Thursday, January 18, 2007

Gifts of the Spirit

Nothing amazing coming from me today. I'm currently working on an evaluation of Harry Potter, but no promises as to when that will be ready since next week I'm taking a class at our church's Pastor's College which will take up most of my time. In its stead, I'd like to point you to a series on the spiritual gifts going on at Pulpit. It's being written by a cessationist for Reformed Charismatics such as myself, and I think it will be very helpful in at least raising questions. Nathan Busenitz is examining every applicable passage to see exactly what it does and doesn't tell us about the gifts. His introduction can be found here, and some key clarifications (including why this is specifically directed to Reformed Charismatics) here.

I think his systemology is very helpful for this study. He's broken down the issue into two main questions:

1. The WHEN Question: Both sides agree that the New Testament indicates that the gifts will cease at some point in history (1 Cor. 13:8). The question is when? Continuationists generally assert that the sign gifts will not cease until the return of Christ. Cessationists on the other hand contend that the sign gifts have already ceased, ever since shortly after the apostolic age.

In the continuationist/cessationist debate, the when question is clearly a central point of disagreement. But it is not the only issue that needs to be addressed.

A second key question involves the way in which each side understands (and subsequently defines or describes) the charismatic phenomena of the New Testament. In order to assess whether or not the miraculous gifts are still active today, it is imperative that we understand what they were in apostolic times.

2. The WHAT Question: Both sides agree that the New Testament indicates that the gifts were in operation during the apostolic age. The question is, does contemporary continuationist practice match what was happening in the New
Testament? Continuationists answer “Yes!” to this question, while cessationists answer “No!”

If contemporary charismatic practice matches the New Testament description of the sign gifts, then the continuationist position is greatly strengthened. But if it does not, then the continuationist position essentially evaporates (since what is happening now is not what was happening then).

He's started into the When question this week with some great posts. Each day he takes one passage and picks it apart, looking at all possible interpretations. (He's taken a detour into looking at the arguments for King James supremacy, which should be very interesting, but he'll be back to Gifts soon enough.) I'm looking forward to reading his arguments and using them as a springboard for my own study (and even some questions for the pastors).

1 comment:

Paulucus said...

it so happens that 1 Corinthians 13 does specify when those gifts are to cease. It says "when the perfect comes". I'm pretty sure that hasn't happened yet. At the same time, you have to admit that the Spirit did some things back then that he doesn't now. The first thing that comes to my mind is that it has been about 1900 years since someone last wrote scripture. I'm kinda glad we don't add to the Bible every so often.