Monday, January 16, 2006

More On Cessationism

One of the criticisms that is leveled against those who insist that the more conspicuous are or at least can be operative today is that they allow themselves, at least on that topic, to be normed more by experience than by Scripture. That is, they think that their experience tells them what is right and wrong instead of Scripture.

It works this way:

People who have had a positive charismatic experience are likely to read the Bible in such a way that validates their experience.

Really it is an accusation of bias, nothing more. The argument really ought to be dismissed, if for no other reason than it can be turned against those who oppose the charismata as well. Cessationists can be accused of letting their experience of no charismata in their life or tradition or a negative experience, determine what they think the Bible says.

But the simple accusation of bias is a poor and lazy argument. Poor because, as noted, it cuts both ways, and lazy since it tends to distract from a more pertinent question: What does the Bible say?

It is a question that needs to be addressed in a way different from what is typically the case on the subject of charismatic gifts. Usually you see to sides lobbing proof texts at one another, without any serious dialogue or interaction. Sometimes things get a bit better; there is the lobbing of competing interpretations of larger texts. Still though interaction with those interpretations, is rare.

That's a shame, because it means that the two sides have already lost sight of something vital: Charismatics and non-charismatics, while maintaining different positions, have he same priorities. Both want to glorify God. Both want to be obedient disciples of Christ Jesus. Both want to be submissive to God's Word.

The fact is that this ought to be an intramural debate. But both sides build such high walls around their positions that it has become in many quarters an inter-mural debate. Both sides need to step back from their positions and reach out to one another on the basis of shared priorities, then move forward.

Practically speaking, moving forward will mean be willing to give in a little. Not compromise truth, but to give where appropriate, such as admitting that difficult or unclear passages are just that, or admitting that an interpretation is not so clearly or directly derived from the text of Scripture as we might like.

That takes humility, and a willingness to see that truth is better served by seeing the best in those with whom we disagree. Too often both of these are lacking.

Next time I'll take a look at a couple of passages which are at the heart of the debate.

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