"On the Cessation of the Charismata" and why it helps to know the story.
This scholarly work, authored by Jon Mark Ruthven, sheds light on why most Christians today are unknowingly overlooking the presence, import, and right implementation of the Gifts of the Holy Spirit. Here is an overview of Protestant scholars and belief-shapers who have said, "No," to the past and present day vigilant use of the Gifts of the Holy Spirit.
Thank Goodness for this astute, academic work steeped in decades-of-Biblical-study wisdom along with keenest intellect, the likes of which can only be coherently presented from a gifted author and teacher. Professor Ruthven is an exemplar in constructive Dialogical thinking within the theological studies framework, and thankfully he was inspired to write on the very topic of Charismata. How does that apply here?
All quotes, as seen by page numbers beside them, are from
On the Cessation of Charismata: The Protestant Polemic on Post-Biblical Miracles. Jon Mark Ruthven.
Word & Spirit Press. 1993, 2011.
At home, connected, in an oftentimes isolating profession In his writing, Professor Ruthven has helped me to feel more 'at home' about putting into action how I have been serving, professionally, as a provider of Specialized Spiritual Direction by the gifts of the Holy Spirit. [The gift of discerning spirits, the gift of wisdom, and the gift of knowledge, the gift of counsel, gift of encouragement.]... That descriptor includes how a person's faculties or Holy Spirit gifts (Charismata) may be called "insight clairvoyance."
"Even if it means being lumped in with the skewed or misunderstood descriptors of 'psychic and medium' and how being associated with those terms (as popularly defined with poor guidance) is a risk on various levels in both secular and religious world views; the risk by association, and the experienced discrimination, is worth it because here at last (I found) is a thorough, accessible uncovering of where my services fit within Christianity!"Anne Marie Varrella
A substantiated validation To have such a landmark, vibrant exposition of the facts accessible for anyone to read, On the Cessation of the Charismata gives me the support, the encouragement, and the articulation that I have needed and wanted to find, in a concise way, from both a Biblical scholarship and Christian-rooted resource!
Fun fact: I named my little ministry-company "Our Charismata" before I crossed paths with this publication, or any scholarly publication on charismata. I was using 'charismata' to point to its original meaning in Greek, rather than myself, from the very beginning.
Then, as it became more and more apparent, I was required to substantiate my profession, my ministry within the Christian community. That requirement launched a mostly full-time, round-the-clock, autodidactic, 2-year research journey that led me to publications such as Ruthven's.
I had no idea of the polarity, and implications of the word within theological doctrines and hermeneutics. It, apparently, is an area of specialization, yet at the same time is so entirely central to daily, holistic Christian Spirituality.
With scholarly reference upon reference, Judeo-Christian Scriptural references, insightful commentary, and pulling from his own decades of applied study, and reflection, (including ministry as a missionary) Professor Ruthven spells out for me the validity of the employment of Charismata, and I hope that his publications may do the same for the dear reader.
SYNOPSIS of On the Cessation (from the back book cover)
"Protestant theology has usually tended toward cessationism, the belief that the miraculous, including various spiritual gifts, ceased early in Christian history. The Princeton theologian Benjamin B. Warfield strongly advocated this view, especially in his influential work Counterfeit Miracles.
The present study, On the Cessation of the Charismata, thoroughly critiques cessationism generally and Warfield specifically. It shows that cessationism arises from sources other than-some even contrary to-Scripture itself: namely, cessationists' experience of history and their embrace of philosophies that distort their interpretation of Scripture.
Instead, as On the Cessation shows, Scripture expects the miraculous, including all gifts of the Holy Spirit, to continue until the Second Coming; and that far from being signs merely accrediting the gospel only during its earliest proclamation, such manifestations of the Spirit are part and parcel of the good news of God's saving reign."
Cessationism "The doctrine that miraculous gifts of the Holy Spirit ceased around the apostolic age (8) after the formation of the first century church, (xix, 2)... they were no longer required after the viable structure and doctrines of the church had been established. 5 Post-Reformation (Calvinism, the Westminster Confession, the Old Covenant, Systemic Theology, Fundamentalists, etc.) arguments against contemporary miracles. 169 A doctrine that insists that God does not reveal himself directly today...[in contrast to]...the central characteristic of the New Covenant from Scripture itself, namely, the ongoing and Biblically normative process of the revelation of God directly and immediately into the hearts of believers (Acts 2.39; Isa 59.21; Jer 31.31-34). xx"
The Enlightenment introduced extreme skepticism, "...and rationalism shaped the anti-miracle polemic which arrogantly admitted of no facts beyond one's own experience and preconceptions about nature." 26.
WHO IS BENJAMIN WARFIELD?
Jon Mark Ruthven has chosen one main "Cessationist" theologian in his book to provide the "polarity" context in which Cessationism arose and was further cemented, Benjamin Warfield, and his book Counterfeit Miracles, "the final authoritative and representative expression of cessationism for conservative American Evangelicalism." 10. Also,
"To most leaders of millions of Evangelical and Fundamentalists in North America, the collection of Warfield's work in The Inspiration and Authority of the Bible stands as the definitive statement on the nature of biblical revelation." 9.
Benjamin Warfield was also a long-standing professor at the Princeton Seminary. Here is a summarizing quote from Professor Warfield, "We have only, therefore, to conceive of religion in its purity, and that is Calvinism." 30
In a nutshell, regarding Warfield's position: "First, echoing Calvin, Warfield implies that since the only function of miracles is to accredit revelation, and since no new revelation is forthcoming after the apostolic age, miracles perforce, must cease." 62
...and Ruthven observes that Warfield's "...use of 'new' here bans from the Holy Spirit any revelatory or miraculous charismata." 98
Cessationism in the 1900s was especially brought to the foreground with the development and rapid growth of the "Pentecostal, or charismatic, movement." 2
[Kindly note that I do not practice as a Pentecostal, and I write this without prejudice, but for clarification.]
THE CESSATIONIST POLEMIC has purpose
Mainly having to do with safeguarding the supremacy of Scripture. [Was it not safeguarded enough?] AND denying miracles (the definition of which is a lengthy topic in the Ruthven book).
"The Cessationist polemic was often directed against persons or groups claiming religious authority via any exhibition of divine healings, prophecies or miracles..." 3.
"Calvin... perceived claims to such powers as prima facie attempts to promote extra-biblical, and hence, false doctrines." 32 [Prima facie: sufficient to establish a fact or raise a presumption unless disproved or rebutted.]
I agree with the instinct to protect against using the charismata (gifts of the Holy Spirit) for fraudulent, self-aggrandizing means, or to promote false doctrines. I, as well, am wary of persons or groups claiming religious authority via exhibitions, televangelism for monetary gain alone, or fundamentalism.
That is why the correct, and selfless implementation of the gifts of the Holy Spirit, as outlined in Scripture, is important; because even today, there are abuses.
This safeguarding of the Judeo-Christian Scripture, and of the public, is why you may see throughout my website this very real summary of Principles in my practice:
"O U R C H A R I S M A T A holds no intention that the services offered should supersede the Principles and teachings of Religious traditions. Services are not a place of fortune-telling, not for the profit of power, and not to control the future. Our Charismata services do not to add to, change, contest, or compromise the supremacy of Scripture. Anne Marie is not a prophet. Anne Marie does not practice as a "medium" in the Hebrew scriptural or Spiritist traditions. Thank you for understanding this as you consider booking a session."
Here is Where Cessationism Misses the Mark, as Ruthven puts forward
that, "Warfield fails to grasp...Christ as the continuing source of the charismata." 103
"Traditional Protestantism succeeded in suppressing the central characteristic of the New Covenant from Scripture itself, namely, the ongoing and Biblical normative process of the revelation of God directly and immediately into the hearts of believers (Acts 2.39, Isa 59.21; Jer 31.31-34)." xx
AUGUSTINE (years 354 - 430) Supports "...in chapter 22 of his City of God provides samples of over seventy miracles he recorded in and around his churches. He complains in 22,8 that contemporary miracles are relatively unknown not because they no longer occur, but simply because of suppressed communication and because people are conditioned... to disbelieve them." 18
According to AQUINAS (years 1225 - 1274) "...the central function of miracles was to serve as a signum sensibile, a testimonium to guarantee the divine source and truth of Christian doctrines, particularly the deity of Christ...miracles can recur if they aid in the confirmation of preaching and bring mankind to salvation." 21
"The central issue of Christianity, the atonement of Christ and the believers' acceptance of that by faith, should be supplemented and strengthened by the operation of continuing "extraordinary" spiritual gifts." xxi
"The miraculous power resident in Jesus was transmitted to the Apostles, who, 'as a crowning sign of their divine commission' passed it on to others in the form of charismata." 48
"Charismata do (not) replace the Gospel; rather, the charismata express the Gospel." 11
"The charismata are also ethical in that they are not granted to exalt the self-centered: they are God's 'grace' and 'graces' (not earned); they are given for relationship-directed to Christ." 108
"True Christian charismatic experience does not statically accredit the spiritual status of the gifted, but moves the church toward her goal. It necessarily expresses the commission of the exalted Lord." 109
Ruthven sees the New Covenant promise encapsulated in Jeremiah 31:31-34
"33 ...I will put My law within them and on their heart I will write it; and I will be their God, and they shall be My people. 34 They will not teach again, each man his neighbor and each man his brother, saying 'Know the Lord,' for they will all know Me, from the least of them to the greatest of them," declares the Lord, "for I will forgive their iniquity, and their sin I will remember no more."
Furthermore, Ruthven highlights a verse from I Corinthians 2:14
"But a natural man does not accept the things of the Spirit of God, for they are foolishness to him; and he cannot understand them, because they are spiritually appraised (discerned)."
and adds, "...that is, not by human reason but by the revelation of the Holy Spirit." 58
CESSATIONISM took hold in protest to the below quoted. Many today would,
"...affirm Bishop Butler's stern rebuke to John Wesley: 'Sir the pretending to extraordinary revelations and gifts of the Holy Ghost is a horrid thing, a very horrid thing.' What is the reason for such a revulsion to contemporary charismatic experience? Simply because, in the long evolution of Christian theology, miracles have come to signify the additional revelation of qualitatively new Christian doctrine, principally, in Scripture. To claim a revelation or a miracle represents an attempt, essentially, to add new content to the Bible." 169 [THIS IS NOT HOW OR WHAT ANNE MARIE PRACTICES.]
I Invite Cessationists to Kindly Note
"Continuists," approving of miracles / charismata today also agree about Wesley's description about abuses being horrid, and furthermore, in the True context of the New Covenant of Christ, the Biblically-guided use of charismata holds ZERO intention to add new Christian doctrine or Scripture. While I can only speak for myself with the following statement, I am learning more and more that among well-meaning Christians, the practice of employing charismata is not aimed at adding new content to the Bible.
Application in OUR CHARISMATA with Anne Marie
RIGHT MOTIVE for the use of Charismata
The gifts of the Holy Spirit
"are given for 'strengthening' and 'edification' (Acts 15:32; Rom. 1:11; Cor. 14:26), for the 'common good' (Rom.12:3-8; 1 Cor. 12:7); to know God's purposes (Eph. 1:18-22); so as to be 'pure and blameless' (1 Cor. 1:8; 1:10, cf Col. 1:10), 'than in everything God may be glorified (1 Pt. 4:11). Eph. 4:12 sums up the purpose of the gifts of the Spirit: 'for the equipment of the saints, for the work of the ministry, for the building up of the body of Christ.' It is explicit that these gifts are employed not simply by or for apostles, but ideally by everyone in the Christian community." 67
It remains, "Paul redirects his readers' focus away from their own spiritual status to the idea that these gifts are graces from God/Christ: they were enriched (divine passive, i.e., 'by God,' not by their own attainment) with these gifts they had not earned." 111
I, Anne Marie, am not an anomaly. You, dear reader, most likely have been and are sharing in any number of the Gifts of the Holy Spirit; brightening the world within you and around you.
I strongly encourage your own reading of Ruthven's On the Cessation of Charismata so that you may receive its effect in entirety. The Bibliography alone is approximately 46 pages!
© Our Charismata