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R. T. Kendall: Holy Fire, reviewed by Tony Richie

R.T. Kendall warns that cessationism quenches the Spirit and that has dire consequences. Notably, it lessens our expectations of God’s action in our lives so that we then lower our level of experience and service to match it. Kendall is clear: “the cessationist view is not only weak, but it also has no biblical warrant”. He points out that the spread of cessationism has been rejected and therefore restricted by global Christianity simply because the miraculous is prominent among its faith communities. They expect miracles and they get them. Cessationism just doesn’t line up with their reality. But Kendall also shares specific testimonies of divine healing even in England and the United States. Apparently, there’s hope.

Having effectively refuted cessationism, Kendall delves into yet another study of the Holy Spirit. This time he focuses on the baptism and gifts of the Spirit. This section is characterized by biblical analysis and pastoral heart. For those who are at least open to the possibility of charismatic manifestations and operations it is instructive and provides helpful assistance for personal experience. One of the most helpful components of this part of the book is Kendall’s discussion of the “proof” of Holy Spirit baptism and spiritual gifts. Having argued for the authenticity of divine healing and speaking in tongues today without quite proposing the well-known “initial evidence” doctrine (all who receive Spirit baptism must immediately speak in tongues), he now goes a step further. Basing his arguments on 2 Timothy 1:7, and on the example of Jonathan Edwards, Kendall suggests that the consistent presence of characteristics of fearlessness, power, love, and self-control amply verify when we’re witnessing the Holy Spirit in action.

Kendall closes his book with a short prophetic style chapter about the next move of the Holy Spirit. He prophesies that when the Word and the Spirit come together the world will experience the greatest revival it has ever seen. If anything, this chapter, which he says is based on his most controversial sermon ever, bears abundant witness to his own hunger for the Holy Spirit—not only for himself but for others as well. Finally, Holy Fire fittingly has a final appendix which is a biblical study of the concept of fire with its spiritual implications. Thus the book begins and ends with strong biblical emphases.

There are times that Holy Fire will appear repetitious for those who have read R.T. Kendall’s previous books. However, Kendall honestly acknowledges when he’s drawing on previous material and integrates it skillfully. And he doesn’t simply repeat material; rather, he usually builds on it and adds further wisdom and insight. At times one could wish for more rigorous biblical, historical, and theological analysis. Yet Kendall gives us the result of his research, not the rigors of the scholarly process. This was probably a good call for a book aimed at the general Christian public. For many, the rigors of scholarship can all-too-quickly become more like rigor mortis. And Holy Fire, surely, is not dead. On the contrary, it is alive with spiritual vigor and vitality.

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Category: Spirit, Spring 2014

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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