John MacArthur, Cessation Theology and Trainspotting for Cave Dwellers, by Mark Rutland, is perhaps the worst article on the Strange Fire Conference that I have yet read (link below). The heart of Rutland’s argument seems to be in these paragraphs:
The willingness of educated sophisticates in the body of Christ to assume God has withdrawn the gifts of the Spirit simply because they have not seen them lately is outrageous. To castigate those who claim to have seen them as charlatans or beguiled ignoramuses is reprehensible.
One cessation writer blogged, “Some of my best friends are charismatics.” Really? I mean, really? It is always the most prejudiced who claim that among their “best friends” are blacks or Jews or whomever it is they then proceed to defame. Such a statement is simply an insult.
As a continuationist, I have to say that I sympathize with the backlash to MacArthur’s Strange Fire Conference and book by the same title. I don’t agree with MacArthur. But I appreciate the caution he raised regarding common excesses within the charismatic movement.
As a former cessationist, I have to say I believed the position first because of an explicit Scriptural principle (the signs always were given to confirm the Gospel) and an implicit principle (Scripture now is completely sufficient in its authoritative testimony to the history and confirmations of the Gospel). Although my lack of experience with signs and my conservative bent were factors, they were not deciding factors. Indeed, I had already had some limited experiences with signs long before I became a continuationist. But I was deeply concerned at the tendency I had observed even then of the use of spritual signs overshadowing or replacing altogether the ministry of the Word. It was Scripture and John Piper’s wise application of order regarding signs that for me toppled my edifice of cessationism.
Many of my good friends are cessationists. Many of my good friends are charismatics. But Mark Rutland’s article is intemperate and arrogant: he criticizes the cessationist’s use of straw men arguments, then assumes his cessationist villains are like cave-dwelling trainspotters. Not gracious. No wonder he didn’t mention that he has any cessationist friends.