As we have reminded you a number of times, we have a conference coming up called The Grace Agenda. More information about that can be gathered here, and of course I recommend it to you. But if you know anything about this conference at all, you probably know that Mark Driscoll is one of the speakers.
That said, it was of interest to us to when some other folks we like, the guys at TeamPyro, posted this. Toby Sumpter, from our sister congregation Trinity Reformed, then posted this response, which I commend.
If you are not tired of reading after all that, I wanted to add a few comments on the issue of cessationism. I don’t think we have debated this one deeply enough. I think we have debated it more than enough, but still not deeply enough.
I write this as a thorough-going cessationist, one who believes that the canon of Scripture is closed, and that we will never again have any revelatory gifts that would enable a man to say, “Thus saith the Lord . . .” Neither will we have miraculous sign gifts, which could plausibly authenticate a man as an apostle (2 Cor. 12:12). Jeremiah and Isaiah are in Heaven, and I don’t want anything to do with their wannabees.
To use common parlance, supernatural, revelatory gifts, imparted by the Holy Spirit, and guaranteed by Him, are no more. They are done, ceased, kaput, no mas. If you can’t find it in between Genesis and Revelation, then don’t put it in the sermon. When it comes to these revelatory gifts, the spigot has been turned all the way to the right.
But — and here is where I believe we have not discussed this enough — it does not follow from this truth that the realm of nature is an empty mechanical place, filled with dead stuff being pushed around by blind natural laws. In short, I understand why faithfulness requires us to believe that the canon of Scripture is closed, and that God’s revelatory and authenticating activity has ceased. But why does it require me to believe that human beings cannot be connected in a true, spiritual way, within a spiritual realm, in such a way as to preserve all our fallibility, kinks, blind spots, and such? And yet, despite all that, why can’t the connection still be a genuine one?
I don’t want a deep chasm between natural and supernatural. They are both part of the universe that God made, and they are woven together. So the fact that something is “spiritual” doesn’t make it inspired. Inspiration, of the kind described above, has ceased. But we still have spirits and souls and bodies, and the way they all are connected (within each man and between all men) is not something that we should allow materialistic atheists to define for us. The revelatory gifts have ceased. That does not mean that it is impossible for a man to be fey.
In revelatory times, when the Macedonian man (probably Luke himself), begged that Paul and company come over and help, this was taken (rightly) as guidance from God Himself. If I had such a dream today, I wouldn’t know. I would have to think and pray about it. I would be no more bound to go than I would be bound to go if the Macedonian call had been a phone call (or an email) asking me to come.
The danger comes (and here is where Phil Johnson has a point I sympathize with) when someone in a position of spiritual authority talks about this kind of thing, and he does so in a Christian culture where lots of people think that the revelatory gifts are still operating on all eight cylindars and yet (mysteriously) without the Bible growing in size. The charismatic movement really has shaped the evangelical ethos in some problematic ways.
The danger comes from the other direction (which is where I sympathize with Mark Driscoll) when we ignore part of our nature, and a clear part of the human experience. Note that I am not saying that this experience is any more reliable than the other things we might say and do, depending on the person. I am just saying that it ought not to be ignored. I have been part of too many (non-revelatory and yet sufficiently spooky) circumstances to say otherwise — I am speaking of remarkable guidances, provisions, answers to prayer, striking bits of random knowledge, etc. I would like to see us work out the protocols for how to talk about such things, and think it would be good if Phil and Mark could get together to work it through. I would come too, but my presence there would be less disruptive if I just attended in my dream.
My musings on this remind me of the guy who decided to make peace at Gettysburg by walking between the armies wearing a blue coat and gray trousers. And that worked so well . . .