Monday, March 9, 2015

Cessationism's missing premise

This post is not arguing that cessationism is wrong.  I am simply looking at one of it's arguments. Cessationists use "revelation" in an equivocal sense.  This is a problem when we examine practices in the 1st century church.  Paul tells the church to prophesy (and one can find numerous other examples).  How does the cessationist respond?

First, let's look at the argument:

1: God's speaking is what constitutes revelation, and revelation was eventually codified in the canon.
 This seems to entail the following:

2: The canon is closed (let's leave aside messy issues like who had the authority to close the canon and how do you know).

I think Ephesians 2:20 affords the cessationist another premise:

3.  The church is built upon the foundation of the apostles and prophets.  Assuming apostles means those associated in one way or another with Jesus's ministry, I think we can safely affirm (and this would be the position of many continuationists) that apostles aren't around today.  Therefore,

3.1.  Prophets aren't around, either.

The Continuationist Responds,

Is (P1) true?  I agree with the first half if it is phrased like this:  God reveals himself and this usually happens by speech or in words (whether internal or external).  The second half of P1 is unproven.

What about P2?  Practically, we have to assume that the canon is closed, but we have no evidence from God that it is.  Honestly, how do you know the canon is closed?  I think wiser Protestants were right to say that the Canon is "a fallible collection of infallible books" and leave it at that.

As to P3, my question is:  are all acts of "prophesying" in the New Testament establishing the foundation of the church?  Are Phillip's daughters part of that foundation?  When Paul acknowledges different men are prophesying is that, too, part of the foundation?  Maybe, but we have no evidence that such is what Paul meant.

The only way the cessationist can salvage this position is to add another premise:

P4:  Paul's command to prophesy only functioned until the canon was closed.

The main problem with that statement is there isn't a single verse that says that.

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