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Daniel Jennings: The Supernatural Occurrences of John Wesley

The chapter regarding miracles is one of the best in the book. Wesley was certainly no cessationist. He clearly believed miracles can and do occur today, and warned against ignoring or discrediting the miraculous. He tended, however, to highlight the preeminence of love and spiritual fruit rather than spiritual gifts or supernatural power. But he believed more miracles would occur than do but for people’s hardness of heart. Yet, though his 53-year-long ministry was commonly accompanied by and characterized by miracles, signs, and wonders, he did not see this as attestation to some special apostolic status of his own (modern self-styled apostles and prophets hear and heed!). Rather, every Christian minister ought to move in the miraculous. Jennings notes that Wesley thought dead and love-less orthodoxy, loss of faith and holiness, as well as refusal to believe in and ridiculing of the operations of the Holy Spirit hinder the miraculous in our midst. Discernment is necessary regarding the miraculous because of emotionally unbalanced people and because of the possibility of demonic imitations. The basic ground rule is that the Bible is our best guide. We should avoid the extremes of either denying miracles altogether or identifying them uncritically as the “great criterion of divine mission” either. If a so-called miracle leads to the conversion of sinners or strengthens the saints, it can be safely considered genuine. This beautiful blend of openness and balance regarding the miraculous can be of immense help for contemporary Pentecostal/charismatic Christians, and, for that matter, for all other Christians too. Should not we accent character first but expect charisma to come too?

Supernatural Occurrences is not a deep academic theological treatise, though its contents ought to be interesting for scholars and students. Perhaps it might be better termed pastoral or evangelistic. Jennings’s conclusion reveals his own hopeful purpose in writing on Wesley’s miraculous ministry: he desperately desires to see a similar move of God in his own day, a mighty revival initiated in prayer and fasting and inaugurated with power and faith. This Pentecostal preacher can only say, “Amen!” Rev. Jennings has drawn quite positive conclusions on connections between revival, prayer and fasting, and “supernatural occurrences.” I think much Christian history supports suggestions these often come (and go) together.

Though perhaps trivial, I found the title oddly disconcerting. Would inserting in the Ministry or from the Journals between Supernatural Occurrences and of John Wesley or some such alternative have been appropriate? More substantive I suppose, I found myself desiring from Jennings biblical and theological interaction regarding Wesley’s experiences and opinions. If this book is so firmly devoted to a bare account of these, admittedly invaluable in itself, is a follow up volume studying biblical and theological foundations and implications forthcoming? This book fills a great void in Wesley studies, showing more clearly than ever that Wesley is rightly called the “grandfather of Pentecostalism.” I am glad Jennings wrote Supernatural Occurrences, and will be delighted if it helps Pentecostal readers realize more directly our deep Wesleyan roots. I also ardently desire with him that it may help ignite supernatural re-occurrences of revival. To that end I commend him and recommend his writing.

Reviewed by Tony Richie

 

Publisher’s page: www.seanmultimedia.com/thesupernaturaloccurrencesofjohnwesley.html

Editor’s note: Daniel Jennings has made the full text of Supernatural Occurrences available on his personal website: http://www.danielrjennings.org/tsoojw2.pdf [available as of July 8, 2014]. 

 

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Category: Church History, Summer 2007

About the Author: Tony Richie, D.Min, Ph.D., is missionary teacher at SEMISUD (Quito, Ecuador) and adjunct professor at the Pentecostal Theological Seminary (Cleveland, TN). Dr. Richie is an Ordained Bishop in the Church of God, and Senior Pastor at New Harvest in Knoxville, TN. He has served the Society for Pentecostal Studies as Ecumenical Studies Interest Group Leader and is currently Liaison to the Interfaith Relations Commission of the National Council of Churches (USA), and represents Pentecostals with Interreligious Dialogue and Cooperation of the World Council of Churches and the Commission of the Churches on International Affairs. He is the author of Speaking by the Spirit: A Pentecostal Model for Interreligious Dialogue (Emeth Press, 2011) and Toward a Pentecostal Theology of Religions: Encountering Cornelius Today (CPT Press, 2013) as well as several journal articles and books chapters on Pentecostal theology and experience.

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