Wednesday, October 11, 2017

You Know You're a Continuationist When....

Continuationism is a belief that the sign gifts of the Holy Spirit continue to and in the present age, such as miracles, tongues, healing, and prophecy. Continuationism is the opposite of cessationism.  How bad is continuationism?  Is it even a big deal?  Scripture says it is.  I say it is.  Most say, not so much.

Evangelicals don't separate from continuationists, that I know of.  They might write books about and hold conferences on them, but they don't separate.  They do the equivalent of the little dog that yaps and yaps when you get close to its front lawn, that you know won't bite you, so you're not afraid.

Let's say that continuationism is a deal breaker for a separatist, independent Baptist.  It actually is for me and our church.  How do I know who is a continuationist? Some continuationists wear the tag.  Others don't even know it, so they wouldn't say they are.  Others deny continuationism, but believe and practice continuationism, all the while continuing to state their denial.

In contemporary theology, continuationists are categorized as either hard or soft continuationists, or just continuationists or soft ones.  I've found that the soft ones may deny or not deny that they are continuationists.  The ones who deny almost always say they don't believe in speaking in tongues or the gift of healing, so they aren't and can't be continuationists, if they know what it is.  I've found them many times to say they aren't Charismatic without understanding that they believe very similarly to  or even identical to Charismatics.

At least among independent Baptists, fundamental Baptists, and even unaffiliated Baptists, I have recognized that the soft continuationism is supposed to be accepted or at least ignored.  You may not like it, but if you were to separate from it, you would be seen as unnecessarily divisive, some type of enemy of unity.  What am I talking about?

I want to describe the characteristics I have often seen and see.  They don't mirror the extreme form of Charismaticism, but they are often in principle the same.  The soft continuationists modify the sign gifts into some lesser type, the same as the Charismatic movement, except with reduced manifestations or ramifications.  For someone who wants Charismaticism, it's there, but for the person who doesn't want it, the sign gifts are denied. The soft continuationists have straddled to some degree being and not being Charismatic by offering continuationism in a less extreme form.

On soft continuationism, I know there are those who are the face of it, like John Piper and Wayne Grudem.  However, what I have seen and see close up and in person is continuationism among independent Baptists.  I'm going to describe what I see there.  Maybe you're not an independent Baptist and you see the same among Southern Baptists and others.


God is done speaking to us, but there are many different ways that independent Baptists "receive" extra-scriptural revelation.  They don't call it prophecy.  They don't equate it with scripture.  There is an ambiguity to it that allows for deniability but still with God speaking to someone outside of scripture.  Here's what I hear on a pretty regular basis.

"God gave me this new method or strategy."  "God told me what to preach."  "God told me to build this building."  "I prayed about it and God told me."  "God gave me this message."  "God gave me special insight."  "God called me to go to...." "God told me how to do this."  Sometimes less clear words are used, like "God moved me, "God put it within my heart," or "God has burdened me with."

One additional way that I hear that God speaks is through a particular interpretation of a passage.  Someone says the Spirit told him what a passage says, which is referred to as the teaching or illumination of the Holy Spirit.  The interpretation doesn't come through a normal means of study, but through someone impressed in the brain separate from study.  I've found that very often, and it shouldn't be surprising, that this teaching or understanding was wrong.

What you know is that God gave some kind of information either with a voice in the head, a feeling, or a vision.  Somebody knows something that he didn't know before.  God's stamp of authority is upon it, because it came from Him.


Miracle is a common word thrown around by independent Baptists.  What they say is a miracle might just be the providence of God.  I'm fine with providence, because everything is either caused or allowed by God.  However, it isn't a sign.  A miracle is a sign.  These signs have ceased, so whatever it is, it isn't a miracle.  God works in the normal affairs of men, but miracles are not being produced.

Some might ask, what about salvation?  Isn't that a miracle?  It isn't.  God saves people, but that isn't a miracle.  Every work of God is not a miracle.  A miracle is very particular, but this has been generalized and brought along even by independent Baptists.

These "miracles" are treated like signs by independent Baptists.  They mean God is working in some unique way that gives them credibility.  It causes people to expect miracles.


I don't know of an independent Baptist that believes in the gift of healing, but prayer has become a means by which someone has that gift.  The Lord Jesus and the apostles and prophets could pray for healing and receive it as a part of their gift.  However, we are not promised that people will be healed.  Prayer is still seen as a means of physical healing.

What I've noticed is that certain diseases get prayer and others don't.  For instance, blindness doesn't receive prayer.  If God is doing the healing, blind people can get their sight.  This kind of selectivity isn't seen in the Bible for signs.  If it's of God, it isn't limited.

Like signs, the prayer healing intends to validate a church.  People expect it from a church, want it from a church, so a church should have it at its disposal.  Even if people are not healed 75% of the time, the prayer healing is still an important church method.


This last one is the most subjective and perhaps the most important of the ones I've listed.  At Pentecost, there was the wind and the flames.  You won't get those from independent Baptists, but you'll get a feeling or atmosphere in the midst.  It often arises in a preaching and musical style, producing a mood, aura, impression, or spirit.  The preaching itself might be unscriptural, but the style supersedes that.  God is working and the demonstration is seen through these subjective, external stimuli.  Corinth has the same problem in the ecstasy that accompanied what they thought they were receiving from God (cf. 1 Cor 12:1-3).

The equivalent of firing people up for a pep rally is not a necessary condition for the Holy Spirit to fulfill His ministry, promised by Jesus and the Apostles.  A big reaction to particular styles doesn't authenticate them as the Holy Spirit.  Some of what I'm talking about relate to the wrong understanding of conviction.  Conviction is what occurs when someone has been proven guilty.  Conviction isn't a feeling.  Someone can be convinced of his guilt and not feel anything.

When a particular method works, this is attributed to God.  "Dozens or hundreds were saved."  This is pointing to a "Pentecost" style revival.  When the Holy Spirit is really working, a lot of people are saved.  This is a supernatural, powerful working that overcomes resistance to the message being delivered.  A majority of these people didn't get saved.

If a big crowd gathers or lots of people walk an aisle, men take that as a sign that God is prevailing or working in the situation.  If very few show up, God didn't either.  These effects are pointed to as a basis for a church being "alive" versus being "dead."  A dead church is one where these external effects, actually produced by men, are missing.  They are not biblical means of discernment, but they are given greater authority for discernment the biblical means.


Most independent Baptists are very dependent upon the fake signs I listed above.  They are the cues given to their churches that everything is OK.  If these were missing, the people would think something is wrong.  Since they are expected, they must continue.  In most independent Baptist churches, if a church announced these were no longer going to play a role in the church, it would cause a massive split.  A large chunk of the congregation would move to somewhere where they would continue to experience these fake signs.

to be continued


  1. Two major implications, I am sure there are more, but for starters, if divine revelation is still happening today then the canon of Scriptures is not closed. Worse, the canon can be edited. And, we have no final/settled rule of faith and practice. That being said, I am not convinced that salvation isn't a miracle. I wouldn't place or categorize salvation as a sign-gift (ex. miracle) but it sure is miraculous - in the sense that salvation occurs through divine intervention (ex. regeneration). I am certainly wanting to read more about this topic. Thank you, Pastor Brandenburg.

  2. I think the prayer for healing is one of the trickiest forms of continuationism to confront because it often involves pointing to the numerous instances of prayer for healing that ended in the death of loved ones and church members, and who wants to be that person? As you've noted, though, the prayers are typically focused on situations that have the greatest likelihood of natural resolution through medical intervention (e.g., cancer, but not blindness; disease, but not the regrowing of amputated limbs). Perhaps this is why only the most extreme of Charismatics will pray for a dead person to rise again, while those in independent Baptist churches won't, even though there are several recorded occasions in Scripture where someone besought the Lord to raise the dead.

    Bro. Hardecker, perhaps the word you are seeking when describing salvation is "supernatural" instead of "miraculous."

  3. Anonymous11:07 AM

    Greetings, Brethren,

    (1) I would be interested to hear comments on the applicability of III John 2 to praying for the health of another believer.

    III John 2 Beloved, I wish above all things that thou mayest prosper and be in health, even as thy soul prospereth.

    In my KJV Bible, the footnote for "wish" is "Or, pray." I understand that the word translated "wish" is εὔχομαι (eúchomai), and it is not a typical word for "pray"; however, it is translated "pray" in James 5:16 in the context of praying for one another to be healed.

    (2) Brother Bronsveld, I'd be interested to know your thoughts. Are all miracles supernatural, but not not all supernatural events are miracles?

    My Apple computer dictionary has this for "supernatural":

    supernatural |ˈˌsupərˈnætʃ(ə)rəl|
    (of a manifestation or event) attributed to some force beyond scientific understanding or the laws of nature: a supernatural being.
    • unnaturally or extraordinarily great: a woman of supernatural beauty.
    noun (the supernatural)
    manifestations or events considered to be of supernatural origin, such as ghosts.

    And it has this for "miracle":

    miracle |ˈmɪrɪkəl|
    a surprising and welcome event that is not explicable by natural or scientific laws and is therefore considered to be the work of a divine agency: the miracle of rising from the grave.
    • a highly improbable or extraordinary event, development, or accomplishment that brings very welcome consequences: it was a miracle that more people hadn't been killed or injured.
    • an amazing product or achievement, or an outstanding example of something: a machine which was a miracle of design | [ as modifier ] : a miracle drug.

    I am very grateful for insight and input!
    E. T. Chapman

  4. Bro. Chapman,

    Regarding the use of "supernatural" instead of "miraculous," I was attempting to distinguish between that which is divine and that which is natural, rather than that which is divine to be used as a sign of something and that which is natural. I may not have achieved quite the nuance I was seeking. The new birth is divine, rather than natural, but miracles in Scripture had a specific purpose, typically as signs. Bro. Ross posted something on this here awhile back.

    3 John 2 has to harmonize with passages like I John 5:14-15; Mat. 18:19; Mark 11:24; John 14:13; 15:7; etc. In brief (It took me a number of weeks to preach through some of these passages for our church last year), those who pray for healing in the few select areas of cancer and colds "harmonize" the passages above by stripping them of their force and meaning. Praying with a belief that they will "receive those things for which they ask" either winds up meaning one has to have faith in faith ("So and so is not getting healed from their terminal disease because we just don't have enough faith"), or else not actually believing they will receive their petitions: "Please heal so and so, but only if it's your will, because sometimes the answer is 'yes,' sometimes 'no,' and sometimes 'wait.'"

    James 5:16 uses εὔχομαι in the context of prayer--not for general physical healing, but for a specific case of one beaten down spiritually under such affliction that he may not be able to pray himself. (There is much more in the James 5 passage that cannot support the common perception of going to some physically sick person and anointing them with oil to heal whatever malady they may be experiencing). James 5 uses εὔχομαι with an explicit reference to prayer, which is not the case in 3 John 2, and seems to be why it was translated "wish" in 3 John 2. Be that as it may, I don't see the generally expressed desire for the physical health of spiritually strong church leaders as being equivalent to the modern prayer sheet filled with (as a former pastor of mine used to say) requests about "Aunt Betsy's bunions."

  5. Bro. Chapman,

    My use of "supernatural" instead of "miraculous" was an attempt to separate a divine act from a natural one, as opposed to a divine act that occurs for the purpose of a sign, which is the general idea of miracles or wonders in Scripture. Seeing your dictionary definition and having looked up a couple others, I may not have captured quite the nuance I was seeking. Bro. Ross handled this subject here a while back.

    Regarding εὔχομαι in 3 John 2, I would say that the context does not furnish enough to justify the idea of a prayer for health. When the passage is examined in light of clearer passages such as Mark 11:24, John 14:13, John 15:17, and especially 1 John 5:14-15, it would be difficult to harmonize the uncertain prayer for health/healing with commands and assurances that believing prayer receives what it desires. Those who promote the prayer for healing in select instances (colds and cancers) are left to "harmonize" these passages one of two ways: 1) "So-and-so didn't get healed because we just didn't believe enough" (faith in faith), or 2) "Dear Lord, please heal so-and-so, but we know that you will answer 'yes,' 'no,' or 'wait.'" Hardly a doctrine fitting with any of the passages above. James 5:16 uses εὔχομαι in a clear context of prayer, because it is applied in conjunction with an explicit reference to prayer. Again, (I'm abbreviating here - I preached through the James 5 verses last fall for our church and it took three messages) the James 5 passage does not, with careful study, lend support to the idea of general prayer for physical healing coupled with the anointing of oil. The context both of the epistle and the chapter make it clear he is speaking of a situation in which someone has been beaten down/afflicted spiritually to such an extent that it appears he may even be unable to pray himself. A general "unknown-if-it's-God's-will" prayer doesn't fit there either, both in light of James' promise that such a man will be "raised" and also in light of James' earlier words that prayer accomplishes what it seeks when prayed in faith (cf. James 1). Thus, it would not make sense for the writer of 1 John 5 who said "pray according to God's will if you want to be answered" to advocate prayer for the health/healing of someone else in 3 John. The ordinary usage of εὔχομαι in secular and theological literature generally refers to a wish rather than a prayer, which seems to be the reason it was translated the way it was.

    That said, I would note that the expressed desire for the physical health and strength of a beloved spiritually strong church leader is hardly equivalent to church prayer sheets filled with (as a former pastor of mine used to say)requests regarding "Aunt Betsy's bunions." (I'm not suggesting you were making that equivalence.)


  6. Dear Bro Chapman,

    Perhaps the distinction made in the study here, as referenced by Bro Bronsveld:

    could be a help; miracles in the sense of the Greek word semeion do not take place today, but mighty acts of God's power, such as seen in the Greek word dunamis, do take place, and regeneration, etc. are included in dunamis but not in semeion.


  7. Anonymous12:55 PM

    Thank you, Brother Ross, and thank you, Brother Bronsveld.

    I'm sorry I was slow to respond, but I have noted your answers and will look into things more deeply, Lord willing, when I get some time I can dedicate to the study of these things.

    Thanks so much for taking the time to share your thoughts.

    E. T. Chapman