I just started reading Kevin DeYoung’s excellent book “Just Do Something: A Liberating Approach To Finding God’s Will.” It is highly readable and thought-provoking, and it confirms much about the post I wrote just a week ago. My only regret is that I didn’t have it as a tool during my formative decision-making years when I was a senior in high school or college.
DeYoung gives a brief word about spiritual gifts I would like to highlight here. Do supernatural gifts (like those in Acts) have any bearing on our decision-making (like visions, dreams, etc.)? What do we make of the cessationist vs charismatic debate regarding spiritual gifts?
In chapter 6, Deyoung brings up a quote from “mature” cessationist Vern Poythress of Westminster Theological Seminary:
All of these supernatural phenomena (fall) under the description of the Westminster Confession of Faith 5:3: “God in His ordinary Providence, maketh use of means, yet is free to work without, above or against them, at His pleasure.”…because of its strong commitment to the sovereignty of God and the mystery of His plan, the Confession acknowledges explicitly that there may be operations that are not attached to means in any ordinary way. The ultimate determining factor in every case is “His pleasure.”
DeYoung then shares some thoughts from a “mature” charismatic Donald Gee, a leader within the Assemblies of God denomination:
There are grave problems raised by the habit of giving and receiving personal “messages” of guidance through the gifts of the Spirit…The Bible gives place for such direction but it must be kept in proportion. In most cases [the early Church] made their decisions by the use of what we call “sanctified common sense” and lived quite normal lives. Many of our errors where spiritual gifts are concerned arise when we want to make the extraordinary and exceptional to be made frequent and habitual. Let all who develop excessive desire for “messages” through the gifts take warning from the wreckage of past generations and contemporaries…The Holy Scriptures are a lamp unto our feet and light unto our path.
So a cessationist can say I believe some gifts have ceased yet God sovereignly surprises nonetheless. And a charismatic can say I believe all gifts are operational yet the Bible alone is our authoritative guide.
I guess this portion of the book resonates with me because I grew up as a Southern Baptist, gradually submitted to Reformed Theology in adulthood, and currently attend a charismatic church body. It grieves me when I hear so many caricatures being attributed to both sides of the debate. So I’ll say this:
Cessationists by and large DO NOT deny the workings of the Holy Spirit in this day and age, and are not stuffy spiritually dead Pharisees with a “religious spirit.”
Charismatics by and large DO NOT deny the sufficiency of Scriptures, and are not heretical hyper-emotional simpletons with a “strange fire” in their belly.
I am positive both sides could point the finger at notable extremes in the other camp, but this would prove nothing but mankind’s propensity for straw men fallacies.
I guess I would call for a more generous biblically balanced (IMO) view, one that 1 Thessalonians 5:20-21 essentially propagates: Don’t despise the supernatural gift outright, but weigh everything with Scripture and cling to only what is good.