Vincent Cheung: “Cessationism is not a doctrine to be argued about, but a sin to be repented of”

As the validity of charismatic gifts have received recent attention in the blogosphere, due in large part to Doug Wilson and Mark Dricoll’s discussion, and Michael Horton’s thoughts, and more; I thought it worth posting some comments from Vincent Cheung, a Reformed scholar and pastor, who makes the following bold comments from his paper, “Cessationism and Speaking in Tongues” (check out another article by Cheung “Cessationism and Rebellion”):

Likewise, if I teach “Do not forbid speaking in tongues” and you teach “Always forbid speaking in tongues” (or a doctrine that leads to this), then one of us must be wrong. To show me that I am the one in the wrong, I would demand that you produce a biblical argument that is as clear, as forceful, as perfect, and as infallible as the one that says, “Do not forbid speaking in tongues.”

Frankly, against this consideration, I would be too afraid to teach cessationism. And I wonder how we can justify the decision to allow anyone to remain in the ministry who would continue teaching cessationism after hearing this simple argument. If he cannot answer it – if he cannot produce an infallible argument for cessationism – but continues to teach the doctrine, this can only mean that he consciously promotes rebellion against the Lord. What right do we have, then, to refrain from throwing him out of the ministry? Do I have the authority to protect such a person from church discipline? But I am not stronger than the Lord.

As it is, cessationism is not a doctrine to be argued about, but a sin to be repented of. Christians should not only avoid cessationism, but they should be afraid, deathly afraid, to affirm it, since as it stands, it entails a direct and deliberate defiance of God’s commands. You may say, “It is fine to say that we must not forbid speaking in tongues, but we must forbid the counterfeit.” How is this relevant at this point? If in the attempt to oppose the counterfeit, you oppose all claims to speaking in tongues as a matter of principle, then you are back to defying Paul’s command again. If you admit that we must not forbid speaking in tongues, but must judge each instance on its own merit, I would agree with you, but then you are no longer a cessationist.


© 2011, Rick Hogaboam. All rights reserved.

7 comments on “Vincent Cheung: “Cessationism is not a doctrine to be argued about, but a sin to be repented of”
  1. Couldn’t disagree with him more- I am shocked that someone would say that it is a sin to be repented of. Perhaps he is the one who needs to repent. That would be like you standing in the pulpit and declaring that if a parent isn’t homeschooling their child, then that parents needs to repent and pull their child out of the school they are enrolled in. As you know, the cessationist would not deny there being a time when those gifts were not in use, but would argue that it was for a particular time and place. The non-cessationist has just as much of a burden to prove his point than the cessationist has in his. As one who is a non hard-line cessationist (at worst)-more on the fence, I am completely disgusted by his words.

    • Steve, good feedback. I thought his words were definitely bold. I think that there are varying degrees of clarity on certain imperatives in Scripture. He does equate “Do not forbid to speak in tongues” with “Do not murder” in clarity and therefore speaks as he does for those who oppose Paul’s admonition not to forbid tongues. This would be different from homeschooling, which is clearly a conviction issue lacking clear imperative force in Scripture. The task of harmonizing often involves systems that impose in ways that can be harmful to Biblical interpretation. I think we are agreed that imperatives, especially in the NT, need to be reckoned with.

      I would not speak as he did and was only sharing this comment to express some of the diversity within the Reformed world on this issue in response to the recent attention cessationism has had. I’m grateful that this is not a divisive issue here at SGF. We honestly have folks on both ends and varying shades within, just like the dimmer light analogy Driscoll uses.

  2. One last jab: Looks like all his stuff has been self-published on lulu. There’s probably a reason he hasn’t been published by anyone.

    • ouch 😉 He happens to be a fav of one of our elders, who is also not charismatic. I actually think he does not want to be published. He is respected as a presuppositional apologist in the Van Til and Gordon Clark tradition and does have many worthy resources available on his site. He agrees with you on baptism contra me if that helps 😉

    • Having studied quite a few Clarkian apologists over the years, I can’t in good conscience recommend Cheung. While I appreciate some of his writings, there’s a few notable red flags:

      1) He has never actually provided any indication that he has formal training or involvement in a local church body. I can think of no good reason why he would hide so much pertinent biographical information.

      2) His attitude is really concerning. Aside from being incredibly abrasive and dogmatic about certain non-essential doctrines, he seems to have a love affair with insults. Not only does he vehemently defend the use of vindictives (read his “A Moron By Any Other Name”) but he also is more than happy to use them against believers. His article “Symptoms of Retardation” is uncharitable and arrogant to the point of being laughable — and I say this as one that agrees with his epistemology.,%20Vincent/Cheung%20Symptoms%20of%20Retardation.pdf

      3) His emphasis on intellectualism is a bit disturbing and no doubt explains his hostility toward his intellectual competitors. Cheung: “The most important task a Christian can perform at any stage of his spiritual development is to study systematic theology.” That’s funny, considering that most of the Bible could not be called systematic theology. Moreover, I would think that *applying* good theology would be just as important as studying it.

      Finally, let me note that most of what he has said can be read elsewhere. He is Clarkian, and he hasn’t said much that Clark, Crampton, or Robbins didn’t already say. Of course, Clark was humble and personable, unlike Cheung. Sure, Cheung’s writings are free, but free isn’t always better. Check out the Trinity Foundation for their republished works of Clark.

  3. Cheung is indeed a good resource for many issues, and we use him at tnars accordingly. Certainly i disagree on his stance on cessationism, but i would recommend reading his books before judging them too harshly.

  4. Cessationism is an observation.

    Where are the gifts of the Spirit (all nine of them) in operation today and are they open to scientific investigation? The answer is they are only operating in some remote part of the world where no journalist dares to tread. The second part is no, they are not available for scientific scrutiny.

    As I said on the WHN blog, there are people (James Randi for one) offering over a million dollars for hard evidence of these things. If you are the type that isn’t interested in that kind of money, please, show me the miracles and I’ll collect the money. Or, have Mr. Cheung post the names, dates and places of such things.

    BTW, will it not be a sin if Mr. Cheung fails to produce? Nine gifts. Let’s see ’em.

Leave a Reply