Vern Poythress, the Great Bridge-Builder to Baptists and Charismatics

Posted: December 2, 2009 by Rick Hogaboam in Baptism, Pentecostal/Charismatic Interests, Pneumatology

I have long admired Dr. Vern Poythress and pretty much everything he has written. In particular, my views on Children and Baptism have been greatly affected by his two articles on the topic (Indifferentism and Rigorism in the Church: With Implications for Baptizing Small Children and Linking Small Children with Infants in the Theology of Baptizing). He essentially challenges Credo-Baptists to baptize their children younger than later. He has also written a great article assessing Spiritual Gifts (Modern Spiritual Gifts as Analagous to Apostolic Gifts: Affirming Extraordinary Works of the Spirit within Cessationist Theology). Here is an excerpt from the article:

IX. Welcoming Spiritual Gifts

Let us return to the main point. In our day God may work both through discursive processes and nondiscursive processes. In the time of the apostles both kinds of processes occurred in inspired form. In our time the canon of Scripture is complete and inspiration has ceased. Modern processes are fallible. But they are analogous to the processes that occurred among the apostles. In understanding modern spiritual gifts we are to take our clue from what happened in apostolic times.

What, then, are we to do about modern spiritual gifts? Modern gifts include both discursive gifts (e.g. the gift of teaching), and nondiscursive gifts (e.g. people who can give an apt word spontaneously [Col 4:6]). The possibility of both kinds of gifts can be inferred from the analogous distribution of different kinds of gifts in the time of the apostles. Moreover Christ and the Holy Spirit are the source of all gifts (Eph 4:7, 11; cf. 1 Cor 12:11). It is they, not we, who decide when to use discursive and nondiscursive processes as the Holy Spirit works.

In response, we are to welcome spiritual gifts of all kinds, honor them and receive them (12:14–26). We are especially to pursue love (1 Corinthians 13) and those gifts that build up the Church (1 Corinthians 14). At the same time we are to be discriminating (1 Thess 5:21–22). We are to exercise discernment. Modern manifestations are always fallible. Everything is to be evaluated on the basis of Scripture, to which nothing is to be added (Deut 4:2; Rev 22:18–19).

There are lessons here both for charismatics and for noncharismatics. Some charismatics need to become more explicit about the fallible, mixed character of nondiscursive gifts. They need to learn to value discursive gifts. Instead they have up till now indirectly said “I don’t need you” (1 Cor 12:21) to discursive gifts because, supposedly, these gifts are less spiritual than nondiscursive gifts. 17

Conversely, some noncharismatics need to learn to value nondiscursive gifts. Instead they have subtly to say, “I don’t need you.” Their basis, supposedly, is that nondiscursive gifts ceased with the completion of the canon of Scripture. What they have actually shown is merely that inspired nondiscursive gifts ceased with the completion of the canon.

I respect Poythress’ tone and desire to seek edification among the broader body of Christ, even reaching out to Baptists and Pentecostal/Charismatics. He challenges all believers to desire Spiritual Gifts and offers a word of advice to both charismatics and cessationists. I heed his advice as a charismatic and appreciate his challenge to his cessationist brethren. Just want to give him some props. I would also highly recommend his volume, “Shadow of Christ in the Law of Moses”.

Shadow of Christ in the Law of Moses


Leave a Reply

Fill in your details below or click an icon to log in: Logo

You are commenting using your account. Log Out / Change )

Twitter picture

You are commenting using your Twitter account. Log Out / Change )

Facebook photo

You are commenting using your Facebook account. Log Out / Change )

Google+ photo

You are commenting using your Google+ account. Log Out / Change )

Connecting to %s