Call To Die

Then [Jesus] said to them all, "If anyone wants to come with Me, he must deny himself, take up his cross daily, and follow Me. For whoever wants to save his life will lose it, but whoever loses his life because of Me will save it. (Luke 9:23-24, HCSB)

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Follower of Christ, husband of Abby, member of Kosmosdale Baptist Church, and tutor/staff member at Sayers Classical Academy.

Sunday, November 10, 2013

Debate: Have the New Testament Charismatic Gifts Ceased?

On Thursday November 7, Dr. Sam Waldron and Dr. Michael Brown debated the topic, "Have the New Testament charismatic gifts [the gifts of prophecy, languages, and healings] ceased?" with Dr. Waldron arguing in the affirmative and Dr. Brown arguing in the negative. This was probably the best formal debate between evangelicals that I have ever heard, striking just the right balance between brotherly affection and zeal for the truth. Brown presented the best case possible for the continuance of the charismatic gifts, arguing that these gifts were given to the church for their "end times" activity, and that these "end times" were inaugurated during Christ's earthly ministry, to be consummated at Christ's second coming. Dr. Waldron argued that the charismatic gifts were given in specific connection to the ministry of Christ and His apostles, and that they ceased at the end of the apostolic era, when the canon of Scripture was closed.

As good as this debate was, as a "cessationist" [agreeing with Dr. Waldron] I was disappointed by two features of the debate.

First, Dr. Brown repeatedly spoke as if cessationists believe that God no longer works miracles (specifically in terms of miraculous healing). Two or three times, Dr. Brown quoted James 5:14-15, as if cessationists do not believe in having the church pray for sick people, expecting God to heal. What cessationists DO deny is that there are people with the gift of healing, so that they can cause the lame to walk, the blind to see, and the deaf to hear, etc., at will.

Second, the nature of the charismatic gifts was not adequately explored. One major argument against the "continuationist/" charismatic position comes simply through a careful examination of what people with the gift of languages or the gift of healing actually did in the New Testament. If "languages"- commonly called "tongues," according to the old translation– in the New Testament were actually human languages, then why does NO charismatic person with the "gift of tongues" speak an actual unlearned language? If the gift of healing in the New Testament involved giving sight to the blind from birth or completely healing the lame, then why are current charismatics with "gift of healing" unable to do these kinds of spectacular, verifiable healings?

Thankfully, the gift of prophecy was explored to some degree. Dr. Brown seemed to affirm that "prophecy"- if exercised in the church today- should be held to the same standard [infallibility] as prophecy in the Old Testament: the only difference being that false prophets in Old Testament Israel were put to death, whereas false prophets in the New Testament Church are to be excommunicated. If charismatic churches would consistently follow this line of thought and excommunicate all "prophets" who were proven wrong, then many- if not most- of the errors of the charismatic movement would be curtailed.



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