Friday, January 05, 2007

An Honest Question for "Cessationists"

I just posted the following as a comment to a post on Wade Bursleson's blog, but figured I would post it here as well, in case anyone prefers to dialogue about it here.

I would like to ask an honest question of "cessationists" within the SBC. I would like to pose a hypothetical situation for the sake of making a point, as well as for the sake of helping me in my own thinking and decisions related to all of this. I would sincerely implore you to give careful thought, as well as to be as honest and objective as you possibly can in answering this question:

If, on the basis of your study of the Word of God, you were to come to the conclusion that "private prayer language" is indeed an authentic gift of the Holy Spirit still valid for today, though not necessarily the initial sign of baptism in the Holy Spirit; and, if, you continued to hold to the doctrinal position of the Baptist Faith and Message; and, if you continued to see the value of cooperating together with others who identify themselves as Southern Baptists for the advance of the Kingdom of God, how would you respond to everything that has been going on in SBC life over the last year related to these issues?

Would you:

A. Quit being a Southern Baptist, and look for some other group with which to cooperate?

B. Remain a Southern Baptist, but quietly bide your time, waiting for the administrative process to work out these issues on its own?

C. Become active in the process of helping the SBC to be more open in its acceptance of this particular position in regards to such things as missionary appointments and doctrinal statements?, or

D. Do something else not described well by either option A, B, or C?


Bryan Riley said...

Before any one could get to the point of trying to determine what is the appropriate action in such a circumstance it would require an admission of error. Before one can admit error one must realize they have erred. Before they can realize error they must be humble. Begging the question argumentation, as you demonstrated was at play over on Marty's blog, is not typically a manifestation of humility.

Great question. I hear crickets. I am reminded of Ferris Bueller's teacher and classroom. I see ocean front property in Arizona (although if California falls into the ocean...). :)

volfan007 said...


if.....and thats a big if....if i came to believe that ppl's were scriptural. then i would do (c).

but, since i can find no scriptural evidence of ppl's, nor for speaking in ecstatic jibberace, then i would have to say that this is an error in theology.....or, maybe better put, an emotional extreme. thus, i see its danger.

although, as you and i have talked about before.....a dont ask..dont tell, and keep it really and truly private position is where i stand.


Wade Burleson said...


You and I have one thing in common and one thing not in common.

First, that which we have in common. If we were to believe that PPL's could be defended from Holy Writ, we would choose (C) in David's chart.

Second, that which we do not have in common is clear. Though I have never spoken in a 'private prayer language,' I would never call the private prayers of Dr. Jerry Rankin, Dr. Jack Taylor, Dr. Sam Storms, Dr. Alan Cross, Miss Bertha Smith, Dr. Jack Grudem, a few of my own church members and a host of other conservative, evangelical Southern Baptists who pray in tongues "ecstatic jibberace" (sic) or 'emotional extremes.'

The danger you see is in your own head. Maybe you are scared that they will pray in tongues publicly? But, if a church and a person practices their gift according to the Word of God it will always be done (1). decently and in order, (2). with an interpretor, (3). will never violate the Word of God, (4). and in public one should always desire to speak five words of understanding than "ten thousand words in an unknown tongue." The Bible itself makes tongues in public so rare as if were to not exist in corporate worship.

Therefore, Holy Writ puts so many restrictions on the public use of tongues that tongues speaking should, and in 99% of the time, MUST, be done in private, then, "Do NOT forbid the speaking in tongues" is Paul's injunction to us all (not to mention God's prohibition) that we never stop someone from praying in tongues. Paul himself, after giving the public restrictions says, "I am glad I speak in tongues more than you all."

So, my dear Southern Baptist friend, if, I am correct, and the Word of God teaches that the Spirit gifts some people to pray in tongues privately (and as I said, He has not so gifted me), and IF the people I have named above, including the Apostle Paul, are some of those that God has so gifted, then . . .

I would be very, very careful about what I said regarding their gift from God.

And I would work hard toward making our convention a place where people who are different in gifts cooperate for the winning of this world to Christ.



Baptist Theologue said...

D. If I had grown up in the Southern Baptist denomination (whose churches have disfellowshipped churches over this issue), and if I had spent a year on a ship with charismatics and gained an appreciation for their beliefs and for them as people, I would try to dispassionately separate my experiences from Scriptural data. (Of course, the Scriptural data would trump experience.) If I reached the conclusion that ecstatic utterances are bibilical and for today, I would wonder why I and others in my family had not experienced them, and I would leave the SBC and join a group where my family and I might receive more encouragement in doing so. It seems that very few Southern Baptists experience this gift that supposedly is still in existence, so it would be logical for someone that believes it is still in existence to go elsewhere rather than trying to change the belief system of an entire denomination. David, check out my latest blog entry. I've done a bit more research on the topic.

Tim Sweatman said...


It seems to me that you are placing your experience over Scripture. The fact that neither you nor anyone in your family has experienced this, or the fact that "few" Southern Baptists practice this, is irrelevant to determining whether the gift still exists today. I haven't personally seen a lot of supernatural healings or other miracles, but I refuse to use my experience to deny something that has a biblical foundation.

Baptist Theologue said...

Tim, I was just trying to identify with David's experiences when I answered his question. Experiences are important, but as I said, Scripture always trumps experience. You can check out my reasoning from Scripture in my latest blog entry:

BT out.

Alan Knox said...


I am not a "cessationist," but I once was. I did not change my stance because of experience, but through the study of Scripture.

If God reveals something to me such that I change my stance - my belief - I would not do A, B, or C.

I would teach God's people as God provides opportunity. I realize that this may be what you meant by option C. However, it is always my desire to see God change his people, not a denomination.



Grosey's Messages said...

If I were in the SBC, and held a continualist position, I would do nothing (now is that d or e?). I, as a cessationist and were I a continualist, would perceive the very same thing. The Brouhaha on tongues is nothing more than a diversion from gospel ministry.
If someone makes it an issue in either camp, they have been diverted from the priority of Gospel ministry.
Why don't you guys get on with evangelistic ministry rather than nit picking. You don't need to be arguing over "cooperating", you don't even need to be coopoerating, you need to be evangelising. Maybe there is too much hand-holding and not enough work that is substantial.
On the mission field you are invited sometimes to participate with charismatics in evangelistic rallies. I have cooperated with charismatics in evangelistic crusades. I have never seen a cooperative venture with charismatics actually do something substantial for the kingdom of God, rather it has undermoinjed the personal spiritual and emotional stability of my younger congregational members (even though they continue in our membership and fellowship).

I have cooperated with evangelical anglicans, evangelical Prebyterians and evangelical congregationalists in crusades (such as with Dick Lucas of St Helen's Bishopgate, or John Chapman, or we hosted one a few months back with the head of Anglican evangelism in the Sydney Anglican Diocese), and we have seen substantial (ongoing, gospel focussed, regeneration) results.

I don't really mind whose denominational congregations grow as a result of these crusades, provided they grow, and the folk don't wind up out the back door.


volfan007 said...


i guess you and i have a different view on what biblical tongues are. i would say...from my studies...that its known languages that are unknown to the speaker. the tongues that paul spoke were those kind, not ecstatic jibberace. my studies on corinthians and acts about tongues show me that paul was trying to stop the ecstatic jibberace type that the temple priestesses would do at corinth, and then this type of ecstatic utterances was creeping into the church. and, paul was trying to straiten it out.

wade, did you know that some african tribes would start speaking ecstatic jibberace as they worked themselves up into emotional frenzies as they worshipped thier false gods? and then, they would start speaking the same thing as the charismatic groups in the usa do?

now, if someone gets some kind of emotional lift from a private prayer language....where they are saying words that cannot be understood....then fine....let them go at it. it wont hurt anything for them to do this. but, i do have a huge problem if they start teaching others about it. like, if someone in my church has a ppl...and they do....then as long as they keep it private....then we are fine. or like, if a missionary has a ppl, then as long as it stays private, then fine. i would personally have no problem with it. but, if that missionary started teaching it to the others in the country he was in, then i would have huge problems with that missionary.


Strider said...

Steve, I am glad to say that I agree with you 100%. This should never have been an issue. Unlike the early 1970's it has not been the tongues guys who have made this an issue. Those opposed to tongues could make this a nonissue today by dropping the inquisition and saying no more about it. No one I know has an agenda to increase tongues speaking in the SBC.
Volfan007, So, you agree that the original IMB policies were perfectly adequate- you just outlined them.
And an aside: The enemy does nothing original. He can not create, he is not creative. The fact that heathen practices include something akin to tongues is proof that there must be something original that they are copying. That kind of reasoning is not foundational to my theology, I continue to rely on the scriptures for Truth. But it does merit our consideration.

David Rogers said...

Mike (Baptist Theologue),

It is true that my 2 years with Operation Mobilization on the ship M.V. Doulos, as well as several summer campaigns, made a big impact on my life. Together with experiences in many other settings (including several Baptist churches, both in the States, as well as Spain an other countries), I have come to see (among many other things) that those who claim to have a “PPL” are not necessarily any less committed to the authority of the Word of God and the Lordship of Christ than those who don’t.

However, I can assure you (while at the same time acknowledging the imperfection of our human condition) that I have done my absolute best to “dispassionately separate my experiences from Scriptural data.”

While I do not embrace the term “ecstatic utterances,” I am totally convinced that first and foremost it has been my study of Scripture that has led me to the conclusion that there does indeed exist a legitimate spiritual gift of “unknown or ‘angelic’ languages” that may be used in one’s private devotional life to express prayer and praise to the Father. At the same time, I do not “wonder why I and others in my family have not experienced them,” because my study of Scripture has also led me to conclude that the Holy Spirit distributes the various spiritual gifts to different individuals “just as he determines” (1 Cor. 12.11) and that not everyone is meant to speak in tongues (1 Cor. 12.30).

Scotte Hodel said...

David's original question was "what would you do?" So long as I can contribute contribute freely in funds and service, I'll continue with B and C. I have to admit, "A" is always there as a strong temptation, especially as I see "cooperation" redefined to mean "you give me your money and I disqualify you from service."

Some comments above cause me concern. On one hand, we're told experience is not an admissible argument.

On the other hand, we're told "... did you know that some african tribes would start speaking ecstatic jibberace as they worked themselves up into emotional frenzies as they worshipped thier false gods?"

That's a double standard.

Data (at minimum, testimonials of strong Christians) are available to support the value of prayer in the spirit, but these are rejected as "experience." On the other hand, demonic and occult activity is accepted as evidence of God's judgement on the matter.

But I digress.

Stuart said...


I think you'll find that some of those who are the quickest to cry, "that's an argument from experience," generally mean, "that's an argument from YOUR experience, when we all know that MY experience is normative."

volfan007 said...

i believe that if you will read my comment more closely that you will see that i was referring to scripture first and foremost. then, i also an illustration....about the african tribes. also, the temple priestesses(prostitutes) would get worked up into emotional frenzies and speak in ecstatic jibberace.

but, i always go to scripture for what i believe and practice.

you know, if you eat a baloney sandwich late at could have...well....experiences. especially if the baloney was bad. but, we shouldnt say that the experience was of God when it was something we ate. we ought to always let the bible dictate whats true.


Scotte Hodel said...

"you know, if you eat a baloney sandwich late at could have...well....experiences."

I know exactly what you mean, except that for me it's usually Chicago style pizza. Powerful stuff, but not generally a reliable source of information.


volfan007 said...