Saturday, March 28, 2009

A Reply to Vincent Cheung on Cessationism

Pastor-theologican Vincent Cheung has an article on Cessationism. Coupled together with this section on Cessationism and Rebellon, adapted from his Commentary on 1 & 2 Thess, this makes for an interesting read.

While this is interesting in and of itself, it seems that Cheung does not seem to understand the view of classical Cessationism and does not present it properly. Disagreement is one thing, but strawman argumentation coupled with overly polemical reasoning on less major doctrines is not right. The least Cheung should have done is interact with the biblical texts and arguments for Cessationism, not use specious philosophical argumentation which are based on false axioms, ad hominem and special pleading.

For example, Cheung is on record in saying that Cessationists in general do not make "petitions that ask God to heal the sick person" as if he knows the practice of all Cessationists. It may well be true, but Cheung is not God and he thus not know if such is the case. This is a logically fallacious inference which further constitutes an ad-hominem attack on Cessationism, as if attacking the error committed by Cessationists has even touched on the rightness and wrongness of [Classical] CessationISM.

Similarly, Cheung commits the ad-hominem fallacy again in discussing the "ulterior motives beyond this doctrine [of Cessationism]". What he says may be true of certain Cessationists, but as usual it does not have any implications on Cesationism, which must be evaluated according to its own merit not on the merits of its adherents!

In section 3, Cheung commits a category error and enact a strawman. He attacks [classical] Cessationism by saying that it would turn ' "Do not forbid speaking in tongues" to "Always forbid speaking in tongues" '. While an attempt could be made to say that this is what Cessationism leads to practically, it is another thing to say as Cheung did that Cessationism contradicts Scripture. Cheung reasoned as follows:

Let me first apply my simple argument against cessationism to speaking in tongues. Paul writes, "Do not forbid speaking in tongues" (1 Corinthians 14:39). But if all supernatural gifts have ceased, then tongues have ceased. And if tongues have ceased, then all claims to speaking in tongues today are false. If all claims to speaking in tongues today are false, then we must forbid speaking in tongues. In other words, if cessationism is correct, then we are obligated to do exactly the opposite of what Paul commands in this verse on the basis that the situation has changed, so that the same apostolic concern would require us to forbid all speaking in tongues.

This is a logically fallacious argument, for the simple reason that if tongues have ceased, then there are no tongues to be forbidden to speak of! Cheung here smuggles his continuationist presuppositions into the argument, and then forces an obvious contradiction as if [classical] cessationists ought to own it.

In conclusion, Cheung here disappoints by utilizing shoddy logical thinking on this particular issue. For someone who publishes quite a number of theological books and engages in the office of a pastor/elder, much more is expected (Jn. 3:1). Since classical Cessationists have lots of published works, isn't it too much to ask for their arguments to be properly presented, instead of shoddy fallacious argumentation?

[HT: Joel Tay]

NOTE: I am not a classical Cessationist, so don't ask me to defend their positions.

4 comments:

Let Us Repent and Believe said...

Daniels based on your "I am not a classical Cessationist" statement I would venture to say that you are not a classical continueationist either. Would it be too intrusive for me to ask you where your continuationist and cessationistic beliefs begin and end as this subject intrigues me greatly. I am one who does not wish to either be in error nor do I wish to put God off in any area of my life due to being overly controlling where being submissive to His will is concerned. I hope that makes sense. You may reply back to my email if you are not comfortable doing so in this format.
In Christ Jesus our Lord and our Savior,
Mike

PuritanReformed said...

Mike:
Yes, I take neither of both positions. My position is that of a concentric or soft cessationist. Actually, that is little difference between that and soft continuationism as I see it, merely a difference in emphasis.

In a nutshell, I can be considered a continuationist in that I don't believe the gifts have ceased en toto, but I am a cessationist in that I believe the incidence of such gifts are decreasing as we move towards the Eschaton whereby all of such gifts will cease. For a slightly longer version, you may check out here (http://puritanreformed.blogspot.com/2008/04/review-of-article-on-concentric.html)

Hope this helps.
In Christ,
Daniel.

Charlie J. Ray said...

Another problem with the continuationist view is that it is inherently synergistic. Since only God can do miracles insisting that cessationists are in rebellion against God for not practicing miracles is a bit much.

Also, given Gordon H. Clark's critique of science the fallacy of false premise might apply to continuationism as well. How is one to verify or falsify a miracle today since there are problems with empiricism in general? (See Cessationism Versus Continuationism

PuritanReformed said...

@Charlie:

I don't know about the inherently synergistic part. Care to elaborate?