Monday, October 03, 2016

Bubbleboy cessationism

There are roughly two types of arguments for cessationism. On the one hand, they attempt to defend their position from Scripture. On they other hand, they point to the many quacks, scammers, and heretics in the charismatic movement. 

I daresay most cessationists espouse cessationism for the simple reason that they never had a personal experience that falsified their cessationism. But, ironically, that can leave them vulnerable to the quacks, scammers, and heretics in the charismatic movement. 

It's like the proverbial bubbleboy who has no resistance to disease. If a cessationist has an experience that falsifies his cessationism, he has no immunity or resistance to the quacks, scammers, and heretics in the charismatic movement because cessationist theology was his immune system. Take that away and he has no antibodies to protect him from airborne pathogens in the charismatic movement.   

It's like kids raised in anti-intellectual, fundy churches who lose their hereditary faith the moment that comes in contact with atheism or secular science. They are intellectually defenseless because they never cultivated reasons for their hereditary faith.

Over the years I've run across several credible reports of premonitory dreams. I wasn't investigating the subject. In some cases it's something I happened to read about on an unrelated subject. Or it's something that trusted friends shared with me.

Given that this is confined to my anecdotal and incidental experience, that suggested the phenomenon is more widespread. If a random sampling turns that up, consider what a more systematic investigation would uncover?

Or to take a different, but related example: years ago I was talking to a cardiologist. A relative of mine had been hospitalized for a heart attack. The cardiologist was a graduate of Yale med school. Somehow the conversation turned to the topic of near-death-experiences. He mentioned that as an intern he had a patient who was a mafia don. The patient had a near-death-experience. That caused the patient to reconsider his career in the mafia. He took it as a warning or second chance to clean up his act.

My point is this: a hardline cessationist has no fallback position. There's no flexibility in his position. That can make him a sucker for the quacks, scammers, and heretics in the charismatic movement if he ever has an experience that falsifies his cessationism.

By contrast, if you've developed a qualified noncessationism position, you can exercise critical discrimination. It doesn't leave you wide open to anything and everything–up to and including the New Age. But if you take an all-or-nothing approach, the alternative to nothing is everything. You have no criteria to winnow the wheat from the chaff. You treat it all as wheat or all as chaff. 


  1. I had dream about a neighbor who died the night he died while I was far away on vacation prior to being a Christian. And I've experienced or heard similar things.

    But that seems that could be compatible with cessationism, no? Cessationism doesn't have to take the view that the universe is not weird or that the spiritual realm doesn't exist. Quantum mechanics by itself should be proof that there are some strange things going on and the world isn't 100% mechanistic. But is the problem that most cesseationists gravitate to that understanding?

    1. In my observation, cessationists reject post-apostolic revelatory dreams. And they index Acts 2 to the apostles or apostolic era.

    2. But was my dream revelation from God? I'm not sure about that. I guess what I'm trying to say is that not everything that falls outside of materialist philosophies has to fall outside of cessasionist framework.

      So I could have a dream that may even foretells the future. But is that necessarily the same thing as ongoing revelation? Is the dream from God or just the correct interpretation?

      I honestly don't know. I'm not sure if those things fall into the same category as prophecy.

      But I'm not sure I'm a full-blown cessessionist. Just a most of the time cessasionist.

      I would suspect that the norm is that a number of people hear from God but infrequently and at certain important points in their lives. I'm thinking of dreams in Muslim-dominated areas in particular.

  2. Good point. I've added this to my blogpost:

    Steve Hays on Cessationism

    BTW, the opposite direct could happen too. Imagine a person who, as a non-Christian, believed in the supernatural and paranormal who then converted to a cessationist Christian theology. Then later ends up an atheist because the step from one to the other had a similar view regarding the current possibility of the supernatural and paranormal. I've encountered former Calvinists like this.

  3. "two types of arguments for cessationism" Yes, and both very weak. Good post.

    I would add that being a cessationist of any sort involves dismissing quite a lot of testimony from non-kooky, godly Christians of many stripes, and from many times and places.

  4. my interactions have been with cessationists who lean hard on the assumption that any post-canonized revelations at any level vitiate respect due to the canonical texts themselves. Even a Pentecostal of the old Assemblies of God school would not be so bold as to claim that the scriptures aren't inerrant or infallible and that some kind of extra special revelation is needed. Even in the case laws of the Pentateuch provision was made for prophets to adjudicate exceptional cases not explicitly covered in Mosaic case law. The idea that the need for this ad hoc divinely assisted trouble-shooting would vanish once the NT canon had been ratified ends up assuming a conclusion without exactly proving it.

    Now I think a case could be made that in the fullness of time there will be less and less need for divine revelation supplemental to written revelation and that this is what we could expect but that's not the same as a hardline cessationist position.

    Cessationists who would like a case made for why supplemental revelation might "need" to be made seem rare compared to cessationists who are pre-committed these days to the assumption that a non-cessationist or continuationist must necessarily have a "low view of scripture". I've gotten to a point where I have some skepticism about cessationist and continuationist positions in American theological disputes. It's possible for a continuationist on paper to have a cult of personality while being criticized by a cessationist who also has a cult of personality (I'm specifically thinking of about a decade ago when Mark Driscoll was criticized by fans of John Macarthur, to which I'd suggest there were cults of personality going on with both guys).

  5. As a former hard-line cessasionist from a Fundamentalist background, I don't think it's necessarily true that a hard-line view necessarily leaves you defenceless. That is, IF you value the Scripture as the rule to inform belief. I would agree that a hard-liner who is a hard-liner by pedigree as opposed to rigorous study is susceptible to such a condition. I, and many like me, have shrugged off hard-line cessasionist for a qualified continuationism precisely through study of Scripture. It's all a matter of whether or not inherited theology combined with cognitive dissonance is the foundation for held belief.