So Nimm Denn Meine Hande...

Sunday, March 19, 2006

The Foundation of the Answer to the Question of Cessationism: Part 2

Well, let's get our bearings now. This will be short and sweet, seeing that I'm headed for bed in a few minutes. None the less, here's some context for my readers to understand where I'm coming from (historically) and why I can give a fair voice to the cessationism vs. non-cessationism debate.

I was raised in a Mennonite church, though not much of a conservative one by Mennonite standards. The women in my church didn't cover their heads, we had a guy in our congregation who thought he was a prophet (though the church didn't agree...) and we had drums in church since the mid 80's. My church was typical of many 'community churches'; cessationist in practice but 'agnostic' in actual doctrine...We believed in the possibility of prophecy, tongues and apostolic healing; we just didn't see it anywhere. So from a young age I was taught that the Pentecostals were eccentric, but not heretics. We let them do their own thing and we did ours, but I was taught that they were brothers in the Lord who worshipped the same God.

In grade 9 I was told that I wasn't welcome at my youth group and I stopped attending it. (For the record, I brought several non-Christian friends whom I wished to evangelize. They didn't mind church but they always got into too much trouble for the leaders to endure. Eventually, they figured that I should bring my 'hooligan friends' somewhere else.) I then started going to a local Baptist youth group and a Full Gospel youth group, at the same time. The Baptist youth group met on Friday and many of the kids from my school went there, so I made some new friends at my high school. Plus, it was close to my house and I could take my bike there by myself. The Full Gospel youth group met on Saturday and had hot girls and a huge budget. They had a really good worship band and seeing that I am a drummer, I was drawn to the idea of doing music and, of course, meeting the attractive Jesus loving ladies. Plus they often gave us food that you had to buy, like pop and chips, not the cheap home-made stuff like at my Mennonite Church (Oh how foolish I was in my youth!). The Baptist youth group was safe and simple, but the Full Gospel youth group was exciting and way different than my Mennonite youth group.

I sadly didn't encounter much good Bible teaching at the Baptist youth group, but the Full Gospel guys definitely talked lots about the Bible and they used a whole new lingo that I was unfamiliar with. They used phrases like "led by the Spirit" and "baptism of the Spirit". For the first time I encountered the idea that my salvation may not be certain. With using scripture (though at the time I wasn't fully convinced), they showed me that speaking in tongues, the very thing I had only heard of in passing adult conversation, was the evidence that the Holy Spirit was in my heart. They had a bunch of other strange ideas too, like praying in this 'angelic language' and being able to heal people. Needless to say, my sheltered and unceasingly inquisitive mind wanted to know MORE about this stuff. If Christianity was a donut, I thought that my whole life had been licking suger-coated dough and I had now finally discovered the creamy center. This seemed to be it...the deeper and better stuff that I had heard about.

At first I was skeptical, but eventually I entertained the idea. I mean, when I read the Bible, their arguments seemed to kinda make sense. The thing that really convinced me though was Mary Cundy and Arlei McDonald; both spoke in tongues and were hot as the day is long. Who's kidding who? I decided that if 'experimenting' with spirituality meant getting me close to the two hottest sets of praying hands on this side of Palestine, I'd definitely try. I went to that youth group for 3 years, ended up on the worship team, got to know both ladies, dated neither, got into student leadership and ended up leading several of my friends 'to the Lord' in that place (except that back then I didn't really understand the gospel at all...).

After I graduated, I left for Briercrest Bible College. I wanted to get into a Christian Rock Band and that seemed like the logical place to go. I ended up also hooking in with the local Apostolic Church in Moose Jaw, Sask. I helped out with the youth group there for a year and then had to leave for a few years because several Briercrest guys started showing up at the youth group to check out the ladies and the youth pastor essentially thought I was a scout. Doh. Many people still hate my guts because of rumors and accusations that I was unaware of at the time. The week that he told me to not come back to youth group was a dark week for me indeed.

None the less, I still stayed involved in that church through the youth drop in center that I worked with for 4 and a bit years, going to Sunday services whenever I could get into town. I didn't really worry much about cessationism those years and reverted back to my "they might do it but I don't and I don't have a problem with it" position. I was an outsider and wasn't included in the 'spiritual stuff' at that church.

After I graduated, I stayed in Moose Jaw for 6 months and kinda got back into working with the Apostolic Church in Moose Jaw again. I was a regular attendee and made many great friends there. I then spent 1.5 years in Saskatoon, which led to the first stint at my current church.

After my stint in Saskatoon I returned to Briercrest Bible College and then Seminary and returned to attending the Apostolic Church in Moose Jaw. In 2002 I was College and Career pastor at Hillcrest Apostolic Church for that year. That was the year that I was forced to take a position on the issue of cessationism. I won't get into details, but there was a divinely set up incident where there was some obvious heresy preached from the pulpit and God threw me into the meat grinder, being another pastor and all. As the divine poet would have it, it was also at that time that I was working through A Survey of Christian Epistemology by Cornelius Van Til, as well as A Reformed View of Scripture by the same author, due to a challenge of a close friend who thought I needed to encounter some thought deeper than Phil Yancey.

As I started struggling through applying a historical grammatical hermeneutic, as well as my growing exegetical skills, to the scriptures, I started working through all the hundreds of questions that would either build a solid case for either cessationism or non-cessationism. I will also admit that the pressure to adapt non-cessationism was tremendous. I was pastoring in a Pentecostal church and being forced, against my will, to re-evaluate my positions on several issues that I would have rather remained 'agnostic' on. I didn't want to lose friends, lose my position and worse be a dividing influence in the church of Christ. Then again, I was also bound by my understanding of the authority of scripture. The more I studied the Bible, the more I couldn't escape my fears...not only was I wrong, but I was being slowly converted to a position that I had been taught to mock and caricature.

In the end the heresy was swept under the carpet and dozens of people resultantly left the church, and I silently slipped out in an effort to cause no more trouble. I still retained contact with many of the people in the church though, wanting to still build them up in knowledge of the Lord. Many of them are dear friends to this day and that due to many impromptu midnight Bible studies on the stairs of my apartment in Caronport.

So, in a nutshell, I’m an ex-Pentecostal...Well, actually an Ex-Mennocostal, for those out there that understand that term (Mennonite + Pentecostal). I spent around a decade in those circles, both in lay leadership and pastoral roles. I don’t think I have many misunderstandings about their theology, seeing that I’ve learned it from their very own professors from their very own Bible Colleges. I’ve taught non-cessationism in academic Pentecostal settings. I’ve met a lot of people on the list of “who’s who” in the PAOC and ACOP circles in Western Canada. I’ve been prayed over and anointed by John Bevere, Dr. Neil Anderson, Dr. Dean Pinter and several other well known names and I’m pretty sure I have been called, at one time or another, to be a missionary to every country in existence (as well as a missionary to ‘intellectuals’, ‘artists’, ‘conservatives’ and whatever else). I’ve read every book on non-cessationism I’ve ever been given, and I’ve never turned down a book challenge. I’ve read the ‘Pentelectuals’ (Deere, Bevere, Murphy, Wagner, Grudem, Fee, Jersak, Etc.) and the ‘common’ (Whimber, Hinn, Hagee, Roberts, Baker, Hayford, Kuhlman, etc.). I’ve talked personally, sometimes at length, with many of those people and have sought out personal meetings with them aggressively. I’ve exegetically dug through the Bible for literally over a decade on the issue of non-cessationism.

That being said, I’m finally and firmly a cessationist. After seeking truth as rabidly as I know how, I cannot escape the clear and comprehensive teaching of scripture. It is the fruits of an historical/grammatical hermeneutic and it is the fruits of systematic exegesis upon an inerrant, authoritative, inspired, infallible, sufficient, perspicuous Scripture. I’ve said it often, “I wish I could be a non-cessationist Charismatic. Life would be so much easier for me then!” But unless I can be shown from scripture and reason, I can not violate either my conscience or my understanding of the word of God.

Now that I’ve given a little history of myself, my next post will explain how telling you why all this is essentially useless. HA HA! You didn’t see that one coming did you? Well, until next time,

The Armchair Theologian


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