If you are like most people, you are scratching your head and saying "What the heck are you talking about?"

OK. A little explanation:

* A cessationist believes that the spiritual gifts listed in the Bible ended with the apostles at the end of the first century AD. According to them we have the Bible, the gifts are no longer needed. Some cessationists will allow for some of the spiritual gifts but not the miraculous ones, the signs and wonders.
* Continualists believe that all of the spiritual gifts are active today. The gifts continue, hence, continualist. Continualist may not be the best label since they tend to believe that the gifts did cease for a time but are now back.

Both cessationists and continualists are considered to be Evangelicals.

The continualists are subdivided into three groups:

* The Pentecostals
* The Charismatics
* The Third Wave

The Pentecostals are rooted in the Second Great Awakening and Holiness Movement of 19th century America. (If you would like to go into this in a deeper way, I recommend the writings of Vinson Synan.) At the turn of the 20th century the Holy Spirit fell on a group of believers led by Charles Parham in Topeka, Kansas. This was followed a few years later by the Azusa Street Revival in Los Angeles. This led to the formation of the main Pentecostal denominations like the Assemblies of God and the Church of God in Christ.

In 1960 the Holy Spirit worked again, falling on an Episcopal pastor named Dennis Bennett. Although circumstances forced Bennett to leave his position, these people, who became known as Charismatics, tended to stay within their denominations unlike the Pentecostals. In 1967 the Charismatic Renewal even came to the Catholic Church by way of a group of students who had read David Wilkerson's The Cross and the Switchblade about the Pentecostal preacher's ministry among Hispanic gangs in New York City.

The Third Wave got its start in the mid-1980s. They tended to stay closer to their Evangelical roots. John Wimber (Vineyard Christian Fellowship) and Peter Wagner were influential in this group. The Third Wave emphasized the need for signs and wonders in evangelism.

Oops, Someone Forgot Something

There is one major problem in the thinking of both the cessationists, who claim the gifts ended, and the continualists, who believe they are back. The gifts never ended.

Both the cessationist and the continualist schools of thought are based on faulty history. They seem to think that, between the end of the first century and the beginning of the twentieth, or, at least, 1517, nothing much happened. The Holy Spirit was not taking an extended vacation during this period. He was, in fact, working as hard as ever. Signs and wonders accompanied the ministries of many believers during the interim. Miracles, signs and wonders, whatever you want to call them, never ceased. They just escaped the view of both parties.

I don't understand how this went unnoticed. There is certainly more than enough historical evidence to show that this was the case. It would be nice to hear an explanation of this from those who hold to either the cessationist or continualist position.

Note: There is certainly a lot of variation in the views of both parties. There may even be some who realize that the gifts never ended. I'm not trying to paint any group with a broad brush.


* Stetzer, Ed. 17 Oct 2013. Continualist Christians: An Overview www.christianitytoday.com/edstetzer/2013/october/continualists-overview.html


© 2013 Gary J. Sibio. All rights reserved.