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Part 1: Introduction

I used to walk through Christian book stores and choose my books based on whether or not the author was a charismatic. I would pick up a commentary and turn immediately to 1 Cor. 12 (the section on spiritual gifts). If the author believed that the spiritual gifts were for today, I would put it back on the shelf in disbelief that the store would carry such misleading material. If they did not believe that the gifts were for today – if the author was a “cessationist” – I would consider purchasing the book.

Such was the time when I believed that all those who believed that – i.e., all charismatics – were practicing a different Christianity, at best, or demon possessed, at worst.

I am not a charismatic, and I have my reasons, but I do not feel the same way today as I used to. Let me first define the terms and set up the field of play.

The word “charismatic” can be used in many ways. It is taken from the word “charisma.” Webster’s Dictionary defines it as “a personal magic of leadership arousing special popular loyalty or enthusiasm for a public figure (as a political leader).” Many would say that Barack Obama has charisma in such a way. Charisma is taken from the Greek charisma which means “gift.” Its root, charis, means “grace.”

In Christianity, “charismatic” refers to those who believe that certain “spiritual gifts” such as tongues, prophecy, and gifts of healings, are normative for the church. In the Scriptures, we are told that God gives certain gifts to everyone in the body of Christ. Representative gift lists are mentioned in 1 Cor. 12, Rom. 12, 1 Pet. 4, and Eph. 4. Some of these gifts seem to be natural extensions of the recipients personality (leadership, teaching, encouragement) while others distinguish themselves by their extra-ordinary nature. A charismatic is one who believes that God still gifts people in the church with the extra-ordinary or supernatural gifts and that these gifts are normative in the body of Christ for the extension of God’s message, glory, and grace.

Charismatic is not a denomination, but a trans-denominational theological stance or tradition which can find representation in any denomination or tradition, including Evangelicalism. In fact, I think that the charismatic position (or some variation thereof) is the fastest growing tradition within Evangelicalism.

A cessationist (taken from “cease”), on the other hand, is one who believes that the extra-ordinary gifts ceased in the first century, either at the completion of the New Testament or at the death of the last Apostle. Cessationists believe that the supernatural gifts such as tongues, prophecy, and healings were “sign gifts” that were given for the establishment of the church and then passed away due to a fulfillment of their purpose. They served as a supernatural “sign” from God that the Gospel message being proclaimed was unique and authoritative. Since the Gospel message has been proclaimed and established in the New Testament, cessationists believe that these type of gifts ceased due to an exhaustion of purpose. Therefore, with regards to the “gifts of the Spirit,” there are “permanent gifts” and there are “temporary gifts.”

What would a post be without a chart?

If you can see this (!), you will notice that certain “sign gifts” are revelatory while others are confirmatory. The revelatory gifts are those that reveal God’s message in some way. They are prophetic in nature. Not everyone would agree which gifts belong in this category. Some would not place “word of wisdom” or “word of knowledge” here and one’s placement of tongues will depend on how it is defined (prayer language? prophetic revelation in another language? Gospel proclamation in another language?). Either way, the category describes those gifts which involve a supernatural revelation from God.

The “confirmatory gifts” are those which confirm or provide evidence for the revelatory gifts. In other words, someone cannot just claim to be speaking prophetically on behalf of God. Their message must be confirmed by some undeniable act of extraordinary power. Otherwise, anyone could claim to speak on behalf of God.

Of course the gift of healings have a benevolent purpose as the benefits of such gifts affect people in a wonderful way, but, according to most cessationists (and even some charismatics), the result that a person is healed is the secondary purpose. The primary purpose is to legitimize the message of the healer.

A very important point need to be made (if you don’t get this, don’t even bother engaging in this conversation.): Whether one is a charismatic or a cessationist, all Christians believe in God’s supernatural intervention. Only a deist would claim that God has a “hand-off” approach to history and our lives. It is not that the cessationist does not believe in healings or miracles, it is that they don’t believe in the gifts of healing, miracles, etc. being given to a certain people. Both charismatics and cessationists (should) pray for God’s supernatural intervention, can believe in stories of healings, and can expect God to direct their lives through some sort of divine guidance. In other words, just because someone prayed for healing and believes it happened, this does not make one a charismatic (properly speaking).

However, there does seem to be a higher level of expectation for divine intervention among charismatics than with cessationists. I am not saying whether this is good or bad. Expectation of the power of God can both motivate a Christian’s life or be a cause for great disillusionment.

Part 2: In Defense of Charismatics

I have briefly described what it means to be Charismatic in the theological sense of the word. In essence, it does not have to do with a belief in God’s intervention in history or his willingness or power to perform modern day miracles but, properly speaking, instead has to do with a particular belief often called “continuationism.” As apposed to “cessationism” the “continuationist” believes that the so-called supernatural sign gifts such as tongues, prophecy, and healings (among others) are still active gifts of the Spirit given to people today. The church, according to continuationists, should seek, expect, and promote the use of such gifts. All Charismatics are continuationists and all continuationists, properly speaking, are charismatics (even if you use a small “c”).

Now I want to give a short defense of the Charismatic/continuationist position. Please understand these represent what I personally believe to be the strongest arguments, biblically, theologically, and practically, for the position, but this does not represent an exhaustive list of the arguments.

1. Acts 2 seems to suggest that the gifts of the Spirit (particularly prophecy) would be normative for the church.

Notice especially 14-21 where Peter is explaining to the many Jews gathered to see why these people were speaking in tongues.

Acts 2:14 – “But Peter, standing with the eleven, lifted up his voice and addressed them, ‘Men of Judea and all who dwell in Jerusalem, let this be known to you, and give ear to my words. 15 For these men are not drunk, as you suppose, since it is only the third hour of the day. 16 But this is what was uttered through the prophet Joel: 17 “‘And in the last days it shall be, God declares, that I will pour out my Spirit on all flesh, and your sons and your daughters shall prophesy, and your young men shall see visions, and your old men shall dream dreams; 18 even on my male servants and female servants in those days I will pour out my Spirit, and they shall prophesy. 19 And I will show wonders in the heavens above and signs on the earth below, blood, and fire, and vapor of smoke; 20 the sun shall be turned to darkness and the moon to blood, before the day of the Lord comes, the great and magnificent day. 21 And it shall come to pass that everyone who calls upon the name of the Lord shall be saved.”‘”

Peter is obviously arguing that the events that they are witnessing are evidence of the “last days” prophesied by Joel. Peter believes that the powers being displayed are evidence that the “last days” had begun; included in these “last days” events are great miracles. But more importantly, Peter believes that the pouring out of the Holy Spirit during these days results in specific events: “your sons and your daughters shall prophesy, and your young men shall see visions, and your old men shall dream dreams.” These last days events do not indicate a certain duration or cessation. In fact, it would seem that they will last until the “day of the Lord.” Therefore, it would seem that Peter believes that the giving of such gifts is a perpetual norm of the last days.

2. The entire book of Acts seems to show that the supernatural gifts are common within the Church.

While I don’t believe that this argument is as strong as the last (for it is very difficult to build too much theology from narrative), it would seem that the entire book of Acts – a book devoted to the birth and growth of the Church – illustrates that these type of gifts are normative for the life of the church.

3. All of Scripture supports the idea that it is God’s nature to work in supernatural ways.

If one were to examine all of Scripture, it would seem that, generally speaking and with exceptions here and there, God speaks to his people in supernatural ways. Therefore, the supernatural gifts of the Spirit are evidence of a continuation of God’s presence within the Church serving as a means of comfort, power, and expansion (foreshadowing?) of the Kingdom.

As Jack Deere says,

“If you were to lock a brand-new Christian in a room with a Bible and tell him to study what Scripture has to say about healings and miracles, he would never come out of the room a cessationist” (Jack Deere, Surprised by the Power of the Spirit [Grand Rapids, Mi: Zondervan, 1997], 54).

4.  The New Testament never explicitly states that the supernatural sign gifts would cease.

While this is an argument from silence, it is important to note that the New Testament does not explicitly say that any of the gifts would ever come to an end. In fact, it would seem that the assumption of many New Testament leaders, including Paul, that the “sign gifts” would continue until Christ comes. We have already noted Peter’s testimony above, but also notice what Paul has to say in 1 Cor. 13:

“Love never ends. As for prophecies, they will pass away; as for tongues, they will cease; as for knowledge, it will pass away. 9 For we know in part and we prophesy in part, 10 but when the perfect comes, the partial will pass away. 11 When I was a child, I spoke like a child, I thought like a child, I reasoned like a child. When I became a man, I gave up childish ways. 12 For now we see in a mirror dimly, but then face to face. Now I know in part; then I shall know fully, even as I have been fully known.”

Ironically, many cessationists (including myself at one time), have used this passage to defend a belief in the cessation of the gifts. But, in reality, it speaks better for the continuationist’s position.

Yes, it does say that “tongues will cease” and that prophecy would “pass away,” but notice when Paul believes in the cessation of such gifts will commence: “when the perfect comes.” The question thus becomes, what is “the perfect”? Some cessationists have argued that the “perfect” is the completion of the Scriptures- – the perfect revelation. The idea is that once Scripture had been completed, there was no longer a need for gifts such as prophecy, tongues, or any other prophetic gift. Hence, there was no longer a need for confirmatory gifts such as healings and miracles since their purpose was to authenticate the message of the speaker.

But contextually it is highly unlikely that “the perfect” is the completion of the Scripture. The context suggests that “the perfect” is the second coming of Christ, i.e., the day of the Lord. If this is the case, this passage advocates at least some form of continuationism. Notice the parallelism:

Love never ends. As for prophecies, they will pass away; as for tongues, they will cease; as for knowledge, it will pass away.

For we know in part and we prophesy in part, 10 but when the perfect comes, the partial will pass away.

When I was a child, I spoke like a child, I thought like a child, I reasoned like a child. When I became a man, I gave up childish ways.

For now we see in a mirror dimly, but then face to face.

Now I know in part; then I shall know fully, even as I have been fully known.”

I have highlighted here using formatted text to illustrate how the text seems to function.  Notice that the passing away of tongues and prophecy parallels seeing “face to face” and being “fully known.” It would seem that the best understanding of being “fully known” and seeing “face to face” is not the completion of the New Testament, but the second coming of Christ, for when else will we see “face to face” in Paul’s theology? Paul is looking to the eschaton (end times), believing that all gifts are temporary, but their cessation does not come until Christ comes.

5. Personal Experience

Finally, probably the most powerful testimony to the continuation of the so-called supernatural sign gifts is that of personal experience. If someone has seen or experienced such gifts in their lives, it is very difficult to argue against them. While experience should not be determinative, it would seem that with the lack of conclusive biblical evidence that such gifts have ceased, the believer has a legitimate argument that if they have experienced the gifts then the gifts de facto have not ceased.

I know that this is titled “Why I am Not Charismatic.” I will soon get to this, but I want to do the best I can to give you a balanced understanding of the issue so that we can all work through this important (and often divisive) issue with great integrity.

Part 3: Prophecy and Healings

Having discussed some of the strengths of the continuationist/charismatic position, I would now like to explain why, at this point in my life, I am not a charismatic. I am going to put these in order, but I want to stress the tentativeness of my conclusion. In this, I am not necessarily offering what I believe to be strong arguments against continuationism, but only those arguments that are subjectively persuasive to me. I hope that these arguments genuinely express my position without the normal combative tone that communicates, “This is what I think everyone should believe!”

1. I have never had a genuine charismatic experience.

Considering the relative weakness of any biblical defense for a strong cessationist position, I am very open, biblically and theologically, to continuationism. I used to have an emotional bias against all things charismatic, but I have not had such in years. In fact, I have come to respect and be intrigued with the position due to the scholarship and balance that I find in many contemporary charismatic leaders. However, I have never witnessed anything that I believe to be persuasive evidence that the supernatural sign gifts are normative or even active in the church today. This does not mean that I have not witnessed what I believe to be miracles (I have seen one or two) or God’s intervention and guidance. But I have never witnessed anything that would lead me to believe that someone has, as their gift to the body of Christ, any of the particular gifts – workers of miracles, healings, prophecy, or the like – that I mentioned previously.

Of course, I have heard people give prophecies. During my undergraduate studies, a little over ten years ago, we had a “prophet” come to our school (it was a third wave school) and lay their hands on everyone during the chapel service giving them personal words of prophecy. But it was hard to tell the difference in this and a session of palm reading: the words were so general, a sort of “catch-all” that they could have been applied to anyone: “You have been through much pain lately . . . God knows.” “You are confused about a decision you are up against . . . God says, ‘go with your heart.'” “Be kind to her.”  Yes, people were listening with tears running down their face, but I could not adjust my skepticism and allow for such a breach of conscience. I thought – and still think today – anyone can do this.

If a person is a prophet, they much show some type of undeniable sign. Would God really expect less for the surrendering of my mind? I would and will say to anyone who claims that they are a prophet or have the gift of prophecy, “Why should I listen to you? What evidence do you bring that you are from the Lord?” Look at the examples of those who carried the Lord’s message in the past. Look at Moses, Elijah, Peter, and Paul. The dead were raised, lame walked, and shadows healed. I have never witnessed anyone who spoke on behalf of the Lord – the definition of prophecy – and accompanied such with these type of miracles.

Why would God withhold such attesting signs? It is insufficient to say that people are just supposed to believe if they are of the faith. Opens a door of irresponsibility and leads to a path of destruction, filled with bitterness and disillusionment.

When Moses said that the people would not believe him if he says that he comes with a message from the Lord, he was right. Not only this, but the people would have been right not to believe him. God did not rebuke such a statement saying “If the people have faith – true faith – they will just believe without any evidence at all. Notice the account (my comments are in brackets):

Exodus 4:1-9
“Then Moses said, ‘What if they will not believe me or listen to what I say? [A great and understandable question] For they may say, “The LORD has not appeared to you.”‘ [That is what I would say to anyone who speaks vainly (with empty proclamation) on behalf of the Lord.] 2 The LORD said to him, ‘What is that in your hand?’ [Notice the lack of rebuke from the Lord. God does not want us to blindly believe others when they say they speak on His behalf.] And he said, ‘A staff.’  3 Then He said, ‘Throw it on the ground.’ So he threw it on the ground, and it became a serpent; and Moses fled from it.  4 But the LORD said to Moses, ‘Stretch out your hand and grasp it by its tail ‘ – so he stretched out his hand and caught it, and it became a staff in his hand – 5 ‘that they may believe that the LORD, the God of their fathers, the God of Abraham, the God of Isaac, and the God of Jacob, has appeared to you.’ [Can anyone perform such a miracle without having access to the divine?]  6 The LORD furthermore said to him, [God gives yet another sign, this time without solicitation] ‘Now put your hand into your bosom.’ So he put his hand into his bosom, and when he took it out, behold, his hand was leprous like snow.  7 Then He said, ‘Put your hand into your bosom again.’ So he put his hand into his bosom again, and when he took it out of his bosom, behold, it was restored like the rest of his flesh. [Now we have a healing miracle that was used, not for the benefit of Moses (for God had to give him the disease first) but as an attestation to the prophetic message of Moses. This would further serve to establish Moses’ prophetic gift.]   8 ‘If they will not believe you or heed the witness of the first sign, they may believe the witness of the last sign. [Yet a third sign, unsolicited by Moses but provided by God due to the seriousness of Moses’ bold prophetic proclamation and the protection of the minds’ of the people]  9 ‘But if they will not believe even these two signs or heed what you say, then you shall take some water from the Nile and pour it on the dry ground; and the water which you take from the Nile will become blood on the dry ground.'”

Moral of this story: If someone claims to speak on behalf of God – if someone claims to have a prophetic gift – you have every right and obligation to demand an attesting sign. As well, if you think you are a prophet – if you sincerely believe that God has called you to such a ministry – you need to tell God that you cannot do so without such a sign. If one is not granted to you, then I would be highly suspicious that you are speaking of your own imagination. I would suggest that you adjust your theology to take God’s word more seriously, otherwise your supposed prophetic gift may be causing you to perpetually take the Lord’s name in vain. No small matter.

Least you think I am being overly skeptical, listen to the rebuke of the prophets in Jeremiah’s day:

Jeremiah 23:14-18

“Also among the prophets of Jerusalem I have seen a horrible thing: The committing of adultery and walking in falsehood; And they strengthen the hands of evildoers, So that no one has turned back from his wickedness. All of them have become to Me like Sodom, And her inhabitants like Gomorrah.  15 Therefore thus says the LORD of hosts concerning the prophets, ‘Behold, I am going to feed them wormwood And make them drink poisonous water, For from the prophets of Jerusalem Pollution has gone forth into all the land.’  16 Thus says the LORD of hosts, ‘Do not listen to the words of the prophets who are prophesying to you. They are leading you into futility; They speak a vision of their own imagination, Not from the mouth of the LORD.  17 They keep saying to those who despise Me, “The LORD has said, ‘You will have peace ‘”; And as for everyone who walks in the stubbornness of his own heart, They say, ‘Calamity will not come upon you.’  18 “But who has stood in the council of the LORD, That he should see and hear His word? Who has given heed to His word and listened?”‘”

Prophets of today: Have you really stood in the council of the Lord? Live in fear of such a question.

I have never seen a modern day prophet whose words were backed up by anything substantial. Indeed, I have never heard of one. All I have seen are multiple vain (empty) proclamations. I am sorry to come across so harshly in this matter, but its seriousness is far beyond social niceties. Any misapplication, misunderstanding, or mis-association can destroy people’s lives and their faith (from a human perspective). I have seen it too many times to number.

I am not saying that there is none who is different – who really speaks on behalf of the Lord and backs it up. I am only saying that in my experience this has never happened. I am perfectly open to it, but I have never seen it. Therefore, I am a practical cessationist when it comes to prophecy.

The same can be said about the gift of healings. While I believe that God can and does heal people today, I have never, in my experience, come across someone with the spiritual gift of healing. I am beyond open to it: I yearn for it, I cry for it. I plead with God to send someone to my mother.

But it does not happen. If a group of people pray and God heals someone, this is not evidence for continuationism. Evidence for continuationism would come if someone – some individual – has this gift. If you have this gift, please call me.

If you say, “Its not like that. God simply uses me sometimes to heal. I never know when he is going to do so or when he will deny such a request.” I would say that we are simply talking past each other. In my estimation, you do not have the gift of healing. You, like everyone else, simply have the ability to pray for healing, leaving the answer in the hands of God.

Part 4: A Testimony

This is an excursus or interlude to my series that I think is a valuable part of the discussion. It comes from a friend named Greg (not his real name) who responded to this series. Please read carefully as I believe his testimony, while you may or may not agree with it, is representative of many disillusioned continuationists/charismatics. Greg was very passionate yet respectful in this post. I pray that you would show the same maturity in your responses.

“I’ve held back from posting my comments thus far. But Michael has provoked me to say something. I will try to focus on the current context of this post. At this point in the series, Michael is focused on healing and prophecy, so I will focus on prophecy for now.

“My experience with the gift of prophecy, healing and tongues is 20 years in the making. Grew up around the gifts. Prophecy was a dime a dozen. It was everywhere.

“Now, as I look back like a PI and investigate my experiences, I consider all the prophecies that are burned into my head. And, lo and behold, not one came true. Really? Yes, really. And its not like I didn’t like prophecy, for many years I hoped against hope that it was really God speaking through these folks. But, if evidence means anything, these folks were not prophesying on behalf of God. They couldn’t have been. Most of the prophecies were tethered to real events or something coming soon. Later on the prophecies became very generic and more praise than anything. I imagine the people could have just as well given the praise without the prophecy, since that was all that really happened.

“So, what to make of this? I am convinced that prophecy is absolutely not the norm. I’ve got at least 100 people I can think of right now who gave prophecies that never happened. Some of these people were good brothers and sisters in the faith, some were suspect of even being born-again.

“If there is any hard evidence that prophecy is normative, or even somewhat happening, I would say it ain’t happening.

“So, did some other church get it right? Just not the 10-15 different church’s I attended growing up and into adulthood?

“There is so much I struggled through to get to this point. Sometimes I wonder why God let me go through all this. Was it pointless? Was there any meaning? Could God use those people? Yes, and he probably did use them despite their ignorance. But then again, I believe God works through everything that happens, even our sin. But that is for another time.

“Now, if you think I said this out of disgust or that I have some bias because someone wronged me, then you are mistaken. I held to the gift of prophecy as long as the Lord allowed me to. Then I was left with no other choice but to abandon this gift. I have seen so many people’s lives poisoned with false hope, including mine, because we wanted to trust God. But God didn’t come through. At least that is what I could have believed.

“No, I knew God was good, but something was wrong. The people. They were wrong. I believe they were sincere, but they were still sincerely wrong. God help them. The gift of prophecy wrecked my life many times with false hopes and dreams. God can do whatever he wants, he is awesome. People unforntunately suck. And we have to be able to use our head and discern any and everything. Else, bad stuff will happen. As if it doesn’t happen enough already. No need to try and complicate our lives with lies.

“If you have the gift of prophecy and it is working for you and you have evidence to back it up, please contact me. I would love to be proven wrong. I am serious as a heart attack. I’d rather prophecy be happening rather than not. But please, I can’t tolerate false prophecies since they are dangerously toxic to our lives. By the way, God is still awesome and he is my closest friend and he has become a father to me. I trust him with all my soul and mind. He has proven to me that I can always trust him. But he has also allowed me to see our depravity and our tendency to fall into error.

“I’m done. I went overboard, it think. I love everyone of brothers and sisters in Christ. Lord, sanctify us in truth, your word is truth.”

Part 5: An Argument from History

I have thus far discussed what it means to be charismatic, equating a charismatic with one who adheres to a continuationist view of the “supernatural sign gifts.” In other words, a charismatic is one who believes that gifts such as prophecy (speaking on behalf of God), working of miracles, healing, tongues, and, if you so define them, word of wisdom and word of knowledge are normative for the church today and that we should expect people in the church to possess and practice them.

I have said that I don’t believe that there is any compelling biblical evidence to say that the gifts have ceased in any dogmatic way. I have also said that one of the primary reasons why I am not charismatic is because I have never experienced such gifts in a way that would compel me to believe that these gifts, as they are expressed today, are legitimate. I am not saying that I know that there are not legitimate expressions of these gifts out there, I am just saying that I have not experienced such. I have to be responsible and discerning with my mind before God. Therefore, my life is experientially wanting in this area. I have every desire to believe that God is working through people in such a way, giving these gifts, but I am charismatically dry.

I now turn to the evidence of history. Our faith is nothing new. It is one which finds its roots in two thousand years of a legacy of saints that have gone before us. The expressions of our faith should find analogous representation in body of Christ, both living and dead. If those who have gone before us do not share our faith, then we have a responsibility to question the legitimacy of our beliefs.

From my studies, I do not find the practice of the supernatural sign gifts being in any way normative before the twentieth century. In other words, it does not seem that the historic church was charismatic in the way I have described above. In fact, I would describe them as de facto cessationists.

What I mean by this is that they were cessationists out of necessity, not out of theological compulsion. They, like me, had simply not experienced the supernatural sign gifts. Again, this is not the same thing as saying that they had not experienced the miraculous or God’s hand of intervention (beliefs that all Christians share), but that they did not believe that individuals possessed the supernatural sign gifts.

Notice what John Chrysostom (347-407), the great Antiochean exegete, says when he comes to 1 Cor. 12 about spiritual gifts.

“This whole place 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.” (ECF

Chrysostom is “ignorant” of the facts because of his experience of their “cessation.” He is not living in the time of a charismatic controversy, he is just stating the way things were in his day, just a few centuries after the last Apostle died. He is a de facto cessationist. If the gifts were still being practiced in his day, the implication is that he would have been able to explain to his listeners what these gifts were. But since they had ceased, he does not know how to explain this passage.

The same can be said of the great St. Augustine (354-430). Notice what he says when it comes to the gift of tongues.

“In the earliest time the Holy Ghost fell upon them that believed: and they spoke with tongues which they had not learned ‘as the Spirit gave them utterance.’ These were signs adapted to the time. For it was proper for the Holy Spirit to evidence Himself in all tongues, and to show that the Gospel of God had come to all tongues [languages] over the whole earth. The thing was done for an authentication and it passed away.” (Ten Homilies on the first Epistle of John VI, 10).

Augustine limits the practice of the charismaton (particularly tongues) to the “earliest time.” Augustine believed that these were “signs adapted to the time.” The adaptation has to do with the necessity of authenticating the Gospel message. While Augustine gives more of a theological explanation for their supposed passing, he still seems to be a de facto cessationist. If you were to ask Augustine “How do you know these gifts ‘passed away,'” my guess is that he would simply say “Because they passed away. Because no one has them anymore!”

This early church de facto cessationism is not unlike the canon of Scripture. Why has the canon “closed”? Because God stopped inspiring writers to add to it. It is that simple. It is a de facto closing. Sure, some could provide a theological explanation as to why the canon closed (i.e. the fullness of time, the finality of Christ’s revelation, the completion of soteriological history, etc.), but the fact is the reason why people believe that the canon had closed was because it had closed. No inspired verified prophet or apostle was adding to it.

This de facto cessationism continues through the middle ages and the Reformation. Outside of fringe groups and cults, cessationism was the orthodox position of the historic Christian church.

Again (and I have to repeat this because some might misapply what I am saying), this is not to say that people believed that God was silent during this period or that he did not intervene or work in miraculous ways. This was the biggest and most glaring weakness in Jack Deere’s Surprised by the Power of the Spirit when he deals with this historic argument. He equates evidence that the historic church believed in the miraculous with evidence that they were continuationists. You can’t equate the two without misrepresenting what is at stake. The historic Christian church has believed in the miraculous, but it has not believed in the continuation of the supernatural sign gifts, by and large.

Having said this, the historic argument must be tempered according to its relative strengths. That is, just because the historic Christian church did not believe in the continuation of the supernatural sign gifts does not prove their cessation in our current day. Again, it is a de facto argument. It is very possible that God simply did not give these gifts during this time (or at least he gave them sparingly) and in our present day has poured out this power once again. This would be a de facto argument that the gifts have continued or been revived for God’s purposes today. I am certainly open to this. I am a futurist with regard to most of the book of Revelation, therefore, I believe that there will be at least two people with the gift of prophecy in the future! Does that make me a continuationist? I guess to some degree it does.

In the end, the de facto cessationism of the historic Christian church is something that must be brought to the table of this discussion and something that we must be extremely considerate of.

Part 6: It’s NOT About Miracles

Regrettably, I must pause and submit another excursus. While it might seem to some to be a frustrated reaction having to reiterate an important issue, I am actually glad to have to do so since the issue of this post is so central to my argument. (So scratch my initial “regrettably”!)

Just about every objection that I have seen so far has been something I have belabored with blood, sweat, and tears to say is not the issue. Many have objected to my arguments about why I am not charismatic, especially those arguments from church history, citing all the miracles that have taken place. Their argument is that if there are truly so many miracles throughout church history, the one who says that the supernatural sign gifts have ceased – the cessationist – are in error.

This is misunderstanding both my argument and, I believe, the issue at stake. It is not about whether miracles take place! It is not about whether you believe in miracles. It is not about whether you have experienced a miracle or heard of someone who has! We all believe in miracles! Continuationists and cessationists do. Quoting the church fathers who say that there were miracles in their day is something both charismatics and non-charismatics can accept. It does not add to the discussion.

Again, let’s be clear. According to how I am defining the issues (which I believe are correct) . . .

A continuationist/charismatic is one who believes that the so-called supernatural sign gifts such as tongues, prophecy, worker of miracles, etc. are normative for the church and that we should commonly expect people to be gifted with them.

A cessationist is one who believes that the supernatural sign gifts ceased after the death of the last Apostle or shortly thereafter due to an exhaustion in their purpose. Therefore, we should not expect such gifts in the church today.

My contention in the previous post was that the history of the Church has not been charismatic in the way defined above. If the modern charismatic movement is legitimate, I believe the charismatic must make the argument that it is a modern day phenomenon.

Folks, we all believe in miracles to varying degrees. If you don’t then you have departed from the historic Christian worldview and slipped into a variation thereof (something of the deist sort).

Even most cessationists believe that God could gift anyone with the gift of tongues or prophecy at his will.

A charismatic, however, believes that these are normative and that we should expect them. Did you take note of those two important words? Normative. Expect.

If you say, “But I am a charismatic and I don’t think we should expect the gifts and I don’t think they are normative,” then you are not really a charismatic. Expectation is key; normative is essential.

Now, one more thing that I believe is important about miracles. I will concede that while both camps believe in miracles, charismatics have a much higher lever of expectation for them due to their theology of the gifts. Cessationists can often be heard saying “That is why they are called ‘miracles’. If they happened all the time, they would be called ‘regulars’!” With this I agree.

However, there may be times in history when miracles do happen much more regularly. God moves in time at his leisure and has complete freedom. We dare not attempt to bind his freedom with an artificial theological position for our own systematic comfort. I believe that there are times in history and places where miracles do seem to become regulars. But, generally speaking, they are extremely rare. Too much expectation can set us up for disillusionment. Most people don’t get healed. Everyone stays dead. Christians’ bills sometimes don’t get paid.

Again, it is not about miracles. If you believe in miracles, you are not necessarily a charismatic.

Got it?

Part 7: Building a Theology of Sign Gifts

I have said that there is no compelling reason to say that the Bible teaches the so-called supernatural sign gifts have ceased. I have also said and demonstrated that the history of the church evidences a de facto cessation of the sign gifts. I have said as well that, despite being open to the gifts, my personal experience is lacking with regard to any of these gifts, either through direct or indirect experience.

Because of this, I would say that the only responsible position for me to hold right now is that of a veritable cessationist. In sum, this is why I am not a charismatic.

Some have objected to my beliefs citing what they suppose to be an inconsistency.  While admitting that the Bible does not present any compelling evidence that the supernatural sign gifts have ceased, I am still not a  charismatic. Why is this? Isn’t the Bible, not personal or ecclesiastical experience, my ultimate guide?

The answer is yes, the Bible is my ultimate guide. It is the final authority on all matters of faith and practice. If church history or “Michael history” says one thing and the Bible says another, then I (in theory) go with the Scriptures.


While I did say that the Scriptures do not present any compelling evidence that the gifts have ceased, I don’t believe that they present any compelling evidence that they have continued, either. In fact, I would say that the Bible does not necessarily speak to the issue any more than it does the closing of the canon. Remember, the Bible does not present any compelling evidence that the canon is closed, yet I believe based on the same de facto arguments that Scripture is no longer being added to.

I would argue that the Scriptures have been (for lack of a better word) “closed” due to an exhaustion of purpose. Interestingly, charismatics would make the same argument, believing that while Scriptures never explicitly say that that the canon is closed, they believe it has nonetheless. Why do we all believe that the canon of Scripture is closed even though the Bible itself does not say that it has closed? If we were theologically honest, our answer would be very simple: because it, as a matter of fact, closed! It is a de facto argument. The canon of Scripture is closed because God has not sent a verified Apostle or prophet who added to it in the last 2000 years.

After we consider the de facto closing of the Scriptures (“canonical cessationism”), we then build a theology as to why the Scriptures have closed. This is a legitimate attempt to explain what is a matter of fact. It does not create the fact, it just explains it.

The same can be said with regard to supernatural sign gifts such as prophecy, tongues, and healings. Because they, de facto, seem to have ceased, we then attempt to offer an explanation. Here is a brief post de facto explanation as to why I believe the supernatural sign gifts might have ceased.

Exhaustion of purpose: The gifts were used for the establishing of the Gospel message in history. It seems reasonable for God to introduce himself uniquely every time he intends to provide further revelation of himself to mankind. In the history of redemption, the Christ advent and the Gospel message needed signs that accompanied it or belief would be unwarranted. Once the church was established and the historic verification of Christ accomplished, there was no longer any need to continue with such “sign” gifts.

Paul seems to indicate that this was the case as he implicitly argued that the reason for his ability to do extraordinary miracles was due to the Apostolic message he proclaimed. As others were claiming to be so-called “super apostles” (those who have an authoritative message from God), he argues that true Apostles will have these gifts to authentic their message.

“The signs of a true apostle were performed among you with all perseverance, by signs and wonders and miracles.” (2 Cor. 12:12).

As well, there are certain events and happenings in redemptive history that don’t need to be repeated. Notice what Paul says to the Ephesians:

“So then you are no longer strangers and aliens, but you are fellow citizens with the saints, and are of God’s household,  20 having been built upon the foundation of the apostles and prophets, Christ Jesus Himself being the corner stone,  21 in whom the whole building, being fitted together is growing into a holy temple in the Lord;  22 in whom you also are being built together into a dwelling of God in the Spirit.” (Ephesians 2:19 – 3:1)

The “foundation” is the key. If the foundation represents a part of the structure (i.e. the Church) that is not a repeated necessity, then so does that which comprises the foundation. Everyone would agree that the work of Christ is not repeated over and over. In the same way, it seems that the work of the Apostles and the prophets, which established the work of Christ, does not repeat itself. It is forever a part of the foundation.

There also may be a de facto ceasing of the gifts even in New Testament times. Notice what the writer of Hebrews says:

“How shall we escape if we neglect so great a salvation? After it was at the first spoken through the Lord, it was confirmed to us by those who heard,  4 God also bearing witness with them, both by signs and wonders and by various miracles and by gifts of the Holy Spirit according to His own will” (Hebrews 2:3-4).

Notice that the message of salvation was first spoken by the Lord (subject #1 – first generation). It was then confirmed by those who heard (subject #2 – the Apostles and prophets – second generation). The “to us” is the key. The writer of Hebrews indicates that the Gospel was confirmed to them (subject #3 – third generation), not by them. This seems to indicate once again that the supernatural gifts primarily served a confirmatory purpose, not simply a benevolent purpose. It also (and most importantly here) seems to suggest that these confirmatory gifts were already beginning to exhaust their purpose. The writer of Hebrews and his audience (the “us who heard”), it would seem, did not possess these gifts themselves, but relied upon the witness and testimony of those who did possess these gifts.

These are meant to offer biblical reasons why the gifts ceased, if indeed this is the case. Again, they are not arguments for cessationism, they simply present reasons why they might have ceased.

I am not a charismatic, but I am not a necessarily a cessationist either. It is to this position that I now turn my attention.

Part 8: I am a “de facto Cessationist”

Okay, so far in this series it should be almost clear where I stand on this issue. But I ended the last post by saying that I am neither a continuationist or cessationist. Let me clarify just what I am . . .

I define a Charismatic as one who thinks that the supernatural sign gifts such as tongues, prophecy, healings, etc. are normative for the church today. Therefore, believers should expect them. A cessationist is one who believes that these gifts ceased due to an exhaustion in purpose around the first century (some would say with the death of the last Apostle).

I don’t think that one can make a solid case for the ceasing of the gifts from Scripture. However, I don’t think that one can make a solid case from Scripture for the closing of the canon. I believe that both of these issues are very similar. Could God add books to the Bible if it were his purpose? Of course. Could we cry “foul” and say “You cannot do that because our traditions and councils have said you cannot? No. We (Protestants) believe in the de facto closing of the canon. What does that mean? We believe in the closing of the canon because it, indeed, closed. It is a historical and experiential reality. God just quit adding books to the canon. Only after this does our theology step in and attempt to explain this by saying it closed because soteriological history was completed.

I believe the same about the gift of prophecy, tongues, and other supernatural sign gifts. I believe they have ceased because they ceased in church history (as I argued) and I, personally, have never experienced them. Therefore, I am a “De Facto Cessationist.” Some may call it “Soft cessationist” and that is fine, but I like the term de facto since it describes the reasoning behind my position.

To those of you who are Charismatics out there:

I think that you have to understand my reasoning and the reasoning of those like me. It is not as if we are putting God in a box. We are just being responsible with our beliefs (which are precious to God) by attempting to explain the way we see things. I don’t judge all claims with the same standard. I don’t have a “guilty by association” default folder with this issue, tagging the back of the shirts of all Charismatics with a Benny Hinn label. I respect many who are Charismatic and I think they are very bright and have something going on that persuades them to believe as they do. But I have been in the church all my life, traveled the world on missions trips, and partaken in many Charismatic services and never seen anything that would make me change my positions. Were I to see something that compels me to change, I would change.

With prophecy, for instance, if I were to see someone who claimed to be a prophet, speaking on behalf of God, and he, for example, raised someone from the dead, so long as he spoke in accordance with sound doctrine, I would most certainly listen (at least I hope I would). If someone claimed to have the gift of healing and came and healed my mother, I would believe and change my stance. If someone would have healed my sister before she died, again, things would be different. But the fact is that I have not ever witnessed such. I don’t even have any good first hand testimony of such happenings. Sure, I believe that God heals, so coming to me with a story of healing is already in line with my theology. But what I lack – the essential component – is God gifting an individual with the particular gift of healing. Most healings and miracles I have seen come through prayer, not through a divine conduit with this particular gift.

Therefore, I remain a de facto Cessationist.

Two Important Points:

1. Am I Putting God in a “Box”?

I often hear it said that people like me put God in a box due to my unbelief in the continuation of sign gifts. You need to be very careful with this line of thought. It could very well be that you are the one putting him in a box. Let me explain.

I remember studying the great prayer revivals in American history with John Hannah. While discussing these movements, we, the students, inquired about why God moved so much during this time in our history. His answer was rather odd. He said there was no reason he knew of. He went on to describe similar events where revival did not occur though the actions of men were the same. The moral of Hannah’s lesson was that God moves when and where he will and we just don’t know why. You cannot map Him. You cannot put him in a box one way or the other.

If God chooses to send a prophet or a man with the gift of healing, it is his own accord, purpose, and will which sanctions such. To have a “theology of expectation” not only sets many up for disillusionment, but can also be putting God in the box that you accuse others of. God’s movements are mysterious. It could very well be that a revival breaks out. It could very well be that he decides to gift people with supernatural gifts. It is possible that he could send a prophet to your door. But this does not make it normative. It just says he did it. Praise God.

Remember the passage from the early life of Samuel where Samuel was hearing God’s voice calling him but he did not know it was God? The preface to this narrative is very interesting: 1 Samuel 3:1: “Now the boy Samuel was ministering to the LORD before Eli. And word from the LORD was rare in those days, visions were infrequent.” Why were visions infrequent? We have no idea. They just were. De facto.

2. Is God waiting on me to believe?

Also, you must remember that God’s movements in his people’s lives are not characteristically coy. When he is going to move in your life or mine, he is not waiting for us to believe in certain gifts or movements before we are qualified to receive such. He did not wait for Paul to be a believe before he hit him with a ton of bricks on the road to kill Christians. He blinded him and spoke. De facto, God was speaking. He did not wait for the Apostles to believe in tongues before they received them on the day of Pentecost. De facto, they were speaking in tongues.

If God wanted me to be a Charismatic, I would be one. He is not waiting for me to become one so that he can finally do his work.

The Spirit moves in mysterious ways. Outside of his general promises, it is very hard for us to hold his feet to the fire for the details. We wait, watch, pray, and follow his guidance. We can all put him in a box, but he won’t stay there, believe me.

I am not Charismatic. I am not necessarily cessationist either. I am, right now, a de facto cessationist who lives with a high expectation that God is going to move in the way he will. I hope that I am always ready to follow.

Thus ends the series, de facto.

C Michael Patton
C Michael Patton

C. Michael Patton is the primary contributor to the Parchment and Pen/Credo Blog. He has been in ministry for nearly twenty years as a pastor, author, speaker, and blogger. Find him on Patreon Th.M. Dallas Theological Seminary (2001), president of Credo House Ministries and Credo Courses, author of Now that I'm a Christian (Crossway, 2014) Increase My Faith (Credo House, 2011), and The Theology Program (Reclaiming the Mind Ministries, 2001-2006), host of Theology Unplugged, and primary blogger here at Parchment and Pen. But, most importantly, husband to a beautiful wife and father to four awesome children. Michael is available for speaking engagements. Join his Patreon and support his ministry

    98 replies to "Why I am Not Charismatic (Complete)"

    • cheryl u

      Dave Z,

      I Cor. 14:12-13 “So also you, since you are zealous of spiritual {gifts,} seek to abound for the edification of the church.
      Therefore let one who speaks in a tongue pray that he may interpret.”

      Here again is a command about edification of the church that includes seeking to edify the church through their use including tongues and interpretation.

      And remember, verse one of this chapter said to earnestly desire spirititual gifts, specially prophecy. And in the last verse of chapter 12 he also said, “But earnestly desire the greater gifts. And I show you a still more excellent way.”

      It seems to me that if we forget that Paul told us to earnestly desire the gifts, it is very easy to think that they are not that important.

    • Dave Z

      In Acts 10 and 11, the story of Peter’s interactions with Cornelius and his subsequent report to the church, tongues seem to be a sign to believers, not unbelievers:

      “So if God gave them the same gift as he gave us, who believed in the Lord Jesus Christ, who was I to think that I could oppose God?””

    • Dave Z


      Just speaking from experience. If God blesses non-charasmatic churches, who am I to argue?

      Also, it seems that the context of 14:26, which is Paul having to instruct the church regarding the -proper- use of the gifts, clearly allows my second perspective, because the Corinthians had their motives all mixed up. Verse 33 indicates they were way off track.

      Plus, it looks like Paul was specifically dealing with a church that had a strong desire, they were “zealous” for these gifts, and Paul was trying to channel those desires, but I find it interesting that the sign gifts are not addressed at all in Paul’s letters to any other churches, other than a couple of passing references to prophecy. After 1 Cor, tongues is not even mentioned. IOW, it doesn’t seem to be a major part of Paul’s regular teachings. Other NT writers barely hint at the sign gifts, except of course for Luke in the book of Acts.

      So, maybe Paul’s instructions to the Corinthians (especially the two verses you quoted) could really be summarized as “If you guys are going to focus on these gifts, at least do it properly.”

    • cheryl u

      Personally, I find the fact that Paul, in particular, spends so much time in teaching about the proper use of the gifts and then several times commands them to “earnestly desire” the gifts–specially the greater ones–to be very compelling evidence that the gifts were not meant to cease. Since he was giving instuction under the inspiration of the Spirit not just to the Corinthian church or the Roman church where the gifts are taught also, it seems very likely to me that if we were not to continue seeking those gifts that there would be some indication of that. Instead, we are left for all time with the command to “earnestly desire” them.

    • ScottL

      Lisa –

      Because people in remote parts of China, India or Africa may not have access to Bibles or Bible instruction or even the gospel.

      Well, hopefully we can get them a Bible and some Bible classes so we don’t need any of these gifts ever again in a few hundred years! 🙂 Wait, oh yeah, they are happening in the western world as well where we have our Bibles and classes. Dang it! And I mean healthily happening, not in a Todd Bentley-esque way.

      Actually 1 Cor 14:22 (?) says that tongues are for a sign to the unbeliever. Prophecy is for the believer.

      Why would Paul then tell them that when they (the ekklesia) gathers together, each one has, with one of those things available being available for the body is tongues. And Paul then gives instruction on how to faithfully use it in the midst of the body.

      I feel many people misunderstand the intent and context of Paul’s words in 1 Cor 14:20-25. I actually think Grudem does well in explaining this passage:

      Thus tongues are a sign . . . for unbelievers. Not a positive sign, to lead people to faith (as in John 2:11; 20:30–31), but as in 1 Cor. 14:21 a negative sign that facilitates God’s judgment on the unbelieving. Uninterpreted tongues function as a sign of judgment for the outsider and unbeliever because they may conclude from hearing them that Christians are out of their minds and so leave the church, never to return. (this quote was from the ESV Study Bible, but also expounded on in his book on prophecy).

      The purpose of Paul’s statement is that we need to interpret tongues so that, as in Isaiah’s day (since Paul quoted Isa 28:11-12), the tongue would not be a sense of judgment on the people. With the interpretation, they could understand the message and even repent, which was also the goal of prophecy – repentance (14:24-25). Thus, tongues becomes a blessing to the unbeliever.

      So, tongues can be a negative sign for unbelievers. But an interpretation will keep it from such, and even help it function somewhat like prophecy and lead to the blessing of repentance.

    • C Michael Patton

      I am surprised that there are so many charismatics here. (Encouraged by the interaction as well).

      I have placed a poll in the upper right of the blog concerning this issue. Please take it.

    • Jugulum


      When you first started this series, and you included “the gifts are normative” in the definition of “charismatic”, it was a new idea to me. I’m still not sure I agree that this is how the word “charismatic” is generally defined.

      Looking at your poll, I’m even left with a question about how you define these terms in your mind.

      You go from de facto cessationist to qualified charismatic, with these definitions:

      # I am a de fact cessationist. I don’t really know, but I have never seen them. That makes me skeptical.
      # I am a qualified charismatic. I think the gifts are normative for areas of the world where the Gospel has not reached, but not for others.

      You go immediately from an “open-but-cautious, I-haven’t-seen-them” position to “I think they’re normative at least somewhere.”

      What about people who don’t think the gifts are normative at all, but are definitely still given, and are valuable everywhere?

      They’re not any kind of cessationist. They’re not open-but-cautious. My guess is, if you ask anyone from the general world of evangelicalism, they would call that “charismatic”.

      I really doubt that “these gifts are normative” is an essential part of the definition.

    • C Michael Patton


      I don’t know if it will help, but you may have read one of them wrong. The idea is that they “should be” normative, not necessarily that they are. Therefore I changed the wording a bit to reflect this.

      Does this help?

    • C Michael Patton

      There could be one more that makes it more definite: The charismatic gifts are normative for the church (i.e. the true church will always practice them.) I just did not think we would have too many who are THAT radical on this blog (although I know that they are out there.)

    • I thnk your poll is missing an option for those of us who are Open but Cautious. I’m all for the practice of the gifts – I just haven’t seen enacted in the NT way.

      Today it is supposed that gifts = strong Christian, when Corinth had a multiplicity of gifts…and a multiplicity of moral problems and doctrinal issues. Also, (and I admit I am speaking of my experience and that this is probably not the case anywhere), the presence of the gifts seems to be used to validate all sorts of weirdness. In the circles I grew up in, it was seen that if a person had powerful ministration of the gifts, then it didn’t really matter that they were off on their doctrine.

      Were I adopt my former understanding of the gifts, I’d join a Sovereign Grace Ministries church as they believe in the gifts, but also in the importance of sound doctrine to the life of the believer. The gifts are good in and of themselves, but without the Word of God, they’ll be like an uncontrolled explosion – it will destroy everything in sight.

    • EricW

      What about people who don’t think the gifts are normative at all, but are definitely still given, and are valuable everywhere?

      That probably best describes me. I don’t think a good Scriptural case can be made for cessationism, and 25+ years of active involvement in non-denom/charismatic churches exposed me/us primarily to vague or bogus prophecies and questionable tongues and “interpretations” such as to cause me to look at it with a jaundiced eye, but I have friends whose veracity I do not doubt who testify to valid manifestations of the gifts, both in their lives and in their observation (a couple of whom accompanied Benny Hinn on mission trips to Africa and saw actual blind eyes opened/healed) – tongues, prophecies, healings, etc. Not the norm, granted, but genuine and valid nevertheless.

    • Lisa Robinson

      Kara, once again you have managed to misunderstand and misrepresent what I have tried to communicate. At this point for this thread, I have neither the time nor the energy to keep correcting what that communication was.


      As you know, I spent many years in Pentacostal/Charismatic churches. I have seen the delivery of prophecies and tongues w/interpretations done in similar fashion as described in I Cor 14 and I have also experienced more chaotic happenings. I have spent the past few years in non-Charismatic churches, where these things did not occur. The gifting that is needed for us to grow up together in Him is all rooted in the exposition and living out of Scripture. If you believe that is insufficient, that tongues and interpretations and prophecies are still needed today for edification of the body, fine. I do not believe they are. In fact and as a personal note, I think I have grown more spiritually in the past few years in non-Charismatic circles than I ever did in the midst of the Charismatic ones. That is not to suggest that there is a connection. I am speaking for me personally.

      My former pastor told me once concerning this topic, either one is going to drink the koolaid or they aren’t. For me, I once drank the koolaid only to discover that it had an expiration date. Obviously, you don’t agree with that and that’s fine. Lest we forget in the midst of Paul’s admonition regarding spiritual gifts, that love is the chief goal. Ok brother?

    • cheryl u

      Hi Lisa,

      I have come out of that chaotic type of charismatic situation too where much of what I saw was neither Scriptural or helpful. However, I don’t believe that means that used in the right way, the gifts still don’t have the purpose spoken of in the Bible.

      You made the comment above, “The gifting that is needed for us to grow up together in Him is all rooted in the exposition and living out of Scripture.” I agree 100%. I have often used II Timothy 3:16-17 as proof that all the wackiness coming out of the charismatic churches is not Scriptural and is unhealty.

      However, if our understanding of Scripture is that these gifts are to continue, and as I have stated that Paul says to earnestly desire them, then living out of Scripture, as you have said, has to include doing just that!

    • Jugulum


      I don’t know if it will help, but you may have read one of them wrong. The idea is that they “should be” normative, not necessarily that they are. Therefore I changed the wording a bit to reflect this.

      Hmm… We might be talking past each other at the word “normative”.

      What do you mean by “should be normative”? Like, “Christians should consider them normative, but don’t”?

      Does normative mean, “Christians are sinning if the gift isn’t being practiced in the Body”? Or perhaps, “Christians are sinning if the gift isn’t being prayed for”?

      When I raised the category, “people who don’t think the gifts are normative at all, but are definitely still given, and are valuable everywhere”, does that even make sense to you? Or are we maybe using different definitions of “normative”? (To rephrase, I’m talking about people who think that the gifts are still given, and are valuable everywhere. They should be prayed for in the sense that we should pray for all good things–like we should pray for healing when someone is sick. We should desire them. But it’s not a problem if the gift doesn’t show up. There’s no fault. No sin. The practice isn’t normative.)

    • cheryl u

      Dave Z,

      (Regarding comment # 54) “So, maybe Paul’s instructions to the Corinthians (especially the two verses you quoted) could really be summarized as “If you guys are going to focus on these gifts, at least do it properly.”

      I assume you mean the verses where Paul says to earnestly desire the gifts?

      I looked at the verbs used in those two verses in a lexicon. Assuming it is correct, both verbs are in present tense, active voice, imperative mood. That sounds to me like this is a very direct command from Paul to earnestly desire the gifts.

      I understand that he was speaking in Corinthians to a church that was misusing the gifts badly. But it still seems to me that to interpret it in the way you did in the quote above is certainly reading a lot into the text.

    • C Michael Patton


      Like this phrase “Expositional preaching should be normative in the church.”

    • Jugulum


      OK… First, I’ll say that you’re using the word normative differently than I do. That sentence doesn’t compute for me–it’s redundant. You seem to be defining “normative” as “It actually happens,” and “should be normative” as “should happen”.

      But as I understand the term, “normative” means “should”. “Expositional preaching is normative” means “The church should practice expositional preaching.” It doesn’t mean, “The church does practice it.”

      “Expositional preaching should be normative” would mean… ??? “We should should practice it”?

      But wait… Go back to the top of this page, to your original post. You said,

      In Christianity, “charismatic” refers to those who believe that certain “spiritual gifts” such as tongues, prophecy, and gifts of healings, are normative for the church.

      There, you seemed to be using the same definition that I am.

      We’re getting mixed up by the language. I’m going to try this without the word “normative”.

      Where would you put someone who thinks that the gifts are still given, and are valuable everywhere? That they should be prayed for in the sense that we should pray for all good things–like we should pray for healing when someone is sick. That we should desire them. But that it’s not a problem if the gift doesn’t show up.

      (Hmm… Using your terms… I think I’m talking about people who believe that desire and prayer for all the gifts should be normative, but that the practice of the gifts depends on whether God gives them. That God is still giving them today, but might not give them all the time. And that allowing the practice should be normative–i.e. we shouldn’t forbid their practice.)

    • C Michael Patton


      I really like what you have said here. I agree. I think that there are really two different camps here that we are talking about:

      1. Those who believe that the gifts continue and really expect the gifts to be present.
      2. Those who believe that the gifts continue and really hope the gifts will be present.

      The first would have the mentality that if the gifts are not present it is because of the spiritual condition of the church.

      The second would have the mentality that if the gift are not present it is because of the sovereignty of God.

      The second COULD fit in very well with my position! I hope for them, but have never seen them. I don’t believe that they have ceased out of necessity, but, if they have ceased, they have done so because God is simply not gifting people.

      Maybe we are getting somewhere?

    • Kara Kittle

      I came from an independent Pentecostal church that was fully Trinity. I have relatives who came from Oneness. The one thing we do share is the same Gospel of Jesus Christ and that the gifts in operation are “normative” not only in a corporal setting, but in our homes as well.

      We are encouraged to seek God individually through our own prayer time and study time. And if that time includes speaking in tongues as a natural occurrence then it is fine. But the trend I have noticed in one of the above posts is Todd Bentley-esque…the problem we have is that the church is so secular that you can’t tell the difference.

      And I don’t mean only Charismatic churches. I did not grow up with the chaotic type. The things that people miss out on when they go to the modern church is that loudness is not indicative of the Spirit. I have seen people in churches actually get louder until you can’t hear anything. But I have been in Baptist churches where I heard the preacher actually recognize what direction the Spirit was leading and actually cut it off. So in that instance which would be more dangerous?

      Worship has always been an integral part of our service, but not only in church but at home. Yes there are Pentecostal churches who do put emphasis on one thing. And the overbearing strictness that sometimes people can’t live up to causes damage.

      But in my church we were taught first of all Jesus is worthy of praise and worship. God dwells in the praises of His people. And it is the Holy Ghost (or Spirit) that indwells the believer to bring comfort and peace. But that Spirit also speaks and this is how we believe He speaks. Again, it’s not about the believer trying to make Jesus real, it’s Jesus making Himself revealed.

    • Cadis


      “The second would have the mentality that if the gift are not present it is because of the sovereignty of God.

      The second COULD fit in very well with my position! I hope for them, but have never seen them. I don’t believe that they have ceased out of necessity, but, if they have ceased, they have done so because God is simply not gifting people.

      Maybe we are getting somewhere?”

      I don’t think your making any head way because if the gifts are supposed to be there “have not ceased out of necessity” If the gifts are for the church for all time. Then why would God who has sovereignly bestowed gifts for the operation of the Church now simply stop gifting people? was the gifting conditional? now your back to number one, the gifts are not present because of the condition of the church. i. e. lack of faith?

    • Jugulum



      The second would have the mentality that if the gift are not present it is because of the sovereignty of God.

      I’d say they think, “if the gifts are not present it may be withheld because of the spiritual condition of the church, or it may be because of the sovereign plan of God in distributing gifts.

      Compare that to evangelical beliefs about prayer for healing. If God doesn’t heal us, it might be because we lack faith. It might be because of unrepented sin. It might simply be because God has a particular purpose to bring about through our continued sickness.

      The second COULD fit in very well with my position! I hope for them, but have never seen them. I don’t believe that they have ceased out of necessity, but, if they have ceased, they have done so because God is simply not gifting people.

      The difference being, you don’t know whether God’s giving those gifts at all, anywhere. They think he is.

      It’s not the same position. But you can fellowship together without much trouble. Because if they come into your church and certain gifts aren’t being practiced, they won’t start saying, “You must be in sin! You lack faith! Repent!”

    • Kara Kittle

      “Because if they come into your church and certain gifts aren’t being practiced, they won’t start saying, “You must be in sin! You lack faith! Repent!”

      That was funny right there.

    • Lisa Robinson

      Cheryl, interestingly I’m discovering more and more people like me who started off in the Pentacostal/Charismatic church then eventually went a separate way. Also, in looking over my last comment again, I should have been more clear on the fact that I meant churches that followed 1 Cor 14, were orderly. Not alot of chaos. So I have experienced the spectrum.

    • ScottL

      Lisa –

      Thanks for sharing your heart in the comment above. I think I feel stirred to ‘challenge’ you more than any other because I know you are solid in the Scriptures as well as knowing that you have been a part of such churches in the past. I am aware that some very unhelpful stuff has happened in your midst, maybe in line with what we see on TBN. That is not good. No doubt one can grow in ‘non-charismatic’ churches. Such is very true. Yet, I do sense that Paul wanted these things practiced, and of course, healthily practiced, hence his words to ‘crazy’ Corinth. I always love interacting with you and I can only say I am saddened with the bad taste that was left in your mouth. Maybe there is a metaphor for something that is worse than just a bad taste.

      We are fallible and fallen, so we aren’t perfect, but something as beautiful as this should not be abused. And that seems the case. It is amazing to see how tongues and prophecy can be used healthily for edification, exhortation and growth of the body. I’m going to try and head down that path, even if some of my brothers and sisters abuse it. It’s a hard road sometimes. Sometimes I do want to give it all up because I have to spend so much time tearing down wrong thinking and practice before I can build up healthy thinking and practice. I know you understand.

      And, yes, love is most important. You are my sister and I adore your heart. So, in the midst of Corinth-style practices of such or decisions to not practice such, I’m gonna look to Him to make His love real in the midst of such. Thanks.

    • ScottL

      CMP –

      Thanks for answering and letting me know those 3 summary points are your biggest hang-ups. May I humbly ask you to consider some things in regards to those 3 hang-up points?

      1) First hang-up: the word normative.

      I don’t know what your idea of ‘normative’ is. There are definitely some who say these should happen every day in the life of believers, maybe even every hour. Maybe you are challenging that idea. I would just encourage one to not view things through the words and lens of the super-duper charismatics. Try to not take on their idea of ‘normative’ and ‘regular’. And, anyways, I think it’s always bad to get caught up in time discussions in regards to the ‘normality’ or ‘regularity’ of these gifts. We can look at the book of Acts (a record of 30 years +/-). They didn’t seem to be happening on a ‘normative’ basis as in everyday. So, if your definition is being coloured by super-dupers in that ‘normative’ means they have to happen in every believer’s life on every day, then I see your hang-up. But, again, I would encourage you not to view it through that lens, for we can simply consider Acts.

      Yet, as I mentioned in your past articles, considering that the body of Christ spans every continent (albeit Antarctica) and probably every time zone, I would probably assume that these things are happening every single day. God has over 1 billion people in the earth today. And, He doesn’t even need us to do such signs and wonders, i.e. Paul on the Damascus road. Sure, we might state that such is happening more in the 3rd world, but they are happening in the west. Some embellish accounts. But I think we can safely say that, if God does still perform such (and I think you are open to such), then it is reasonable to assume that they are being performed ‘regularly’ because of the span of His people across the nations. But it’s probably safe to say these things should not happen in each believer’s life each and every day. That is what we guard against. That becomes to much pressure and makes us feel a failure if we aren’t seeing them on that kind of ‘regular’ and ‘normative’ basis.

      If you ever wanted to, you might try and pick up James Rutz’s book, Megashift. Here he chronicles some 40-50 major miracles and healings with evidence and proof, and he provides footnotes with another 100+. So these are chronicled accounts, not just I heard so and so did such and such.

    • ScottL

      CMP –

      Sorry for the long comment above. Just wanted to quickly share some things in regards to hang-up’s # 2 and 3:

      2) You see church history as mainly showing their non-existence.

      I guess we can read church history selectively. No doubt there are historians that have pointed out that such gifts no longer happen, as you pointed out John Chrysostom and I think one other (and I know you have read more). I have yet to read a lot of early church fathers, but I have read some things and it seems such miracles and healings had not completely ceased as we usually assume. I know you have seen the quotes from some of us.

      A friend of mine, Dr. Mike Peters in St. Louis, wrote a book (very short of 123 pages). It is called The Case For Charismatics. This is from one who also studied at Covenant Seminary like me. We do love our reformed theology. But in the book, he refers to Dr. Ronald Kydd who wrote is PhD dissertation on charismatic gifts in the early church, and it is now been published as a book – Charismatic Gifts in the Early Church. It, too, is short at 112 pages. I just think this will give some good stuff to chew on in study of such gifts in church history.

      3) You’ve not really seen any of these gifts, at least convincingly, in your life.

      Ok, so experience does shape our theology. We should not be ashamed to state such. This is true of every single Christian (and non-Christian). We can’t get around it. It has done for me as well, but leaving me concluding the opposite from you thus far. Neither you or I, or the church as a whole, should found everything on experience. But thankfully God gave us experience to experience theology! It’s beautiful. I don’t want to be arrogant and say you don’t have enough faith, or whatever, and that’s why you never experience these things. It’s silly and you know that. I do make one note, though: If we are regularly in the midst of people that do not believe these things can happen and are never asking God to display His good grace in such, then I suppose it will be harder to see such at work. It’s just part of that ‘experience’ stuff. I was in a Baptist church the first 2 years of my life in Christ and never saw any such things. Interesting that when I began fellowshipping with those who were open to such, I started noticing and seeing such. It’s not that we ditch who we are with if they do not believe such gifts can still be given, but it is just something to humbly consider before God.

      Thanks for reading (if you did). I really appreciate your blog and Theologica. Maybe I will make it to Oklahoma one day and see the Mecca of CMP.

    • Lisa Robinson

      Scott, all of what I have experienced has not been chaos, as indicated in my last comment. But again, the experiences don’t have anything to do with my current position.

    • ScottL

      Lisa –

      So when you realised the kool-aid (that is usually a negative term, as people think of Jim Jones, hence why I thought you were referring only to chaos) had an expiration date (they were bound and determined to cease to exist), that is when you decided to no longer look to participate in such?

      It is so intriguing how we can read the same Scripture and come to 2 opposite conclusions, especially if you do conclude that what you witnessed was not all chaos. I guess we will always see what we want to see, including me. 🙂 We all read the Bible through our lens.

    • Lisa Robinson

      Scott, if you noticed with what I’ve written before, I’m looking at the gifts in context of their purpose. I would say that it is not a matter of strict cessation but an expiration of use given the sufficiency of what we have. Cessation means they were absolutely done away with never to be used again. Well, I don’t believe that either. Of all the sign gifts, I could say that of prophecy but then we have the promise of the dynamic duo forthcoming.

    • John C.T.

      Like ScottL, who raises good points, I diagree with other definitions and characterizations used in the series of posts. For example, I think it is significantly wrong to exclude “miracles” from charismata. All events of healing are outworkings of the Spirit, and fruits of the kingdom to come. All healings are gifts, and nearly all come through the prayers of particular people.

      Another problem with the use of “normative” is that it concedes to the super dupers the fallacy that God is either a machine or that he will inevitably do something as the result of a correct performance of a ritual. They are called “gifts” for a reason. The notion of “gifitng” is inconsistent with the notion of “normative” as used in this series of posts.

      The logical implication of Lisa’s switch is that all the things she experienced before are illegitimate, or faked, and not evidences of the Spirit. To admit that any of them were legitimate, or that such things occur anywhere in the world makes her position inconsistent.


    • Kara Kittle

      Could it be like this? When we define “normative” from where we are…could it be like a car? Some people think all cars should have power windows…but some cars don’t. Does it make the car less effective?

      I think the biggest misconception is that all Pentecostals and Charismatics believe the gifts are primary. No they are secondary. As I have stated before about being born again, that is the fundamental.

      It’s only when someone makes the gifts primary that they missed out on a very important aspect.

      Well maybe the gifts are third or fourth…depends on the person.

    • ScottL

      Lisa –

      Scott, if you noticed with what I’ve written before, I’m looking at the gifts in context of their purpose.

      Isn’t there purpose for these to be used for ‘the common good’ and for ‘edification’ (1 Cor 12:7; 14:3)? Isn’t the whole context of 1 Cor 12 and 14 about using these things for the building of the body, a very high purpose? Don’t we still need things to build us up?

      Some of these can be spoken of as ‘signs’, but Paul loves to just simply make them practical. He wants them used for edification and building up and for the common good. He so tries to break down our super-spiritual expectations of these things and brings it down to people who actually live on earth.

      It would seem sensible to conclude that we still need all giftings that build up and help us grow to maturity, sense that is the goal of where we are headed (Eph 4:12-13). I believe the Scripture is sufficient for teaching, rebuking, exhortation, etc. But if the coming of the canon makes certain gifts cease that have been given for edification and building up, then why need any of the gifts? Why need encouragement and teaching, we get it all from the Bible? Why need prophecy and tongues, we get it all from the Bible? I know that might be an overly negative characterisation of what you are saying, but that seems the logical conclusion of your statement, at least from me trying to understand you.

    • Kara Kittle

      That was an interesting point…

      In the coming canon…why would Paul include it in letters he was writing presently to the churches of Corinth and Ephesus. At the time he wrote the letters it was present for their time and if we take it merely in the context of historical then it would only apply to the people in Corinth and Ephesus respectively. But then why apply the gifts only in that context but no other workings?

      Hence, why keep evangelism as a gift but not prophecy? Why keep teaching as a gift but not word of wisdom? It would seem to me without wisdom and knowledge or even faith, what would give the evangelist any credence anyway?

      Seems to me some people toss the baby out with the bathwater. Not you Scott, but some churches do indeed do this.

    • ScottL

      Kara –

      Lisa is not completely closed to the idea, it’s just that I believe she sees these things as very rare knowing we have the canon. She is open, but she isn’t just going to swallow anything. And I appreciate that in her. But I just think they are more frequent than Lisa would give room for. I think that, through considering 1 Cor 14, as well as the account of Acts, we could conclude that prophecy and tongues are maybe the 2 most regular of the nine pneumatika of 1 Cor 12:8-10. Hence Paul’s detailed instruction on how to use these frequent gifts faithfully.

      And, I do take note of your comment that, it is interesting that the canon we have includes writings about these gifts. The cessationist would claim that Paul and others expected them to cease, but, interesting that our fathers saw it good and right to include Paul’s writings about these gifts. So much confusion could be caused to read about these things but then to really never expect them to happen. For me, it creates too much dichotomy and separates us from the cloud of witnesses that were used in these.

    • John C.T.

      ScottL raises an important point: even though the Bible is useful, and to be used, for all sorts of growth as a christian, and for encouragement, etc., that fact does not mean that it is intended by God as the ony source of those things. The Spirit is God’s very life and presence in us; the Bible is not. God does tell us to also grow and be encouraged through the active presence of the Spirit, which we perceive and receive often as gifts.

      Given the oft and accurately bemoaned state of Christ’s body in America / the “west”, it is no wonder that the Spirit is not very active.


    • ScottL

      John CT –

      Given the oft and accurately bemoaned state of Christ’s body in America / the “west”, it is no wonder that the Spirit is not very active.

      The Spirit does not decide to be inactive because we are in a ‘bemoaned state’. I think you might rather state it that we are in a bemoaned state because we aren’t completely relying on the life and vitality of His Spirit. But that’s probably what you meant. 😉

      Still, God is at work in His body in the west. There are different seasons. We don’t want to make excuses, but we also don’t want to embrace some kind of revivalism where all we live for is ‘another outpouring’. That will leave us disillusioned, exhausted and discouraged. If He brings revival, that’s good. But the gifts are to be used in our regular lives. They aren’t just for revival, but to see God use us in daily life.

      Anyways, you probably know that. Just highlighting it. 🙂

    • John C.T.

      Yes, good points Scott. I was just speculating that there could be alternate explanations for the facts of lack of charismata. Your way of putting things is much better.

    • doug baddorf

      i have been excersizing the gift of prophecy for 12 years or so in an Episcopal church.the object of the gift is to build up the believer. listeners must judge what they hear and are free to reject it.Most of these “words of encouragement ” involve metaphors as to what the kingdom is like or what it is not like. My belief is that this gift is for those who “earnestly desire it ” If the Spirit makes an image or a sentence available to the speaker , the purpose seems to be for God to make a love action that only the hearer would know about. Many times there is a novel aspect about the word that provokes a response “I never thought about it that way.” Here is an example

      do not say “take these broken wings and learn to fly any more. Jesus says I am giving you new wings. Do not say these wings are too big for me because your new wings are very large. The reason that these wings are large is so that the slightest wind will lift you up. And I will lift you up.

      I can tell you without hesitation that this gift is for you if you want it but He will not love you more if you take it or less if you do not. The gift of prophecy is not difficult but it is frightening. You can make a mistake, so you need to have those who listen to you give you feedback. Your community is your protection.

      Doug B.

    • […] my position bro ? scroll down this page you will come to a simple chart , my view is the same ; Parchment and Pen Why I am Not Charismatic (Complete) at least we agree on what revelatory gifts are supposed to be , as for the rest ………. Sola […]

    • Phillip Kirby

      I’m waiting for the next pdf, “Why God doesn’t answer the prayers of modern day Christians, the case against answered prayer.”

    • Greg

      With regard to historical evidence being on the side of the cessationists, I respectfully disagree.

      I cursory look at the writings of the church fathers reveals the following:

      1.Irenaeus: Against Heresies (Book V, Chapter 6)
      “In like manner we do also hear many brethren in the Church, who possess prophetic gifts, and who through the Spirit speak all kinds of languages, and bring to light for the general benefit the hidden things of men, and declare the mysteries of God, whom also the apostle terms spiritual, they being spiritual because they partake of the Spirit, and not because their flesh has been stripped off and taken away, and because they have become purely spiritual.”

      2.Justin Martyr: Dialogue with Trypho (Chapter 82)
      “For the prophetical gifts remain with us, even to the present time. And hence you ought to understand that [the gifts] formerly among your nation have been transferred to us.”

      3.Ambrose: On the Holy Spirit, Book II (Ch. 13 Para.150-152)

      (150.) …

      (151.) Lastly, God set apostles. Those whom God set in the Church, Christ chose and ordained to be apostles, and sent them into the world, saying: “Go ye into all the world, and preach the Gospel to the whole creation. He that shall believe and be baptized shall be saved, but he that believes not shall be damned. And these signs shall follow them that believe. In My Name shall they cast out devils, they shall speak with new tongues, they shall take up serpents, and if they shall drink any deadly thing, it shall not hurt them, they shall lay hands on the sick, and they shall recover.” You see the Father and Christ also set teachers in the Churches; and as the Father gives the gift of healings, so, too, does the Son give; as the Father gives the gift of tongues, so, too, has the Son also granted it.

      (152.) In like manner we have heard also above concerning the Holy Spirit, that [He too grants the same kinds of graces.] For it is said: “To one is given through the Spirit the gift of healings, to another various kinds of tongues, to another prophecy.” 1 Corinthians 12:8-9 So, then, the Spirit gives the same gifts as the Father, and the Son also gives them. Let us now learn more expressly what we have touched upon above, that the Holy Spirit entrusts the same office as the Father and the Son, and appoints the same persons; since Paul said: “Take heed to yourselves, and to all the flock in the which the ” Holy Spirit has made you overseers to rule the Church of God.” Acts 20:28.

      These examples are by no means exhaustive. Exorcisms for the believer were also done in regularity for a season in the early church (Tertullian).


    • Matthew

      I consider myself a de facto cessationist although I have experienced a miraculous healing in my own body.

      I was raised in a charismatic church and witnessed all of the “sign gifts” practiced regularly. While I do believe that most of the participants are true believers, I have always had my doubts regarding the authenticity of the “gifts”. My first indication that something was off was my own lack of a “gift”.

      I have since come to the conclusion that prophesy is simply wishful thinking. I do believe that healings occur, as I myself have experienced this. However, while I recognize God’s ability to heal or not heal at His own pleasure, I also believe that many of the supposed healings are nothing more than psychosomatic responses to the believers expectation in a healing.

      If you have ever experienced a charismatic worship service, you would understand how this is possible.

      I feel that the same principle holds true for speaking in tongues.

      I have often wondered if the whole “signs” philosophy functioned like a placebo on the adherents of it. I’ve also wondered if I knew that the Ibuprofen that I took to get rid of my headache was really a sugar pill, would I still take it. The answer is yes.

      To those who are charismatics, if it enhances their walk with God, I say good for them.

    • […] about which position is right.  Much ink has been spilled in Michael’s comprehensive series here. My friends over at To Be Continued write extensively on this topic and have addressed some of there […]

    • […] Those who follow our blog at To Be Continued, you might remember that, back in the summer, Marv and I interacted with Michael Patton’s in depth series entitled, Why I Am Not A Charismatic. […]

    • […] of the subject of “spiritual gifts.” In a series of eight posts he explained “Why I am not  Charismatic.” Readers of To Be Continued will be familiar with it, as with our point by point […]

    • […] of the subject of “spiritual gifts.” In a series of eight posts he explained “Why I am not  Charismatic.” Readers of To Be Continued will be familiar with it, as with our point by point […]

    • […] from Patton, who previously authored a series of eight solo posts with a similar title (“Why I am not Charismatic“). In case we forgot to remind you, we authored a part-for-part response to his series, […]

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