4 Myths About Cessationism

This article was originally posted at my site. I’m married with four children, an SBC pastor, a PhD candidate at SBTS, and an average Southern Baptist. I’ve authored two books. You can connect with me on Twitter, Facebook, Google+, Udemy, YouTube, and iTunes (Podcast).

cessationism

Nathan Busenitz has an excellent article at The Criplegate titled, “What Cessationism is Not.” Here are 4 myths about cessationism he discusses:

Myth #1: Cessationism is anti-supernatural, denying the possibility of miracles.

When it comes to understanding the cessationist position, the question is not: Can God still do miracles in the world today? Cessationists would be quick to acknowledge that God can act at any time in any way He chooses (Psalms 115:3). . . So, the question is not: Can God still do miracles?

Rather, the definitive question is this: Are the miraculous gifts of the New Testament still in operation in the church today–such that what was the norm in the days of Christ and the apostles ought to be expected today?

Myth #2: Cessationism is founded on one’s interpretation of “the perfect” in 1 Corinthians 13:10.

(1) Some (such as F.F. Bruce) argue that love itself is the perfect.

(2) Some (such as B.B. Warfield) contend that the completed canon of Scripture is the perfect.

(3) Some (such as Robert Thomas) contend that the mature church is the perfect.

(4) Some (such as Thomas Edgar) see the believer’s entrance into the presence of Christ (at the moment of death) as the perfect.

(5) Some (such as Richard Gaffin) see the return of Christ (and the end of this age) as the perfect.

(6) Some (such as John MacArthur) view the eternal state (in a general sense) as the perfect.

In any case, my point here is simply this: The interpreter can take any of the above positions, and still remain a cessationist. In fact, there are cessationists who hold to each of the positions listed above (as the names I’ve listed indicate).

Myth #3: Cessationism is an attack on the Person or work of the Holy Spirit.

In fact, just the opposite is true. Cessationists are motivated by a desire to see the Holy Spirit glorified. They are concerned that, by redefining the gifts, the continuationist position cheapens the remarkable nature of those gifts, lessening the truly miraculous working of the Spirit in the earliest stages of the church.

Cessationists are convinced that, by redefining healing, the charismatic position presents a bad testimony to the watching world when the sick are not healed. By redefining tongues, the charismatic position promotes a type of nonsensical gibberish that runs contrary to anything we know about the biblical gift. By redefining prophecy, the charismatic position lends credence to those who would claim to speak the very words of God and yet speak error.

This, then, is the primary concern of cessationists: that the honor of the Triune God and His Word be exalted—and that it not be cheapened by watered-down substitutes.

Myth #4: Cessationism is a product of the Enlightenment.

Perhaps the easiest way to demonstrate this final point is to cite pre-Enlightenment Christian leaders who held to a cessationist position. It is, after all, difficult to argue that John Chrysostom’s fourth-century theology was a result of 18th-century European rationalism.

1. John Chrysostom (c. 344–407):

“This whole place [speaking about 1 Corinthians 12] is very obscure: but the obscurity is produced by our ignorance of the facts referred to and by their cessation, being such as then used to occur but now no longer take place.”

(Source: John Chrysostom, Homilies on 1 Corinthians, 36.7. Chrysostom is commenting on 1 Cor 12:1–2 and introducing the entire chapter. Cited from 1–2 Corinthians, in the Ancient Christian Commentary Series, 146.)

2. Augustine (354–430):

“In the earliest times, the Holy Spirit fell upon them that believe and they spoke with tongues, which they had not learned, as the Spirit gave them utterance. These were signs adapted to the time. For there was this betokening of the Holy Spirit in all tongues [languages] to show that the gospel of God was to run through all tongues over the whole earth. That thing was done for a sign, and it passed away.”

(Source: Augustine, Homilies on the First Epistle of John, 6.10. Cf. Schaff, NPNF, First Series, 7:497–98.)

3. Theodoret of Cyrus (c. 393–c. 466):

“In former times those who accepted the divine preaching and who were baptized for their salvation were given visible signs of the grace of the Holy Spirit at work in them. Some spoke in tongues which they did not know and which nobody had taught them, while others performed miracles or prophesied. The Corinthians also did these things, but they did not use the gifts as they should have done. They were more interested in showing off than in using them for the edification of the church. . . . Even in our time grace is given to those who are deemed worthy of holy baptism, but it may not take the same form as it did in those days.”

(Source: Theodoret of Cyrus, Commentary on the First Epistle to the Corinthians, 240, 43; in reference to 1 Cor 12:17. Cited from 1–2 Corinthians, ACCS, 117).

Note: Proponents of continuationism, like Jon Ruthven (in his work, On the Cessation of the Charismata), also acknowledge cessationist views in other church fathers (like Origen in the 3rd century, and Ambrosiaster in the 4th century).

Additionally, to this list, we could include the most well-known name of the middle ages, the 13th-century scholastic, Thomas Aquinas.

You can find Busenitz’s full article here. I’ve only provided brief excerpts above. His full article is worthy of your time and attention.

What are your thoughts?

This article was originally posted at my site. I’m married with four children, an SBC pastor, a Teaching Assistant for Bruce Ware & Greg Allison and a PhD student at SBTS, and an average Southern Baptist. I’ve authored two books. You can connect with me on Twitter, Facebook, Google+, Udemy, YouTube, and iTunes (Podcast).

The SBC’s Strengths, Weaknesses, Engagement of Young Leaders, etc.

The SBC's Strengths, Weaknesses, Engagement of Young Leaders, etc.

Baptist 21 recently interviewed the three candidates for SBC President. The vote will take place next Tuesday, June 10 in Baltimore, MD. My interview is included below and was originally posted at B21. Ronnie Floyd’s interview can be found here. Dennis Kim’s interview can be found here.

1. Will you give us a brief introduction to who you are and what your passion in ministry is?

My name is Jared Moore. I was dead in my sin and God raised me to life in Christ Jesus. Because of Him, I will live forevermore. I’ve served in pastoral ministry in a Southern Baptist context for 14 years. I pastor New Salem Baptist Church in Hustonville, KY. My wife’s name is Amber. We have three children and one child due to arrive on October 30.

My passion for ministry is discipleship. We must take the gospel to the ends of earth, baptize the repentant, and teach them all that Christ has commanded (Matt. 28:18-20). Every ministry of the church must serve to fulfill this disciple-making commission.

2. Serving as the President of the SBC is a massive time commitment. Why are you willing to commit to such a task?

I am willing to serve Southern Baptists as President because an average voice can be helpful in the leadership of the Southern Baptist Convention. I serve a church that averages around 60 people in attendance each Sunday. I am an average Southern Baptist seeking to represent rank and file Southern Baptists. Most Southern Baptist churches are small. Yet, most of the leadership in the SBC comes from large churches. I believe large churches should be represented in Southern Baptist leadership. But, small churches should be represented as well. It has been over 40 years since a small church leader was elected as SBC President. My prayer is that many more small church leaders will be nominated for SBC President in the future, and that many more will serve on the various committees appointed by the President in the future. If elected, I will appoint many faithful Southern Baptists to serve who have never served before. The appointments will represent the diversity of the SBC by being multi-generational and multi-ethnic, while also pulling from small and large churches in rural and urban areas.

3. How do you think your gifts & vision will help the SBC?

I think my gifts and vision will help the SBC because I am just like the pastor down the street pastoring a local Southern Baptist Church near you. In other words, my gifts and vision are not unique to me, but are possessed by millions of other Southern Baptists. My goal in being nominated for SBC President is not to be exalted, but to bring the Presidency to the average Southern Baptist. Pastor and lay person, you do not need to be a celebrity, or preach like past SBC Presidents, or be someone who Baptist historians remember in order to be qualified to pastor or serve at a Southern Baptist Church. You only must meet the biblical qualifications and remain faithful to your calling. I simply want to encourage Southern Baptists in their efforts to fulfill the Great Commission.

Furthermore, SBC Presidents should not pretend to be able to provide the answers to the problems facing thousands of local churches serving in different communities and contexts than they serve. Therefore, my goal is not to tell Southern Baptists “how” they should be doing ministry to get results. I simply want to encourage Southern Baptists to remain faithful to Scripture. The inerrant word of God is sufficient for all that ails the SBC as the BF&M2K confesses (Article I). Southern Baptists, continue to say what the Bible says, preach the saving gospel, baptize the repentant, and teach them all that Christ has commanded (Matt. 28:18-20). If no one repents, don’t give up. Pray and labor until God brings all sinners from death into life.

4. What is one of the greatest strengths of the SBC? Why?

The greatest strength of the SBC is her desire for all nations to be saved, and her appropriation of this desire into the various ministries of the Cooperative Program (IMB, NAMB, SBTS, NOBTS, SWBTS, SEBTS, MBTS GGBTS, and the ERLC) and other SBC ministries not supported through the CP (Lifeway, Guidestone, WMU, etc.). We not only desire the world to be saved, but we are attempting to save the world by training one another, and by sending one another to preach the gospel, plant churches, and fulfill the Great Commission.

5. What is one of the greatest weaknesses of the SBC? Why? How can we address it?

One of the greatest weaknesses of the SBC is that we are sometimes blinded by our desire for the salvation of souls. We long for the salvation of souls so much that we sometimes use questionable methods in our evangelism, and we refuse to practice loving and consistent Biblical discipline in our churches (Matt. 18:15-20). Yet, Scripture is sufficient. What separates the church from the world is not her toys but her intimate fellowship with God through Christ. What could possibly be greater than knowing the living God? Our hearers have the privilege of knowing the living God if they will simply repent of sin and trust in Christ for salvation! We must offer this good news to the world, and if the world had rather have the temporary common gifts of God (like toys and prizes) than eternal life in Christ, we must preach and teach and pray until they see the value of Christ. Christ is the ultimate gift of God (John 3:16)! We must win our hearers with the gospel, and they will continue repenting of sin and believing the gospel to the end as well.

6. What is one of the most encouraging trends right now in SBC life?

The most encouraging trend in the SBC is a growing desire to make disciples, not merely to make converts. More and more Southern Baptists are emphasizing Christ’s command to deny oneself, pick up one’s cross, and follow Him (Matt. 16:24). Praise God that Southern Baptists are willing to hand their hearers a cross, “For whoever wishes to save his life will lose it; but whoever loses his life for” Christ’s sake will find it (Matt. 16:25)!

7. What is one of the most discouraging trends right now in the SBC?

One of the most discouraging trends is that we have a tendency to think that using “the proper method” or “the proper contextualization” will produce our desired results. Then, we are discouraged when we do not get our desired results. Of course, we should be examining our ministries, always looking for other avenues to share the gospel, seeking to be more effective in our gospel presentation, but Southern Baptists must always remember that we cannot raise the dead. We may equip every Southern Baptist with the finest training, the most effectual methodology, and the most Christ-like contextualization, and still decline in baptisms and membership. Another Voice must be heard along with our voices. We must pray, preach and teach until our hearers hear His voice. In the words of Charles Spurgeon, “Look, Sir, you may study your sermon. You may examine the original of your text. You may critically follow it out in all its bearings. You may go and preach it with great correctness of expression, but you cannot quicken a soul by that sermon! You may go up into your pulpit. You may illustrate, explain and enforce the Truth of God with mighty rhetoric. You may charm your hearers—you may hold them spellbound—but no eloquence of yours can raise the dead . . . Another voice than ours must be heard! Another power than that of thought or persuasion must be brought into the work or it will not be done” (“Come from the Four Winds, O Breath!”)!

8. How can the SBC better engage and keep younger leaders?

The best way to engage and keep young leaders is to show them the worth of the Cooperative Program and her ministries. Also, we must involve young leaders in the decision-making processes of the SBC. Having been set apart by Southern Baptist Churches as leaders in pastoral ministry, young leaders are qualified to serve in SBC leadership as well. Let’s involve them more.

9. What 1 admonition would you give to younger SBCers about something that needs to change with them?

As a young leader, I want to share what I’ve learned from leaders who have come before me. Young leaders, we cannot reach the world more effectively and efficiently with the gospel on our own. We need to keep the “meat” and spit out the “bones” of those who came before us. The Cooperative Program is “meat” not “bones.” The Cooperative Program is still the best avenue through which to give in order to train pastors and missionaries for the sake of reaching the world with the gospel. If we try to create something similar to the Cooperative Program, It will take us many generations, and our “new missions endeavor” will be susceptible to the same weaknesses we may currently see in the Cooperative Program or her ministries. In other words, instead of spending many generations building something new that is susceptible to error too, let’s get involved in the local, state, and national conventions now for the sake of correcting the weaknesses we may see in the Cooperative Program or her ministries, and for the sake of learning from those who are currently laboring. What if the Cooperative Program and her ministries are capable of being all that we want them to be in our generation and in the generations to come, if we’ll come alongside of and sweat and bleed with other Southern Baptists today?

10. Recently concern has been raised that state conventions are not following through on the Great Commission Resurgence Task Force suggestions, especially moving more money to international missions. How would you address this problem, and how would you counsel younger Southern Baptists to think about it?

If church leaders in the states disagree with their conventions’ decisions, then they need to take their concerns to their DOM’s, State leaders, and State conventions. They need to nominate and elect state Presidents to help address their concerns.

Concerning younger Southern Baptists, we must be patient and consistent. We must understand that correcting whatever issues we see takes time. Plus, we need to hear the wisdom and reasoning of those who came before and those who are currently serving. The question is not, “Is the SBC everything we want it to be today?” The question is, “Are we willing to labor, sweat, and bleed with other Southern Baptists today so that the SBC can be all that we want it to be tomorrow?” Are you willing?

Anti-Calvinist No More: I Repented

Anti-Calvinist No More

This article was originally posted at my site. I’m married with three children, an SBC pastor, a PhD student at SBTS, and an average Southern Baptist. I’ve authored two books. You can connect with me on Twitter, Facebook, Google+, and YouTube.

I grew up attending a Church of God of Prophecy in Sparta, TN with my parents and three sisters. My parents still attend Shiloh Church of God of Prophecy today. My dad is a deacon, and my mom has taught Sunday school and Children’s Church. It’s a small family church, made up of my aunts, uncles, cousins, and other believers. I first heard God’s word and understood His grace and love for me in Christ at this church. Members of this small church loved me. Some of my fondest memories of observing the genuine constant repentance and faith in Christ of Christians originated here.

When I was fifteen years of age, I started attending another church, a Southern Baptist church with a friend. I publicly repented of my sin and trusted in Christ at a youth lock-in when I was 17 years of age. I had heard the gospel for years, but I had never grasped the concept of salvation by grace through faith alone in Christ alone. My good works could not save me. I needed God to save me. I surrendered to preach a year later when I was 18 years of age. This church put me through an internship, and they ordained me once another church was willing to call me into pastoral ministry in an official capacity.

When I was 20 years of age, I started my first paid pastoral ministry position. I was a part-time youth pastor. Unfortunately, I had not read a book to completion that can I remember, other than the Bible. I was against using commentaries in sermon preparation, for the Spirit would tell me what the text meant and I would give this truth to God’s people. These arrogant presuppositions were not helpful, but left me largely unteachable. Nevertheless, I was enamored with other preachers in the Southern Baptist Convention. My only understanding of Calvinism came from the negative sermons of Southern Baptist preachers. The result was not good. I understood a caricature of Calvinism instead of the doctrines of Grace as espoused by Calvinists. The result was tumultuous. At a low-point in my ministry, when I was 21 years of age and in my first full time youth pastor position in a Southern Baptist Church, with the pastor out of town I held an altar-call during morning worship to pray for the SBC because there was a heresy sweeping the convention. This heresy was called “Calvinism.” The altar was full of people praying. My diatribe against Calvinism continued as I wrote often on Baptist Fire, blasting Calvinists for their heresy. I was an Anti-Calvinist. Calvinists were anti-evangelism, fatalistic, deniers of free-will, blasphemers of God’s holiness, etc. Boy, was I wrong…

To make a long story short, there were several factors that made me repent of my Anti-Calvinism:

1) A friend was converted from a life of drugs and other forms of immorality to Christ when he was around 17 years of age. At the prodding of his non-Calvinist grandpa, he began reading and listening to John Macarthur. He adopted the five points of Calvinism, and we had many theological conversations discussing Reformed theology over several years. He pointed me to several verses that demanded contextual interpretation. At the very least, he showed me why Calvinists believed what they believed. Scripture was the reason. Thus, I had to rethink my caricature of Calvinism as heresy.

2) Around the same time, I was working on a B. A. in Biblical Studies at Trinity College of the Bible and Theological Seminary out of Newburgh, IN. There were several Calvinists that taught here, even though their President and Staff Evangelist were not Calvinists. We used the textbooks of Calvinists, and I heard the lectures of Calvinists. They taught me that God was 100% sovereign and man was 100% responsible. They explained why Calvinists believed their doctrines and why Arminians did as well. I learned, at least, that both groups were trying to understand and explain Scripture. Calvinists were not heretical, but historically orthodox and textual.

3) Around the same time, I was studying the Bible every day through devotion books. Since I was preparing sermons often and teaching Sunday school, I needed something short and refreshing for daily study relationship with the Lord. I was tired of the shallow devotions. I wanted something “deeper” that would make me think. I searched on Amazon, and John Piper’s devotions came up–A Godward Life and Pierced by the Word. I read some of the reviews, and I decided to buy some. I found Piper’s devotions very comforting and enjoyable. They helped to answer my own wrong-headed separation of the secular and the sacred in my daily life. He helped me to understand that savoring God is the reason humanity exists. Once again, I heard Calvinists in their own words, which made me repent of the heretical caricature I had placed in their mouths.

4) Around the same time, I was starting to minister as a youth pastor. Before I entered the ministry, I had the naive idea that all Christians would be happy to be involved in the Lord’s work. I was wrong. I found that many Christians often needed something more than God and Christ and the truth of Scripture to motivate them–like fun, games, food, excitement, and clicks. I found this reality discouraging, but eye-opening. Pragmatism was not only propagated in the church, but it was expected by the church. Yet, I found myself disagreeing with the methodology of those who shared my non-Calvinist soteriology. The Calvinists that I was reading and listening to at the time, however, agreed with me concerning methodology. Macarthur’s Ashamed of the Gospel was earth-shattering for me. He was arguing contextually what I believed and helping me to clarify my views on biblical methodology. How could a Calvinist–a fatalist–argue so strongly for the church’s responsibility? Yet again, I found the methodology of Calvinists to be more biblical than other non-Calvinists near me in the SBC (This largely isn’t the case today; Calvinists and non-Calvinists alike are pragmatic in the SBC today; and to be fair, many Calvinists and non-Calvinists are not pragmatic as well.).

5) Also at Trinity, I had a class on hermeneutics that changed my method for interpreting Scripture. Previously, I asked, “What does this text mean to me?” And, whatever the “Holy Spirit” gave me, was what I preached. My hermeneutics class helped me to rightly divide the word of truth. I needed to do much work before I jumped to my own thoughts about the text–like understanding the author’s meaning, his recipient’s understanding, the historical and literary contexts, and how to apply these truths to the lives of Christians today. The Holy Spirit was active in this process from beginning to end, but I must be in under the text, not forcing my opinions upon it. In reading Calvinists, they tried to understand and say what the text said. I also listened to John Macarthur’s sermons, Alistair Begg’s sermons, and the White Horse Inn many times in my early years of ministry. These three programs helped me to see historical-grammatical hermeneutics applied and appropriated in a manner that was faithful to Scripture. Yet, these men were all Calvinists. How could heretics be so textually sound?

To summarize, once I understood that Calvinists were merely arguing that salvation belongs to the Lord from beginning to end, I repented of my anti-Calvinism. I am no longer an anti-Calvinist. God is 100% sovereign and man is 100% responsible. Southern Baptists need to listen to Calvinists explain their positions before they place a “heretical caricature” in the mouths of Calvinists like I did. I am still against Hyper-Calvinism today, but so is every other Southern Baptist Calvinist I know. Hyper-Calvinism is not the Calvinism that primarily exists within the SBC. Calvinists in the SBC affirm the Baptist Faith and Message 2000, after all.

I wonder if there are any Southern Baptists out there who are anti-Calvinists like I was. If you are a Southern Baptist anti-Calvinist, please listen to Calvinists in their own words before you condemn them for something they don’t believe. All Calvinists in the SBC affirm the Baptist Faith and Message 2000, and many of the founders of the Southern Baptist Convention were 5-point Calvinists. Let’s not put words in their mouths. Instead, let us seek to understand their position before we condemn them. Let’s converse and debate back and forth while realizing that this is a debate between brothers, not a debate between Southern Baptists and heretics. Praise the Lord!

What are your thoughts?

This article was originally posted at my site. I’m married with three children, an SBC pastor, a PhD student at SBTS, and an average Southern Baptist. I’ve authored two books. You can connect with me on Twitter, Facebook, Google+, and YouTube.

Issues in the SBC

I was recently interviewed by Scott Oakland at Reformed Cast about my book 10 Sacred Cows in Christianity That Need to Be Tipped. I ended up discussing several issues that I see in the SBC:

1. “Entertaining Sermons”: Some preachers pursue entertaining their hearers while preaching since we live in an entertainment-centered culture. Biblically speaking, however, the word of God should keep the attention of God’s people because it’s God-breathed (2 Tim. 3:16-17). Where the Bible speaks, God speaks.

2. “Anything for Souls”: Several churches bribe their hearers to attend worship so people will hear the gospel, but such practices undercut the value of the gospel. These practices are antithetical to repentance of sin and faith in Christ for reconciliation to God.

3. “Numbers Equal Revival”: There’s a temptation to believe that if our churches are growing then we’re experiencing revival. Yet, I believe the New Testament church was “revived” even when sinners were killing Christians, even when their numbers were decreasing. Faithfulness to God is the goal. If we’re not being obedient to God’s word, we’re not experiencing revival regardless how much our numbers are increasing.

4. “Experience-Centered Worship”: There’s a me-centered aspect in Christian worship today that is reinforced by pastors and worship leaders selling a “worship experience.” Yet, God should be the foundation, point, and goal of worship, not our experience.

5. “Nostalgia”: Christians often worship worship instead of worshiping God. Yet, God is worthy of worship when we feel like worshiping Him and when we don’t. We should come together and proclaim the truth and teach one another by singing together in corporate worship when we feel like it and when we don’t. God is always worthy of worship.

6. “Relevant Sermons”: There’s an emphasis today on pastors “making the Bible relevant.” Yet, if the Bible is God-breathed, God’s revelation of Himself to mankind, then His word is always relevant. The preacher’s job and the teacher’s job is to help his or her hearers see how relevant the Bible is.

7. “Relativistic Interpretation”: In Bible studies in the local church and in small group studies, there is this mentality of acceptance of virtually all interpretations of Scripture. The problem, however, is that if all interpretations are valid, then no interpretation is absolutely true. We must return to telling one another, “I appreciate your thoughts, but you’re wrong, and here’s why.”

8. “An Easy Life”: In children and youth ministries and in Christian parenting, we want children to attend worship, but we don’t care too much about why they want to attend. We basically bribe children with candy, prizes, games, etc. to memorize Scripture and attend worship when we should be presenting God as the goal. Prizes won’t produce multi-generational Christianity, but God will. He is the One we know intimately, and our children actually have the highest privilege of humanity–they can know God intimately as His children through the finished work of His Son Jesus Christ.

9. “Tolerant Love”: One of the most glaring sins in Southern Baptist Churches is the lack of Biblical discipline. We have redefined God’s love and loving one’s neighbor to include “tolerance of unrepentant public sin” in spite of the clear commands of Scripture.

10. “Successful Ministry”: Many pastors are discouraged in the SBC due to arbitrary unbiblical quotas encouraged by others and their own “worldly definition of success.” I want to free pastors to pursue faithfulness to God’s word and to seek to please God as they depend on the blood of Christ alone to justify them.

This interview is about an hour long. You can click “play” below and listen to it here.

Or, you can right click here, and save the mp3 file to your hard drive.

I would love hear your thoughts about this interview.