Charismatic Gifts: Introduction
As indicated by the title of this paper, the following discussion focuses on the debate over charismatic gifts, specifically whether sign gift continue in today’s world or have ceased, the purpose of sign gifts and whether they are being practiced in a biblical sense. Essentially this addresses two opposing schools of thought cessationism and continuationism. To better cover this topic the following paper will be divided into two sections. Section one first explores the notion of a sign gift from the biblical texts. Section two then focuses on the principle arguments in cessationism and continuationism.
As a basic definition a charismata (or sign gifts) are spiritual gifts bestowed upon Christians to help them complete the churches mission. Within the biblical texts there are frequent references to such gifts, in The First Epistle to the Corinthians the text states that “And God has placed in the church first of all apostles, second prophets, third teachers, then miracles, then gifts of healing, of helping, of guidance, and of different kinds of tongues.”. In the same text it also states that “There are different kinds of gifts, but the same Spirit distributes them.”. These biblical texts point to the view that the Holy Spirit is both the source of many gifts for mankind. Similarly in Peter 4:10 it states that “Each of you should use whatever gift you have received to serve others, as faithful stewards of God’s grace in its various forms.”. There is then a duty placed on the targets of such gifts to use them in the service of others, the church and in the name of God’s grace.
Cessationism and Continuationism
Broadly speaking there are two diametrically opposed positions within the church when it comes to the understanding of charismata gifts. On the one hand, Cessationism work under the impression that charismatic gifts ended with the Apostles and the establishment of the church, thus have ceased to continue in modern society. One of the strongest advocates of this position is John MacArthur, who has written extensively about the lack of support in the biblical text in contrast to the large charismatic movement. On the other hand, Continuationism advocates that gifts from the Holy Spirit did not represent an early age of the church, but instead continue in contemporary society. Indeed, authors such as McRae have extensively argued the case for Continuationism.
As a final point and as a conclusion to this paper it is worth exploring the position of whether such sign gifts operate within a biblical manner in today’s society. After reviewing the various doctrinal positions on the topic it seems even when disregarding the doctrinal dispute between Cessationism and Continuationism, often the charismatic movement is utilized in a non-biblical sense. As Poewe notes in her book on the topic, there is a now established tradition of continuationism which seems to operate outside the traditional remit of religion and instead represents a consumerist attitude to faith with multiple paid events and television services. Indeed, the capitalization and consumerism of charismatic gifts continues to grow and operate outside of the traditional remit of the church.
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- Grudem, Wayne. Are Miraculous Gifts for Today?: 4 Views. Michigan Zondervan, 2011.
- MacArthur, John. Charismatic chaos. Michigan: Zondervan, 1993.
- McRae, William, and McRae, William. The Dynamics of Spiritual Gifts. Michigan: Zondervan, 1983.
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