The Strange Fire conference last weekend seems to have produced a vast amount of reverberation for one reason and another. Tim Challies here appears to be a voice of reason, as so often.
Cyberspace is no doubt filled with lots of words appertaining to the conference and subject, but here are a few more:
- How much do we talk past each other? Cessationists and continualists both speaking to one another and yet so very often talking past one another. It is interesting that earlier in the year, there appeared a furore of a lesser measure as a result of Tope Koleoso speaking at the Desiring God conference. See a response to that here. Do we take time to understand each others’ positions?
- I am a cesssationist, but I am aware there are men whose “shoe’s latchet i am not worthy to loose” who hold to a continualist viewpoint. Such men like John Piper, Wayne Grudem and Tope Koleoso are utterly sound in gospel truth but advocate the continuing nature of some of the gifts. As in baptism issues, can it not be that we share deep respect for each other whilst realizing that we part company on this issue?
- We all believe in the true working of the Holy Spirit. But this must be judged by Scripture. So are the happenings according to the Word? Is Christ being magnified? Is character being displayed in line with the fruit of the Spirit?
- We all believe that God gives gifts to strengthen His church, extend His kingdom and glorify his name. The dispute is over whether some of those gifts were solely for the establishing of the church and passed away as a result.
- Very often those who are theoretical continualists are practical cessationists because they faithfully major on the complete and final work of Christ and the complete and final Word of God.
- The key problem as I see it, is that of false conversion. The exhibition of “strange fire” and experience of certain phenomena is taken to be a demonstration that a certain person is now Christian. Such teaching is poison. Someone may have strange experiences and be saved, but they are not saved by the strange experiences and the strange experiences are no indication of salvation. Salvation comes when the gospel is presented and God moves to give faith and the new birth to an individual.
- This is surely where the charismatic movement has caused such havoc. In many ways it is a demonstration of the principles of the Galatian heresy. In Galatia, the false teachers demanded the “gospel plus”. In their case, it was circumcision; in the modern case it is the charismatic phenomenon. And as always with these kinds of things, in the end it is the “plus” that becomes all that matters.
- This is where the Charismatic movement has caused disastrous outcomes. It has led to the gospel being lost amidst the trumpeting of all sorts of claims of this and that.
- The key issue then focuses on what is a Christian. And a Christian is someone who has believed the gospel and is showing the reality of the transformation through their lives.