cessationism Belief that the charismata—the supernatural gifts of the apostolic church—ceased with the death of John, the last apostle, by the end of the first century or with the completion of the canon of the Scripture.
Kurian, G. T. (2001). In Nelson’s new Christian dictionary: the authoritative resource on the Christian world. Nashville, TN: Thomas Nelson Publishers.
I'd like to comment about the conference, but I'm not yet in a position where I have taken the time to hear and read all I want to from the Strange Fire conference and criticism of it and then give it some time for me to think about it.
That being said, I thought it would be good to take some time to write about ways I think we can approach issues that divide people - Christians in particular.
1. Realize one's own fallibility. Over the years, I have changed my views on a lot of subjects. I am a fallible being. I also find it easy to be arrogant and think I've got it all figured out and every one else is a moron. This is opposite of how I should be as a follower of Jesus. I should realize my own fallibility. I should realize that I have been wrong before many times. I might be wrong now.
2. Realize that people aren't the enemy. The apostle Paul tells us . . .
Ephesians 6:12 (HCSB)
12 For our battle is not against flesh and blood, but against the rulers, against the authorities, against the world powers of this darkness, against the spiritual forces of evil in the heavens.
Other Christians are not the enemy. So many of these issues such as end times views, Calvinism v. Arminianism, gifts of the Spirit, the age of the universe and on and on the list goes . . . these are things I can get very emotional about. I can get upset about them. And sometimes I can let them divide. That shouldn't be. I'm not wrestling against John MacArthur. John MacArthur is not the enemy, he is my brother. I'm not wresting against Michael Brown (host of the podcast that was critiquing comments from the conference), Michael is my brother. The enemy is Satan. The enemies are demons that have sided with Satan. Human beings are never what I wrestle with. That's a lesson that I can apply to other areas of my life too, not just theological debate. Human beings are not who I'm wrestling against.
3. Hear both sides and listen for the good and the bad in both. This comes back to point number one but instead of realizing my own falliblity, I am realizing the fallibility of all the participants in a discussion. In the Strange Fire discussion, MacArthur is a fallible human being and so is Michael Brown. So, not only am I not wrestling either one of those guys (they're both my brothers), but they are also both fallible. Baseball is my favorite sport and I often use the metaphor of calling a ball, a ball and calling a strike, a strike.
I think the best way to do this is to do something that runs against my grain. I tend to find all the "balls" thrown by those I disagree with and all the "strikes" thrown by those I agree with. I find the best way for me to approach this is to start by looking at the "balls" thrown by those I agree with. Did he make any conclusion that doesn't follow from the premises? Did he mock those who hold a different view? Did he misrepresent what the other view believes and then destroy that caricature?
Then it's good for me to listen to the other side for "strikes" first. What criticisms did he make? Even if I totally disagree with the criticism, can I find a kernel of truth in there? I mean he isn't make this problem completely up, is he?
After I've done both of those steps, I think I'm in a better position to look at what might be "strikes" from those I agree with and "balls" from those I disagree with. A place where you can see me attempting to do this approach is my review of Ken Ham's book, Already Gone.
A great Scripture for this is Proverbs 18:17 . . .
Proverbs 18:17 (HCSB)
17 The first to state his case seems right
until another comes and cross-examines him.
My view always sounds great when I spend most or all of my time listening to those who agree with me. I have grown the most in my walk when I spend more time listening to those with view that are different than mine.
4. Speak with a soft answer. Back to Proverbs where Solomon writes . . .
Proverbs 15:1 (HCSB)
A gentle answer turns away anger,
but a harsh word stirs up wrath.
Many times in these discussions, the words aren't always kind. This tends to have a snowballing effect. I might state something a little roughly or a little harshly. This might make those who disagree with me want to top that response in similar fashion. Or if someone says something harsh towards me, I know my nature. I'm going open a can of double on him. No! I cannot do that. I need to stick to facts. I need to give benefit of the doubt. I need to give a gentle answer - often even better to give a good, gentle question or even a compliment about something good they said or they manner in which they said it before giving a criticism!
Issues that divide, such as charismata v. cessationism, already have a lot of heat built into the discussion. It's best if I don't add to it. I don't want to add heat. I want to add light. The way I can do that is realize my own fallibility, realize I don't wrestle with other humans who don't agree with me, hear both sides and call "balls" and "strikes" for both sides as fairly as possible with a bias towards the opposition if it helps me to be more kind and lastly give a gentle response.