Mr. Spock Says, “Highly Illogical.”


Mr. Spock--and the discerning of spirits?Everyone’s favorite Vulcan, Star Trek‘s Mr. Spock, was forced to deal with illogical humans on a daily basis. But as any casual observer of the show knows, Spock was routinely stymied by the fact that the illogical humans got results. He was even forced to think like them on occasion. In one classic episode, Spock blew the mind of some robots even more logical than himself by resorting to illogic in order to save the crew of the Enterprise.

In the battle over cessationism, I was thinking today about a piece of illogic that strains the credibility of those who champion cessationism. For those unfamiliar with cessationism, the proponents claim that the supernatural gifts of the spirit ceased with the deaths of the apostles. A quick reminder of those gifts:

Now there are varieties of gifts, but the same Spirit; and there are varieties of service, but the same Lord; and there are varieties of activities, but it is the same God who empowers them all in everyone. To each is given the manifestation of the Spirit for the common good. To one is given through the Spirit the utterance of wisdom, and to another the utterance of knowledge according to the same Spirit, to another faith by the same Spirit, to another gifts of healing by the one Spirit, to another the working of miracles, to another prophecy, to another the ability to distinguish between spirits, to another various kinds of tongues, to another the interpretation of tongues. All these are empowered by one and the same Spirit, who apportions to each one individually as he wills.
—1 Corinthians 12:4-11

Beyond the enormous issue of asking when the gift of faith passed away, the one that I am not getting is the logical assertion by cessationists that the gift of the discerning of spirits has passed away.

Any quick read of major cessationist authors reveals a loop of illogic that would probably send Spock into fits: the fact that cessationists claim to be able to discern that the spirit behind the modern charismatic gifts is not the Spirit of God.

Think about that for a second. If that gift has passed away, then what are cessationists using to discriminate the spirit that is fueling the charismatic excesses they despise? Are they using the very gift they claimed passed away?

Truly this is a loop of illogic that Spock would have had an aneurysm over.

{Photo of “Mr. Spock” copyright Paramount Pictures}

5 thoughts on “Mr. Spock Says, “Highly Illogical.”

  1. Actually, there are few true cessationists left. At lest where I live. What they ae doing now is redefining the gifts. So the word of knowledge becomes something you learn quickly from books; the word of wisdom is actually repackaged man’s wisdom; the gift of faith stays as is since they don’t have problems with this one; the gift of tongues is either taught as someone learning a foreign language very quickly with the help of God, or an actual supernatural gift tht only a few missionaries get once in a lifetime when dealing with peoples whose language they don’t know and so forth.

  2. Great post.

    I think cessationism is extremely hard to defend from Scripture without major twisting. I do understand, however, the motivation of some who argue for it; the phonies masquerading as being “in the Spirit” (a la TBN programming) are enough to scare away a serious student of Scripture.

    However, IMO Scripture is extremely clear on this subject, and I know from personal experience that the gifts haven’t ceased. 😉

  3. Mark

    Another good post by you, Dan. If I may add my two cents to this, let me comment on one verse in the New Testament constantly misused by cessationists: 1 John 4:1-3.

    Cessationists love to quote this verse when arguing their position, as if to infer that anyone (not just some televangelist, but ANYONE) that holds the position that signs and wonders are for the whole church age never practices what John taught in this passage.

    The problem with such an assertion is that cessationists actually go too far in their application of this passage. The passage simply says that Christians are not to believe every spirit but instead to try them to see whether they are of God. The way that cessationists interpret and apply this is different, because they reject all claims of the supernatural working within the church today, period, no exceptions.

    Rather than properly interpreting what the verse says – that we are not to believe EVERY spirit – they interpret it to mean that we are not to believe ANY spirit. In other words, we are to only read the Bible and to reject any and all supernatural manifestations as being from below. This is not what John was saying. It couldn’t be. Because if it were, there would be no reason for us to test the spirits at all. Instead, we should just reject them out of hand, without even examining what was said. The very fact that John said we were to test them, and then in verse 2 and 3 provided the litmus test to use, clearly indicates that there are some spiritual manifestations that truly are of God. Those that are will always, without exception, be from the Third Person, will point people to Jesus as having been incarnated, will convict sinners, and will line up with a truly accurate interpretation and application of Scripture.

    Actually, to bring up yet another point, this passage says nothing about spiritual gifts per se. What John was addressing is the issue of whether the acknowledgement was made that God in Christ had come in the flesh. John did not say to try the spirits to see whether they advocated the use of spiritual gifts or not. So the cessationist, in using this passage of Scripture, is misapplying it when he tries to use it to argue against Godly signs occurring today.

    One only wonders what the cessationist would say if someone were to say to him, “Well, I did what 1 John 4:1-3 said and I decided that what you said doesn’t line up with the Bible, therefore I say the spirit in which you work is not of God, so I reject you as a false teacher.”

    I know from both the Bible and from experience that cessationism is wrong and there is not a single cessationist arguement that will stand up when carefully examined. Such arguments are invariably slanted and contain inconsistent reasoning. Oh, and one other thing to consider: if Jesus healed people only to prove His diety (a common cessationist assertion), why did He distribute spiritual gifts, such as healings, upon the early church? Obviously, they had purposes other than just to prove He was God.

    P.S. Jon Ruthven wrote an outstanding scholarly book about this subject that I highly recommend. Keep up the good work.

  4. KT LIm

    They are very creative reasoners. They work on the premise that God only speaks through the Bible today. So to them, any spirit speaking would be outside of the written word and invalid. They would claim, since there is no need for new revelation, no spirit from God would act contrary to this rule. They would say that since Continuatists cannot discern the Scriptures that say the gift has ceased, they cannot discern any spirit at all. Etc.

    So it is quite futile to present Scriptures to them that require debate to understand. It is just fuel to the fire. Instead, we should present Scriptures that are explicit. Paul’s conclusion in his directions for the spiritual gifts is as explicit as any can be:

    “If anyone thinks himself a prophet or spiritual, let him acknowledge that the things I have written to you are THE LORD’S COMMAND…THEREFORE earnestly desire to prophesy and do not forbid tongues.” 1 Cor 14:37-39

    There, we have it in B & W: the Lord Jesus through Paul explicitly commanded us to operate the gifts. I cannot see any Cessationist squirming out of that one.

    Paul wrote very strongly here. It is one of those few texts that carries a serious warning (14:38).

    A final thought: The church was at its most orthodox during the supervision of the Apostles and it was ‘charismatic’. An ‘anti-charismatic’ position would had been heterodox. I am getting scared for the cessationist brethren!

    • Mark

      You are certainly correct, KT, about the cessationists being “creative reasoners.” What they do is this: they start with their false presupposition, then read the Bible through the glasses of that presupposition, and therefore conclude that their position is exactly what the Scriptures say. Cessationists love to accuse continuationists of putting experience over Scripture, apparently without ever stopping to ponder the possibility (if not the actuality) that they could be guilty of putting their theology over Scripture.

      It is true that cessationists always claim that God speaks only through the Bible, although they never cite a single verse that says so. The reality, though, is that, in fact, they don’t believe this – not in practice, anyway. If someone truly thinks that God speaks only through the Bible and no other means, he would have to believe (if he is going to be consistent in his reasoning) that we don’t need anything but the Bible itself. That would mean we don’t need ministers of any kind – no preachers, no teachers, no Bible study materials, no books, no tapes, no websites….nothing. After all, God doesn’t speak to us through those things; He only speaks through the Bible, hence we don’t need anything else. Now, do cessationists actually believe that? Do they follow their argument to its logical end? Of course not.

      I have seen the verses used by cessationists to try to allege the Bible says the gifts have ceased. None of these verses teach such a thing. The cessationist invariably puts his “spin” on these verses and makes them say something they don’t (i.e. 1 Corinthians 13:8-10).

      There is one other important point about all this. In making the claim that we don’t need any more revelation, therefore spiritual gifts do not operate today, cessationists misunderstand the purpose of these gifts. They were NEVER given for the purpose of writing Scripture. Nowhere in the Bible does it say they were used for that job. 1 Corinthians has the most explicit passages that talk about spiritual gifts and not one time does Paul say they were meant for the writing of divinely inspired books.

      Cessationists confuse (1) the special inspiration God gave to those men whom He chose to write the books we now have in the Bible with (2) the Holy Spirit-led gifts that were made available to the Church for a different purpose altogether. Think about this: if spiritual gifts were given for the purpose of writing Scripture, why didn’t anyone in the church at Corinth (to whom Paul gave instructions about using these gifts) use them to write a book that would be considered divinely inspired? If that was one of the functions of spiritual gifts, surely Paul would have said so.

      The point here is that the charismata has nothing to do with writing new revelation. No pentecostal or charismatic that I know of has ever claimed to have used some supernatural gift from God in order to write an addition to the canon of the Bible. Obviously, the Bible is the final authority when assessing things, and when God is at work, what He does will always be consistent with His Word.

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