Sunday Quote

Sunday Quote!- Charismata and Authority of Scripture

occ-ruthvenEvery Sunday, I will share a quote from something I’ve been reading. The hope is for you, dear reader, to share your thoughts on the quote and related issues and perhaps pick up some reading material along the way!

Charismata and the Authority of Scripture

I have been reading through Jon Mark Ruthven’s On the Cessation of the Charismata, a book that is arguing against the position of cessationism. Cessationism is the notion that at least some spiritual gifts–things like healing, prophecy, etc.–mentioned in the New Testament did not continue beyond the New Testament era of the formative church [read more on the various views of spiritual gifts here]. One of the most controversial topics in this debate is the issue of authority. Ruthven is fairly blunt when he considers B.B. Warfield’s rejection of the spiritual gifts. The rejection was based, in part, on:

the implicit attack on the sufficiency of scriptural authority made by those claiming miracles and extraordinary gifts of the Holy Spirit… Such claims [of spiritual gifts]… represented a direct challenge to Protestant religious authority in that it was specifically based upon a closed canon of Scripture. (32, cited below)

Now I have not finished the book, so I’m not sure whether Ruthven would affirm this point. Indeed, he calls this a “polemical” argument against spiritual gifts, so I suspect he’s going to argue that the “continuationist” position–that which affirms spiritual gifts moving into the modern era–does not need to deny the closedness of the canon or affirm a denial of the sufficiency of Scripture. I’m looking forward to seeing how his argument proceeds, and whether he will indeed argue against this or affirm the openness of the canon.

What do you think? Do charismata–spiritual gifts–entail this position? If so, how problematic is it? What is your position? I’d love to read your thoughts in the comments.


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“Are Miraculous Gifts for Today?”- A look at four views in Christian Theology– I provide a look at four positions on miraculous/spiritual gifts in contemporary theology.

Sunday Quote– If you want to read more Sunday Quotes and join the discussion, check them out! (Scroll down for more)


Jon Mark Ruthven, On the Cessation of the Charismata (Tulsa, OK: Word & Spirit Press, 2011).



About J.W. Wartick

J.W. Wartick is a Lutheran, feminist, Christ-follower. A Science Fiction snob, Bonhoeffer fan, Paleontology fanboy and RPG nerd.


11 thoughts on “Sunday Quote!- Charismata and Authority of Scripture

  1. Wonder where the idea that the canon is closed comes from – hint, not Scripture 🙂

    Posted by whitefrozen | January 18, 2015, 8:17 AM
    • Some try to make I. Cor. 13 out to be the foundational passage for cessationism. I believe that this is a forced reading. Macarthur makes much out of a Greek term which he finds to be substantive in terms of reading “glossolalia” as one of those temporal gifts which would have ceased at the closing of the canon. Where the closing of the canon is specifically referenced in I. Cor. 13 is a bit tougher to pin down in my view.

      Posted by theisticscuffles | January 18, 2015, 12:42 PM
    • The canon is a man-made concept, and its closure was a response to the abundance of heresy during the 3rd century. Obviously, good and bad things have come from this concept…

      Posted by content2b | January 18, 2015, 3:36 PM
  2. I was actually pleasantly surprised when reading Warfield’s argument for cessationism that he noted a significant concession toward continuationism: the key, core chapters in I. Cor. (12-14) were *not* descriptions of a unique body of Christ manifestation. That is, Warfield was willing (if I read him correctly) to acknowledge that the Corinthian church did not singularly understand spiritual gifts and their manifestation, particularly in the exercise of tongues (glossolalia). Other church bodies from other locations would have grasped and practiced spiritual gifts. While this doesn’t touch the argument from I. Cor. 13 against continuing spiritual gifts (which I find to be rather implausible a la Macarthur’s strained exegesis), it is an important linchpin in the continuationist position from the New Testament.

    Personally, I believe that the exercise of spiritual gifts is, in fact, ongoing. Their practice ought to be critiqued and discerned, of course. Keener is pretty solid on charismata and biblical exegesis supporting it.

    Posted by theisticscuffles | January 18, 2015, 12:40 PM
  3. I used this book as a source in a paper I write for my Theology class last year. Lots of good stuff to chew on.

    Posted by content2b | January 18, 2015, 3:37 PM
  4. Actually, the book argues that spiritual gifts continue in the church BECAUSE THE NEW TESTAMENT SAYS SO !! Look at the generalizations–the universal claims– in Rom 11:29 (“the charismata and calling of God are NOT WITHDRAWN”). “Charismata” here cannot be twisted into the so-called “ordinary” gifts that continue, like hospitality and administrations. The 8 other contexts where “charismata” appear in the NT refer directly to healings or prophecy.

    The other generalization about ALL spiritual gifts is found in ! Cor 12:4-11
    Now there are varieties of gifts, but the same Spirit;
    5 and there are varieties of service, but the same Lord;
    6 and there are varieties of empowerments, but it is the same God who empowers them ALL in EVERYONE.
    7 To each is given the manifestation of the Spirit for the common good.
    8 For to one is given through the Spirit the utterance of wisdom, and to another the utterance of knowledge according to the same Spirit,
    9 to another faith by the same Spirit, to another gifts of healing by the one Spirit,
    10 to another the working of miracles, to another prophecy, to another the ability to distinguish between spirits, to another various kinds of tongues, to another the interpretation of tongues.
    11 ALL THESE [charismata] are empowered [continuous present] by one and the same Spirit, who apportions [continuous present] to EACH ONE individually as he wills.
    (1Co 12:4-11 ESV)

    Posted by Jon Ruthven | January 18, 2015, 11:53 PM
    • Thank you for stopping by, Dr. Ruthven. I agree with the thrust of your argument in this book, but I do still wonder about what the exact response would be to the “openness of the canon” argument. It seems to me that one could just argue that just as other prophecies in the NT and OT were not recorded as Scripture, so to current prophecies are not to be canonized. Sorry for taking so long to respond, I hope you’ll receive this response!

      Posted by J.W. Wartick | February 3, 2015, 5:20 PM
  5. The way it was explained to me was 1 Cor. 13:10, “10 But when that which is perfect has come, then that which is in part will be done away.” “That which is perfect” is said to be the canon, then gifts would cease. I disagree with that interpretation, and believe it to be some aspect of Christ’s second coming. I imagine it is when we are in Heaven, and we see the marriage of the perfect lamb.

    What clinches it for me is the flowing gifts in my own life, and the lives of certain Christians around me. After a while, seeing the success of putting faith in God overwhelms my mind’s ability to argue “coincidence.” From what I can see, if gifts have ceased, then someone should tell God.

    Posted by Mike | January 19, 2015, 1:59 AM
    • Thanks for your response and sorry I took so long getting back to you, but I think you’re right in regards to 1 Cor 13:10. I also think that seeing the Spirit’s work in our own lives is a powerful argument, and one which can and often should get past our all-too-often overly skeptical minds. We shouldn’t be totally gullible, but neither should we be quick to dismiss any possible spiritual activity.

      Posted by J.W. Wartick | February 3, 2015, 5:29 PM


  1. Pingback: Sunday Quote!- Cessationism and Defining Miracles | J.W. Wartick -"Always Have a Reason" - April 26, 2015

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