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The Kingdom and the Power, reviewed by Jon Ruthven

Chapter 2, by the prolific scholar, Wayne Grudem offers a point-for-point rebuttal to 28 common objections to contemporary charismatic experience. As a pocket defense for parishioners and students, this section is excellent: the temptation to photocopy this chapter and distribute to those assailed by cessationists will be irresistible for all but the most sanctified. For pastors as well as instructors in Bible colleges and seminaries, this section is well worth careful examination in class. Grudem’s responses necessarily overlap with much other material in the book, but as a summary, it is excellent.

Peter Davids’ chapter (3) on sin, miracles and the nature of human existence takes the discussion of spiritual gifts beyond the well-worn paths of defending their validity—a chapter perhaps more usefully read by those within the Pentecostal/charismatic movements than by those without.

After a chapter by Gary Greig dealing with the nature and purposes of “signs and wonders” partly in response to the cessationist slogan, “function (accreditation) implies duration,” Don Williams (Chapter 5) develops a most promising line of reasoning in advancing the book’s overall argument, that the continuation of Christ’s miracles is based on the very nature of the believer’s relationship with Him; discipleship. Williams rightly argues that the essential nature of the rabbi-disciple relationship in New Testament times demanded that the disciple not simply remember his teacher’s words, but rather to replicate exactly the teacher’s life, mission and behavior. Unfortunately, the contemporary training of ministers, at least among main-line Protestants, does not adequately demonstrate how to replicate New Testament ministry. However, the strong New Testament theme of imitate Christ cannot simply apply to a life of piety and poverty, as has traditionally been the case, but must necessarily include demonstrations of power as well. Williams could have strengthened his case to show that the New Testament repeatedly and normatively expresses the goal of the Christian life to “attaining to the whole measure of the fullness of Christ … in all ways grow up into him who is the Head.” (Eph. 4:13, 15; Phil. 2:5 ff.; Rom. 15:1-13). Indeed, the notion of the “foundational gifts” (Eph. 2:20), a favorite passage of cessationists, further indicates the biblical pattern of replication of gifts and ministries, rather than their cessation. Moreover, the New Testament notions of “son,” “disciple,” “type,” “follow,” and “imitate” among others demonstrate the strong New Testament theme developed by Williams. Another way of framing this issue is to ask after the very purpose of the New Testament canon itself: is it primarily for information (words, theology) or for parenesis (Greek: action, Rom. 15:4; 1 Cor. 10:11)?

The last chapter (6) in the theological section responds to the common charge that the “epistles show such light interest in miracles.” Walter Bodine, formerly of Dallas Theological Seminary, responds that “at least five epistles devote explicit attention to the gifts of the Spirit” (p. 197). This chapter is too short. One can show that classical Protestantism has “demythologized” much of the New Testament language about spiritual gifting. The terms “all wisdom and knowledge,” “revelation,” “dunamis,” “word,” “Spirit,” cannot be reduced to traditional cessationist understanding. Biblical theology long ago began to see the charismatic content of these terms. More importantly, one can also show that the epistles explicitly teach the continuation of spiritual gifts (Rom. 11:29–a great universal principle; 1 Cor. 1:4-8; 1 Cor. 13:8-13; Eph. 3:14-21; 4:11-13; Phil. 1:5-10; 1 Pet. 1:5, among others). Certainly Gordon Fee’s new work on the Holy Spirit in Paul (God’s Empowering Presence (Hendrickson Publishers, 1994)) is a valuable supplement here.

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Category: Fall 1999, Spirit

About the Author: Jon M. Ruthven, Ph.D., spent his entire adult life in ministry, starting with David Wilkerson in Boston and New York City in the mid-60s. After spending a dozen years pastoring, a couple a years as a missionary in Africa as the head of Bible school, he ended up teaching theology in seminary for 18 years. Always interested in training and discipleship, Jon is developing a radically biblical approach to ministry training that seeks to replicate the discipling mission of Jesus in both content and method. Jon has written numerous scholarly papers and books including On the Cessation of the Charismata: The Protestant Polemic on Postbiblical Miracles (1993 and 2009) and What’s Wrong with Protestant Theology? Tradition vs. Biblical Emphasis (2013). He continues to emphasize the biblical grounding for a practical ministry of healing, signs and wonders in the power of the Spirit. Facebook.

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