Saturday, October 29, 2016

Cessationism and Consistent Confessionalism

Here are some notes adapted from the closing to last Sunday afternoon’s sermon on Cessationism from our series through the 1689 Baptist Confession:

There has been an ongoing challenge throughout the history of the church to the sufficiency of Scripture from those who crave extra-Biblical experiences.  As Solomon puts it, “there is no new thing under the sun” (Ecc 1:9).

In the early church there was a movement known as Montanism led by a charismatic self-proclaimed prophet named Montanus.  His followers considered themselves “the enlightened ones.”  Eusebius records it was boasted that Montanus was “the Paraclete” and that two women of his sect named Priscilla and Maximilla were “the prophetesses of Montanus.”  Eusebius’ own assessment was that they were “like poisonous reptiles” (see E. H., V.xiv).

In medieval times there were the self-proclaimed mystics.

During the Reformation period, Luther was opposed by a group of men known as “the Zwickau prophets” who claimed to be led by visions and dreams.  In an encounter with Luther, they pleaded, “The Spirit, Dr. Luther!  The Spirit!”  To which Luther replied, “I slap your spirit on the snout!” [as cited in J. P. Thackway, “Lessons from the Charismatic Movement” Bible League Quarterly (No. 467, Oct-Dec 2016):  p. 451].

In the post-Reformation period men like John Bunyan and John Owen opposed the excesses of the Society of Friends or the “Quakers,” as they were called for their frenzied movements while supposedly seized by the Spirit.  Before there were the “holy rollers” there were the Quakers and the Shakers!

In our own day, we have the modern charismatic movement, whose influence is widely felt even in conservative and evangelical churches, especially through so-called “third wave” worship music. “Contemporary” worship has become the norm and churches guided by the Regulative Principle the exception to the rule. Many have embraced soteriological Calvinism, claim to be “Reformed,” but say they are “open yet cautious” to charismatic expressions. They do not grasp, however, the fundamental contradiction in this kind of stance, given the closing words of chapter one "Of the Holy Scriptures" in the confession: “which maketh the Holy Scriptures to be most necessary, those former ways of God’s revealing his will unto his people being now ceased.” Clearly the confession takes a cessationist position. Mixing continuationism with Reformed theology is like mixing oil and water. You cannot be confessional and continuationist. The framers of the confession clearly saw cessationism as essential to the defense of the sufficiency and necessity of Scripture.


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