Spirit-filled cessationism

Spirit-filled cessationism

How often do we hear something like this:

“Yesterday I had a heavy burden all day for my sister that did not dissipate.  The Holy Spirit led me to call her later that evening to which I received heavy sobbing from the other side of the line. She was contemplating suicide and by God’s prompting I intervened just in time.”

Dipesh was converted when he had a dream that Christ spoke to him and said “You will be my witness for northern India, follow me.” He had never heard of this Christ, so he awoke early that morning, sought out a pastor in his village, and came to Christ.

What do we cessationists do with these stories? We can either believe them or we can accuse that person of lying. Certainly we do not want to call any brother or sister in Christ a liar, but we also do not want to affirm these charismatic experiences. Or do we?

I believe the New Testament sign gifts have ceased. The reason? They were revelatory and the canon of Scripture is closed. Thus saith the Lord” is found in the 66 books of the Bible. So how to we account for the above claims? They are not revelatory, yet cessationists get fidgety when they begin to hear such commotion. I for one will go ahead and say that I, at face value, believe these stories. But in order to do so, there should to be a category other than revelatory to categorize these events.

Doug Wilson wrote a very helpful article in response to the Strange Fire conference in 2013 doing just that. He distinguishes between the categories of revelatory and personal:

But there is an additional, and very weighty, concern, pushing from the other direction, and this has to do with the nature of the world. Too many cessationists are functional materialists when it comes to the operations of the world, and their supernaturalism is limited to the ink on the page.

In short, I believe the continuationists often understand the personal nature of the world better than do cessationists.

Ferinstance. A number of years ago a good friend of ours was dying. When she finally passed away, Nancy and I were on the road (in Philadelphia). It was the middle of the night and we both woke up. Are you awake? Yeah, are you awake? How come? Beats me. A few minutes later the phone rang, and it was the news that our friend had gone to be with the Lord. Back home, our grandson Knox had been praying regularly for her, and he was two or thereabouts. But that night while praying for her, he stopped, and said, “She died. She is in Heaven.” They found out later that she had in fact died that night.

Now I have already answered the question whether this kind of thing is revelatory. No, it isn’t. But is it personal? Yes, of course. We therefore need a category for the Spirit’s active interactions with us in the world, one that fully acknowledges His presence while robustly denying that He is inspiring anybody the way He did Isaiah.

I hope you can see at once that this is not an easy thing to do, and this is why we ought to cut one another some slack across the cessationist/continuationist divide. I have more in common with a responsible charismatic than I do with an irresponsible confessionalist, one who believes the last revelatory miracle performed by the Spirit was the Three Forms of Unity as they were given in the original Greek. And a responsible continuationist has more in common with me than he does with Benny Hinn, whose antics would have been an embarrassment during Elijah’s heyday.

So continuationists should not criticize the criticism — rather, their task should be to model how the criticism should have been done. And cessationists, for their part, should be eager and willing to acknowledge this when it happens. If it happens.

The cessationists need to figure out where the Spirit-accelerator is. The continuationists need to figure out where the Spirit-brakes are. And the doctrinal position that is capable of accommodating both is, if I may say so, Spirit-filled cessationism.

So there is revelatory and personal.  One can affirm cessationism in regards to revelatory gifts, the gifts that equate to “Thus saith the Lord,” yet at the same time state deny cessationism in regards to the personal category of the Holy Spirit. He is very much alive and active today in this supernatural world we live in. This is one reason I am hesitant to slap on the badge of cessationist, especially being a Calvinist. The Holy Spirit is not a force. He is not an act. He is himself God, the third person of our sovereign triune God. As Rushdoony once put it

“The Holy Spirit, as very God of very God, manifests in His person and power the determining will and sovereignty of the triune God.”

So in regard to the above examples, and other similar supernatural occurrences, the cessationist should add a category to acknowledge the supernatural present work of the Holy Spirit outside of a revelatory nature. I have found the revelatory/personal categories helpful in doing so. 

The cessationists need to figure out where the Spirit-accelerator is. The continuationists need to figure out where the Spirit-brakes are. And the doctrinal position that is capable of accommodating both is, if I may say so, Spirit-filled cessationism.

***I have since changed my views regarding the spiritual gifts.  See here