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Jon Ruthven: What’s Wrong with Protestant Theology?


Ruthven takes great pains to show the biblical basis of his radical thesis in many scriptures and biblical incidents throughout the Old and New Testaments. Several scriptures anchor his insight. Numbers 11 in the Old Testament and 1 Cor. 14 in the

Numb 11:26-29

However, two men, whose names were Eldad and Medad, had remained in the camp. They were listed among the elders, but did not go out to the tent. Yet the Spirit also rested on them, and they prophesied in the camp. A young man ran and told Moses, “Eldad and Medad are prophesying in the camp.” Joshua son of Nun, who had been Moses’ aide since youth, spoke up and said, “Moses, my lord, stop them!” But Moses replied, “Are you jealous for my sake? I wish that all the Lord’s people were prophets and that the Lord would put his Spirit on them!”

1 Cor. 14:1-4

Follow the way of love and eagerly desire gifts of the Spirit, especially prophecy. For anyone who speaks in a tongue does not speak to people but to God. Indeed, no one understands them; they utter mysteries by the Spirit. But the one who prophesies speaks to people for their strengthening, encouraging and comfort

We should also note Isaiah 59:21 and Acts 2:39.

By not understanding the continuous hearing and obeying role of every Christian, Protestant theology has instead focused on what Ruthven identifies as the gospel of preparation. That is, to repent and accept the Lord as savior. Thus the common practice of Evangelical churches to repeatedly give alter calls to congregations that have been fully saved for years. The initial call to repentance and salvation is indeed an indispensable first step into the Kingdom of God, but cannot replace what the Bible commands as central: that every disciple develop a life intimacy with God via directly hearing his word, and obeying it. As proof , Ruthven introduces what he describes as the “hermeneutic of emphasis” to show that the major interest of the Bible is for the believer to attain direct, revelatory communication with God.

Ruthven rightly shows that Jesus’ ministry on earth was to introduce and mediate the Kingdom of God, the Holy Spirit, and the New Covenant. It was not just to bring salvation of the soul. This is summarized in Peter’s sermon in Acts 2 (especially vs. 38-39) which alludes to Old Testament scriptures on the Holy Spirit empowering all believers with prophetic giftings, and which in turn is based on Isa 59:21.

What’s Wrong With Protestant Theology has implications far beyond the theological, and indeed impacts the very way Christians worship and interact together. If every Christian is to hear and obey, then the emphasis on public worship will be less on the importance of the sermon, and more on the shared prophecies, dreams and revelations of the whole community. Scandalously, this will mean that the churches will begin operating in the mode mandated by Paul in 1 Cor. 14:26-33 (as well as Col. 3:16-17 and Eph. 5:18-20) where Christians share with each other what they hear from the Lord.[1] This implies that the pastor/minister will no longer be valued or graded principally on the quality of his/her sermons, but on his/her ability to discern, affirm and tactfully correct the prophetic utterances, shared dreams, and personal psalms of the congregation. A minister who operates under Paul’s mandate has to have a radically different balance of necessary giftings than the minister who functions in the typical cessationist church.


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Category: In Depth, Spring 2014

About the Author: William L. De Arteaga, Ph.D., is known internationally as a Christian historian and expert on revivals and the rebirth and renewal of the Christian healing movement. His major works include Quenching the Spirit: Discover the Real Spirit Behind the Charismatic Controversy (Creation House, 1992, 1996), Forgotten Power: The Significance of the Lord’s Supper in Revival (Zondervan, 2002), Agnes Sanford and Her Companions: The Assault on Cessationism and the Coming of the Charismatic Renewal (Wipf & Stock, 2015), and The Public Prayer Station: Taking Healing Prayer to the Streets and Evangelizing the Nones (Emeth Press, 2018). Bill pastored two Hispanic Anglican congregations in the Marietta, Georgia area, and is semi-retired. He continues in his healing, teaching and writing ministry and is the state chaplain of the Order of St. Luke, encouraging the ministry of healing in all Christian denominations. Facebook

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