Friday, January 5, 2007

An Update from Drs. Yarnell and Caner

While I've been trying to convince ACS to close out the 2006 books for FBC Farmersville, the blogging vortex has apparently encircled Dr. Malcolm Yarnell and Dr. Emir Caner. Welcome to Oz, gentlemen. In conversation with them, I learn that they have no desire to drop houses on anyone's heads (deserved or undeserved). I was, however, able to obtain a joint statement from them:

In 2006, Drs. Emir Caner and Malcolm Yarnell agreed to address the issue of tongues in two papers which are now White Papers at These papers have garnered extensive analysis, for which we are both appreciative. However, some critics have perceived our papers as a defense of Cessationism, a topic rarely covered in either paper. The papers were intended to deal with Private Prayer Language (PPL) and whether it is defined as a spiritual gift in Scripture. Our conclusion from the Bible was and is that PPL is not biblical. Additionally, as can be seen within history, PPL is a recent development inherently connected with the Charismatic movement and thus is not found in Southern Baptist history until recently.

The papers assert that the biblical texts that the proponents of PPL had brought forward to support such a practice, a practice which in our opinion may really just be a religiously-neutral phenomenon, provide no indication that PPL was ever acknowledged in the Bible as a spiritual gift. In other words, we vehemently disagreed with the claim that PPL is a legitimate spiritual gift according to the definition of Scripture. By accusing us of advocating Cessationism (or the novel doctrine of semi-Cessationism), controversialists are not addressing what we perceive to be the primary issue. Furthermore, we are being represented as advocating a position which we have not defined. We do note that if the practice of tongues is to be biblical, it must be practiced corporately, in order, and with a known language. The term Cessationist has been used quite imprecisely and illogically with regard to our position given that we do not believe PPL has ceased since we do not believe it ever authentically existed. Indeed, the idea of unintelligible and private speech contradicts Paul’s whole argument in 1 Corinthians 14 for the church to be edified and the lost evangelized through the intelligible and public proclamation of the Gospel.

Finally, constantly stirring a controversy over a non-biblical practice seems to us to violate Scripture’s commands to seek unity among the brethren. Ultimately, we have defended the integrity of Scripture and the traditional position of Southern Baptists in our White Papers and we stand by them. We really would prefer not to be part of a continuing controversy over this issue; however, recent accusations that we are Cessationists seem to us to be another way that confusion and division might be introduced into the Southern Baptist Convention. This is something we do not desire. Instead, our prayer is that Southern Baptists will stand firm on the Word of God and adhere to the Great Commission by proclaiming the Gospel of Jesus Christ to the world for whom Christ died. May the peace of God reign over you. Truth is Immortal.
These learned men frame an important corrective note, I believe. The real issue facing the SBC today is not when or whether the biblical gift of tongues ceased or resumed or whatnot—the real issue regards what the gift of tongues essentially was (and is). Is the phenomenon that began its modern advent with Charles Fox Parham and continues with tongues-speakers and private-language-prayers today the same phenomenon as the biblical miracle of speaking in tongues? I've heard descriptions of "cessationism" from those who do not hold it, but I'm having trouble finding many people active in Southern Baptist life who actually hold such views (e.g., that the New Testament stipulates a post-apostolic cessation of miraculous gifts). I do, however, find well-populated ranks of Southern Baptists who, without daring to assert that God could not give the gift of tongues today, are more than willing to evaluate the Pentecostal/Charismatic/Third Wave practice as being a modern innovation completely unconnected with the New Testament.


Todd Nelson said...

Bart, Malcolm, and Emir,

I agree that cessationism is not really the issue. My concern, however, is with the "vehement" defense of the Baptist position and the biblical interpretation of spiritual gifts.

Devout people of the Book arrive at different interpretations and practices of it, even devout Baptists--especially Baptists! And we should hold our convictions with heaping amounts of hermeneutical humility. (Sorry, the halliteration just slipped out. :-)

PPL may be a relatively recent phenomena among Baptists, but it is no less biblical because of its alleged recurrence. And if it's biblical, then it should be Baptist!

So here is our point of disagreement. I believe my PPL compares favorably with the way Paul prayed in tongues privately and to the way he prayed "in the Spirit" in contrast to the way he prayed "with his mind."

Furthermore, since we are even closer now than the apostles were to the last days prophesied by the prophet Joel, then we can reasonably expect to see more spiritual gifts, signs, and wonders recurring by the will of God and by the power of the Holy Spirit.

We need all His gifts and the fullness of His power as much today as the apostles did--and His wisdom and discernment, as well.

May the gospel ring out louder and wider,
Todd Nelson

Todd Nelson said...

Oops! Sorry, Bart. I commented before I noticed the date of the original post. And now I understand that you're trying to restore what you accidentally deleted. Ouch! Grace, -Todd

Bart Barber said...


No problem.