Perspectives on Pentecost – review part 5 (final)

Posted: November 6, 2014 by J in Bible, Book review, Church, Church history, Pastoral issues, Theology
  1. Quenching the Spirit

After recognising that his position will offend many, Gaffin makes some helpful concluding remarks. He suggests that what is often seen as ‘post conversion baptism of the Spirit’ really is a great working of the Spirit, in convicting us of the gospel! ‘Often too, what is seen as prophecy is actually a spontaneous, Spirit-worked application of Scripture’. In relation to tongues he makes a damning appraisal of the contemporary practice. He notes that it is often seen as a gift for all believers, for personal benefit, not relating to judgement in any way, and with interpretation either being neglected or ‘applied in a dubious fashion’. Hence; ‘Contemporary tongues are not the gift of the Spirit described in Acts 2 or 1 Corinthians 12-14.’ Smack down! He concludes with a genuine appreciation of the many strengths of the charismatic movement, which we could all learn from.

Reflections:

I really dug the first section. Gaffin’s Old/New Covenant gear was great. The Spirit is the risen life of Christ amongst his people. I for one need to make more of that. I dug plenty of other stuff along the way, but the jury is still out on the issue of cessation of tongues and prophecy.

At times, Gaffin places too much weight on uncertain exegesis (eg. In relation to 1 Cor 14:14 he says that ‘my spirit’ must be the Holy Spirit, whereas Paul seems to have a distinction between the Holy Spirit and our spirit. Eg. Rom8:16.) But at many points he garners enough evidence to convince me. He convinced me that prophecy is always revelation and even that tongues are about the revelation of gospel mysteries too.

However I’m still unsure about the beam that bears most of the weight in his argument for the cessation of prophecy. Keeping in mind the ‘covenantal, redemption-historical character of all revelation’, I think his key statement is: ‘Since the history of redemption has been definitively accomplished, and since after Pentecost its ongoing movement is delayed until Christ’s return […], the basis and rationale for new revelations is lacking and revelation has therefore ceased.’

I think this characterization of prophecy is overly restrictive. His insistence that all prophecy is covenantal and redemptive historical in character is laudable, but I think he applies those categories too restrictively. Prophecies like Agabus’ concerning the famine (despite Gaffin’s arguments) doesn’t seem to fit within his tight definition. Old Testament prophecy didn’t always relate all that directly to salvation history either (eg. 1 Kings 20:35, or 2 Kings 2:3-5). Without a shadow of a doubt I’m not the exegete that Gaffin is, but I do find it hard to see how some prophecies in the scriptures relate directly to ‘the ongoing movement’ of redemptive history.

Similarly, I agree with him that we shouldn’t expect any ‘new revelations’ concerning salvation history, or the character of our God revealed therein. It’s just that plenty of prophecy doesn’t seem to offer significant new information about salvation history or God’s character either. Is it possible that similar prophecy could operate today? Maybe prophecy ‘forthtelling’ old information for new believers in certain circumstances?

For this reason I’m not convinced his arguments for the cessation of prophecy hold. This would then carry for tongues also. However, I’m still not sure what I think about this tricky topic!

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