Tuesday, July 23, 2013


Cessationism is a theory that posits the miraculous gifts have ceased.

For the a priori cessationist, this is a biblical deduction, the result of the interpretation of one or more biblical passages to mean that tongues and other miraculous gifts have ceased. This position is held before the fact of or without hearing tongues and seeing miracles. If they hear tongues or see miracles, they do not recognize it as a spiritual gift because they believe these gifts are inoperable in this age. A common proof of a priori cessationism is 1 Corinthians 13, especially verses 8 through 10. This may be a waning view, but yet it is very common among conservatives and fundamentalists. 

For the a posteriori cessationist, this is a practical deduction. Some a posteriori cessationists may expect that miraculous gifts have ceased, but are not certain that the Bible clearly proscribes them. But reasoning from observed facts they do not believe any miraculous gifts are currently operable (i.e. after the fact of hearing a possible occurrence of tongues, they do not believe it actually meets the biblical criteria). In theory they may hold that they could become operable, but once they accept by observation an occurrence being a miraculous gift, such as speaking in tongues, they move from the cessationist camp into the continuationist camp. Bart Barber writes, "Some people call themselves “open, but cautious” with regard to things like speaking in tongues. A more pedestrian way to describe a posteriori cessationism would simply be “open, cautious, and still waiting.”"

For the e contra cessationist, this is a biblical deduction, but of lesser proportions than that of many a priori cessationists. It is not uncommon for the a priori cessationist to say that all gifts have ceased and only faith, hope and love remain.* On the one hand the e contra cessationists hold cessationism, but on the other hand they believe in the continuation of what they would not consider practical spiritual gifts (e.g. teaching, helps, or administration). The e contra cessationist would not say there are no spiritual gifts today, but unambiguously deny the practice of such gifts as speaking in tongues.**

The largest Baptist denomination in the United States -- the Southern Baptist Convention -- has a very conservative bent, but no official statement on the practice of spiritual gifts. Note's answers to Frequently Asked Questions: "8. What is the SBC’s official view of "speaking in tongues" and other "charismatic" gifts?

"There is no official SBC view or stance on the issue.  If you polled SBC churches across the nation on the topic of 'charismatic' practices you would likely find a variety of perspectives. Probably most believe that the 'gift of tongues' as described in the Bible ceased upon the completion of the Bible."

(to be continued)

* E.g. No. 9 of the Doctrinal Statement of the American Baptist Association: "We believe that miraculous spiritual manifestation gifts were done away when the Bible was completed. Faith, Hope and Love are the vital abiding Spiritual Gifts."
** E.g. No. 11 of IFCA International Articles of Faith and Doctrine on "The Ministry and Spiritual Gifts": “We believe that God is sovereign in the bestowment of all His gifts; and, that the gifts of evangelists, pastors, and teachers are sufficient for the perfecting of the saints today; and, that speaking in tongues and the working of sign miracles gradually ceased as the New Testament Scriptures were completed and their authority became established. (IFCA International was founded in 1930 as The Independent Fundamental Churches of America.)

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