Christianity,  Theology/Bible

Friendly Fire: Tom Schreiner and Sam Storms debate cessationism

Tom Schreiner and Sam Storms have both published essays this morning at The Gospel Coalition discussing whether the miraculous gifts are still in operation today. Tom Schreiner argues the cessationist position–that miraculous gifts have ceased. Storms argues the continuationist postion–that prophecy, tongues, and the rest continue. I think both essays have a constructive tone even as they straightfowardly disagree with one another.

The essays are too short to cover the issues exhaustively. Nevertheless, I think that Schreiner has the stronger argument. For me anyway, the arguments for the continuationist position continue to fall short biblically. At the end of the day, this all comes down to what the Bible teaches, and on that point cessationists and continuationists are still at loggerheads. In any case, I’ll leave it to you to read their essays and form your own opinion. For a longer for argument in favor of the cessationist position, I recommend Dick Gaffin’s classic work Perspectives on Pentecost.

Tom Schreiner – “Why I Am a Cessationist”

Sam Storms – “Why I Am a Continuationist”


  • Dan Phillips

    Once again: it doesn’t matter how strong Storms’ arguments are. It’s TOO LATE to establish the “continuationist” position by argument. If the position were true, there would be no argument.

  • Matt Svoboda

    There isn’t really any biblical argument to be made for continuationists. Our entire position is, “What you clearly see in the Bible with healing, prophecy, etc. still exists because their isn’t good biblical evidence to support otherwise.”

    The burden of proof is on cessationists and I have never found their arguments biblically compelling, at all. I love Dr. Schreiner, but I wasn’t any more impressed by his argument than the others I have read.

    To Dan Phillips I say, spend more time overseas where this isn’t even up for debate in most areas precisely because of their consistent experience of God using the miraculous to “bear witness to the word of his grace.”

    I think Acts 14:3 is quite clear of why/when God uses the miraculous and it also answers our experience of not seeing these things very frequently at all in the West, but quite often in other places in the world.

  • Dan Phillips

    Yes, it’s always overseas, just 25 feet out of the reach of some reliable instrument of verification/falsification. Meanwhile, Biblically-faithful churches for ~2000 years stand witness against continuationism. The Biblical explanation for why the Svoboda model should obtain is… absent. To be charitable.

    • Matt Svoboda

      It isn’t always overseas… it is simply primarily overseas. The why can be explained quite easily by passages like Acts 14:3 and other NT texts that show why God uses the miraculous gifts.

      People who don’t think anyone is ever healed anymore simply doesn’t ever talk to people outside of their theological bubble. I have spoken with several biblically faithful missionaries who have seen and experienced the miraculous. So, you can poo poo it all you want, but the reality is they have experienced the very thing you say don’t exist.

      These aren’t “charismatic” guys either. The ones I talk with have primarily graduated from Southern Seminary. But, you are probably right, if they experienced those things it probably just means they aren’t “biblically faithful.”

      • Dan Phillips

        OK, good; so we scrap the usual allusion to vaporous overseas phenomena. Now we’re back in the land of smartphones and millions of vids on YouTube — and not one verified apostolic-level manifestation (let alone continuation) of revelatory or attesting gifts among Biblically-faithful churches. As it has been for ~2000 years.

          • Dan Phillips

            Really? You’re that familiar with me, and my argument? Excellent! What is my background on this issue? Why does your insistence that I get out and open up in fact disprove continuationism?

            • Paul Reed

              So around 110 AD or so, miracles just suddenly stopped occurring? God just picked up, left, and was never seen from or heard from again. So all of a sudden, miracles cease? That must have been really disappointing for Christians around the turn of the second century! (or whenever you say the magic date was).

              To say that God has appointed a date when there would be no more miracles is to speak outside Scripture. Your argument basically shoots itself in the foot. It’s like saying your parents didn’t have any children that lived.

              Also, I would remind you that we haven’t got scientific proof that *any* miracle occurred. We can’t even prove the flood occurred, and that was an event on a worldwide scale.

              • Caleb L

                Just to point this out (as others have), since it seems to continue to be a point of contention: cessationists do believe that God still performs miracles today. Plain and simple.

                I’m not throwing my weight behind one position or the other; but you may want to spend a bit more time trying to understand what cessationists actually believe.

                • buddyglass

                  That’s one thing that’s always bothered me about this debate. Both sides grant that miracles still happen. Even those of the sort that used to happen back when everybody agrees the gifts were operational.

                  So is it just a matter of degree, where one side thinks “miracles happen but only rarely” and the other side thinks “miracles happen more often than that”?

                  • Joe Fisher

                    It is more of a straw man argument that cessationist don’t believe in miracles. The cessationist does believe in the miraculous but they don’t believe individuals have the gift of miracles. Personally I don’t know anyone who heals like Jesus did, nationally or internationally.

                    • buddyglass

                      So the difference between the two camps is that a cessationist believes there is no individual for whom a specific type of miracle is more likely than the others. e.g. nobody who is especially likely to experience miraculous healing when they pray for it, no person who is especially likely to speak in an unknown language, etc.

                      Just trying to get a handle on the argument. So the cessationist admits these types of miracles can still happen (except maybe prophecy), but that, when they do, no one type is ever “especially likely” to be experienced by a given individual.

  • Ian Shaw

    At the end of the day, does this issue truly impact what Christ has called us to do in the Great Commision? That’s what should be asked instead of kicking and screaming about an issue that takes time that could be spent doing what Christ called us to do.

    The issue has no bearing whatsoever on whether or not God can work through people to perform miraculous acts.

    • Andrew Orlovsky

      That is how I feel too. However, I do fear too many Christian are following men and women who claim to have the gift of healing but seem to be con artists who are skilled at creating a highly emotional atmosphere so that people’s adreneline gives them temporary relief of pain. I’m talking about guys like Benny Hinn, Bill Johnson, Kenneth Copeland, and Randy Clark (Toronto Blessing). I struggle with how to deal with others in my church that adore these men.

    • Mark Jeong

      I would say this issue does not impact the Great Commission if you have two godly men like Sam Storms and Tom Schreiner who differ on this issue. However, this isn’t always the case.

      I have one friend whose in-laws, who were heavily involved with IHOP (International House of Prayer), which is very continuationist (correct me if I’m wrong but they believe in modern day apostles), refused to come to their daughter’s wedding because the man she was marrying (my friend) was not the one they saw in a dream. How sad that a view of prophecy can do that to a family! You might think this is extreme, but many who truly believe they’ve received a prophecy on the mission field that tells them to do something refuse to listen to biblical advice to the contrary. I don’t think men like Sam Storms and John Piper (both continuationists) would do that, but the positions held by laymen on the mission field are almost never as biblically precise or nuanced as those of wise theologians (cessationist or continuationist).

      How many cults are there around the world that were started by men who seemingly did many miracles and had the gift of prophecy? No one on the mission field hears the word “prophecy” and thinks of it in the nuanced way that Reformed Charismatic theologians would affirm. Most hear prophecy and think of a prediction of the future or an authoritative word.

  • Ian Shaw

    Come on guys. I’m sure Denny didn’t intended for people to get into a contest here. He made a refencece to 2 sides of an argument, but let’s not let it cloud what we are called to do here.

    For the record, many people including yourself Dan, would seem probably just as doubtful if it was on youtube with 2 million views.

    • Dan Phillips

      That’s funny. Every time Denny posts affirming the Bible’s teaching on a host of issues, people who hate the Bible’s teaching swarm his meta. Here he posts on two sides of a debate, those sides turn up… and you say “Stoooooooop!”

      And while we’re daydreaming, Ian, if squash tasted like Blue Bell ice cream, I’d be eating it all day long.


  • Don Johnson

    I am a continuationist.

    I was given sign spiritual gifts (yes, the woohoo kind) when I did not even know such things existed as I was just a babe in Christ, just a few weeks a believer. This drove me into Scripture and fellowship to see what kind of sense I could make out of what had happened to me. There are more than a few examples of cessationists being given such gifts and needing to switch their position on this.

  • Ian Shaw


    You have a point. However, those posts that Denny puts up affirming Biblical teaching are usually surrounding a Level 1 issue, like an issue regarding what should be believed about salvation, ie- was Chirst’s all encompassing sacrifice sufficient enough? etc. This isn’t a level one issue. This is more like a level 2 or 3 such as water baptism methods. Will there alwasy be 2 sides to that argument? Yes. Will one method of baptism affect your personal relationship with Christ and your salvation over the other? No.

    So while you think I’m day dreaming, I’m afraid you couldn’t be more wrong.

    • Lauren Bertrand

      “Will one method of baptism affect your personal relationship with Christ and your salvation over the other? No”

      So I guess that means infant baptism is acceptable? Good to know.

      Which denomination/church gets to decide which issues are Level 1, 2, or 3? Ian Shaw’s?

  • Adam

    Two questions for both sides:

    1. Am the set of spiritual gifts, by what condition do cessationists judge a gift to be a member of the subset of gifts that has ceased? Aren’t they all “miraculous” to one degree to another?

    2. How to continuationists know that what they are practicing today is what the church was practicing in apostolic times?

  • Adam Omelianchuk

    Two questions for both sides:

    1. Am the set of spiritual gifts, by what condition do cessationists judge a gift to be a member of the subset of gifts that has ceased? Aren’t they all “miraculous” to one degree to another?

    2. How to continuationists know that what they are practicing today is what the church was practicing in apostolic times?

  • Adam Omelianchuk


    Two questions for both sides:

    1. Among* the set of spiritual gifts, by what condition do cessationists judge a gift to be a member of the subset of gifts that has ceased? Aren’t they all “miraculous” to one degree or another?

    2. How to continuationists know that what they are practicing today is what the church was practicing in apostolic times?

    • Don Johnson

      I am a continuationist. How does one “know” that one is reading the NT the way it was intended? In the final analysis, one cannot be sure, this has a fancy name of epistemic humility. One does one’s best, acts in faith, examines the fruit, and leaves the rest to God.

      P.S. Yes, some do crazy stuff that is not a manifestation of an actual spiritual gift, but wrong use does not deny the possible existence of correct use. For any spiritual gift, it is possible to be truly from God or to be false and due to human or demonic influence, so we are to evaluate such things.

  • Adam Cavalier


    I remember on your website a long time ago, you posted a debate between Russell Moore and pastor debating this same issue (as specifically how it related to missionaries speaking in tongues) during the SBC national convention. That might be another helpful resource to point people towards. I thought the funniest part of it was when Dr. Moore said something like: “If I’m sick I want you to pray like a Pentecostal for me!” – Haha!

  • Ian Shaw

    While you may critize the process of putting theological issues into stratifications (level 1 level 2, etc.) you can’t dismiss the fact that there are some issues that do not have an effect on someone’s individual salvation. Many denominations would agree that some issues are much important and critical of one’s salvation than others. Is there a proper way/time for baptism? I believe there is and it is found in scripture. But I won’t shoot someone/question their salvation if they use a sprinkle versus immersion. That’s what I was getting at. But I can see where your attitude of derision comes from.

    • Chris Ryan

      I agree, Ian. I think there are times when Christians let *little disagreements* get in the way of broad agreement. I include myself in this. I tend to think that most genuine Christians will receive salvation despite whatever theological disagreements we might have. Whenever I question whether an issue is *truly* meaningful, I try to ask myself how would the thief on the cross answer. If he got into Heaven without an opinion on sprinkling vs immersion, I remind myself that I shouldn’t crucify those Christians with whom I disagree.

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