What is cessationism?

What is Cessationism?

Last October, Grace Community Church hosted the Strange Fire conference, which had been spearheaded by Dr. John MacArthur. The blogosphere erupted with reaction and commentary and criticism and much fanfare.  There are still tremors taking place due to the Strange Fire conference as I write this post.  The Gospel Coalition approached two pastor-scholars to weigh in on the in-house debate between cessationism and continuationism.  Dr. Thomas Schreiner is a professor of New Testament at Southern Baptist Theological Seminary, and he defends the cessationist view.  Dr. Sam Storms is the lead pastor of Bridgeway Church in Oklahoma City, Oklahoma, and he defends the continuationist position.    

What do cessationism and continuationism mean?  The first describes the view that the gifts of the Holy Spirit, specifically tongues, healing, and prophecy, ceased with either the death of the last apostle or the completion of the canon of scripture.  Continuationism is the position that the gifts of the Holy Spirit, to include tongues, healing, and prophecy, remain active throughout the present, church age until Messiah’s second coming.  To be clear, the continuationist view advanced by Dr. Storms falls in line with the Pentecostal and Charismatic wings of the church.  The major difference between Dr. Storms’ position and the Pentecostal one is that he does not express any of the doctrines distinctive to bible believing Pentecostals.  This would be the second experience of the baptism of the Holy Spirit as evidenced by speaking in tongues.

Both Dr. Schreiner and Dr. Storms will examine roughly the same scripture passages in their respective articles.  They represent in microcosm the larger state of the Evangelical church.  The debate between Dr. Schreiner and Dr. Storms is an in-house debate as I mentioned earlier.  Both are responsible expositors of the bible, who interpret the sections of scripture dealing with the spiritual gifts in two very different ways.  One other thing that I failed to mention about Dr. Schreiner.  He is the lead pastor of Clifton Baptist Church in Louisville, Kentucky.  I am a huge fan of Dr. Schreiner’s scholarship and ministry at Clifton Baptist.  His sermon series on the book of Revelation represents some of the best verse-by-verse exposition in our day.  Plus, Dr. Schreiner more than ably defends the much maligned historic premillennial view, which happens to be my own reading of Revelation.  

What is the point of my post?  Honest and responsible brothers and sisters in Christ will agree and disagree on interpretative matters of the spiritual gifts.  The Gospel Coalition presents the church with a window into this debate between two brothers in Christ. Personally, I believe that the issues surrounding the gifts of the Spirit warrant discussion within the church.  There are abuses to be addressed, but those abuses must not color what the biblical text actually says about the gifts of the Spirit.  The next post will be the link to Sam Storms’ response to Dr. Schreiner’s.       


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