To his credit, Matt Crick of CARM held to what they called a continuationist perspective of scripture in a recent debate with Pulpit & Pen polemist J D Hall.
I tentatively listened through the discussion, which, remember, was held by two of the Reformed movement’s currently most vocal exponents, Hall taking the cessationist position against an opponent who had a far better handle on what scripture actually says compared to the conjecture offered by cessationists.
Cessationist vs continuationist
In Reformed jargon, a cessationist is someone who believes and teaches that the work of the Holy Spirit as defined in New Testament scripture has ceased, whereas the counter to this is continuationism, which teaches that the work of the Holy Spirit, including gifts and manifestations, continues today.
Slick, of course, holds to the incorrect theory that apostles have ended. There is no scripture for this, and there is evidence that the ascension gifts of apostle, prophet, evangelist, pastor and teacher are not only still needed today in the world’s ever increasing population, but that there is no evidence, Biblical or actual, that God has ended these gifts.
This somewhat weakened Slick’s position, of course, because Hall argued from the erroneous perspective that since, in his view, apostles have ended, then it follows that apostolic manifestations were, therefore, temporary to the early church age, and not needed since the canon of scripture was ratified.
Their argument is based on the existence of Christ’s Apostles, but doesn’t take into account the truth that they were with Him on the day of ascension, when He was a about to lead captivity captive and give gifts to men of apostles, prophets, evangelists, pastors and teachers, as promised.
Ephesians 4:8-12 Therefore He says: “When He ascended on high, He led captivity captive, And gave gifts to men.” (Now this, “He ascended”—what does it mean but that He also first descended into the lower parts of the earth? He who descended is also the One who ascended far above all the heavens, that He might fill all things.)
And He Himself gave some to be apostles, some prophets, some evangelists, and some pastors and teachers, for the equipping of the saints for the work of ministry, for the edifying of the body of Christ.
This somewhat dents both Hall and Slick’s arguments of the end of apostles. Slick does however stick to his guns when it comes to charismatic gifts. Hall, on the other hand, seems to want to avoid the arguments put up by Slick by saying he is in no way obliged to accept Slick’s arguments, even when they are backed by scripture. True, but it somewhat nullifies the point of a debate if that line is taken.
Testimony of gifts
Slick gave testimony of how God had used him on multiple occasions to give a word of knowledge to a person, and that the word had come to pass, yet this word of knowledge, of course, was not to be considered scripture, nor part of the canon.
Hall persisted in his claim that if it came from the Holy Spirit and was an utterance it must, he suggests, be the equivalent of scripture, but this is a mute point because, as Slick points out, there are passages of scripture that talk about the way in which the gifts and manifestations of the Spirit are to be conducted in the assemblies, but none of these words, be they prophecy, tongues and interpretation, word of wisdom, word of knowledge or revelation, are recorded in scripture, and yet the scripture itself validates them.
1 Corinthians 14:26-33 How is it then, brethren? Whenever you come together, each of you has a psalm, has a teaching, has a tongue, has a revelation, has an interpretation. Let all things be done for edification.
If anyone speaks in a tongue, let there be two or at the most three, each in turn, and let one interpret. But if there is no interpreter, let him keep silent in church, and let him speak to himself and to God. Let two or three prophets speak, and let the others judge. But if anything is revealed to another who sits by, let the first keep silent.
For you can all prophesy one by one, that all may learn and all may be encouraged. And the spirits of the prophets are subject to the prophets. For God is not the author of confusion but of peace, as in all the churches of the saints.
J D Hall seems to be stumped by this reality. As Slick points out, none of these utterances are recorded in scripture as scripture, and yet Paul, by revelation of the Holy Spirit, authorises their use in the Church. In other words, Hall confuses prophetic gifts and manifestations in the local assemblies for the edification, exhortation and encouragement of the saints, with the prayerfully studied and Spirit-led production of the Apostles Doctrine that became the canon.
Hall makes the case, as an argument as to why these utterances are not recorded as scripture, that it’s the Holy Spirit who adds or leaves out what is to be in the canon, whereas scripture tells us that the Apostles and Prophets, under the guidance of the Holy Spirit, were directed by Christ to put together the Apostle’s Doctrine that became the canon. Included in that doctrine were passages such as the one above, as Slick points out and Hall evades.
Evasion of truth
In fact, Hall went on to disclose, after Slick had laboured to get him to admit that Slick’s testimony was either bona fide or he was a liar, that, as far as he was concerned, he already had prophecy, the gifts, and the manifestations in his assembly through the writings of the New Testament, which, as Slick pointed out, actually goes against what scripture teaches on the gifts. It is the Holy Spirit who gives the utterance as He wills, not through the scripture, but through the saints.
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.
Clearly, the utterance is given to people in the assembly by the Spirit. God the Holy Spirit works all in all. And it is for the profit of all. To say that it is sufficient to read the scripture is not taking the New Testament seriously.
The weakness of Hall’s position is that he reveals that he doesn’t actually believe the Sola Scriptura that he espouses. Far from seeking to demonstrate the truths contained within scripture, Hall goes out of his way to disprove what scripture actually says, and by any means – by hands over eyes and ears denial, by obscure interpretation of the Greek, by unreasonable reason, by flip-flopping like JWs between scriptures linking unconnected verses from one passage to another.
And, of course, as he readily admitted, he spoke from the experience of having once spoken in tongues but tragically being talked out of it, which he has now made his cause towards others.
In the end, Matt Slick was made into a exasperated individual, not because of the brightness of the arguments put up by Hall, but because of the resistance to actual scriptural truth displayed by Hall and his glued on cessationist Reformed position.
Slick, despite his frustrated attempts at using scripture to demonstrate the continuationist position was obviously holding back on more evidence from the New Testament because Hall could go no further than his own incomprehensible reluctance to dare to trust scripture and take it at face value.
It’s hard to see how Hall could be drawn into the truth about New Testament teachings on the gifts and manifestations, or on tongues, or the Christ appointed apostolic prophetic nature of the Church, but the best thing Matt Slick could do is abandon this Reformed error and embrace a more Spirit-led theology.