Robert – If we were to look at the most basic argument against tongues and prophecy not existing today it would come down to 1 Corinthians 13:8-10. It is here that Paul says they will cease: “8Love never fails. But where there are prophecies, they will cease; where there are tongues, they will be stilled; where there is knowledge, it will pass away. 9For we know in part and we prophesy in part, 10but when perfection comes, the imperfect disappears.” So then the question becomes, when, and has perfection come? Kevin has offered two points here. He states that because tongues is not mentioned in the Epistles after 1 Corinthians that tongues ceased then. Then he suggested that perhaps the perfection that is mentioned is the canonized Bible. If we take both of those statements at face value, then there is a time contradiction. It has to be either or, and cannot be both.
There is another point that I have to make here because Kevin has eluded to it on several occasions. The Bible is clear as to how these gifts are to be used. Tongues/ Prophesy have abusers just as does many aspects of the Bible. That fact cannot support the argument against tongues and prophecy. If you were to base any argument based on that rule, then you would have to eliminate several portions of the Bible.
History has shown that God can move in a number of ways. Historically, we have to remember the shock waves that were sent by Martin Luther and John Calvin during the reformation. They were labeled heretics, not true to doctrine. Similar to today, there are those who would deny any reformation or revival because it does not fit into their world view. A play that would be and possibly is similar to the response of the Catholic Church during the reformation. If it was possible then, why is it so impossible now?
Kevin – In total, my impression of Robert’s argumentation reminds me of the old adage “where there’s smoke there’s fire”. We all know that’s not true. It’s like Robert’s saying: Smoke doesn’t necessarily mean a current fire… Maybe the fire was put out… nor does a fire truck roaring by – there could be an accident. But when you see a fire truck roaring by, then you look to the horizon and see smoke and then as you get closer to the smoke you feel heat most reasonable people would say that there is most likely a fire… What’s most reasonable?
1 Corinthians 13 doesn’t say when tongues will cease… so, I guess, they could maybe still be current. Silence in scripture about sign gifts for the most part doesn’t necessarily mean that 1 Corinthians 13 has been fulfilled… Sign gifts disappearing almost completely off the scene historically from after the apostolic era until about 100 years ago (except in rare and dubious circumstances) isn’t an air-tight case against the biblical validity of their current manifestation – maybe God had no use for them then (why does He need them now?)… But, when you take all these into account… Where there’s fire trucks, and smoke and intense heat… What’s more reasonable… Fire or maybe no fire?
Look… If Robert’s point is to argue that God CAN assign the sign gifts to Christians in the modern era, I will concede the debate – God CAN do anything He wants. However, if he is trying to talk about what happens currently then the history of how this doctrine came to be debated in modern times needs to be examined. Now, to be fair, Robert has divorced himself from groups who have propagated sign gifts in a way that is inconsistent with 1 Corinthians 14. The problem is that the modern practice of tongues and “prophetic words” had resurgence and kept momentum due in large part to groups and theologians who, by and large, do not conform to biblical mandates regarding how they should be used (see 1 Corinthians 14) and/or make them an additional requirement for salvation (a notation that is clearly unbiblical). Again, this IS NOT Robert’s position, however the modern manifestation of sign gifts are, to use a law term, fruit from the poison tree. This wouldn’t even be an issue had the current manifestations not happened.
In looking at the whole picture to determine our present circumstances, one must examine Scripture (1 Corinthians 13:8-10, among others); look at the silence in the scriptures about this issue after Paul said that they would stop; look at the historical use of spiritual gifts in total; look at the history of the use of these gifts in light of 1 Corinthians 14 and then ask themselves: What’s more reasonable and logical? That the sign gifts took an 1800+ year hiatus and are now completely valid. Has God left 1800+ years of Christians without some key revelations that He is just now revealing to these generations? Should we assume that God is erratic or inconsistent or schizophrenic since the end of the apostolic era? Or should we take 1 Corinthians 13:8-10 at face value; cling to the fact that the Bible is perfect and sufficient for instruction and prophecy; and trust that God has been consistent in the post-apostolic era? Which position is more logical and reasonable?
Overall, however, I think a focus on the “powers” of the Holy Spirit is a bit misguided. I think a better focus (especially in light of how the spiritual gifts lists interplay with the theme of love in 1 Corinthians 13) is for us to focus on the FRUIT of the Spirit (see Galatians 5:22-26). We should use whatever gift(s) God has given us to love one another and to strengthen the church and to point others to Jesus. Let’s do a better job of that and leave the secondary/tertiary issues alone until we get the primary stuff down cold. Let’s focus on how the Holy Spirit empowers us to live a godly life and then submit to His leadings. Robert and I have done our best to do that in our own lives and in our friendship with one another in spite of our differences on this topic.