Tim Challies has posted a brief review of Sam Waldron’s new book on spiritual gifts, To be continued?. It’s good to see more authors putting pen to paper on this issue, because it seems to me that the reformed cessationists (with one or two notable exceptions) have been very quiet, and entirely unconvincing. I haven’t read Sam’s book yet (it’s on order :-)), but he does give a brief overview of it in an interview with Tim. The basic position seems to be this:
[Those who] would assume that cessationism was nonsensical and not even discussable would in almost the same breath admit or assume that Apostles no longer exist in the church today (“big A” Apostles). And I thought ‘that’s inconsistent.”… If there are no Apostles of Christ that creates the precedent for saying that, at least in certain respects, the apostolic period and the church today are distinctly different because the absence of Apostles of Christ is a great difference between the apostolic period and today. The first gift, the most important gift, is now missing in the church. I think that exposes a fundamental flaw in continuationist argument…
It’s a new argument, but I’m not convinced for at least four reasons:
- In my reading of scripture, nowhere is the gift of apostleship mentioned as a spiritual gift.
- Apostles were given to the church. But apostleship is a calling, not a gift. (See Romans 1:1, 1 Cor. 1:1, etc. etc.). Apostleship is never mentioned anywhere in scripture as a spiritual gift.
- 1 Cor 12:29-30 is particularly interesting, where (in my view) Paul makes a distinction between the offices of Apostles, Prophets, and Teachers, and the ‘do-ers’ of gifts such as healing.
- If apostleship is a gift, why are other (lesser?) gifts required to authenticate it? (2 Corinthians 2:12).
- Waldron’s argument is: the most important gift has ceased, so the less important gifts can also have ceased. By the same logic, couldn’t we say: the most important office has ceased, so the less important offices have ceased. Do you want to tell my pastor, or should I?
- Even if apostleship is a spiritual gift, reformed charismatics and continuationists claim that it is in a different ‘category’ to other gifts such as prophecy, tongues etc. (Which is why that gift has gone, but the other gifts continue). That’s what Waldron thinks is inconsistent. But cessationists have their categories too: ‘extraordinary or revelatory gifts’ (prophecy, tongues, etc.) which have ceased and other spiritual gifts which continue. I fail too see the difference.
- Finally, even if Waldron is right, it doesn’t deal with Joel’s prophecy that this age will be characterised by an outpouring of the Spirit.
To be fair, he may have dealt with these objections in the book, so once I’ve read it, I’ll post an update. I’m glad he’s written it though, and that the discussion continues.