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Between Two Extremes: Balancing Word-Christianity and Spirit-Christianity, a review essay by Amos Yong


Paul Cain and R. T. Kendall, The Word and the Spirit: Reclaiming Your Covenant with the Holy Spirit and the Word of God (Eastbourne, E. Sussex: Kingsway Publications, 1996; Orlando, Florida: Creation House, 1998), xviii + 87 pages, ISBN 9780884195443.

In 1992, Paul Cain and R.T. Kendall together gave six addresses at the Wembley Conference Center in London. This book is a compilation of those messages, reissuing the perennial challenge for the Church to “marry” the Word and the Spirit. I say “perennial” because since the time of Tertullian and Irenaeus, there has been a tendency toward either Word-Christianity or Spirit-Christianity. It seems that either one or the other of these “two hands of the Father” have held prominence, but never quite both at once.

The history of the church has seen the pendulum swing to and fro from dry institutionalism on one side—with its hierarchy, authoritarianism, and hyper-orthodoxy—to radical and subjective Spirit movements on the other side. The balance of Word and Spirit has been a strikingly elusive goal and ideal for those following the Christian way. All the more importantly then, the authors insist, that such a balance should be sought today.

To that end, Cain and Kendall released these sermons as words of exhortation to the contemporary Church and in anticipation of the next—perhaps even final—move of God in and through the Church. Clearly, as the rhetoric of the book indicates, their message is addressed primarily to Pentecostals, charismatics, and those in the broad range of Third Wave and other renewal and prophetic movements. These are the individuals and groups who are most susceptible to either a neglect of the Word, or a subordination of the Word to the Spirit. It is for this reason that Kendall—whose prior fame has been as a Biblical expositor—and Cain both emphasize the importance of returning to the Word, re-emphasizing the Word, or being further grounded in Scripture. Their objective, however, is not only to call attention to the Word, but to present the conjunction of Word and Spirit as an imperative for Christians. With this in mind the authors include practical suggestions as to how this remarriage of Word and Spirit can be enabled, such as discussions of “how to obtain power” (Kendall, pp. 12-17), and the elements of Spirit-filled living (Cain, Ch. 3). Kendall’s “The Preaching of the Word and the Spirit” (Ch. 4) also provides explicit guidance on how to allow the sermon to be a medium for the Spirit’s presence and activity rather than for the preacher’s.

As I read through The Word and the Spirit, however, I could not help but think that the authors are aware not only of the gargantuan task confronting the Church on this matter, but also of its truly revolutionary implications. Let me make a few brief comments on that task in order to lead into a look at these implications.

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Category: Spirit, Winter 2000

About the Author: Amos Yong is Professor of Theology & Mission and director of the Center for Missiological Research at Fuller Theological Seminary, Pasadena. His graduate education includes degrees in theology, history, and religious studies from Western Evangelical Seminary and Portland State University, Portland, Oregon, and Boston University, Boston, Massachusetts, and an undergraduate degree from Bethany University of the Assemblies of God. He is the author of numerous papers and over 30 books. Facebook

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