Monday, November 04, 2013

What cessationism is not...or is it?

Compare these three statements:

But it [cessationism] does acknowledge that there was something unique and special about the age of miracles and miracle-workers that defined the ministries of Moses and Joshua, Elijah and Elisha, and Christ and His apostles. Moreover, it recognizes the seemingly obvious fact that those kinds of miracles (like parting the sea, stopping the rain, raising the dead, walking on water, or instantly healing the lame and the blind) are not occurring today. 
Now: Does God answer prayers for relief from our migraines? When we pray for a dear saint suffering from severe cancer and that person goes into remission, can we confidently praise God for answering that prayer? Of course. Even when you take an aspirin to get rid of a headache, you should thank God for the relief. He is at work as truly and as personally in the cure we get from an aspirin as he was in the raising of Lazarus. One is a miracle; the other is an ordinary providence. 
17 Elijah was a man with a nature like ours, and he prayed fervently that it might not rain, and for three years and six months it did not rain on the earth. 18 Then he prayed again, and heaven gave rain, and the earth bore its fruit (James 5:17-18).
The first statement classifies the stoppage of rain as a miracle. Indeed, the kind of miracle that's not occurring today. 
The second statement denies that answered prayer is miraculous. 
Yet James attributes the stoppage of rain to answered prayer. 


  1. Ed Dingess said...
    (2) If your handling of this text is correct, then very few in the Church have faith -OR- James was wrong.

    That seems to assume there's only one kind/type of faith and one kind of degree/strength of faith. But that's contrary to Scripture's teaching. Jesus said that the Centurion and the Syrophoenician woman had "great faith." Presumably that's in contrast to non-great or lesser faith. Paul talked about "measures" and "proportions of faith" (Rom. 12:3,6). When the disciples asked Jesus why they couldn't cast out a demon Jesus said because of the "littleness" of their faith (NASB); or their "little faith" (ESV) [critical text in opposition to the Majority Text or Textus Receptus]. The disciples asked Jesus to "increase" their faith (Luke 17:5). Paul talked about "growing" in faith (2 Thess. 1:3). Stephen is said to be one who was "full" of faith (Acts 6:5).

    George Muller said: " Think not, dear reader, that I have the gift of faith, that is, that gift of which we read in 1 Corinthians 12:9, and which is mentioned along with “the gifts of healing,” “the working of miracles,”prophecy,” and that on that account I am able to trust in the Lord. It is true that the faith, which I am enabled to exercise, is altogether God's own gift; it is true that He alone supports it, and that He alone can increase it; it is true that, moment by moment, I depend upon Him for it, and that, if I were only one moment left to myself, my faith would utterly fail; but it is not true that my faith is that gift of faith which is spoken of in 1 Corinthians 12:9." [source]

    In Basil Miller's biography of Mueller, the same quote above continues "...It is the self-same faith which is found in every believer...for little by little it has been increasing for the last six and twenty years..." [page 122]

    Elsewhere Mueller said, "God delights to increase the Faith of His children. Our Faith which is feeble at first, is developed and strengthened more and more by us. We ought, instead of wanting no trials before victory, no exercise for patience, to be willing to take them from God's hand as a means. I say—and say it deliberately—trials, obstacles, difficulties, and sometimes defeats, are the very food of Faith." [source]

    And, "One thing more. Some say, “Oh, I shall never have the gift of Faith Mr. Mueller has got.” This is a mistake—it is the greatest error—there is not a particle of truth in it. My Faith is the same kind of Faith that all of God's children have had. It is the same kind that Simon Peter had, and all Christians may obtain the like Faith. My Faith is their Faith, though there may be more of it because my Faith has been a little more developed by exercise then theirs; but their Faith is precisely the Faith I exercise, only, with regard to degree, mine may be more strongly exercised. [source]

    1. Mueller also made a distinction between the "gift of faith" and the "grace of faith" (which could be developed and increased). He wrote:

      "It pleased the Lord, I think, to give me in some cases something like the gift (not grace) of faith, so that unconditionally I could ask and look for an answer. The difference between the gift and the grace of faith seems to me this. According to the gift of faith I am able to do a thing, or believe that a thing will come to pass, the not doing of which, or the not believing of which would not be sin; according to the grace of faith I am able to do a thing, or believe that a thing will come to pass, respecting which I have the word of God as the ground to rest upon, and, therefore, the not doing it, or the not believing it would be sin. For instance, the gift of faith would be needed, to believe that a sick person should be restored again, though there is no human probability: for there is no promise to that effect; the grace of faith is needed to believe that the Lord will give me the necessaries of life, if I first seek the kingdom of God and His righteousness: for there is a promise to that effect. (Matt. vi. 33.)" [source]

  2. AP,

    {{That seems to assume there's only one kind/type of faith and one kind of degree/strength of faith. But that's contrary to Scripture's teaching.}}

    Do you think is possible to believe a proposition and not believe a proposition at the same time?

    1. This comment has been removed by the author.

    2. Not believing a proposition is unbelief that's different than doubting a proposition. Doubting can include belief and vice versa. Also, belief and doubt can both have different strengths. Additionally, people can move from one of those three mental states into any of the other two repeatedly in a very quick fashion when it comes to a proposition. At the speed of thought. And so, it can appear to others and to one's self that one is simultaneously believing a proposition and not believing the same proposition. Belief is often based on evidence and the strength of it. But the interpretation of the evidence is itself affected by one's prior beliefs and worldview. Moreover, humans are often irrational, emotion driven, selfish and pragmatic and those things must also be factored into the equation. Those biases also affect one's search for and examination of the evidence as well (hence the phenomenon of confirmation bias and other types of biases).

    3. kbl, I did notice your post on my blog continuing our discussion. I responded to it there. :)