Without trying to sort through everything (or really anything) that has been said at the Strange Fire Conference–let alone sifting through what has been said and done in response–I thought it might be helpful to take a step back and give some historical perspective on the question of cessationism.

In the first section of the first chapter of the Westminster Confession of Faith we find reference to at least some kind of cessationism.

Although the light of nature, and the works of creation and providence do so far manifest the goodness, wisdom, and power of God, as to leave men unexcusable; yet are they not sufficient to give that knowledge of God, and of his will, which is necessary unto salvation. Therefore it pleased the Lord, at sundry times, and in divers manners, to reveal himself, and to declare that his will unto his church; and afterwards, for the better preserving and propagating of the truth, and for the more sure establishment and comfort of the church against the corruption of the flesh, and the malice of Satan and of the world, to commit the same wholly unto writing: which maketh the holy Scripture to be most necessary; those former ways of God’s revealing his will unto his people being now ceased. (WCF 1.1, emphasis added)

Clearly, the Westminster divines believed there was a cessation of something. Whether the Confession means to embrace everything one might now mean by cessationism is another matter. But certainly we cannot relegate to the theological wasteland the belief that something about God’s way of revealing himself has changed.

Undoubtedly, the best book on cessationism in the first century of the Reformed tradition is Garnet Milne’s published dissertation The Westminster Confession of Faith and the Cessation of Special Revelation: The Majority Puritan Viewpoint on Whether Extra-Biblical Prophecy Is Still Possible (Paternoster, 2007). In this work–a model of careful scholarship serving the church–Milne argues that the Puritans were overwhelmingly cessationists, but that their cessationism was not without some permeable boundaries (see also Vern Poythress’s article on “Affirming Extraordinary Works of the Spirit Within Cessationist Theology”).

It’s worth reading this section from Milne’s Preface, especially his point about “mediate” and “immediate” revelation:

In the opening chapter of the Confession, the divines of Westminster included a clause which implied that there would no longer be any supernatural revelation from God for showing humankind the way of salvation. Means by which God had once communicated the divine will concerning salvation, such as dreams, visions, and the miraculous gifts of the Spirit, were said to be no longer applicable.

However, many of the authors of the WCF accepted that “prophecy” continued in their time, and a number of them apparently believed that disclosure of God’s will through dreams, visions, and angelic communication remained possible.

How is the “cessationist” clause of WCF 1:1 to be read in the light of these facts? Was it intended as a strict denial of the possibility that any supernatural revelation for the purposes of salvation could take place after the apostolic period, or did its authors, as some modern scholars have argued, allow for a more flexible view, in which such divine revelation through extraordinary means might still take place? This books explores these questions in the light of the modern debates over the interpretation of the Confession’s language and its implications for the church today. It considers the difference between “mediate” and “immediate” revelation as understood by the Westminster divines, and attempts to show that only “immediate” revelation was considered to have ceased, while “mediate” revelation, which always involved Scripture, was held to continue.

A detailed analysis of the writings of the Westminster divines reveals that these churchmen possessed both a strong desire to maintain the unity of Word and Spirit and a concern to safeguard the freedom of the Holy Spirit to speak to particular circumstances through the language and principles of Scripture. God still enabled predictive prophecy and spoke to individuals in extraordinary ways, but contemporary prophecy was held to be something different from the extraordinary prophecy of New Testament figures.

In the minds of the Scottish Presbyterians and English Puritans, prophecy was considered to be an application of Scripture for a specific situation, not an announcement of new information not contained within the Bible. The Scripture always remained essential for the process of discerning God’s will. (xv-xvi).

A little later, Milne summarizes his thesis:

The book concludes that the Westminster divines intended the cessationist clause to affirm that there was to be no more extra-biblical, “immediate” revelation for any purpose now that the church possessed the complete Scriptures. The written Word of God was fully capable of showing the way of “salvation” in its wider scope as either temporal or eternal deliverance.

At the same time the divines did not intend to deny that God could still speak through special providences that might involve dreams or the ministry of angels, for example, but such revelation was always to be considered “meditate.” The primary means was held to be the written Scriptures, illuminated by the Holy Spirit. The unity of the Word and Spirit was maintained, and God’s freedom to address individual circumstances remained intact. (xvi-xvii)

Whether you agree with the Scottish Presbyterians and the English Puritans on this matter, I don’t think anyone grappling with Milne’s research can deny that he presents a compelling case for the conclusion just stated. Without a doubt, the Westminster Confession of Faith teaches cessationism, but it is a cessationism which requires considerable nuance and allows for supernatural surprises so long as they are working with and through the Word of God.

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42 thoughts on “The Puritans, Strange Fire, Cessationism, and the Westminster Confession”

  1. LukeK says:

    “Supernatural surprises” hahh I like that…

  2. David says:

    Ironically this conversation between Doug Wilson (cessationist) and Mark Driscoll (non-cessationist) actually shows that defining terms puts these brothers with differing views much closer to one another.

    http://youtu.be/8vEiqqfvsh0

    It’s too bad this has become more of a food fight than iron sharpening iron.

  3. Joshua says:

    Hello brother Kevin. I so appreciate your work for the Lord and am always blessed by your posts! I am a born-again believer, and I consider myself to be a reformed charismatic.

    A continuationist does not believe that God makes known some new revelation in addition to His Word. The canon is closed. The gift “word of knowledge” (logos gnosis) referred to in 1 Corinthians 12:8 (one of the gifts of the Spirit that cessasionists claim to have ceased)is not an addition to the closed canon of Scripture. In Acts 5, when Ananias and Sapphira secretly withheld a portion of the proceeds from selling their land, the Holy Spirit revealed it to Peter. This is a supernatural “logos gnosis” about a specific situation which is not recorded as part of the canon. Peter simply says, “Ananias, why has Satan filled your heart to lie to the Holy Spirit and keep back part of the price of the land for yourself?” (v 3)? The same thing happened with Sapphira. The Holy Spirit showed Peter via word of knowledge that Ananias and Sapphira withheld part of the money. The result was, in addition to other signs and wonders that occurred, that “believers were increasingly added to the Lord, multitudes of both men and women” (v 14).

    The purpose of spiritual gifts (charismata) is for the “profit of all” (1 Corinthians 12:7), for the “edification of the church” (1 Corinthians 14:12). Both prophecy and tongues (with intepretation) are said to edify both believers (1 Corinthians 14:5) and non-believers (v 24, 25). Time and time again in the New Testament we see examples of people coming to Christ as a result of some sign, wonder, or use of spiritual gifts (healing, discerning of spirits, etc).

    Now, a cessasionist will argue that Peter was an Apostle, and these gifts ceased with the death of the Apostles. The most used text to affirm this position is 1 Corinthians 13:8-12, stating that prophesy, tongues, and knowledge will fail/cease/vanish away “when that which is perfect is come” (v 10), claiming that the “perfect/complete” is a reference to the canon. Firstly, this is a stretch to say. How can we be certain the closing of the canon is described here? Could it not refer to the return of Christ? When Jesus returns, we will no longer see “dimly,” but clearly (“face to face,” v 12), and these gifts will no longer be necessary, because the living Word will be present with us. Also, if the proper practice of these gifts were not important for us today, why would the Holy Spirit even inspire Paul to write it, let alone three chapters worth? He addressed other errors in the church throughout the letter (legal issues, communion abuse, to name a few), and we need to know this information today, especially with the way the gifts are abused!

    The point is, Jesus Christ is the same today as He was yesterday (Hebrews 13:8). Could not the Holy Spirit reveal to one of His children alive today some sort of knowledge about a person/situation that would result in the glory and praise of God, and a sinner coming to repentance (as these works did in the early church)? This is no addition to the closed, holy writ, but simply the Holy Spirit operating in Christ’s Body today. He gives these gifts to bring edification to the Body, for its growth and to turn this lost world to Him. We should humbly seek to understand these precious charismata, not simply writing them off as unnecessary. It seems to me we need them today more than ever…

  4. Justin says:

    Kevin,

    I enjoyed your post and I would agree with your final conclusion that we should be open to “supernatural surprises.” I think the key qualifier is, as you have said, that “they are working with and through the Word of God.” I have been watching much of the Strange Fire conference and while I don’t necessarily agree with their generalization and lumping of all Charismatics into one large group, I do agree with their main premise which has been to confront and call out charismatic excesses that are no “supernatural surprises” and certainly aren’t working “with and through the Word of God”. Many of the individuals they have called out have been those who have claimed direct revelation from God, new prophetic visions, and other things that have not lined up with a clear understanding of scripture and those are the individuals that I take issue with. I have some wonderful friends that are charismatic in their worship styles and I love them dearly. But, there are factions of this movement that are taking it to the extreme and they need to be confronted, just as much as I would argue that hyper-calvinists need to be confronted.

    That said, I don’t agree with everything being said at the Strange Fire conference in terms of generalizations of the charismatic movement as a whole but I do agree with their confronting those individuals that are taking charismatic practices to strange, ecstatic excesses (convulsions, running around a room, laughing uncontrollably, etc.) that are in now way grounded in Scripture.

  5. Adriel says:

    Kevin,

    I read Milne’s work closely last year. I felt at times that he was straining the historical evidence to reconcile it with the WCF, but all in all it was fantastic!

    Here are a number of other helpful resources for the discussion (which aren’t often read):

    Aune, David E. Prophecy in Early Christianity and the Ancient Mediterranean World. 1983. Repr., Eugene, OR: Wipf and Stock Publishers, 2003.

    Codling, Don. Sola Scriptura and the Revelatory Gifts. Rice, WA: Sentinel Press, 2005.

    Curtis, Byron. “”Private Spirits” In the Westminster Confession of Faith 1.10 and in Catholic-Protestant Debate (1588-1652).” Westminster Theological Journal 58 (1996): 257-266. (Milne actually wrote a response to this one, which I believe caused Curtis to rethink his article some: See, Milne, Garnet H. “”Private Spirits” In the Westminster Confession of Faith and in Protestant-Catholic Debates: A Response to Byron Curtis.” Westminster Theological Journal 61 (1999): 101-110.)

    Elbert, Paul. “Calvin and the Spiritual Gifts.” Journal of the Evangelical Theological Society 22/3 (September 1979): 235-256.

    Also, if people are interested in the historical information:

    Smith, Dean R. “The Scottish Presbyterians and Covenanters: A Continuationist Experience in a Cessationist Theology.” Westminster Theological Journal 63 (2001): 39-63.

    Shogren, Gary Steven. “Christian Prophecy and Canon in the Second Century: A Response to B.B. Warfield.” Journal of the Evangelical Theological Society 40/4 (December 1997): 609-626.

    Shogren, Gary Steven. “How Did They Suppose ‘The Perfect’ Would Come? 1 Corinthians 13.8-12 in Patristic Exegesis.” Journal of Pentecostal Theology 15 (1999): 99-121.

    Blessings

  6. taco says:

    Maybe someone smarter than me can point out how this is any different than the view of D.A. Carson in Showing the Spirit?

  7. Adriel says:

    (Not saying I’m smarter than you) In StS, Carson basically commends Grudem’s work, albeit with some nuances (in the end Carson states that his reservations about Grudem’s thesis serve to refine it). You could find individuals historically who have held to a lesser form of prophecy. Most people don’t know this, but if you read Calvin’s comments on 1 Corinthians 12-14, there are points where he describes prophecy in a way quite similar to Grudem. I think the difference comes when we consider whether or not these things are meant to be the normative experience for the church today, or are extraordinary “supernatural surprises.”

  8. Riley says:

    “Pastor Mark, Do Reformed Church Really Neglect the Holy Spirit?” on the highplainsparson blog. Click on name to read.

  9. Brandon Showalter says:

    Kevin, I always love reading your writing. A look at the history surrounding this is indeed an important part of the discussion about the gifts of the Holy Ghost and the supernatural, but Macarthur is accusing people of blaspheming the Spirit, the unpardonable sin! Surely you have the courage to write that that approach is entirely unacceptable, whether coming from a charismatic or a cessationist. Words fail to express how outrageously grievous that is.

    I for one (full disclosure: I’m a charismatic Anglican)
    wouldn’t dream of doing that even to those currently awash in heresy. If anything I would come with a sincere pleading, appealing to Scripture with the help of the Holy Spirit, not ad hominems and unkind (and untrue) accusations. And as an aside, my first ‘charismatic’ experience when I spoke in tongues drove me to study and love the Word of God. THAT was the fruit of it for me, and John Macarthur attributes it to Satan? I’m pretty sure Satan would not drive me to study and love the Bible. There is NO way I can’t what he says personally. He has wounded a great many faithful people, and worst of all, he seems to think himself more righteous because of it.

    For a scholarly look at continuationism, I would respectfully recommend this from Jon Ruthven.

    http://www.amazon.com/Cessation-Charismata-Protestant-Post-biblical-Miracles-Revised/dp/0981952623

  10. michael says:

    It’s funny. Kevin posts here about the WCF and everyone talks about MacArthur.

  11. Justin says:

    Michael,

    Kevin did talk about WCF but he obviously put it within the context of the Strange Fire conference, which makes MacArthur relevant to the discussion.

  12. John says:

    Joshua said: “A continuationist does not believe that God makes known some new revelation in addition to His Word. The canon is closed. The gift “word of knowledge” (logos gnosis) referred to in 1 Corinthians 12:8 (one of the gifts of the Spirit that cessasionists claim to have ceased)is not an addition to the closed canon of Scripture. In Acts 5, when Ananias and Sapphira secretly withheld a portion of the proceeds from selling their land, the Holy Spirit revealed it to Peter. This is a supernatural “logos gnosis” about a specific situation which is not recorded as part of the canon.”

    Surely Acts is part of the canon? I mean, I understand the point you’re trying to make but this is a poor way to make it. Although there is nothing in 1 Corinthians that enables to define “word of knowledge” let’s say for the benefit of the doubt that that is indeed what Peter receives in Acts 5. That word IS part of the canon, not in exact substance but certainly in essence (similar to Paul’s experience in Acts 16). Unless I’m totally missing something, this seems to run contrary to your argument.

  13. A helpful article and reference to a helpful source. However, it’s confusing to use the term “cessationism” for what Puritans believed.

    What the Puritans believed is NOT what is currently called “cessationism.” They believed in the on-going reality of dreams, visions, etc. In “Magnalia Christi Americana” Cotton Mather records of Puritan pastors evaluating claims of dreams from God Biblically, not dismissing them as not possible. Most tragically, at the Salem Witchcraft trial testimony from purported visions was accepted.

    There are people who are called “charismatic” today who have a doctrine of spiritual gifts like that of the Puritans. Current day cessationists do NOT reflect the doctrine of Puritanism.

  14. Joshua says:

    John (posting at 8:36 AM), thank you for your thoughts. I certainly understand what you mean, and I am obviously not saying that these individual events are NOT part of the canon. I was just trying to prove my point through using Scripture, perhaps poorly.

    I guess what I mean is, there were times where the Spirit revealed information to individuals about specific situations, as we see in Acts 5 with Peter, as well as in Acts 11:28 where the Holy Spirit used Agabus to show the brethren that there would be a famine in “all the world.” Sure these are recorded in the canon, but are also examples of the Spirit’s activity in the church of that day. (We also know that the Spirit was working in the Church at Corinth, which was why Paul used three chapters to correct their “ignorance” concerning the use of the gifts, specifically tongues and prophecy.) Prophecy given today is not the inspired prophecy of the Scriptures, but is merely a “speaking forth of the mind and counsel of God” (Vines) for the edification of His church (1 Cor 14:3). So long as this “speaking forth” is tested (1 Thessalonians 5:20-21), and in its testing aligns itself with the written Word, as well as builds up the body of Christ and convicts the lost (see 1 Corinthians 14:24-25), we can be certain it is of God. The Spirit’s activity today will always glorify Christ. If it glorifies man (which is not the Holy Spirit anyway), we should be quick to denounce it. Thanks for your reply, brother.

  15. Tim Margheim says:

    Hi Kevin,

    This is how I’m reading your post. (If I’ve got it wrong, I’d appreciate clarification.)

    For cessationists, you’re saying that historical Reformed confessional understandings of cessation have room for forms of continued revelation–forms that many modern cessationists discount on the basis of sola scripture / the sufficiency of Scripture.

    So when continuationists say they believe in both sola scriptura and some form of modern revelation, that’s not always a historically-novel twisting-the-meaning-of-sola-scriptura notion. It depends on the form on continued revelation.

    For continuationists, you said “we cannot relegate [all forms of cessationism] to the theological wasteland”. I’m not entirely sure what that means, but you’re not using the confession as an argument about who’re right.

    I get the impression that you’re basically saying to continuationists, “Don’t regard cessationism as necessarily being totally out there. It’s something that thoughtful Christians have believed in some form for quite a while.”

  16. taco says:

    Do you think the enlightenment and/or rationalism has a lot to do with the modern definition of cessationism as held by MacArthur and such?

  17. Tim Margheim says:

    taco,

    I think it makes sense that Enlightenment rationalism would push people toward that kind of cessationism. It also makes sense that shallow sensationalism would push people toward a charismatic view.

    In both cases, it can be worthwhile to note those potential influences as something to guard against–but we should be reeeeeally cautious about assigning motivations to particular person or group.

  18. LWesterlund says:

    Thank you, Joshua, for your long, Biblical, and very helpful post. It we allow those charismatics who are not anchored in the Word of God to color our judgment of all charismatic Christians, surely we are in danger of falling off the horse on the other side. There are Reformed churches who minimize our Biblical dependence upon the Holy Spirit, and so depart from a Biblical emphasis even as they argue their points from Scripture.

  19. I appreciate and agree with all the posts after mine until this. Some solid wisdom from you all. Thank you for it.
    I continue to believe that its confusing to call what the Puritans and original Reformed leaders espoused as “cessationism”. They believed in sola scriptura, etc., but most of them did not believe that excluded God revealing things through means likes visions, impressions, etc. I’ve interviewed modern “charismatics” who are adamant about the canon being closed and the inerrancy of scripture. I believe “taco” has hit on the origins of modern-day cessationism.

  20. Hugh McCann says:

    David, et. al.,

    I submit that even better than the Mark & Doug show, are Wayne & Ian here: http://thegospelcoalition.org/blogs/justintaylor/2012/02/23/a-debate-on-the-continuation-of-prophecy/

    Thank you,
    Hugh

  21. Cathy says:

    I believe that we are to properly weigh Scripture apart from what the various reformed creeds teach. I believe we are to prayerfully interpret Scripture apart from what the father and founder of calvinism believed. I believe that what I see or don’t see occurring in the Church today does not impact what the Bible is teaching. I haven’t seen revival in America in 40 years, but that doesn’t lead me to conclude that God has ceased bringing revival. I don’t see much loving of enemies, but that doesn’t lead me to conclude that love for enemies pretty much ceased functioning because perhaps it’s not needed as much in our modern world. We don’t understand the Bible by what people say or have said or by what we see in history or see today. We attempt to understand it by what it actually says. I see continuationism in the Word, so I believe it and pray for it. Period.

  22. Hugh McCann says:

    Cathy,
    Of course the doctrines of God’s sovereign grace are not original with Calvin or Luther or Augustine.
    They originate in Moses, Jesus, and Paul.
    Thank you.

  23. David Burkhardt says:

    Is it haughty to confront soundly and sternly false teachers/teachings as the Lord Jesus, Peter, James, John, Jude, and Paul did??!! They are calling out the believers entangled in the abberration to think Biblically, and the unbelievers in the movement to focus on the Gospel and Bible!

    Seems most continualists want to relive continuously (no pun intended) as in “Groundhog Day” Acts of the Apostles and First Corinthians. What is proscribed is to be obeyed and applied then and today, what is described has lessons for today but was also characteristic for that time; early formation of the “Church” and “Canon”!

    I have heard of a Hispanic pastor near a US military base being able to speak with Koreans and Philipinos in their native tongue without prior knowing the language. (Probably knows more of the language now with usage!) That would be a true gift of languages if verified! But that is very very rare, otherwise Wycliffe and others could stop working on translating!

    I have known of Muslims in the dark Islamic countries having dreams of Jesus, and I believe that since they are without a Bible or Christians witnessing, God the Holy Spirit is bringing his elect to knowledge, repentance, and faith via at times dreams and circumstances (visits to Dearbornstan, MI?) to move them toward the Bible and sound preaching!

    But I have seen Christians acting on dreams, hunches, emotions, and other dubious things contrary to the Bible and sound Christian counsel!! Or saying outlandish things which is especially bad if a wide audience such as Mark D.

    Kevin makes great points!

  24. David Burkhardt says:

    Safe to say that Paul, Augustine, Luther, Calvin, et al were before the Enlightment! Of course they had to deal with Greek and Roman philosophy that Satanically sought to invade the Church!
    Jon Gerstner used to say that 80+ years ago that Calvin was considered a logical machine with no hint of experential Christianity in his life, whereas today Calvin is thought as a mystic with no logic methods in his brain! Both are wrong extremes!

  25. Paul Carter says:

    Well said Kevin, though I fear that nuance will become increasingly rare in an ever polarizing Christian context.

  26. Lon Hetrick says:

    Thanks for this very useful background.

    I would like to add that I think the modern charismatic movement’s beliefs and practices begs more than the question of cessationism vs. continuism. Even if we grant continuism, we must question whether the charismatic movement represents a continuation of anything related to Scripture. As a former pentecostal pastor, I applaud MacArthur for challenging the seeming majority and raising the hard question: Can modern Charismatic teachings even be called Christian? Do we need to identify certain people as false teachers?

    I posted my thoughts on this on my blog, Average Us dot com, and I invite your comment.

    Grace and peace to you, Lon

    http://averageus.com/2013/10/21/strange-fire-dangerous-charismatic-teaching/

  27. DAK says:

    In the comments above, Showalter writes,
    “A look at the history surrounding this is indeed an important part of the discussion about the gifts of the Holy Ghost and the supernatural, but Macarthur is accusing people of blaspheming the Spirit, the unpardonable sin! Surely you have the courage to write that that approach is entirely unacceptable, whether coming from a charismatic or a cessationist. Words fail to express how outrageously grievous that is.”

    And I must agree. It is also very hurtful to hear John MacArthur tell Reformed continuationists to stop calling themselves Calvinists. By the same token, MacArthur should then stop calling himself a Calvinist since he is a credobaptist and a dispensationalist, two positions that Calvin abhorred.

    Ironically, one of the speakers at “Strange Fire,” Steven Lawson, points out in his book, “The Expository Genius of Calvin,” that Calvin himself changed his plans to continue to Strasbourg after his last return to France and instead remained in Geneva when the Protestant leader there, William Farel, issued this word of prophecy: “If you do not assist me in this work of the Lord, the Lord will punish you.” Lawson adds, “the young theologian agreed to stay, acknowledging that this was the direction of God for his life” (p.11). That Calvin heeded Farel’s prophetic pronouncement should put to rest any claim that Calvin was a cessationist as the term is being applied by MacArthur.

    (If this comment is deleted, as it was on Tim Challies’ blog without any reason given, I would appreciate knowing why at the email submitted herewith. Thanks!)

  28. Truth Unites... and Divides says:

    FWIW, Pastor John MacArthur cites more than just the Puritans:

    “A third criticism has come: that the issue is not clear in the Bible. And that a conference like this, and disagreement from some well-known folks and even well-known Bible scholars, demonstrates that the Scripture is not clear on this issue. In response, I want to say that if the issue is unclear, as some are claiming, it has only become unclear under the influence of false teachers. It was clear to the Apostles. It was clear to the early church fathers. It was clear to the Reformers. It was clear to the Puritans. It is clearly delineated in creeds like the Westminster Confession. It is has been clear to erudite, noble, Reformed theologians who have been quoted, like B. B. Warfield. It was clear to Spurgeon. It was clear to Jim Boice, to R. C. Sproul. Has it now become unclear because of Aimee Semple McPherson, Catherine Coolman, Jimmy Swaggart, Jim Bakker, Kenneth Copeland? That’s a ludicrous idea. In the true and historic stream of sound doctrine this issue has always been crystal clear.”

  29. Hugh McCann says:

    TUAD,

    Is that you? :) Long time, no hear…

    Cool typo, man, but Katherine was Kuhlman. Very nice transcription otherwise.

    But, as others have pointed out, MacDaddy didn’t exegete a whole lot. I watched most of that last talk which he sadly prefaced with, “I just want share something that’s on my heart.” Or words to that effect, sounding more like a Pentecostal than a Puritan…

    And to merely rattle off kuhl lists of both Reformed cessationists with wacko babblers is helpful to delineate who’s whom, but useless to prove a blinking thing, topic-wise.

  30. Little Sheep says:

    Kind of ironic since the Strange Fire conference began ..has been waving the ‘sola scriptura’ banner over the head of all charismatics & calling out foul …yet the cessationists keep appealing to the WCF & intimidation with all the name dropping like Calvin, Luther, this theologian said this, this theologian believes that. Seems the cessationists aren’t as sola scriptura in practice as they preach.
    This conference is grievous & divisive & the appeal being made that ‘truth divides’ has no place in dividing brethren. Very disappointed in this whole thing & the fall out that’s resulting.

  31. taco says:

    I’m not sure followed the argument of the post or the linked article by Vern Poythress Little Sheep. If anything Kevin has sounded the one gracious bell for a call to reasoned discussion by way an honest look at history, and exegesis via Vern’s article. It has been by far the most poignant and discerning post I have read yet. I’m just sad it hasn’t gotten any discussion with the main “Strange Fire” or “Charismatic” sides.

  32. Dave says:

    I thought this was a very helpful article. I hadn’t realized that the Westminster Confession’s view of “Cessationist” might not be the current brand that MacArthur and ilk put forth. I was saved in a Reformed, non-Charismatic church, and after receiving a challenge to study the Scriptures on the topic, wound up being led BY my understanding of Scriptures in Acts, 1 Corinthians and elsewhere to (reluctantly, at first) believe that the gifts of the Spirit such as Prophecy, Tongues and Healing might still be for today. That led to a gradual pursuit which was an attempt to obey Scripture (“eagerly desire the gift of Prophecy”). What occurred, over several years, was amazing. I benefitted from being in a Sovereign Grace local church that A. had several humble brothers and sisters who operated in very remarkable degrees of prophetic ministry (as defined by Grudem and others – and I would, argue, Scripture); and B. had a pastoral team that obeyed Scripture by encouraging the actual practice of the gifts while safeguarding against the abuse of the gifts. The result was that I have experienced, over the years, what 1 Corinthians says about the gift of Prophecy. It has encouraged and built up believers in such wonderful ways (14:3). It has revealed the secrets of men’s hearts, and they have fallen on their faces and worshipped God (14:24,25). And this happened because a local church was faithful to obey 14:26-32 concerning orderly worship. The first prophetic word I received was unbelievably supernatural knowledge about specifics concerning God’s call on my life. It was not at all contrary to Scripture or in replacement of Scripture. It was presented humbly but with confidence by the gentleman, and in the context of a church that did not put those with the gift on a pedestal, and that encouraged anyone to test a word, and hold on to the good. We believed that we prophesy in part, not perfectly, just as we inspiredly preach in part, not perfectly. I have found this gift (and others) to be as essential to the gathered church as the Scriptures proclaim them to be.

    MacArthur’s broad dismissal is tragic and unscriptural in itself, and I hope that Reformed Charismatics of influence are brave enough to come against his teaching. 1 Corinthians is a case study in Paul addressing “Charismatic Chaos” – he by no means condemns even those gifts, like tongues, that were practiced in such a terrible way by the Corinthian church. He does not throw out the baby with the bathwater. In short, the Biblical response to Charismatic dysfunction and abuse is nothing close to the Strange Ire that MacArthur puts forth.

  33. LWesterlund says:

    Thank you, Dave, for this well-expressed witness to God’s working. I hope many will ponder what you have written.

  34. Jonathan says:

    Speaking from a historical perspective (I’m not Reformed or even Protestant but Orthodox, for what it’s worth), it would be unusual in the extreme to expect theologians of almost any sort in the pre-Enlightenment world to completely discount the possibility of the miraculous, including such things as dreams and visions. There were some such currents in the sixteenth century, for instance, but they were highly marginal, and not part of the magesterial Reformation. And as much recent historiography on the Reformation has demonstrated, the importance of the miraculous and the extraordinary was not pushed aside by the Reformers: it was rerouted into their own new confessional channels (like many other ideas and practices inherited from the medieval period). This should not surprise us: in the pre-modern world broadly, the supernatural was seen as something close and ordinary, including by the well-educated and sophisticated. I think that we, as moderns, be we Reformed, Catholic, Orthodox, Evangelical, or whatever, find such things rather bothersome because we are so thoroughly steeped in the philosophical and phenomenological developments of the Enlightenment, whether we acknowledge it or not.

  35. taco says:

    Kevin,

    Have you read “The Scottish Presbyterians and Covenanters: A Continuationist Experience in a Cessationist Theology.” Westminster Theological Journal 63 (2001) per “chance”?

  36. David says:

    taco, do you have a weblink to that WTJ 63? Would appreciate!

    Dave, I assume you are speaking of SG churches founded by CJ Mahaney, et al. Have had some interaction with them in couple places! Your description seems to fit their model. The leadership IMHO seems overbearing at times, so I reckon they regulate things! Sort of deja vu from the “sheperding movement” of 25+ years ago?!

    Other than the Lord Jesus & God the Holy Spirit knowing the inward heart, I don’t know of any the Apostles having that? Peter rebuked Simeon for his attitude and actions in Acts! Paul rebuked Peter for his attitude and actions!

    I’ve had premonitions or feelings about certain people which sometimes has come to light and other times naught! I consider it a illumination by the Holy Spirit through the Word. Numbers; “Your sin will find you out!” not a prophetic gift per se!
    Know that Mark D. also claims to see inside hearts?

    Have you read Tim Challies very recent interview with John MacArthur!?? It’s the vast majority abberrations of TBN, Parsley, Bentley, etc., etc……….. whom the multiple issues are with!!
    I know that Mac has spoken at Greg Laurie’s gathering in LA, and has ties with Piper, etc. and recos a decent amount of their works!So he doesn’t dismiss them or their ministry in toto, just strongly disagrees with their continualist outlook!

  37. Mattie says:

    I do not leave many remarks, but after reading through some of the comments on The Puritans, Strange Fire, Cessationism, and
    the Westminster Confession | TGC. I do have 2 questions for you if you tend not to mind.
    Is it only me or do a few of the remarks come across like they are left by brain dead folks?

    :-P And, if you are writing at additional places,
    I’d like to follow you. Would you post a list of every one of your public pages like your linkedin profile, Facebook page or twitter feed?

    My blog post – homepage (Mattie)

  38. Christoper says:

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    It’s a very easy on the eyes which makes it much more pleasant for me
    to come here and visit more often. Did you hire out a designer to create your theme?
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Kevin DeYoung


Kevin DeYoung is senior pastor of University Reformed Church (RCA) in East Lansing, Michigan, near Michigan State University. He and his wife Trisha have six young children. You can follow him on Twitter.

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