Archive for the ‘Charismatic’ Category

Westminster Confession: Cessationist as to Revelatory Gifts

May 27, 2016

The Westminster Confession of Faith is explicitly cessationist, at least with respect to the revelatory gifts. It states:

I. Although the light of nature, and the works of creation and providence do so far manifest the goodness, wisdom, and power of God, as to leave men unexcusable;[1] yet are they not sufficient to give that knowledge of God, and of His will, which is necessary unto salvation.[2] Therefore it pleased the Lord, at sundry times, and in divers manners, to reveal Himself, and to declare that His will unto His Church;[3] and afterwards for the better preserving and propagating of the truth, and for the more sure establishment and comfort of the Church against the corruption of the flesh, and the malice of Satan and of the world, to commit the same wholly unto writing;[4] which makes the Holy Scripture to be most necessary;[5] those former ways of God’s revealing His will unto His people being now ceased.[6]

[1] ROM 2:14 For when the Gentiles, which have not the law, do by nature the things contained in the law, these, having not the law, are a law unto themselves: 15 Which shew the work of the law written in their hearts, their conscience also bearing witness, and their thoughts the mean while accusing or else excusing one another; 1:19 Because that which may be known of God is manifest in them; for God hath shewed it unto them. 20 For the invisible things of him from the creation of the world are clearly seen, being understood by the things that are made, even his eternal power and Godhead; so that they are without excuse. PSA 19:1 The heavens declare the glory of God; and the firmament sheweth his handiwork. 2 Day unto day uttereth speech, and night unto night sheweth knowledge. 3 There is no speech nor language, where their voice is not heard. ROM 1:32 Who knowing the judgment of God, that they which commit such things are worthy of death, not only do the same, but have pleasure in them that do them. 2:1 Therefore thou art inexcusable, O man, whosoever thou art that judgest: for wherein thou judgest another, thou condemnest thyself; for thou that judgest doest the same things.

[2] 1CO 1:21 For after that in the wisdom of God the world by wisdom knew not God, it pleased God by the foolishness of preaching to save them that believe. 2:13 Which things also we speak, not in the words which man’s wisdom teacheth, but which the Holy Ghost teacheth; comparing spiritual things with spiritual. 14 But the natural man receiveth not the things of the Spirit of God: for they are foolishness unto him: neither can he know them, because they are spiritually discerned.

[3] HEB 1:1 God, who at sundry times and in divers manners spake in time past unto the fathers by the prophets.

[4] PRO 22:19 That thy trust may be in the Lord, I have made known to thee this day, even to thee. 20 Have not I written to thee excellent things in counsels and knowledge, 21 That I might make thee know the certainty of the words of truth; that thou mightest answer the words of truth to them that send unto thee? LUK 1:3 It seemed good to me also, having had perfect understanding of all things from the very first, to write unto thee in order, most excellent Theophilus, 4 That thou mightest know the certainty of those things, wherein thou hast been instructed. ROM 15:4 For whatsoever things were written aforetime were written for our learning, that we through patience and comfort of the scriptures might have hope. MAT 4:4 But he answered and said, It is written, Man shall not live by bread alone, but by every word that proceedeth out of the mouth of God. 7 Jesus said unto him, It is written again, Thou shalt not tempt the Lord thy God. 10 Then saith Jesus unto him, Get thee hence, Satan: for it is written, Thou shalt worship the Lord thy God, and him only shalt thou serve. ISA 8:19 And when they shall say unto you, Seek unto them that have familiar spirits, and unto wizards that peep, and that mutter: should not a people seek unto their God? for the living to the dead? 20 To the law and to the testimony: if they speak not according to this word, it is because there is no light in them.

[5] 2TI 3:15 And that from a child thou hast known the holy scriptures, which are able to make thee wise unto salvation through faith which is in Christ Jesus. 2PE 1:19 We have also a more sure word of prophecy; whereunto ye do well that ye take heed, as unto a light that shineth in a dark place, until the day dawn, and the day star arise in your hearts.

[6] HEB 1:1 God, who at sundry times and in divers manners spake in time past unto the fathers by the prophets, 2 Hath in these last days spoken unto us by his Son, whom he hath appointed heir of all things, by whom also he made the worlds.

Yet there is apparently doubt in the minds of some that this confession is explicitly cessationist with respect to the revelatory gifts. While the text itself is rather clear on its face, it may be worth considering what Reformed commentators have said in their commentaries on the Confession or related catechisms.

It will be noted that the Confession sharply contradicts the view popularized today by the neo-Pentecostal movement. In essence this view would have us believe that we can have the same charismatic gifts today– such as prophecy, speaking in tongues, and healing — that we read occurred in the age of the apostles. This is a very serious error. In essence it is a result of a failure to grasp the biblical teaching concerning the history of salvation. The Bible itself makes it clear that there are many things in the history of redemption that cannot, and will not, be repeated. There will never again by a universal flood, or a crossing of the Red Sea, or a virgin birth. Never again will there be an outpouring of the Holy Spirit such as took place on the day of Pentecost. The sending of the Holy Spirit is just as much an unrepeatable event as the birth of Christ was. It is for this reason that the miracles — the signs and wonders — that we read of in the Bible were not constantly occurring but, rather, centered on the major events in the process of revelation. Note, for instance, how few the miracles are in the Bible until we come to the time of Moses (the author of the first part of the Bible). Note also how the signs and wonders that we read of in the book of Acts are always associated with the presence of the apostles. For these, and similar facts, there is a reason. The reason is that these signs and wonders were given by God to attest and confirm that these men were his spokesmen. And since this process came to completion in the finished work of Christ, and the testimony of these men is now deposited in the Scriptures, the Bible alone is God’s present revelation.

G. I. Williamson, The Westminster Confession of Faith: For Study Classes, pp. 4-5 (link)

Quest. III. “Are these former Ways of God’s revealing his Will unto his People now ceased?”
Yes.
Well then, do not the Enthusiasts and Quakers err, who maintain, That the Lord hath not ceased yet to reveal his Will as he did of old?
Yes.
By what Reasons are they confuted?
1st, Because God who at sundry Times, and in divers Manners, spake in Times past unto the Fathers by the Prophets, hat in these last Days spoken unto us by his Son. Heb. 1:1-2. The Apostle calls the Time of the New Testament the last Days, because under the same, there is no more Alteration to be expected, but all Things are to abide without adding, or taking away, as was taught and ordained by Christ, until the last Day; See also Joel 2:18, Acts 2:17. The Ways and Manners of old were first by Inspiration, 1 Chron. 15:1, Isai. 49:21, 2 Pet. 1:21. Secondly, By Visions, Num. 12:6,8. Thirdly, By Dreams, Job 33:14,15, Gen. 40:8. Fourthly, By Urim and Thummim, Num. 27:21, 1 Sam. 30:7,8. Fifthly, By Signs, Gen. 32:24, Exod. 13:21. Sixthly, By Audible Voice, Exod. 20:1, Gen. 22:15. All which do end in Writing, Exod. 17:17, 14 which is a most sure and infallible Way of the Lord’s revealing his Will unto his People.

David Dickinson, Truth’s Victory over Error (a commentary on the WCF), pp. 31-32 (link)

Q. 26. Why are the scriptures from Matthew to the end of the Revelation, called the New Testament?

A. Because they contain the most clear and full revelation, and actual ratification of the covenant of promise, by the death of Christ the Testator, who is also the living Executor of his own testament, Rev. 1:18 — “I am he that liveth and was dead; and behold, I am alive for evermore.” John 14:19 — “Because I live, ye shall live also.”

Q. 27. Will this New Testament dispensation of the grace of God ever undergo any other alteration?

A. No; it will remain new and unalterable, till the second coming of the Lord Jesus, Mat. 26:29.

Q. 46. Is the light within men, or the Spirit without the word, which is pretended to by the Quakers, and other enthusiasts, to be used as any rule for our direction?

A. No; because whatever light or spirit is pretended to, without the word, it is but darkness, delusion, and a spirit of error, 1 John 4:1, 6.

Fisher’s Catechism (The Shorter Catechism Explained) at Question 2 (link)

Q. Why doth not God still work miracles for the confirmation of the scriptures? A. Because they were only necessary to establish truth at first, and to awaken the world to consider and receiver it; and if always wrought, be esteemed common things, and make no impression on the minds of men, Exod. iv.–xiv. &c.

John Brown, “An Essay Towards and Easy, Plain, Practical, and Extensive Explication of the Assembly’s Shorter Catechism” (link)

The idea of the completeness of Scripture also implies that nothing is to be added to or taken from them at any time. The canon of Scripture is complete and closed, and all that men need for faith and life is therein contained. Hence no supposed new revelations of the Spirit are to be added, and the opinions and traditions of men are to be excluded.

Francis Robert Beattie, The Presbyterian Standards, p. 49 (link)

These are “the ONLY rule to direct us.” We have seen that they are a rule, but now we see there is none other.

William Paton Mackay, Notes on the Shorter Catechism, pp. 5-6 (link)

The fourth proposition asserts, that this revelation has been committed to writing until the time of Moses, or for a period of two thousand five hundred years, no part of the sacred books was written. God then communicated his will to the Church by immediate revelation; and the long lives of the patriarchs enabled them to preserve uncorrupted what was so revealed, and to transmit it from generation to generation. Two persons might have conveyed it down from Adam to Abraham; for Methuselah lived above three hundred years while Adam was yet alive, and Shem lived almost a hundred years with Methuselah, and above a hundred years with Abraham. But after the lives of men severe shortened, and revelation was greatly enlarged, it pleased God that the whole of his revealed will should be committed to writing, that the Church might have a standing rule of faith and practice, by which all doctrines might be examined, and all actions regulated,–that sacred truth might be preserved uncorrupted and entire,–that it might be propagated throughout the several nations of the earth, and might be conveyed down to all succeeding generation. Though, in the infancy of the Church, God taught his people without the written Word, yet now that he former ways of revealing his will to his people have ceased, the Holy Scripture, or written Word, is most necessary. Without this the Church would be left to the uncertainty of tradition and oral teaching; but the written Word is a sure test of doctrines, and a light in a dark place, both of which are most necessary.–Isa viii. 20; 2 Pet. i. 19.

Robert Shaw, The Reformed Faith: An Exposition of the Westminster Confession of Faith

Hence, the Confession teaches in this section —
3. That consequently it has pleased God, of his sovereign grace, to make, in various ways and at different times, a super natural revelation of himself and of his purposes to a chosen portion of the human family. And that —
4. God has been pleased subsequently to commit that revelation to writing, and it is now exclusively embraced in the Sacred Scriptures.
Since, as above shown, the light of nature is insufficient to enable men to attain such a knowledge of God and his will as is necessary for salvation, it follows — (1.) That a supernatural revelation is absolutely necessary for man; and, (2.) From what natural religion alone teaches us of the character of God, it follows that the giving of such a revelation is in the highest degree antecedently probable on his part. Man is essentially a moral agent, and needs a clearly revealed rule of duty; and a religious being, craving communion with God. In his natural state these are both unsatisfied. But God is the author of human nature. His intelligence leads us to believe that he will complete all his works and crown a religious nature with the gift of a religion practically adequate to its wants. The benevolence of God leads us to anticipate that he will not leave his creatures in bewilderment and ruin for the want of light as to their condition and duties. And his righteousness occasions the presumption that he will at some time speak in definite and authoritative tones to the conscience of his subjects. (3.) As a matter of fact, God has given such a revelation. Indeed he has in no period of human history left himself without a witness. His communications to mankind through the first three thousand years were made in very “diverse manners”– by theophanies and audible voices, dreams, visions, the Urim and Thummim, and prophetic inspiration; and the results of these communications were diffused and perpetuated by means of tradition.

A.A. Hodge, The Westminster Confession: A Commentary

As miracles are now ceased, so such a method of confirming divine revelation is not necessary in all succeeding ages: God did not design to make that dispensation too common, nor to continue the evidence it affords, when there was no necessity thereof.

Thomas Ridgeley, A Body of Divinity, p. 115

-TurretinFan

BONUS (on the topic, but not directly addressing what the standards say):

2. After the faith of Christ was sufficiently confirmed, miracles ceased; and it was fit they should cease, for God doth nothing unnecessarily. The Christian doctrine is the same that it was, and is to be the same till the end of the world; we have a sure and authentic record of it, which is the holy scriptures. The truth of Christ’s office and doctrine is fully proved, and cometh transmitted to us by the consent of many successions of ages, in whose experience God hath blessed it to the converting, comforting, and saving of many a soul. Look, as the Jews, every time the law was brought forth, were not to expect the thunderings and lightnings, and the voice of the terrible trumpet, with which it was given at first on Mount Sinai (one solemn confirmation served for after ages); they knew it was a law given by the ministry of angels, and so entertained it with veneration and respect; so Christianity needed to be once solemnly confirmed (after ages have the use of the first miracles); for the apostle compareth these two things, the giving of the law and the gospel: Heb. 2:2-4, ‘For if the word spoken by angels was stedfast, and every transgression and disobedience received a just recompense of reward: how shall we escape if we neglect so great salvation, which at first began to be spoken by the Lord, and was confirmed to us by them that heard him?’ we must be contented with God’s owning it now only in the way of his Spirit and providence.

Thomas Manton, Seventh Sermon on 2 Thessalonians, Chapter 2, (link)

Waldron’s Cascade Argument

November 11, 2013

Dr. Michael Brown and Dr. Sam Waldron had a very cordial debate on the question, “Have the New Testament Charismatic Gifts Ceased?” Dr. Brown’s rebuttal arguments did not appear to me to reflect an understanding of Dr. Waldron’s primary argument, the so-called Cascade Argument.

I strongly believe that it is important to a dialog that both sides understand the other. Thus, my hope is that by spelling out this argument in writing, I can clarify the argument to Dr. Brown, to those who agree with him, and more broadly to those considering the question of the gifts.

The Cascade Argument can be summarized thus:

1) There are no apostles of Christ on earth today.
2) Because there are no apostles of Christ, there are no prophets.
3) Because there are no prophets, there are no tonguespeakers.
4) In view of 1-3, there are no miracle workers on earth today.

1. There are No Apostles of Christ on Earth Today

A) To be an Apostle of Christ was itself a gift to the church, and the foremost of the gifts. 1 Corinthians 12:28-31 Ephesians 4:8-11 – Christ gave gifts to men, among them apostles.

B) The term “apostles of Christ” is to be distinguished from missionaries, aka “apostles of the churches,” which is a different office. Only “apostles of Christ” are no longer among us.

C) To be an apostle of Christ, there were three distinguishing marks:
i) Directly appointed by Christ (Mark 3, Luke 6, Acts 1:2, Acts 10:41, Galatians 1:1). That’s why the lot was used.
ii) Physical eyewitnesses of the Resurrected Jesus (Acts 1:22, Acts 10:39, 1 Corinthians 9:1)
iii) They are able to confirm their apostlate by doing miracles (2 Corinthians 12:12).

D) The apostles of Christ spoke authoritatively for Jesus Christ (1 Corinthians 14:37).

E) There are five reasons we know from Scripture that the Apostlate ceased:
i) Ephesians 2:20 The church is built on the foundation of the apostles and prophets, which alludes to Revelation 21:14. The analogy implies that the apostles and prophets were confined to the foundational period of church history.
ii) 1 Corinthians 15:8 Paul “last of all” was the last one to see the risen Christ. And since being a physical eyewitness to the risen Christ is one of the marks of an apostle, Paul is the last apostle.
iii) 1 Corinthians 12:31 and 14:1 indicate that Christians cannot seek the gift of Apostle of Christ – the greatest gift they could seek was prophecy, even though apostleship was identified as a gift.
iv) Galatians 2:7-9 Paul received the right hand of fellowship from the 12 apostles, but no one can today.
v) Ephesians 2:20 This passage describes the form of the New Testament as “apostles and prophets.” If there were apostles and prophets today, the canon would be open, as those apostles/prophets continued to speak authoritatively. But Charismatics (nearly all) recognize that the canon is closed, therefore they ought to recognize that the apostlate is also closed.

F. Apostolic Gift is Linked to Impartation of Other Gifts (Acts 8)
This suggests the cessation of the miraculous gifts.

2. There are No Prophets Today
A) The cessation of the apostolate creates the presumption or at least possibility of cessation of other gifts.

B) NT Prophets like the Apostles were foundational to the New Testament church. (Ephesians 2:20)

C) Definition of Prophet in Deuteronomy 13 & 18 was never rescinded, and this requires infallibility.

D) Just as the OT’s authority is summarized as “the prophetic word” (2 Peter 1:19-21) and its form is also described in about a dozen NT references to “the law and the prophets” or “Moses and the prophets”, so also the NT’s canon is summarized in Ephesians 2:20 as “apostles and prophets” (the prophets in question are NT prophets as seen in Ephesians 3:5; 4:11 and 1 Corinthians 12:28).

3. There are No Tongue-Speakers Today because Tongues was a form of prophecy.
A) Acts 2 tongue speaking is explained by reference to Joel 2, where it is described as prophecy.

B) 1 Corinthians 14:5 asserts the equivalence of the two gifts, if tongues is interpreted.

C) In both tongues and prophecy, the speaker is uttering mysteries, which refers to prophetic revelation (1 Corinthians 13:2, Revelation 1:3, 1:20, and 10:7).

4. There are No Miracle-Workers Today
There may be miracles today, but there is a difference between miracles and miracle workers.

The Cascade Argument was augmented by a dilemma as to the first point: if they accept the point, then they are at least cessationists in some form, since the first and greatest gift no longer exists; whereas if charismatics want to assert that there are living apostles of Christ today, then they are denying a clear New Testament teaching. Additionally, if such apostles exist today, then they have the same authority/infallibility that the original apostles had.

-TurretinFan

Response to Michael Brown’s "Be Careful"

October 28, 2013

Michael Brown’s recent article (link) is a good reminder that we should be careful about how we identify “another gospel” as such. Nevertheless, Brown seems to take this proper caution to humility too far.

Brown writes:

So let’s put the theological bombast aside and be “eager to maintain the unity of the Spirit in the bond of peace. There is one body and one Spirit—just as you were called to the one hope that belongs to your call—one Lord, one faith, one baptism, one God and Father of all, who is over all and through all and in all” (Eph. 4:3-6).

The problem is, theology matters. It especially matters when people claim to speak with the authority of the Spirit. We can hardly have “unity of the Spirit” when we serve the Holy Spirit and they serve a deceiving spirit.

Brown writes:

Why then must we be so quick to go beyond the rule of Scripture and take it upon ourselves to damn to hell other professing believers if—to repeat—they hold to the fundamentals of the faith and have not denied the Lord in word or deed?

First of all, we are calling these people to repentance, not damning them to hell. Brown needs to control his emotions.
Second, Brown is begging the question. We don’t agree with his position on the false prophets in the charismatic movement: rather we say that they do not hold to the fundamentals of the faith and that they deny the Lord by their words and deeds.

Brown states:

In other words, even though there are heretics, God knows those who are truly saved; as for us, if we claim to be His we must depart from iniquity.

God does know who are His. Nevertheless, God calls us to exercise discernment:

Romans 16:17
Now I beseech you, brethren, mark them which cause divisions and offences contrary to the doctrine which ye have learned; and avoid them.

-TurretinFan

MacArthur & OSAS vs. Prosperity Gospel & Charismatics

June 24, 2013

Michael Brown recently wrote:

And which is worse? To preach a carnal prosperity message or to give people false assurance that, once they are saved, no matter how they live, no matter what they do, even if they renounce Jesus, they are still saved? Which message will result in more people being misled and finding themselves in hell?
Pastor MacArthur rightly renounces the carnal prosperity message, yet many non-charismatics who follow him embrace an extremely dangerous version of the “once saved, always saved” doctrine. Why the double standard here?
Again, I am not for a moment excusing doctrinal errors, emotional manipulation, financial greed or other spiritual abuses often perpetuated in the name of the Spirit, but it is absolutely outrageous that Pastor MacArthur claims, “The charismatic movement is largely the reason the church is in the mess it is today. In virtually every area where church life is unbiblical, you can attribute it to the charismatic movement. In virtually every area—bad theology, superficial worship, ego, prosperity gospel, personality elevation. All of that comes out of the charismatic movement.”

It seems like Brown is suggesting that a carnal prosperity message actually has power to save souls.  I would strongly disagree.

Of course, I’d also disagree with Brown’s characterization of MacArthur’s view on perseverance.  The elect will certainly persevere to the end.  This will be accomplished by God, just as all of salvation is by God.  That may even include them temporarily falling into very heinous sin, such as denying Christ multiple times (recall Peter’s sad example).  Yet ultimately they will repent (as Peter did).

MacArthur’s claim does not seem outrageous to me.  What does seem outrageous, however, is Brown’s following two paragraphs (immediately after his paragraphs above:

And he is quite wrong when he states, “Its theology is bad. It is unbiblical. It is bad. It is aberrant. It is destructive to people because it promises what it can’t deliver, and then God gets blamed when it doesn’t come. It is a very destructive movement.”
In reality, more people have been saved—wonderfully saved—as a result of the Pentecostal-charismatic movement worldwide than through any other movement in church history (to the tune of perhaps a half-billion souls), as documented recently in Allan Heaton Anderson’s To the Ends of the Earth: Pentecostalism and the Transformation of World Christianity. And professor Craig Keener has provided overwhelming testimony to the reality of God’s miraculous power worldwide today (see his brilliant two-volume study Miracles).

Brown’s response to MacArthur’s claim that the theology is not Biblical is to allege that it has been successful.  Yet one wonders about this claim.  No doubt the charismatic movement has widely proselytized, but if it is preaching a false Gospel and a false spirit, then what good are its large numbers?  One might just as well point to the billion plus Muslims as evidence of the good of Islam.  Surely Brown has the sense not to do that, so why can’t he discern the fundamental theological problems of the charismatic movement?

-TurretinFan

Thanks to LUBunkerman for pointing this out to me.

Charimsatic Techniques Exposed

January 3, 2009

The following video explains some of the connections between parts of the “Charismatic” movement and hypnotism. The video is presented by Todd Friel, with a guest who knows, because he used to be involved.

Hat Tip to Tim Wirth of the Discernment Ministry (link).

(for more, see this link)

-TurretinFan


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