I believe that in the continuist vs. cessationist debate in the Christian world, if the two sides ever sat down to talk and actually defined their terms and listened to what was being said (and not said), they would find that what they held in common would vastly outweigh what might divide.
In spite of how simple it would make things to do so, not all charismatics/continuationists can be painted with the same broad brush stroke. There is a wide spectrum of belief and practice, from the wild and crazy all the way to the responsible thinking Bible exegete. That is news to many people, but it is true, nonetheless. The “barking like dogs” manifestations of “the Toronto blessing” would never be tolerated by a Dr. D.A. Carson or a Dr. Wayne Grudem. Those who cannot see the distinctions are willingly ignorant. For sure, there are the extreme, hyper charismatics and their doctrines and practices are alarming to me. Some of it is just plain silly. Some of it borders on the demonic.
On the other side there are the hyper cessationists who in practical terms might be said to believe in “Father, Son and Holy Bible” who would not even allow for ongoing discernment and the leading and guiding of the Holy Spirit in our own day. But again, not all cessationists are the same.
Doug Wilson wrote this today (below). I believe he nails the issue very well:
I need to say something about the Strange Fire conference, and the reactions to it, but because I am not particularly well-informed about that particular controversy, let me content myself with saying a few general things about the topic, which others may inject into the controversy as it suits them. I suspect, although I do not know, that in what I say there will be something encouraging for both sides, and perhaps something discouraging for both as well.
I am a cessationist, and I am not a continuationist. The sign gifts in the New Testament were revelatory, and if they are still operational, this means that the canon of Scripture is not closed. I don’t have a category in my head for quasi-revelatory. “Thus saith the Lord” is either true or false. If true, the words that follow that formula should be treated as though God spoke them, and I only have one way to treat the Word of God. I treat it like it is the Bible.
In short, I believe that cessationists usually understand the Bible better than do continuationists, not to mention the logic of the thing.
But there is an additional, and very weighty, concern, pushing from the other direction, and this has to do with the nature of the world. Too many cessationists are functional materialists when it comes to the operations of the world, and their supernaturalism is limited to the ink on the page.
In short, I believe the continuationists often understand the personal nature of the world better than do cessationists.
Continuationists are vulnerable to the sins of the gullible. Completely independent of the question of spiritual gifts, I am more likely to be able to get a charismatic to believe that there are fairies in the garden than I would be able to get a cessationist to believe it. Cessationists are correspondingly susceptible to the sins of the debunker. I am much less likely to get a cessationist to believe in a remarkable response to prayer than I would be able to get a charismatic to believe it.
Ferinstance. A number of years ago a good friend of ours was dying. When she finally passed away, Nancy and I were on the road (in Philadelphia). It was the middle of the night and we both woke up. Are you awake? Yeah, are you awake? How come? Beats me. A few minutes later the phone rang, and it was the news that our friend had gone to be with the Lord. Back home, our grandson Knox had been praying regularly for her, and he was two or thereabouts. But that night while praying for her, he stopped, and said, “She died. She is in Heaven.” They found out later that she had in fact died that night. Continue reading