Cease With The Cessationism, Already

Cessationism, basically, is the idea that certain things have ceased in the Christian Faith. That certain things were viable in the day of Jesus and the Twelve Apostles, but aren’t for today.

This stance was especially active at the different times that there was renewed activity and manifestation of the Holy Spirit. As soon as questions came up about the speaking in tongues or healing of the body, particularly …the remonstrances of the cessationists have arisen. It isn’t a new debate.

There was a time this mattered deeply to me. I was newly baptized in the Holy Spirit which was concurrent with my born-again experience…which was concurrent with the fact that I found one could actually have a personal relationship with the Creator and His Christ. Due to the confluence of the experiences I had little choice in where I lined up in the debate. In fact, I wasn’t looking for debate, I could say I was singularly uninterested in it. But there were those souls in the Church, particularly the church I was led to for God’s own reasons, who simply could not lay it to rest. So while at that time I suffered patiently ( far more patiently than I would now), I moved along a continuum of finding the apologetic answers for the cessationists.

I had just wanted to be left alone with my new found faith and elation. And I already know all the feelings those words cause to well up in ones standing in scepticism of such experience: ’emotionalism’ kind of sums up your response, doesn’t it?

Well, if you want to stay there, I will let you. I am not interested in attaining your imprimatur,either. If you wish to know why the cessationist stance is weak, read on.

Basis 1
For the most part, the belief that God stopped baptizing people in the Holy Spirit with a manifestation of tongues, or physically healing people through the miracles and laying of hands ( such is described in the book of Acts and in the Gospels), is predicated entirely -as far as I see- on the subjective idea that they don’t know of the experience today, themselves, and they cannot quantify it or prove it. They want to test its reality, but it defies that…. so the typical response is that Sola Scriptura stance upholds them, and that this is superior. They are in better company because they “go by the book”.

The usual scripture first lobbed is that of 1 Corinthians 13:

8 Love never fails. But whether there are prophecies, they will fail; whether there are tongues, they will cease; whether there is knowledge, it will vanish away. 9 For we know in part and we prophesy in part. 10 But when that which is perfect has come, then that which is in part will be done away.
11 When I was a child, I spoke as a child, I understood as a child, I thought as a child; but when I became a man, I put away childish things. 12 For now we see in a mirror, dimly, but then face to face. Now I know in part, but then I shall know just as I also am known.
13 And now abide faith, hope, love, these three; but the greatest of these is love.

Basis 2
The second basis used is that of complaining of the behavior of those Christians who claim to have the experiences in question and the manifestation of gifts, including healing.

Most of the protests fall under these two headings, at least in the Protestant camp. Catholics ( who are of the “cessationist mind”) have some variations of their own, but basically it is the same two sectors of ‘authority’ ( By what authority do you do these things?) and “fruit inspectors” “I don’t think Christians should act this way”, or this doesn’t seem traditionally Christian, or some other variation…. Basis 1 and 2.

There is a third basis variation of the second which is: I don’t appreciate that those who have these experiences don’t accept me, or my view, or that there is a question of my standing ( I think) with God. “They think they are better Christians”…some complaint such as that.

Since I have boiled down the variants they appear to be rude varmints, don’t they? But I think this pretty much sums up the debate.

I hope to answer in shorthand. These are my basic arguments, but not a full blown apologetic or exegesis of all the pertinent scriptures.

1. Where in the New Testment was there any indication that there would be less, and that things given by God would stop or cease to be given? The scripture reference in 1 Cor. 13 has specific language. First, knowledge is one of the things included. Second ” For now we see in a mirror, dimly, but then face to face” is still descriptive of our present situation. We do not yet see “face to face” in the perfect that will erase the need for tongues or prophecy. I do not yet “shall know just as I also am known”. Neither do any upon this earth. The conditions are not met for such cessation. All “Sola Scriptura” adherents will recognize this.

2. No one is better than another on the basis that they are more scripturally pure or more spiritually adept. There is no place for such pride. This does not give points to either side of the argument.

3. The cessationist is on the same ground as the atheist, and for the same reason will not be able to get the proofs they desire. I can’t prove that God exists to the athiest and I can’t prove that the Holy Spirit still gives and performs the gifts in todays world to the sceptical Christian. No one can prove anything. That is the tough love of Faith… as God has provided it. Nothing I or anyone else does, nor the way in which they do it will satisfy the sceptic.

But there is the admonition to not sit in the seat of scorners…take that as you will.

4. Basis 2 concerning the behavior of Christians is simply an ad hominem argument. It can be applied to anything in the topic of Christianity with as little ground. It is only useful to apply to individual Christians and that in only specified circumstances. Yes, there are wolves in sheep’s clothing. That doesn’t mean we stop all evangelizing, collecting offerings and tithes, or laying on of hands…just because we have some of the false in our midst.

It is throwing the baby out with the bathwater. And it is a false argument made by those who ought to do a soul check for pride…self pride and reprehensible feelings of superiority, that they would so lambaste their brethren as they do on this contention.

3 thoughts on “Cease With The Cessationism, Already”

  1. One basis will do, Ilona, because the knowledge cessation can’t take place at the return of Christ. In fact, for any individual it is impossible that their knowledge should simultaneously pass away just as they come to know as they have been known.

    It is different for the church, of course because the individuals who die, and who thus know as they have been known, leave behind others for whom the knowledge of those who have died has passed away with them.

    The one time when nobody will be left to suffer the loss of knowledge is at the return of Christ.

    I don’t want to deny you of your experiences and who would want to deny that there is such a thing as being filled with the Holy Spirit? I am concerned, though, that everyone seems to want to throw out babies with bathwater. The eyewitness knowledge of the apostles (their direct experience if you like) has passed away and we should no longer depend on it. It is not to great a jump to question whether or not we have today what the apostles meant by ‘prophecy’, what the apostles meant by ‘tongues’.

    I admit that this is maybe not what you have encountered before as cessationism but it is not the Paul’s fault that people overextend what he said in 1 Corinthians 13, is it?

  2. Thanks for taking time to comment, John.
    You raise some interesting points- one, I am not sure that those who die in Christ pass immediately to that place of perfection, I never really thought of that in the way you put it.

    I don’t believe in purgatory, but in Revelation it seems that the saints are in waiting for the final perfection of new bodies and of the “consummation of all things”. This sounds more like the completion that the word perfection means. Knowledge, as we now attain and use it, is imperfect, not that it will cease in being ‘no more’, but the process of attainment will be unnecessary.

    “I don’t want to deny you of your experiences” – you realize of course that that is a bit condescending on your part? Aside from that, how could you? You could simply attribute it to something other than I do, and then you get to put my whole standing with God in question. You move away from actually doing that, because- well, that has problems;)

    “The eyewitness knowledge of the apostles (their direct experience if you like) has passed away ”
    I disagree. The only thing different is that you don’t get to touch and handle the physical body of Christ- but one still has just as direct an experience as -say, Paul. The experience can be the same. If it is not for many, that is where I would point the question.

    Such cessationism is exactly what I encountered in the Presbyterian Church and why I had no idea of a personal experience of God, then. It is the answer to why that denomination has moved to even deny the historicity and deity of Christ.

    I have said this in other places, but will repeat: in that case forget Christianity and get an easier, more satisfying type of religion like Taoism or something. Christianity without the reality of Jesus Christ is too difficult at best and dead at worst.

    There must be a reality of the Living Christ for anyone to have this life. I hold forth the testimony that it can be directly experienced in today’s world.

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