Are miraculous spiritual gifts for today? part 2

For background, there are two camps when it comes to miraculous spiritual gifts: cessationists and continuationists.

Cessationists believe that miraculous gifts, such as tongues and prophecy, have ceased with the death of the Apostles. God still does miracles, but the gifts of tongues and prophecy spoken of in 1 Corinthians 12 and 14 have ceased (hence, “cessation”).

Continuationists believe that miraculous gifts continue as God pleases. I consider myself a continuationist, but as will become clearer, I should probably be called a “constrained continuationist.” Probably everybody believes they are constrained by God’s Word alone, but to my knowledge no one else thought of that label yet, so I claim it.

Last time I established that present-day prophecy would not necessarily mean the canon of Scripture is open. Let’s examine prophecy a little further to see if that is true. Michael Horton wrote:

Paul treats prophecy (prophēteia) as preaching, which although illumined by the Spirit is (unlike the scriptures) un-inspired and therefore must be tested (1 Cor 12:29; 1 Thes 5:19-21).

I agree with this statement. I have come to the conclusion that the result of prophecy and the result of preaching in the Bible were the same. Both can be considered the Word of God proclaimed, intended to change people for God’s glory. Horton would seem to agree with that by comparing the two. That means, the prophecies Paul referred to were not on par with Scripture. Therefore, if someone had a prophetic word today, it would not be on par with Scripture.

That seems pretty straightforward to me. Next time I will join Horton in arguing against Wayne Grudem on the nature of present-day prophecy, but then perhaps find a way to disagree with both of them slightly.

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9 responses to “Are miraculous spiritual gifts for today? part 2

  1. Hi Todd,
    Is it possible that Paul’s request “do not despise prophecies” is not normative for the church today? That is IF the prophecies are referring, not to preaching, but prophetic words given from God to those who in the early church, had the gift of prophesy, a gift that would soon pass away. In other words, I don’t yet agree with you and Horton, that preaching and prophesy are essentially the same thing. The early church didn’t have all of scripture, so true words from God (words that don’t contradict the bible we know today), could have been very illuminating and helpful to a people who didn’t have all of scripture yet. They didn’t even have a NT church history to fall on. So yes prophecy and preaching from scripture are both illuminating but are they the same? The results are the same, but are they the same? Do they both continue? If words from God put into the minds of a believer that were not there from interpreting scripture, what I call prophecy, if that stops, then prophecy stops. And I think it has stopped as there is no need for it. We have the canon. So there is actually a place to despise prophecy today compared to the time Paul spoke 1 Thes 5:20.
    In love,
    Mark

    • Todd Morikawa

      This may be an area where people really start to get irritated by me, for trying to be too precise. If it’s possible to be too precise, I’m sorry. However, I have stated that I believe the RESULT of prophecy and preaching are the same, meaning I do not believe they are the same. Illustration: result of surgery and miraculous healing are the same. Maybe that can clarify some of where I come from. But to answer your original question, it’s certainly possible what you’re thinking about 1 Thess 5 is true, but not likely. SEE ANSWER TO YOUR SECOND COMMENT

      • Todd Morikawa

        By the way, the church history argument also falters a little bit. Every epistle has at least 25-30 years of church history to fall on, most more. May not feel like much to us, but still something to consider

  2. One more thing to clarify what I’m saying. I agree that Paul knew there would be prophesy that was not in par with Scripture, isn’t it possible that there were still people who might give prophesy that was not only in line with scripture, but could become scripture, since a closed canon was not an issue yet?

  3. Todd Morikawa

    The problem with what you’re saying here is at least threefold: one, how would Christians in the NT times know if a prophecy they were hearing was on par with Scripture or not? Two, I bet if you did a study of every instance of prophecy in the Bible, you would see the distinction between the historical event of a prophecy vs. the recording of that event in Scripture (Illustration: Nathan prophecies to David about sin with Bathsheba; Nathan is not inspired when he tells it the way the author of 2 Samuel is inspired when he tells us about that prophecy). Three, (this is a hard one even for me to wrap my mind around) I hear you subscribing to a “canon-consciousness” that I don’t think is true. In other words, I do not believe the Apostles or Prophets in NT times were fully aware that God was going to write 66 books, no less, no more. The Church, by God’s grace, has simply recognized what God inspired and what He didn’t. If I’m right about that, I think it makes some of your proposals here not as feasible. Hope this is making sense

    Don’t tell anyone, I’m probably just going to copy and paste some of these comments to create my next couple posts 🙂

  4. Thanks for your reply but l don’t think you’re getting what I’m saying so allow me to clarify. So I did notice that you specifically said that the result of preaching and prophesy are the same. But it is unclear to me how that is relevant to the discussion. If the results are the same, that could still mean prophecy has ceased and Paul was not talking about preaching at all in any of his letters when speaking of prophecy. Using your example, I wouldn’t think the results of surgery and healing being the same is helpful to a discussion on the gift of healing. I disagree with Horton’s wording that Paul saw prophecy and preaching the same way. They may both be influenced by the Spirit but are still distinct. Simply put, prophecy is more supernatural than preaching, is it not? If prophecy ceased, preaching can continue.

    As for my threefold error, I wasn’t saying that people had to know if NT prophecy was in-line with scripture. I’m just saying Paul knew the gift of prophecy was still potentially useful at the time he said to test the prophecies and desire them. He had no reason to believe otherwise. If Cessationism is true, Paul’s words are still valid.

    I’m okay with your second observation. I should definitely curb the idea the prophecies become scripture. Rather the recording of them do.

    As for the third observation, I don’t think I was subscribing to a canon-consciousness. I subscribe to a Scripture-consciousness based on 2 Pet 3:16. But since prophecy doesn’t become scripture, then this point is moot. However, since Paul believed new teachings, prophecies and other happenings in the church may be recorded for the benefit of the church, he desired prophecies to happen.

  5. Perhaps you were just trying to support the idea that the continuation of prophecy does not mean canon is open. If so, then I get what you were saying. And I agree. the discussion then moves on to the purpose of prophecy and the purpose of it today if it continues. for me, they don’t mesh.

    • Todd Morikawa

      Mark, I am encouraged by how deeply you’re thinking about this. You hit it on your last comment. If it can be established that the result of prophecy and preaching are the same, and no one has a problem that preaching continue, then no one should have a problem with prophecy continuing. And it is the nature and purpose of it that I think I’ll probably post about next. This all gives me a good head start, thank you!

      As for “Scripture-consciousness”, I still think you are referring to a canon-consciousness. I am not as dogmatic on this issue, but I think the burden of proof is on you if you think Paul believed some prophecies spoken in Corinth were going to become Scripture. In other words, it is very unclear that any Apostle ever thought “the canon is still open,” even though in reality it was. (it goes back to, ‘how in the world would anyone know if a certain prophecy should become Scripture, while other prophecies should not?’)

      • I am really interested in this topic because I feel I may be shifting from “soft-cessationism” (which might be similar to your contrained continuationism) to “hard-cessationism”.

        I am looking forward to the nature and purpose discussion of prophecy because obviously, a cessationist gives prophecy a purpose that would make you have a problem with it continuing, even if it has the same result of preaching. I’m not sure I can agree with the statement you made above.

        As for Scripture-consciousness, you are probably right, so the furthest I should be taking it is this: I think Paul thought prophecy was still expected and useful in the early church but I also think Paul knew it wouldn’t continue forever. And I think I can handle the burden on that claim.

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