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Strangers To Fire: When Tradition Trumps Scripture, reviewed by Tony Richie

In ancient Greek mythology, Zeus, so-called king of the gods, did not care much for humans so he sought to repress their success by keeping the power of fire from them. However, the god Prometheus loved human beings. Accordingly, he went against the will of Zeus, and secretly gave them the gift of fire, thereby empowering them forever. Zeus punished Prometheus severely for helping humans. Yet it was too late. They had the fire now and the power it brought to them continued. In Christian doctrine, God is no tyrannical divine being wishing to keep the fire from the Church. Doubtless, the devil doesn’t want the Church to be effective and powerful. In Christian doctrine, not some benevolent but small deity but rather the Lord Jesus Christ, sent in love by the Heavenly Father, suffered and died and rose again for us and for our salvation. Christ is the one who brought us the fire. Now the fire has come! It cannot be taken back! The power of the fire of the Holy Spirit of Pentecost burns today and cannot be extinguished.

Strangers to Fire offers a distinctly solid apologetic for the continuation of the charismata today. The issue is examined biblically, theologically, historically, and rationally. It has a delightfully expansive breadth. Wide ranging contributors cover almost any and every conceivable angle. Thus objections are examined and eliminated in a quite satisfactory manner. The cumulative effect of this method is that cessationism is stripped of any pseudo-credibility it may have once appeared to possess. The case for continuationism is exceedingly strong. Cessationism is exposed for its skewed commitment to a priori presuppositions predetermining its contrary conclusions. On this aspect alone Strangers to Fire can be highly recommended as an exhaustive and artful treatment of the issues of cessationism versus continuationism.

With the indisputable benefits of Strangers to Fire firmly in mind, at this point I wish to admit that I’ve given some consideration to whether we ought to even being doing this at all. Let me explain. Is all the attention to JFM either appropriate or productive? I wonder if so much attention to such a minor and obviously over-the-top perspective is the way to go. Why take this esoteric bunk so seriously? Hardly anyone agrees with it. Outside of a sliver of a slice of fundamentalists, on one hand, and of modernists, on the other hand, both simply different versions of anemic and arid anti-supernaturalism, arguments for cessationism are falling to the ground due to the weight of their own failure to measure up to sound exegetical and theological standards. So, why give MacArthur’s ilk any attention at all? Might it actually be counterproductive regression? Why go back and fight the same old battles all over again when the general consensus of most fair-minded believers is already affirming continuationism? It might even set us back in the eyes of a new generation. True, we certainly need to discuss together how continuationism may be best understood and what a mature charismology should look like; but, that is a far cry from infighting about cessationism versus continuationism. I’ll say more about this line of thought in a moment.

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Category: Fall 2014, Spirit

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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