Are You a Cessationist?

Whether in the context of this blog or pastoral ministry this is a question that I seem to get quite frequently. If you are not familiar with the term cessationist it refers to the ceasing of the miraculous spiritual gifts that we see in the early church. In other words, a cessationist believes that the gifts of tongues, prophecy, and healing are no longer present and active in the church.

This view is in contrast with the view of a continuationist, who, as the name infers, believes that the gifts are continuing to this day.

There is also a third position that is “open but cautious” and again as the name infers, they don’t rule out the activity of gifts but they remain skeptical of contemporary charismatic practices (tongues, prophecy, and healings).

My position falls somewhere between a cessationist and open but cautious, with a heavy amount of leaning on the former. This view comes from a few different angles:

1. Historical Observation: As I look around today and at church history I don’t see happening what I see in the early church. I don’t see people speaking in known languages, healing people completely and instantly, as well as speaking and giving new revelation from God.

2. NT Trajectory: As you read the NT it seems that in the early days of the church (cf. Acts) you have an abundance of these miraculous gifts. People are speaking in tongues, prophecy, and people are being healed. However, as time passes, the trajectory of the New Testament seems indicate these supernatural gifts are tapering off. Their function of authenticating the preaching of the word has served its purpose.

While I believe my conclusions to be true this type of argumentation remains uncomfortable for me. I really like having chapters and verses for my positions. In this case however, I don’t think you can do that. Instead you are left with (convincing) observation and deduction. Therefore, I don’t believe that God could not do what he did in Acts but that he is not now doing that and has not through much of the church’s history. It follows then that the burden of proof is laid upon the continuationist to prove that what is happening today is in fact biblical.

This is a heated topic and there remains a lot of misinformation about it. Nathan Busenitz has written several articles that are quite helpful. This one in particular helps to dispel misconceptions and show the historical pulse on the issue. He is worth the read because he is smart and fair.

Hopefully this is helpful.

(note: As always I cringe at the irony of people arguing viciously about the nature of the spiritual gifts while showcasing none of them. If you disagree, fine, but keep the punches above the belt.)