Tuesday, 27 January 2009

Spurgeon, the Prophetic and Gaffin's Deadly Pen

What are cessationists to make of arguments from contemporary experience? In Are Miraculous Gifts for Today? Four Views, Sam Storms (outlining the Third Wave view) quotes (p201, 202) from the autobiography of Charles Spurgeon as an example of contemporary prophecy.

While preaching in the hall, on one occasion, I deliberately pointed to a man in the midst of the crowd, and said, "There is a man sitting there, who is a shoemaker; he keeps his shop open on Sundays, it was open last Sabbath morning, he took ninepence, and there was fourpence profit out of it; his soul is sold to Satan for fourpence!"

The quote goes on to verify the story from the convicted shoemaker's point of view and how this experience led him to faith in Christ.

What should the cessationist make of this? The following response from Richard Gaffin is interesting.

This incident, if it happened as reported, is an instance of Spirit-prompted insight that occurs incalculably and sporadically. But it is hardly evidence...for the lingering presence in the church despite denial and spiritual lethargy, of the gift of prophecy or the word of knowledge. We should note that Spurgeon did not seek this insight, nor did that capacity mark his ministry (he can recall no more than a dozen such instances, remarkable as that may be). And these experiences had nothing to do with seeking anachronistically to replicate the worship scenario of 1 Corinthians 14. (Gaffin, Are Miraculous Gifts for Today p294)

In a footnote on the same page, Gaffin remarks: As a (seriously meant) aside, if Spurgeon's insight is a genuine prophecy, are not Pentecostals and charismatics who are nonsabbatarians obligated to abandon that view? Does not Spurgeon's "prophecy" settle for the church a matter that, according to many evangelicals and others, Scripture does not teach or even teaches the opposite, namely, that the Lord's Day is the Christian Sabbath? Or did Spurgeon get that part wrong? Or am I missing something?

This seems to make sense of the experience IMHO. I've had similar experiences myself. Nevertheless, to say that this is an example of prophecy is way off. Why? Well if prophecy is still here, where are the other gifts? I haven't seen anyone raised from the dead of late. Nor have I heard someone offering a prayer in Medieval French, seen a blind man receive his sight or been transported by the Spirit into evangelistic situations.

3 comments:

steve said...

Again, what is the difference between "prophecy" (as Penties mean it) and "Spirit-prompted insight"?

My question doesn't seem too unlike asking Ian Murray what the difference is between good revivalism and bad revivalism, or Jonathon Edwards to distinguish between good subjectivism and bad subjectivism. And one can't help but think it will come down to "my version is better than the other guy's because I'm me and he's him."

steve said...

Again, what is the difference between "prophecy" (as Penties mean it) and "Spirit-prompted insight"?

My question doesn't seem too unlike asking Ian Murray what the difference is between good revivalism and bad revivalism, or Jonathon Edwards to distinguish between good subjectivism and bad subjectivism. And one can't help but think it will come down to "my version is better than the other guy's because I'm me and he's him."

Alexander Smith said...

Prophecy has an actual meaning. When the prophets of the OT prophesied, they weren't "leading people along a particular path throughout their life", or "calling people to a certain profession, such as ministry", they were giving a prophecy. They were speaking God's word of command and prediction of the future. When the Apostles in the NT prophesied, they weren't helping someone decide between one job or another. They were proclaiming God's Word.

The problem with this "second-order" doctrine of prophecy is, as has been said elsewhere many times, something is either from God or it's not; it's either true and applicable or it's not. One cannot argue that God has given prophecy which isn't binding. This is nonsense. When Isaiah prophesised he wasn't giving an opinion, or a suggestion: he was stating a fact: this will happen, God has spoken.

The muddle has been caused by the likes of Grudem who have diluted charismatic theology and crowbarred it into every other Christian practice. Now any manifestation of the Spirit is appropriated as one Charismatic gift or another, leaving no room for the mysterious, inexplicable, spontaneous work of the Spirit. It's just bad theology. At least Pentecostals know what they're talking about and call a spade a spade.