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Strangers To Fire: When Tradition Trumps Scripture, reviewed by John Lathrop

It should be noted up front that this is not just a “tongues” book. Pentecostals and Charismatics are frequently known for speaking in tongues but that is not the only, or even the main, emphasis of the book; the issue at hand is much larger. To be sure the subject of speaking in tongues is covered in the book but other works of the Spirit, such as prophecy, healing, and miracles, are also covered. The writers seek to defend, and I believe succeed in defending the contemporary manifestation of all of the gifts of the Holy Spirit.

One of the great strengths of this work is its variety. The subject of spiritual gifts is approached from biblical, theological, and historical points of view. These chapters that make up this volume demonstrate that spiritual gifts, in particular gifts such as tongues, healing, prophecy, and miracles, continued beyond the days of the apostles and that we should expect all of the gifts of the Holy Spirit to continue until the Lord’s return.

Some of the issues that are addressed at various points in this book include: the cessationists belief that some of the gifts of the Spirit will pass away “when that which is perfect is come” (1 Cor. 13:10 KJV), which they believe is a reference to the completed New Testament, that the supernatural works of the Holy Spirit were necessary at the beginning of the church to get it going but that they are not needed now, and that the acceptance of contemporary prophetic words makes allowance for an alternative source of authority that rivals Scripture. Cessationist interpretations are identified and addressed. Facts are marshaled to support the continuationist view of spiritual gifts. Scripture is employed in the articulation of the continuationist position as are appeals to the experiences of Christians at various times in church history. This book is thus not an emotional reaction to MacArthur’s book, rather it is a reasoned response to it and the cessationist position in general.

This is a rather long book; however, the font size and the formatting make it very readable. For the most part, I think the text is direct and will be accessible to most readers. The one exception is Paul Elbert’s chapter “Face to Face: Then or Now? An Exegesis of First Corinthians 13:8-13.” The subject of this chapter is very important to the discussion of spiritual gifts but the contents are very scholarly and contain a significant amount of Greek along with mention of some of the more technical aspects of Greek. This is valuable, but if like me, you are not proficient in New Testament Greek you may find this chapter somewhat weighty reading.

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Category: Fall 2014, Spirit

About the Author: John P. Lathrop is a graduate of Gordon-Conwell Theological Seminary and is an ordained minister with the International Fellowship of Christian Assemblies. He has written for a number of publications and is the author of four books Apostles, Prophets, Evangelists, Pastors, and Teachers Then and Now (Xulon Press, 2008), The Power and Practice of the Church: God, Discipleship, and Ministry (J. Timothy King, 2010), Answer the Prayer of Jesus: A Call for Biblical Unity (Wipf & Stock, 2011) and Dreams & Visions: Divine Interventions in Human Experience (J. Timothy King, 2012). He also served as co-editor of the book Creative Ways to Build Christian Community (Wipf & Stock, 2013). Amazon Author page. Facebook

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