Tuesday, November 08, 2005


The Great Debate That Really Isn't

If my traffic yesterday is any indication, the "debate" on the charismata is the hottest topic on the internet. Here's my first entry into the fray. But despite the well-meaning concerns of Rob Wilkerson at "Miscellanies On The Gospel," after the latest round of posts, I for one have no argument left.

The chief protagonists on the cessasionist side are Pyromaniac and Jollyblogger. Yesterday Pyromaniac said in the first of his two posts in the matter
While I'm at it, let me say that if all charismatics were of the Mahaney/Piper/Grudem variety, I probably wouldn't pick a fight over our differences on the charismata. That's not to say I approve of any kind of charismatic mysticism, but if no one ever went any further than, say, the typical guy from Sovereign Grace Ministries, I don't think I would spend much energy arguing against them.

I grew up in Tulsa, however, and the true roots of the charismatic movement are there, not in Geneva. Despite what they want you to think, "Reformed" charismatics are a fairly new kind of hybrid, and they do not represent the mainstream of either the Reformed or charismatic movements. I like their zeal. I appreciate (and share) their desire for passionate (rather than cold and dry) orthodoxy. There's a lot about them I esteem highly, and I am certainly not merely looking for another group of people to make angry.

But in the context of what is going on today, there are so many dangers associated with "new revelation" that it's not an issue I'm willing to ignore.
Pyromaniac's other post is here and he is making the case the Spurgeon was a cessasionist, which is mostly a dig at Warnock, who had claimed otherwise earlier.

Jollyblogger pretty well echoes Phil, using the same pull quote and saying
I told someone recently that if there were no PCA or other like denomination I would be eager and happy to join one of the Sovereign Grace churches. I love those guys even though I don't share their charismatic views.
What's clear in both posts is that what my cessasionist friends are arguing is not the charismata per se, but "new revelation." Before I get too deep into this there are also some good thoughts on the topic at the Gad(d)about.

Hey, I got no beef with that at all. It is clear to me that in this discussion many have had presumptions about definitions that other held. I would never argue, or begin to argue that apostolic authority continued today, or that revelation on that level was a possibility. It honestly never crossed my mind that such was what people were concerned about. In my original post I called Roberts and Hinn idiots and in so doing I discarded, I thought, anybody that would claim direct revelation.

Direct revelation is the path to chaos as far as I am concerned. I recently read a book on Mormonism which is steeped in such revelatory nonsense, and it is not pretty. I commented at the time how much it resembled most pentecostalism. The only thing that can arise from direct revelation is conflict, or worse.

Such revelation is reserved, I do think, for the apostles. But Acts is full of stories about 'disciples' performing miracles
Acts 6:8 - And Stephen, full of grace and power, was performing great wonders and signs among the people.
It seems to me that scripture seeks to create a division between revelation and "wonders and signs." Wonders and signs testify to God, but that are not necessarily revelation of God.

I will say this; however, I think that Paul is clearly saying in Corinthians that such "wonders and signs" are of limited, and often very personal, usefulness -- they are not something upon which to build God's church.

It seems in the end that the disagreements between the principle "antagonists" in the discussion are minor, they center basically on the question of what is and what is not direct revelation and can some of the charismata be exercised absent such revelation. That is a great place to have this discussion, for that lies at the heart of what I said in my Sunday post, that has been quoted several times
It's not if the gifts exist, but rather developing, using the great attributes of us hyper-rationalistic Calvinist types, good teaching about the gifts and their exercise. For it is only down that path that the church can tap all the power available to it without the great mischief potential inherent in the practices.
Warnock said this yesterday
Unlike forum arguments who's anonymous nature sometimes seem to breed a hit and run mentality , blogging, at least in the successful God bloggers a gradual moderation in tone over time.
I have to agree -- it really only took two rounds of posts for this thing to get to the place that I think it should be. But having said that, comments are far more "forum-like" and I have begun to see, at least in tone if not in words just yet, some ugliness creeping in there.

Let's go back to direct revelation for a moment. The problem with it is there is no argument. Jollyblogger alluded to that problem in his post yesterday. In fact, in my experience, most people that make such claims are people that want to avoid argument, or use it to end argument. Certainty is pretty much the same thing.

As this discussion (I think it has quickly settled there as opposed to a debate) continues those of you commenters out there that just know all the answers just bear in mind, that those of use discussing instead of commenting don't. Have pity on us please.

Adrian has some good ideas about where to go with this
Incidently, if any enterprising blogger wants to put a post together listing resources and/or blogs cited in the comments sections of the various posts on this subject that would be great- thanks everyone for some great suggestions. I guarantee a link from here to any such post. What would be great would be to tabulate a list of books and blogs to read from both sides of the fence.
Any takers? -- I don't have the time and those are great ideas.

UPDATE: 21st Century Reformation has chimed in on the discussion with some interesting comments as well.


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