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F. Implications and Conclusions
The frequent failure. to respond to God's commands to
manifest the Kingdom of God in power is fully shared by most
believers, "charismatics" and non-charismatics alike. Both groups
tend to shape their theology and consequent practice on the basis
of their own experience--or lack of it--rather than on a fresh
and radical (in its original sense) view of Scripture. The
presence or absence of certain charismata in one's experience
proves nothing at all about one's spiritual status or destiny (Mt
7:21-22). Neither "charismatics" or "non-" are more or less
"saved" than the other; both are at once sinful, but justified by
grace alone. Nevertheless, the NT offers patterns as to how the
Gospel is to be presented, received and lived out. We must not
attempt to reframe our failures into virtues, that is, by
allowing what the New Testament describes as "unbelief" in and
for the gifts of God, to be construed as having chosen "the
better way" of a "stronger faith" without them. The rabbis'
intellectualized biblical knowledge which led to their
cessationism, prompted Jesus to affirm that they knew (in the
biblical sense) "neither the Scriptures nor the power of God" (Mt
22:29 Mk 12:24).
Much divisiveness over the gifts of the Spirit today
derives from a common premise held by both sides of the debate:
evidentialism. If spiritual gifts are adduced as proofs of
spiritual status or attainment, rather than used as tools for
humble service for others, then conflict naturally follows. The
core temptation to the first and Second Adam, and by extension to
all of us, was to use spiritual knowledge and power to accredit
one's independent and exalted religious status, instead of
through them, rendering glory, obedience and service to God.
Spiritual gifts are powerful weapons against the kingdom of
darkness; but misapplied in evidentialist polemics they can wound
and destroy the people of God.
The charismata, then, reflect the very nature of God, who
does not share his glory with another. Similarly, God is a Spirit
of power, "who changeth not." If the Church has "begun in the
Spirit," let us not attempt to change God's methods to complete
our course in the weakness of human flesh. Since it is the
Father's pleasure to "give good gifts to them who ask Him," it
must be our pleasure to receive them humbly.
On the Cessation of Charismata (Jon Ruthven)
"This article is an adaptation of Chapter 4 from the book based on the author's PhD dissertation, On the Cessation of the Charismata: The Protestant Polemic on Post-biblical Miracles (Sheffield, UK: Sheffield University Academic Press, 1993). & copy;1996 Jon Mark Ruthven, Ph.D. This book can be ordered from Amazon Books.
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