OK, guys. Today, we’re going to talk theology. Well, just a little bit. I don’t usually do that on here, for a couple of reasons. For one, it’s just not the point of this blog. Also, I guess I feel like I know so many people who are more theologically astute, and thus better suited to do that than I. But I feel compelled, in light of recent developments, to take us there.
I’ve been keeping up with the Strange Fire conference that was held over the last few days in Southern California. The conference comes just before the release of John MacArthur’s book of the same title, and as anyone who knows anything about John MacArthur could guess, the whole thing is about refuting the continuation of the gifts of the Spirit – or at least the ones that make MacArthur and other cessationists uncomfortable.
Now I’ll be honest. Although I’ve considered myself a continuationist (that is, I believe that all of the gifts are still meant to be used in the church today) for quite a while, I wouldn’t say that I’ve felt very strongly about it. And that’s primarily because I have rarely felt comfortable with the way they were being used in circles that I’ve been in, and I’ve seen many cases of abuse. So, really, the main reason that I would call myself a charismatic is because I believe the Word of God comes down definitively on that side of things, and I simply have to submit to the authority of the Word, regardless of how uncomfortable I may be with it.
In practice, I’m not much of a charismatic. I occasionally speak in tongues (I guess), but it is always in private. And when I do, it is during prayer, and it just seems like the most natural thing to do. I’ve always considered it such a private thing, that I even feel a little uncomfortable writing about it here. I think I’ve maybe had one word of knowledge ever. Never have I felt that I had a prophetic word for someone. I guess I’m writing all of this to say that I wouldn’t say that I have a strong emotional attachment to the theological position of continuationism.
But as I read more transcripts from this conference, and the ramifications of what these men are saying start to sink in, I think that might start to change. I’ve been very confused by the various statements that have been made thus far. This conference seems to target a broad spectrum of people, like heretical Word of Faith types, right down to John Piper, who was called out by name. I’m absolutely bewildered that men the likes of Piper and Wayne Grudem are being lumped together with people like Benny Hinn and Paula White! And they are terribly unclear as to whether or not they are saying that they believe all of us who are not cessationists are even in the body of Christ.
A while back, I posted a link to a website called The Cripplegate. I had nothing but good things to say about the site in that post, and I still have much good to say about it. But some contributors are on staff at Grace Community Church and/or teach at The Master’s Seminary. So, the website has been strictly devoted over the last few days, to transcripts of the conference’s sermons. I have never done anything like this, but I decided to comment on one of the transcripts, and have started a dialogue with Mike Riccardi, who’s been uploading them.
I particularly chose to comment on A Case for Cessationism by Tom Pennington, because this gets to the heart of the matter. Maybe you can churn out sermon after sermon attacking things that I don’t adhere to anyway, but can you give me an actual biblical case for cessationism? And honestly, I just didn’t see it.
You can read the transcript and the ongoing conversation in the comments section here. (I’m reformed charismatic.) You’ll notice in my correspondence with Mike, who has responded very graciously thus far by the way, that I wasn’t really up in arms at all about this, and am only now growing in my passion about this issue and what they’ve actually done by having this conference in the manner that they did. Still, I think the correct response should be self-controlled and godly. My friend Christian Edmiston has exhorted us already to that end in this post on his blog, Reformed Charismatic Theology.
In closing, I wrote this post for several reasons. But mostly, it was a disclaimer meant to strongly disassociate myself from the cessationism that is being promoted on thecripplegate.com, to which I have previously posted a link on my blog.