I am so confused about terminology here (continuist, cess)

Discussion in 'Pneumatology' started by lynnie, Jan 9, 2009.

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  1. lynnie

    lynnie Puritan Board Graduate


    I am trying to get a feel for the language here. The last thread on this leaves me so confused :confused:

    I talked to a WTS Presbyterian two years ago who told me that there are very very few strict cessationists left anymore. He said that almost all the Reformed community acknowledge that amazing healing miracles are happening on the third world missionfield. (This man calls himself a cessationist and disagrees with Grudem about the gifts today).

    Then there are some charismatics I know who go to "prophecy conferences" and tell you straight out that "the wise man brings out of his storehouse treasures old and new," and the bible is old treasure and the end time prophets and apostles are bringing out new treasure. ( gag). I just call them charismatics when I am in a good mood and worse things when I am in a disgusted mood.

    Then there are Piperites types who say that the apostolic gifting ceased but it is possible to have a word of knowledge about a situation. They NEVER would accept end time prophets and apostles the way charismatics do, never ever. They hold to the closed canon and sufficiency of scripture, and such "words" maybe take the form of a prayer burden or helpful guidance in a particular situation. Right or wrong, they are not like charismatics.

    So isn't that moderate cessationism? And what about my Westminster guy who told me there are very few strict cessationists left who would deny mission field healing miracles are from God?

    So here, at this forum, what exactly is a cessationist and what is a continuist, and why can't there be a moderate, in between everything ceasing extreme and modern day canonical apostles extreme?

    Do the cessationists here deny healing miracles? If not, isn't that a moderate cessationism? Or is the debate more over the idea of "words from God" ? Is that what the cessationists define as cessationism but they accept healing miracles? Do you cessationists think alleged miracles of healing through the laying on of hands and prayer are not from the Lord? Did it all cease?

    I am just trying to clarify the terminology here in my mind as it seems very confusing to read the comments.

    [Just to be fair, I think the word " Christian" is very confused to day. The word "prayer" in some circles isn't even prayer, it is what you do when you take authority and declare things. The word "faith" is so distorted in some circles it is crazy. We almost need to start over with brand new words for another Reformation. :lol:]

    I would appreciate clarification as to these terms and what the parameters are at this board. Thank you!!
  2. panta dokimazete

    panta dokimazete Panting Donkey Machete

    And maybe make this a "sticky" or start a thread that could be one.
  3. CDM

    CDM Puritan Board Junior

    Like many other theological areas, language is a big problem here, too. Before the various camps start firing away, I hope there will be some agreed upon definition of terms.

    Off the cuff, I think one can [consistently] be a "strict cessationist" and affirm that, in God's Providence he heals miraculously. It's an entirely different matter, however, to say that supernatural healing is normative or can be *exercised* by a given Christian.
  4. lynnie

    lynnie Puritan Board Graduate

    Thanks. But I don't mind if the mods just tell me and then this goes into the proverbial sunset.

    Can this be the groups?:

    1.Strict cessationists

    2. Cessationists (like Poythress, with extraordinary workings of the HS within a cessationist framework)

    3.Totally crazy charismatic continuists?

    4.Piper/Grudemite continuists/moderate cessationists?

    It just does not seem like there can only be 2 groups. Seems like there have to be at least 4.

    But what do you call them here exactly is what I am trying to figure out.
  5. CDM

    CDM Puritan Board Junior

    I don't know how people define your labels around here. I usually stay away from those threads for just this reason. To some I'd be in your #1 category, to others, it seems, I'd fall under #2.

    It seems as if your definition of #1 are those [if they were to be consistent] who would be forced to deny that miracles occur after the closing of the canon. I do not know if this type of cessationist ever existed. It appears categories are being mixed.

    Maybe you could start the defining. What is a "strict cessationist"? Be sure to include this group's beliefs about miracles in general.
  6. Glenn Ferrell

    Glenn Ferrell Puritan Board Junior

    Does anyone find the last paragraph of the statement I posted on another thread (now closed) contrary to the confessions? If so, I sincerely want to be corrected.

    “God in his ordinary providence makes use of means, yet is free to work without, above and against them, at His pleasure.” (WCF V:3) Although there are no extraordinary works of God to confirm additions to His Word, a Sovereign God may use special providential means to guide, deliver or protect His people, especially in times of persecution, hardship, or advancement of the Kingdom, never as a contradiction, an addition to, or with the infallible certainty of canonical Revelation, but “as gracious intimations of the will of God, granted to them in answer to prayer, for their own encouragement or direction” (McCrie, Story of the Scottish Church). Scripture does not forbid one to pray for God’s special providential intervention to deliver beyond His ordinary workings through man and nature. The Spirit may give or withhold liberty and faith for such prayers or restrain such.​
  7. Jimmy the Greek

    Jimmy the Greek Puritan Board Senior

    The issue has to do with "spiritual gifts" invested in individuals such that one may be said to have "the gift of . . ." This issue does not bear on whether or not God performs in miraculous ways today. I assume all would agree he does.

    E.g. If I pray for the healing of a loved one and God heals him, the circumstances may indicate a supernatural miracle, providential care in answer to prayer, or whatever. In any case, that has nothing to do with the "gift of healing" as seen in the early apostolic church and cessationism vs continuationism.

  8. Hippo

    Hippo Puritan Board Junior

    No one is going to argue that God cannot do whatever miracles he desires, the key question is whether we interpret our feelings as miracles, that we expect the proclomation of the gospel to be accompanied by miracles or whether new revelation continues.

    I find your quote to be puzzling, the idea that miracles still happen in the third but not the first world is just plain strange.

    To be a cessationist you do not have to disbelieve that God is acting sovereignly in certain situations but you do not attempt to create such miracles or use them as a basis for faith or practice. You cannot discern miracles without apostolic authority, just because a "miracle" ticks all the biblical boxes there is no positive reason to recognise the event as a miracle and more importantly no reason to do so.

    I do not understand the concept of moderate cessationism as anything other than an attempt to placate those who hanker for experience and certainty outside a biblical framework. All mainstream cesessionists are moderate in so far as they believe in the sovereignty of God, as soon as you start attempting to "validate" miracles you are no longer any form of cessesationist.
  9. Semper Fidelis

    Semper Fidelis 2 Timothy 2:24-25 Staff Member

    I don't think this is un-Confessional. I think the issue with continuationism is what the ordinary gifting of the Church consists of.
  10. nicnap

    nicnap Puritan Board Post-Graduate

    Last edited: Jan 9, 2009
  11. lynnie

    lynnie Puritan Board Graduate

    Thanks for the replies.

    So are the words "'ordinary" and 'normative" part of the definition?

    Almost everybody agrees that some supernatural gifts can happen....but cessationists think they are not normative here and only occasional with unreached people groups on the mission field? And the continuists here think they should happen ordinarily at every single meeting, at least normatively on a regular basis? It is to some degree about frequency? Do you disagree about what happens, or just about if it is a normal means of grace to be expected regularly, versus being extremely unusual?

    Its funny, Iain Murray is my favorite author, and he is cessationist and I am not. But when he talks about the Holy Spirit being poured out, and what happens in true revival, it is better (and more inspiring) theology about the work of the Holy Spirit than almost anything continuist I ever read.
  12. Scott1

    Scott1 Puritan Board Doctor

    We need to handle our definitions and assumptions with care.

    If I'm understanding this correctly, the issue is not whether "miracles" continue (they do, and the Westminster Confession recognizes that at Chapter X. 3. and in other contexts) but whether new revelation of God comes through "gifts" now.

    Whether that new revelation "must agree with Scripture" or is taken as "equal to" Scripture, it would in either sense, undermine the complete authoritative revelation of the Holy Spirit speaking through Scripture. That is contrary to what Scripture says about itself and about the authoritative foundation described by Scripture as having been laid by the prophets and apostles. It is also contrary to one of the key tenets of reformed theology, the authority of Scripture.

    Explicitly in doctrine or implicitly in practice, this is the way charismatic/pentecostal theology approaches this and the way the term "continuationist" is commonly used.

    Where there may be some room for discussion, please feel free to delete this if I am incorrect, is whether certain "gifts," miraculous in nature, might continue in some other sort of way- such as for edification, faith building, or as a tool for evangelism.
  13. Semper Fidelis

    Semper Fidelis 2 Timothy 2:24-25 Staff Member

    I think people think of cessationism as some sort of anti-Supernaturalism. Really, the Reformed tradition places an extremely high value on the operation of the Holy Spirit. If it didn't, it could hardly be Trinitarian.

    I think the problem many Churches have, quite frankly, is that they have an impoverished view of the power of the Holy Spirit in the ordinary means of Word and Sacrament. By ordinary, people think boring. It's our flesh that wants a fireworks display every time the Holy Spirit does something but this is precisely the kind of thing that Christ rebukes - a perverse generation looks for wonders.

    I think that when one studies and meditates upon the power of God that is poured out through the Word of God then it stops any concern that this is powerful stuff. When one studies what God is holding forth in the Sacraments and how the Spirit seals the benefits of Christ's work to us through them then one cannot feel "cheated" by what God does ordinarily. Instead, we should be jumping out of our skin thinking: every Sunday, the power of God is present through His Word and Sacraments! How remarkable! In fact, even "revivals" are by the use of Preaching.

    I'm teaching on Samson this Sunday and one of the important things that some commentators have noted is the distinction between gifting and fruit by the Holy Spirit. Gifts are given to the Church as tools toward the end of the Church and God even uses very fallen and sometimes downright wicked men to make sure His Church in all ages is preserved. Even men with extraordinary gifts have not received the fruit of the Spirit that is the result of union with Christ and an evangelical faith in Him.

    In my estimation, a focus on gifts detracts from God's activity that we know very clearly comes from His Word and Sacraments. It's not that the gifts don't help toward that end but, you'll notice in these discussions, there are all these stories about how people are still gifted with tongues or prophecy, etc and it doesn't really link back toward an end that is tangibly related to the building up of the Church. There's an imbalance there because many (not all) continuationists are impoverished in other very key areas of Christian doctrine.

    Bottom line: when you feel like you're not getting much out of Word and Sacrament then you're going to focus on other things and the very means that God has established take a back seat.
  14. Prufrock

    Prufrock Arbitrary Moderation

    Thanks, Rich: that was a really good post.
  15. lynnie

    lynnie Puritan Board Graduate

    Yes it was Rich, thanks.

    Good point Scott.....miracles versus "new revelation". In my limited exposure charismatics believe in new revelation equal to the canon, it seems like, but continuists do not (although they believe in supernatural gifts). But this is what I was trying to figure out here. If people think continuists believe in modern apostolic and prophetic new revelation then I can see why so many triggers are getting pulled.

    For the record I wish we could agree that reformed continuists do believe in the sufficency of scripture and not new revelation, and we reject the modern prophetic/apostolic movements, we are not charismatic.

    By the way..."Bottom line: when you feel like you're not getting much out of Word and Sacrament then you're going to focus on other things and the very means that God has established take a back seat."

    I don't think that is accurate in all cases. I love my PCA church and I sure feel fed. Stuffed! But I've been coming across people with serious medical conditions that medicine isn't helping. And as I have been praying for God to pour out the gift of healing and miracles in His church, it isn't that I'm bored. I just feel so much pity for people in painful physical situations. If I ask God to grant a miracle to Pergamon's kid with malaria, it isn't charismatic boredom with doctrine, it is feeling sorry for little kids. And I hope I never stop praying for miracles and God grants them, especially as we see antibiotic resistant diseases on the rise. I'd like to think all the continuists here are motivated by compassion, not boredom with word and sacrament.

    Thanks again for all the comments.
  16. Scott1

    Scott1 Puritan Board Doctor

    I don't think praying that someone be physically healed is the issue in relation to "continuism" or "cessationism".

    Believing that someone has a supernatural "gift of healing" or "has authority" to command healing would be.

    This is part of the difficulty here and we have touched on it here in the thread- "continuationism" is understood to mean continuation of gifts for the purpose of bringing new revelation of God such as "tongues," "intepretation of tongues," or "prophecy" (in sense of a new "word from the Lord").
  17. Semper Fidelis

    Semper Fidelis 2 Timothy 2:24-25 Staff Member


    I didn't intend to imply that we shouldn't pray for healing or even for God to move in extraordinary ways. You're confusing prayer with continuationism.

    I would also say that what we pray for is healing or the spread of the Gospel and we know that God's Providence will work all things out - even using the means of prayer. The problem arises when there is an expectation that He will gift with an extraordinary healing ministry or that He will send a prophet or a tongue speaker or some other type of means.

    As I alluded to above, a full orbed understanding of Christian doctrine helps. In the above case it helps to understand God's Providence because there's an assumption unless the means are "showy" or "dazzling" that God is not doing something good for His own.

    A family member of mine is recovering from cancer. I pray for her healing. I'm not praying to God that he'll raise up a Prophet to go and lay hands on her and take away all cancer. It's enough to pray for her and trust God for the result.

    What a continuationist position can lead to (in some cases) is a somewhat pagan expectation upon how the result corresponds with the gifting. Recently a hard Providence struck a Church member and one of the women sent an e-mail to the whole Church telling all that she felt like God had told her to pray for that person the night before and she hadn't and now "...look what happened."

    We ought to be those that are regularly praying for each other but a healthy understanding of the means of Grace guards us against the sense that we need extraordinary gifts to be "blessed" in the building up of the Church and a healthy understanding of Providence helps us to avoid sounding like one of Job's friends when God, in His inscrutable ways, works out things for the good in a way that is very dark.
  18. DonP

    DonP Puritan Board Junior

    Seems part of this problem as with others is semantics.

    What is a miracle?

    Is a miracle always and only a sign to validate that this s the word of the Lord?

    Also if we allow there are miracles being done, why? And are they at God's discretion occasionally or does a person have a gift and can do miracles at will by God's decree?

    Are they as tongues were, a sign to unbelievers and would only occur in evangelism and not for believers edification??

    What of other people who do "miracles", witches, witch doctors, satanists, spiritual healers etc.
    We call it occult because it is hidden from most of us. Only a few know the secret of how to do it. But does it really violate the laws of nature?

    Can Satan take control of Gods creation violate its laws and do a miracle?

    If God predestines everything that happens then in that sense isn't everything a miracle? God made it happen or it wouldn't have.

    Finally and to put an end to all discussion.
    How do you know for sure it was a miracle and not that you just do not know how it happened?

    Since we start with the fact we do not know everything.
    Then we cannot know for sure God did not providentially order this to happen in the normal use of means or even perhaps and accelerated speed of use of normal means.

    It looks like a miracle to us because we don't know how it happened. just as with illusionist they do what looks like a miracle or magic. But it is all natural

    So I pose the only way we can know it was a miracle is for the scripture to tell us it was a miracle.

    It could have just been a very rare occurrence that we do not know enough to understand how it was done.

    So lets just say it was an amazing work of providence praise god and I don't understand how it happened. God did it.
    So who cares if it violates laws of nature or not.

    Some people sound like the Jews seeking a sign.

    God said ask for anything you want, compared it to moving a mountain into the sea, and said He would do this for us, so as long as we don't ask for things not in accord with His revealed will sounds like we could be doing a lot more so who cares of they are miracles or not!!

    Lets go do stuff for God to manifest His glory!!

    In his Service,
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