What I will do in this post is present the main categories of beliefs regarding miraculous gifts of the Holy Spirit. Much of my information is adapted from Systematic Theology by Wayne Grudem, which is an excellent resource for understanding many topics regarding systematic theology.
It’s been awhile since part one so first let me first summarize some of the stances I’ve presented so far on previous blog posts.
I believe in the pillars of Reformed Theology: 1) a commitment to the glory and transcendence of God, 2) the Bible as the sole authority of our faith, 3) the truth that people are saved by grace alone through faith alone, 4) a devotion to Jesus Christ as fully equal to God, and 5) the covenants God established as the key lens to interpret the Bible.
It is upon these pillars that I base my understanding of the person and role of the Holy Spirit. The Holy Spirit is the third person of the Trinity, who is equally and fully God (commitment to this high view of God). He is clearly present in both the Old and New Testaments (the Bible is our sole authority). He is the key agent for conviction of sin and the regeneration of a person’s soul (saved by grace alone through faith alone). The Holy Spirit’s work is marked by glorifying the Lord Jesus Christ (devotion to Jesus as God). Finally, the “new covenant age” was predicted in Scriptures such as Ezekiel 36:26-27 and fulfilled in Acts 2 (covenantal theology as the key lens of interpreting the Bible).
Okay, here we go now. There are two broad camps that believers fall into regarding the truthfulness and legitimate use of the spiritual gifts:
- “Cessationists” refer to people who think that certain miraculous gifts ceased long ago, when the apostles died and the Scriptures were completed for good.
- “Continuationists” refer to people who think that miraculous spiritual gifts are legitimately exercised and needed in the church today.
Going further, Grudem classifies continuationists into three categories with the following descriptions of each:
- “Pentecostal”: This refers to any denomination or group that traces its historical origin back to the Pentecostal revival that began in the United States in 1901 and that holds to the doctrines (a) that baptism in the Spirit is ordinarily an event after conversion, and (b) that baptism in the Spirit is made evident by speaking in tongues, and (c) that all the spiritual gifts mentioned in the New Testament are to be sought and used today.
- “Charismatic”: This refers to any groups (or people) that trace their historical origin to the charismatic renewal movement of the 1960s and 1970s, seek to practice all the spiritual gifts mentioned in the New Testament (e.g. prophecy, healing, miracles, tongues, interpretation, and distinguishing between spirits), and allow differing viewpoints on whether baptism in the Spirit is subsequent to conversion and whether tongues is a sign of baptism in the Spirit. Charismatics will very often refrain from forming their own denomination, but will view themselves as a force of renewal within existing Protestant and Roman Catholic churches.
- “Third Wave”: In the 1980s yet a third renewal movement arose, called the “third wave” by missions professor C. Peter Wagner. “Third wave” people encourage the equipping of all believers to use New Testament spiritual gifts today, and say that the proclamation of the gospel should ordinarily be accompanied by “signs, wonders, and miracles,” according to the New Testament pattern. They teach, however, that baptism in the Spirit happens to all Christians at conversion.
However, it’s my opinion that most believers would probably fall into two other categories: “open but cautious” and “responsible continuationists.”
- “Open but cautious”: This represents the very broad group of people who lean towards cessationism but are open to the practice of miraculous sign gifts in the church. Open but cautious people may have had “brushes” or second-hand experiences with miraculous sign gifts.
- “Responsible continuationists”: This is not a category Grudem uses, but I use this term to describe the group of continuationists (believing in the existence and use of miraculous sign gifts) who properly emphasize the Scriptures as God’s only authoritative special revelation and do not overemphasize or overvalue the practice of miraculous sign gifts.
Here’s a simple diagram showing the range of beliefs regarding the presence and practice of the miraculous sign gifts from the Holy Spirit:
Let me give a brief explanation why I like the idea of describing myself and our church as “responsible continuationists.”
On one hand, I believe that the “responsible continuationist” position is totally compatible with all the pillars of Reformed Theology, perhaps even more so than cessationism. Primarily, it appears to me that the plain teaching of the Bible says that miraculous sign gifts exist and at least can be practiced in the church today (sola Scriptura!).
On the other hand, I also do not think that the Pentecostal and Charismatic positions are entirely consistent with what the Scriptures say. I would even say that “Third Wave” doesn’t fully capture the Biblical teaching of spiritual gifts. I’m also not comfortable with the name “Third Wave” because it presumes a first wave (birth of Pentecostal movement) and a second wave (birth of Charismatic movement).
So what I mean by “responsible continuationism” is a biblically consistent understanding of the existence and exercising of spiritual gifts in the church and believer’s life. My next few posts will be an exegesis of 1 Corinthians 12-14, which will be a biblical basis for my conclusion of what “responsible continuationism” looks like in a church.