Conversion of a Cessationist? Part 4

February 18, 2006

Must argument preced experience?

Over at another post, as Warren and I deliberate among the comments, I have introduced the experience vs. argument debate.

When I was once more grounded in cessationism, I had a discussion with a rather charismatic continuationist (is that redundant?). I was more versed in the Scriptures surrounding the theology of the gifts than this young man was. I presented my framework to him in such a way that he was incapable of denying the validity of what I had to say (although I question it now). His response to me was simple, “Well, you are a man with an argument, but I am a man with an experience.”

Today, I am on the fence. I am certainly not convinced by the arguments of cessationism; however, I am not thoroughly convinced by the argument of continationists (although I do recognize now that they have an argument). You know what would be the clencher? I would be overwhelmingly convinced if I just broke out into some tongue-speak right now. Is that possible? (please forgive any irreverancy)
The Assemblies of God website shares this insight:

The believer must (1) have a clear understanding of the biblical base for promised gifts; (2) be touched in his heart with a desire for the gifts to flow; (3) be willing to submit to the inner sense that the Spirit is seeking expression; and (4) offer to the Holy Spirit his heart, emotions, will, and voice by which those gifts may operate. The key is obedient availability coupled with a sincere desire to please God. (link) (previously referenced here)

For them, it seems obvious, argument must precede experience. You cannot experience it until you are thoroughly convinced of their validity for practice today.

I have recently sought the gifts and have prayed earnestly for them, but my prayer has always been prefaced with “if.” I never thought I would come this far in my journey. I am not sure I can go any further without experience. I don’t want to miss out on a greater spiritual experience if such is available to me. I also don’t want to manipulate something in my life that is not real. Where do I go from here?

What has discouraged me is that I have yet to find many Charismatic Calvinists, or more moderate cessationists write about their experiences. I don’t want a how-to, or step-by-step process, but tell me about your experience.


5 Responses to “Conversion of a Cessationist? Part 4”

  1. Warren said

    The Assemblies of God position seems just a little convenient, of course. You will only speak in tongues if you are (surprise) already aware of the occurrence and convinced it should happen to you. Apparently the Holy Spirit only gives the gift to people who believe the gift exists and that they should be exhibiting them. How convenient that is.

    There is nothing wrong with convenience, but if it is not Biblical, it is dubious. And if not Biblical, you have to ask yourself where they came up with that position. Was it divine revelation, or did they notice that only people who thought that they were supposed to be speaking in tongues did? How much do you want to bet it’s the second?

    I see no mention of tongues prior to their emergence at Pentecost. So the apostles would appear to have done this without it being first explained to them – so from where did their clear understanding come?

    Are the tongues of the Assemblies of God the “gibberish” type of tongues or the “groaning unutterable words” type of tongues? Do they have the position that the tongues are a legitimate language of some kind, or that they are the transcendence of language?

  2. Nathan said

    The Assemblies of God certainly have other problems in relation to tongues, as well. See my previous post. I would hope (and feel confident) that I have been filled with the Spirit in the Ephesians 5:18 sense of the phrase. However, the AGs would deny this for my lack of tongues-speak.
    As for what tongues-style they use, I am not quite sure. You may be able to find something on their website; however, they do not address it specifically under their tongues FAQs.

  3. Nathan said

    I used the AG quote (in this original post) because it was the best statement I had concerning the argument and experience sequence. It is convenient that they have such a circular logic.

    As I grow to become more open to the continuationist argument, I would unlikely pattern my thought process after the Assembly of God church. I would think (from my experience), more often than not, that the AGs are an example of the extreme and even a misuse of the gifts. You will find fewer AGs on the theological circuit. If I become convinced of the continuationist argument, I will always hold to a primacy of the written, inspired, preserved Word.

    I, too, struggle with the lack of documented practice of the “sign” gifts from the 2nd century up to the end of the 19th century. Part of my (prior) cessationist argument would have been from silence. This is logical and practical (in my opinion), but nevertheless, it is not biblical. That is why I have embarked on my current journey to examine these things again.

  4. Ken said

    I was a member of a AG church for 20 years. I have a BA in bible from their college in springfield. I left that church and now attend a conservative cessasionist Presbyterian OPC. I have read many documets, books, position papers of all the cessasionists and have not found a single argument in any of their presentations that could not be reasonably refuted by scripture. My experience in speaking in tongues is a great comfort to me and a personal sorce of edification.

    I am quite willing to change my understanding if I can be shown by scripture. Most of the theology I learn from the AG in several areas I have abandoned (Premilinialism, Arminian vodoo, Entertainment worship, Name it claim it wealth gospel) There are a host of theological errors that I use to embrace, yet now I am grateful to God for teaching me the error of my ways. Most things I believed were cultural and not supported by scripture. I have repented many times and God has not dissapointed me yet.

    With that said, I am more convinced today that God continues to pour out ALL THE GIFTS to His people. The cessationist suffers from his understanding and demonstrates the ineffectiveness of the Diciples prior to the day of Pentecost. They show an independence from the leading of the Spirit, as they trust in their own power and miss the power supplied by God. The purpose of Pentecost was to make them effective to/be witnesses. Most Cessationist I know would be envious of AG evangelism and mission out reach effectiveness. (Though their growth is remarkable, but they have struggled more of late due to poor theology and modernity)

    It is no suprise that the gifts disappered from the church after the disciples died. The sinful nature of man strives against the spirit of God. We are constantly fighting the flesh and striving to work out God’s work in our flesh. Thus the iniquity of believers who believe more in them selves than in the power of God. Remember, the early church was formed in a time determined by God to be the fullness of time, when Christ the messiah came. It is no coincidence that this time in history great persecution came upon God’s people and required them to be sure of their faith. Even Peter faltered under this pressure. Paul reminded the church that our weapons are not carnal, but spiritual. They are mighty for the tearing down of strongholds. The greatest persecution of believers occured during the formation of the church and God saw fit to equip His church with every spiritual blessing in the heavenly relm.

    Why due the cessationsist rage? Are they so confident in the flesh that they don’t require gifts from the Spirit. Jesus could not do many miricles in His home town because of their unbelief. This is not unique. God’s grace is limited by sinfulness and unbelief. We should repent from our doubt and seek and implor our savior to reveal His truth to us.

    I hope this note will encourage you as you seek to know the truth. If all we understand is the “baptism of John” it is sometimes necessary for God to send us someone to explain the nature of the Spirit more fully. God’s blessings be upon you.

    love in Christ & His Spirit.

  5. Scott said

    good stuff Nathan I’m going jump into this on the weekend until then–
    Covenant Fellowship in PA(Reformed Charismatic church)is doing a series on First Corinthians 13-14–the series is on the Excellencies of Love and the gift of the Spirit etc.

    This sermon below I believe speaks to some of your questions about experience and biblical understanding. He carefully defines the gift of prophecy from the Scriptures.

    I would be curious for your thoughts.

    The Gift of Prophecy
    Kenny Lynch / December 4, 2005 / 1 Corinthians 14:1-5
    # Download Sermon (12.1 mb)
    # Download Sermon Quotes (PDF)
    # “Take It Home” Questions

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