The Montanist Crisis: A Key To Refuting Third-Wave Concepts Of NT Prophecy -- By: F. David Farnell

Journal: Masters Seminary Journal
Volume: TMSJ 14:2 (Fall 2003)
Article: The Montanist Crisis: A Key To Refuting Third-Wave Concepts Of NT Prophecy
Author: F. David Farnell


The Montanist Crisis:
A Key To Refuting Third-Wave Concepts Of NT Prophecy

F. David Farnell

Associate Professor of New Testament

The Signs and Wonders Movement, also called the Third Wave, has made tremendous inroads into evangelicalism since the early 1980s. After initial arguments against it in the late 1980s and early 1990s, debate has mostly subsided. Current general opinion has been acceptance, indifference, or tolerance of the movement and its view of spiritual gifts, especially its form of “prophecy.” The prime justification for the revival of what this group terms the “prophetic gift” has been the work of Wayne Grudem. Many articles, including those of the present writer, have examined the exegetical, theological, and doctrinal errors of his position. The present article uses a unique approach to refuting Grudem’s viewpoint of non-authoritative congregational prophecy by examining the earliest “charismatic” crisis in the early church, the one caused by the Montanist movement. The earliest ancient sources to refute Montanism reveal how the early church immediately after the apostolic period understood the gift of prophecy. An examination of the ancient churches’ understanding of prophecy and refutation of Montanism also supplies a striking condemnation of Grudem’s viewpoint and strongly reinforces the argument that he has imposed a novel as well as unorthodox interpretation of the NT gift of prophecy.

Introduction To The Controversy

Throughout church history, the nature and practice of spiritual gifts have acted as a proverbial lightening rod for controversy. In recent times, the early to mid-twentieth century witnessed the rise of Pentecostal, neo-Pentecostal, and charismatic movements that brought the so-called gifts of “tongues” and “prophecy”

into church controversy.1 This practice of so-called tongues and prophecy was confined generally to those groups favorable to their practice. Furthermore, in church history a sharp divide existed between those termed “cessationist” who believed miraculous gifts had ceased and “noncessationists” who argued for their continuance in some form.

Now in the late twentieth and early twenty-first centuries, sharp boundaries between noncessationists and cessationists have been blurred or broken with the rise the Signs and Wonders Movement. C. Peter Wagner, a professor of church growth at Fuller Theological Seminary, coined the expression “Third Wave,” when he classified the rise of Pentecostalism as the first wave, the rise of the Charismatic Movement as the second wave, and the current Signs and Wonders Moveme...

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