Cessationist vs. Continuationist


In dealing with the whole issue of ‘Strange Fire,’ we first have to define a couple of terms and understand our approach to dealing with various Scriptures from these opposing views.

The Cessationist: The cessationist believes that the working of miracles, the ministry of office of the apostle and prophet, along with and the spiritual gifts of healing, and speaking in tongues were limited to the age of the early church and the ministry of Christ and His 12 apostles. They believe that these gifts were for the primary purpose of bringing legitimacy to the ministry of Christ and His apostles. They would argue that after the church was established, and the canon (collection) of Scripture (namely the New Testament) was finalized that these gifts were no longer needed and therefore God did away with them.

From this perspective the cessationist argues that today’s claims of miracles, speaking in other tongues, prophetic utterances and divine healings are either lying signs and wonders, (originating from false prophets and teachers), or purely fleshly, pagan and psychosomatic. They believe that those who profess to exercise the authority of Christ and the early church apostles in regards to the ministry of healing; working of miracles, exercising authority over demonic forces etc. is to make claims that were unique to Christ and his 12 apostles alone. Therefore they declare that anyone who makes such claims is actually committing blasphemy.

Cessationists are primarily Calvinistic in their theological approach to Scripture. As such, they believe that God in His divine sovereignty exercises His providence over everything. In other words, everything that happens is ultimately being worked for the will of God.

Sovereignty is saying that God is absolutely in charge of His universe. Providence is similar but this word is implying that He is in control of everything that takes place. Dr. Mal Couch

Westminster Confession of Faith: Chapter III Of God’s Eternal Decree I. God from all eternity, did, by the most wise and holy counsel of His own will, freely, and unchangeably ordain whatsoever comes to pass; [1] yet so, as thereby neither is God the author of sin, [2] nor is violence offered to the will of the creatures; nor is the liberty or contingency of second causes taken away, but rather established. [3]

The Continuationist: The continuationist believes Hebrews 13:8 Jesus Christ is the same yesterday, today, and forever.

From this perspective the continuationist believes that the same ministry that Jesus and His apostles demonstrated was as an example to all believers throughout all ages, until Christ’s return. Therefore continuationists believe that the ministry of divine healing, speaking in tongues, working of miracles, prophetic utterances, along with all the gifts of the Holy Spirit as described in the book of Acts, is readily available to the church today.

I would say that probably the majority of continuationists are more Calvinistic in their understanding of the sovereignty of God. Many in this camp believe that everything that happens is ultimately the will of God in their lives.

While I will get into the ministry of the Holy Spirit and other matters in latter posts I want to primarily focus on the first issue in regards to God’s absolute sovereignty. Now I realize that this has been a debate in Christian camps for generations that is never going to be solved until Christ returns.

The Calvinists Approach to God’s Providence:  While I certainly respect John Calvin as a brilliant theologian, I believe that his understanding of God’s providence was either misguided or has been grossly misinterpreted. Because most of Western Christians have received their training from the Calvinistic approach to God’s providence, this has formed a great deal of our approach to Scripture.

The Calvinist approach to God’s providence (or at least how it is presented) goes something like this. God is all-powerful, all-knowing, and all-sufficient. As such He rules as Supreme Master over all of His creation. No matter what happens; God in His providence is working through it to accomplish His will.

Whether intentionally or unintentionally this is what is commonly proclaimed by those who hold to this belief. (This is also a centerpiece of the cessationist approach to Scripture). Everything that happens in anyone’s life is ultimately the will of God. Even the devil cannot do anything without God’s ordained approval. I actually heard a preacher proclaim in a sermon years ago that “Everything that the devil tries to do in the believer’s life must first come across God’s desk for His approval.”

So out of this comes the idea that sickness and disease is the will of God, because God in His sovereignty is using this to accomplish His greater good. If I lose my job or if I am involved in an accident or tragedy, I should thank God, because in His providence, He has ordained this to bring about His ultimate purpose for my life.

According to this approach to Scripture, the believer has little or no authority over the devil. We have no right to exercise faith in God’s promises, because we are really never sure of God’s ultimate will, and therefore should just except whatever comes into our lives with joy and resolve that God is working His will through it.

We can’t really expect God to heal the sick, or change circumstances because the trouble we are facing might just be ordained by God for His purposes.

You can easily see why this preaching has caused a lost world that knows nothing of the ways and purposes of God, to blame Him for the evil of the world. You can see why people become bitter with God when they feel that He refused to answer their cry for help. This Calvinistic approach to Scripture has left us with a faith that has no confidence, no authority, and no assurance that God will answer when we call.

Unless I am missing something, this is what I have heard proclaimed from the cessationists camp for years.

Strange Fire – Opening a Dialogue


I have just spent the past two weeks listening to the audio messages from the ‘Strange Fire’ conference that was recently sponsored by Dr. John MacArthur, senior pastor of Grace Community Church, Sun Valley, CA. As a Charismatic, Word of Faith pastor myself, I wanted to digest the teachings of this conference before giving any response. While I have not as of yet read Dr. MacArthur’s ‘Strange Fire’ book, I certainly intend to do so as I engage in this dialogue.

First of all, I would like to thank Dr. MacArthur for hosting the conference. I found the messages to be thought-provoking, challenging, and for the most part presented in a spirit of humility. While I have theological disagreements with various statements and beliefs that were presented, I believe that this serves as a wake up call to the Charismatic body as a whole, to bring some much-needed balance and house cleaning to our ranks.

I have always been of the opinion that if what we believe cannot stand up to scrutiny then perhaps we really need to question the validity of our beliefs? This is why I appreciate the challenges that were put forth at the ‘Strange Fire’ conference. The messages really made me consider what I believe about the manifestations of the Holy Spirit, as well as some of the common practices that have become so common in Charismatic circles today.

Far too many Charismatic, ministers have been involved in absolutely foolish practices, that have for the most part gone completely unchallenged. There have been times when I have watched teachers on Christian television and felt a great deal of embarrassment over how they presented the message of prosperity, or other biblical matters. There has also been far too much sensationalism that in some cases has resulted in downright buffoonery, which leaves the audience with the impression of a traveling medicine show, rather than that of a genuine Christian witness. 1 Peter 2:1-3 (NLT) But there were also false prophets in Israel, just as there will be false teachers among you. They will cleverly teach destructive heresies and even deny the Master who bought them. In this way, they will bring sudden destruction on themselves. Many will follow their evil teaching and shameful immorality. And because of these teachers, the way of truth will be slandered. In their greed they will make up clever lies to get hold of your money. But God condemned them long ago, and their destruction will not be delayed.

I am not implying that every Charismatic preacher on TV is a charlatan, or out to line their pockets. I believe that the majority of these men and women are for the most part godly, sincere followers of Christ. Yet unfortunately those who have become overly consumed with the message of prosperity or other sensational practices stand out like a sore thumb.

With this said, I do believe that some of those who are involved with the so-called practice of ‘exposing false teachers,’ have unintentionally misrepresented the WOF movement, and lumped all of us into the same pot. There is a tendency for people to become fixated upon exposing error to a point where they cannot see the forest for the trees. If the only tool that you have is a hammer, then everything becomes a nail. Because some of these folks are so obsessed with hammering at error, everything that they hear that does not fit neatly into their understanding of biblical terms becomes a nail of error that must me hammered. I believe that some involved in witch hunting can become just as destructive as the error that they are trying to stamp out.

Why Women Still Need Husbands

By Suzanne Venker Published December 06, 2013 FoxNews.com

  • 660-bride-AP.jpg

    Nov. 13, 2013: Vanessa Gathers of Tampa tries on a dress during the “Operation Wedding Gown” event at The White Closet Bridal in Tampa. Gathers who is in the Air Force and her fiance in the Army will be getting married in December. Military wives who qualified we able to come and receive free wedding dresses. The bride or their spouse had to currently be serving in the military, be currently deployed, have a future deployment or deployed within the last 5 years. The event was a part of the Bride’s Across America’s campaign, “Operation Wedding Gown”. The organization has donated over 10, 000 wedding gowns to military brides. (AP Photo/The Tampa Bay Times, Eve Edelheit)

Over the past several decades, America has witnessed a profound change in the way women view men and marriage. It began with the baby boomer adage “never depend on a man.”

This message resulted in a generation of women who turned their attention away from the home and onto the workforce. They did what their mothers told them to do: they became financially independent so they’d never have to rely on a husband.

In time, “never depend on a man” turned into the full-blown belief that men are superfluous. In 2010 Jennifer Aniston claimed women needn’t “fiddle with a man” to have a child.

Financial independence is a great thing, but you can’t take your paycheck to bed with you.

This may strike you as an isolated case of stupidity, but Aniston’s willingness to put it out there speaks volumes about modern cultural attitudes. No actress would have said such a thing in the 70s, 80s, or even early 90s.

Fortunately, most women come to the realization that they do, in fact, need a man—at least if they want a family.

Financial independence is a great thing, but you can’t take your paycheck to bed with you. And there’s nothing empowering about being beholden to an employer when what you really want is to have a baby. That’s dependency of a different sort.

This is the conclusion to which most women have come. Research shows that what women want more than anything else is not to work full-time and year-round but to live balanced lives.

How will they do it? That’s the number-one conversation among women today.

‘Round and ’round we go, asking how women can gain more control over their lives. How can they spend more time with their children? How can they make time for exercise or even a social life? How can they keep their houses in order and still have time to cook? The answer is obvious.

Lean on your husband.

According to Pew Research, “Dads are much more likely than moms to say they want to work full time. And when it comes to what they value most in a job, working fathers place more importance on having a high-paying job, while working mothers are more concerned with having a flexible schedule.”

That women prefer part-time work is simply irrefutable. It was true back in 2007, and it’s even true among Ivy League graduates! Study after study, both here and abroad (the majority of women in the UK, Spain and other countries seek some combination of paid work and family work) shows women as a whole (the Sheryl Sandbergs notwithstanding) want multifaceted lives. They want balance.

And there’s only one way to get it: rely on a man’s more linear career goals. Unlike women, a man’s identity is inextricably linked to his paycheck. That’s how most men feel a sense of purpose. Indeed, research shows men see it as their duty to support their families even when their wives make as much money (or more) as they do!

Perhaps that’s because men can’t produce life the way women can—let’s face it: those are some serious shoes to fill—but they can produce the means to make a child’s life secure. As a nation, we dismiss this integral part of masculinity. But that doesn’t make it any less true.

So why not let husbands bring home the bulk of the bacon so women can have the balanced lives they seek? There’s no way to be a wife, a mother and a full-time employee and still create balance. But you can have balance by depending on a husband who works full-time and year-round.

I know what you’re going to say. Where are these husbands on whom women can depend? And you’re right: there are fewer men these days who seem eager to be primary breadwinners.

But ask yourself why, and I bet you know the answer.

Suzanne Venker has written extensively about marriage and the family and its intersection with the culture. She is also the founder of Women for Men (WFM), a news and opinion website committed to improving gender relations and to providing much-needed support for the American male. To learn more about Suzanne, visit www.suzannevenker.com

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