Michael Horton: “I’ve never been willing to die on the hill of cessationism”

Michael Horton, in a recent post (Reformed and Charismatic? – White Horse Inn Blog) makes the following comment:

I’ve never been willing to die on the hill of cessationism: that is, the belief that the miraculous gifts such as prophecy, healing, and tongues have ceased.  I’m still not.  Nevertheless, I am convinced that non-cessationism is neither exegetically sound nor historically compatible with Reformed theology. Furthermore, the surprisingly widespread popularity of more radical views of ongoing sign-gifts, coupled with political ambition, pushes me into the unpleasant position of challenging the views even of far sounder brothers with whom I agree on so many important points.

As a theological continuationist, I appreciate Horton’s careful qualifications and actually share his same concerns with the unhealthy practice among many Pentecostal/Charismatics. Horton even mentions how it is “unpleasant” for him to challenge the views of “far sounder brothers”. This is as irenic as you will find Horton and I’m glad that he makes such qualifications before engaging the debate with his convictions on the matter, which are worth reading. I disagree with Horton on some of his subsequent points and am not interested in writing a response. Suffice it to say, I am glad that Horton seems to categorize the issue of charismatic gifts as a non-essential, although worthy of substantial concern and debate.

© 2011, Rick Hogaboam. All rights reserved.

6 comments on “Michael Horton: “I’ve never been willing to die on the hill of cessationism”
  1. I agree with Horton.
    As a matter of fact, though i’m a cessationist, i am always willing to look into an actual example of the gifts to test it by Scripture. The fact that i haven’t seen an example that is biblically sound doesn’t mean that it’s not there…or that i won’t eventually see it.

    It’s funny, in some ways i think the debate on cessationism should be less a matter of rhetoric and more a matter of “show & tell.” If the gifts are around we should be able to witness them, and as such it should require less debate and more action.

    • Larry, what do you make of all the testimonials that people offer, including Wilson’s own account of having certainty that a woman he was counseling was involved in a sexual relationship? Have you read Scots Worthies, or are you familiar with the numerous accounts of “revelation” among the Covenanters? Spurgeon and many other “heroes” of the Reformed camp also had numerous experiences of supernatural revelation into the affairs of others. Even R.C. Sproul, though a stated cessationist, shares about his many charismatic experiences in his commentary on Acts. He denounces certain excesses, but hardly repudiates his past experiences of prophesying in all night prayer meetings and seeking the baptism of the Holy Spirit. He actually pleads with cessationists to recover a functional pneumatology based on Pentecost and positively affirms the stereotype that one seeking prayer should go to a Pentecostal church.

  2. Good question, Rick.

    First, by cessation i am speaking of particular gifts of the Spirit and not of the Spirit Himself in any way. I’m sure you are aware of that, but wanted to make it clear for others reading this.

    Testimonials are by nature difficult to test by Scripture. So i guess i would simply write them off as anecdotal. The testimony that a man gives ought never to be counted of more credibility than the testimony that we have in Scripture. And i’m pretty convinced that Scripture’s testimony is against the continuation of particular gifts.

  3. Rick, I’m a student at WSCAL and I’m doing a directed study with Horton next semester on predictive prophecy. Can you shoot me citation for the Wilson and Sproul quotes?

    I’ve done some research on the covenanters, already.


  4. Larry, I’ve been reading up on cessationism over the past while and have heard statements like ‘scriptures testimony is against the continuation of particular gifts’ quite often but have yet to hear an example of where this is the case in scripture. I’d love to hear one or two so I could examine them. Thanks!

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