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Discovering the Reality of God in Word and Spirit: an interview with R. T. Kendall

Dr. R. T. Kendall has been preaching for over sixty years. He has also personally experienced the power of the Holy Spirit. For twenty-five years he served as the pastor of Westminster Chapel in London. He is the author of many books and now ministers internationally. He is a strong advocate for bringing together in the church the exposition of the Word and the power of the Spirit.
An updated version of his book, Word and Spirit: Truth, Power, and the Next Great Move of God was released in October 2019. In Word & Spirit you have written about a great divorce in the church. Please tell our readers what you mean by that.

R. T. Kendall: I call it a silent divorce because nobody knows precisely when it occurred nor has it been officially announced – except that I have been saying it for nearly thirty years. That said, it is obvious that the evangelical wing of the church has been divided into two emphases – those who stress the Word – sound doctrine, historical Protestant theology and expository preaching, and those whose emphasis has been the gifts of the Spirit, signs and wonders and the need to be as the church was in the book of Acts. Both are exactly right. But it seems that nearly wherever I go in the world it is either one or the other. In the book of Acts they had both. But to find a church where both are truly carried out is exceedingly rare. What are some of the key factors that have contributed to this divorce?

R. T. Kendall: I don’t know for sure, but possibly because those who have assumed that signs and wonders ceased way back in the early church have espoused cessationism and have turned it into a dogma. If you believe in the gifts of the Spirit you are not very welcome in some churches. They are suspicious of those who uphold the possibility of signs and wonders today. I will say that this is not everywhere. In England the Charismatic Movement is mainstream; in America it is often regarded as the lunatic fringe. Cessationism has helped polarize these two movements. There should not be a divide, but there is. The word churches think they believe in the Holy Spirit because they are Trinitarian. The truth is, they believe in God the Father, God the Son and God the Holy Bible. Many are fearful of the Holy Spirit. At the same time many (thankfully not all) have little or no deep theology. For example, a robust view of the sovereignty of God is largely absent. You have said that there is a lot of biblical illiteracy in the church, even among Evangelical and Charismatic Christians. What are some of the main reasons for this?

The Holy Spirit is the same yesterday and today and forever!

R. T. Kendall: It largely begins with doubting the infallibility of Holy Scripture. For one thing, it is very rare to find a theology department in a university where the infallibility of the Bible is upheld. The same is true with most seminaries today. I suspect the reason is much the same as the desire of ancient Israel; they wanted a king to be like other nations. Today theological teachers and professors want to be like the more respected universities such as Harvard, Yale, Oxford, Cambridge or some German universities. This is deadly. It is pride that leads to this. They want respectability; they cannot bear to be seen as upholding the inerrancy of the Bible lest they be scoffed and laughed at. I know what I am talking about. It happens that I was trained in Southern Baptist Theological Seminary in Louisville that was almost totally liberal at the time although they are sound today. It needs to be said also that some pastors have not been trained in university or seminary and don’t know their Bibles very well and the people consequently suffer from biblical illiteracy. There are exceptions. But not many, I fear.

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Category: Biblical Studies, Winter 2020

About the Author: R.T. Kendall was the pastor of Westminster Chapel in London for 25 years. Educated at Southern Baptist Theological Seminary and Oxford University, Kendall is the author of more than 60 books, including Total Forgiveness: Achieving God's Greatest Challenge (Charisma House, 2010), Understanding Theology: The Means of Developing A Healthy Church in the Twenty-first Century in 3 volumes (Christian Focus), Calvin and English Calvinism to 1649 (Paternoster, 1997), and Holy Fire: A Balanced, Biblical Look at the Holy Spirit's Work in Our Lives (Charisma House, 2014).

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