To be continued?

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:

  1. 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).
  2. 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?
  3. 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.
  4. 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.

Comments

  1. Hey Mark,

    Found your blog via the comments at Tim Challies’ place. Looks very interesting indeed.

    You position on the continuist/cessationist debate is very similar to my own. I’m not pinning my colours to the mast yet, but I sure would like to see some much better arguments from both sides.

    Blessings!

    Andrew 🙂

  2. Mark

    You stated in your blog “It’s a new argument”. Actually, this is a resahping of the Dispensational argument that has been around for quite a while. Dr. Waldron has brought it back to the forefront.

    I agree with you (and I have read the book) that he does not prove his viewpoint from Scripture and relies on a lot of assumptions.

    Chris

  3. Thanks for your comments and taking the time to write.

    My understanding is that Sam Waldron is coming from an amilliennial, not dispensational position. That being the case, the argument will be very different. Because the charismatic/cessationist discussion basically revolves around eschatology (how much different are the times before Christ to the times after Christ to the times after Christ’s return), it’s impossible to dress up a dispensational argument in amillennial clothes without altering it very significantly. That’s why I felt able to say it was a new approach.

  4. Mark

    While it may be true that he is coming from an amillenial position, this line of reasoning was adopted by Dispensationalists – that is primary what I was referring to. I guess whether it is old or new is not the issue, but whether we agree with it or not.

    Thanks for the clarification,

    Chris

  5. Bogdan Unteanu says:

    Mark Im sorry to say but what you say is COMPLETELY unbiblical.
    In 1 Corinthians 12:28 it is very clear that aposteship IS a gift.
    It includes it with a whole list of other gifts that are clearly stated as gifts earlier in that same chapter.
    Ill make this short with overwhelming truth sraight from the Word of God, The Bible. The Word is God, the Bible says (John 1:1).
    The Bible also says that the testimony of Jesus IS prophesy (Rev 19:10). So to say the gifts have been done away with or are no longer active is to say that testimony of Jesus has been done away with or is no longer active. In Acts 2:17 it says that in the last days God will pour out His Spirit and your sons and daughters shall prophesy. I don’t see how anyone can deny this power of the Holy Spirit (God is the same yesterday, today and forever) maybe we just dont have much faith in that power anymore?