Prophecy – Cessationist vs Continuist Debate

By | July 10, 2013

This is a very good debate on prophecy between Wayne Grudem and Ian Hamilton.  I hold to Ian Hamilton’s position.

[vimeo w=400&h=300]

Update 4-30-2014:

I just read this book and highly recommend it.  It is an excellent critique of Grudem’s position, pointing out the potential dangers to the Church once they buy into Grudem’s theory of “fallible prophecy.”

Fallible Prophets

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Thank you for a prompt and reasonably thorough reply. I hadn’t read the commentary that you pasted from and I think I have a little clearer understanding of the framing of the debate. My original post was simply referencing the apparently clashing views of Hamilton and Grudem. I tend to think in terms of prophecy being God’s speaking (in some form or another). From that vantage point, predictive prophecy need be what is being spoken of. But where I see the dividing line in the discussion is that Ian Hamilton (sorry…I don’t know if he is a Ph.D. or not, so I don’t want to call him doctor erroneously!) steps away from prophecy being for today. He justifies that by defining prophecy rather rigidly – starting with a “Thus saith the Lord” and being binding on the conscience of the hearer. And I can sympathize with that – it seems biblically rigorous! Dr. Grudem, on the other hand, is defining prophecy on multiple levels, and so can agree that OT type prophecy doesn’t happen today (or if it does, it is exceedingly rare!). But since Paul makes it clear that Prophecy must continue until the perfect comes, unless one is a full-fledged cessationist (and believes that the perfect HAS come) or a non-cessationist who believes that there are no limits to prophecy today, both of them (it seems to me) are making their judgments more on experience than on scripture. Both of them are required to filter their view of scripture through their experience. Ian Hamilton has to disavow all claims of prophecy or discard his view altogether. Dr. Grudem has to reassess what prophecy is (in scripture) and filter the scriptures through that lens. In light of the two passages I referenced, I don’t see how anyone can be in the middle on it. The only thing I would say is that the OFFICE of a prophet could certainly be argued to have passed away.

So from what you are saying, the debate isn’t so much over “if” prophecy has ceased, but in what way it has ceased. It comes down to a question of authority.

But, there again, I would point to I Corinthians 13:9-10 rather than the verses that list the offices. If authority is vested in a man (like it would have been before Christ) then that denies the giving of the Holy Spirit. But if the act of prophesying is still a valid activity (as Paul says, until we all come to unity of the faith, knowledge of the Son of God, unto a perfect man, unto the measure of the stature of the fullness of Christ) and we no longer know only in part, then why limit it? Why say it is no longer active? No longer looking to a single man, but John says that we have need that no man teaches us because we have the Holy Spirit. Is the bible the “perfect” in light of the Holy Spirit? Which is more perfect, the gift or the giver of that gift? The argument is “How do we know?” and scripture goes a long way to answering that. But if our faith rests in scripture (as distinguished from He who gave it), then won’t He be faithful to reveal all things to us?

The question of abuse is a good one. But the phrase that comes to mind is “abusus non tollit usum” (abuse is not an argument against proper use). We have guidelines of proper use, but the handbook does not replace the thing that it is instructing us about. A man may memorize a memorize a car manual (for example) but have no clue how to get in and drive it or properly repair it. Likewise, the bible does not (nor can it ever) replace the role of the Holy Spirit.

I am not a charismatic in the common sense of the word today (I don’t speak in tongues nor have any real desire to do so! I’d much rather speak a few intelligible words and edify many.). But I have to admit that the scriptures say that the Spirit moves as HE wills, not as we do. The scripture also says that those who minister for God are ministers of the Spirit, not the letter. The letter kills but the Spirit gives life. This is far from any license to bring any so-called “revelation” to the church, but it has become that. There is the question of authority addressed. That chapter in 2 Cor 3 starts out with Paul speaking of the commendation of him to the Corinthians. And in the first letter he wrote to them (I Cor 4), he writes of those who are puffed up – that he will come and judge the situation. And what does he say? That he will know the power of those who are so exalted – not the speech. For, as he says, the kingdom of God is not in word, but in power. Again, I think they are right in their looking at authority as the central issue. But if the written word is seen to have authority over the Spirit of God (who inspired it), isn’t that inverted? Certainly, there must be some sort of test to determine who is and who isn’t of the Spirit of God (test the spirits, as is said in the video). But if Paul’s test was not one of mere letter of speech, why should ours simply be measurement against the letter of scripture?

I’ve not ever heard anyone address the connection between Ephesians 4:11-16 and I Cor 13:9-10. I only found a reference to it (even if a passing reference) in something written by Dr. Grudem. It may have been his Systematic Theology. What I read was online several years ago, so I can’t be 100% certain. I’ve never read his Theology, so I’m not sure.

This is a huge topic and I’m not making it any shorter…


Wayne Grudem has the burden of showing that there are different varieties of prophets, but doesn’t Ian Hamilton have the burden of showing (saying that prophecy has ceased) that Ephesians 4:11-16 and (in direct tandem) I Corinthians 13:9-10 no longer applies (as a direct result of what he believes)? Or am I missing a point here?

You are most welcome Dee. I really thought Ian Hamilton schooled Wayne Grudem. In my opinion Grudem is a man of slightly above-average intelligence. That he is a vaunted spokesman for the neo-reformed movement and considered one of their luminaries speaks volumes of the movement.


I really liked this. Thank you for posting it.