A Letter to my Colleagues and Students

19 July 2012

I was raised and trained in a cessationist tradition, but a number of years ago, I began to have serious doubts about the biblical integrity of cessationism (the belief that certain biblically attested spiritual gifts ceased shortly after the first century). Over a period of years, I have devoted considerable time, effort, and prayer to a careful study of the exegetical, theological, historical and practical issues involved.

Rocky Mountain Bible College and Seminary, where I have served as a curriculum designer and instructor since 2008, and an assistant professor since 2010, maintains a very specific teaching position on the gifts of the Holy Spirit. It reads,

The miraculous gifts (apostles, prophets, healings, miracles including a word of wisdom or word of knowledge, and tongues) were temporary in nature as signs to unbelieving Jews and as a validation of the New Testament message and its messengers at the initial stage of the church.

As a result, my possible shift on this issue had some fairly serious ramifications. I want to assure you that I hid none of this from Dr. Lewis. I consider him a mentor and a friend as well as being my boss at RMBC&S, and I’ve kept him apprised of my progress as I have wrestled through this issue. For his part, he made it clear that as long as I was willing to stick to the school’s teaching position while I was working through the issue, he was happy to have me continue on faculty. These things cannot happen overnight, and I’m very grateful for his openness and support while all this was in process. He is far from the only one; a number of mentors and friends have been generous with their time and insight. I am grateful to you all.

As the process continued, the conviction that began as a trickle of doubt about the viability of one exegetical argument in one passage became an overwhelming flood. I don’t say this lightly at all, but my conclusion is simple: cessationism is exegetically insupportable, theologically weak, historically false, unable to account for realities that I personally witnessed, and practically very far removed from the New Testament. The Bible simply doesn’t teach it. Of course this is a large claim, and my reasons for making it are a separate discussion that I will be happy to have; for the moment suffice it to say that I did my best to investigate every reasonable avenue. After discussion with Dr. Lewis, I wrote and submitted a letter in which I laid out my exception to the RMBC&S teaching position on spiritual gifts, and my reasoning for it.

At this point I felt myself in a bit of a dilemma. I do not believe that this sort of issue should divide Christian brothers. I continue to believe in the mission of RMBC&S and would like to continue aiding the school in our areas of common endeavor. As a result, I didn’t feel that I could simply resign in good conscience; it seemed to me that would convey a rejection of the school that I didn’t, and don’t, feel. On the other hand, I am well aware that within our tradition the lines on this theological issue are brightly drawn and well-policed, so my resignation might be necessary for the school’s sake. I had no desire to cause the school undue trouble, and of course I didn’t want to be one of those jerks who — just to make a point — refuses to resign and forces the administration to fire them. That’s no way to love your neighbor.

Unable to act unilaterally in good conscience, I sought Dr. Lewis’ counsel on a way to resolve the issue to our mutual satisfaction. I was prepared to tender my resignation immediately if the school wanted it; on the other hand if they would prefer to continue discussing how we might navigate our differences and continue to work together, I was open to that as well.

On July 17, Dr. Lewis chose to accept my resignation. At the same time, he also indicated that he would like for us to continue discussing these issues, and to continue discussion on the possibilities for looser collaboration as opportunities arise where we might serve together: ministry within the local community, student internships, and the like.

Working with RMBC&S and with Dr. Lewis has been a lot of fun, and I am grateful for my time there. My students and colleagues, each and all, have been a blessing to me. I continue to ask the Lord to bless the school, its students and faculty, and its mission to equip believers for service, and of course I remain happy to assist in that mission as the Lord may provide opportunity.

Please be assured that there are NO hard feelings; we all remain friends. We may not be working under the same organizational umbrella for the present moment, but we are all still working for the same boss, seeking His Kingdom and His righteousness — each in the manner that God has convicted him to do.

This kind of event, if not carefully and fully explained, presents opportunities for unfounded speculation and gossip. I would not have the enemy gain a toehold through this, so I have chosen to be as clear and specific as seemed advisable. If this isn’t clear and specific enough, please ask for more details; nobody’s got anything to hide here. Thank you for bearing with the length of the explanation, and again, if I have left you with some concern or doubt, please don’t hesitate to talk with me.

God’s richest blessings attend you as He leads you in His will for your lives. My love and my prayers go with you.

In His service,

Tim Nichols