My definition of my side of the discussion, which some call "continuation":That is a very fair definition.
"Continualism may be defined as the idea that because God is immutable "the same yesterday, today, and forever" that we may expect there to be constancy and continuation in the way in which He acts as revealed in Christ and in the scriptural account. This would include the manner in which the gospel of Christ and the acts of the Church, as instituted by that gospel, remain in force in this age until the time of the second coming when He appears as promised. Specifically, this includes the manifestation of miracles through the gifts of the Holy Spirit, also called 'signs and wonders'; and the spiritual gifts manifested as recorded in scripture."
I further submit that there remains the need for these signs and wonders to continue their purpose which is not yet fully accomplished.This is where you're going to run into trouble. Proceed.
I submit that the idea that they should cease is an arbitrary one, and no where supported in scripture.
I submit that bona fide Christians of good repute have testified to the veracity of the continualist reality
Centuri0n makes some statements.I agree. It is explicitly for the reason that there is a purpose to God employing signs and wonders that I would reject that those signs and wonders continue to this day.
"God always does things for a purpose and usually tells us explicitly that purpose." made by commenter M.Burke is given the approval by Centuri0n that "Micah's last paragraph is exactly what I am trying to say."
In his own words he says, "God's purpose in signs and wonders is to establish the source of the message He has sent forth. "
"the problem that the continualist encounters: why were the signs given? Were they merely a form of common Grace that God handed out in a kind of random way, or did God have a purpose in manifesting signs?"
While agreeing that we would say that God's does all the things He does for a purpose, we would also say this is true about His acts called "signs and wonders".
The question then centers around what His purposes are. The cessationist puts forth the idea that one knows definitively what that purpose is and that it has been finished and set aside.Yes. Exactly.
The continualist may maintain that these miraculous manifestations were for the purpose of verifying the message and the messenger and that there is a openness to some being done for reasons not fully known. This is a stronger position, for when speaking of God and His intentions and plans... although there are those things that may be known with surety, it is also true that there remain mysteries about God. We don't know everything, IOW.That's hardly a "stronger position". It is actually called "an argument from silence". That is to say, because we don't have any evidence for something we must accept it.
Notice also that I use the word, message, and not the terminology of some, "writing canon Scripture". God used signs and wonders to uphold the message and the messengers... and one of the purposes that we know was stated by the Lord Jesus in answer to the demand "If you are the Christ,tell us plainly."Yes – and there are two problems for you in relying on this passage:
Jesus answered, "I did tell you, but you do not believe. The miracles I do in my Father's name speak for me"
But Jesus further has stated, "these signs will accompany those who believe: In my name they will drive out demons; they will speak in new tongues; they will pick up snakes with their hands; and when they drink deadly poison, it will not hurt them at all; they will place their hands on sick people, and they will get well."
(1) No cessationist denies that the Apostles did these things.
(2) No continualist asserts that these things are being done today in the same way they were done as described in the book of Acts.
In this the signs follow the belief, not give rise to it. The Word of God gives the faith. This could be written or preached, but the Word is the Logos or Christ.You are conflating passages, and ignoring what is said in each independently. The first passage – in John 10 – says without any doubt that the signs and wonders Christ performed speak for him; that is to say, the miracles are testimony of who He is and why He came. In Mark 16, when Jesus gives this litany of miraculous gifts, He is exhorting the disciples to preach the Gospel to all of creation thereby demonstrating the signs in His list.
What is worse is that this passage of Mark 16 is probably not original to Mark, and is probably not Scripture. Thus, taking Mark 16 as a promise for all generations of Christians is somewhat enthusiastic. (for more on this passage in mark 16, look here).
Here is part of the problem... cessationists tend to say, " I don't see this happening, so I doubt that it is supposed to be happening now"... then they draw their doctrine to fit their experience. How is this different than an atheist in their contentions about whether there is a God at all? This is an arbitrary point on the cessationist part. Paul did not experience Christ in any way differently than we would in this day... even though it must be admitted that his ministry was especially great in effect and in the body of written scripture that came from him- even among the Apostles who were of the original twelve. But he experienced meeting with Christ in the very same way we must, the resurrected Christ who had returned to heaven.I think that's a straw man. The cessationist argument you have been offered is not drawn from experience but from the simple facts of Scripture. Review my definition here.
It is also interesting that your concern here needs to deal with part of your own argument – and that being the necessity for these signs to testify to God being in the message as you say here.
Did God give a common grace? It appears that this is one side of the coin. This also seems to be supported by Paul's statement concerning the gifts in 1 Corinthians 12 . That does not mean that everyone manifest all the gifts, or that they are exhibited at will. What it does mean is that these were given to the entire Church and the Holy Spirit still chooses the whom, what, when, and where.The question is not "Does the Spirit have the prerogative to gift as he sees fit?" The question is "Were the miraculous signs demonstrated by the Apostles for a specific purpose as all miraculous signs prior to them had been, or are they for a broader purpose which is somewhat indeterminate and present only for the daily needs of the church?
The irony of citing 1Cor 12 to bolster the demand that miraculous gifts in the church are still available is that 1Cor 13 plainly says that those gifts are passing away and will end. After Paul spends all of 1Cor 12 talking about the body being full of different gifts, he does two things: first (1Cor 12:27-30) he ranks the gifts and places "teachers" above "healers" and "administrating" above "tongues". But the second thing he does (1Cor 12:31 – 13:13) is to say that the more excellent gift is the love of Christ! It is a gift which is not just better than the other gifts: it is the gift which will outlast the other gifts. "Love never ends" even though all the other gifts will end!
So yes: Paul says that there are miraculous gifts – but that they will end. When we look at this passage, we cannot simply take the front half of it and hope that it's enough to round out our ecclesiology when the back half is the ultimate point Paul is making.
Hebrews 2:4 particularly interests me because it brings us to another contention. Centuri0n says this: "I don't think God has changed his method of sending His message. His message, however, is now complete."If you're arguing that there are still people to be saved, there's no argument: I agree that evangelism is still necessary. The question is whether God needs to continue to invest men with miraculous powers in order to prove that they have a message from Him.
Hebrew 2:4 says "This salvation, which was first announced by the Lord, was confirmed to us by those who heard him. 4 God also testified to it by signs, wonders and various miracles, and gifts of the Holy Spirit distributed according to his will." This is God's own expression to the continued testimony of the gospel. The message was complete after Jesus rose from the dead and delivered the great commission to his disciples... but it's expansion was not. The expansion of that message will continue to be a necessity of allowing God to verify His messengers to the nations and peoples who do not have established churches, preachers, and printed Bibles with the literacy needed to read them. To those who think that it is enough to say " we have plenty of Bibles everywhere" is narrow and parochial at best, blind and unworthy of Christ at worst. Not everyone in the world is saved that could be, and of those not all have the access that Western developed nations do. So let's lay that argument to rest now.
The message has already been announced, confirmed, and testified to. We have that message. Your argument says that if someone preaching the Gospel cannot produce these signs and wonders, they are illegitimate messengers. Given that you reject experientialism and think we ought to hold God's word as the standard, you have to ask yourself, "if my argument is that the Gospel is legitimized by signs and wonders, and it turns out there aren't any signs and wonders I would use as evidence today, where does this argument leave me and the Gospel?"
This could well explain the phenomenon that we see of many more miraculous works done in places where there has been a dearth of the gospel message or in areas once closed, but we don't need to believe that is the case. All we know is that there are places where the gospel must yet be preached to new ears- to many who have not heard it.In limiting the scope of where signs and wonders might be produced, you have given up your point. Is it your argument that the signs and wonders only appear the first time the Gospel is preached in a place? Well, is that in the Scripture, or is that an experiential argument? Moreover, isn't that a cessationist argument – that the signs cease after certain criteria are met? Most importantly, why are only the "first" people to hear the Gospel the first time entitled to signs and wonders – wouldn’t the next generation be just as lost as the first?
I think you are causing yourself a lot more pain than you are demonstrating your point.
The world still has need of the message, given by God's called and chosen messengers... and that means that the necessity of the obvious and known purpose is not over or fulfilled yet.Let me say two things about this statement.
The whole idea of "canon" came later, anyway. It is needful to abide by the verity of those past messengers who with great carefulness, spiritual acuity and scholarship collated and gave approval to the writings we recognize as canon. But that wasn't the only situation in which God chooses to exhibit signs and wonders.
(1) I suggest to you that the Apostles knew they were writing Scripture when they were writing Scripture. If you reject this idea, you really have to go back to your basis for trusting the Bible and ask yourself if it is trustworthy at all. In the same way the writer of Genesis knew he was writing Scripture, the writer of Ephesians knew he was writing Scripture. If that is not true, than the idea that God is the author of Scripture is a sham.
(2) If the Apostles knew they were writing Scripture, the church knew they were writing Scripture. Somehow disjoining the common knowledge of the Apostles from the common knowledge of the church is again an abandonment of the idea that God wrote Scripture. You should think about something. Peter wrote this: "count the patience of our Lord as salvation, just as our beloved brother Paul also wrote to you according to the wisdom given him, as he does in all his letters when he speaks in them of these matters. There are some things in them that are hard to understand, which the ignorant and unstable twist to their own destruction, as they do the other Scriptures. You therefore, beloved, knowing this beforehand, take care that you are not carried away with the error of lawless people and lose your own stability." Peter knew that Paul's letters were Scripture: why is it so hard to believe that others knew it, too?
-- we have to ask ourselves, "Does Scripture say that miracles will happen for no apparent reason or for some explicit reason?"There's a simple test for this: name any NT miracle that happened for no apparent reason. All NT miracles were the miraculous attestation of God to the message of the Apostles. Why? Because they were not prophets of the promise but messengers of the fulfillment of the promise.
I think this is the black and white fallacy. Can we claim to always understand God's apparent reason? Does it have to otherwise be an explicit reason on our list of what we claim to find in the scriptures? The Scriptures give proof that miracles do happen, and they happen under numerous circumstances. There is no method to it, but it is not random.... even if it appears that way to us.
If you can find a NT miracle that was made for some hidden purpose of God, then you can make this argument.
-- we have to ask ourselves, "Does Scripture say that signs from God will manifest themselves randomly or orderly, in the sense that they will clearly point to God or vaguely or weakly point toward God?"The contention of the question is that revelation from God does not cause confusion in His church. For example, to start at the beginning, when the disciples poured out into the street on Pentecost and started speaking in tongues, did God leave the witnesses to that event without any idea of what was happening, or did God explicitly explain what was happening through Peter's testimony? How about when Paul struck dumb the prophesying spirit?
Personally, I feel this is vaguely stated. Does scripture have examples of things that are both vague and clear? I believe so. Are there times it is unclear what the source is? The magicians of Pharoahs court had their signs and wonders up to a point. But I believe that we should expect clarity... I'm just not quite sure what the contention is in this question.
The miraculous gifts do not cause confusion: they cause the church to have confidence in what is being said and done.
"If God is still writing Scripture, then God is still performing signs and wonders to validate His word."This goes back to your confusion over whether signs are necessary or not, and whether they have a specific purpose or not. It also confuses what the purpose of Scripture is.
This is asking the wrong question. It is not whether God is still writing scripture, but whether God is still speaking. Is God still speaking? And if He is, then in whatever way He speaks, what is to obstruct His validation process, should He choose to act in that way?
God has a body of work in His written word, but is His expression in the earth finished? Is His not a Living Word? And are our lives and hearts not the tablets upon which He continues to write to this day?