Matt Postiff's Blog

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Posted by Matt Postiff July 31, 2015 under Society 

Over at AEI Idea's public policy blog, I wrote in a comment:

I think this would be a good Venn diagram:

Circle 1: People who say unborn babies are not people but rather are tissue masses or somesuch.

Circle 2: People who sell human body parts like kidneys, brains, spinal cords, livers, and the like from aborted fetuses.

Overlap: People who don't have a great need for intellectual consistency.

If the unborn children are not babies, it would seem that they shouldn’t have all the normal people body parts. If it looks like a person, shouldn’t you think its a person?

A respondent named Bob replied:

Nonesense. So if I grow a liver in the lab that liver is a person? If I choose to be an organ donor I’m not a person? If dead people donate their bones and tissue for treatments they weren’t people? You’re ignoring the reality that people can and do donate tissue and organs all the time, and in some cases their family decides for them. You’re also conflating partially developed with actually developed. Is a blastocyst of 300 cells a person? That’s ridiculous. By that standard scratching your nose is a virtual genocide. I’m not saying it’s trivial to draw the line between mass of unviable tissue and potential human that has consciousness, but science isn’t completely ignorant either. And whether the tissue resulting from abortion should be used is a question of squeamishness, not ethics. Is it somehow more moral to throw aborted tissue in the garbage than to use it for something productive? Hardly.

There are a few obvious logical and moral flaws in what Bob has written.

Hi Bob, not nonsense. You've missed the point. In reply to your questions/points:

First, growing a liver in a lab is obviously not a person. I'm talking about a pie dish with all the baby's body parts dissected in it, not a liver in isolation from any other living tissue. You find all the body parts in that pie dish, and if they weren't chopped up like mince meat and hacked out of their mother’s womb, they would still be alive and in a few weeks or months would be born as a healthy baby.

Second, if you choose to be an organ donor, that is wonderful. But notice the huge difference in three ways: you voluntarily choose to donate a part of your body, it does not kill you, and you cannot legally be compensated for it. The baby does not voluntarily choose to donate, it loses its life, and another organization (PP) is being compensated for it. In the case of end-of-life donation, the person has already lost their life.

Third, a blastocyst of 300 cells is of the homo sapiens variety and it is alive. You cannot convince anyone that it is another species, or that it is dead. It has all the qualities of a living organism. You admit that it is not trivial to draw the line. So I challenge you to go ahead and draw the line--just when does it become life? And are you willing to kill a living organism on that flimsy "it's not trivial" logic? Yes, I do believe that life begins at conception. You are willing to commit discrimination based on age and level of development. So what if a child is born without arms and legs? It is only partially developed. Do you think it is OK to kill it?

Fourth, if all ethical questions reduced down to ones of squeamishness, we would do a lot more things that are sick and perverted than we even do now. It is far too simple-minded ethically to suggest that once we make the decision to kill a baby, it is no problem to decide to donate its tissue. Your final question presents the logical fallacy called a false dilemma. I don't have a choice only between throwing aborted tissue away or donating it. I can choose LIFE and have a baby! Both donating the tissue AND throwing it away are morally wrong, and they are sourced in a moral wrong to begin with: murder.

Bob's type of thinking is an example of how darkened the mind of the unbeliever is. I don't know Bob personally, but for my purpose this afternoon, he represents a whole class of people whose thinking is blinded by immorality and simply does not see things they way those things really are.

Perhaps I should spell out my initial Venn diagram comment to make it more clear? On the one hand, abortionists say that the unborn baby is not a human, it has no right to life, and it is of no consequence to remove it from the mother. But on the other hand, apparently they market the human body parts of those babies for medical researchers who want to purchase human body parts. Oh, but wait, it wasn't a human that we removed from the womb. How can we market its body parts as human if it really isn't human? Hmmmm. Maybe we'll just live with the intellectual inconsistency so we can get what we WANT—federal funding and financial proceeds from body part sales and fees for abortions, and free sex without any responsibility!


Posted by Matt Postiff July 30, 2015 under Society 

Sometimes Christians are charged with "cherry picking" certain parts of the Bible to believe or practice, while ignoring others. For example, aren't Christians inconsistent when they rail against homosexuality but are pretty much OK with divorce? Isn't it foolish to accept the law against homosexuality from the Old Testament yet reject the food laws and slavery and laws against mixed textiles? My new article at Inside Sources answers this very question.


Posted by Matt Postiff June 23, 2015 under Interpretation  Society  Bible Texts 

I think that most Americans would agree that Dylan Roof's killing of nine black church-goers last week qualifies as a hate crime, particularly because of his white-supremacist background and racist rant while he slew his victims. His act demonstrates the worst sort of depravity. But what is a hate crime and why is it a special kind of crime?

What most Americans do not understand is that all crimes are hate crimes, and that in God's sight, hate itself is a crime.

Let me address the latter assertion first: hate itself is a crime under divine law.

Leviticus 19:17 - You shall not hate your brother in your heart.
1 John 2:9 - He who says he is in the light, and hates his brother, is in darkness until now.
1 John 3:15 - Whoever hates his brother is a murderer, and you know that no murderer has eternal life abiding in him.
1 John 4:20 - If someone says, "I love God," and hates his brother, he is a liar; for he who does not love his brother whom he has seen, how can he love God whom he has not seen?
Matthew 5:44-45 - But I say to you, love your enemies, bless those who curse you, do good to those who hate you, and pray for those who spitefully use you and persecute you, that you may be sons of your Father in heaven; for He makes His sun rise on the evil and on the good, and sends rain on the just and on the unjust.

The Christian God commands that all people love God and love their neighbors as themselves. Hatred is the same as breaking this "great commandment" and God's assigned punishment for this crime is eternal death (Romans 6:23).

Now for the assertion that all crimes are "hate crimes."

Google shows the definition of hate crime to be "a crime motivated by racial, sexual, or other prejudice, typically one involving violence."

My definition of crime is broader than the secular definition because I count a true "crime" as an act against the law of God. Some things fall into this category which are legal but are not right in God's eyes.

My definition of hate crime is also broader than the secular definition because the motivation of all crime, whether directly or indirectly, is hate. Looking at it from another angle, crime arises from the self-love of the perpetrator rather than love for the victim.

  • Did Dylan Roofs love his victims?
  • Regardless of the skin color of the perpetrator or victim, does a mass shooter love his victims?
  • Does the abortion doctor love his victim—or his pregnant patient?
  • Does the gay couple who sues a cake maker (for not making a cake for them) love their victim?
  • Do followers of the homosexual movement love their opponents when they send them death threats?

Obviously the answer to the above questions is a resounding NO in each case. Unfortunately, in an age where boy means girl and white means black, it is not certain that this obvious conclusion will be accepted.

Undoubtedly someone who opposes what I've said above will ask about a minister refusing to perform a gay wedding or a pastor preaching against homosexuality—aren't those hate crimes? Absolutely not! Under God's law, they are acts of love, not hate. To share with someone that their conduct and beliefs are ultimately destructive is not to hate them; it is rather to show love and compassion.

Under United States secular law as construed for the entire history of the nation, such actions (or lack of action) are protected as free exercise of religion and speech; they are not criminal acts; and they certainly don't involve violence. These acts are not motivated by sexual prejudice, for the Christian motivation is not a mere preconceived opinion. Rather, the motivation is love for God and love for neighbor.

Judging the internal motivations is a very slippery task. I think we should forget about categorizing crimes into different types by motivation, and simply punish crimes uniformly.

Murder is murder—whether it it arose out of personal malice or impersonal prejudice. It took a life, no matter what the color, gender, sexuality, etc. Murder is a hate crime, and all hate is a crime too.

This post came out of a study of 1 John 3:10-24.


Posted by Matt Postiff June 20, 2015 under Interpretation  Society  Creation 

I applaud Ken Ham for reminding us tonight that the human race is ONE race, not many, not black and white, not brown and yellow, but one race, from Adam and Eve. He wrote some helpful comments in his related twitter posts @aigkenham:

There is only one race of people biologically—Adam's race. Everyone has the same skin color, brown. There are no black or white people—all are shades of brown. Next time you fill out a form that asks what race you are, write "Adam's"

Unfortunately, his post was briefly sullied by a commentator named Gary (full name not included here) who says that God cursed Noah's son Ham (not to be confused with Ken Ham), sent him to a tropical climate, and darkened his skin in punishment for what he did to his dad.

I wrote to Gary directly on his Facebook page, and also tried to write a reply to challenge his comment on Ken's post. My reply was disallowed, I believe because either he himself or Facebook quickly deleted his racist comment. That happened, by the way, less than 25 minutes after he made the remark at about 10:30 eastern time. So, I am copying what I wrote here in my blog so that others searching online will be able to find yet another refutation of this deplorable interpretation.

Gary, yours is an old and very bad interpretation of Genesis 9:21-27. This interpretation is especially odious because it was used to justify the enslavement of black people. I challenge you to review the passage and show us from the text (1) that Ham uncovered Noah; (2) that God sent Ham to a tropical climate; (3) that God miraculously darkened Ham's skin; and (4) that God cursed Ham at all. I don't find those assertions anywhere in the text, yet you make all of them in your three lines of false teaching. Here are the facts: (1) Noah became uncovered by himself because he was drunk; (2) The text doesn't say God sent Ham to a tropical climate; (3) The text doesn't say that God darkened Ham's skin; and (4) God did not curse Ham—the text says that God cursed Canaan!

The Christian pastor's job description includes silencing those who are empty talkers and deceivers (Titus 1:11). This is just such a case. Hopefully the truth will embarrass Gary into silence. It is impossible to make an apologetic for racism out of Genesis 9.


Posted by Matt Postiff May 29, 2015 under General 

Christians often reflect on what they have been saved FROM. We need to also carefully consider what we have been saved TO. The privileges that we obtain, by God's grace through salvation, are amazing. They surpass some of the blessings that saints of old experienced. Those who don't share what we have ought to be jealous because of what we have! Here are three:

1. Friendship with God

Abraham was called the friend of God (James 2:23). "So the LORD spoke to Moses face to face, as a man speaks to his friend" (Exodus 33:11).

Jesus said, "You are My friends, if you do whatever I command you" (John 15:14).

2. Favored Status before God

To Mary, it was said, "Rejoice, highly favored one, the Lord is with you; blessed are you among women!" (Luke 1:28).

Of all believers, the Bible says that God has "predestined us to adoption as sons by Jesus Christ to Himself, according to the good pleasure of His will, to the praise of the glory of His grace, by which He has made us highly favored in the Beloved" (Ephesians 1:5-6, slightly adapted from NKJV to reflect that the same verb is used here as in Luke 1:28).

3. Access to the King and Privilege to Make Petitions

"We have access by faith into this grace in which we stand" (Romans 5:2). "In Him we have boldness and access with confidence through faith in Him" (Ephesians 3:12). "And whatever we ask we receive from Him, because we keep His commandments (1 John 3:22). "Now this is the confidence that we have in Him, that if we ask anything according to His will, He hears us. And if we know that He hears us, whatever we ask, we know that we have the petitions that we have asked of Him" (1 John 5:14-15).

We don't have the same face-to-face access to God that say Moses had, but later on that will change: "And there shall be no more curse, but the throne of God and of the Lamb shall be in it, and His servants shall serve Him. They shall see His face, and His name shall be on their foreheads" (Revelation 22:3-4).

There are more such blessings. I hope to add to this list soon.


Posted by Matt Postiff May 2, 2015 under General 

I have written an outline of the book of Acts. Hopefully it will be a help to you. I like the six major sections, but the symmetry of the headings could be improved so that all six focus on the church instead of #4 focusing on Herod and #6 on Paul. It is a work in progress, but it is getting close!


Posted by Matt Postiff April 23, 2015 under Church 

The public reading of Scripture is an essential part of Biblical worship.

Part of the Christian worship service must include the reading aloud of the Bible from the pulpit so that all can hear and understand. I am not talking about a few verses here or there. I am talking about a substantial portion of Scripture each and every week, if not more often.

Why?

1. The Bible says to do so in 1 Timothy 4:13. I understand the verse to be expressing what should happen in a public worship service of the church. The entire book is about that subject (1 Tim. 3:15). The accompanying activities of exhortation and doctrine are public activities. Therefore, I take the 'reading' command to refer to a public activity.

2. Your people are not reading like they should. I speak on average or "in the main" or "generally." Many times I've heard people say, "The problems you describe in your church are the same as every church experiences." Fair enough, and probably true for the most part. So, I figure if my church has a problem reading Scripture, and if I personally have found in my life that it is difficult to maintain the discipline of private reading, then probably some other churches have experienced the same problem! I know, you've preached on how the members of the church should regularly read Scripture. You protest: "They are being disobedient by not reading!" Yes, I know. But I figured out that I cannot moan and groan about their lack of discipline. I have to do something about it. If the sheep aren't feeding themselves God's word, you have to do it. Read to them!

3. In Nehemiah 8, the Bible models the public reading of Scripture, and the great blessing that comes from it. The leaders in Israel spent a better part of the day reading the Law to the people. The people went home with joy "because they understood the words that were declared to them" (Neh. 8:12).

4. Your reading, if prepared and done properly, can aid your people to understand the Bible. Sometimes all it takes is a different emphasis on the words or a new inflection, or a key pause, to trigger a thought in the mind of the hearer. These artifacts of reading are not adding to Scripture; rather they are helping the listener to think carefully about what they are hearing. That is when the light bulb moment just may occur.

5. Many people are auditory learners. Some are not good readers. Some have taken your language as a second language and find it difficult to read and understand the Bible on their own. Some cannot read at all. In many places in the globe, the people are in the same situation as were those in most past ages who did not have a copy of Scripture at all.

The NET Bible comment at 1 Timothy 4:3 is helpful: "The public reading of scripture refers to reading the scripture out loud in the church services. In a context where many were illiterate and few could afford private copies of scripture, such public reading was especially important."

Since 2008 in our church on Sunday evenings we have read 37 entire books of the Bible. Most evenings we read two chapters of a book. The next week we read the next two chapters, until the book is completed. Sometimes we read three chapters if they are short; sometimes one if they are very long. We alternate between New and Old Testament books. We are presently reading Daniel. We started with Romans.

I do not insist on the practice in every evening service, for when we set aside the one Sunday night per month for the Lord's Table, we do not generally read the chapters on that night.

There are 1189 chapters in the Bible. If you read 2 chapters per week for say 40 weeks every year, then it will take over 14 years to read the entire Bible. That's a long time. But if you don't start now, one thing is guaranteed: you will never finish. And another thing is also guaranteed: some of your people will never get through the Bible either. What an impoverished Christian existence that would be!

The Word of God is the power of God to salvation. You were born again through the imperishable living Word. You are made wise unto salvation through faith in Christ Jesus by the Holy Scriptures. These things were written that you may have eternal life. So...read!


Posted by Matt Postiff April 21, 2015 under Missions 

During an interactive Sunday school class on the topic of evangelism last weekend, a question came up about the gift or office of evangelist. The question was about the nature of the spiritual gift and how can it be "measured." Does an evangelist do what all Christians do, just with a higher "batting average" or number of converts?

One of the main points of the class was that there is a sense in which all Christians are evangelists. We are ambassadors for Christ (2 Cor. 5:19-20). We must be involved in the Great Commission. We are not excused from that duty because there exist "specialized" evangelists with extra abilities from God to proclaim the gospel.

In short, the gift of "evangelism" is the ability imparted by the Holy Spirit in a person that enables him to be able to communicate the truth of the gospel clearly and persuasively. The gift is not measured by quantity of converts.

An evangelist has this special ability and a corresponding burden to preach the gospel to lost people and see them gathered into churches, whether on a far-away mission field or in the community where there is already a local church.

The evangelist (Acts 21:8, Eph 4:11, 2 Tim 4:5) is what we today call a missionary church planter. A man who is gifted as an evangelist preaches the gospel to unbelievers and gathers converts into churches. There will be a variety of levels of "success" among those gifted as evangelists because of differences in personal ability (gifting) and also the condition of the field to which he has been called.

The term evangelist is used in fundamentalist circles as a shorthand for an itinerant revival preacher who equips the saints and preaches the gospel. But such a minister is really an exhorter, someone gifted in exhortation (Rom 12:8). His function in the church is valid and helpful, but I would not call him an evangelist.

There is a question about whether evangelist is an office or a gift. In other words, someone may ask of the Eph 4:11 passage, "are these offices, or gifts?" as if there is a big difference between the two. I do not believe that we have to make a hard distinction between the gifts and the gifted men indicated there who may hold offices in the church. I take it that certain men fill the roles or functions listed, and that these functions required gifted ability. Both the functions themselves and the men that carry them out are gifts to the church.

I do not see anywhere in the New Testament that requires an office of evangelist in every local church. Nor can it be sustained from Scripture that the evangelist has a priority over the pastor or teacher in the church. Our Lord taught us not to think like unbelievers regarding authority structures (Mark 10:42-45).

A helpful article on this subject was written a number of years ago by Dr. William Combs of Detroit Baptist Theological Seminary.


Posted by Matt Postiff March 31, 2015 under Church 

If you have been absent from church for a while and would like to go this coming weekend, I can recommend several. Here are some in our area:

If you are in or near...Then check out...Service Times
Hamburg, PinckneyHiawatha Bible ChurchSunday 8:30am breakfast, 9:30am, 10:45am, 6:30pm
Brighton, HartlandTri-Lakes Baptist ChurchSunday 9:30am, 10:30am, 5pm
YpsilantiFaithway Baptist ChurchFriday 7pm; Sunday 8:30am breakfast, 9:30am, 10:30am, 5:30pm
Howell, FowlervilleFellowship Bible Church of HowellFriday 6pm dinner, 7pm; Sunday 5:30pm
Ann Arbor, Dexter, Saline, MilanFellowship Bible Church of Ann ArborFriday 7pm; Sunday 8:30am breakfast, 9:40am, 10:45am

Posted by Matt Postiff March 21, 2015 under Gospel 

Your personal salvation testimony can be presented more effectively by careful organization. The following guidelines will help you in preparing a testimony that will communicate effectively what Christ has done for you.

  1. Before you begin, ask the Lord to give you wisdom and guidance as you work on your testimony.
  2. Make brief notes on three separate sheets of paper labeled:
    1. BEFORE = a short sketch of what your life was like before you became a Christian
    2. HOW = the details of how, specifically, you took the step of receiving Christ
    3. AFTER = relating the changes in your life after you became a Christian
    4. Using your notes from the three sheets of paper, prepare a draft of your testimony, applying the guidelines below.
  3. Things to Avoid
    1. Avoid giving a travelogue dealing with externals and missing the spiritual matters.
    2. Avoid using lots of unnecessary details.
    3. Avoid mentioning specific churches, denominations, or groups (such as to criticize).
  4. Identify with those who will be hearing your testimony.
    1. Use word pictures to increase interest. Don't just say, "I grew up on a farm." You might briefly describe the farm so a person listening can visualize it.
    2. Remember that this is a testimony, not a "preachamony." Say "I" and "me" instead of "you." Keep your testimony warm and personal.
    3. Include some humor and human interest.
    4. Generalize so that more people can identify with your story. You could say, "For fifteen years I didn't miss a single service at church, but never heard how I could have eternal life."
  5. In the BEFORE, include both good and bad aspects of your life. Examples of good aspects might be a desire to excel, a concern for others, hard-working. Bad aspects might include an inferiority complex, temper, greed for finances.
  6. In the HOW...
    1. Communicate the gospel clearly from your first-person perspective.
    2. Start with God, that He wants us to honor, love, and serve Him.
    3. Tell about the fact and penalty of sin.
    4. Say how Christ died to pay sin's penalty and rose from the dead.
    5. Explain the need to turn from sin/rebellion and receive Christ.
    6. Convey how God promises eternal life and how you can be assured of salvation.
    7. Keep in mind that someone else should be able to trust the Lord through your testimony.
    8. Use Bible verses to back up what you say. You should quote at least one to show that you really believe it. The Bible is the authority. Don't say, "Bill shared with me that I had sinned and needed forgiveness." Say, "Bill shared with me that the Bible says...."
  7. In the AFTER, give some personal benefits of becoming a Christian. Emphasize the fact that the thing that has made the difference in your life was trusting in Christ as Lord and Savior.
  8. Try to outline your presentation on a 3x5 card so that you can give your testimony from this outline.

Posted by Matt Postiff March 17, 2015 under General 

I was glad to see that more DBSJ articles are now available online at the Seminary website. The articles include many from the journal from 1996 through 2013. Subscription information can be found there as well if you are interested in receiving the most recent articles and book reviews. The DBSJ articles are also available at the Galaxie Software site.

I had tracked the journal electronically up through volume 15 using Galaxie Software's Theological Journal Library CD, but lost track of it after TJLCD volume 12. Then the TJL transitioned over to Logos and I have not managed to get up-to-date on the journals in Logos 6 because it is not clear to me how to go from where I am to the updated collection.


Posted by Matt Postiff March 5, 2015 under Theology 

Summary

A good argument against continuationism and in favor of cessationism is this: the Bible promises that there will be a resumption of revelatory activity and associated spiritual gifts during the end time.

For a resumption to be possible, there has to be a cessation first. We are experiencing that cessation in the present day, because there is a complete absence of new revelatory activity, including revelatory gifts such as prophecies, tongues, and knowledge. There is also the complete absence of authenticating gifts such as miraculous healing and resurrections. The current cessation of such charismata makes a future resumption of them meaningful.

If the cessation indicated in 1 Cor. 13:8 does not happen until the end time, or in other words if continuationism is true, it makes no sense for Paul state that something will cease, for in fact it will never cease if it "ceases" in the end time and immediately restarts again. At best, continuationism and cessation-at-the-end-time basically make the phrase "they will cease" a vacuous statement because the point at which they will cease is the same point they start again. At worst, the continuationism doctrine completely turns the meaning around so that "they will cease" means "they will never cease."

I contend therefore that for there to be any meaningful sense of resumption of the spiritual gifts and revelatory activity, there must be a cessation first. Something cannot resume if it never ceased.

Further Explanation

1. Basic Cessationism

I am not a continuationist. I am a cessationist. I believe that in the church age, since the completion of the 66 books of the Bible, God has ceased giving miraculous gifts. This does not mean I deny miracles, for the miracle of regeneration occurs regularly. God can heal someone from a sickness if He so chooses. I deny that God gives gifts to individuals that permits them to do miraculous activities such as prophecy, tongues, knowledge, healing, interpretation of tongues, resurrections, and the like.

I have long believed the cessation doctrine on grounds other than I describe in this article: the plain statement of 1 Corinthians 13:8, the argument of the apostolic foundation in Ephesians 2:20, and the complete lack of evidence of the existence of miraculous spiritual gifts today. Since I understand miraculous gifts and revelatory activity to be closely connected, and I understand that the canon is closed, there is no need for miraculous spiritual gifts in the present day. God has, in his sovereign distribution of gifts, decided not to give certain gifts in the present portion of the church age. The question is not whether God can give such gifts for obviously He can; it is whether He has said He will. Presently, the Scriptures indicate, He has decided against distributing such gifts.

2. Basic Resumptionism

However, I am a resumptionist. I coined this term for my own thinking on the subject (not sure if it has been used before or not) to refer to the doctrine that God will once again, at the end time, sovereignly grant special miraculous abilities to certain individuals. This will occur during the Tribulation and forward, according to Joel 2:28-29. At that time, God will pour out His Spirit on all flesh; Jewish men and women will prophesy; older men will have special dreams and younger men will have visions. These manifestations of the Spirit are reminiscent of what happened on a limited scale in the prophets during the Old Testament era.

It is evident that the Joel prophecy was not completely fulfilled at Pentecost, for the heavenly disturbances were not, and have not, happened (Joel 2:30-31, Acts 2:19-20). Because of this incomplete kind of fulfillment, I understand Peter to be preaching using an analogy, that the Pentecost outpouring of the Spirit is like that which will happen in the end time, but because of the obvious differences, Joel has not yet been fulfilled.

The gifts listed in Joel do not include tongues, but they do include a special presence of the Holy Spirit and associated dreams, visions, and prophecies. These are all revelatory gifts. Were such gifts operational today as is supposed in the continuationist view, there would be nothing special about them being promised in the end time.

Seminary professor and author Kevin Bauder recently wrote on the subject of the resumption of revelation and spiritual gifts at the end time: "In the future, however, special revelation will commence again. The Tribulation will involve divine communication at several different levels. This phenomenon is what Joel had in mind when he wrote that God would pour out His Spirit upon all flesh and 'your sons and daughters shall prophesy, your old men shall dream dreams, your young men shall see visions' (Joel 2:28-31)." (In the Nick of Time, February 20, 2015, Central Baptist Theological Seminary).

When the Lord returns in the end time, the things He says and the world-wide decrees He makes will obviously be revelatory as well, authoritative and equal to Scripture. The end time will bring both the revelatory and the miraculous.

3. Problem with Continuationism

Gordon Fee in his commentary on 1 Corinthians 13:8-10 teaches that the first century gifts will not cease, but will rather continue until the end time, at which point they will disappear because they are no longer needed. He illustrates by citing Barth's imagery that the nighttime visible light of the stars is extinguished by the brighter light of the Sun when it rises (The First Epistle to the Corinthians, NICNT, p. 646). So the continuationist's gifts continue until the end time when something greater arises and cause the earlier, dimmer gifts to "cease." Fee basically argues that the gifts that are needed to build the church today will fade as the "complete" comes onto the scene.

He writes, "Good as spiritual gifts are, they are only for the present; Christian love, which the Corinthians currently lack, is the 'more excellent way' in part because it belongs to eternity as well as to the present" (p. 649). His point about love is helpful, and the solar illustration is clever, but it doesn't do justice to the real meaning of cease because the gifts effectively never cease on his view. Those gifts were present—at the time of Paul's writing and for a brief period of time beyond that—but are obviously not present now. That I view it this way is not due to my "totally cerebral" and "domesticated" "bland" western version of Christianity which is without the Spirit (a severe charge leveled on p. 645, fn. 23). Rather, it is due to my eyes being open to the lack of evidence of miracles (an experiential argument, to be sure), and to the teaching of Scripture that such things would stop at some point. That point was reached a long time ago.

The inaugurated eschatology of Fee allows him to say that we are in the end time already but not in the end time yet. We are in the beginning, but not the completion, of the End (p. 645-46). Such inaugurated eschatology permits the interpreter to believe that Joel's prophecy is being fulfilled in the present "end times." But current conditions are so far from the promised conditions in the Old Testament surrounding the inauguration of the earthly kingdom of the Messiah that there is no meaningful way we can say we are in that kingdom. We are in the church, not the kingdom.

Around the time of Jesus' return we will see a fresh outpouring of the Holy Spirit, new revelatory activity, and a massive change in world conditions as the Messiah takes His throne and rules the nations with a rod of iron. We pray that the kingdom will come (Matthew 6:10), and that the Spirit's work of old will resume. For now, we await that resumption, praying to be faithful with the "normal" means granted by the Spirit to accomplish the work of Christ.

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