Richard Gaffin And Wayne Grudem On 1 Cor 13:10: A Comparison Of Cessationist And Noncessationist Argumentation -- By: R. Fowler White

Journal: Journal of the Evangelical Theological Society
Volume: JETS 35:2 (Jun 1992)
Article: Richard Gaffin And Wayne Grudem On 1 Cor 13:10: A Comparison Of Cessationist And Noncessationist Argumentation
Author: R. Fowler White


Richard Gaffin And Wayne Grudem On 1 Cor 13:10:
A Comparison Of Cessationist
And Noncessationist Argumentation

R. Fowler White*

If Wayne Grudem’s recent publications1 on the gift of prophecy are any indication, the debate over what the NT teaches about the duration of that gift is taking a new turn. Formerly we who follow the debate had only to study the arguments of the charismatic school (which affirms that prophecy continues) and the cessationist school (which denies that prophecy continues). Now, however, we must reckon with a third position based on the proposals of a Biblical scholar who does not place himself in the charismatic school but who nevertheless affirms that prophecy continues. To some this development will signal little more than the need to rename the charismatic school of thought—for example, by replacing “charismatic” with “noncessationist.” But this would be to trivialize the work of Grudem, something that should not be done given the scholarly breadth and pastoral sensitivity he brings to his writings. Despite the very admirable traits Grudem displays, however, I am sure I will not be alone in the judgment that problems remain in his discussions, problems that include his adoption of the noncessationist interpretation of 1 Cor 13:10.

In this study I do not propose to argue that the meaning of 1 Cor 13:10 is compatible with cessationist thought. As I see it, Richard Gaffin has already given that position its most satisfying exposition.2 What I propose to do instead is to compare Gaffin’s and Grudem’s interpretations of 1 Cor 13:10, hoping thereby to expose the fundamental oversight of the noncessationist interpretation accepted by Grudem. I begin by considering their interpretations of the coming of “the perfect.”3

*Fowler White is lecturer in New Testament at Westminster Theological Seminary, P.O. Box 27009, Philadelphia, PA 19118.

I. To What Does The Coming Of “The Perfect” Refer?

When it comes to the interpretation of 1 Cor 13:10 the dispute between cessationists and noncessationists has for all practical purposes focused on one point of exegesis: the referent of the hotan clause that begins v. 10 (“but when the perfect comes”). Cessationists have ordinarily regarded agreement with noncessationi...

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