In the last installment of his series, blogger, author and pastor Tim Challies examines a movement known as continuationism or “charismania” as Bible teacher John MacArthur has dubbed it. Whatever you call this movement, one thing is for sure. It is “a fast-growing movement with disastrous implications.”
The charismatic movement is known for its acceptance of miraculous sign gifts a.k.a. “signs and wonders.” Charismatics believe that the sign gifts are still in operation today. Moreover, the spiritual gifts described in 1 Corinthians 12–14 are said to be the evidence of the infilling of the Holy Spirit. According to Challies, “The miraculous gifts I see and hear in the charismatic movement have only the barest resemblance to the New Testament gifts.”
Now listen to Tim explain why he believes the Holy Spirit does not dispense the miraculous gifts today….
Today I come to the end of the series I’ve titled “Why I Am Not…” The purpose of this series has been to take a look at the things I do not believe and all along it has been my desire to explain rather than persuade. So far I have told why I am not atheist, Roman Catholic, liberal, Arminian, paedobaptist, dispensational, or egalitarian. Today I want to explain why I am not continuationist or, if you prefer, charismatic.
Once again we need to begin with definitions. “Continuationism is the belief that the supernatural gifts of the Holy Spirit taught in the Bible—such as prophecy, tongues, interpretation of tongues, healings, and miracles—have not ceased and are available for the believer today. Continuationism is the opposite of cessationism which teaches that supernatural gifts have ceased either when the canon of Scripture was completed or at the death of the last apostle.”* In other words, this is a matter of whether certain miraculous gifts that were active at one time are still active today. I believe those miraculous gifts have ceased.
Once again, my beliefs on this matter are not easily separated from my background. Growing up in conservative, Reformed churches I knew no continuationists. I knew that such people existed only when I heard my parents speak sheepishly about their early introduction to Pentecostalism. They told us of their attempts to receive the gift and their growing acknowledgement that their tongues-speaking friends were simply uttering repetitive, nonsensical phrases. It was not until I was in my mid-twenties and a baptist that I first encountered tongues. The band at a worship conference entered into a time of “spontaneous worship” and immediately many of the people around me began to make strange sounds. It took me a few minutes to understand what was happening.
A more formal introduction to continuationism came when I encountered Sovereign Grace Ministries. I had first become aware of this ministry through online connections and then through C.J. Mahaney’s books. I attended one of their worship conferences and here I saw what they called prophecy—prophetic songs meant to communicate divine truth to people in the audience. (“The Holy Spirit is giving me a song. I believe this song is for all the people here named Katie. If your name is Katie, please come to the front as the Holy Spirit has something to say to you.”) What I found at that conference and in these churches were people who were godly and kind and committed to Reformed theology, yet also firmly charismatic. Though I was certainly underwhelmed by this example of prophecy, I was so taken by the people, by their love for the Lord, and by their excitement in worship that I returned home wondering whether my family should find a way of joining them. For the first time I saw that continuationism was not necessarily opposed to sound doctrine.
It was at this time and in this context that I began to read, that I began to ponder, and that I began to search the Bible to see what it says about the continuation or cessation of the miraculous gifts. I read defenses of continuationism written by the theologians of the charismatic movement: Wayne Grudem and Sam Storms come to mind. I saw leaders I admire profess their view that the gifts continue to be operative today. I also read MacArthur’s Charismatic Chaos, interviewed Sam Waldron, and read a number of critiques of continuationism. Through it all I became increasingly convinced that the miraculous gifts have ceased. I could not be continuationist.
I am not continuationist because of my understanding of the Bible…. Continue reading
“A Fast-Growing Movement With Disasterous Implications” by Marsha West
See our White Paper on Angels, Demons & Spiritual Warfare