Response to “To be continued?” #1

I’ve finally taken delivery of Sam Waldon’s To Be Continued?. My first thoughts about the book (in this order) were:

  • It’s expensive! £9.95 for 116 pages
  • It’s well written: To be fair, Waldron has condensed a lot into the book. It’s very well structured, and exceptionally clear. A few diagrams help, but even without them, the text is very readable and easily understood.

Rather than post one long response, I’ll post some initial thoughts now, and probably have two more posts later. In this post I want to concentrate solely on the Introduction to the book where Waldron states his case in outline, before going on to give us the detail.

Waldron’s basic premise is that 1) The gift of apostleship was foundational and has ceased, 2) NT Prophecy is like OT prophecy, and therefore that has ceased, 3) Tongue-speaking is equivalent to prophecy, so that has ceased, 4) Miracle-working was to validate apostles and prophets, so that has ceased too.

Some fallacies exposed

In later posts, I’ll tackle each of those ‘categories’ of gifts in turn, but for now I just want to expose some general fallacies that are clear even in the introduction.

Miraculous gifts, or spiritual gifts?

The first, and the most glaring fallacy is Waldon’s persistent use of the phrase ‘miraculous gifts’. Normally this wouldn’t matter – after all, it’s what you expect from a cessationist! But let’s be clear, it’s not a biblical term. The New Testament speaks of spiritual gifts, or just gifts, but never miraculous gifts.

So why does this matter? It matters because Waldon says “If it seems inconsistent to admit that certain miraculous gifts… have ceased, while maintaining that others continue, this is because it is!” (pg 11). Simple enough. But let’s use the biblical terms, and rewrite the sentence. “If it seems inconsistent to admit that certain spiritual gifts… have ceased, while maintaining that others continue, this is because it is!” Makes a whole less sense now, doesn’t it? Because by that reckoning, Waldron either denies that the gift of teaching and the gift of administration has been removed from the church, or he becomes a charismatic! I wonder which he’d prefer ;-)?

If he has the right to create a category of gifts called ‘miraculous’ that have ceased while other gifts continue, then charismatics have an equal right to create a category of gift (‘apostle’) that have ceased whilst others continue. They just draw the line in a different place.

Office, or gift?

Waldron believes that apostleship is a gift, not just an office, something that many continuationists reject. He accepts this himself he when writes, “a Continuationist may find the argument of this book unconvincing on the grouds that I confuse person or office and gift”. In his defence he offers the fact that Grudem also confuses office and gift and Ephesians 4:11 and 1 Corinthians 12:28-29.

I won’t interact with Grudem on this point, the Bible is far more important. Let’s turn to Ephesians 4:11-13 first:

it was he who gave some to be apostles, some to be prophets, some to be evangelists, and some to be pastors and teachers, to prepare God’s people for works of service, so that the body of Christ may be built up

Yes, here we have an office (several offices in fact), that are also gifts. Does this mean we can mix up office and gift? Certainly not. Look at the passage closely. To whom are the gifts given? To individual Christians? Of course not. These gifts are given to the church. If I can paraphrase Paul, “God gave the church wonderful gifts – he gave them leaders.” Paul doesn’t say God gave the gift of apostleship, or the gift of prophethood. He says God gave apostles. God gave prophets. God gave leaders to the church. Paul does not mix office and gift.

So what about 1 Corinthians 12:28-29? This requires a bit more thought, and I’m afraid a bit of Greek. If you’re not yet up to a bit of thought, you can jump to the next section – but make sure you come back later!

Firstly, let me give you the NIV translation.

And in the church God has appointed first of all apostles, second prophets, third teachers, then workers of miracles, also those having gifts of healing, those able to help others, those with gifts of administration, and those speaking in different kinds of tongues.

And now the ESV:

And God has appointed in the church first apostles, second prophets, third teachers, then miracles, then gifts of healing, helping, administrating, and various kinds of tongues.

Sadly, the NIV has done a lot of (mis-)interpreting instead of translating here (and elsewhere in 1 Corinthians 12-14). You can check the Greek for yourself, but it’s easier for us to use the ESV’s translation.

What is the main difference between the two translations? Did you notice that the NIV translated “workers of miracles” and the ESV translates just “miracles”. The ESV is right – the word ‘workers’ simply doesn’t exist. The NIV then translates “those having gifts of healing”, compared with the ESV’s “gifts of healing”. Again, the ESV is right. It’s also right when it translates “helping” instead of “those able to help others”, and “administrating” rather than “those with gifts of administration”, and “various kinds of tongues” rather than “those speaking in different kinds of tongues”. In other words, the NIV is as confused as Waldron in jumbling gifts and offices/people.

1 Corinthians 12:28 clearly splits into three:

  1. first apostles, second prophets, third teachers
  2. then miracles
  3. then gifts of healing, helping, administrating, and various kinds of tongues

So God has appointed (or put) three things in the church:

  1. Leaders: apostles, prophets, and teachers
  2. Works of Power
  3. Spiritual Gifts: ie healings, helps, administrating, and languages

Again, Paul does not confuse gift and office, even in the NIV does. You may still be asking: Does it matter? Actually, it doesn’t matter very much to me. But Waldron is arguing that because most people recongised the gift of apostleship has ceased, it makes it much easier to recognised the other gifts have also ceased. (Though why the fact that the gift of teaching hasn’t ceased doesn’t make it easier to believe the other gifts haven’t ceased either isn’t entirely clear to me.) But to make his point stick, Waldron must demonstrate that apostleship is a gift, not an office, and he hasn’t done that at all.

Miracles or miracle-workers?

If you didn’t follow the argument above, let me show you the same fallacy in a simpler way. Waldron says simply, “A miracle worker is a person permanently gifted to do miracles” (pg 12). He says so on no authority but is own – no citation, no scripture reference. It’s his definition, not a biblical term.

But you won’t find the gift of ‘miracle-worker’ anywhere in the New Testament. You won’t even find the office of miracle-worker there. What you will find (in 1 Cor. 12:10, 12:29) that God gives miracles to people. 1 Corinthians 12:10 says “to another[singular] the workings[plural] of miracles[plural]”. If the gift is “miracle-worker”, how can one person receive more than one gift? Can one person be more than one miracle-worker? But if the gift is the miracle itself, of course it makes perfect sense that one person might receive the gift more than once.

Is a miracle-worker permanently gifted as Waldron says? The plural (miracles) “probably suggests not a permanent gift, as it were, but that each occurrence is a gift in its own right” (Fee, The First Epistle to the Corinthians, pg 594). Dunn agrees saying that the gift “is the actual miracle” (Jesus and the Spirit, pg 210). Waldron is arguing that a gift that never existed isn’t around today. I agree with him!

I better leave Waldron alone for now. I’ve enjoyed reading his book, and will comment more on apostles next time around.

Articles in this series:

  1. Response to “To be continued?” #1 <-- This article
  2. Response to “To be continued?” #2
  3. Response to “To be continued?” #3

Comments

  1. And to think I used to like you…

  2. Excellent article Mark, I look forward to the next part.

    I think that whole “office” or “gift” debate might be too sharp a distinction. It might be easier think in terms of “ministries”.

    Offices and giftings ought to go together, but we all know it doesn’t always work like that. You can have the gift of teaching and not have the office of “teacher” and likewise there are those with the office but lacking in the gift. What’s more, like Paul himself, there are many who do not fit neatly into one “office” – was he an “apostle” an “evangelist” a “teacher”, a “prophet” (or even “a worker of miracles”?)

    I would say that a healthy church needs a wide diversity of spiritual gifts in operation, but that there is no need for offices to be created to supply each one (e.g. you do not need to appoint a church “tongues-speaker”). Similarly, a healthy church should have those exercising each of the leadership ministries listed in Eph 4 and 1 Cor 12. Their “office” may simply be “elder” or “deacon”, but the ministries, like the gifts, each build the church in their different ways. There may be some whose gifting and ministry in one area is so strong that they are called “prophet” or “teacher” or “apostle” etc, but I do not think you have to choose between offices any more than you have to choose which one gift you will have, or one fruit of the Spirit you will demonstrate.

Trackbacks

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