Goodman begins Part 3 by saying that he “never intended to delve deeply into a discussion of cessationism.” Yet, Goodman says of cessationists that they make “theological leaps” to arrive at their conclusions and that those conclusions are “a non sequitur.” If he did not intend to delve deeply into a discussion on cessationism, why does he have the right to make these kinds of pronouncements?
Goodman then goes on to quote Spurgeon. It is a great quote, so I will include it in its entirety.
“Many persons have been converted by some striking saying of the preacher. But why was it the preacher uttered that saying? Simply because he was led thereunto by the Holy Spirit. Rest assured, beloved, that when any part of the sermon is blessed to your heart, the minister said it because he was ordered to say it by his Master. I might preach today a sermon which I preached on Friday, and which was useful then, and there might be no good whatever come from it now, because it might not be the sermon which the Holy Ghost would have delivered today” (Spurgeon).
Goodman asks, “Are the ‘Spirit-led’ words Spurgeon referred to here ‘extra biblical revelation?’” The words to which Spurgeon referred were extra-biblical if the Holy Spirit told him something that is not contained in the Bible. I do not believe that is what Spurgeon means here though. He is referring to the ministry of the Holy Spirit who takes the words of the gospel, which are contained in Scripture, and uses them to pierce the heart of a man. Spurgeon could preach the same sermon on two different days and have two completely different results depending on whether or not the Spirit was using the words preached to pierce the hearts of the listeners. However, that does not mean that the Spirit is providing any new information to anyone.
Goodman then asks, “How can the translation of human speech into soul-piercing conviction to repentance be considered anything other than work of the Holy Spirit (mystical, secret, or otherwise)?” It can’t be considered anything other than the work of the Holy Spirit. Who said that it could be? I certainly never made that claim. I believe that this is one of the main ministries of the Holy Spirit. However, that does not mean that he tells specific missionaries to go to specific places and say specific things to specific people.
Goodman then asks a series of questions, which I will answer.
“I’m fascinated with this line of thinking. If, for the cessationist, seeking the Spirit’s guidance in mission amounts to a seance, what else also falls into this category? Should we ask for wisdom, or is that ‘secret knowledge?’”
I never said that anything amounted to séance, though I would be okay with applying that term to numerous mystical practices. Whether or not it should be applied to “seeking the Spirit’s wisdom” depends on what is meant by “seeking the Sprit’s wisdom.” If it means making wise and mature decisions about obeying the commands of Scripture, then I would say that it does not amount to séance. If it means engaging in a religious practice (such as prayer or fasting) and waiting for God to tell a specific person to go to a specific place and to do a specific thing, then I would say that it does amount to séance. We should most certainly ask for wisdom, but such wisdom is not secret knowledge. Secret knowledge is private or special information that the Holy Spirit tells to one person and not to another. Wisdom, on the other hand, is the application of the knowledge that is already contained in the Bible.
“What about conviction? If the Spirit convicts me of spending too much time with my campanology club, is that ‘extra-biblical revelation?’”
Biblical conviction is not extra-biblical revelation because the sin of which the person is convicted is already contained in the Bible. If I steal from my neighbor and the Spirit convicts me, I am convicted that what the Bible says is true. The Spirit most certainly convicts of sin, and the sins of which he convicts are contained in the Bible. The Spirit will never convict anyone of spending too much time at his campanology club because spending any certain amount of time at a campanology club is not a biblical sin. It may be that a man is refusing to work and provide for his family and is instead spending time at his campanology club and that the Spirit may convict him that he needs to leave the campanology club and go get a job to provide for his family, but the sin of which he is convicted is the sin of refusing to work and provide for his family. The Spirit will not convict him of merely spending too much time at his campanology club. If the Spirit were to convict someone of such a “sin,” it would then be extra-biblical revelation because the Spirit would be informing the person that there is a sin that is not listed in the Bible. This is the very definition of extra-biblical revelation.
“Of course we need to conduct our ministry according to Scripture. But according to whose understanding and interpretation of Scripture?”
I would encourage Goodman to conduct his ministry based upon his or at least his church’s interpretation of Scripture. If a person believes the Bible teaches a particular doctrine, he should live his life according to that particular doctrine. The problem is when this person starts requiring other people to live their lives in accordance with the particular doctrine that he believes the Bible teaches. This is called tyranny. There is a wide array of opinions within Christianity regarding non-essential doctrines, and no one has the right to force his opinion on anyone else. So, each person should live his life in accordance with the way he interprets Scripture, and he should do so with a clear conscience.
Next, Goodman says that he is not sure that God has a “specific will” for our lives. Apparently, Goodman does not think that God telling specific people that he wants them to go to specific places and say specific things to specific people is a “specific will.” If it is not a “specific will” when God reveals to a specific person what he wants or wills that specific person to do, then what is it?
Goodman then asks, “God hasn’t left us alone in His mission; why would we act as though He had?” Again, I have to ask, who is claiming that God has left us alone? I never made this claim. I don’t know anyone who has made this claim. Maybe Goodman is responding to someone else who said something that I don’t know about.
Lastly, Goodman deliberately points out a list of things that he deliberately avoids pointing out. He says, “I’ve deliberately avoided pointing out how few cessationists you’ll find on the international mission field. I’ve been careful not to refer to anecdotal evidence of the Spirit’s guidance in mission. I’ve intentionally ignored the many stories of those missionaries who were providentially given specific words, led into a particular village, or out of harm’s way.” Now that he has deliberately pointed out all the things that he has deliberately not pointed out, let me respond to these things that he both deliberately points out and deliberately does not point out.
First, it is a well-known fact that the vast majority of modern missionaries are mystics. Of the hundred or so missionaries I know, three of them are not mystics. But so what? Two hundred years ago, the vast majority of missionaries were cessationists. Does this mean that cessationism was right then but is now wrong? Of course not. The number of cessationist missionaries in the world has no impact whatsoever on the validity of the cessationist position.
Second, just because Goodman and lots of other people have some kind of spiritual experience in which the Spirit leads them in mission does not mean that everyone else has to seek the same experience. If the Spirit never guides me the way Goodman and others are guided, what am I supposed to do? Should I just sit in my room and wait for God to tell me to get up and go somewhere? How long should I wait? How do I know that I should be waiting in my room and not in my kitchen or on a mountain or in some other location? Until the Spirit leads me in the way Goodman and others are led, nothing I do would be considered Spirit-led. In this state, is it a sin for me to do anything? If not, is it a sin for me to do some things, such as approach missions using wisdom and logic? If it is a sin to do this, how do I know that it is a sin to do this? If it is not a sin to do this, then why should I not be permitted to do it?
Third, I think it is great that people are taken out of harm’s way or end up in a specific village. Good for them. But what do we make of the people who don’t receive such specific words and who aren’t led in such ways? Are they not qualified for missionary service? Are they less Christian? Or do they simply hold a different but still legitimate opinion regarding the way in which the Holy Spirit ministers to his people? This, to me, is the question of the day. Everything I have written during this process has been in defense of cessationists. I believe they have the right to hold their position and to conduct their ministry accordingly. I do not believe that anyone has to accept Goodman’s doctrine of guidance and his approach to missions. Goodman is free to do what he wants, but so is everyone else.
I have thoroughly enjoyed this process. I hope it has been as beneficial for everyone else as it has been for me. Again, if I have missed anything that anyone thinks I should have addressed, let me know so that I can address it either in the comment section or in another article.