I’ve been asked by many about my stance regarding Cessationism and MacArthur’s views on charismatics. Simply, without diverging to far from my typical, messianic Jewish posts, I want to render a quick response.
Cessationism is, in simplest terms, a belief in the operation of the gifts ceasing to exist beyond the foundations of the Church’s establishment. Meaning, that the gifts were needed to form the Church during the times of the apostles, but since the perfection came (the canonized Scriptures) the need for the gifts have ceased. I realize there’s more to the meaning than this; however, this should suffice for the purpose of this argument.
MacArthur states, “. . . this is a movement made up largely of non-Christians . . .” and when asked about his conference being divisive, he states:
“I would agree with that. Truth by its very nature is divisive. It’s why Jesus said I came to bring a sword, to divide people, families. Truth by its very nature is separated from error. And it is far more important to be divided by the truth than united by error . . .”
There comes a time when one has to ask the obvious question: Who determines the eternal destination of another? Yes, we will recognize them by their fruit. Yes, there are false doctrines out there and wolves in sheep’s clothing. But, overall, how can one really know the eternal outcome of another’s soul?
What Cessationism boils down to in a nutshell is this: Those people are weird (speaking about Charismatics) and I don’t want to be identified as one of them; I’m nervous about speaking in tongues; I don’t know if I can explain these miraculous things happening around me, etc. It is essentially, uncomfortable, which is why in my opinion we have cessationists in the first place. Not to mention, “I don’t want to look like an idiot to the outside world” mentality.
On the other hand, within the charismatic movement there are strange things that even I am uncomfortable with; however, is this means to dismiss the entirety of it? By no means! We are called to discern, test, and prove the correctness of the gifts, and frankly, the modus operandi of them and those who walk in them.
Dr. Michael L. Brown posted an excerpt from A.W. Tozer about this very thing on his Facebook page, which I then reposted on my FB page at, https://www.facebook.com/adrian.bernal (http://www.charismanews.com/opinion/41471-an-open-letter-to-john-macarthur-from-a-w-tozer-he-being-dead-yet-speaketh)for those of you interested. And, since Tozer did a better job than I can ever do, I’ll leave it up to him to make many of the same points I would have written about.
Where my concern rests in is this: From where does this cessation movement come from? Like many other church doctrines, this idea about the presence and the power of the Holy Spirit ceasing after the formation of the church comes from a lack of knowledge of First-Century Judaism; specifically, what I call Messianic Judaism instead of Early Christianity, because the “early church” was, indeed, Jewish in more ways than naught.
What do I mean? Well, like many Christian theologies, the Jewishness of the New Testament is lost and read from a Western perspective, not an Eastern or first-century Jewish perspective. The fullness of the gospel has not gone out into all the world, the Jews (overall) have not come to the saving grace through faith in the Messiah, the reign of Christ during the millennial reign has not begun, etc.; thus, the need for the Holy Spirit is greater than ever.
“Shema, O Israel: The Lord our God, the Lord is One. You shall love the Lord your God with all your heart, and with all your soul, and with all of your strength” (Deuteronomy 6:4-5, NIV). The last time I checked this command was not spiritualized, nor was it diminished when Yeshua came; rather, it was, is, and still is meant to be upheld. The problem with cessationists is that they want to understand the entirety of the Scriptures with their minds only and then replace Scriptures to their world views outside of emotion and experience. This doesn’t work when you factor in several things: (1) God is still God; thus, Yeshua and the Holy Spirit are still very much alive and factored in. (2) There are still Jews; therefore, unfulfilled promises specifically to them are still in effect until fulfilled. Yes, the promises are there for non-Jews too, but the non-Jews have not replaced the Jews. This is a common error among American Christians; especially, among the Baptists. Sorry, guys, you haven’t replaced us, nor do I ever think you ever will, nor does the Bible teach this. And, (3) the Body of Messiah is not completed, nor perfected.
These are merely three logical factors as to why the Charismatic movement is alive and why it is needed. On the other hand, MacArthur and the like are playing with fire. Maybe not the “Strange Fire” they are addressing, but the greater, more grave fire that is set aside for the ungodly. If you ask me, that’s not a fire I want to play with, nor have I got enough fire-fighting skills to quench those flames.
See, Adrian Warnock, “Strange Fire – A Charismatic Response to John MacArthur,” by Adrian Warnock, October, 19, 2013 <http://www.patheos.com/blogs/adrianwarnock/2013/10/strange-fire-a-charismatic-response-to-john-macarthur/> (accessed 23 October, 2013).