No Apologizing

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Have tongues ceased? The debate…closing arguments


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.

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Have tongues ceased? The debate…Part 2


I have a hard time limiting the ability of God to allow someone to speak in tongues or prophesize.  The whole Bible demonstrates various ways that the Holy Spirit moves.  None of them are identical.

Robert – God is capable of doing anything that is not contradictory to Himself.  Allowing these powers to continue on today is not a contradiction to any Bible verse.  If God wants people to speak in tongues, He can and will make that happen. 

Kevin – Rest assured. No one is trying to limit what God can or cannot do – You or I certainly could not even if we tried. Beyond that, I’m not sure what you are trying to say here. Of course the Holy Spirit does things differently with different people, just look at 1 Corinthians 12:4-6: Gifts are used in different ways to serve the Church and those different means of service are worked out differently by each individual. I have a hard time getting my brain and heart around the concept of Hell… Does that make it any less real… any less biblical? Of course not. God said that tongues and prophecy would cease – Why because He couldn’t sustain them… Again, of course not!

No one is questioning God’s ability to give the gift of tongues or prophecy to people, rather the question is whether He does give people the gift of prophecy and tongues. God could give people any number of abilities… the question is not can He, but why would He? The same has to be asked of tongues and prophecy, especially in light of the fact that (in spite of your dismissing 1 Corinthians 13:8-10) He said He would stop giving those gifts at some point.

One more thing that needs to be pointed out… we need to clarify what we are talking about when we mention prophecy… I am NOT talking about the simple bold proclamation/preaching of the Word of God, but rather the supernatural ability to accurately predict the future – i.e. reveal an, before unforeseen portion of God’s plan. Claiming that gift is still needed is, in essence, claiming that the Bible is incomplete and inadequate – it is saying that God has not sufficiently revealed His plan and intentions for mankind and the earth. I have a hard time limiting the completeness and perfection of the Scriptures that way.

Omission of the prophecy/tongues gifts from the Epistles is NOT admission they have stopped. 

Robert – My understanding of the Epistles is that they are not a complete look at God.  They were written to answer very specific issues for the growth of specific churches that allow us to learn.  There is theology involved but it is specifically aimed at specific circumstances.  Paul wrote ad nauseam about tongues in 1 Corinthians (Chapters 12, 13 and 14).  Then it seemingly disappears.  That to me is not an indication that tongues ceased… rather, to me it could indicate Paul instructed his students so well that it was no longer an issue.

This issue ties in with the previous issue in my mind.  How about this… Perhaps there was no need for tongues or prophecy during those previous revivals.  I mean let’s be honest here… what would have happened during the medieval age if someone was speaking in tongues?  They would have been drawn and quartered or tried as a witch.  Would it make more sense for the Holy Spirit move in a way that was conducive to the environment?  My answer would be yes.

Kevin – Robert brings up an interesting point… Why did Paul quit talking about how the sign gifts should be regulated? Why do the other NT writers not address the topic? The burden of proof is upon Robert to demonstrate why this topic drops off the face of the earth after Paul says that tongues will cease, if it’s not because they HAVE ceased.

Robert – To answer your other question… Why do the other NT writers not address the topic?  Speaking of hermeneutics you of all people should know that the Epistles are not a complete theology.  These books are Paul and Peter addressing specific theological issues as they arose.  To say that because there is an absence of issue there is an absence of power is insane.  I may not talk to my wife about a communication for months…it doesn’t mean that we aren’t communicating.  Seriously, Kevin!  Your Pastor may not talk about regeneration for a year…it doesn’t mean that the Holy Spirit has stopped!  Burden of proof is on you Kevin because neither of us contest that tongues were there.  You say they simply stopped because they were no longer talked about…Prove it.

Kevin – I never said that they “simply stopped because they weren’t talked about”. I said that Paul said they would stop, THEN shortly after, he stopped talking about it. This is a classic attempt at twisting my words. I’m not going to hang the entire debate on an argument from silence. There’s any number of possible reasons as to why God didn’t speak about these gifts elsewhere, but the silence coupled with 1 Corinthians 13:8-10 and history make it pretty clear as to why. You have to take the argument in context and in light of the rest of the debate. Also, shame on any pastor who would not talk about salvation for a whole year… they’d be completely ignoring the Great Commission – I’d not be a part of a church like that – that’s ludicrous.

1 Corinthians 13 does not mean that tongues/prophecy stopped in the apostolic era.

Robert – There is no date or time stamp assigned to 1 Corinthians 13:8.  There is only the vague reference offered in verse 9 that states when perfection comes, the imperfect disappears.  There is only one perfection: God.  Since perfection has not come… then one could argue that these gifts have not ceased.

Kevin – If “tongues and prophecies will (have) ceased” is not what 1 Corinthians 13:8-10 says, then, what does it say? One cannot say that something with seemingly plain meaning doesn’t mean what it plainly seems to mean without offering a plausible suggestion as to what it DOES mean. The text clearly states tongues (one of the “sign gifts”) will cease – the questions are when and why?

You say that the only thing that is perfect is God. What about God’s word (i.e. the Bible)? I would suggest that in light of Hebrews 2, the “perfect” thing spoken of in 1 Cor. 13 is the canon (i.e. the 66 books we call the Holy Bible). Once all the books of the Bible were written and in circulation there was no need for miraculous validation of what was being taught, because by and large early church leaders exclusively taught from the writings that soon after became the “Holy Bible.” These teachings (and the letters from which they came) had already been validated and accepted as truth. Given your high view on the Bible (see your previous post on biblical inerrancy) I am surprised you do not consider the Bible perfect!

Robert – Kevin you want to talk about putting words in someone’s mouth!  I said God was perfect.  I figured that you would know this… that if God is perfection, his word is also.  Lets not be ridiculous.

Kevin you can’t have it both ways.  Did tongues and prophecy end with the apostolic era (approx 33 A.D – 100 A.D) or did they end with the canonization of the New Testament (approx 374 AD)?  If you believe that it ended when perfection came (canonized bible) then that is well beyond the apostolic era.  If you believe they ended with the apostolic era then what is perfection and when did it come?

Kevin – Actually, I’m not trying to have it both ways. The epistles and books that became the Bible were in wide circulation well before the formal settling of the cannon. The cannon was settled upon (through God’s direction) the miraculous and wondrous signs that helped confirm the validity and authority of the apostles and other church leaders, was no longer required, because they were already accepted as scripture (check out 2 Peter 3:15-16). The acceptance of the cannon supports the idea that prophecy had ceased because the church fathers in 374 AD determined that there was no further revelation that was required past Revelation (widely considered the last of the biblical books to be written), and they therefore closed the canon. Further “revelation” and “prophecy” had not occurred from the end of the apostolic era (approximately 85-86 AD) through 374 AD when the canon was finalized – this is STRONG evidence for the cessation of the type prophecy you are advocating.

Why again would it cease? Because we have the only source needed to know with certainty what God wants and requires. There is no need for further “prophesies” (foretelling of the future of the Church), or revelations, etc. Because God has already given us enough material to chew on and apply in our lives – the Bible is complete, and perfect and sufficient for one to study without supplement – all other theological instruction should be commentary upon God’s Word, not addition to it – this is where many cults get in trouble (i.e. Mormons, Muslims…) by saying that the Bible is insufficient and needs to be added to and/or correction – that is what both Joseph Smith and Mohamed claimed.  But hey, if you think the Bible is inadequate for instruction and that God needs to reveal more prophecies, knock yourself out – I just can’t go there.

The lack of historical evidence of prophecy/tongues/healing in historical revivals does not mean that they have ceased, it only means that perhaps God had no use for it then.

Robert – I look at it this way… If historically a group of people thought that the earth was flat, would they live their lives according to that idea?  If, historically, men are closed off to the idea that there is healing/prophecy/tongues would they exist?  The fact that tongues/prophecy was not used previously for revivals does not mean that they no longer exist.  As I have already established…There is no repetitive nature to the Holy Spirit.  What is good for one age/revival may not have been good for another.  God knows what will work and when it will work.  Not you.

Kevin – This argument of Robert’s doesn’t hold water. God predicted that at some point sign gifts would cease. Then they disappear off the scene for like 1800+ years only to be resurrected and we are supposed to just accept that God has suddenly, without reason or precedent decided to start granting the gifts of tongues and prophecy? In Acts, tongues were used to validate certain movements of the Spirit and yet there are no records of tongues during the Reformation or prophecies of that movement beforehand. One would think that these would be immeasurably useful to legitimize the massive changes taking place in Christianity… And yet, nothing. Strange.

Another thing Robert fails to answer is: Why tongues now? Why additional prophecy now? Robert’s only defense is “Why Not?” I don’t know why God chose to inspire Paul to write 1 Corinthians 13:8-10. I don’t know why God has done or refrained from doing a lot of the things He has, and I don’t worry myself with much of it – His ways are higher than mine. However, in light of Christian History, Scripture, and the history of the manifestation of spiritual gifts and the circumstances surrounding the relatively recent resurgence of tongues and prophecies these current manifestations are dubious at best.

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Have tongues ceased? The debate…Part 1


Robert – Here are the points where I believe that gifts (or sign gifts as Kevin would call them) are still active today:

  1. The gifts were given to fulfill the great commission (Acts 1:8).  The great commission is not fulfilled thus the gifts have not stopped.
  2. I have a hard time limiting the ability of God to allow someone to speak in tongues or prophesize.  The whole Bible demonstrates various ways that the Holy Spirit moves.  None of them are identical.
  3. Omission of the prophecy/tongues gifts from the Epistles is NOT admission they have stopped. 
  4. 1 Corinthians 13 does not mean that tongues/prophecy stopped in the apostolic era.
  5. The lack of historical evidence of prophecy/tongues in historical revivals does not mean that they have ceased, it only means that perhaps God had no use for it then.

Kevin – Let me clarify… I have never said that Spiritual Gifts are not active today. They absolutely ARE. I do believe, however, certain Spiritual Gifts (a.k.a. “sign gifts”) have served their purpose and, according to Paul’s prophecy in 1 Corinthians 13:8-10, have ceased.

Robert – First let me begin by saying that these points were not chosen randomly.  They are the most common points argued for and against the use of tongues and prophecy.  I hardly think that we will be breaking new ground here but at the very least these arguments will be our own.  So the first point…

The gifts were given to fulfill the great commission (Acts 1:8).  The great commission is not fulfilled thus the gifts have not stopped.

Robert – Acts 1:8 provides a pretty clear connection to the commission (Matthew 28:16-20).  The Holy Spirit delivers these powers for the witness.  As the great commission has not been fulfilled… the gifts of the Holy Spirit are continuing to be delivered.

Kevin – Again, we are not talking about ALL gifts here… However, the premise that spiritual GIFTS were given to fulfill the Great Commission is based on a flawed hermeneutic – Robert here is confusing a function/role of the Spirit (Empowerment – which is general and thus universally belongs to all believers to carry out the Great Commission), with specific gifts of the Spirit (of which there are many and assigned individually to believers at salvation – i.e. no believer has every spiritual gift.)

When studying the Holy Spirit one should look at Him from every angle: His Role, His Work, His Fruit… We don’t have time and space to chase all that down here, but suffice it to say that empowering people to live the Christian life and imparting Spiritual Gifts to believers are two different aspects of the Holy Spirit’s work that should not be confused.

  • So, why are they given? Spiritual Gifts ARE given to build up the body (1 Corinthians 12-13, especially 12:7) and to confirm the validity of authoritative teaching of the apostles (cf. Hebrews 2:3-4)

The context here points to the surrounding passage as talking to believers in how they are to function together within the context of the church. Spiritual gifts (especially the ones listed in 1 Corinthians) are, then, more for the building up of the Church rather than evangelism. An integral part of building up the early church was confirming what teaching should be considered authoritative and what should be disregarded as heretical. God used spiritual gifts to confirm which teachings were false and which were true (cf. 1 Corinthians 12:1-3)

Robert – Kevin, you talk about how the gifts were to be used.  I am confused.  Weren’t ALL gifts given to build the church?  If the body of Christ is the Church then don’t all gifts support the body of Christ?  I understand that not every believer has every spiritual gift, and I make no assertion of that kind.  You say that I am confusing the function and role of the Holy Spirit with the specific gifts, but I make no mention of former.  I think you are unnecessarily bringing in the function and role of the Holy Spirit.  You call it bad hermeneutics, but I call it plain reading…

Acts 1:8 – “But you will receive power when the Holy Spirit comes on you; and you will be my witnesses in Jerusalem, and in all Judea and Samaria, and to the ends of the earth.”

Emphasis on and you will be my witnesses. 

For  some reason you are wanting to isolate two specific gifts (tongues and prophecy) from the list.  Do these two gifts not build up the body of Christ as well?  According to Paul they do if done correctly (1 Corinthains 14).  If tongues and prophecy were not intended to be a gift, why did Paul list them?  Kevin…you have the last word.

Kevin: When I say your interpretation of Acts 1:8 is a case of bad hermeneutics it is because Acts 1:8 doesn’t specifically talk about spiritual gifts, yet you are tying it to spiritual gifts – forcing scripture to say something it doesn’t isn’t plain reading it’s bad logic. Acts 1:8 says that “you will receive power”. Without getting overly technical the original Greek word here is not the same word as is used for spiritual gifts… Therefore, to say that God is talking about spiritual gifts here is mistaken. I draw the distinction between different roles of the Holy Spirit because there is no link between Acts 1:8 and spiritual gifts. The word for “power” used in Acts 1:8 does not refer to specific talents, skills, or spiritual gifts, but rather the general strength to complete the task God has assigned – One of the roles of the Holy Spirit is to empower us to obey God (in general) and to embolden us to fulfill the Great Commission.

Robert, before linking spiritual gifts to Acts 1:8 you should take a hard look at 1 Corinthians 14:20-25. This passage clearly states that not all spiritual gifts are for evangelism, therefore, they should not be linked to the Great Commission, which is a command to evanglize.

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