Monday, October 05, 2020

Debate Follow Up: Mark 16:9-20 and Cessationism


Weekend debates are done. I'll be offering some reflections in coming days on various points.

In the debate on the ending of Mark, my opponent (aka James White) seemed surprised by the idea that anyone might argue that Mark 16:9-20 actually provides one of the key passages in the NT supporting cessationism. To reject the Traditional Ending (TE) of Mark would, in fact, mean surrendering one of the key passages that refutes continuationism. Guess he didn't remember (read?) this footnote from my article "The Ending of Mark as a Canonical Crisis" (p. 52, n. 54):

It has been suggested that MacArthur’s rejection of Mark 16:9–20 might be particularly related to his discomfort with the references within it to extraordinary “signs” (vv. 18–20) given his commitment to cessationism. See John MacArthur, Strange Fire: The Danger of Offending the Holy Spirit with Counterfeit Worship (Nashville: Thomas Nelson, 2013). Edward F. Hills in The King James Version Defended (Des Moines, Iowa: Christian Research Press, 1956, 1984), 168, however, suggests that, far from affirming continuationism, Mark 16:20 is actually a key text in affirming cessationism: "For Mark 16:9–20 is the only passage in the Gospels which refers specifically to the subject which is attracting so much attention today, namely tongues, healings, and other spiritual gifts. The last verse of this passage is particularly decisive (Mark 16:20). Here we see that the purpose of the miracles promised by our Lord was to confirm the preaching of the divine Word by the Apostles. Of course, then, these signs ceased after the Apostles’ death."

Rather than come to terms with what is actually significant and essential about Mark's treatment in the TE of the apostolic sign gifts, JW, like many who reject the Traditional Ending, seemed more content to dismiss it by making jokes about snake handling and drinking poison.

JTR

15 comments:

A. J. MacDonald, Jr said...

With all due respect pastor, Eusibius doesn't say these signs ceased after the apostle's deaths. He gives accounts of these signs following believers long after the apostle' death (e.g., Ecclesiastic History Book 5 Chapter 7) and he doesn't say these are counterfeit signs. I think your position lacks scriptural, historical, and theological warrant.

Wayneuk said...

Dr Peter Masters the Pastor of Spurgeon's old church The Metropolitan Tabernacle has probably been used by God more than any in convincing so many here in the UK that the sign gifts have ceased.

His 1982 'the CHARISMATIC PHENOMENON' reprinted several times and revised and updated in 2016 as 'the CHARISMATIC ILLUSION' is probably on every ceassionist Reformed bookshelf in England, such is the clear biblical witness. Some would be former charismatics.

One chapter entitled 'What About the Signs of Mark 16?' is in perfect agreement with all that you mentioned to JW. I have to say I was very surprised at JW's comments and not the only one!

Jeffrey T. Riddle said...

AJ, thanks for the comment. I would beg to differ. Cessationism does not argue that miracles ceased after the time of the apostles. God can do as he pleases. The question is whether "the signs" of the apostles ceased (2 Cor 12:12), given that the office of apostle ceased after the death of the last apostle. Whatever Eusebius says about his own days is not infallible or authoritative. People in our own day will also make unverified reports of many things, but this is not Scripture.

Jeffrey T. Riddle said...

Wayne, thanks for your comment. I have benefited from reading a number of Peter Master's books but have not read this one. I plan to get it just for that chapter alone. Odd that JW seemed unaware of this interpretation. I am thinking I might write an article on the topic.

Bruce said...

Hi Dr. Riddle,

You state: "the office of apostle ceased after the death of the last apostle."

Where can I find this in Scripture? And who was the last apostle?

Jeffrey T. Riddle said...
This comment has been removed by the author.
Jeffrey T. Riddle said...

Caught a few typos in my first stab at a reply so I deleted and am reposting:

Bruce, this is a logical deduction based on the fact that when the apostles chose someone to replace Judas Iscariot among the twelve he had to be (1) someone who had been among the followers of Jesus from the time of his baptism by John till his ascension; and (2) an eyewitness of the resurrection (see Acts 1:21-26). Paul is added as a kind of 13th apostle by the risen Jesus himself (cf. 1 Cor 15:9 where he refers to himself as the least [last] of the apostles). Calvin referred to the offices of apostle and prophet in the early church as "extra-ordinary" officers. No man living today meets these qualifications. After the time of the apostles we have "ordinary" officers (elders and deacons). See 1 Timothy 3 which describes the offices of bishops (elders) and deacons. No mention is made of the continuation of the office of apostle.

Bruce said...

Dr. Riddle,

Some of your arguments prove too much. 1) Acts 1 details the requirements for a replacement for Judas (i.e. one of the Twelve) and not an apostle in general. 2) Paul did not meet these specific requirements which therefore eliminates the hard line that you're drawing across-the-board, because (as we know) he was an apostle. Furthermore, Barnabas is called an apostle in Acts 14, Epaphroditus in Phil. 2:25, James the Lord's brother in Gal.1:19, and Silas and Timothy in Thess. 2:6, etc. Wouldn't these texts undermine your position?

3) The opinions of Calvin, and arguments from silence aren't really worth addressing at this point.

Thank you very much for the thoughtful (and thorough) reply!

Mark said...

Hi Bruce, please consider what Dr Sam Waldron says on "Big A" Apostles -

Tongues! Signs! Wonders! An Interview with Dr. Sam Waldron

"...Let me give you a little background and then I’ll give you the brief overview. In doing my doctrinal program at Southern Seminary we had to do a reading and I was constantly perturbed and disturbed by the assumption of a lot of theologians that the whole cessationist point of view was kind of nonsensical. And that was the point of view of some of the people we read. That’s not the view of Southern seminary, of course. The people we read in my doctoral program (and at the same time these people that would assume that cessationism was nonsensical and not even discussable) would in almost the same breath admit or assume that Apostles no longer exist in the church today (“big A” Apostles). And I thought ‘that’s inconsistent.” And that was really the birth of my desire to prosecute and my understanding of what I call the cascade argument which is fundamentally this:

That we must begin as cessationists with what is most clear in Scripture and it is also admitted by many continuationists, and that is that there are no longer “big A” Apostles, or what I might call, strictly speaking, Apostles of Christ or the church. But what I argue is that that is a great or even fatal admission for continuationists to make, and it is also something that’s made plain in the Scriptures. If there are no Apostles of Christ that creates the precedent for saying that, at least in certain respects, the apostolic period and the church today are distinctly different because the absence of Apostles of Christ is a great difference between the apostolic period and today. The first gift, the most important gift, is now missing in the church. I think that exposes a fundamental flaw in continuationist argument and in the mockery of cessationism that you meet in some circles.

Then I argue that if Apostles are no longer in the church that creates a precedent for discussing the issue of whether prophets are in the church. And then I bring, on the basis of the absence of the Apostolic gift, arguments for the absence of the prophetic gift. And then on the basis of those two things I argue that tongues-speaking was a form of prophecy and on the basis of the precedent set by the absence of Apostles and prophets, we may also argue the absence of tongues-speakers. And with those three arguments set and clear I then proceed to say that we can also argue that miracle workers are no longer given to the church. And therefore you have a kind of cascade from Apostles to prophets to tongues-speakers to miracle workers..."

Mark said...

The Charismatic Phenomenon
By Peter Masters and John Whitcomb

The gifts of speaking in tongues, healing, receiving visions, working miracles casting out demons, and prophesying have al come back in this twentieth century. The mighty sign-miracles of New Testament times are being experi enced once again Or are they? How do present-day gifts compare with the signs and wonders of the early church? Are they the same? Why have nineteen centuries of church history passed without them Including the greatest periods of reformation and revival? What was the purpose of these gifts in New Testament times? Charismatic teachers assert that the signs which followed the apostles were intended to continue until the Lord's return. Clearly, they are either right, or they are very dangerously wrong

If the gifts exhibited today are not authentic, then what are they, and what harm may they do to believers? This booklet presents the substance of an appraisal of charismatic teaching given at a day-long conference of 400 pastors and Christian workers in London during 1982 The contributions are by Dr John Whitcomb, of Grace Theological Seminary Winona Lake. USA, and Dr Peter Masters, Pastor of the Metropolitan Taber nacle, London. Through these pages the claims of the charismatic movement are examined against the teaching of Scripture.

Mark said...

In their booklet "The Charismatic Phenomenon" -

What about the signs following?

Did the Lord Jesus Christ intend His disciples to cast out demons, heal the sick and speak in tongues throughout the future history of the church, until His return? Charismatic teachers say that He did, pointing to Mark 16.17 as the proof-text.

Here, the Lord says, - And these signs shall follow them that believe; In My name shall they cast out devils; they shall speak with new tongues; they shall take up serpents, and if they drink any deadly thing, it shall not hurt them; they shall lay hands on the sick, and they shall recover.

To whom was this said?

Charismatic teachers assume that the phrase - them that believe - describes new converts. But it is much more likely that the phrase them that believe – refers to the disciples. This becomes clear when we consider the whole passage from Mark 16.14: Afterward He appeared unto the eleven as they sat at meat, and upbraided them with their unbelief and hardness of heart, because they believed not them which had seen Him after He was risen.

The Lord appears to the eleven, and confronts them with their unbelief. This is the main subject, apart from His Great Commission to them. He reproves them, and then says, - Go ye into all the world, and preach the Gospel to every creature. He that believeth and is baptized shall be saved: but he that believeth not shall be damned. And these signs shall follow them that believe; In My name shall they cast out devils...

The Lord has been speaking about the unbelief of the disciples, and it is not surprising that He should proceed to encourage them with something positive. He therefore tells them that as they believingly take up their commission, they shall receive the unique authenticating powers described in the passage.

The record of the Book of Acts confirms that the disciples did experience all the signs which the Lord said would follow them. But the New Testament nowhere records that ordinary Christians (outside the apostolic band) survived snake bites, or cast out demons.

The members of the apostolic band experienced all five of the wonders described. Today, the charismatic movement claims to experience only three of them, and (as we argue in these pages) their experience falls far short of the real wonders described by our Lord.

Mark said...

In their book "The Charismatic Phenomenon" -

Gifts given only via apostles

It is a fact that the gift of prophecy only ever seems to have been given to people by apostles. Throughout Acts, an apostle is always present when any gift is given.

We know that the sign-miracle gifts were given by apostles, because the ministry of 'signs and wonders' was the exclusive prerogative of the apostles. It was their badge of identification.

If people could have exercised true sign-miracle gifts without having received their power from apostles, then the authenticating mark of apostles would have been destroyed. The apostle Paul would never have been able to say to the Corinthians - "Surely I did the signs of an apostle in your presence!

Another oft-cited piece of evidence for this is seen in Acts 8 where the Samaritans were converted under the preaching of Philip, the evangelist. Philip was a prophet who had received the gift to work signs and wonders, but he could not pass any of his gifts on to others.

When the apostles learned about the conversion of many Samaritans they immediately sent Peter and John to lay hands on them and bestow gifts.

We have noted already that God began to withdraw the sign-gifts from the apostles even during their lifetime. But the fact that such gifts - and all prophetic gifts-were bestowed by apostles, meant that when the apostles died, all sign and prophetic gifts would die out also.

Bruce said...

Mark,

What men think on the subject is irrelevant. Arguments from silence are also irrelevant unless some type of hard evidence is extant; chapter and verse is what's needed. I'm fully aware of the errors within the charismatic movement--and stand against them. So there's no need to use their poor exegesis and practice as a straw man.

Mark said...

Hi Bruce. It certainly looks like you're not listening to chapter and verse as many have been given. You are aware that God has given Pastors as gifts to His church? So, why would you not listen to what they are saying on the matter (I'm speaking of Reformed Baptist theology)? You're also not making sense, you're asking Pastor Jeff a question and then say to me in your above post that it does not matter what men think on the subject. So, why ask Pastor Jeff what he thinks?

Instead of demanding from others and then shrugging off what they say on the matter, why don't you tell us what you think and give chapter and verse. Maybe we can learn something.
Thanks Bruce

Bruce said...

Mark,

I don't recall asking anyone what they "think"--I specifically asked for chapter and verse...


"Hi Dr. Riddle,

You state: "the office of apostle ceased after the death of the last apostle."

Where can I find this in Scripture? And who was the last apostle?"


I was not given any verses because there aren't any. (Whom the burden of truth is on is obvious.) Arguments from silence, thoughtful conjecture, opinions of others, and straw-men are not proof. I need Scripture...I'm sorry if I wasn't clear. I fully respect the opinion of Dr. Riddle and yourself, but this is a question that cannot be answered by mere opinion; we need Scripture. Although, I am very grateful that both you and Dr. Riddle have taking the time to give your respective input. Thank you