Monday, July 31, 2006

Next Sunday School Topic

For the new semester beginning in September, I am thinking of the topic of Cessastionism for my Sunday School class.

Cessationism teaches that the charismatic gifts: tongues, prophecy and healing, gifts generally associated with God the Holy Spirit, ceased being practiced early in Church history, either at the Church's reception of the canon or with the death of the last apostle.

As always, I selfishly pick topics that I am interested in. I have never studied Cessastionism thoroughly.

I have a bias going in: for some reason that I can't quite pinpoint, I want cessastionism to be the biblical position. Perhaps it's the excesses of the charismatic practices that have prejudiced my view. However, in the very little that I have studied in this regard, scripture is by no means superficially clear. I am sure there is not simple, slam-dunk enumeration of proof-texts for either side. Just like for the infant-baptism debate, or the end-times debate.

(Although not for the predestination debate—there predestination "wins" either by a careful study or by simple, good-old-fashioned, head-to-head, proof-text mudslinging.)

Intensive study, of course, can change everything. The first time I did a study of eschatology I wanted to be convinced of dispensational premillennialism. Not much is as soothing as believing in an imminent, left-behind style rapture—just the thought of standing in the dessert line at the Marriage Supper of the Lamb while reading post-disappearance comments on the Panda's Thumb is enough to bring a smile to any believer's face. Even so, I expected that a careful examination would actually point to amillennialism. The unanticipated result was that I became persuaded of postmillennialism. So you just never know.

I have ordered a couple books on this subject, including Kenneth Gentry's The Charismatic Gift of Prophecy. I gather he takes a cessationist position, at least in regards to prophesy. His books are always meticulously researched so it will be fascinating to see how compelling he makes his case.

Of course, all this is pending approval through the mysterious proceedings of the secret Star Chamber known as "The Elders" (I mean really, couldn't they come up with a less Machiavellian name?)

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