Patton: not yet a Charismatic

Well known blogger C. Michael Patton of Parchment and Pen, who is associated with the conservative and dispensationalist Dallas Theological Seminary, has written an interesting long post explaining Why I am not Charismatic (originally several separate posts, also downloadable as a short “e-book” PDF). TC Robinson posted a summary and response to Patton, which interestingly has generated more comments than Patton’s original post – including some from me.

Patton has clearly moved on from the old cessationist position of dispensationalists and most conservative evangelicals, that the true biblical charismatic gifts have ceased and that any such manifestations seen today are false and of the devil. Indeed that was more of less his personal position. But he has changed his views quite significantly, to the extent that he can now write:

I don’t think that one can make a solid case for the ceasing of the gifts from Scripture. …

I believe the same about the gift of prophecy, tongues, and other supernatural sign gifts. I believe they have ceased because they ceased in church history (as I argued) and I, personally, have never experienced them. Therefore, I am a “De Facto Cessationist.”

Thus his argument comes down to one of experience, his own and that of many, but not all, through church history. The issue becomes even more clear when he writes:

I have also said that one of the primary reasons why I am not charismatic is because I have never experienced such gifts in a way that would compel me to believe that these gifts, as they are expressed today, are legitimate.

A common complaint made by cessationists against charismatics is that they base their theology on experience rather than the Bible. But here Patton is doing exactly that to make his cessationist point: arguing from his own experience, or lack of it, to make a point which he accepts he cannot prove from Scripture. And of course this is his experience because his own Christian life has, I suppose, mostly been in cessationist circles where no opportunity is given for open practice of these gifts.

It seems that Patton’s position at the moment is something like “charismatic gifts are not something I personally want to exercise”. But that is not a tenable position. It is interesting that while he refers to 1 Corinthians 12 and 13, he completely ignores chapter 14, which is the key chapter in the Bible about charismatic gifts. And it is there that we find clear apostolic commands:

Follow the way of love, and eagerly desire spiritual gifts, especially the gift of prophecy. … Therefore, my brothers and sisters, be eager to prophesy, and do not forbid speaking in tongues.

1 Corinthians 14:1,39 (TNIV)

This leaves no room for a middle way. Gifts like prophecy and tongues are not optional extras in the Christian life, which some can ignore in their personal lives and forbid in their churches if that is their personal preference. They are a normative part of church life, even if not of every individual’s Christian life. If they were not seen in most historical churches, that is because the leaders of those churches disobeyed these apostolic commands.

Patton concludes:

I am not Charismatic. I am not necessarily cessationist either. I am, right now, a de facto cessationist who lives with a high expectation that God is going to move in the way he will. I hope that I am always ready to follow.

Thus we conclude, de facto.

Patton has perhaps embarked on the same journey which Jack Deere also embarked on while at DTS, which led him into a full-blown charismatic position. Clearly Patton has not yet moved nearly as far as Deere. But we can hope and pray that he and the rest of his DTS colleagues will keep moving in the right direction, as God leads them, and eventually find the full biblical truth about the charismatic gifts.

0 thoughts on “Patton: not yet a Charismatic

  1. To me, it seems that wise folks need to consider becoming a little “foolish” in order to understand the operation of the Holy Spirit. Yes, the Bible is our absolute standard, but the Holy Spirit is our teacher.

    There is a charismatic saying that somethings are “caught rather than taught.” And, isn’t that what Paul means in 1 Corinthians 2:12? “We have not received the spirit of the world but the Spirit who is from God, that we may understand what God has freely given us.” I’m not saying cessationists (de facto or not) don’t have the Holy Spirit, but that they need to rely on divine revelation to understand the things of the Spirit and not their human abilities. Only by humbly receiving revelation from the Spirit can we understand the gifts of the Spirit.

  2. Indeed, Tyson. Too many people, not just cessationists, rely on their own reasoning about the Bible and God’s ways rather than humbly allowing God to reveal the truth to them. I try not to be guilty of this, but perhaps sometimes I am.

  3. I do struggle with Peter’s appeal to 1 Cor 14. I have heard it before and if I have understood it properly and it implies that Paul is urging the use of tongues on the church, even making it normative if Peter is to be believed, then I think that completely misunderstands the chapter. Although I fully concede that Paul accepts and approves of the use of tongues (so distancing him from Patton and cessationism) his objective in the chapter is the control of them in public worship. Everything else, including asides to the effect that he wished all spoke in tongues, are asides which Peter et al are in danger of extracting and making a new burden for men’s shoulders (Matt 23:4) and utterly subverting the purpose of 1 Cor 14. But I don’t expect Peter to accept this; he will have been so used to his interpretation that he will not be able to hear mine.

  4. TC, I am not saying that “Paul is urging the use of tongues on the church”, let alone making this normative for any individual. Rather I am saying that Paul is urging the use of the gifts of the Holy Spirit, one of which (explicitly listed) is tongues, but the gift that he is especially urging the use of is prophecy. And I totally reject the accusation that I am “making a new burden for men’s [and I suppose women’s] shoulders”. What I am saying is that individual men and women should use the gifts they have been given – but if they choose not to that by no means affects their salvation. I am also saying that churches which forbid speaking in tongues are explicitly and flagrantly disobeying an apostolic command. If that is a burden, it is one laid by the apostle.

  5. I am unconvinced by your defence. You still seem to take the passage as urging the use of the spiritual gifts but that does violence to the context and the flow of the argument. Using the gifts was not something that the Corinthians were backward in doing. The problem was using them in the right way for the right purposes. This is what Paul is addressing. But I am not the only one who has found themselves being urged to claim the gifts on the basis of this verse. For instance my wife was informed she lacked power because she did not speak in tongues. This they said was because of her Buddhist background, from which she needed to be delivered.

  6. @TC Keene: Look at the context again. This is one single passage that begins in chapter 12 and continues through the end of chapter 14. In chapter 12 he lists and describes gifts. In chapter 13, he describes the motivating factor for using the gifts. In chapter 14, he talks about the proper use of the gifts, including the avoidance of the disorder and competition that improper motives tend to produce. That’s the context.

    So in chapter 14, he says that he will {pray, sing} with his understanding and with his spirit (implying that his understanding isn’t involved). This is part of his proper use discussion, and he closes the whole section by saying to be eager to prophesy and not to forbid speaking in tongues. (It does not say that all will prophesy or speak in tongues, nor does it command us to exercise those gifts.)

    While there is much that is cloudy, that conclusion is not.

    Having said all that, I’ve read about the penalties for false prophets and that is enough to make me shut up until and unless I am 100% sure. It’s got to be even harder to be sure when you cannot understand what you’re saying.

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