A Response to
With Unveiled Face By Richard Leonard
Response by David A. Green
(With Unveiled Face is a 42-page booklet that was written in 1993 in response to Ed Stevens' article, Is It Consistent to Be a 'Partial Charismatic' Preterist?, which was published in the October-December, 1992 issue of Kingdom Counsel.)
I have found that communication between two believers can sometimes be a difficult thing. It can seem that we have very little in common regarding the Faith. It can almost seem that we have two different religions. But sometimes if we persevere in trying to understand each other, we find that we actually have a common Faith and that we only use different words that mean virtually the same thing, and that we speak only with different emphases.
This was my discovery in my lengthy correspondences with Dr. Richard Leonard via e-mail. As a result of his elucidations, many misunderstandings which I had of his beliefs will not be reflected in this response. I thank Dr. Leonard for his patience in helping me with all of the questions I had in preparation for this response.
To assist the reader who may not be familiar with Dr. Leonard's teachings regarding the subject matter of his booklet, I will briefly summarize his view of the gifts of prophecy, tongues and "word of knowledge":
The gifts of tongues and prophecy were used in public worship in the old-covenant age and may continue to be used in public worship throughout the New-Covenant age today.
When (or shortly after) the Messiah came in A.D. 70, one of the functions of prophecy and "knowledge" ended: Since that time, prophecy and "knowledge" are no longer means for revealing new Truths about God's Kingdom, since the full revelation of the Faith is complete. Prophecies and "knowledge" today reveal only God's purpose or working in particular human situations.
Prophecies and words of "knowledge" therefore, not being revelations of new heavenly Truths and not being addressed to the entire community of faith, are not to be added to the biblical canon. Since the New Covenant is complete, the Scriptures which contain the revelation of the New Covenant for the universal church are complete.
It is largely upon this doctrinal basis that Dr. Leonard wrote With Unveiled Face as a defense of the idea that it is not inconsistent to be a full preterist and a charismatic.
The most important portion of With Unveiled Face is found on pp. 38-40 --the brief portion that deals at length with some Scriptures. The section was not dedicated to proving the continuance of the revelatory gifts from the Scriptures but to neutralizing a cessationist proof text. (Exegetically proving the continuance of prophecy, tongues and "knowledge" after A.D. 70 was not one of the aims of With Unveiled Face.)
In this section, Dr. Leonard summarily brushes over I Corinthians chapter thirteen, saying that it is non-doctrinal and poetic, and that it has nothing to do with eschatology (pg. 39). Dr. Leonard's exegesis of verse eight (pg. 40) illustrates well his view of and treatment of I Corinthians 13:8-12:
Tongues, Dr. Leonard says, are said to pause (Gk. pauomai), instead of cease in I Cor. 13:8. Dr. Leonard wrote to me concerning this statement, saying that though he knows of no translation that translates pauomai here as pause, he chose to offer pause as a "suggestion." But even after having rendered the word as pause, Dr. Leonard does not believe that Paul taught that there was to be or actually will be a "pause" in the practice of the gift of tongues, but only that what Paul meant by "pause" is uncertain. By such means, I Cor. 13:8-12 is rendered an enigma in With Unveiled Face.
In contrast to this obscurantist handling of I Cor. 13:8-12, I believe it may be shown that this pivotal passage is understandable in the light of other Scriptures. Let us compare it with II Cor. 3:6-18 (the passage which contains the phrase "with unveiled face"). As Dr. Leonard acknowledges that II Cor. 3:6-18 speaks of the fading away of the old covenant and the coming of the New-Covenant world, it may be helpful to note some parallels between that passage and I Cor. 13:8-12:
I Corinthian 13:8-13
Prophecies and knowledge to be nullified, tongues to cease (I Cor. 13:8,10,11)
Now we see in a mirror dimly, but then face to Face (I Cor. 13:12).
Faith, hope and love remain (I Cor. 13:13).
II Corinthians 3:6-18
Old-covenant, its glory and its veil being nullified (II Cor. 3:7,11,13,14).
All believers, with unveiled face, seeing as in a mirror the Lords glory, being transformed into His Image, from glory to glory (II Cor. 3:18)
New Covenant remains (II Cor. 3:11)
In both passages Paul speaks of certain things being nullified and other things remaining: In II Cor. 3:7-14, he tells us that the old-covenant world was in progress of being nullified (done away), and in I Cor. 13:8-11 he predicts the nullification (doing away) of the revelatory gifts. Is it unlikely, in view of this initial comparison, that the "childish" (I Cor. 13:11; cf. Gal. 4:1-7) revelatory gifts were nullified at the same time that the prophetic old-covenant age was nullified in A.D. 70?
In I Cor. 13:13, "faith, hope and love" are said to remain or abide. In II Cor. 3:11 it is the New Covenant that remains or abides. The New Covenant in Christs blood is the very fulfillment and establishment of Gods "faith, hope and love" among mankind.
Note also the striking parallel between I Cor. 13:12 and II Cor. 3:18: In I Cor. 13:12, Paul says that the Church of his day was seeing (God) "in a mirror," but that when "That which is perfect" (mature) would come (cf. Eph. 4:13), then the Church would see (Him) "face to Face." (Rev. 22:4 reveals that the face-to-Face Presence of God is that which the saints in Christ realized in the New-Covenant world in A.D. 70.)
In II Cor. 3:18, Paul reiterates what he said in I Cor. 13:12, saying that the church of his day, though worshiping God with "unveiled face," was yet seeing Him only "as in a mirror," and was in progress of being transformed into His Image. There should be little question that the predicted seeing of God "face to Face" in I Cor. 13:12 should parallel the consummated transformation into His Image (cf. I Cor. 15:49) which the church realized in A.D. 70.
Now when we attempt to harmonize the teachings of I Cor. 13:8-13 and II Cor. 3:6-18, we find that the two passages are in truth complimentary dissertations on a common New-Testament theme; and that theme is covenantal transformation:
|Old-Covenant Age (Moses - A.D. 30)||Covenantal Transformation (A.D. 30-70)||New-Covenant Age (A.D. 70 - Forever)|
|Old-covenant imposed||Old covenant being nullified||Old covenant/revelatory gifts nullified|
|Veiled faces||Unveiled face, as in a mirror, transforming||Face to Face|
|Slave-Child (Gal. 4:1-7)||Adopted Child (I Cor. 13:9-12; Gal. 4,4,5)||
Man (I Cor. 13:11; Eph. 4:13)
|New Covenant prophesied||New Covenant ratified in Jesus blood||New Covenant remains/faith, hope, love remain|
It is ironic that Dr. Leonard named his booklet after II Cor. 3:18 --a verse which, when compared in its context to and then thematically identified with I Cor. 13:12, dissolves the main thesis of the booklet by implicating I Cor. 13:8-13 as a passage which teaches the cessation of the revelatory gifts at the doing away of the old covenant.
However, II Corinthians chapter three is not the only source from which we may find some serious problems for a charismatic handling of I Cor. 13:8-13. In the book of Daniel, God tells us that when the city and sanctuary were destroyed (in A.D. 70), "vision and prophecy" were to be "sealed up" (Dan. 9:24-27). And to demonstrate that "sealed up" there does not refer to some kind of a divine "stamp" or "seal" of approval for the continuance of prophecy after the doing away of the old covenant, compare that passage with Zech. 13:1-6 which says that when the Messiah came He was going to "remove the prophets." (Note that the prophets would be removed; the passage does not teach that merely the revelation-of-new-covenant-Truth aspect of prophecy would be removed. The Bible does not hint that only a certain "function" of predictive prophecy was to be abolished at the coming of covenantal maturity.) See also Heb. 1:1,2, which says that the Son had come in the last of those days wherein God spoke through the prophets.
Scriptures regarding the future of the revelatory gifts are not enigmatic. They teach the doing away of the gifts in A.D. 70. There is no need to throw a "veil" of uncertainty over I Cor. 13:8-13. In fact, we must not do so.
The issue of the charismata must be resolved; we cannot pretend that it is a nonissue. If the charismatic view is the right one, then charismatics are morally constrained to endeavor to make their view the dominant view in the Church, because a rejection of the gifts today must then be seen as a modernistic-rationalistic rejection of the supernatural, a denial of the divine or miraculous among us.
But we cessationists are also compelled to strive for our view, because if the revelatory gifts are not given to us today and if God requires that no believer practice them, then to practice prophecy, tongues and "knowledge" is mysticism, a leap into the unreal and irrational as a means of fulfillment; even worse, it is a taking of the Name of the Lord in vain. (See Jer. 23:30-32.)
Inescapably, one view is biblical and one view is sinful and harmful. But how do we decide which view is the right view?
Through experience of the charismata? Through non-experience of the charismata? Gut-feelings?
No, but through sound exegesis of Scripture alone.
I believe that it is scripturally demonstrable that the cessation of the gifts at the Coming of Christ (in A.D. 70) is a biblical doctrine. There is biblical basis to say that for a preterist to be a charismatic he must bring the charismatic view to the Bible and give up the meaning of certain passages as unsolved mysteries. In contrast, the cessationist view is explicitly taught in various places which taken together produce an exegetically solid, systematic doctrine.
Charismatic Escapism and the More Excellent Way
The modern Church's lapse into the charismatic movement has ofttimes and in many places been a reaction of sincere Christians to the widespread hardening of the hearts of ecclesiastical leaders and of others in our corrupted culture --a hardening which has worsened in many sectors since the latter half of the nineteenth century.
We're all acquainted with our "dead" churches and with the widespread alienation and cynicism of our day. For many sensitive souls, living every day in a local church and culture which is not alive with the Presence of God is absolutely unbearable. Existence itself becomes empty and intolerable, and the need to escape the rationalistic, naturalistic world which surrounds them becomes extremely urgent. For many today, the charismatic movement provides the means of escape. Through the charismatic movement, many sadly end up soothing the distress within them with the mysticism of irrational experiences, experiences which at times may consist of meaningless noises.
By God's grace and mercy, we believers, church by church, must return to that which surpasses personal "revelations" or "tongues" as the greatest means of "experiencing" the manifest Presence of God. There is a better way of "release" (pg. 30) for the worshiper, a better self-abandonment (pg. 37). And this better way necessarily (biblically) means the absence of prophecy, tongues and "words of knowledge."
Dwelling in God's New-Covenant Love is that better way, according to I Cor. 12:31.
Abiding in His biblical love means that we freely and incorruptibly love and obey God corporately and individually, in accord with His fulfilled Law, with all of our heart, mind, soul and strength, and that we love our brothers and sisters as ourselves, in word and in deed.
It is in walking in the Royal Law of love today, in radical nonconformity to the unbelieving spirit of the ungodly, that we realize true and eternal release and self-abandonment, and experience God's Presence in the highest heavens. Christ among us today transcends, eclipses and makes moot the age of prophecy, tongues and word of knowledge.
If we have hearts and lives which are pressing on toward the high calling of God's Love in Jesus Christ today, then He is truly enthroned upon our praises. If we are abiding in His love today then we have entered into His Presence with unveiled face.
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