“Cessationism” is the doctrine that the Apostles and their messengers where given signs and wonders to perform in order to validate the Gospel proclamation, that there is no promise or necessity to any future generation for those gifts, and that there is no “lesser” form of the Apostolic gifts.-Centuri0n
Frank Turk posted that definition of cessationism on his blog, ‘…and his ministers a flame of fire’ yesterday. He then requested an equally-concise and equally-specific definition, so using his defintion as a template, for equality’s sake, I offered this definition of my non-charismatic continuationism.
“Continuationism” is the doctrine that the Apostles and their messengers were given signs and wonders to perform in order to validate the Gospel proclamation, that there is no premise or necessity in any generation for the cessation of those gifts, and that there is no “lesser” form of Christ’s gifts to the church.
I intend to go into a little more detail of my position here. The next few posts will clarify my position. Feel free to disagree, reprove, rebuke, and exhort.
First off, I think I must qualify all that I will write beforehand with this statement, “My views are as honoring to the doctrine of inspiration and a completed canon as I can be.” It has become something of a custom to lump a low view of Scripture in with continuationism, but let me assure you, I have a very high view of Scripture, and I hope that comes through as I put forth my beliefs.
Introduction: In the discussion of Spiritual Gifts I think it is very important not to exclude certain people, or offices, as gifts to the church. These offices are; Apostle, Prophet, Evangelists, and Pastor-Teachers.
As for Apostles, they are all dead, yet they continue as gifts to the church through Scripture.
Prophets are also a continuing gift to the church. Their function is to give guidance in areas where Scripture is silent. It is the responsibility of individual congregations to weigh the Prophets speech with clearly defined principles in Scripture.
Evangelists are not itinerate preachers who travel church to church to hold ‘revival’ meetings. Evangelists are more like missionaries in their function (although there are some churches who could use a missionary).
Pastor-Teacher is one who oversees, leads, and teaches a local congregation. There is typically one main Pastor who is helped in his ministry to the church by others who are similarly gifted.
Each of these offices however also have a corresponding gift. The Apostle has the gift of Apostleship; the Prophet, prophecy; the Evangelist, evangelism; and the Pastor-Teacher, pastoring and teaching.
A quick guide for interpreting the definition(s) I have given above. I believe that all the gifts are still operative today, but only in the manner in which they are described in Scripture. I do not intend to add to the gifts as charismaticism has done, most notably in the cases of tongues and prophecy, nor do I intend to diminish them as is the tendency in cessationism. Rather, I want to be thoroughly Biblical and consistent in my definitions of the gifts. So I have these three guidelines in mind:
1. Scripture is the final authority in everything.
2. Creeds and confessions reveal what the Church has believed throughout history. We dare not turn a blind eye to this ‘tradition’. And yet these ‘traditions’ must be judged by Scripture.
3. Both experience and non-experience color the ways we think. I think both are to be used in moderation and in subjection to Scripture.
“We have learned the plan of our salvation from no one else other than from those through whom the gospel has come down to us. For they did at one time proclaim the gospel in public. And, at a later period, by the will of God, they handed the gospel down to us in the Scriptures-to be the ‘ground and pillar of our faith.’”
From“Against Heresies”by Irenaus
BTW, I have a few things to say about the Church Covenant as well, but am putting that on hold for a week or so.