Over the years I have tried to interact with those who hold a Cessationist view. Unfortunately, I have never met anyone who was well versed on the arguments and willing to have a concentrated dialogue. I have interacted a few times with people on twitter, but the conversation dissolved quick. Therefore, I have decided to write this brief post in hopes it opens future dialogue. This will be extremely brief and for many, unsatisfying in argumentation. I understand, but in the age of short posts I’m constrained. If you want in depth conversation, lets talk!
What is Cessationism?
Cessationism is the belief that spiritual gifts such as speaking in tongues, prophecy and healing ceased with the apostolic age.
To clarify, within cessationism there is a spectrum of ideas. Some hold to the above definition. Others hold to the idea that healing can happen, and the other gifts have ceased. No doubt there are other views I have not listed. What is most often agreed is the gift of Prophecy does not continue and for our exercise I use this example.
The first reason cessationism has ceased is because it never got started. That’s right, the Bible doesn’t say anything about the gifts stopping until we are “face to face” with Jesus (1 Cor 13:8-12). If the texts on spiritual gifts were believed like 1 Tim 2:11-15, hardly anyone would be a cessationist, except perhaps liberal theologians and denominations. For some reason, the plain reading of the text is discarded. This point was made by Andrew Wilson in the 2018 ETS debate. If you are new to this discussion I recommend listening.
I find it fascinating that certain theological circles where “what the text says” is what we should follow, is pushed aside when it comes to spiritual gifts. I don’t really understand how the “man/woman of the book”, discards so easily the text. To be fair, I think many feel this way because they have rarely seen gifts in operation as the Bible instructs. But of course, this does not justify disobedience to the word of God, does it?
Reason # 2
The second reason cessationism has ceased is because logic demands it. I will provide a deductive argument, which means if the premises are true then the conclusions follow necessarily. To defeat my argument one of the premises must be shown to be false.
Here is the syllogism:
1. The gift of Prophecy continues if revelatory dreams occur
2. Revelatory dreams do occur
3. Therefore, the gift of Prophecy continues
The first question we should ask is this: “What is prophecy?”
Owen Strachan, on his City of God Podcast, had as his guest Dr. Tom Schreiner. I want to pause here and say what a gift Dr. Schreiner is to the body of Christ. I appreciate the way he disagrees with people and his love and pursuit of Christ likeness. He is a Godly man and a cessationist. I thought what better definition to use than his. On the podcast titled, “What is Biblical Prophecy? A conversation with Tom Schreiner”, he gave the following definition:
Prophecy: A reception of revelation from God and the communication of the revelation so received.
I think that is a fantastic Biblical definition. The next definition we need in the syllogism is “revelatory”. Here is the Merriam-Webster Dictionary definition of both revelatory and revelation:
Revelatory: of or relating to revelation: serving to reveal something
a: an act of revealing or communicating divine truth
b: something that is revealed by God to humans
To defend premise one, I need to show that prophetic dreams, as defined by the Bible, can fulfill Dr. Schreiner’s definition of prophecy. I offer these two examples.
If a prophet or a dreamer of dreams arises among you and gives you a sign or a wonder, and the sign or wonder that he tells you comes to pass…Deuteronmy 13:1-2b
And it shall come to pass afterward, that I will pour out my Spirit on all flesh; your sons and your daughters shall prophesy, your old men shall dream dreams, and your young men shall see visions. Joel 2:28 and Acts 2:17
Here are two verses that show dreams are a means God uses to give prophecy. The Bible is replete showing this. For example, in the story of Joseph, we have multiple prophetic dreams. Joseph has them, the baker has them, the cupbearer has them, and of course Pharaoh. It is biblically clear prophetic dreams, per Tom Schreiner’s definition, is found throughout the Bible.
This takes us to step two of the syllogism. Step two must show at least one prophetic dream has occurred since the era of the apostles ended. As a reminder, the cessationist position is spiritual gifts like prophecy stopped when the last of the apostles died. If true, then not one single prophetic dream has happened in the last 2000 years. Is that true? As an aside, I have heard it said some believe gifts didn’t end when the apostles died, rather over time God “faded them out”. Back to the question, is it true no prophetic dreams have occurred? I have a friend who was in a Muslim country. He said a man came to him saying, “I had a dream telling me to find someone to tell me about Jesus, can you tell me anything about him?” You may dismiss this example—fair enough. This example fulfills Dr. Schreiner definition, but you may remain unconvinced. I will now provide another example, namely my own.
Please pause and watch this short video (runtime 4:30) where I explain what happened to me when I received a reception of revelation from God about moving and the communication of the revelation I gave to my wife and kids, that is revelation so received.
Spiritual gifts are not something we possess. The Holy Spirit bestows gifts to people to build his global church. It is He who decides how, when, and where the gifts are needed. There have been gross misuses of the gifts, but we should not let our feelings override what the word of God says. The Lord uses spiritual gifts to guide his church and we suffer when we deny he no longer does.
Much more can be said, but I will leave you with the words of the Apostle Paul
“Do not despise prophecies, but test everything; hold fast what is good.” 1 Thessalonians 5:20-21