CESSATIONISM (CONTINUED)

CESSATIONISM (CONTINUED)

In her book Eucharistic Miracles, Catholic author Joan Carroll Cruz relates the following account of a ministry supported by tongues, this account occurring closer to our own time than that of the early Church:

Another who shed tears before the Sacrament of the Altar was St. Francis Solano (d. 1610), a native of Andalusia, Spain who was pious and contemplative in his youth. He communicated frequently and devoutly and was able, because of his edifying example, to draw other youths to a similar devotion. At the age of 20 he entered the Franciscan Order, where he so impressed his superiors that soon after his ordination he was given the assignment of novice master. When King Philip II of Spain asked for missionaries for South America to evangelize the native Indians, St. Francis Solano volunteered and set out with a party of priests in 1589. After a trying trip in which his ship was wrecked in a storm, he found his way to Lima, Peru, where his principal labors took place. Because of his gift of tongues he was able to preach to wild tribes in their own dialect. It is said that during his missionary endeavors more than 9,000 persons asked for Baptism. The wildest animals were subject to him, and birds sang at his invitation – as they had for St. Francis of Assisi, the founder of his order.”

One can question the validity of this claim, although the validity itself of one’s question in that regard would be nothing more than a matter of opinion. But one cannot question the fact that the circumstances under which St. Francis Solano was reputed to have spoken in tongues was virtually identical to the situation at the birth of the Church, where Scripture itself openly declared the use of tongues in supporting its development. This fact alone refutes the reasoning behind Mr. Fisk’s declaration that the gift of tongues was a one-shot event.

In his diatribe against the use of the gift of tongues, Mr. Fisk makes another assertion, that the Holy Ghost was not given to individuals prior to Jesus’ glorification, which is demonstrably a patent falsehood. While this assertion may have been true during the period when Jesus was active in His ministry prior to the establishment of the Church, the Holy Spirit was certainly active within Jesus’ predecessor John the Baptist and his mother Elizabeth as well, for in Luke 1:39-45:

“And Mary arose in those days, and went into the hill country with haste, into a city of Judah; and entered into the house of Zacharias, and greeted Elizabeth. And it came to pass that, when Elizabeth heard the greeting of Mary, the babe leaped in her womb; and Elisabeth was filled with the Holy Spirit. And she spoke out with a loud voice, and said, Blessed art thou among women, and blessed is the fruit of thy womb. And why is this granted to me, that the mother of my Lord should come to me? For, lo, as soon as the voice of thy greeting sounded in mine ears, the babe leaped in my womb for joy. And blessed is she that believed; for there shall be a performance of those things which were told her from the Lord.”

There also are cases in the Old Testament where the Holy Spirit clearly indwelt selected individuals in order to accomplish the will of God in specific situations. An example that points directly to the Pentecost experience is presented in Numbers 11:25, where God gave the Spirit to the seventy elders, who subsequently prophesied “and did not cease”. Another example is given in Nehemiah 9:20, where the prophet recalls God’s gift of the Holy Spirit to individual Israelites to instruct them in the building of the temple.

Mr. Fisk’s assertions with respect to Acts 10 (the inclusion of Gentiles into the Church through the conversion of Cornelius) and Acts 19 (the establishment of Churches in new and predominantly Gentile lands) are based on the same presuppositions behind his commentary regarding Acts 2. As before, I make the counter-assertion that these situations, far from being unique to that period, are in effect existing at this very moment in various locales throughout the world. I also repeat my assertion that the referenced Scriptural accounts in no way imply that such situations would be unique to that time, nor even hint that the gift of tongues was unique to that period.

Regarding the gift of tongues as noted in First Corinthians 12-14, Mr. Fisk declares that while all Christians receive the indwelling Holy Spirit, not all speak in tongues, nor does this gift represent sanctification. Having established those points, he then distorts this basic understanding into the familiar assertion that the gift of tongues was reserved for unique situations (the ones he attempted to establish earlier and are supposedly no longer in existence) and eventually into the assertion that the practice was actually discouraged. Along the way, he addresses the real reason behind his assertions: the abuse of the gift of tongues. His statements with respect to this abuse reveal his reactionary overgeneralization, amounting to a desire to suppress the gift in order to stop the abuse, or, equivalently, to “throw the baby out with the bathwater”.

There is a particular passage, 1 Corinthians 13:10-12, that is a favorite of cessationists, being frequently cited as “proof” that the gift of tongues was fleeting in nature:

“But when that which is perfect is come, then that which is in part shall be done away. When I was a child, I spoke as a child, I understood as a child, I thought as a child; but when I became a man, I put away childish things. For now we see in a mirror, darkly; but then, face to face; now I know in part, but then shall I know even as also I am known.”

The gist of the cessationist argument here is that the gift of tongues was intended primarily for the apostolic age before Scripture was completed. When Scripture was fully written and canonized early on in the history of the Church, Christianity had come of age. Man now had the opportunity through Scripture to clearly see God in more detail than before, making the use of tongues unnecessary.

My response to this argument is that it is a gross misapplication of the passage. A more reasonable interpretation of “seeing (God) face to face” is in connection with 1 John 3:2 when we possess spiritual bodies:

“Beloved, now are we the children of God, and it doth not yet appear what we shall be, but we know that, when he shall appear, we shall be like him; for we shall see him as he is.”

Mr. Fisk concludes his discussion with a summary of his interpretation of what Scripture has to say about the gift of tongues. I will present below his various points along with my own commentary regarding them.

Tongues served as an initiatory token to confirm the establishment of a new order, the Church” This is pure conjecture, not related to the cited Scriptural passages. In fact, as I have noted above, there are renewals currently taking place around the world whose circumstances closely resemble those encountered in Acts.

The Holy Spirit’s power and blessing was entered into without tongues.” This over-generalization is arrogant and unjustified. The linkage of the indwelling Holy Spirit with the gift of tongues is a matter entirely up to God, most fortunately without the participation or direction of Mr. Fisk.

Tongues was not given to all believers.” I’m tempted to agree with Mr. Fisk on this point, but then again, the gift and its exercise are two different things, so who’s to say whether we who don’t use the gift don’t do so because we don’t think we should or because our devotion is lacking.

Tongues was only one of several spiritual gifts granted at that time.” Okay, but so what?

Tongues evidently was a peculiarity of the age of apostolic signs and wonders.” Perhaps Mr. Fisk may think so, but that doesn’t make it true. There is no Scriptural basis whatsoever for this assertion.

The appearance of tongues was manifestly occasional.” Perhaps, but by no stretch can that be interpreted (and over-generalized) to preclude its validity today.

Tongues was an inferior gift, even in the day of its occurrence.” How wonderful that God has Mr. Fisk to tell him what’s important and what’s not in His relationship with mankind.

Tongues is not to be sought, but passed by in favor of gifts that edify all.” At first, I tended to agree with Mr. Fisk on this point, as the seeking of tongues is a common starting point for abuse. On second thought, the implication made here by Mr. Fisk is that this gift, even if valid, is to be rejected in favor of “better” ones. If this is indeed what Mr. Fisk meant, he’ll have a lot to answer for to God. I, for one, would never be so impudent with God as to reject an offered gift.

If manifest, the employment of tongues was sharply restricted and regulated.” Certainly, because of the obvious problem of abuse. But again, who is man to turn up his nose at anything offered by God?

Indications are that tongues would not be permanent.” This is a restatement of an earlier point he made regarding the uniqueness in time of the gift of tongues. Again, there is absolutely no Scriptural justification for this statement.

In conclusion of my review of Mr. Fisk’s commentary on the gift of tongues, I assert that he is doing exactly the same thing as those who he claims are abusers of the gift: he’s attempting to put the Holy Spirit, and thus God, into a box of his own design and dimensions. In doing so, he’s creating his own God. But his box is not only glaringly hypocritical, it is even more confining and ugly that the one he accuses the abusers of creating.

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