Friday, January 06, 2006

My Search for Good Arguments

I hesitate to say it, perhaps if I whisper it no one will hear. "I am not a dogmatic cessationist." By the word "cessationist" I am refering to that group within the Christian faith who believe that Spiritual gifts of a miraculous nature have ceased. I take to a more open but cautious, and rather heavily cautious, view on the Spiritual gifts. It's not a position highly favored among Southern Baptists. Recently I heard, though I hope it is not true, that the IMB stated in a document that those holding to the spiritual gift of speaking in tongues are forbidden to do missions work witht he agency. Nonetheless I still have trouble finding concrete and definitive evidence from the Scriptures that Spiritual gifts have ceased. As I have begun to study the issue, however, I am finding very little help on the subject.

The Modern Charismatic and Pentecostal movements seem to be laiden with greater problems. Most, though thankfully not all, have become so obsessed with the spiritual gifts that they have lost sight of the Scriptural texts explaining how they are to be used. Some within this movement have even gone so far as to say that if you have not expereinced the spiritual gifts then you may not be saved- which is a complete man made doctrine, which finds now precidence in Scripture.

My most recent reading on the subject came rather un-expectedly. In John Frame's book The Doctrine of God, an absolutely astounding work, he touches on the subject of miracles. To make a case for semicessationism, the position Frame himself holds to, the author asks how one might make a distinction between miracles and providences. It was something I had never thought of.

He states: "I don not believe, however, that Scripture warrants a sharp distinction between providence and miralce. Indeed, in Scripture the language of mircacle is used for providential events, and providential events have much the same significance as miracles" (Frame, 261). He then proceeds to quote several passages in support of this proposition. Each verse does clearly seem to say that providence is among God's wondrous works in a similair way that we would say miracles are. And yet if this is true it becomes harder for cessationists to state that miracles have ceased, for then providence also would have ceased. This portion of his discussion revovles around defintions, then. How one defines miracles determines whether or not you are able to make a clear distinction between it and providence.

I was beginning to agree with Frame, perhaps it was too hard to make a distinction between the two, though I still had my doubts and those were finally confirmed when I read Frame's footnote. In a section titled "Have Miracles Ceased?" Frame deals with the uncommon nature of miracles. He states, "Although the Bible seems full of miracles , these events were not common during the Biblical period." Following this sentence the author feels the need to make a clarification, one that is certainly important. For if you can't make a distinction between miracle and providence then to say that miracles are not common is to say providence is not. So the author adds a footnote which reads as follows: "I am here, of course, referring to miracles in the commonsense way, as spectacular acts of God..." (Frame, 263). In this one footnote Frame has undone his entire argument for no distinction between providence and miracle. So what I had previously found convincing, I now find rather humorous.

I know that there must be good material out there on the Spiritual gifts, yet somehow I keep stumbling into the rather weak ones. If you've got suggestions I am open to receiving them. Those are my thoughts for the day- Where do you stand on the issue of Spiritual gifts?


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