Tag Archives: cessationism

Cessationism, Miracles, and Tongues: Part 4

How the doctrine of cessationism percolated within certain Church of England splinter groups and especially those that immigrated to America. How cessationism later had its own American flavor.

This is part 4 of the series of Cessationism, Miracles, and Tongues. Part 1 was an introduction with a general summary. Part 2 uncovered the medieval psyche surrounding the supernatural, miracles, and magic. Part 2 also contained the protestant review of early church history on miracles. Part 3 demonstrated how the Church of England, especially through the influence of the Puritans, officially formulated the doctrine of cessationism.

John Wesley and the Methodists on Miracles

John Wesley preaching outside a church

As shown, the doctrine never really became a universal one in the Church of England, and neither did it become a factor in its prodigy — the evangelistic and fast-growing Methodist movement. The Methodists were a reform group within the Church of England in the 1730s, but later became independent in 1795. This independence happened four years after the founder of the movement, John Wesley, had died. The worship and liturgy was very similar to its parent organization.(1)https://www.britannica.com/topic/Methodism

Wesley himself gave a sermon called The More Excellent Way about the existence of miracles. He wrote that their cessation was incorrect:

It does not appear that these extraordinary gifts of the Holy Ghost were common in the church for more than two or three centuries We seldom hear of them after that fatal period when the Emperor Constantine called himself a Christian, and from a vain imagination of promoting the Christian cause thereby heaped riches, and power, and honour, upon the Christians in general; but in particular upon the Christian clergy. From this time they almost totally ceased; very few instances of the kind were found. The cause of this was not (as has been vulgarly supposed) “because there was no more occasion for them,” because all the world was become Christian. This is a miserable mistake; not a twentieth part of it was then nominally Christian. The real cause was, “the love of many,” almost of all Christians, so called, was “waxed cold.” The Christians had no more of the Spirit of Christ than the other Heathens. The Son of Man, when he came to examine his Church, could hardly “find faith upon earth.” This was the real cause why the extraordinary gifts of the Holy Ghost were no longer to be found in the Christian Church — because the Christians were turned Heathens again, and had only a dead form left.(2)The More Excellent Way Sermon 89:2

A retired methodist pastor and blogger, Craig L. Adams, looked into Wesley and miracles and concluded: “Thus we can say that Wesley would not have fully endorsed either cessationism or pentecostalism. Extraordinary gifts and miracles have not necessarily ceased, but they are not necessary proofs of the Holy Spirit, either.”(3)https://craigladams.com/blog/john-wesley-and-spiritual-gifts/

The Irvingites and Miracles

Edward Irving
Edward Irving

This article will stop for a moment and reiterate that the doctrine of cessationism is unique to the reformed branch of churches (Presbyterian, Baptists etc.) and does not reflect the greater traditional protestant psyche which led more to de-emphasism or in many cases continuation. This will be documented in a later article. However, another item besides the Methodists shall be included and that is of Edward Irving who was a cleric of the Scottish Church along with his congregation based in London, England, during the 1820s. His leadership and congregation were controversially engaged in the restoration of the gifts. Irving was well aware of two strong influences: the Scottish Church belief in the cessation of miracles and the rise of rationalism within the greater English religious community. He countered both with the restoration of miracles:

This power of miracles must either be speedily revived in the Church, or there will be a universal dominion of the mechanical philosophy; and faith will be fairly expelled, to give place to the law of cause and effect acting and ruling in the world of mind, as it doth in the world of sense. What now is preaching become, but the skill of a man to apply causes which may produce a certain known effect upon the congregation? — so much of argument, so much of morality; and all to bring the audience into a certain frame of mind, and so dismiss them well wrought upon by the preacher and well pleased with themselves.(4)Edward Irving. The Collected Writings of Edward Irving in Five Volumes. Gavin Carlyle ed. Vol. 5. London: Alexander Strahan. Pg. 479

Irving proceeded to state:

I know nothing able to dethrone this monster from the throne of God, which it hath usurped, but the reawakening of the Church to her long-forgotten privilege of working miracles.(5)Edward Irving. The Collected Writings of Edward Irving in Five Volumes. Gavin Carlyle ed. Vol. 5. London: Alexander Strahan. Pg. 480

The Scottish Church took exception to Irving’s unorthodox activities and was referred to the London Presbytery for review in 1832. He was not charged with reviving the supernatural rites of tongues and healing which he abundantly broke from the Scottish Church tradition. Rather, he was charged with not following procedural issues such as allowing women to speak. In doing so he was found guilty and defrocked. (6)on allowing unlicensed speakers and females to speak, allowing the church service to be interrupted on the Sabbath, and giving time in church for the expression of the gifts. Oliphant, Margaret. The Life of Edward Irving, Minister of the National Church, London. London: Hurst and Blackett, Publishers. 1862. Vol. 2. pg. 261 The procedural route was chosen because of the theological controversy surrounding cessationism. There would be less of a chance of clearly settling the problem if this manner was chosen.

For more information on the Irvingites, see The Irvingites and the Gift of Tongues.

The Migration of the Church of England breakoffs to the Americas

The Puritan strand in England had run its course after the late 1600s, but its influence had moved with the migrants to the United States. The tradition of cessationism passed on with the puritan-based members of the Church of England – mainly those who settled in New England. It was also found with the Presbyterians who crossed the Atlantic from Scotland. A separation group of Puritans from the Church of England called the Pilgrims, along with the Baptists, and the Congregationalists, also carried the seeds of cessationism.

The Baptists

The reader will be stopped for a moment and to ponder on the Baptist influence. Religious persecution in England caused many christian groups calling for reform in the Church of England to immigrate to other countries. The Baptist contingent was one of them and its migration to the United States included the doctrine of cessation. One of its American proponents was Augustus Strong (1836–1921). He was a first-rate thinker and a well studied student. He worked his way up from Yale, and over the years became the President of Rochester Theological Seminary. He wrote a compelling argument on miracles which was one of the better ones from a traditional perspective. He fully understood the rationalist angle that a miracle is a suspension of natural law or a manipulation of nature. He carefully disputed that miracles were of a personal nature that happened inside the person’s mind and not an external or visible act. He provided a well worded alternative framework for a miracle being something different and more wonderful that included the supernatural. This is a good piece of literature, but he breaks the momentum with this statement:

We may not be able to mark the precise time when miracles ceased. There is reason to believe that they ceased with the first century, or at any rate with the passing away of those upon whom the apostles had laid their hands. So long as the Scripture canon was incomplete, there was need of miracles. When documentary evidence was at hand, miracles were seen no longer. The fathers of the second century speak of miracles, but they confess that they are of a class widely different from the wonders wrought in the days of the apostles.(7)Augustus Strong. Philosophy and Religion: A Series of Addresses, Essays and Sermons Designed to Set Forth Great Truths in Popular Form. New York: A. C. Armstrong and Son. 1888. Pg. 146

His great thinking was restrained to the bounds of baptist cessationist policy.

The Baptist themselves are a hard organization to follow the flow of cessationism through the centuries. The emphasis on the independence on the local congregation allows for flexibility in this area. They dropped the cessationist clause in the New Hampshire Confession of Faith in 1844. Why it was dropped is unknown. Historical practice shows they have remained structurally immune to the christian mystical experience.

There are earlier exceptions with the Baptists. The noted historian, Jane Shaw, would disagree that Baptists were definitive cessationists. She believed that new divine healings were occurring amongst the Particular Baptists though cautiously expressed. Further details or what epoch the Particular Baptists were operating are not known at this time.(8)Jane Shaw. Miracles in Enlightenment England. New Haven and London: Yale University Press. 2006. Pg. 49 An 1883 edition of the Presbyterian Review disagrees with a protestant minister named Rev. A. J. Gordon, a Baptist writer, preacher and composer from Boston, who wrote a book called, The Ministry of Healing, Or, Miracles of Cure in All Ages. He argued miracles from the Moravians, the Huguenots, the Covenanters, the Friends, Baptists, and Methodists were still happening.(9)Marvin R. Vincent “Modern Miracles” as found in The Presbyterian Review Vol. 15. Charles A. Briggs, Francis L. Patton editors. New York: Anson D. F. Randolph and Company. 1883. Pg. 481 and see also A. J. Gordon. The Ministry of Healing, Or, Miracles of Cure in All Ages. London: Hodder and Stoughton. 1882. Pg. 78

The largest present religious training institution for Baptists is The Southern Baptist Theological Seminary. This institution does not have any reference to cessationism in their doctrinal statement. However, within the Southern Baptist community there is some type of oral commitment to cessationism. One clue is from the Southern Baptist Convention. They recently changed their internal policy on speaking in tongues and now will give consideration to missionary applicants who do so. The previous policy outrightly rejected them.(10)http://www.charismanews.com/us/49661-southern-baptists-change-policy-on-speaking-in-tongues

The Presbyterians

In the late 1800s and early 1900s, the bastion of american cessation belief belonged to the presbyterian theologians of Princeton Theological Seminary. This was especially found in the Principals of the Seminary; Charles Hodge (1797–1878), his son A. A. Hodge (Principal from 1878 to 1886) and Benjamin Warfield (Principal from 1887 to 1921). Warfield, in fact, is considered the last conservative leader of Princeton Theological Seminary.(11)https://www.theopedia.com/bb-warfield

Charles Hodge, Principal, Princeton Theological Seminary
Charles Hodge

Charles Hodge, whom some have called the Pope of Presbyterianism(12)http://www.patheos.com/Resources/Additional-Resources/Presbyterian-Pope-Thomas-Kidd-01-04-2012 was highly influential on the topic of cessationism—even though he never directly wrote on the subject. Being the principal and teacher of one of the leading theological seminaries during his era and a prodigious writer, Hodge helped establish and shape conservative American Protestantism for generations. Cessationism by his time was already lodged deeply within the Reformed psyche and needed no explanation. Neither was this an open topic for discussion. This left Hodge leeway to move into other theological topics, especially the encroachment of rationalism on the traditional protestant faith. Charles Hodge excelled at this because his large and comprehensive education demonstrated a well-rounded understanding of the rationalistic spirit of his times.(13)https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Charles_Hodge

After his death, the leadership torch of Princeton was passed on to his son, Archibald Alexander Hodge. Archibald similarly attacked the tenets of rationalist christian thinking rather than defend traditional protestant doctrine. Just like his father, he didn’t need to defend his faith because that was already stated and needed no revision. His coverage can be found in A Commentary on the The Confession of Faith. With Questions For Theological Students and Bible Classes, which was published by the Presbyterian Board for the purpose of teaching “theologians, Bible-class scholars, ruling elders, and ministers”.(14)A.A. Hodge. A Commentary on the The Confession of Faith. With Questions For Theological Students and Bible Classes. Philadelphia: Presbyterian Board of Publication and Sabbath-School Work. 1869. Preface The semantics and logic contain a high degree of difficulty. He slightly altered the cessationist formulation in his approach, choosing the word revelation over miracle. Revelation is God expressing His divine will through miracles, the supernatural, act or order of nature. It is a more comprehensive word than miracles.

The order of miracles according to A. A. Hodge is too ambiguous to use in the cessationist clause, but there is an admission by him that miracles do exist, but veiled it in wordiness. He understood miracles as part of a comprehensive order of life that were “fixed in their occurrence by God’s eternal plan” and the “order of nature is only an instrument of the divine will, and an instrument used subserviently to that higher moral government in the interests of which miracles are wrought.”(15) A.A. Hodge. A Commentary on the The Confession of Faith. With Questions For Theological Students and Bible Classes. Philadelphia: Presbyterian Board of Publication and Sabbath-School Work. 1869. Pg. 140 These are deep and complex thoughts that are almost cryptic. A. A. Hodge was attempting to work around the cessationist tenet that miracles cannot occur after the establishment of Scripture. He knew that miracles could occur today, but how could he manage an explanation without changing the fundamental cessationist framework? He rationalized that any miracles subsequent to the foundation of Scripture was pre-ordained at the creation of the world and part of the course of nature built by God.

Benjamin Warfield
Benjamin Warfield

The pinnacle of cessationist theory is held in the name of the last conservative principal of Princeton Theological Seminary, Benjamin Breckinridge Warfield (1851–1921). Unlike the high semantics of Charles Hodge, and the middling ground of A. A. Hodge, Warfield used everyday language to express both that miracles stopped around 100 AD.

How long did this state of things continue? It was the characterizing peculiarity of specifically the Apostolic Church, and it belonged therefore exclusively to the Apostolic age—although no doubt this designation may be taken with some latitude. These gifts were not the possession of the primitive Christian as such; nor for that matter of the Apostolic Church or the Apostolic age for themselves; they were distinctively the authentication of the Apostles. They were part of the credentials of the Apostles as the authoritative agents of God in founding the church. Their function thus confined them to distinctively the Apostolic Church, and they necessarily passed away with it.(16)B. B. Warfield. Counterfeit Miracles. New York: Charles Scribner’s Sons. 1918. Pg. 5

Warfield’s work was not unique. He took from Conyer’s Middleton’s work, Free Inquiry and simply updated it. He cites his name over 23 times. Warfield correctly asserts about the power of Middleton’s argument:

After a century and a half the book remains unrefuted, and, indeed, despite the faults arising from the writer’s spirit and the limitations inseparable from the state of scholarship in his day, its main contention seems to be put beyond dispute.(17) B. B. Warfield. Counterfeit Miracles. New York: Charles Scribner’s Sons. 1918. Pg. 31

Warfield’s commendation about Middleton still rings true today. The traditional protestant community, including the present renewalist movements, have not engaged in the important debate that Middleton made popular. No person or group has reconciled it within a christian framework or outright refuted it. It is a tension that still remains.

Warfield spent more time on outlining the counterfeit miracles than explaining the nature and purpose of miracles. He was happy with his short definition that they ended before 100 AD.

He used his theological framework as a basis to attack the catholic history of miracles and many of the legends and myths surrounding them. This is a predictable Protestant approach to miracles. A notable section is his assessment of the protestant miracles; especially the Irvingites, the Christian Science movement, and faith healers.

He does not note any individual faith healers, but the most prominent one during his day, John Alexander Dowie, was opposed to physicians and medical assistance including pharmaceutical intervention. Dowie was so influential and popular that he built a city outside of Chicago and called it Zion. 6000 devotees initially settled there.(18)http://faith.galecia.com/essays/wolfe-dowie-zion-city The city still stands today, though its early foundational roots have been shaken off. The Holiness movement itself had its share of faith healers and those that promoted the great physician over human doctors and medicine.

Jon Ruthven, author of On the Cessation of the Charismata deeply delved into Warfield’s motivations. He believed that there were a variety of influences that pressed upon Warfield when he wrote his book Counterfeit Miracles — many of which were eroding the traditional base of Protestantism.(19)Jon Ruthven. On the Cessation of the Charismata: The Protestant Polemic on Post-Biblical Miracles. 1993. Reprint 2008. Pg. 7 and 40 An interesting factor that Ruthven noted was a personal one. Warfield’s wife was struck by lightning on their honeymoon and became an invalid for the rest of her life. Ruthven wrote that we can only speculate on the impact, but it must have been significant.(20)Jon Ruthven. On the Cessation of the Charismata: The Protestant Polemic on Post-Biblical Miracles. 1993. Reprint 2008. Pg. 43

After the death of Warfield in 1921, the traditional Princeton message lost its momentum and the Presbyterian Church was confronted with more pressing internal matters. The era of Presbyterian influence on the American religious conscience was in serious decline.

1920s to Today

Cessationism was found elsewhere in the religious American psyche. One of the more important guardians was Lewis Chafer. Chafer was originally a Congregationalist minister – another offshoot of the Church of England that subscribed to the Savoy Declaration of Faith and Order, 1658. This declaration reaffirmed the ceasing of the gifts. Chafer was known for two important features of American Christianity. The first one related to him being mentored by Cyrus Scofield, whose Scofield Reference Bible had a major influence on the spread of a distinct christian framework called dispensationalism. Although Scofield emphasized little on cessation in his work,(21) “Tongues and the sign gifts are to cease, and meantime must be used with restraint, and only if an interpreter be present” http://www.sacred-texts.com/bib/cmt/sco/co1014.htm the mere association with his stature gave Chafer a national audience. Secondly, Chafer helped form a christian higher education institution called the Evangelical Theological College in 1924, which later became known as Dallas Theological Seminary. As one of the dominant suppliers of higher education teachers and pastors for almost 100 years, their doctrinal stance has reached christian communities throughout the world.

Lewis Chafer himself held to cessationism,(22)Lewis Chafer. He That is Spiritual. New Edition. Philadelphia: Sunday School Times Company. 1919. Pg. 57 and this translated into Dallas Theological Seminary holding a similar position. Their doctrinal statement contains this certainty:

We believe that some gifts of the Holy Spirit such as speaking in tongues and miraculous healings were temporary. We believe that speaking in tongues was never the common or necessary sign of the baptism nor of the filling of the Spirit, and that the deliverance of the body from sickness or death awaits the consummation of our salvation in the resurrection.(23)https://www.dts.edu/about/doctrinalstatement/

Dallas Theological Seminary’s wording of cessation is a polemic against the Pentecostal and Charismatic movements. The Holiness movement and its child progeny, the Pentecostals blossomed in the early 1900s with an emphasis on the restoration of the early church and miracles. This led to a revival in the cessationist doctrine to counteract them such as the above statement. Jon Ruthven observed this fact; “the advancing front of charismatic growth has precipitated showers of polemical books and tracts, virtually all of these reiterating this cessationist premise.”(24)Jon Ruthven. On the Cessation of the Charismata: The Protestant Polemic on Post-Biblical Miracles. 1993. Reprint 2008. Pg. 3

By no means is Dallas Theological Seminary the only one producing traditional christian leaders of the cessationist strain. There are others such as Moody Bible Institute,(25)https://www.moodyglobal.org/beliefs/sign-gifts/ but the importance has quietly disappeared. Traditional reformed background schools are losing appeal to a new generation of Christians. Young Christians entering into higher education are predominately from a renewalist background (Pentecostals, Charismatics and Third Wavers). The precipitous drop of enrollment in higher christian education institutions has forced many schools to be more flexible or drop this doctrine altogether.

John F. MacArthur
John F. MacArthur

All contemporary discussions surrounding cessationism inevitably will lead to the strong opinions of the American radio host, church pastor, and author, John F. MacArthur. He may be one of the most controversial theological figures in the American christian community today.

Mr. MacArthur reaffirms the traditional reformed perspective on miracles. The only difference between MacArthur and his ancient Puritan influenced theologians is that he traded the virulent anti-Catholicism for anti-Charismaticism. Indeed, the parallels between the excesses found in mystic catholicism and the charismatic movements are very similar, and there are serious problems of credibility. He uses numerous examples of Charismatics to demonstrate miracles no longer exist and the acts they are performing are a sham.

His arguments are based on Scriptural references alone and there is no reference to the philosophical or rational attachments that have grown with the movement over the centuries. His message is simplified and intended for a mass audience. His approach and framework for writing on miracles is very similar to that of B. B. Warfield.

He makes the same mistake from the tradition instituted by the Protestants at the Reformation who threw out all catholic experiences related to miracles—not even giving it a status as myth or legend or even seeing the social context that framed such activities. MacArthur has simply changed the name of Catholicism to that of Charismatics and modernized the reformed script. This is reflected in his book, Strange Fire:

Charismatics now number more than half a billon worldwide. Yet the gospel that is driving those surging numbers is not the true gospel, and the spirit behind them is not the Holy Spirit. What we are seeing is in reality the explosive growth of a false church, as dangerous as any cult or heresy that has ever assaulted Christianity. The Charismatic Movement was a farce and a scam from the outset; it has not changed into something good.(26)John F. MacArthur. Strange Fire: The Danger of Offending the Holy Spirit with Counterfeit Worship. Nashville: Nelson Books. 2013. Pg. Xvii.

Much like the ancient Reformers before him, MacArthur points out some very real and tangible abuses in the realm of miracles, especially in the realm of faith healing. He takes such charges to the extreme and cites adherence to cessationism as a pillar of the true christian faith. On the other hand, the charismatic movement has become intransigent and refuses to make the necessary changes, just like the initial reaction of the medieval Catholic Church. This is history repeating itself.


You are at then end of this series. For the previous articles on this topic.

References   [ + ]

Cessationism, Miracles, and Tongues: Part 3

The question of miracles from Martin Luther to the Church of England.

This is part 3 of a series surveying the doctrine of cessationism.

Part 1 was an introduction and a general summary. Part 2 gave a background to the medieval mindset that was highly dependant on the supernatural, magic and mystery in daily living. It also covered the re-examination of earlier christian history by prominent English leaders to demonstrate that miracles had ceased.

This series has a tertiary focus on the role of speaking in tongues within the cessationist doctrine. Those who adhere to a strong adherence to cessationism categorize tongues as a miracle, and since all miracles have ceased, the christian rite of tongues is no longer available. Any current practice is considered a false one.

This forces this series to shift away from the christian doctrine of tongues, and move into the protestant doctrine of miracles.

This article will demonstrate the Puritans were largely responsible for shaping the doctrine of cessationism through various means, especially the Westminster Confession. This doctrine may be the English Church’s most recognizable contribution to the protestant revolution throughout the world.

The Protestant De-Emphasis

One the most distinct differences between the early Protestants and Catholics was the concept of divine revelation. The Catholics believed in progressive revelation: religious belief and behaviour can evolve over the centuries. New doctrines can be added or subtracted. The channel by which this happened was through the symbol of miracles. God could express His present will to mankind through this agency. It could happen through an event, a saint, or institution. This allowed the church to include practices and beliefs such as the veneration of saints, mariology, purgatory, celibacy, additions to the Bible (the Apocrypha) and indulgences. The powers of church authority were given equal authority to that of Scripture through the confirmation of alleged miracles.

Early Protestants rejected the idea of progressive revelation whereby new doctrines and behaviors could be added. They believed in static revelation instead—a concept that limited miracles only to define doctrine from either the first – or at the latest fourth-century. After that, the age of doctrine development was closed. There were to be no additions or subtractions to the framework outlined in Scripture. Scripture was the final authority in christian affairs and cannot be overruled or added to by later miraculous revelations.

The question about how far miracles were limited after the formation of the church is the one that became the centre of attention in the protestant world.

The role and nature of miracles in the protestant church will now be closely examined.

Martin Luther

Painting of Martin Luther by Lucas Cranach the Elder (1472--1553)
Martin Luther

One of the most well-known names attached to the early Protestant movement is Martin Luther (1483–1546). His writings and sermons vacillated on this subject of miracles, though in the end he was a de-emphasizer. Specifically, he believed whatever miracles that did occur could not create or validate a new doctrine. Neither could it supercede Scripture. Philip M. Soergel, a specialist in medieval and early modern European history, looked into his attitude towards miracles and answered:

Luther’s statements held out the possibility that the “age of miracles” had ceased, but his praise of faith’s potentialities tended to undercut that conclusion all the same. This tendency–insisting on the one hand that the apostles were able to work miracles for a time only to establish the Church and on the other hand maintaining that faith has its own miracle-working power–continued to interact in Luther’s mature evangelical theology. The interplay betweeen these two notions prevented Luther from articulating a firm doctrine of the “cessation of miracles,” as it did for his later sixteenth-century followers as well. As in other areas of his thought, the Reformer proved to be cautious about making blanket pronouncements, since such judgements might presume to know the will of God and the workings of the Holy Spirit.(1)Philip M. Soergel. Protestant Imagination: The Evangelical Wonder Book in Reformation Germany. Oxford: Oxford University Press. 2012. Pg. 41

For the curious, here are two quotes from his written sermons that show his vacillation on miracles.

  • The first, “Thanks be to God that we have no longer any need of miracles; the Gospel doctrine has been established by signs and wonders sufficient, so that no one has any cause to doubt them.”(2)Martin Luther. Sermons on the Gospels For the Sundays and Principal Festivals of the Church-Year. No translator given. Columbus: J. A. Shulze. 1884. Pg. 246

  • And in another sermon he contrarily wrote:

    A person may called into the preaching office in one of two ways. The first one is directly from God, the other through His people, which is also simultaneously from God. Those called immediately must not be believed unless they are certified because their preaching is accompanied by miracles. That is what occurred in the case of Christ, and His apostles, whose preaching wast attested with accompanying signs. Then, when a preacher called in this way might come and say to you [Matthew 16], “God is speaking to you here. Receive the Holy Ghost,” as they must preach, you must then, of course, ask, “What sign do you give so that we can believe you? If it is only your words then we will pay no attention to them since you, from out yourself, could not say anything worth hearing. But if you work a miracle with it, then we will carefully examine what kind of doctrine you have, and whether or not you speak the Word of God.” . . .

    Do not just believe people because of evidence they give when they attest to the spirit in them with signs and wonders. Do not only look at the fact that they are doing miracles, for the devil can also work miracles.(3)Martin Luther. Festival Sermons of Martin Luther. Translated by Joel R. Baseley. Michigan: Mark V Publications. 2005. Pg. 3-4

It is noted how little Luther referred to the subject of miracles. Perhaps this may be a problem of an analysis done only in the English translations without referring to the original German. No comprehensive work by an authoritative writer so far has shown any disparity between the German and English in this area and so it must be assumed that Luther hardly addressed it.

Jean Calvin

Jean Calvin by an anonymous painter in the 1500s.
Jean Calvin

Jean Calvin (1509–1564) was the administrative genius behind the early Reformation. What Luther started, Calvin structured. He added to the miracles debate with slightly more depth from Luther, but still fell short of being a hard cessationist.

The Catholic Church had criticized the Protestant movement as unsanctioned by God because it was never validated through the agency of miracles. Calvin countered this message by writing:

They are unreasonable when they demand miracles of us. For we are not inventing any new gospel, but we maintain as the truth that gospel confirmed by all the miracles which Jesus Christ and His apostles ever did. You could say that in this distinctive way they go beyond us, that they can confirm their teaching by continuous miracles which are being done up until today. But they claim miracles which are so frivolous or lying that they would undermine the spirit and make it doubt when otherwise it would be at peace. Yet, nevertheless, if these miracles were the most amazing and admirable one could imagine, they would have no value at all over against God’s truth, since by rights the Name of God should be hallowed always and everywhere, whether by miracles or by the natural order of things. Those who accuse us would have more semblance of cover if scripture had not warned us about the right use of miracles.”
. . . So we do not lack for miracles, which are most certain and not subject to ridicule. On the contrary, the miracles which our adversaries claim for themselves are pure tricks of Satan when they draw people away from the honor of their God to vanity.(4)Jean Calvin. Institutes of the Christian Religion: The First English Version of the 1541 French Edition. Translated by Anne McKee. Grand Rapids: William B. Eerdmans Publishing Company. 2009. Pg. 11-12

Nowhere here does he express the cessation of miracles, rather he outlined the abuse of it.

Some authors have quoted Calvin’s Commentary on the Gospel of John, 20:30-31 to express his support of miracles. However, he does not qualify his statement for or against modern day miracles. He does suggest that miracles do excite the mind to comtemplate God’s power. This could be construed as his condoning of miracles during his time. Let the reader examine the following text itself and see if this is true or not.

Although, therefore, strictly speaking, faith rests on the word of God, and looks to the word as its only end, still the addition of miracles is not superfluous, provided that they be also viewed as relating to the word, and direct faith towards it. Why miracles are called signs we have already explained. It is because, by means of them, the Lord arouses men to contemplate his power, when he exhibits any thing strange and unusual.(5)Jean Calvin. Commentary on the Gospel of John. Vol. II Translated by William Pringle. Edinburgh: Calvin Translation Society. 1847. Pg. 281

It is not a strong statement that one can build a thesis on. The portrait one can draw from Calvin is a hesitancy to miracles and that one ought to be very careful. He aligns with the protestant mantra that miracles must not be used to supercede Scripture.

The Church of England and Miracles

The 1600s demonstrate the concept cycling from de-emphasism to cessationism, especially within the English realm.

The Church of England was officially formed in the 1530s after King Henry VIII was not granted a divorce from his wife, Catherine of Aragon, by the Catholic authorities. The initial institution had no stance on miracles and little to no anti-catholic sentiment. This was reflected in their confessions of faith developed in 1572 called the Thirty-Nine Articles.

The Church of England was pulled in many different directions concerning miracles in the next 150 years. There are four distinct, but interweaving themes; the Puritans, Latitudinarians, Rationalists, and the Presbyterians.

The Puritan Influence

This is the section where the doctrine of cessationism takes off. The Puritan influence on the Church of England, and its splinter groups were immense. Puritan thought may be one of the least studied or understood modes of thought in western literature. Though never a party, nor an independent religious sect, and no person to call as its historic leader, their impact was immense.

The Puritans were an activist movement within the Church of England that sought to rid itself of any catholic identity and zealously pursued for a greater purity in worship and doctrine. They allied later with the Scottish Presbyterians on many matters of doctrine including cessation of miracles. Their influence was at its zenith between 1642 to 1660. The public during this 18 year period was generally fatigued over the over-emphasis on Scriptural adherence, even on the smallest matters. There was a feeling that both the Churches of Scotland and England had traded the superstitions of Catholicism for the the rigorous enforcement of Scripture–a dry legalism that forced absolute obedience with little freedom of expression or ideas. This period was a time where the British Isles were broken into political, religious and military factions. King Charles II decreased the puritance prominence in 1660. He settled the internal warring factions in what was called the Restoration. The puritan movement was sidelined from active participation in the Church of England from that point on.

Puritan thinkers were strong proponents of cessationism, and it is their legacy that we owe this doctrine. This will be explained in further detail shortly.

The Presbyterians were a slightly later offshoot of the Scottish Protestant movement which held tightly to the teachings of Jean Calvin. The Scottish cleric, John Knox, a student of Calvin, ensured this tightly knit relationship. The movement especially gained momentum after the English Civil War in 1651 and the name Presbyterian began to be attached. In 1650 the Scottish Church created their first confession. It did not contain any reference to miracles.(6)http://www.creeds.net/Scots/ However, they did adhere to the cessationalist teaching found in the Westminster Confession earlier in 1646 (explained further down), and later became one of the louder proponents in the late 1800s and early 1900s.

The puritan influence is the more important one, because Presbyterians eventually adopted their line of thinking about miracles. The following is a brief outline of the puritan doctrine cessationism.

William Whitaker

William Whitaker, English theologian,  (1548--1595)
William Whitaker

William Whitaker (1547–1595) was an Anglican theologian and Master of St. John’s College, Cambridge. The Latin-English dictionary he devised and published is still commonly used by Latin students around the world today. More importantly to this discussion, he contributed to the first chapter on the Westminster Confession of Faith which contained the cessation clause.(7)Garnet Milne. The Westminster Confession of Faith and the Cessation of Special Revelation: The Majority Puritan Viewpoint on Whether Extra-Biblical Prophecy is Still Possible. Great Britain: Paternoster. Reprinted by Wipf and Stock Publishers. 2008. Pg. 52 Whitaker firmly established the authority and position of Scripture over miracles and veneration.(8)This was concluded by an examination of his work, A Disputation on the Holy Scripture Against the Papists, especially Bellarmine and Stapleton. Cambridge: The University Press. 1849. There may be better information in another work, though I haven’t seen it yet

William Perkins

William Perkins, English Theologian (1558–1602)
William Perkins

William Perkins (1558-1602) was a Cambridge educated cleric of the Church of England. He was a gifted orator and popular writer. Although he was a follower of Calvin, his works outsold Calvin by a significant margin inside England. He was staunchly conservative and dogmatic, but yet did not join the puritan ranks. His legacy was greatly esteemed by both the Puritans and Presbyterians. However, the degree of influence is a matter of scholarly debate.(9)Garnet Milne. The Westminster Confession of Faith and the Cessation of Special Revelation: The Majority Puritan Viewpoint on Whether Extra-Biblical Prophecy is Still Possible. Great Britain: Paternoster. Reprinted by Wipf and Stock Publishers. 2008. Pg. 50

His writings clearly outline that a practicing Protestant should avoid any outward exhibitions of miracles for two reasons. The first one was that the expression would be too close to being Catholic. He made a clear connection between Catholicism, miracles, and the devil. This was Perkin’s primary reason for rejecting miracles in the system of christian faith.

Secondly, he drew lessons from the catholic aspiration for miracles and applied it human nature. He believed people seek to do wonders for personal or occupational gain. Both of these factors are outlined in his book, Discourse of the Damned Art of Witchcraft:

It were easier to show the truth of this, by examples of some persons, who by these means have risen from nothing, to great places and preferments in the world. Instead of all, it appeareth in certain Popes of Rome, as Sylvester the second, Benedict the eight, Alexander the sixth, Iohn the 20 and the twenties one, &c. who for the attaining of the Popedom (as histories record) gave themselves to the devil in the practice of witchcraft, that by the working of wonders, they might rise from one step of honour to another, until they had seated themselves in the chair of the Papacy. So great was their desire of eminence in the Church, that it caused them to dislike meaner conditions of life, and never to cease aspiring, though they incurred thereby the hazard of good conscience, and the loss of their souls.

The second degree of discontentment, is in the mind and inward man; and that is curiosity, when a man resteth not satisfied with the measure of inward gifts received, as of knowledge, wit, understanding, memory, and such like, but aspires to search out such things as God would have kept secret: and hence he is moved to attempt the cursed art of magic and witchcraft, as a way to get further knowledge in matters secret and not revealed, that by working of wonders, he may purchase fame in the world, and consequently reap more benefit by such unlawfull courses, then in likelihood he could have done by ordinary and lawful means.(10)Updated English copy from William Perkins. A Discourse of the Damned Art of Witchcraft. Cambridge: Cantrell Legge. 1618. Pg. 10-11

Perkins believed that since the Gospel has been established there was no further need for miracles at all.

Therefore if Ministers now should lay their hands on the sick, they should not recover them: if they should anoint them with oil, it should do them no good, because they have no promise.(11)Updated English copy from William Perkins. A Discourse of the Damned Art of Witchcraft. Cambridge: Cantrell Legge. 1618. Pg. 232

He continually attacked the Catholic Church on their continued abuse of miracles and how the age of miracles had passed:

This gift continued not much above the space of 200 years after Christ. From which time many heresies began to spread themselves; and then shortly after Poperie that mystery of iniquity beginning to spring up, and to dilate itself in the Churches of Europe, the true gift of working miracles then ceased, and instead thereof came in delusions, and lying wonders, by the effectual working of Satan, as it was foretold by the Apostles, 2. Thess. 2. 9. Of which sort were and are all those miracles (Pg. 239) of the Romish Church, whereby simple people have been notoriously deluded. These indeed have there continued from that time to this day. But this gift of the holy Ghost, whereof the Question is made, ceased long before.(12) Updated English copy from William Perkins. A Discourse of the Damned Art of Witchcraft. Cambridge: Cantrell Legge. 1618. Pg. 238

Perkins was reacting against both against Catholicism and superstition. These two entities promoted miracles through ceremony, rituals and recitation of specific words.(13)As described in the book: Transactions of the Royal Historical Society. Sixth Series. Vol. VIII. David Eastwood ed. Cambridge: Cambridge University Press. 1998. Pg. 176 Perkins didn’t realize the these three behaviours were instituted in the earlier church to correct the problem of selfish personal ambition through the agency of miracles. For example the fourth-century church father John Chrysostom wanted to take the power away from individuals and move it into ceremony, rituals and institutional authority instead.

Perkins logic is confusing. He allows for the devil to produce enchantments and sorceries that seem like miracles, albeit for diabolical purposes, but denies any alternative power of the church or the Christian to produce miracles.

His idea owns that no human can produce or be a direct causative agent for miracles. Instead, the ancient persons involved in administering a miracle were passive agents, a conduit that God used. The emphasis was on the agency not the person(14) William Perkins. A Discourse of the Damned Art of Witchcraft. Cambridge: Cantrell Legge. 1618. Pg. 243 This forced Perkins to contemplate the miracles Jesus produced. If Jesus was part human, then how could He actively bring about miracles at His command? Perkins made an exception here. He described that Christ had a dual man/God nature. The miracles were not produced from the man nature, but normally from the God one. On the raising of Lazarus it was the combination of both.(15)William Perkins. A Discourse of the Damned Art of Witchcraft. Cambridge: Cantrell Legge. 1618. Pg. 16

He expanded the definition of evil and satanic to any expressions of the catholic faith. This was consistent with many other protestant leaders.

James Ussher (1581–1656)

James Ussher (1581--1656)
James Ussher

This scholar, theologian and cleric for the Church of Ireland (a member of the Anglican Church community) was best known for his work for dating the day of creation. He was a student of William Perkins.

Similar to Perkins, Ussher issued a direct attack on the Catholics and their supposed miracles with vehemence:

That seeing the Popes Kingdom glorieth so much in wonders, it is most like, that he Antichrist; seeing the false Christs and false Prophets shall do great wonders to deceive (if it were possible) the very Elect, and that some of the false Prophets prophesies shall come to pass, we should not therefore believe the doctrine of Popery for their wonders sakes, seeing the Lord thereby trieth our faith; who hath given to Satan great knowledge and power to work stranger things, to bring those to damnation who are appointed unto it.(16)James Ussher. A Body of Divinity or the Sum and Substance of Christian Religion. London: R. J. for Jonathan Robinson, A. and J. Churchill, J. Taylor, and J. Wyatt. 1702. Pg. 392

Ussher then concluded the above thought with this:

Are not miracles as necessary now, as they were in time of the Apostles?

No verily. For the doctrine of the Gospel being then new unto the world, had need to have been confirmed with miracles from heaven: but being once confirmed there is no more need of miracles; and therefore we keeping the same doctrine of Christ and his Apostles, must content ourselves with the confirmation which hath already been given.

What ariseth out of this?

That the doctrine of Popery is a new doctrine, which had need to be confirmed with new miracles; and so it is not the doctrine of Christ, neither is established by his miracles.(17)IBID James Ussher. A Body of Divinity or the Sum and Substance of Christian Religion. Pg. 392

The Westminster Confession

Westminster Confession of Faith

At the height of the Church of England’s puritan influence was the development and enactment of the Westminster Confession in 1646. The goal of this confession was to codify the protestant sects in England into a united system of faith. It still has force today in some religious jurisdictions.

The Westminster Confession has two articles important to miracles:

  • The first one was under the first section relating to the authority of Scripture where it states that God has ceased in further revealing his will through the written Word. What has been already accomplished in His sacred Word is final. There are no additions.(18)http://www.ccel.org/ccel/schaff/creeds3.iv.xvii.ii.html

    The ceased word is very ambiguous and controversial. Garnet Milne in his excellent book, The Westminster Confession of Faith and the Cessation of Special Revelation: The Majority Puritan Viewpoint on Whether Extra-Biblical Prophecy is Still Possible summed up the interpretation of ceased as this:

    An analysis of the writings of the Westminster divines reveals their pervasive commitment to a cessationism of a rather comprehensive kind, In their exposition of the key texts of Eph. 1:17-18, Heb. 1:1-2, and Joel 2:28-32/Acts 2:17, a large proportion of the divines contend that the possibility of further revelation has ceased, both for the purposes of doctrinal insight and for ethical guidances. They repeatedly contrast the role of Scripture with phenomena such as dreams and visions as means of divine communication, and argue that the latter modalities are firmly confined to the past.

    From a range of other biblical texts the divine adduce further reasons as to why the church ought no longer expect revelation from a source outside of Scripture itself. Extra-biblical revelation is restricted to the eras of the patriarchs, prophets, and apostles. Special revelation for the governance of the church is said to have ceased. Warnings are issued against the inherent dangers of appeals to immediate inspiration, and the cessation of such revelation is linked to the cessation of miracles. Old Testament texts in particular tend to be read analogically. The Scriptures as a whole are presented and appealed to as the final supernatural revelation of God for all purposes.(19)Garnet Milne. The Westminster Confession of Faith and the Cessation of Special Revelation: The Majority Puritan Viewpoint on Whether Extra-Biblical Prophecy is Still Possible. Great Britain: Paternoster. Reprinted by Wipf and Stock Publishers. 2008. Pg. 145

    Although Milne properly addressed the puritan concept behind this word, the Westminster Confession was purposely ambiguous for those in the non-puritan ranks. The ambiguity of ceased allowed for a degree of flexibility in interpretation among the various protestant English factions that the Westminster Confession hoped to unite.

  • Secondly, this confession held that the Pope was the antichrist (20)Section VI http://www.ccel.org/ccel/schaff/creeds3.iv.xvii.ii.html though this has been revised in the most recent versions. Anti-Catholicism and their alleged false miracles were a source of unity among the various protestant branches.

The Westminster Confession of Faith set the standard for later English Protestant confessions such as the Savoy Declaration modified for Congregationalists in 1658, and the London Baptist Confession of 1689. They both contained the cessation clause.

Latitudinarians

Latitudinarianism was a phrase attached to a certain mode of thinking in the early Church of England. This was not a large movement, but their membership contained a considerable influence. Latitudinarians emphasized an alliance of science and religion and often were at odds against the more conservative and dogmatic puritan thinkers. The perception of miracles was approached clinically and in more rational, philosophical and scientific manners, but theoretically accepted. A strain of anti-catholicism and the rejection of their miracles as patently false connects them with the rest of the Church of England.

The major contributor to the formation of the the Latitudinarian movement was the Anglican priest and theologian, Richard Hooker (1554–1600). He did not address the problem of miracles at all. Although he had some doctrinal problems with Catholic theology, he wasn’t absolute and completely rejectionist of Catholicism either. His works were aimed more squarely against the conservative puritan faction of the Church of England whom he held were extreme in their views.

Richard Hooker (1554--1600)
Richard Hooker

Western society owes an intellectual debt to the Latitudinarians such as the Protestant turned Catholic turned Protestant again and then accused by both sides of being a rationalist, William Chillingworth (1602–1664); the Archbishop of Canterbury John Tillotson (1630–1694); and the writer, philosopher and cleric Joseph Glanvill (1636–1680). Glanvill was an interesting thinker. He envisioned a future where mankind would be able to communicate throughout the world via the ether.

The late 1600s and early 1700s found the proponents of miracles from not from English theologians but from scientists such as the astronomer, mathematician, and physicist, Isaac Newton, and John Wilkins the founder of the oldest scientific community, the Royal Society.(21)Stephen Paul Foster. Melancholy Duty: The Hume-Gibbon Attack on Christianity. NL: Springer Science+Business Media Dordrecht. 1997. Pg. 101 – the author is presenting this from M. Burns, The Great Debate on Miracles: From Joseph Glanville to David Hume. Both of these figures aligned closely with the Latitudinarians.

None of these leaders promoted the cessation of miracles.(22)For more information on Latitudinarians see Joseph Waligore’s, “Christian deism in eighteenth century England” as found in the International Journal of Philosophy and Theology. 2014. Vol. 75, Issue 3. Pg. 11

The Rationalists and Deists

Hooker not only influenced the Latitudinarians but his writings licensed others to use reason, commons sense, and intellectual inquiry in their religious pursuits. The explanation of the following people fall under the list belonging to the Church of England because everyone under English control belonged to it, whether they liked to or not, and were heavily influenced by their values. On the other hand, the conservative Church of England followers and break-away groups were often seriously critical of the following named people. They would not define them as representing the christian religion.

Thomas Hobbes (1588–1679) was one of the philosophers who added to Hooker’s cry for reason. Hobbes stumbled through his idea of miracles and it is hard to decipher a clear position because of his semantics and wordiness. He does reaffirm the mantra that miracles had ceased.(23)Thomas Hobbes. Leviathan Chapter 32 “Seeing therefore miracles now cease, we have no sign left whereby to acknowledge the pretended revelations or inspirations of any private man;” But on the other hand, he was very cautious about naming anything a miracle. He believed the layman was ignorant of the science behind any event and too easily fell into calling something a miracle. For example, the occurrances of nature which one does not understand was often considered a miracle. Secondly, Hobbes was concerned about those who faked miracles for public attention. All ideas of miracles should be put under the scrutiny of reason by the individual and the church. The natural outcome would be that there was a natural explanation that would ultimately exclude the concept of a miracle.(24)Leviathan Chapter 37. “For in these times I do not know one man that ever saw any such wondrous work, done by the charm or at the word or prayer of a man, that a man endued but with a mediocrity of reason would think supernatural:”

The next entry inevitably leads to the framework on miracles built by the well-known philosopher and physician John Locke (1632–1704). This brilliant thinker, best known for his influence on the wording and structure of the American Constitution, found a way that comfortably balanced reason and religion in his writings.

His work, Discourse on Miracles (1706), demonstrated this skill. He believed in miracles but in an uncertain sense. What a miracle is to one person, may not be to another. It depends on a person’s grasp of universal laws and science. This matter of perception would be especially true in his time where the gap in scientific knowledge was so great and the understanding of human physiology was small. He believed that the amount of claims for miracles were far greater than the actual ones that have occurred. He follows Hobbes’ structure but softer in regards to religion. He set out some general rules for determining a divine miracle.(25)The Works of John Locke in Nine Volumes. Vol. 8. 12th ed. London: C. and J. Rivington. 1824. Pg. 262ff.

The two most controversial and debated names on the topic of miracles is Conyers Middleton (1683–1750), and David Hume (1711–1776).

Conyers Middleton was a church historian who promoted the idea that miracles and signs were not necessary for defining christian truth, practice, or polity. The dispute against miracles and signs was the centerpiece in his, Free Inquiry, which was unique and highly controversial when it was first introduced. By applying common sense to principles of faith over mysticism, he sought to distance the protestant identity and authority from that of the Catholic Church. His opinions still resonate today.

Cover of Free Inquiry by Conyers Middleton

Middleton does address the doctrine of tongues but it is limited. He fails to take in a larger corpus of ecclesiastical literature to draw his conclusions. By using such a small sampling, he could easily state that the gift of tongues died within the first century church and not have to wrestle with the likes of Pachomius, Augustine, or the historical context of the Corinthian tongues problem, which was not mystical at all, but a functional one. He slightly addressed Chrysostom’s texts to support his argument but further elaborates the subject when he published, An Essay on the Gift of Tongues but the work adds hardly anything new to the debate.

The more traditional theologians of the time spent considerable effort to refute his claims about miracles. For example, William Dodwell, a contraversialist, theologian, and minister, took it upon himself to refute Middleton with his book, A Free Answer to Dr. Middleton’s Free Inquiry. In doing so Dodwell was conferred a Doctorate of Divinity by Oxford.(26)http://en.wikisource.org/wiki/Dodwell,_William_%28DNB00%29 However, his refutation failed to produce the desired results. Middleton’s work has perpetuated while his has fallen into obscurity.

Middleton’s work had such a great impact that the legendary evangelist John Wesley saw the need to refute in a letter to Dr. Conyers Middleton. Wesley’s response is largely forgotten in the annals of history, being powerfully overshadowed by the legend of Free Inquiry whose primitive arguments still stand, and have been greatly expanded upon by cessationists and scholars living today.

For further information see: Conyers Middleton and the Doctrine of Tongues

David Hume (1711–1776) is a hard one to describe. His opinions were not representative of the church but yet he used the symbols and language of the church and christian faith.

This distinguished thinker has to be included because his influence was so widespread. He is one of the pillars of western philosophy. To ignore his thoughts on the subject would be unacceptable.

Hume was sceptical of any miracle and promoted the idea that believing in anything unsubtantiated is foolish. He accepted that there was a chance for a miracle to occur, but only if it has been properly examined. In this case, he believed not one has been properly substantiated throughout history using a valid procedure to verify such a claim. He totally rejected the claim of a person or group testifying of the fact. He wanted factual evidences over perception. This lack of facts led him to conclude that christian miracles do not exist, and the whole christian story is based on fiction. “whoever is moved by Faith to assent to it, is conscious of a continued miracle in his own person, which subverts all the principles of his understanding, and gives him a determination to believe what is most contrary to custom and experience.”(27)David Hume. An Enquiry Concerning the Human Understanding. L. Selby-Bigge, ed. London: Oxford University Press. 1894. Sec. X, Part II (101) Pg. 131

His ideas were picked up by Baden Powell (1796–1860) – a mathematician and a priest of the Anglican Church. His articulation of faith and science was introduced in a more open environment than that of Hume. He believed that miracles was but a definition by mankind to describe a natural event not understood. Every miracle can be explained by natural means, except that mankind has yet to understand the mechanics that caused it. People of higher intelligence, because of their insights into science and the laws of nature, found miracles much less common than the layperson.(28)Essays and Reviews: “On the Study on the Evidences of Christianity,” by Baden Powell. London: John W. Parker and Son. 1860. Pg. 107

There are more rationalists/deists of England that can be drawn from but this is sufficient for the reader to understand. They set the seeds of intellectual thought that lives with us today. The role of the miraculous and the supernatural have been relegated to matters of faith and not physical reality. The issue of tongues fit into the category of a faith event that was categorized in an unexplainable psychological condition that one day will be understood as science advances.


References   [ + ]

Cessationism, Miracles, and Tongues: Part 2

This is part 2 of the series on cessationism, miracles, and tongues. This article gives a background on why miracles were de-emphasized during the Reformation. Secondly, it delves on the protestant review of early church history and their interpretation of miracles.

For information on this overall series and a general summary go to Cessationism, Miracles and Tongues: Part 1

The Excess of Miracles in the Medieval World

Cessationism or the critical examination of miracles cannot be fully understood without first understanding the medieval environment they were birthed from. The following gives a brief portrait of the mystical medieval world and why there was an urgent need for correcting the abuse of miracles.

The Gift of Tongues Project has always been a multi-disciplinary approach and the study of the medieval age in relation to the doctrine of tongues has some unique challenges. The tenth to thirteenth-centuries showed an increase in intellectual inquiry. A time where a coherent belief system was developing that included both the rational and the supernatural. This approach was especially apparent in the teachings and writings of Thomas Aquinas in the 1200s. However, after Aquinas, the momentum disappeared in the Western European world and a coherent belief system had disintegrated. There are a variety of factors that have contributed to this. The first one being the plagues that ravaged the European, Asian and African continents. The Centers for Disease Control estimates 60% of the European population was destroyed. This percentage is highly disputed though we do know a considerable amount of the population died or were affected.(1)https://www.cdc.gov/plague/history/.

The people behind the traditions, those familiar with the Greek language and culture that Europe rested its identity on along with the guardians of the classical Roman institutions were largely gone. This created a huge social, economic and religious vacuum.

The political and social instability that the plagues created, the real threat of a Muslim invasion, and the ensuing internal wars demonstrated that the social constructs and belief systems of European Christianity were not sufficient in confronting real world problems. In many respects, the plague and its unintentional consequences started Europe on the road to redefining itself.

These factors forced Europe to move beyond themselves and discover new lands, peoples and cultures. It allowed for the interchange of ideas old and new, and opened up commercial opportunities.

The emotional scars caused by the plagues and wars left an indelible impression that the glitter of Christianity was lost. The instability felt by medievalists reinforced the religious sense that a power struggle between the forces of good and evil was happening on their christian soil. Medieval people believed the elements of nature, wars, plagues, health, weather, agriculture, prosperity, success and lack thereof could be traced back to these powers. Mankind was involved in this cosmic battle and could garner stability in two ways.

Firstly, through a rigorous attempt to purify communities and individuals from any perceived evil, ridding itself of witches, divination, and other works perceived to be of the devil. Satan could employ natural laws against humanity and to defeat him directly could result in ecological, physical and human harmony. Germs, bacteria, hygiene, and pathogens were still yet to be discovered.

There was a heightened sensitivity to personal holiness in this period. There was a subconscious but pervasive assumption that a nation that pursued absolute purity in the form of leading a sincere, upright and pious life with a rigid adherence to church customs could defer the wrath of God and put people in God’s good books. This was believed a precursor that would lead into both physical and economic prosperity.

This was a time where saint veneration was high. Lawrence Cunningham, a University of Notre Dame professor, covers this problem in his book, A Brief History of the Saints . He wrote that there was a certain danger where peoples and countries were simply replacing their ancient deities with saints names. This was a problem highlighted especially by Erasmus and the leaders of the Reformation.(2) Lawrence S. Cunningham. A Brief History of the Saints. Oxford: Blackwell Publishing. 2005. Pg. 25

Sainthood was big business. The canonization of a saint had significant economic and political benefits for the saint’s hometown. This created a concerted effort for communities to promote localites for sainthood. Franco Mormando, a scholar at the The Jesuit Institute of Boston College, described this interplay in his coverage of St. Francis Xavier’s canonization process. He described that there was an enormous cost in both time and money and requiring the patronage of “powerful people in high places”(3)Franco Mormando. Francis Xavier and the Jesuit Missions in the Far East. An Anniversary Exhibition of Early Printed Works. Franco Mormando and Jill G. Thomas ed. Massachusetts: The Jesuit Institute of Boston College. 2006 in order for this to succeed. St. Francis lived in the 1500s and his missionary exploits opened up the European imagination to new and exotic worlds. He also was a positive representation of catholic veracity in a time when the church was losing so many followers to Protestantism.

Xavier’s legendary status unravelled after the sainthood process. Part of his sainthood nomination was the allegation that he spoke in tongues. It was found documented in his own letters that he had difficulty learning other languages, but this was ignored. His canonization demonstrated serious flaws which many Protestants noted and documented later on. It took well over a hundred years before the Catholic Church revised their canonization process in light of this error.

For more information about the myths surrounding the St. Francis canonization see The Legend of Francis Xavier Speaking in Tongues.

The sepulchres of the saints were famous because it was believed the bones of saints could bring healing by simply touching or being near their tomb. For example, the alleged skull remains of Chrysostom was brought out for a brief public viewing in 2007 at the Monastery of Mt. Athos. It was claimed to be healing people who appeared by it.(4)http://www.johnsanidopoulos.com/2010/01/contemporary-miracles-of-st-john.html

The Protestant movement refuted the idea of saint veneration and their supposed miracles.

Indeed, the most popular book of the Medieval age, Legendae Aurea (The Golden Legend), is a compilation of stories relating to the saints full of hyperbolic miraculous accounts. Not even the original collator believed them all to be true, but this reflects the world that they lived in.(5)Read the Golden Legend itself or follow Lawrence S. Cunningham’s brief synopsis in: A Brief History of the Saints. Oxford: Blackwell Publishing. 2005. Pg. 32

The overemphasis on miracles, the supernatural, myth, and magic during this period was widespread. The noted Anglican historian, William Lecky (late 1800s) pointed this out in his well-written work, History of the Rise and Influence of the Spirit of Rationalism in Europe:

There was scarcely a village or a church that had not, at some time, been the scene of supernatural interposition. The powers of light and the powers of darkness were regarded as visibly struggling for the mastery. Saintly miracles, supernatural cures, startling judgments, visions, prophecies, and prodigies of every order, attested the activity of the one, while witchcraft and magic, with all their attendant horrors, were the visible manifestations of the other.(6)William Lecky. History of the Rise and Influence of the Spirit of Rationalism in Europe. Vol. 1. New York: D. Appleton and Company. 1919. Pg. 27–28

Lecky didn’t differentiate between catholic or protestant communities with this problem and goes into great detail documenting such habits.

Professor Jane Shaw, a history buff and an Oxford now Stanford University professor, adds similar sentiments to that of Lecky:

Holy places and objects, and the rituals associated with those material manifestations of the divine, were vital to late medieval piety. Medieval England was a sacred landscape filled with pilgrimage sites and shrines: the tombs of famous saints such as Thomas Becket at Canterbury; the shrines of local saints such as Frideswide in Oxford; and sites of other relics, such as that of the ‘true bloo’ at the Cistercian Abbey in Hailes, Gloucestershire. The shrines at all these and many other places such as Westminster, Canterbury and St Albans were places of pilgrimage to which the sick went to be healed, hoping for a miracle.

. . . The belief system that undergirded this set of religious practices was challenged and many of its material manifestations destroyed at the Protestant Reformation. For many of the sixteenth-century reformers and their Protestant heirs, miracles had ceased with biblical times. Miracles were to be viewed with suspicion precisely because they were associated with intermediary figures and objects — saints, relics and holy places — and all the ritualistic trappings of Roman Catholicism. Most Protestants came to think it wrong to claim that a human institution had the power to work miracles: saints and relics were unnecessary, interrupting the newly privileged relationship between God and the individual, and therefore challenging God’s omnipotence. To rely on anything but this relationship with God was, for the strictest of Protestants, blasphemous. Even petitionary prayer was seen as suspicious by some; a person should not tempt providence for the impossible. Only scripture was to be the bedrock of faith. Signs and wonders were to be discarded for the promises made by God in his Word.(7)Jane Shaw. Miracles in Enlightenment England. New Haven and London: Yale University Press. 2006. Pg. 21

The powers of light versus darkness was a dominant ideology during the medieval age. This period cannot be understood without inclusion of this thought process. The rational and scientific markers that historians look for in tracing the development of Western thought were but in their infancy at this stage.

There is one more influence that should be noted and that is the improvement of literacy and increased availability of literature. This countered an environment that allowed imagination and credulousness to thrive.

The introduction of the printing press in 1440 brought about a drastic change in Europe. Margaret Aston, in her book, Lollards and Reformers: Images and Literacy in Late Medieval Religion described how the press challenged the traditional role of the church:

Ecclesiastical attitudes towards the role of books and the written word in the church’s main task of making and teaching believers, had been fixed long before and were slow to change. They were geared to a world in which literacy was a preserve of the minority, and the minority were churchmen. The church had developed in a society whose culture was predominantly oral, and in which it had to be assumed that the mass of believers were, and would remain, remote from the world of letters and learning.(8)Margaret Aston. Lollards and Reformers: Images and Literacy in Late Medieval Religion. London: The Hambledon Press. 1984. Pg. 105

Ms. Aston demonstrates that medieval society was an oral culture that was highly illiterate. Studies suggest that literacy was less than 20% in the 1400s.(9)Literacy by Max Roser and Esteban Ortiz-Ospina Functional literacy may even be less, but began to increase after this period.

Magic, miracle, and wonder were a part of the medieval psyche. As will be shown, the great abuse of such offices caused a counter-reaction by the early Protestants. Their response was the de-emphasism of miracles, and later an outright denial of any miracles by some.

In order for the English Protestant Movement to justify such a de-emphasis, it had to relook at christian history and reframe the history of miracles in the church. The following is a brief look at their review.

The De-Emphatics

The de-emphatics and cessationists from the sixteenth-century onwards asserted their doctrine by the so-called silence of miracles in post New-Testament early church literature. Some demonstrated the silence permanently occurred after 313 AD when the church had established itself as an accepted religion within the Roman empire. Others argued that it occurred after the Scripture canon had been closed and there was no longer any need for miracles to establish the authority of the Bible. There were others who believed miracles declined after the Apostles died in the first-century. All of these arguments revolve around early church literature having a decreased emphasis on miracles.

However, this logic has two difficulties. First of all, the cessationists failed to acknowledge that there was a shift in approach to the christian life in the first four-centuries. This was greatly due to the cultural shift of Christianity from Jerusalem to Rome. The fourth-century writers were greatly interested in developing doctrines around a Greek philosophical framework than in emphasizing the miraculous. The stress was on acquiring knowledge in such a way that changed a person’s worldview and applying these life-lessons in everyday life. In fact, if one does not comprehend the Greek philosophical underpinnings in this period, then understanding of the earlier church writers is compromised.

St. Paul noted this when he stated the Jews look for signs and the Greeks for wisdom.(10)I Cor. 1:22 Miracles still appeared, but were considered a tertiary phenomenon in the christian life.

Secondly, the later cessationists omit a wide swath of alleged miracles that abound in ecclesiastical literature. These miracles are all rejected, carte blanche, because they are Catholic in origin. They are rarely mentioned, not even negatively, or even referred to as a myth or legend. This total disregard in protestant histories, commentaries, and references makes it appear that the church was silent on miracles during this period when it was not. This has misled many later Bible students on the topic.

John Chrysostom and Augustine, Bishop of Hippo, were considered the patrons of cessationism according to the later protestant-based historians. More recent analysis have found Cyril of Alexandria* as part of this historical connection.

Chrysostom

In almost every piece of tongues literature referencing the church fathers, the following quote from Chrysostom is sure to be cited:

This whole place is very obscure: but the obscurity is produced by our ignorance of the facts referred to and by their cessation, being such as then used to occur but now no longer take place. And why do they not happen now? Why look now, the cause too of the obscurity has produced us again another question: namely, why did they then happen, and now do so no more?(11)Homily 29 on First Corinthians. Translated by Talbot W. Chambers. From Nicene and Post-Nicene Fathers, First Series, Vol. 12. Edited by Philip Schaff. (Buffalo, NY: Christian Literature Publishing Co., 1889.) Revised and edited for New Advent by Kevin Knight. http://www.newadvent.org/fathers/220129.htm.

This is a leading statement by those of the cessationist movement who believe the supernatural era was completed at the founding of the church. This belief concludes that the miracle of tongues did not perpetuate itself after this. Therefore, it is not necessary to trace the definition, or evolution of the doctrine of tongues because anything defined after the first-century is based on a false supposition.

Did Chrysostom really believe miracles had ceased? A further look is yes if one does not look at all the information and no if the information is examined more closely.

If one reads his works, he demonstrated an openness to miracles happening through an anointed person. Perhaps he is following in the same line of thinking as Origen that the decline in miracles was due to the lack of altruistic, pious, and holy individuals in his generation.(12)see Origen on the Gift of Tongues for more info. He never named anyone in his lifetime ever achieving this status. This was likely why Chrysostom venerated deceased saints who had achieved a high spiritual status in their lives that very few could ever achieve. He believed that they had miraculous powers even after they died and those attending by their graves could muster restorative power.

See Chrysostom on the Doctrine of Tongues for more info.

Chrysostom demonstrated a cautionary approach to miracles. His response reflected a man who lived a very ascetic and restrictive lifestyle. He believed the goal of every Christian’s life was not the outward activity such as healings or miracles, but the purity and selflessness of the inner soul. He minimized individualism and espoused corporate good.

The examination of the Corinthian text on tongues that he declared obscure was restricted to the Corinthian context. He took a different approach about Pentecost in his homilies On the Holy Pentecost. He bluntly dived right in, stating that believers do not need signs. External things are insignificant. He knew his audience would not completely buy into this and added about the nature and continuation of Pentecost: “But I see that to be a teaching extending out for a long time. On which account I am going to bring an end to the word while adding a few thoughts.”(13)My translation. Homily on the Holy Pentecost 1:4(b) to 5 He never completely finished the topic. It would have been helpful for posterity that he did. So he left us with a lot of question marks as to what he meant.

Augustine

Augustine 354 — 430 AD.

Augustine, Bishop of Hippo (354 – 430 AD), stated in De Vera Religione that miracles had ceased once the church was established. Thirty-seven years later, he realized his original work was being taken out of context and revised this comment, stating that while he first wrote De Vera Religione there were incredible miracles of the christian faith happening within his world. However, he believed the penchant for miracles was a distraction from the building of true christian character. He felt that if miracles were continually practiced and emphasized as a primary vehicle for propagating the christian faith people would become bored with this form of entertainment and disregard the greater message behind it. Jan Den Boeft, an emeritus professor of Latin, Free University of Amsterdam and Utrecht University, found that Augustine believed that Pentecostal tongues along with some other miracles would no longer be repeated.(14)Jan Den Boeft. The Apostolic Age in Patristic Thought. Leiden: Brill. 2004. Pg. 58

Augustine also thought along the same lines as Chrysostom that those individuals who strongly promoted miracles were in a place where great pride could sweep in.

For more information see Augustine on the tongues of Pentecost Intro.

Cyril of Alexandria*

cyril of alexandria

Cyril of Alexandria* in the fifth-century believed tongues had ceased. In the Alexandrian-based Commentary on Zephaniah it is stated that those endowed with the miraculous ability to speak in foreign languages a the first Pentecost had it for the rest of their lives but the miracle did not persist after these persons died.(15)See Cyril of Alexandrian on Tongues Part 1 My translation taken from Migne Patrologia Graeca. Vol. 71. Col. 1005ff

The asterisk here indicates an authorship problem about the fifth-century Alexandrian passages relating to speaking in tongues. The texts available today are attributed to Cyril, the Patriarch of Alexandria (376–444 AD) but some are mixed together with texts from the famous theologian and teacher, Didymus of Alexandria (313–398 AD). We can’t really properly ascribe proper attribution because of this. So an asterisk will suffice. Not all Alexandrians took this stance as the earlier church leader, Pachomius (292–348 AD), was described as one was granted the ability to speak in tongues.(16)Pachomius on Speaking in Tongues

Why Cyril of Alexandria* was excluded from the cessationism debate is perplexing. Perhaps the reason was his Alexandrian Greek heritage. His works never made it into the Latin-based Roman Catholic world—an institution the Protestants greatly relied upon for information. Or that Protestants had excepted Chrysostom and Augustine from their anti-Catholic bias. Cyril of Alexandria failed to make the cut.

Thomas Aquinas

No study on the subject of the church and miracles can avoid this thirteenth-century dominican friar, catholic priest, philosopher, theologian and mystic. Aquinas took Augustine’s idea that the miracle of tongues had shifted from the individual to the corporate church. He further concluded that this office was no longer needed because the institutional church now had the availability of interpreters and native speakers of almost every language in the world—a miracle was no longer necessary.(17) Summa Theologica. IIa IIae q. 176 a. 1 The “Summa Theologica” of St. Thomas Aquinas. Literally translated by Fathers of the English Dominican Province. Second and Revised Edition. 1920.

Aquinas’ commentary on the Book of Matthew 10:18 is sure to be cited about the cessation of miracles:

But if you ask why that power is not given to preachers now, Augustine answers that already visible is the greatest miracle, namely, that the entire world has been converted. Therefore, either there were miracles performed, and then I have proved my point; or if there were not, that is the greatest, because the entire world has been converted by fishermen, the lowliest of men.(18)http://dhspriory.org/thomas/SSMatthew.htm#10

This quote is indeed very puzzling because Aquinas very much believed in the miraculous and the supernatural. Any cursive reading of his works will easily demonstrate this. His description of miracles in another writing called Contra Gentiles demonstrated serious attention to the issue in the present tense and not as an historical antecedent.(19) http://dhspriory.org/thomas/ContraGentiles3b.htm#101 An in-depth reading of his lectures in I Corinthians also supports the infusion of christian mystical living. He portrays the supernatural gift of prophecy still in use.(20)http://charlesasullivan.com/2309/aquinas-on-tongues-i-cor-141-4/ It is difficult to understand Aquinas without the sense of the Divine interaction in both corporate and personal affairs.

Jon Ruthven, a professor at Regent University, took a deep look at the question of Thomas Aquinas and miracles. He concluded:

According to Aquinas, the central function of miracles was to serve as a signum sensibile, a testimonium to guarantee the divine source and truth of Christian doctrines, particularly the deity of Christ. To explain the lack of visible miracles in his day, Aquinas asserted that Christ and his disciples had worked miracles sufficient to prove the faith once and for all; this having been done, no further miraculous proof of doctrines could be required. In a number of other places, however, he vitiates this position by maintaining that miracles can recur if they aid in confirmation of preaching and bringing mankind to salvation. But even beyond this, Aquinas suggested that believers of great sanctity may exhibit miraculous gifts of the Spirit, a doctrine that strengthened the veneration of shrines and canonization of saints via miracles. A widespread belief in these last two exceptions, which essentially contradicted cessationism, resulted in the excesses surrounding miracles which precipitated the Reformation.(21)Jon Ruthven. On the Cessation of the Charismata: The Protestant Polemic on Post-Biblical Miracles. 2008. Pg. 20–21

The Matthew 10:18 commentary quote about cessation just seems too out of step for Aquinas compared to the majority of his writings. He was always attempting to fuse the supernatural within a Greek philosophical framework.

Chrysostom, Augustine, Cyril of Alexandria*, and Aquinas’ supposed similar stances on the gifts and especially speaking in tongues never took hold nor became a universal thought in the christian faith. Speaking in tongues, the gift of healing, prophecy, visions, exorcisms and more were encouraged and hoped for throughout the medieval age.

Continuance of perceived miracles is outside the purpose of this series, though it is clearly found in the majority of christian literature throughout the centuries. In respect to speaking in tongues, this perception can be found exercised sporadically through the ages. See A Catholic History of Tongues: 30 to 1748 AD for more information.


References   [ + ]

Cessationism, Miracles, and Tongues: Part 1

This four-part series follows the perceptions of miracles and the doctrine of cessationism from inception until now in the protestant church, especially as it relates to the doctrine of tongues.

Click on the image to view the full infographic.

Table of Contents

  • Part 1
    • Introduction
    • Reasons for the rise of Cessationism
  • Part 2
    • The Excess of Miracles in the Medieval world
    • The earlier De-Emphatics: John Chrysostom, Augustine Bishop of Hippo, Cyril of Alexandria*, and Thomas Aquinas
  • Part 3
    • The Early Protestant De-Emphatics: Martin Luther and Jean Calvin
    • The Church of England and Miracles
      • The Puritan Influence: William Whitaker, William Perkins, James Ussher, the Westminster Confession, and later Confessions
      • The Latitudinarians
      • The Rationalists and Deists
  • Part 4: Cessationism from the 1800s and onwards: the Baptists, Presbyterians, B. B. Warfield, christian higher education, John MacArthur, and more.

    Introduction

    Cessationism is a religious term used in various protestant circles that believe miracles in the church died out long ago and have been replaced by the authority of Scripture. Cessationist policy is typically found in Presbyterian, conservative Baptist, Dutch Reformed churches, and other groups that strictly adhere to early protestant reformation teachings.

    It is a doctrine that had its zenith in the late 1600s, waned a bit in the 1800s and recharged in the 1900s. Today, the doctrine of cessationism has considerably subsided. However, it cannot be ignored if one is doing a thorough study of the doctrine of tongues. It is an important part of history.

    According to cessationists, defining or explaining the contemporary Renewalist (Pentecostals, Charismatics and Third Wavers) practice of speaking in tongues or any other miracle outlined in Scripture is an outdated question. They don’t happen today. Therefore it is not necessary to do an in-depth historical or theological analysis about the nature and purpose of miracles in the present world.

    This survey is part of the Gift of Tongues Project whose fourfold aim is to identify, collate, translate (where necessary) and trace the doctrine of tongues from inception until the early 1900s. The doctrine of cessationism was not planned to be a part of the Project. However, later research has demonstrated it has an important story to tell in relation to the doctrine of tongues and it must be included.

    The subject of cessationism deeply touches on the nature and definition of miracles—one of the most complex questions in the christian faith.

    Theologians have attempted to harmonize the mystery of miracles with common sense and science for centuries but the definitive answer still remains elusive. Although no movement or person has ever conclusively resolved this tension, the quest to find an answer is an interesting adventure.

    Cessationism is not a black and white subject and takes a few surprising twists and turns. For example de-emphasis is a more suitable term at the birthing of the movement because the earliest protestant leaders still believed in miracles, albeit in a restricted sense. Cessationism refers to a later strand that outrightly denies the possibility of any faith initiated miracle in the present age.

    Reasons for the Rise of Cessationism

    Cessationism began as one of the earliest protestant doctrines. It can be understood from a variety of perspectives.

    First of all, it was a theological counter against the excess of miracles and veneration of saints. The protestant backlash was to outrightly denounce these features. An alternative framework was formulated for christian living which emphasized exclusive obedience to the precepts and truths found in the Bible without any reference or emphasis on miracles. They concluded nothing supersedes, parallels, or equals Scripture. The doctrine generally subscribed to the idea that miracles tended to appear less and less as the New Testament period closed. The logical conclusion was that miracles ceased at this time.

    This created a new problem. Such an emphasis on Scripture alone can lead to Bibliolatry—that is the worship and adoration of the Bible itself. It becomes a legal text that one is obligated to follow regardless of the reason, conscience or consent. It cannot be questioned and the guardians of the ancient texts can become tyrants in the application of the principles. Words and semantics then become the forefront of Scripture rule and lead into an abstract world of interpretation that only a few higher authorities can understand and apply. The reader will discover a small taste of this as they progress through this article.

    Secondly, the doctrine developed as a counter-argument. The Catholic Church argued that the Protestant Movement was illegitimate because it lacked confirmation through miracles. The Protestants volleyed back that the catholic world had legitimized unorthodox activities through the manipulation of supposed miracles to the point of changing the christian identity, its doctrines, and overriding Scripture. The rejection of catholic miracles became a rallying point in the protestant identity and became one of their base principles.

    Thirdly, cessationism developed in an era of England’s fear and hatred of Catholicism. England in the late 1600s was politically rife with anti-Catholicism—any semblance of catholic association was certain to be discarded. There were constant fears of a ‘Popish plot’ to undermine English society and almost any negative political event could be ascribed to this.(1)http://www.moyak.com/papers/popish-plot-england.html English theology incorporated this fear in their writings and was reflected in the development of cessationism.

    The rejection of catholic miracles at the earliest protestant inception did not completely eradicate the concept of miracles. The Reformists still believed in a limited view of miracles, especially ones that could not be traced to the catholic rites. However, within a century after the Reformation, the de-emphasis began to expand past the anti-Catholicism and develop its own distinct structure. The doctrine became an eclectic mixture of ideas collected from the rationalist movement and concepts unique to English theology.

    Catholic literature demonstrably showed that the manifold expressions of miracles perpetuated throughout their history. The Protestant counter argument was this—the majority of miracles expressed by Catholics over these 1800 years were exaggerated imaginary expressions that can be reduced to myths and legends. When one reads many of the miraculous accounts in historic catholic literature, the explanations go beyond suspending the regular laws of nature and venture into the world of incredulous that lacks any common sense. This argument of imaginative miracles has some logical truth to it that cannot be quickly dismissed. On the other hand, one cannot throw out every supposed catholic miracle. Each one has to be evaluated on its own merit. While the majority is easy to toss away for faulty logic, a small group may pass. A serious look may show some precious truth at the initial event, but the story became greatly exaggerated later on that obscures the original fact. Regardless, these disputed miracles remain perceptions that must be respected at minimum for their didactic and historical value.

    For more information on the perpetuation of tongues in the Catholic Church, read A Catholic History of Tongues: 30 to 1748 AD

    The protestant community was divided on the topic of miracles. Cessationism was not actively promoted within the large Methodist or the burgeoning Holiness movements that were popular in the late 1800s.

    The cessationist movement does have some high profile early church supporters and the reasons why early protestants supported this claim make good sense. A few important early church writers found that the visual display of miracles can easily lead to exhibitionism, pride, and personal gain. The art of miracles had little value in developing a moral christian character which many like Origen, Chrysostom, and Augustine prized.

    The de-emphasis of miracles according to protestant tradition was initially led by Chrysostom and Augustine. However, these early protestant writers fail to clarify that this concept was never universally accepted and laid dormant for almost 1100 years.

    Cessationism was never a grass-roots movement, nor did it ever become a central doctrine that represented the wide swath of protestant sects throughout Europe or in England. It is a doctrine never embraced by the Catholic Church. Neither was it consistently applied or interpreted. It became part of a doctrinal system promoted by the puritan thinkers in the 1600s and has been articulated in different forms ever since.

    The next three articles are an expanded story of de-emphasism/cessationism. Particular emphasis is placed on the Church of England, its splinter groups, and the evolution of this doctrine in the Americas. The doctrine of tongues will be touched on lightly.


    Click here for Part two of the series Cessationism, Miracles, and Tongues: Part 2.

    References   [ + ]

    Cessationism, Miracles, and Tongues: Infographic

    An infographic on the doctrine of cessationism. How it fits into the larger debate on miracles, and its consequent effect on the doctrine of tongues.

    Cessationism, Miracles, Tongues, Chrysostom, Origen, Augustine, Cyril of Alexandria, Didymus of Alexandria, Thomas Aquinas, Church of England, Puritans, Richard Hooker, Rationalists, Deists, Anti-Catholicism, Conyers Middleton, David Hume, Thomas Hobbes, Presbyterians, Baptists, Princeton Theological Seminary, John MacArthur