Hey, Wait - You're Ruining My Stereotype
Every once in a while, in his arguments, MacArthur states something that so obviously contradicts his viewpoint that it causes a cognitive dissonance in him. In his argument for the cessation of all gifts, he states:
Amazingly, leading continuationists readily acknowledge this fact. Wayne Grudem, for example, agrees that apostleship has ceased.
Um, no. This is only “amazing” to someone that thinks that either you are full-blown cessationist or you believe that anything goes. The simple fact that this “amazes” MacArthur is evidence enough that his brush is much too broad.
You Don't Count Too Good, Do You?
MacArthur goes on in his “proof” of cessationism (emphases his):
[Grudem] further argues for a modern version of prophecy that is fallible and frequently characterized by mistakes. Sam Storms has a whole article attempting to justify the idea that modern tongues do not have to be real human languages. And in a recent interview, John Piper acknowledges that there was something unique and unrepeatable about the healing miracles of Christ.
Based on those admissions, I would challenge them to consider in what sense they should even be called ‘continuationists,’ because they essentially acknowledge that the biblical gifts have not continued.
Let us, for the time being, accept the idea that MacArthur’s definitions (like the “irrational babble” false dichotomy) are entirely accurate. And let us ignore the fact that Piper was talking specifically about the healing miracles of Christ (not all healings detailed in Scripture). We still have three men separately acknowledging a difference – or in the case of Grudem and apostleship, cessation – of four gifts. And yet, somehow, MacArthur jumps to the conclusion that they have all completely admitted to the complete cessation of all biblical gifts.
"Logic" That Chases Its Tail
Ephesians 2:19-22 states (emphasis mine):
Now, therefore, you are no longer strangers and foreigners, but fellow citizens with the saints and members of the household of God, having been built on the foundation of the apostles and prophets, Jesus Christ Himself being the chief cornerstone, in whom the whole building, being fitted together, grows into a holy temple in the Lord, in whom you also are being built together for a dwelling place of God in the Spirit.
MacArthur uses verse 20 (the underlined portion) to argue for cessationism:
Before the canon of Scripture was complete, that foundation was still being laid through the apostles and prophets, and through the miraculous and revelatory gifts that accompanied and authenticated their ministries. But once the foundation was laid, those offices and gifts passed away.
Let us disregard the fact that pulling anything pneumatological from this passage goes beyond mere eisegesis into textual origami. Instead, I shall merely note that the reasoning here is entirely circular. Nowhere does this passage (or any other Scripture) state that the apostles were the sole possessors of the gifts.
Sidebar: in fact, this passage strongly implies that such is not the case, as Paul distinguishes between the apostles and the early church in general, other parts of which he specifically encouraged to practice the gifts. But I digress ….
One must assume that the apostles or – if we’re going to be generous and disregard MacArthur’s contradiction of Scripture – the early church were the sole possessors of the gifts, and only then can it be said that upon their deaths, so ended the gifts. But if you make that assumption at the start, then your reasoning is entirely circular.
MacArthur correctly states that:
[t]he New Testament explains that [the gifts] functioned to authenticate God’s messengers.
citing Acts 2:22, 2 Corinthians 12:12, and Hebrews 2:4. But then he engages in further circular reasoning in the completion of his sentence:
… while the canon of Scripture – and thus the fullness of God’s revelation – was still incomplete.
Nowhere does Scripture state that the authentication existed solely for the time period during which the canon was still being developed. In order to embrace this concept, one must start with cessationism as an assumption. But (again) you have proven nothing if you start with this assumption.
The Gifts As God's Band-Aid
MacArthur continues his point (emphases mine):
After the apostolic age passed, with the foundation of the church laid and the canon of Scripture closed, such attestation was no longer required. The sufficiency of Scripture and the fullness of God’s completed revelation in His written Word is so glorious that it no longer needs miraculous confirmation.
Here’s the problem with that statement – such attestation was never required. What a low view of God – that somehow he “needed” (see Acts 17:25 again) the gifts to give validation to his Son or to kick-start his church. In one sentence, MacArthur has reduced the gifts to a band-aid that God hastily applied to a bullet wound until he could finish the canon and get all the apostles to die.
Romans 1:20-21 tells us:
For since the creation of the world His invisible attributes are clearly seen, being understood by the things that are made, even His eternal power and Godhead, so that they are without excuse, because, although they knew God, they did not glorify Him as God, nor were thankful, but became futile in their thoughts, and their foolish hearts were darkened.
So, to a degree, even Scripture is not “required” – it is simply the most straightforward manner in which God reveals himself to us.
And yes, it is sufficient. But in his appeals to the sufficiency of Scripture, MacArthur conflates sufficiency with exclusivity.
LaLaLaLaLa, He Can't Hear You
Wrapping up his (mis)handling of these Scriptures, MacArthur states:
Now, I realize there are disputes over some of those passages. But that is the very discussion I want to spark in the evangelical community. Let’s dig into the Scriptures and deal with the biblical and theological issues. I should add that we address these and other passages in much greater depth in they Strange Fire book.
It’s too bad that MacArthur didn’t think of this whole “discussion” thing before the conference. He could have invited people that disagreed to the conference to, you know, discuss the issue.
Oh. Wait. What?