Monday, February 07, 2011
Reymond: The "Blackout" Argument and the "Canonical" Argument Against Non-cessationism
I am still enjoying reading Robert Reymond’s A New Systematic Theology for our weekly CRBC Men’s Study. We are slowly working our way through the opening chapters on the doctrine of Scripture. I just finished reading chapter three on seven attributes of Scripture, including its “necessity.” Reymond’s position is consistent with the Reformed creeds (e.g., The Westminster Confession and the London Baptist Confession 1689 argue for Scripture’s necessity “those former ways of God’s revealing His will unto His people being now ceased”). In the discussion of this point Reymond makes some strong arguments against non-cessationism (the belief held by charismatics that extraordinary gifts, experiences, and revelation continue today as in apostolic times). Two of these arguments we could call (1) the “blackout” argument and (2) the “canonical” argument (see p. 58, n. 7):
1. “Blackout” Argument: The concept of the canon being closed and of “the cessation of special revelation with the passing of the apostles” is consistent with what we learn of the typical process of revelation in the Bible itself. Namely, “The revelatory process never came in an unbroken continuance but rather, in nontechnical language, in ‘spurts.’” From Genesis 49:1-27 to Exodus 3:4 there was a “blackout” of divine communication that lasted “over four hundred years.” After Malachi there is a span of four hundred years when “revelational activity ceased.” In addition, after Malachi the OT canon was closed. The typical charismatic position imagines “the unbroken continuance” of special revelation that does not comport with the Bible’s view that this typically takes place in “spurts.” The norm is for there to be long periods of “blackout.” As with the period after Malachi, we are in a period when the New Testament canon has closed (along with the OT now completing the Christian canon), and we should not expect further special revelational activity as we await the end of the ages.
2. “Canonical” Argument: Reymond argues that the only way one can consistently hold to the canon of Scripture being closed is if he also holds to cessationism:
One final note: most, if not all, of the Biblical scholars and theologians who insist upon the final reality of continuing revelation today are apparently also willing to affirm that the Bible is a “closed canon.” For this affirmation I am genuinely glad. On the other hand, they seem not to appreciate that the argument for a closed canon, which they affirm, is also the argument for the cessation of revelation, that the two stand or fall together, and that if the revelatory process has in fact continued to this day, then there is no such thing as a truly closed canon.