Thursday, April 06, 2017

I Am a Continuationist (Not a Calvinist Cessationist)

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With doctoral graduates at Palmer Theological Seminary

At Redeemer I am now preaching and teaching on Healing and the Atonement. My position is similar to Bruce Reichenbach's in The Nature of the Atonement: Four Views. I also value Greg Boyd's "Christus Victor" view of the atonement. In response to the Healing View, Greg writes: "I applaud Reichenbach’s excellent work in demonstrating the importance of healing for our understanding of the atonement. I wholeheartedly agree that through Jesus’ life, death and resurrection God brought healing to humans and to the cosmos on every level." (p. 143)

Both Reichenbach and Boyd are Continuationists, who believe that the spiritual gifts will continue operative in the Church to the end of this age. Opposed to this view are Cessationists; viz., those who believe the spiritual gifts ceased functioning at the end of the first century. John Calvin was cessationist.

I am a Continuationist. I have never been, nor could I ever be, a Calvinist, especially in its affirmation of Cessationism. For help understanding my problems with this see, e.g., Roger Olson, Against Calvinism. (My Calvin studies include taking a doctoral seminar on Calvin while doing my graduate work at Northwestern University.)

Cessationists claim their viewpoint comes from Scripture. As do Calvinists. This continues to make little sense to me, since Calvinistic Cessationism (or any kind) seems not to follow from reading Scripture. (I'm calling this Calvinistic Cessationism, since not all Calvinists are Cessationists such as, e.g., John Piper and Sam Storms [thanks W.R. for reminding me of this].)

It is important to read Scripture before you read Calvin, rather than interpret Scripture through Calvin. (In a similar way read the Gospels first, then the letters of Paul.)

Aren't Calvinists captured by Scripture? Yes. But for some, not as much as they ought to be. Many Calvinists, writes Michael Brown, are not Sola Scriptura (Scripture only). They base their doctrines not on Scripture but mostly on Calvin. Calvin based his doctrine on Augustine. Calvinists are, therefore, twice removed from Scripture.

Brown writes:

"The Sola Scriptura slogan is just that—a slogan. If they really were committed to the Scriptures they would not come up with TULIP, amillennialism, paedobaptism, replacement theology and cessationism, to name a few. These doctrines cannot be arrived at through a simple study of the Scriptures, they have to be taught by someone external to the Scriptures." (Brown, Authentic Fire: A Response to John MacArthur's Strange Fire, p. 169)

No one would become a cessationist based on reading the Scriptures alone. John Piper says, "There is no text in the New Testament that teaches the cessation of these [spiritual] gifts." Craig Keener says, "The main reason I could never embrace cessationism is that the biblical evidence is uniformly against it." (In Ib., 356)

I am currently writing Leading the Presence-Driven Church (Summer 2017).