Friday, November 8, 2013

Sola Scriptura and the Non-Cessationist Argument

This will be one of my shortest blog posts on the subject of cessationism. My goal is to help folks understand the fallacious argument I continue to hear from people like Mike Brown regarding their so-called proof from sola scriptura that the spiritual gifts have not ceased. So here is the argument in its most basic form.

1. Whatever Scripture teaches is true.
2. Scripture does not teach that the NT gifts will cease.
3. Therefore, the NT gifts have not ceased.

Hopefully you can see the fallacy in this argument right away. The major premise (1) is absolutely true. There is no question that all that Scripture teaches is true. (Not here to argue with skeptics on this point). Now, is the minor premise (2) true? Personally, I believe it is. I do not believe that Scripture explicitly teaches that the NT gifts will cease. However, I do not think that is enough to get to the conclusion in this argument that the NT gifts are still in operation. The fact that the NT does not teach that the gifts will cease during this age or dispensation does not mean that they will not.

This form of the argument really is missing the point. I do not argue that the NT teaches that the gifts will cease. Therefore, to attack my conclusion that the NT gifts have ceased by arguing that the NT does not teach that the gifts will cease misses the point completely. The NT does not have to teach explicitly that the gifts will cease in order for me to conclude that they have in fact ceased. All I need to arrive at my conclusion is a clear understanding of what the NT gifts were, and a clear understanding of what modern Charismatic gifts are in order to decide if the NT gifts have continued according to the Charismatic claims. Here is a sample of my personal argument, imperfectly constructed as it may be:

1. Whatever Scripture teaches is true.
2. Scriptures teaches that NT glossolalia were real languages.
3. No modern instances of glossolalia are real languages.
4. No instances of NT glossolalia have been recorded.
5. Therefore, there is no good reason to believe that NT glossolalia continues.

Perhaps it is better to conclude that there is no good reason to believe that the NT gifts have continued as opposed to stating dogmatically that they have ceased. I survey the claims of modern Charismatics and see no convincing reason to believe that the miracle gifts, the healing gifts, and the revelatory gifts continue to the present day. There are other ways to get to this place and I suppose to get here more dogmatically. But I prefer to avoid theoretical arguments on the gifts since we are dealing with concrete claims.

In order for the continuationist argument to meet the standard of soundness, it must be demonstrated that Scripture affirms that the NT gifts will continue until the end of this dispensation. That argument looks like this:

1. Whatever the Scripture teaches is true.
2. The Scripture affirms that the NT gifts will continue until Christ returns.
3. Christ has not returned.
4. Therefore the NT gifts are still in operation.

Again, premise (1) is true. In addition, premise (3) is true. If it can be shown that premise (2) is true, then the argument would meet the standard of soundness. Can the non-cessationist argument show that the NT affirms that the NT gifts, all of them, will continue until the second return of Christ?

I will follow up this blog with a post about the exegetical argument for the continuation of the gifts as I review the Michael Brown - Sam Waldron debate moderated by James White.

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