The Fall of Cessationism, the Rise of Continuationism

I don’t feel safe around anything when Jesus is not the Lord of it. Calvinism without Jesus is deadly; it’s fatalism, it’s simply Islam. We need Jesus. When the precious doctrines [of Calvinism] are used to perpetuate gloom, severity, introspection, accusations, morbidity, slander, gnat-stringing, and more, the soul is not safe.
― Douglas Wilson

Weak Faith: Reliance on Power and Control

If Reformed theology is simply Christianity fully manifested, why is it so weak and compromised with with the world?

The Churching of America outlines some of the basic reasons why:

(Colonial version) The State Churches – including the Presbyterians – relied on a government monopoly and control of seminaries to hold on to wealth and power.  So, while the Calvinists were busy keeping out ‘troublesome men’ from the pulpit, and making sure their debt load was nice and high – so they couldn’t go to the frontier – the Baptists were busy preaching the Word and converting the heathens of all colours, completely uncaring about Proper Certification.

(Modern Version) The Mainline was bankrolled by John D. Rockefeller: when he died in 1960, the Mainline churches started going downhill. Oral Roberts helped to break the back of the Mainline and their connection with the Powers that Be:

Roberts was one of those radio evangelists who broke the sweetheart relationship that existed between the two FCCs: the Federal Communications Commission and the Federal Council of Churches (National Council after 1950). From 1927 onward, the Federal Radio Commission mandated that commercial radio stations had to offer free public service broadcasting. The FRC controlled the allocation of valuable radio airwaves, and this was a quid pro quo to the stations.

A big chunk of this public service requirement was fulfilled by Sunday broadcasts. The FRC mandated religious programming. The Federal Council of Churches, the self-appointed agency representing mainline Protestantism, went to the networks and got them to agree that the Council would provide the programming for the free-time religious broadcasts. The FCC was liberal. Its main radio preacher was John D. Rockefeller, Jr.’s pastor, Harry Emerson Fosdick, the most famous liberal preacher in the country.

In those days, the Power Elite was wiser, preferring to corrupt the churches with favours and bribes, rather than the direct attacks they do today: an attitude that only hardens resistance among the believers vs. the They Who Rule.

(By 2060: They Who Used to Rule. The technologically-fueled destruction of State Education and State Power  will make the Establishment as impotent and irrelevant as the Post Office… and for exactly the same reasons.)

Weak Faith: Reliance on the Wisdom of Men, and not on the Spirit of God

To see what is in front of one’s nose needs a constant struggle. ― George Orwell

Why the reliance on the favours of the powerful, instead of relying on the unstoppable will of God?

After reading Bojidar Marinov’s three-part article, I am convinced that the root reason for the failure of Calvinism to make a real difference is it’s view of cessationism – the claim that the gifts of the Holy Spirit ceased with the death of the last Apostle.

This claim that the gifts of the Holy Spirit has ceased not only directly opposes the teaching of Calvin – who in his commentaries taught the continuation of the Gifts – but the direct teaching of the Gospel.

(While the commentaries on I Corinthians 13 address the issue of the Holy Spirit operating today, I also hope the reader will read his commentaries on Deuteronomy, for a better understanding of the applicability of the Law today.)

Marinov writes:

Nevertheless, this is not simply a treatise against cessationism. Cessationism is dying as a theory anyway, together with the two ideologies that gave it birth, the Enlightenment and Dispensationalism. The gradual decline of Presbyterianism—expressed both in the loss of covenant theology and the loss of cultural and missionary impetus—is obvious to all. The rise of Charismatic churches and groups, and the “conversion” of so many formerly cessationist believers and whole churches to a Biblical view of the gifts is obvious. Even if we leave cessationism alone, it will die on its own accord, without outside help. Or, rather, it has been dead from the very beginning, not having any knowledge of the power of God (Mark 12:24). An attack against cessationism would be good, for it is a false ideology; but way more important is a positive restoration of the truly Biblical, covenantal, Reformed view of the gifts of the Spirit; one that is neither mystical nor rationalistic, but covenantal, related to the restoration of all things in the Gospel, and to the work of God in the Church and in the world. In the dying Presbyterian circles, both rationalism and mysticism (especially liturgical mysticism) are opposed to the work of the Spirit today; the view of that work is humanistic, focused on man and his ability to please God (liturgy) or to know God’s will through his own mental efforts (rationalism).

And this article is not a defense of the practices in many modern Charismatic churches. Yes, of course, much of what is happening there is fake, a blind imitation of what the Charismatic celebrities are doing. Having said that, we need to acknowledge one fact: The Reformed theologians and pastors are just as guilty as their Charismatic counterparts, and they are fools to hurl accusations, when the only thing they can offer is a rejection of the gifts of the Spirit which is just as unbiblical, and just as offensive to God as are the false prophets in many Charismatic churches today. This is a classical example of beating something with nothing; and the nothing of modern Presbyterianism has been expectedly retreating before the something—even if false and unbiblical—of the Charismatic movement.

[…]

This comprehensive covenantal purpose of the gifts has the following elements: (1) knowledge and worship; (2) authority and legitimacy of authority; (3) ethics, sanctification, and establishment in the faith; (4) pronouncing judgment; and (5) vision, purpose, and strategy for the future. Unlike the unbiblical fantasies of Warfield (and of all other cessationists), all these purposes of the gifts and especially of the gift of prophecy are revealed in the Bible. We don’t need to make conjectures about them as Warfield does about his theory; the New Testament is very clear about those purposes, and it presents examples of their applications in practice. In addition to it, we have very clear examples in the history of the Reformed churches of men of God applying these gifts in practice, to those same purposes we listed above.

We will now take a look at each one of these points separately. Our focus, of course, will be on the revelatory gifts (prophecy, tongues/interpretation, knowledge) as they are the “greater” gifts; but the Biblical argumentation offered here applies in different degrees to all spiritual gifts.

Without recognition of the power of the Holy Spirit today, speaking today, the Church loses the ability to pronounce any firm judgement. Even theonomic reverence for the Law is futile, without the power of the blessed Holy Spirit to guide our thinking aright, and without His authority to pronounce judgement in the name of Jesus Christ:

Neither is it surprising that the very trade mark of the Reformation, Covenant Theology, is now being abandoned by one “Reformed” seminary after another, one “Reformed” church after another. The process has become so widespread that some theologians and pastors are sounding the alarm already, though with little effect. Covenant Theology makes no sense without covenant sanctions. And there are no covenant sanctions unless the Spirit teaches the Church to declare them in history.

And the very essence of the Reformation—the “Christianization of all of life”—is then lost. “Reformed” today has lost its meaning; it is nothing more than theologically correct humanistic selfishness that makes God subservient to man’s need for salvation. Professors at Reformed seminaries are attacking the very concept of Christendom as the application of the Gospel truths to all of life. Limiting the Gospel to only personal salvation and may be a little moralism in the public life of a person is all that passes for “Reformed” today. This decline of Reformed theology shouldn’t be surprising either: Once the Holy Spirit is excluded from direct participation in the life of the church, in pronouncing judgment and sanctions, what follows is creeping humanism. And the last 100 years of Presbyterianism in the US have been an abundant testimony to that effect.

Cessationism can offer nothing to replace this function of the spiritual gifts: pronouncing judgment. And therefore cessationism has lost the very concept that is supported by judgment and sanctions in history: the Covenant. It won’t be long before we see the Shekinah-Glory cloud of the Covenant leaving the cessationist churches and moving to those who have a Biblical view of the gifts of the Spirit. The process has already started.

We need to leave the circles that would shut God up – both officially atheistic, and effectively atheistic. We need to join those who love God and His Word, who are eager to hear Him Speak – in His Scripture and by His Spirit – and to obey Him.

 

 

 

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