Accurately understanding "Reformed continuationism"

Discussion in 'Pneumatology' started by Moses Costigan, Mar 1, 2018.

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  1. Moses Costigan

    Moses Costigan Puritan Board Freshman

    Dear Brethren,
    Can someone recommend resources/books etc to help me understand the perspectives on the sign gifts held to by people like John Piper, Wayne Grudem and Sam Storms?
    I read an article early this year that I've been thinking about a lot..... . It predicts that reformed continuationists will commence the practicing of the sign gifts particularly tongues and prophecy but also healing.
    I read quite a bit by Piper, Grudem and Storms and i'm struggling to put the pieces together .... the perspective on the continuation of prophecy sets out a seemingly a new category of prophecy ('non "scripture quality" revelatory words', to quote Sam Storms; which it is admitted is not infallible.
    1 Corinthians 14:29, but especially 1 Thessalonians 5:20–2, are used as proof-texts to create a category of true/false prophecy as against true/false prophets which doesn't seem consistent with Deuteronomy 18:21-22 "And if you say in your heart, 'How may we know the word that the LORD has not spoken?'- when a prophet speaks in the name of the LORD, if the word does not come to pass or come true, that is a word that the LORD has not spoken; the prophet has spoken it presumptuously. You need not be afraid of him.") and seems to contraindicate that such a category distinction can be made because the context ("I will raise up for them a prophet like you from among their brothers. And I will put my words in his mouth, and he shall speak to them all that I command him. And whoever will not listen to my words that he shall speak in my name, I myself will require it of him. But the prophet who presumes to speak a word in my name that I have not commanded him to speak, or who speaks in the name of other gods, that same prophet shall die.' And if you say in your heart, 'How may we know the word that the LORD has not spoken?'- when a prophet speaks in the name of the LORD, if the word does not come to pass or come true, that is a word that the LORD has not spoken; the prophet has spoken it presumptuously. You need not be afraid of him", Deuteronomy 18:18-22) indicates speaking false prophecy is the defining mark which makes one a false prophet.
    All of these men affirm the infallibility and inerrancy of scripture and none would deny that scripture clearly articulates God's unchanging nature. Yet Grudem and Piper directly acknowledge that contemporary prophecy can be incorrect and Storms speaks of categories of prophecy fallible and infallible based on the existence of prophecy in the Apostolic era which didn't form part of the canon of scripture especially the practice of women prophesying (1 Corinthians 11:5) which on the basis of a particular understanding of complementarianism is understood to indicate this secondary form of prophecy is non-authoritative because it's being spoken by women. In referring though to the contemporary practice of prophecy there is caution offered and acknowledgement that what is offered as prophecy by believers could be erroneous yet ls still prophecy.

    The perspective on tongues acknowledges that glossa is accurately understood to refer to actual human languages in scripture not a heavenly prayer language and i'm not aware of any continuationist reference to or interaction with the linguistics research that argues that speaking in tongues as practiced within the broader charismatic/Pentecostal movement today (and since Charles Parham and the Azusa St Revival) doesn't possess the features of language. There is among reformed continuationists typically a desire to practice tongue-speaking but not current practice of prophecy and tongues yet the article predicts/speculates that some will soon commence practicing the gifts of tongues and prophecy.

    I'm struggling to understand how clearly very learned men are seemingly willing to reinterpret scripture and confuse (at best) or intentionally twist scripture in creating new categories of spiritual gifts. Is there something i'm missing? Can anyone help me get a better understanding of the reformed continuationist perspective? I strongly disagree with perspective and am convinced, based on my current understanding, that it is erroneous but i want to seek an accurate understanding of this perspective and the works of those who hold to it.


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  2. Tom Hart

    Tom Hart Puritan Board Junior

    I wouldn't call Piper or Grudem reformed. I'm not sure about Storms. Calvinists, yes, but not Reformed.

    In any case, continuationism after the manner of Parham et al. is quite a modern phenomenon. It couldn't be considered a historic Reformed perspective.
  3. Moses Costigan

    Moses Costigan Puritan Board Freshman

    You've hit on the point that i was rather obtusely expressing which is that each of these men appears to be trying to meld the doctrines of grace with the perspective on the sign gifts held by classical Pentecostals but there is no attempt to meaningful engage with the clear fact that the practice of these gifts in the Apostolic era is fundamentally different from the practice of the gifts today. Not only that... there is a a different understanding of the nature of the sign gifts as they are currently practiced which isn't strongly suported by scripture and can only be supported through the argumentation derived from Pentecostalism.
    Am i correct in thinking this?

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  4. Tom Hart

    Tom Hart Puritan Board Junior

    I would agree. I don't think continuationism is a consistent or biblical position. Moreover, a study church history speaks strongly against a pentecostal-charismatic theology of spiritual gifts. Pentecostalism and its successor Charismania have been flawed from their origins.

    Obviously, modern glossalalia as practiced by the charismatics is an absurdity. "Private prayer language"? What nonsense.

    Visions that are "scripture quality" but not inerrant? How is that not confusing? How is it even consistent? If a prophet gives a visions that doesn't turn out to be true, he's a false prophet.

    By the way, I was raised Pentecostal, assuming "speaking in tongues", along with a lot of other rubbish, to be gospel truth. This kind of theology only does harm.

    And to return to the main idea of this discussion, I do not think that it can be said to fit within Reformed theology.
  5. Tom Hart

    Tom Hart Puritan Board Junior

    John MacArthur made the point in the conclusion to one of his books (Strange Fire, I think) that otherwise reputable teachers do harm by givince an appearance of credence to the harmful teachings associated with Charismania.
  6. Beezer

    Beezer Puritan Board Freshman

    I have met an increasing number of people the past few years who identify as "Reformed Charismatics" and the theologians of choice for these folks always seems to be Sam Storms, Grudem, Piper, and on occasion James K. A. Smith.

    The "Reformed" label has become quite elastic and squishy and more often than not has come to mean nothing more than one who holds to the doctrines of grace. Meaning, they might be mildly Calvinistic in their soteriology, but that's essentially it. I'd go out on a limb and say most people today who identify as "Reformed" have probably never read any of the Reformed confessions either.

    I suppose I write all this to simply state I don't believe there is such a thing as a "Reformed Continuationist."
  7. Gforce9

    Gforce9 Puritan Board Junior

    The WCF states clearly that God sometimes works outside of ordinary means and that He is free to do so. What is critical, however, is the acknowledgement that the normal way is in the "ordinary". Going any farther down the "special" road is like having multiple popes; receiving and dispensing "divine" pronouncements....
  8. Moses Costigan

    Moses Costigan Puritan Board Freshman

    Yes, the notion upheld particularly by Grudem most strongly (but Storms and Piper have taught the same thing at times) that contemporary believers can make incorrect prophecies yet not be false prophets is illogical, dishonest and obviously unbiblical. There such a gross category error.

    Worse still, i have read statements by both Grudem and D. A. Carson seeking to promote the notion that Agabus' prophecy (Acts 21:10-14) contains error. Presumably to give creedence to the notion of fallible prophecy.

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    Last edited: Mar 1, 2018
  9. Moses Costigan

    Moses Costigan Puritan Board Freshman

    My wife was raised in the Pentecostal and Charismatic movements and the screwed up theology has really impacted her.... she describes the scripture twisting practices particularly of the Word of Faith movement as being like an inbuilt 'default position' when you are raised in it and needing to constantly challenge it.

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  10. earl40

    earl40 Puritan Board Post-Graduate

    Slight correction; The WCF says God is able to work outside of ordinary means does not mean He does so today.
  11. Jeri Tanner

    Jeri Tanner Moderator Staff Member

    I was in the charismatic world as well, and really despise all that stuff. The last straw for me as far as the Piper/Grudem continuationist line of teaching was when Piper stood on the stage with Beth Moore in front of thousands of young people and helped lead them through a time of silence where they were to “listen for God to speak” to them inwardly. I’ve never read or listened to him since. This kind of thinking has spread throughout the evangelical church, including the PCA. It’s assumed that Scripture teaches God will guide, prompt, and reveal particular information through inner hunches and thoughts. And with the wide acceptance and promotion of this belief by prominent authors and ministers, it’s very hard to explain to people how it is that the Scripture teaches no such thing.

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  12. BayouHuguenot

    BayouHuguenot Puritan Board Doctor

    Here is my take, from someone who finds most cessationist arguments quite bad and has a perspective on church history.

    1. Even by continuationist standards, the modern "fallibilist prophecy" thing is quite odd.

    2. Miracles are reported throughout church history. Of course, following the teachings of David Hume, we are tempted to dismiss that as superstitious nonsense. But they didn't. They understood this stuff to be happening. Eusebius reports that Irenaeus's church spoke in tongues. The Nicene church structured their liturgies around the practice of Gregory Thaumaturgus, the Wonderworker. So they understood him to work miracles. Augustine specifically said prophecy happens today in City of God. John Chrysostom said this stuff isn't happening but only because his church was lazy and sinful.

    3. The Deuteronomy 17 challenge isn't much of an argument. If the prophecy comes true, then the argument is forced to admit it is from God, so I wouldn't use that line of reasoning.

    4. One can receive nonverbal experiences from Christ. True, we don't like the word experience and I am not endorsing it, but neither is it verbal revelation that threatens Scripture. I am only setting that out as a possible defeater.

    5. Even if the cessationist claim on revelation is true, that has nothing to do with the logical truth or falsity of miracles, healing, exorcisms (which were practiced universally by the ancient church).
  13. Tom Hart

    Tom Hart Puritan Board Junior

    That is disturbing.

    My family are soft Pentecostals. My dad claims (or claimed) that he spoke "in tongues". But none of my family were into the WoF preachers. There are differing degrees of Pentecostals and Charismatics; I think all forms are harmful, but in differing degrees. Having been raised in even a mild form of Pentecostalism, today I really hate the whole system. I have seen how it hurts people, and how it keeps them ignorant and looking for the wrong things. There are also certain dangerous tendencies, even to slip into heresy.

    I say that it is harmful because instead of relying on the Scriptures, people look for some other "God's Word". Often they come to rely more on novel "prophecy" than on the Bible.

    Some Charismatic organizations have had courses on how to hear God's voice. Maybe someone needs to tell them to open the Bible!
  14. Tom Hart

    Tom Hart Puritan Board Junior

    Definitions are important.

    Unfortunately, the term "Reformed" has become a bit muddied. I really don't know why people call themselves Reformed when they're merely Calvinistic in their soteriology.

    My former pastor was quite angry when I suggested that Reformed, in the historic sense, means confessional.

    I agree. "Reformed Continuationist" is a bit of an oxymoron.

    Steve Lawson had a good lecture at the Strange Fire Conference once in which he pointed out that "Charismatic Calvinist" is a contradiction. ()
  15. Cymro

    Cymro Puritan Board Junior

    If there is a continuation of prophecy or messages through tongues, surely it begs the question, why in its different content throughout the charismatic world that these continuations are not added to to the cannon of scripture. If they were truly revelations of God for the benefit of the church, then would it not be sinful to withhold them from the Christian public?
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  16. BayouHuguenot

    BayouHuguenot Puritan Board Doctor

    I don't speak in tongues nor have I prophecied, but not all prophecies in Scripture were added to the canon. Phillip's daughters prophcied, yet they aren't in the canon. Further, Paul said, "I would that you all speak in tongues and prophecy," but he probably didn't imagine that they would be in the canon.
  17. Cymro

    Cymro Puritan Board Junior

    That’s true with your examples, but there must be thousands or millions of these occurring in all the gift believing communities in the world, who believe they are the very words of God. An experience I had as a young believer shaped my view on this subject. I worked in the Steel plant with an older man who belonged to the Apostolic church. He recounted that in one of their meetings a brother got up and prophesied that God was calling this workmate to be a “trumpeter”. ( a proclaimer of the word). Immediately this workmate got up and responded, “well that’s strange He has not told me.” Needless to say he did not take up that calling! God in these last days has spoken by his Son, the final revelation.
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  18. BayouHuguenot

    BayouHuguenot Puritan Board Doctor

    I understand, though that is merely anecdotal evidence. And pointing out abuses can work both ways. In any case it is a logical fallacy. I can find abuses of all kinds in every kind of church, which would mean every kind of church is wrong.
  19. BayouHuguenot

    BayouHuguenot Puritan Board Doctor

    And saying we have the final revelation in God's speaking in his Son doesn't prove anything. Strictly speaking, God spoke in his Son in his earthly ministry, and if that is the final revelation, then we shouldn't have had the canon add to God's revelation.
  20. Bill The Baptist

    Bill The Baptist Puritan Board Graduate

    Prophesying in Scripture is most often simply proclaiming the truth of what has already been revealed, much like modern preaching. One passage, in 2 Chronicles I believe, speaks of a man and his sons who prophesied with a harp.

    As someone who believes that God does whatever he jolly well pleases, I am always hesitant to say that God can’t do something, however the problem with modern charismatics is how the understand the nature of gifts. Prophecy, if it purports to tell the future, must come true or else it is false. Tongues are not estatic babbling, but actual languages. The gift of healing, if it still is given, would certainly not be given as a means of bringing fame and wealth upon the bearer.

    When we consider the actual nature of the so-called spiritual gifts that are claimed to exist today, and then compare them to Scripture, we can see that they are false. In the absence of any evidence of the genuine presence of the gifts, it seems to me that cessationism simply follows logically, but I would be happy to be proven wrong.
  21. RBachman

    RBachman Puritan Board Freshman

    I like to refer to myself as a Westminster Calvinist, mostly because it gets folks attention. I have yet to run into someone who called themselves Calvinist, but were squishy. The term is is offensive to so many. Theologically weak or compromised folks won't use the word. Reformed, on the other hand, sounds respectable. So it is no wonder that all the cool kids want to be reformed, but only nerds sit in the Calvinist corner.

    As for Piper, et al. They are all a mix of good and bad, and as such should be kicked to curb. There are simply too many solid, yet less known teachers, to listen to, why waste time shifting the true from the false with guys who are famous or were friends of Dr. Sproul. btw, I am beginning to think Keller needs to be put in this camp as well, but time will tell.
  22. Jeri Tanner

    Jeri Tanner Moderator Staff Member

    God didn’t just speak through his Son in his earthly ministry but fully revealed that word through the apostles, as Christ promised (John 16:13-15). The NT canon is now the full revelation of God speaking through his Son.

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  23. BayouHuguenot

    BayouHuguenot Puritan Board Doctor

    But none of that is embedded in Heb. 1:1, and my earlier point was that we have numerous examples of revelation and prophecy that aren't canonized, so the two aren't obviously a zero-sum game (mind you, I have some concerns with the new calvinist fallibilism, but that's not my point at the moment).
  24. BayouHuguenot

    BayouHuguenot Puritan Board Doctor

    That's begging the question and dismissing a priori any evidence. Jesus wasn't always able to heal, and Paul couldn't heal himself, so there isn't this pure zapping power that the Apostles always manifested and that we can't today.

    And there are numerous claims from the mission field and from churches where people are healed or received words of knowledge.
  25. Bill The Baptist

    Bill The Baptist Puritan Board Graduate

    I’m certainly not denying that God can heal, nor that he does, but many of these reports are fantastical and always seem to originate in places that make them impossible to verify.
  26. BayouHuguenot

    BayouHuguenot Puritan Board Doctor

    Then I am not sure the disagreement, for you admit that God can and does heal, and I do not deny that some stories are perhaps hard to verify. But what of an analytic Christian philosopher like JP Moreland, who believes God does (anddddd did in his case) heal? It's one thing to beat up on Benny Hinn, it's another to look at what a Moreland or a Craig Keener would say.
  27. Jeri Tanner

    Jeri Tanner Moderator Staff Member

    I believe the apostles and their message were the equivalent of the OT prophets and prophecy. The prophets mentioned in Acts and in the epistles were under the authority of the apostolic ministry. So it makes sense that those prophecies aren’t recorded and canonized (except for Agabus, as part of the story of Paul’s ministry). I think it’s correct to say that everything God wanted said in the Hebrews 1:1 sense, he said through his Son and disseminated it through his Son’s apostles.
  28. earl40

    earl40 Puritan Board Post-Graduate

    I personally reject such claims. Hey I got an idea let's ask Mikey aka Perg if he sees numerous miracles and hears words of knowledge in the mission field.
    Last edited: Mar 2, 2018
  29. Ed Walsh

    Ed Walsh Puritan Board Junior

    This discussion brings to mind an old quote attributed the John Owen:

    “If private revelations agree with Scripture, they are unnecessary and if they disagree they are false.”
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  30. BayouHuguenot

    BayouHuguenot Puritan Board Doctor

    But that would only account for his mission. It wouldn't logically account for the entirety of world missions in church history.
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