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Response to hard cessationist critic, by Craig Keener


Craig S. Keener responds to a critic’s comment posted on his statement about the relationship between anti-supernaturalism and cessationism.

Excerpts from Miracles by Craig S. Keener

Are Pentecostals offering Strange Fire? (Panel Discussion)

John MacArthur’s Strange Fire, reviewed by Craig S. Keener

R.T. Kendall’s Holy Fire reviewed by Craig S. Keener

Craig S. Keener on Anti-supernaturalism and Cessationism



I find here, as in the book to which I originally responded, some strange lumping together of all charismatics’ beliefs to the detriment of any particular charismatic. What prompted me to write the review to begin with was a prominent figure’s extreme claim that the vast majority of charismatics are not saved, the implication that Pentecostals are a cult, and the claim that charismatic scholars have contributed nothing to scholarship. Cessationist and charismatic Christians often work together for the furtherance of the gospel; certainly I work with both. But when someone levels charges so outrageously polemical, it merits a strong response.

I took the time away from my exegetical work, and cannot do again in the near future, as between teaching and research I am embarrassingly far behind even on answering emails. Nevertheless, I took time to respond to the charge raised in the critic’s post partly because of another polemical statement: “Unconvinced that Keener is qualified to respond biblically and objectively.” In case someone could not tell based on my commentaries, most of my average day is spent working on Scripture and its context (and most of the exegesis is not distinctively charismatic; in fact, neither is much of the Miracles book).


Misconstruals of the original post

I have never claimed that moderate cessationists deny miracles today; in fact I stated the opposite. I recognize that moderate cessationists deny particular kinds of gifts rather than that God continues to sovereignly work miracles where he wills. Someone who has honestly read what I said will recognize that I myself agree “that God sovereignly heals when and how He chooses to.”

Furthermore, though I disagree with moderate cessationists about gifts, I agree with them that God sovereignly works miracles where he wills; we cannot generate or control them. One will also not find anywhere that I make the following claim that the post attributes to me: “does not follow how faith-healers can claim to work mass healings to the tune of thousands of people - which they themselves insist happens.” There are areas in the world where massive numbers of people are being healed, but this happens as often when they hear the gospel or see the Jesus Film as well as when they are specifically prayed for, and these massive cases for the sake of the gospel have to do with God sovereignly reaching a new area and not only with the agents that God sometimes chooses to use. I have explicitly affirmed God’s sovereignty in healing and criticized the prosperity teaching and its associated beliefs, so I am bewildered by the assumption that I doubt that miracles are God’s sovereign acts.

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Category: Spirit, Summer 2014

About the Author: Craig S. Keener, Ph.D. (Duke University), is F. M. and Ada Thompson Professor of Biblical Studies at Asbury Theological Seminary in Wilmore, Kentucky. He is author of many books, including Miracles: The Credibility of the New Testament Accounts (Baker Academic, 2011), the bestselling IVP Bible Background Commentary: New Testament, The Historical Jesus of the Gospels, Gift and Giver: The Holy Spirit for Today, and commentaries on Acts, Matthew, John, Romans, 1-2 Corinthians, and Revelation. In addition to having written more than seventy academic articles, several booklets and more than 150 popular-level articles, Craig is is the New Testament editor (and author of most New Testament notes) for the The NIV Cultural Backgrounds Study Bible. He is married to Dr. Médine Moussounga Keener, who is from the Republic of Congo, and together they have worked for ethnic reconciliation in North America and Africa. Craig and Médine wrote Impossible Love: The True Story of an African Civil War, Miracles and Hope against All Odds (Chosen, 2016) to share their story. Twitter: @keener_craig

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