Cessationists also seem to be as common as the dodo in the pastorate and the pew. Ask most pastors from evangelical churches on their position on miraculous gifts and your response will generally range from continuist to "open but cautious". Rarely will you meet an evangelical pastor who will come out with the traditional Protestant response of cessationism. I believe that there are two main reasons for this.
First, there is enormous cultural pressure to accept the charismata. Try suggesting the gifts have ceased! "What? You mean that my private prayer language isn't from God? You think it's psychosomatic babbling? You're so mean and judgemental." Yet the fact remains, the gifts of the Spirit after the death of the apostles generally disappeared. It was only in the narcissistic 20th and 21st centuries that we saw an 'explosion' in claims to charismatic phenomena. Why is this generation the most anointed in history? Why did God withhold his gifts from saints in former times? What makes us so special?
Second, cessationists are dying out because it's totally uncool to be one. You could only be less cool if you were a dog with a wet nose in a nudist colony. You see, there is the perception that cessationists are hard, cold, spiritually dead, mean-spirited Pharisees who delight in raining on the charismatic parade. Cessationists are Spirit-quenchers. Cessationists believe in Father, Son and Holy Bible. Cessationists are highly strung, tightly wound, emotional retards who need to experience the gifts in order to help them lighten up. Only when the Spirit comes with charismatic power, do they experience the power to love and to stop being judgemental jerks. Well, I'm sorry, but this argument is baseless caricature.
Charismatics do not have sole claim on the power of the Holy Spirit. Indeed, I would argue, that to experience the true power of the Spirit, you should embrace cessationism and that of the Reformed kind. Why?
- Cessationists do experience power. You see, while the cessationist states that the miraculous gifts have ceased, they are not stating that God does not work miraculously for his people. You need only look to C.H Spurgeon as an example. In a previous post, I highlighted Sam Storms citing of Spurgeon pointing out a man in his congregation and miraculously telling him how he made fourpence profit on the Sabbath. Did I mention that Spurgeon was a cessationist? There are examples of similar experiences in the life of John Knox and George Wishart. Again these men were cessationists. That is why I believe Mark Driscoll's rebuke of the Sydney Anglicans for their practical cessationism was uncalled for.
- Cessationists don't put God in a box. There is a world of difference from saying that God can't do something and that God probably won't. For instance, could God part the Red Sea again? Of course. Will he do so again? Probably not. We just believe that God isn't in the habit of repeating redemptive history. The gifts of the Spirit being poured out constitute the redemptive historical acts of God, in Christ by His Spirit in the establishing of the NT church throughout the world. To state that we must have the gifts or we are missing out is every bit as 'God boxing' as the cessationist position.
- Cessationists preserve the glory of NT miracles. I'm sorry, but contemporary appeals to the miraculous tend to be utter crap. When we Christians go raving about the power at Toronto, Lakeland or at a Benny Hinn rally, we just look like a bunch of idiots when these claims to healings prove false. The world looks on with a mixture of amusement and bemusement. Why should they believe the Bible's claims about Christ's miracles if we're constantly championing contemporary charlatans as examples of Messianic power?
- Cessationists believe in genuine experience. Some of the best devotional material has been written by cessationists. I'm thinking of John Owen, Richard Sibbes, C.H Spurgeon, the Bostons, etc. On a personal note, I found that when I stopped chasing charismatic experience, and focused on enjoying the Lord as I prayed and gave thanks I experienced his presence in such a way I couldn't imagine.
- Cessationists believe true experience is churchly. Reformed cessationists believe that all true experience has its root in the ordained means, i.e. right preaching of the Gospel and the right administration of the sacraments. True piety comes not from chasing piety, but from pursuing God through the means he has instituted. As a result, cessationist experience necessitates coming together with the people of God and feeding on Christ. It is anti-individualist and pro-community. It provides a safe haven for experiencing the Lord away from manipulative hypnotic techniques that prey on the vulnerable.
- Cessationists believe that true experience is of grace. So much contemporary experience is tied to works-righteousness. If you will fast and pray, you will get the blessing. If you say 'the Jesus Prayer' 3000 times, you'll experience God. If you go to Brownsville, you'll get power. I'm sorry, but it's all bull. It's Arminian/Pelagian attempts to treat God like a slot machine. The path to true spiritual experience does not say, who will ascend into heaven (or Toronto, etc)?, that is to bring Christ down. Or who will descend into the deep?, that is, to bring Christ up from the dead. True biblical experience is as close as the word of God we confess.
I would normally say something like 'rant over' but I'm trying to prove that cessationists are sweet and nice.