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Response to hard cessationist critic, by Craig Keener

 

It is one thing to parse verbs in the text, and another to honor its authority by living by the same principles through which God acted in the Bible.

Instead of trusting the Bible enough to live within the worldview and parameters of the Bible, a hard cessationist who refuses to accept the claims of the most credible eyewitnesses for miracles set the Bible apart as a world different from our own. I wonder whether this view of Scripture really takes it as seriously as it claims. It is one thing to parse verbs in the text, and another to honor its authority by living by the same principles through which God acted in the Bible.

Now again, the specific critic’s question may simply be one about gifts. We may agree to disagree here as far as this post; I have addressed that question elsewhere and I do not make a divisive issue over that. But if we are defining “hard cessationist” the same way—no miracles that cannot be easily identified with the usual course of nature (e.g., no raisings or instant cures of blindness)—I do not see any methodological difference between this approach and that of the antisupernaturalist, except that the hard cessationist makes an exception for the Bible.

For good or ill, I have taken too much time away from exegetical work by now to mostly rehash what was already addressed in my first post or in the miracles book (the miracles book, again, is not addressing moderate cessationists, but rather antisupernaturalism). I must therefore leave further conversation to others, since time is in finite supply.

 

Postscript: definitions

My main concern in my original review was the dismissal of the Christian faith of “the vast majority” of charismatic believers. Regarding “hard cessationism,” the expression is used in different ways and there may well be some miscommunication because of definitions. I borrow the idea from an earlier period in history when cessationists largely believed that God works today only through providence, and when more dramatic and instantaneous healing provoked considerable debate. I got the impression from the book to which I originally responded that the author did not even believe that the Spirit ever offers internal guidance apart from reading Scripture. A good friend who attended that author’s school, however, assures me that that author is not in fact a hard cessationist, and does believe in miracles today. However, the friend did seem as bewildered as I regarding the author’s dismissal of so many believers’ faith.

I want to fully embrace biblical teaching about spiritual gifts.

If someone began speaking of “hard” and “soft” charismatics, I imagine that the expressions would quickly be used differently by different people. I want to fully embrace biblical teaching about spiritual gifts and other experiences of the Spirit, and about God gifting all his people in various ways; would that make me a “hard” charismatic? As an exegete, however, I am appalled by many of the “revelations” about biblical topics circulated in and beyond charismatic circles in the name of the Spirit. Would that make me a “soft” charismatic?

 

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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. sites.google.com/site/drckeener

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