Theoretical Continualism and Pragmatic Cessationism

So I was reading a book the other day, and somethings were said in the book that prompted me to say this on Facebook:

“I dislike the fear of spiritual gifts that some pastors, authors and Christian leaders have. I like to call it quenching the Spirit.”

A friend asked me to elaborate on it, so I did. Here’s my young thoughts (young because I am young and because I haven’t spent decades thinking about it) on the issue:

“This comment was sparked by my reading of the book of a certain Reformed preacher who was quoting a certain Reformed scholar, and they were both commenting on the idea that prophecy detracts from the sufficiency of Scripture (which I don’t think is true about true and biblically informed prophecy). I also think many church leaders and churches that I know hold to what I call a theoretical continualism (that is, they believe intellectually that the spiritual gifts, like those in 1 Corinthians 12, are given by the Holy Spirit for use by the church today) but a pragmatic cessationism (that is, a belief that the spiritual gifts have ceased at some point in the history of the church – it’s a pragmatic cessationism in that there is no room made for expression of the intellectually affirmed continualism). You might have heard of this position as “open but cautious.” Although these church leaders and churches intellectually ascent to the provision of the spiritual gifts to the church today, they do not allow for the expression of these various gifts, I think, for fear of becoming extreme and chaotic charismatics and also for the fear of taking away and distracting from the sufficiency and authority of the Word of God and the supremacy and centrality of Christ. These are valid fears to have – but they don’t seem to be the concern of the New Testament when it addresses the topic of spiritual gifts; the New Testament writers seem to think that spiritual gifts can be expressed in a manner which brings glory to God and places Christ and his Word as central and authoritative, and this in an ordered and non-chaotic way (see 1 Corinthians 14).

I get the phrase “quench the Spirit” from 1 Thessalonians 5:19, and I interpret it as referring to the suppression of spiritual gifts akin to what I described above based on the following verse.

Admittedly, it is hard to find an appropriate way to make expression of spiritual gifts today, and I have no clear idea how that works/could work, but that doesn’t justify not taking a risk to try and figure it out, biblically and pragmatically. All I know is that it can work, and that we must stop quenching the Spirit like this.”

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