I am struggling to keep up with the pace of the charismatic versus cessationist debate that has been raging in the Christian blog world over previous weeks. However, I did want explain my mention of the words “open” and “cautious” near each other in my last post, as Dan has taken this to be an advocation of the “open but cautious” position, which it was not supposed to be.
There is in fact a broad range of positions from the cessationists who see any modern day tongues and prophecies as being of the devil, right through to the raving charismatics who seem to think that tongues and prophecy are the only elements to the Christian life. The common division of evangelicals into three distinct groups (cessationist, open but cautious, and charismatic) is in fact over-simplistic.
For example, some who are broadly cessationist will still be open to the possibility of occasional supernatural occurrences of the charismatic gifts, but were they to occur, they would not expect or seek their recurrence afterwards.
The “open but cautious” camp itself consists of those who are not opposed in principle to the ongoing use of the gifts today, but are unsure that what they see in charismatic churches is either genuine or desirable. Within this group, there are those more accurately described as “closed and critical”, and no one would dare attempt to use such a gift during one of their meetings. But there are also those who are quite happy that one or two members of their church exercise these gifts publicly on occasions, but the rest of the church are not encouraged to follow suit.
Even within the charismatic group, there is variety, from those who insist that all believers without exception should seek and receive the charismatic gifts, and consider it dreadful for a meeting to go by without a prophecy or tongue, to those who place a lesser priority on these gifts.
However, I am not in the “open but cautious” group myself, because I believe their caution all but cancels out their openness to the charismatic gifts. However, I used the terms because they have a Biblical mandate.
We are called to be open. “Eagerly desire the greater gifts”. “Do not treat prophecy with contempt.” But we are also called to be discerning (which is probably a better word than “cautious”). The Bible repeatedly warns of deception and false prophecy. So I would say that the Biblical position is to be “open but discerning”.
In summary if “caution” is used as an excuse not to seek after God with all our hearts and to welcome all that he wishes to do through us and in us, then I want no part of it. All I meant to say is that I want the real deal, not a fake plastic replica.