Challies has brought in the big guns and is interviewing Dr Sam Waldron and Dr Wayne Grudem on the subject of cessationism/charismaticism. Today, Sam Waldron has an interesting argument which is essentially a cascade argument:
The people we read in my doctoral program (and at the same time these people that would assume that cessationism was nonsensical and not even discussable) would in almost the same breath admit or assume that Apostles no longer exist in the church today (“big A” Apostles). And I thought ‘that’s inconsistent.’ And that was really the birth of my desire to prosecute and my understanding of what I call the cascade argument…..
…I argue that if Apostles are no longer in the church that creates a precedent for discussing the issue of whether prophets are in the church. And then I bring, on the basis of the absence of the Apostolic gift, arguments for the absence of the prophetic gift. And then on the basis of those two things I argue that tongues-speaking was a form of prophecy and on the basis of the precedent set by the absence of Apostles and prophets, we may also argue the absence of tongues-speakers. And with those three arguments set and clear I then proceed to say that we can also argue that miracle workers are no longer given to the church. And therefore you have a kind of cascade from Apostles to prophets to tongues-speakers to miracle workers.
The problem is with all this very reasonable sounding argument is that firstly I am not aware of any verse in scripture that contradicts what Paul tells us which is that apostles will be given to us until the church is mature.
Secondly even if there was such a scripture we need more than that to support a flimsy extension of the argument from reason. Where is the exegesis? Where is the theory of not building doctrine on a single verse? This whole cessationist house of cards is worse than that as it stands on not a single verse of scripture!
Apostles are meant to continue, The passage in Ephesians 4 which I will close this post with is clear enough. But my readers will say, what of scripture writing? Well, guess what, scripture writing wasnt the only function of the apostles. If it was then only one of them was very productive in it! Whats more if it was the sole preserve of apostles to write scripture Mark and Luke must have been usurping their role! What were the apostles doing the rest of their lives when they werent writing scripture? Simply doing almost exactly what there modern counterparts from today are doing – planting new churches, training leaders, appointing elders, pastoring the pastors and fixing churches that got in a mess.
To summarise, scripture writing and apostleship are two distinct functions. Of course scripture writing would stop when the bible was complete, as by definition you cant continue to do something that has stopped. But as long as the world needs church leaders it will still need apostles.
The church today NEEDS apostles just as much as it needs the other key gifts to the church listed in Eph 4. A while back I came accross a quote via Terry Virgo’s: “a pastor loves people and the teacher loves books'” At the time, I thought it could be helpfully reworded and expanded as follows.
A pastor loves Christians
A teacher loves books
An evangelist loves non-Christians
A prophet loves God
An apostle loves the Church
Clearly we need church leaders who do all these things. Equally clearly, each of our leaders will inevitably focus more on one of these aspects than the others. Without them all (and I definitely include the apostle in that) a church will be lopsided at best, and heretical at worst. This is why churches still today need team leadership rather than the Pastor-is-king mentatlity of some.
A church which only loves the non-Christian will soon become a rather unpleasant place to be, where you are valued only for the number of people you bring there. A church which only loves Christians will be an exclusive club and impossible to join. A church which only loves books will be more like a bible school than a community. A church which only loves God may be of little use on earth, and may at times be offensive for the sake of being offensive. A church which only loves the church itself, whilst ignoring its purpose, may become a beauracracy riven with power struggles and devoid of direction.
Thank God the bible says ‘It was he who gave some to be apostles, some to be prophets, some to be evangelists, and some to be pastors and teachers, to prepare God’s people for works of service, so that the body of Christ may be built up until we all reach unity in the faith and in the knowledge of the Son of God and become mature, attaining to the whole measure of the fullness of Christ. Then we will no longer be infants, tossed back and forth by the waves, and blown here and there by every wind of teaching and by the cunning and craftiness of men in their deceitful scheming. Instead, speaking the truth in love, we will in all things grow up into him who is the Head, that is, Christ. From him the whole body, joined and held together by every supporting ligament, grows and builds itself up in love, as each part does its work.’ (Eph 4:11-16, NIV)