So, following on from the article on the debate between Matt Slick of CARM and J D Hall of Pulpit & Pen, Ed Dinges of Reformed Reasons wades in over at Pulpit & Pen with a critique of Slick’s exegesis of 1 Corinthians 1:7 during the conversation.
The thing is, Ed is another cessationist. His beef about Matt’s reference to 1 Corinthians 1:7 as a proof that the gifts and manifestations are yet for today is based on a technique often used by cessationists, whereby they are so focused on a few words or phrases in a text that they completely miss the context in which that text is set.
The section referred to by Matt Slick is actually from verses four to nine in first Corinthians.
1 Corinthians 1:4-9 I thank my God always concerning you for the grace of God which was given to you by Christ Jesus, that you were enriched in everything by Him in all utterance and all knowledge, even as the testimony of Christ was confirmed in you, so that you come short in no gift, eagerly waiting for the revelation of our Lord Jesus Christ, who will also confirm you to the end, that you may be blameless in the day of our Lord Jesus Christ. God is faithful, by whom you were called into the fellowship of His Son, Jesus Christ our Lord.
Now, as Ed admits, the Apostle Paul, who is the writer of the passage and letter, is about to bring correction to the church at Corinth. They were not operating decently and in order.
To begin with, then, as it is generally accepted, Paul lets them know that God has a special place for them, and that His grace is with them, including the generous encouragement that the Corinthians came behind in no gift.
Paul then goes on to point out several issues that the elders of the church had to deal with in bringing the church back into sound doctrine and practice, but it is this brief passage at the beginning of the chapter that is being discussed here.
Dinges wants to rearrange the context. He would like to refute Slick’s assertion by claiming that the gifts were in fact the grace bestowed on them through the gospel rather than the gifts and manifestations of the Spirit as He leads, as attested in 1 Corinthians 12. As he puts it:
Paul is simply saying that the Corinthians are not lacking in any gift of grace. This potential lack does not necessarily refer to the lack of special gifts mentioned in 1 Corinthians 12-14 because there Paul indicates that each Christian is not to exercise every gift (1 Cor. 12:27-31). Rather he seems to be referring more generally to God’s grace actively counteracting the sins and faults so prevalent in the Corinthian congregation.
Jamieson, Fausset and Brown in their commentary refute this claim in simple terms using context rather than argument.
…not that all had all gifts, but different persons among them had different gifts (1Co 12:4, etc.).
So the gifts were bestowed upon the Church in general by the Holy Spirit, through individuals, so it was folly to claim that, if all are not used in every gift or manifestation, it follows that the gifts are now null, because it is also true to say that any or all could, at some juncture, be used in one or other of the gifts as the Lord determines. That is the only way to understand the scripture.
1 Corinthians 12:4-11 There are diversities of gifts, but the same Spirit. There are differences of ministries, but the same Lord. And there are diversities of activities, but it is the same God who works all in all. But the manifestation of the Spirit is given to each one for the profit of all: for to one is given the word of wisdom through the Spirit, to another the word of knowledge through the same Spirit, to another faith by the same Spirit, to another gifts of healings by the same Spirit, to another the working of miracles, to another prophecy, to another discerning of spirits, to another different kinds of tongues, to another the interpretation of tongues. But one and the same Spirit works all these things, distributing to each one individually as He wills.
Our response, then, to this instruction is to be open and prepared to be used of the Spirit at any given time as He wills to the glory of the Father. Using scripture erroneously to argue against scripture is bad exegesis.
Ed goes on to make a false claim against Matt Slick. He makes the following comment:
Slick believes that the Church is lacking in these gifts, if the cessationist position is correct and therefore, this is a contradiction of 1 Cor. 1:7. But such a state is impossible given the nature of the charismata.
That is clearly not Slick’s argument at all. He actually saying the Church is still in a viable position to receive the gifts and manifestations of the Spirit. He doesn’t believe for one minute in the possibility of cessationism. He is pressing ardently for continuationism.
His argument actually used the passage from 1 Corinthians 1:4-9 to demonstrate that Paul was not only addressing the church at Corinth but all congregations past, present and future until the Lord is revealed. As it says in the passage, ‘you come short in no gift, eagerly waiting for the revelation of our Lord Jesus Christ’, which implies that the gift is available until the coming of the Lord Jesus for the Church.
The sad part of Ed’s discourse, however, is to demand from Slick an apology to Hall. He claims that Slick bullied Hall because Hall refused to accept the earnestness of Slick’s testimony.
Finally, Slick’s appeal to his experience in the PCA and to his two prophetic experiences were tactics that he would have been better off leaving outside the conversation. I respect Matt Slick a great deal. I am a fellow presuppositionalist. I appreciate his contributions in apologetics. But that he was hurt by a presbytery in the PCA has nothing to do with this discussion. Either he has let that go, embraced God’s sovereignty in his life or he is bitterly hanging onto it. But it has no place in the discussion. If you can’t control your emotions, then don’t have the conversation. In terms of the other experiences, they were just that, his own experiences. And what we heard were not Matt Slick’s experiences, but his own interpretation of those experiences. When a man attempts to use his credibility one area to bully others into accepting his experiences in another area, there is a danger that rather than gain credibility for the experience, he will lose it elsewhere. And that is what happened in this discussion with J.D. Hall. Matt attempted to bully J.D. into accepting his experience or publicly questioning his credibility. It was an uncharitable dilemma for Matt to employ and he should apologize to JD for doing it if he has not done so already. A proper response is to place Matt’s credibility in apologetics and his experience aside and recognize that what we are dealing with in one case anyways is a 30-year-old memory and interpretation of an individual experience. Sorry Matt, but I cannot become a continuationist based on your subjective interpretation of a memory of an experience you had 30 years ago. I couldn’t do that if you had the experience yesterday.
This is outrageously unfair. Hall pressed Slick to give his testimony after he had mentioned that there was experiential evidence of the gift of word of knowledge, but that he was reluctant to express them in the circumstances, intimating that what happened would probably happen, that is, people like Dinges would criticise Slick for giving a testimony.
Giving his testimony was a not a tactic. It was demanded of him by Hall. That he was ‘hurt by the presbytery’ is a fact of his life. He was shown the left hand of fellowship because he had received the baptism with the Holy Spirit with the evidence of speaking in other tongues and had tasted of the heavenly gift. He was shut out of his own denomination, where he had offered himself up for dedicated service, because he had been blessed by the Spirit with a gift.
Pain of rejection
His pain can’t be laid aside as if it doesn’t matter. He spoke of it because it had helped shape his curiosity in scriptural truth. Hall was using the same tactics of denial as the presbytery had used and now Dinges is using.
And the charge that this was a bullying tactic and required an apology to Hall is disingenuous. It was a debate. Polar positions were being argued. Testimony is a viable and acceptable tool in discussion about the Lord’s influence and guidance in our lives. Hall could not bring himself to admit that Slick may have had a real encounter with the Lord and it was an offensive position to take against someone who is a fellow Reformed theologian for the sake of not losing a point in an argument.
Ironically, here is Dinges using an emotional charge to attempt to dismiss Slick’s emotional reason for seeking truth about the gifts of the Spirit. He actually uses the testimony Slick was pressed to reveal as a reason to reject the scripture that is glaringly before him that backs up Slick’s argument because he can’t stand Christians being emotional about rejection.
Slick wasn’t saying he wasn’t over the rejection, by the way. He was telling us that it was a reason for his search for truth that led him into apologetics.
Then Dinges questions Slick’s credibility now that he admitted that he is a continuationist. This is a ridiculous argument. The fact that there was a discussion about the issue reminds us that for some people the jury is still out, and that there are valid points to be made on both sides.
What Dinges is saying is that he has chosen a side, Slick doesn’t hold to his point of view, therefore his credibility is shot. So it’s all about Dinges’ point of view, then, rather than the scripture that Slick uses to underline his theology.
The problem with polemists and so-called discernment ministries is that they are just as prepared to devour their own as they are to tear down contradictory perspectives.
Galatians 5:13-15 For you, brethren, have been called to liberty; only do not use liberty as an opportunity for the flesh, but through love serve one another. For all the law is fulfilled in one word, even in this: “You shall love your neighbor as yourself.” But if you bite and devour one another, beware lest you be consumed by one another!