Alan Cross has posted his reflections upon the recent Baptist Conference on the Holy Spirit (see here). In his post, Alan expressed some surprise at the different ways that conference speakers interpreted the assignment:
Dr. Sam Storms and I were asked to defend the Continualist position. Bart Barber and Robin Foster were asked to defend the Cessationist position. Unless they got more detailed instructions that we got, the results were very interesting. Without collusion, Dr. Storms and I both defended the idea that all of the miraculous gifts of the Spirit are for today, including speaking in tongues. We each talked about tongues, but they were minor parts of our presentations, as they should be. Bart and Robin both focused on tongues almost exclusively. Again, they might have had more detailed instructions, but I wonder if they did that because the main issue for many cessationists or semi-cessationists is tongues? To me, tongues are not the big deal - they are just one of many gifts. For others, including the trustees of the IMB, it seems to be THE issue. That was educational.I am encouraged to see Alan post these words. Yes, tongues is the issue. Why? Because we are not really in disagreement anywhere else. Dr. Storms's handout 12 Bad Reasons for Being a Cessationist includes the following:
An eighth bad reason for being a Cessationist is the argument that since we typically don't see today miracles or gifts equal in quality/intensity to those in the ministries of Jesus and the Apostles, God doesn't intend for any miraculous gifts of a lesser quality/intensity to operate in the church among ordinary Christians.Additionally, as a clarifying comment, Dr. Storms noted that he believed that even cessationists believed in the continuation of the sign gifts, but just refused to give them those names. Dr. Storms noted, for example, the way that Christians will observe the leadership of God giving them just the right words to say in prayer or in counsel to another person, identifying that with the "word of knowledge" gift (if I recall correctly). Frankly, if Dr. Storms, Alan, and their tribe are willing to make that concession, then we are not in disagreement. This distinction I think clears up a lot of our prior confusion, particularly (as Robin Foster has noted here) the way that people falsely allege that folks like Robin and myself deny the continued miraculous activity of God. Of course, we do no such thing. Rather, I suppose that we just have a higher threshold at which we begin to refer to something as a miraculous spiritual gift. Consider, for example, healing miracles. I see three categories in the New Testament.
- There is the kind of healing that pertains only to individuals in the churches possessing "gifts of healings" (1 Cor 12:28-30). The text explicitly notes that not everyone possesses this gift.
- There is another kind of healing that pertains to particular Christians by office, particularly to the elders (James 5:14-15). This kind of healing seems perhaps to be tied specifically to sickness that is chastisement for sins committed.
- A third kind of healing pertains to all believers (James 5:16-20). This is the same context as the second category, and likewise appears to deal with sin-precipitated sickness.