If a person was locked alone in a room with a Bible, and knew nothing about Church history, would they really come out of this room as a cessationist? I have trouble believing this statement.

I am attaching a debate link that I found useful.

[editor’s note: the questioner is using the word cessationist, which is a person who believes that the miraculous gifts of the Holy Spirit have ceased, as opposed to a continualist who believes they still are in force.  Those who practice or teach speaking in tongues today, for example, would be continualists]


Clearly this is a debatable claim.  I suppose that most cessationists would claim that any reasonable person, reading the Bible alone, would conclude that, given that there are no longer any apostles, there are also no longer any with the appointed miraculous gifts.  I suppose that most practitioners of the Charismata would be confident that anyone simply reading the Bible would conclude that such miraculous gifts, possessed by individuals, would still be in place in the Church.  I did watch the debate (actually, about half of it, as I skipped through just a bit).   I thought this was a really well constructed debate and that both debaters really did what they were asked to do, which is stick almost only to biblical arguments.  The cessationist totally avoided the temptation to mention that the gifts ceased in the historical Church by the second century and also avoided the challenge that such gifts, such as tongues, as practiced today are not practiced biblically (in that the supposed tongues today are not even actual languages, as all who study glossolalia seem to agree).   Also, the supporter of the Charismata refrained from using personal testimony, which I am sure was difficult for him to do.  I am sure he wanted to share examples of people who had taken part in these practices and whose lives were changed for Christ.  This was a really great debate.

To me, the cessasionist had by far the more clear, well-argued position.  The argument of the continualist was really quite vague.  He did not have any passages which stated that the gifts would continue.  Of course, as was pointed out correctly, the cessasionist also had no passages which clearly said that they would cease.  However, his argument was clear, cogent and logical, whereas the continualist really did not have a clear line of reasoning.   Basically, he said that the Last Days will continue to have the charismata, but he did not have a passage to even indirectly imply this.  He said that miracle will continue, but the cessasionist completely agreed with this, so that is not in question.  Both agreed that God still heals the sick and teaches us through the Holy Spirit.  The question is whether the office of prophet of tongue-speaker of worker of miracles would continue once the means of imparting this gifts by apostles has ceased.   The continualist seemed to me to ignore this argument rather than answer it.  That is why I feel the cessasionist “won” the debate.

So, my answer is yes, a newly-saved Christian who thought clearly and carefully about the nature of Charismata—of miraculous gifts of tongues, prophecy and so forth, if that person considered both the biblical reason for these gifts and the means by which they were imparted, would conclude that such miraculous offices have ceased.  However, I would concede that honest, sincere, God-fearing, Scripture-respecting Christians will not agree with my conclusion, and I am content with that.  That is another aspect of the debate I really respect, which is that neither debater questions the spirituality, the sincerity or the salvation of the other.  I believe that this is how Christians should behave on such issues.

John Oakes

Comments are closed.