How about this: I am a “de facto cessationist.”

Let me clarify something that might help you understand. Some of you have read about this on my blog. It might sound radical and controversial, but, if you listen, you will see it’s not.

Here’s my perspective: I don’t believe in a closed canon. I simply believe that the canon hasn’t been added to since the first century. Why? Because God hasn’t added to it through established representatives like prophets and apostles. It’s as simple as that. This is a de facto “closing.” We reflect on why it hasn’t been expanded, and we believe that Hebrews 1:1-2 might provide some insight. It feeds our systematic. theology on this area. However, we aren’t certain. God could indeed add to it if He wished. We don’t have the authority to close it. No individual or council can shut God’s mouth. History merely showcases His actions or the absence of them.

Regarding the charismatic issue, I don’t find any scripture that definitively “closes” the utilization of any spiritual gift. Some of them seemingly ceased on their own, de facto! This doesn’t imply that the underlying acts of these gifts have ceased. God can still prophesy, heal, or perform any miracle through anyone He wishes. We can’t restrain His power. We should always hunger for his fellowship in such a way. It comes from a desire for Him to return.

Based on my perspective regarding the “de facto cessation” of the gifts, I then refer back to the Bible to comprehend why they might have ceased. But one thing is clear: if God had maintained the use of these gifts throughout history and if modern Christianity was genuinely characterized by the profound manifestations of His gifts, we’d all be charismatic. If this was a standard practice in the church, even the staunchest cessationist would ultimately acknowledge and re-interpret the Scripture.

I’m confident in this: our beliefs in this area ultimately stem from our experiences. Again, the Scriptures leave the issues open. Yes, I said that: it’s our experiences, not the Scriptures. We’ve all witnessed the ceasing of the canon, and we all engage with the power and presence of God in our unique ways. The Scriptures might be ambiguous on these topics, but God’s actions throughout history are evident.

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

    16 replies to "Why I’m a “De facto Cessationist” (But Dont Want to Be)"

    • Ed Chapman

      Well there, Catholic! Finally something we both can agree upon! Predetermination kinda gets in the way for Calvinists in a major way.

    • Ed Chapman

      I disagree. Love will never cease, even after we die. God is Love. If love were to end, then God would end.

      The rest will cease when no longer needed, either when we die, or the end of time. There is nothing rhetorical about what Paul said here. When that which is perfect come states all that is needed to understand when it will all end.

      It amuses me the hoops people want to go through to indicate that the gifts have ceased.

    • Ed Chapman

      Oh, and just to be clear, I never said the word “revelation”, as in future JESUS prophesy stuff. Prophesy in THIS context is in regards to the life of a PERSON, kinda like when Paul was told not to go to Jerusalem because he’s gonna get arrested if he does (Acts 21). But he went anyway, and got arrested, just like what was prophesied about him. So I don’t know where people get the idea that prophesy in this context has anything to do with Jesus revelation as a “gift”. The person who prophesied about Paul had the gift of prophesy.

    • Ed Chapman

      Well, as you know, I don’t conform to those boundaries. That’s why I’m not Catholic. My orthodoxy is not your orthodoxy. But it’s noted.

    • Ed Chapman

      I don’t think so at all. If history is your thing, go for it. I’m just reading sentences that takes only common sense to figure out. Jesus did say something about straining at a knat. This stuff isn’t that difficult to figure out. Common sense, buddy!

    • Eric Quek

      Michael, I have been reflecting on your “De facto Cessationist” stance (but don’t want to be). Let me summarize and correct me if I am wrong:
      A. De Facto cessation of canon—reason, absence of new authoritative scriptures since then.
      B. Openness to spiritual gifts—some gits are not commonly practice thus de facto, but that does not mean God cannot grant them.
      C Role of experience in belief—personal experience influences belief in the continuation or cessation of spiritual gifts.
      D. Historical evidence of divine action—Your view is that God’s actions or absence in history are evident and should inform belief and theology.
      I would like to share works from Dr. Craig Keener & Dr. J.P Moreland in their scholarly pursuit on this matter so as to give us a fresh perspective that resonate with the heart of our dialogue.
      Craig Keener’s extensive documentation of contemporary miracles in his seminal work, “Miracles:
      The Credibility of the New Testament Account.” (which I have and read), challenges the notion that divine interventions are confined to the apostolic age. His meticulous scholarship brings forth a compelling case for the continuation of God’s miraculous workings across cultures and times.
      J. P. Moreland’s “Kingdom Triangle”, which I have as well, presents a robust philosophical and theological argument for a worldview that is inclusive of the supernatural. His approach shows that this viewpoint is both logical and in harmony with an active faith.
      Deep delve into Keener’s research on Miracles:
      I found his two-volume work to be seminal for the following reasons:
      • Historical verification: Reports on miracles, including healings and other supernatural events, that have been documented and often supported by eyewitness testimony and in some cases medical evidence. Keener, Craig. Miracles: The Credibility of the New Testament Account. Vol.2 Grand Rapid, Michigan; Baker Academic, 2011, 727ff.
      • Challenge to Skepticism: His scholarly approach, he challenges the naturalistic assumptions that are prevalent in contemporary historiography and argues that they should be included as real.
      J.P. Moreland’s Supernatural Worldview: Moreland provides a philosophical framework that supports the reality of the supernatural, arguing that a theistic worldview naturally accommodates the existence and operation of spiritual gifts. He emphasizes that personal experiences of the supernatural are not merely subjective anecdotes but can serve as credible evidence for the ongoing work of the Holy Spirit.
      Your approach—recognizing the ambiguity of Scripture in some areas and the significant role of experience in shaping our beliefs—resonates with the evidence these scholars present. A dialogue involving their perspective could offer us a broader foundation upon which to examine our own.
      For all
      How do you think Keener’s documented cases of contemporary miracles might challenge or reinforce the typical cessationist perspective?
      Practical implications: Considering the possible continuation of spiritual gifts, how might this influence the way we equip leaders and congregants in our churches to discern and exercise these gifts responsibly and effectively?

      • C Michael Patton

        They are both wonderful men and have significant experiences that I trust to be mostly compelling. I actually had Keener come out to the Credo House and speak on his miracles work right after it came out. I’m a big fan of it. However, something I may not have made clear enough, is that I do not deny the continuation of miracles. God did not become a deist God after the completion of the New Testament, or any time in history. The questions that I have with regard to the charismatic issue have to do with the three necessary conditions of being a ascribing to the charismatic view of spiritual gifts (again, not miracles)
        1. Be a continuationist: belief that all the gifts have continued. This I am very open to. There is nothing in Scripture that “closes” any of the gifts.
        2. Believe they are normative for the local church (not just sporadically found in the history of the church)
        3. Personally pursue these gifts.

        in a series of blog posts that I did with Sam Storms as well as a 16 part podcast from Theology Unplugged back in 2010 to 2012, these three conditions are what Sam and I agreed upon. Sam is considered, or at least, should be, the Premier evangelical, charismatic, he is a very fine person and a great friend. He was there for me in significant parts of my life. I will never forget that. That aside, I could never get past number two of the qualifications. That is what both church history and personal experience have led me to. you take away either one of those church history or personal experience, and you don’t have it being normative. I say this because I have been involved in all of the best charismatic circles (unless Sam doesn’t know what they were and I have just been misled by him, Keener, and Moreland on where they are). I was involved at Sam Storms church for many years. A regular at tinder. I loved it a great deal. However, while I was there, the entire time I never experienced first hand or second hand, anything that I could say, was actually a supernatural work of God through a gift of the spiri I was involved at Sam Storms church for many years. A regular at tinder. I loved it a great deal. However, while I was there, the entire time I never experienced first hand or second hand, anything that I could say, was actually a supernatural work of God through a gift of the Spirit. I had prophecies too many to count that were sporadically given to me. They were all wrong. Sam Storms even gave me one himself. There was no way to verify it. As much as I want to believe it. (and I do) I cannot use my mind, intentions, and trust over to claims, no matter how much I respect a person, if the claims do not pass the tests. I hope that makes sense.

        • Eric Quek

          Thank you for your clarification. Your journey through the charismatic tradition, marked by both reverence for its tenets & a rigorous quest for verifiable spiritual experiences, is profoundly moving. Your openness to the continuation of gifts, coupled with the personal struggle to witness their normative manifestation in the church, reflects a deep yearning for authenticity in faith practices.
          In your discernment, you engaged with the charismatic view not just theoretically but also practically, living out its principles in community and personal devotion. This hands on approach has given you insights that are as valuable as they are hard earned. It is clear that while you maintain an openness to the possibility of the miraculous, your commitment to truth leads you to require more than anecdotal evidence.
          Your reflections bring to the fore the tension between the desire for tangible evidence of the HS work and the acceptance that such evidence may not always conform to empirical standards. In spirituality, as in science, the unobservable can be just as real as the observable, though it defies quantification and replication. Your approach does not dismiss the mysterious but rather seeks to engage with it responsibly.
          The challenges you’ve encountered resonate with the core of spiritual inquire: How do we hold on to the rigor of evidence while embracing the ineffable nature of divine interaction? Your framework suggests that faith and reason are not adversaries but companions in this exploration. As you’ve experienced, the spiritual path is not a linear one, nor is it uniform across all believers.
          What remains clear from your dialogue with Sam and your own personal experiences is that the search for empirical solidity in spiritual matters must also leave room for the unpredictable ways in which the HS chooses to move. This dual acknowledgment does not diminish the validity of your empirical approach; instead, it enriches it, ensuring that your empirical inquiry into spiritual fits does not overlook the very essence of faith, Hebrew 11:1.
          In this way, your framework is not only refreshing but also deeply necessary. It challenges the Christian community to strive for a faith that is robust, discerning, and open to the mystery of the divine. Your perspective encourages us to embrace the empirical without dismissing the enigmatic, inviting a fuller experience of the spiritual life that honors both the mind and the spirit.

        • C Michael Patton

          I would think to rebel against an authority, said authority would have to be an established authority! That I do not grant the Pope, the congregation of Bishops, nor your catechism. Respect, often. But authority? At least the type that you’re looking for, no.

          In the end, we’re probably both in the same boat since the Magisterium has yet to speak dogmatically on this issue for you guys either. Kind of funny considering what I said in that open letter. At least the pope saw fit to cover the Marian Dogmas! at least the pope saw fit to cover the Marion Dogmas.

          having said that, this is quite an odd view to talk about subjectivity. There are various degrees of subjectivity. Again, just like your subjectivity concerning your personal belief about the magisterial authority. Of course, your belief is subjective. so really, we’re in the same boat about it all if you are defining subjectivity that way.

          however, subjectivity is normally reserved to those beliefs that you have for which there is not evidence beyond your own personal opinion. I would think you might appreciate the witness of church tradition now and then. four, well, most of the church fathers, and beyond into the reformation, certainly believed in miracles, they did not believe the three established parameters of what makes spiritual gifts. 1) continuation, 2) normative nature in history and in today’s local assembly, and 3) the personal pursuit of these gifts. All of which I can see except number two. do you think these gifts are normative for the local church? and when I say this, I do not mean the gifts themselves to the church as a whole, but the individualized gifts given to members of the church for them to function is there a part of the Body? If you do, who is your establish prophet who can regularly prophecies and gets it right?

        • Edward Chapman

          Good response. I would take it even further, regarding the “authority” conversation. Protestants do not recognize any man as “authority”. Opinion makers, sure; influence, sure. But authority? No.

          Outside of the topic of gifts, protestants have already been successful at debunking a lot of “church fathers” authority concusions about a lot of things Catholic.

          The problem with the succession of denominations of reformation is…they still have a lot of catholic baggage that they still carry with them, thereby retaining catholic authority, unwittingly.

          And that’s a problem. They are afraid to completely sever, because they still have so much respect for church history, and church fathers.

          I don’t. They are just men who put on their pants the same way I do. Authority? LOL.

        • Eric Quek

          Edward Chapman, thanks for your take on authority within the Protestant tradition. You’re right that there is a fundamental difference in how Protestant view authority compared to Catholics tradition, with a strong emphasis on the authority of the Scriptures rather than on ay human leader. You raise an interesting point about the remnants of catholic influence in Protestant denominations. It’s a conversation worth having–how much of what is traditionally accepted within Protestant churches comes from our heritage and how much is purely from scriptural backing. Your skepticism about the authority of he church fathers is shared by may who are looking to remove layers they feel aren’t scripturally warranted.
          It would be insightful to delve into your ideas about how Protestantism could further reform its practice. How do you think churches should handle the balance between respect for historical teachings and the sole authority of the scriptures?

        • Ed Chapman

          Eric Quek,
          Thank you for your reply. Let me give a little bit of a background on me.

          I’m not a Jehovah’s Witness. But…When I was a baby Christian, I had a friend of mine try to proselytize me to become a Jehovah’s Witness. Well, I wasn’t having it, because everyone knew that they were a cult. But you know what? I didn’t know what they believed, so how could I conclude that they were a cult. I hardly knew what I believed. But since they had a reputation of being a cult, I was curious to see if what they said passed muster. I wanted to debate this guy. But if I didn’t know about what I believed, how could I?

          Have you ever read a church’s “WE BELIEVE” statements? Who is we? And how did “we” come to the conclusion?

          What I’ve learned over the years, is that “some people” had a meeting some 600 years ago, and I wasn’t invited. I never got the memo. Someone else told “we”, whoever we is, what to believe. And due to CHURCH FATHERS authority of the way of doing business, “WE” just said, “OK”. Dumb sheep!

          I will give one example on what protestants of the reformation call, communion. We know that Catholics call it transub-whatever. And we know what they believe in that regard. Now, while it is a good thing that protestants rejected that, all they did was modify it into a different “ritual”.

          The reference to this so-called “communion” is 1 Corinthians chapter 8. Has anyone ever read the story?

          Paul was admonishing these people because there was division in the church. He wasn’t establishing a ritual of a thimble of grape juice and a piece of gluten free bread stick.

          He was discussing a church banquet, and how people were being rude. The lesson was about ethics on how to conduct yourself at the dinner table at church. He used the Last Supper as THE example on how EVERYONE got to eat the meal, and no one goes hungry. And he ends the story by saying that if you are that hungry, eat at home. Where do you get “communion” from that?

          Now, I don’t really care what church’s do in the communion ritual, as you are still honoring God, but that certainly is not what Paul was discussing.

          I have a saying, and that saying is that denominations search the commentaries daily to see if the bible is right. But Bereans search the scriptures daily to see if what we are being taught is right…or wrong.

          This communion example is just one of many. Another is that we have preachers that are expository preaching fans. That’s not exactly a good thing. You can’t learn the spiritual revelations that way.

          Example: The story of Jonah. The preacher preaches that Jonah was a bad man, because he didn’t want to go to Nineveh. And the moral of the story? Be obedient. Expository!

          But what is the spiritual? What is the sole purpose of the prophets? Especially in the case of Jonah? Jesus. 3 days, 3 nights.

          We really need to get back to the drawing board, and get rid of Augustine, and like minded “church fathers”, and TRY AGAIN.

          Why did the Jews reject Jesus? Deuteronomy 29:4. That’s why. Was Jesus supposed to have been crucified? Yes, and why? But we have Preterists who have no clue.

          Can Christians get a divorce and remarry? Yes, and why? But who teaches that they can’t? Why?

          We need to figure out FOR OURSELVES what we believe and why we believe it. We can’t just say, because that’s what the preacher said, because that preacher only knows what he was told, who taught him, who taught him, and so on, and it originated with some meeting that “some people” had some 600 years ago.

          I don’t believe everything in the “We believe” statements.

        • Eric Quek

          Ed Chapman. Thank you for sharing your perspective on religious beliefs and practices. Your dedication to personal scripture study and a critical examination of established doctrines is commendable. It’s clear that you have a passion for returning to what you see as the foundations of Christian faith, grounded in a direct, unmediated understanding of the Bible. This approach is reminiscent of the Berean spirit, encourages a deep and individual engagement with scripture, which can be quite powerful.
          Addressing the weaknesses you’ve highlighted in your approach offers an opportunity to enhance that engagement. As you rightly point out, any robust belief system must stand up to scrutiny, Here’s a further exploration into the points you’ve raised:
          1. Regarding Tradition: While the pursuit of scriptural purity is noble, tradition plays an important role. How? Tradition often embodies the wisdom of collective spiritual experience and serves as a stabilizing force in religious practice. In addition, offer a sense of identity and community. Ignoring this can lead to a rootless spirituality, where individuals may feel disconnected from the historical church. How to leverage subjectivity: Understand that the role of tradition can provide a communal interpretative lens that guide purely subjective readings of scripture, to ensue that new interpretations are weighed against the collective understanding of the past. In addition, believe that Michael’s course: The Theology Program: Bibliology & Hermeneutics #2 of 6 goes through the principles of biblical interpretation to provide a stable starting point for understanding scripture. I personally believe it is Worth Rereading or obtain the whole series. Another way to leverage subjective interpretations is to make theological education for lay members–again this is one of Michael’s goal and in facilitating that goal he made it at very very economical price to the point of FREE. This way lay members can equip themselves with proper tools for interpretation that align with the broader Christian tradition.

        • C Michael Patton

          Thanks Eric. I love that you recommend this!

        • Eric Quek

          Ed Chapman, Michael: I recommend your series including #2 : Bibliology & Hermeneutics is preciously because we need to have a common understanding in how to do hermeneutics.
          This is why I recommend your series –essentially a workbook. I am novice compare to Chuck Swindoll, Daniel B Wallace & JP Moreland ( whom I had the privilege to take several of his classes at Biola University at graduate level) who are giants in their field of expertise .
          First know that this is a Workbook. This means one is provided a foundation and upon that one is empowered to grow by delving into the subject.
          I will pick up on Session (: History of Interpretation:
          Part A. Introduce hermeneutics with key terms. I especially love his differentiation on Exegesis–drawing out the text’s meaning as the original author intended! & Eisegesis–projecting one’s own interpretation onto the text, often without regard for context or intent.! .
          Part B. A Brief history of interpretation by Jewish, NT, early church, medieval and reformation hermeneutics.
          Here are the summarized bullet format:
          1. The first century Jews, especially the Pharisees and scribes, employed a method called Midrash to interpret Scripture. This includes a careful textual analysis and sought deeper meaning in the text.
          2. They also believed in the dual Torah or Written Law/ Hebrew Bible and the Oral Law–applications and interpretation. This was later codified in the Talmud.
          3. Often used typology, a technique that interprets events, person or statements in the OT as foreshadowing later events. This is Foundational in Christian hermeneutics to better appreciate its importance in both Jewish and Christian contexts.
          Interpretations by Christ and Apostles:
          Christ often interpreted Scripture in ways that challenged the conventional Jewish thought of His time. He used parables, typology, and a Christocentric approach where He was the fulfillment of OT prophecy. Similarly, Apostles employed a Chris centered interpretation or Christocentric hermeneutics.
          Early Church Hermeneutic:
          Patton argue that early Church continued the Christocentric interpretation employed by Christ and NT writers. A beautifully illustrated table: Functional–Typological, Allegorical, Historical-Grammatical hermeneutics
          There are so many more which can empower oneself through such delve into leveraging hermeneutics and starve subjectivity in our dialogue.
          I wish you a happy empowering journey through Hermeneutics as we all Grow together not only in academic exercise but as a tool for personal edification and clearer dialogue in faith communities.

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