments CESSATIONISTS make. Therefore, such logic, to fill in the theological gap, and as a result, raise a human logical step to the same authority as scripture, is erroneous. I myself prefer the view nearest to Saucy, but to rename it "Providential Subsidence." By "Providential," I mean the non-special revelation administration of God over all His works, including the very bestowing of special revelation. In this then, the subsiding of revelation in its activity from the degree and some of its purposes in the NT was and is unexpected (the impure church theory cannot account for the subsidence). By "subsidence," I mean the drifting away, passing off, or lessening in activity. But, by this there is no hint of permanence. Special revelation, that does not reduce the authority or sufficiency of scripture, is possible at any time. But, the caveat is this: I believe that God has also appointed some normal means by which special revelation is given. He can, of course, choose to work in ways that are not normal (e.g., a donkey, a dream, angels), but these are all tied to the normal proclamation. Some have tried to construct the universality of cessation using history and geography. But, I think such attempts posit the modern cessationist in the position of divine omnipotence and omniscience through incomplete and one-sided historical records. Also, the church fathers, including Chyrsostom, did not answer via the modern form of cessationism. They answered by testing the character of the speaker, the content of the message versus the Scriptures (which needed to recognized in the NT), and the accuracy of predictions. The apostolic age was set off from others as something special, but not as a closed era. Some might argue that it was this very openness that led the church fathers into error, and that cessationism is the only guarantee to preservation from error. However, this is not the way that Jesus instructed us to think with regards to special revelation, rather we are to test, watch, beware, discern, and a plethora of other verbs that are designed to put us on our guard, since special revelation is a very serious matter. But, it is not so serious as to warrant the unbiblical, yet logical, conclusion of cessationism. We may not agree, you and I, but I very much appreciate the post! Blessings to you!

Yours for our Master,
Paul Bright

Paul Bright and family said...

To all,

I made a couple of mistakes in my post. First, I wrote that, "this is not to say that the arguments are logical." I meant to write, "this is not to say that the arguments are illogical..."

Also, some may take issue with the mention of the Anglican replacement theory being compared to Full Cessationist replacement of all gifts with providential abilities. By way of addendum, the Anglican theory replaces the supernatural gifts with the civil authority of the church state, making the revelatory gifts unnecessary. But, the comparison of replacement is the same, and the object included in the replacement, interestingly, is culturally contrived. The Anglican theory was popularized in the mid 1800s, while in America, such thoughts do not enter into theologians' minds (usually), and istead the replacement argument is modified accordingly.

Also, there are segments of the church untouched by the Enlightenment (notice I did not say the Reformation) where the cessationist argument is completely lost in the minds of believers. This holds little weight for a biblical argument, granted, but the historical and presuppositional underpinnings of cessationism (which are traceable to European/American modernistic roots) are absent.

Broken Messenger said...

Blue Raja,

I'm sure any post you produce on the whole Slice affair will be far more insightful and excellent than mine. I'm just the loud mouth trying to get a few issues on the table with a few of my kin.

Oh, and thank you for the kind words, sir.


TheBlueRaja said...

Insightful comments, Paul!

Well deserved, Brad. Keep it up.

weswise said...

Being unfamiliar with this debate, is disagreeing with cessationism (which I have a brief definition of) to say that the canon is still open? Or is it to say that if special revelation occured that it would be inspired, but not necessarily scriptural (in the sense that it may be true and applicable but is not needed in the Bible)? Or is what you're (Paul/Sharad)saying canonically irrelative (that is, it is not a debate centered around the issue of the canon, if this is the case, what is it centered around)?