The arrogance of making experience into a theology that trumps Scripture is exceeded only by the arrogance of making lack of experience into a theology that trumps Scripture.
In Irvine Welsh's dark Scottish novel Trainspotting, a bum living in an abandoned train station tells others he is watching for trains. Of course it is useless. It is useless there, at least, in that abandoned station. Trains still run elsewhere in Scotland. Just not there.
Here is a simple truth: Just because trains don't run past your house doesn't mean there's no such thing as trains. Furthermore, if there are no trains where you are, why not check out other, more active train stations? Trainspotting for cave dwellers is dismally disappointing business, and train denial is absurdly arrogant.
I was in a remote village deep in the Peruvian rain forest when a jet coursed through the sky overhead. The chief asked if that is how I came to Peru, which launched a long, comic community discussion of air travel. The kibitzers around us joined in with ludicrous comments on how airplanes looked and worked, all of which were utterly absurd. Finally I paced off what I thought were the dimensions of a 707, which may have been as far off as their ideas were. When they realized what I was showing them could have held every person in their village, the arguments and denials went up in intensity. Finally the chief raised his hand and spoke what to this day seems like great wisdom:
"I have never seen an airplane except up there in the sky. I cannot imagine what something like that looks like on the ground. They look very small to me in the sky, but birds look smaller to me in the sky."
His own wife objected, "Why should we believe this man?"
He answered her with a question: "Why should we doubt him? He got here somehow. I hope someday to see an airplane on the ground. Until then I will just wait."
Remarkable and memorable wisdom from a man who lived in a hut.
Cessation theology, so-called, is, astonishingly enough, exactly what it denounces: completely nonbiblical. There is absolutely no clear biblical statement that the gifts of the Spirit have gone anywhere, especially away. How could they go away? What could that possibly even mean? The Holy Spirit has not taken the last train for the coast. The gifts are His gifts. They were not the possession of the apostles nor of the church in any time or location. Where the Spirit is, the gifts are.
Why those gifts are more or less visible in action at various periods of church history is a valid question—a profoundly convicting question. Why they are sometimes, perhaps even frequently, misused and abused is another valid question—an even more convicting question. Gatherings of concerned and loving believers should be held to sort through these painful questions and others.
Denouncing all who dare to believe in the validity of biblical gifts in this and every age is a cave-dweller's point of view: Because I have never seen a train, there are no trains. It also smacks of an incredible conceit. "If God were going to manifest His gifts anywhere in any time among any group, it would surely be now among me and my friends." Hmmmm....