Chris Rosebrough of Pirate Christian Media really tries hard to make charismatics look bad, but has conceded that there is a ‘stalemate’ in the ‘debate between cessationists and continuationists’. What he means is that the cessationists have run out of arguments to sustain their position.
He has contrived a ‘traffic jam, a gridlock’ as ‘concerning the debate between the cessationists and continuationists’… ‘a kind of a winner take all approach to this concept’, ‘a logjam’.
Nothing could be farther from the truth. The Bible either supports the one theology or the other. There is no gridlock. No logjam. There is no competition. There is no ‘concept’. There is only truth, and the truth is contained in scripture.
His is a frank admission that, since there is no scriptural evidence to support the cessationist position, he, as their spokesperson on this occasion, has to produce a series of arguments against what he sees as experiential Christianity, and attempt to make this the new dividing line. We call it moving the goalposts.
He has taken several steps back from Biblical accuracy to a new standpoint of producing excesses in the charismatic movements to provide a curtain to screen cessationists’ inability to provide sound Biblical evidence for the cessation of the gifts, manifestations and involvement of the Holy Spirit as the eternal miracle working God in the midst of the Church.
He has shifted a Biblical discussion about whether scripture supports cessationism or continuationism, and created a new argument in which he attempts to say that certain charismatic practices are not Biblical, therefore continuationism is wrong, so cessationism must be the go.
This, of course, is a very poor argument. Regardless of any excesses that can be shown in some charismatic practices the Bible accounts support continuationism. That is a fact. Whether the gifts and manifestations of the Spirit are being operated in a scriptural fashion is a valid question, but producing extracts from tales of excess does not and could not disprove continuationist theology.
Shield of froth
Here he is sticking the boot in, or is it foot in mouth, when attempting to spread misinformation about continuationists:
If the continuationist isn’t convinced that cessationism is Biblical, then, well, anything goes…and it’s got to be from God and you can’t be critical or you blaspheme the Holy Spirit.
Well that’s not right. Rosebrough made that up to introduce his subsequent proposition.
I’m a continuationist and I don’t consider cessationism Biblical, but I certainly don’t believe that ‘anything goes and it’s got to be from God’, nor do I believe that you ‘can’t be critical or you blaspheme the Holy Spirit’.
I do believe that if you attribute the gifts and manifestations or miracles of the Holy Spirit to demon spirits you are blaspheming the Holy Spirit, but that is simply an accurate Biblical standpoint to take.
However, if Chris or anyone else is going to be critical of the gifts and manifestations of the Spirit, I am at liberty to check his claims against scripture and call him out on any error. He can be as critical is he wants, but his own criticism will still be measured against the Word of God, as will mine.
In his criticism, to attempt to illustrate the point made above, Rosebrough uses the scenario of Benny Hinn swiping folk with his coat as they fall under the power as an example of extra-Biblical curricula, that leads him to assume that, because ministries like his do strange things of which cessationists don’t approve, somehow continuationism is negated and cessationist theology must, therefore, become the only go-to doctrine.
However, the real issue is Biblical, not experiential, regardless of Rosebrough’s opinion. Is there a theological argument for continuationism? That is the question. Or is cessationist theology confirmed anywhere in scripture?
The antics of seemingly eccentric televangelists have nothing to do with it. The excesses of peripheral ministries cannot negate the clarity of the Word and are not valid arguments against continuationism or for cessationism.
False premise for a flawed claim
Right from the outset, then, Rosebrough sets up a straw man and bases an entire program, which will, apparently, be stretched to programs, on a premise that isn’t born out in reality.
He makes the claim that ‘you don’t have to be a cessationist’ to know certain things are wrong in the Body, and that may be true, but ultimately bases the whole concept on cessationist philosophy anyway. For him the very notion of the gifts and manifestations of the Spirit are a no-go area.
He considers speaking in tongues as having been done away with sometime undefined in scripture, after the last of Jesus’ Apostles passed away. Quite how this happened is anyone’s guess.
Did everyone suddenly cease to be able to speak in other tongues as soon as the last of Jesus’ Apostles died? Surely that would lead to mass confusion, unless there was an apostolic directive sent out to warn them, which would be present somewhere in scripture, because God is not the author of confusion, we are told, especially in reference the gifts of the Spirit.
There is no Biblical support for this. Nor is their any scriptural confirmation of cessationists’ claims that healing and miracles have ended. If all things are subject to the scrutiny of Sola Scriptura, there is a massive hole in cessationist theories.
If there is something unbiblical about the way a ministry acts or teaches, by all means, call it out. That is apologetics. It is the basis of discernment. I am testing the spirit of what Rosebrough is saying right here. I don’t say he is demonised or not saved, but I am required by scripture to test his theology to see if it matches Biblical evidence or falls short.
Scripture demands continuationist theology
The thing is, if you consider every extreme experiential act to be representative of the continuationist cause then you are in danger of misrepresenting the Holy Spirit, His gifts and manifestations.
I’m not a continuationist because I want to see manifestations of the Spirit regardless of what God says. I’m a continuationist because scripture demands it.
My journey into continuationist theology began with the reading of scripture that pointed to it. In my hungry early state as a newly born-again believer I read these passages and asked respected local Bible teachers and elders what these words in the Bible meant, only to be told by cessationist pastors that I don’t need to know about the Holy Spirit and His gifts. At that time, of course, I did not know what a cessationist or continuationist was.
I only knew what I read in scripture, and I was hungry to find out about the Holy Spirit and what He meant to me as a new believer. It was the very Holy Spirit that drew me deeper into His Word, but I was shut down in my quest for truth simply because these ministers believed that the gifts and manifestations, including healing and the baptism with the Holy Spirit, had ceased.
That wasn’t a satisfying response in view of the Biblical evidence, so I sought out those who had the answers. What else should a searcher after truth do? It is impossible please God without believing that He is and that He is a Rewarder of those who diligently seek Him (Hebrews 11:6).
How do I seek Him? By seeking His truth in His Word. My hunger has never ended. I still seek after truth, and my main place of enquiry remains in scripture, led by the Holy Spirit.
That is why I check the theology of these cessationists against the Word still today.
What does scripture tell us?
Is there a scriptural case for cessationism? That is what cessationists should be addressing. Too often they use signs and wonders as evidence against continuationism, not for. They hear of healing, or deliverance, or outstanding acts that confound nature and misapply texts that, in their view, countermand miracles. Their favourite is Matthew 7:21-23, but they use it as a weapon against miracles, prophecy and healing, which was never Jesus’ intention.
God is not in the business of denouncing miracles. He is in the ministry of producing signs and wonders. He has shown throughout history that He is a miracle-working God. Has He changed? Is He different today to the many times He brought about miraculous acts and interventions in the earth? How could He be?
He said He is Yahweh Who Changes Not. He is the eternal God. He is the same yesterday, and today, and forever. He is the faithful God. He is the consistent God. He is the Yes and Amen to all of His promises.
Ephesians 3:20-21 Now to Him who is able to do exceedingly abundantly above all that we ask or think, according to the power that works in us, to Him be glory in the church by Christ Jesus to all generations, forever and ever. Amen.
What is the power at work in us? It is the power of the Holy Spirit. Has the Holy Spirit changed since He was sent by the Father as evidence that Christ had risen and is seated at the right hand of glory? No. The Holy Spirit was and is the same Holy Spirit He has ever been. His gifts are the same. His fruit is the same. His manifestations are the same. He is the same in us who believe.
Prophecy has not ended
In his first episode, Rosebrough attacks Christian colleges for charging their students, calling it simony. It is a poor argument. Even if he were correct in his assessment it is not evidence that prophecy has ended. It is only evidence that Bible schools ask students to pay for their tutelage. It has nothing to do with simony. It is actually a Biblical principle to pay the teacher for their services. Is it? Can you show me from scripture? Of course.
1 Corinthians 7:9-14 Who ever goes to war at his own expense? Who plants a vineyard and does not eat of its fruit? Or who tends a flock and does not drink of the milk of the flock?
Do I say these things as a mere man? Or does not the law say the same also? For it is written in the law of Moses, “You shall not muzzle an ox while it treads out the grain.” Is it oxen God is concerned about? Or does He say it altogether for our sakes? For our sakes, no doubt, this is written, that he who plows should plow in hope, and he who threshes in hope should be partaker of his hope. If we have sown spiritual things for you, is it a great thing if we reap your material things? If others are partakers of this right over you, are we not even more?
Nevertheless we have not used this right, but endure all things lest we hinder the gospel of Christ. Do you not know that those who minister the holy things eat of the things of the temple, and those who serve at the altar partake of the offerings of the altar? Even so the Lord has commanded that those who preach the gospel should live from the gospel.
The Lord has commanded that those who preach the gospel should live from the gospel. Paul and Barnabas made the personal decision to work for their expenses, but Paul never preached against a minister of God deriving an income from those he taught. In fact, he encouraged it.
If a Bible teacher sets up classes to teach on a certain Biblical subject, it is perfectly sound economics to receive financial renumeration for their ministry. Whether a cessationist critic accepts a school that teaches continuationist theology or not is a completely mute point. Paul quotes God as endorsing the support of those who teach the Word.
Why Rosebrough converts this to simony is beyond any scriptural logic I can think of. It is merely using scripture as means of mischief and sowing discord.
Why, Rosebrough himself requests donations via PayPal to support his polemics ministry. He is a full time pastor. Does he receive a stipend from the Lutheran board? Who pays for this? Is it the freewill offerings of the congregants that receive the Word? Is that, then, simony because Lutheran minsters receive a salary? Or is it a Biblical pattern for supporting the ministry.
I think we have to be careful to use scripture in its right context and not use it as a weapon against people we disagree with. There is a certain integrity to rightly dividing the Word of God, and we have to apply it in the correct way with the right attitude.