The following is a paper I wrote for Reformation and Modern Church History, divided into two posts, that I thought might be of interest to some. My two main take-aways were that there have always been reported healings and prophecy in the church, and that cessationism, the idea that miraculous gifts ceased with the apostles, was primarily held by the Reformers as a way to defend their understanding of Christianity against the Catholic Church. This isn’t pretending to be exhaustive as the assignment was only 8-10 pages. Craig Keener has written the definitive guide, Miracles, in two volumes. The best overall resource I found was Ruthven’s On the Cessation of the Charismata: The Protestant Polemic on Postbiblical Miracles, which goes into the Biblical argument more than Keener does.
The doctrine of continualism is the belief that at least some of the miraculous gifts of the Holy Spirit described in the Bible continue to this day. I’ve chosen this doctrine instead of its more familiar antonym cessationism, because I personally subscribe to it. However, both doctrines will be treated in this paper. Discussion of continualism has become increasingly important with the growth of Pentecostalism in the last hundred years. Pentecostalism is marked by its belief that spiritual gifts, particularly healing, prophecy, and tongues, continue today. This movement, despite its relative newness, numbers in the hundreds of millions and continues to grow rapidly. Therefore, the history of continualism needs to be carefully considered. In this paper I will present the doctrine throughout history, giving the opinions of prominent leaders from both the Catholic and Protestant church, particularly the opinions of Augustine, Aquinas, Luther, Calvin, and Warfield. Warfield will be given the most space as he wrote a book, Counterfeit Miracles, seeking to refute the doctrine that has strongly influenced modern day cessationist believers. As this is a paper about the history of the doctrine, I will not deal with exegetical issues in any great detail. After presenting the history of continualism I will present my own conclusions and discuss how this doctrine applies to modern day Christian practice, particularly in the West.