Tag Archives: evangelism

HOW THE REFORMATION NEGLECTED THE HOLY SPIRIT

The following are excerpts from a chapter on pneumatology from Timothy C. Tennent’s excellent book, Theology in the Context of World Christianity:

“The Reformation’s emphasis on the authority of Scripture, ecclesiology, and Christology are clearly reflected in the post-Reformation attempt to systematize the theological deposit of the Reformers. However, this meant that, as was the case during the patristic period, a full development of the doctrine of the Holy Spirit was delayed and several vital aspects of his person and work were neglected in post-Reformation Protestant theology in the West. Over time, several major theological traditions developed that either denied completely or extremely limited the active role of the Holy Spirit in performing miracles, divine healing, demonic deliverance, prophecy, tongue-speaking, and other elements that later became central features of the Pentecostal doctrine of the Holy Spirit. For example, this tendency is evident in many expressions of Reformed theology as well as in the later nineteenth-century emergence of dispensationalism …” (Tennent 2007, 171).

“Traditional Western theologies were written by scholars who received their education in respected universities that were deeply influenced by Enlightenment assumptions. The Enlightenment worldview creates a high wall separating the experiential world of the senses – governed by reason and subject to scientific inquiry – from the unseen world beyond the wall; such a world either does not exist (naturalism) or, if it does, we can know little about it (deism). The result has been essentially a two-tiered universe that separates the world of science from the world of religion.

Biblical evangelicalism has challenged this worldview by insisting that God has supernaturally broken through this wall in the incarnation and that knowledge of the unseen world has been provided by the certainty of divine revelation. Evangelicals argued that through prayer we can have sustained communication and fellowship with God. The problem with this approach is that the basic two-tiered universe of the Enlightenment worldview remains intact. It has merely been modified so that Christians punch a few holes in the wall to provide a framework whereby God can come into the empirical world through the incarnation and revelation and we, in turn, can have access to the unseen world through prayer. The basic separation is left unchallenged …” (Tennent, 178).

“The work of the Holy Spirit is to bring the “not yet” of the kingdom into the “already” of our fallen world. All the future realities of the kingdom are now fully available to all believers through the person and work of the Holy Spirit. Doctrines of cessationism or partial cessationism are, in the final analysis, detrimental concessions to an Enlightenment worldview that has unduly influenced the church with its naturalistic presuppositions…” (Tennent, 179).

FIVE BOOKS THAT EVERY CHRISTIAN SHOULD READ

If I were to create a gift basket to give to new believers, I would include the following five books:

1. FLATLAND: A ROMANCE OF MANY DIMENSIONS (Edwin A. Abbott)

Flatland_(second_edition)_cover

C.S. Lewis once said that sometimes we must first “make the younger generation good pagans and afterwards let us make them Christians.” I could not disagree more strongly with that statement. However, I understand the general point that Lewis was trying to make – that post-Enlightenment Westerners had lost touch with a sense of wonder, with a sense of the miraculous that would enable them to appreciate the claims of Christianity beyond the soul-crushing lens of naturalism-materialism.

Flatland is not a work of Christian Apologetics; it is not even an allegory. However, this satirical novel written in 1884 by English schoolmaster and theologian Edwin Abbott Abbott is very useful in illustrating what Kierkegaard termed the ‘dimensional beyondness’ of God. This thought-provoking and laugh-out-loud funny book can help people expand their conceptual framework for contemplating the divine.

2. MERE CHRISTIANITY (C.S. Lewis)

Mere Christianity

This is a beloved masterpiece of Christian Apologetics – ecumenical and highly accessible. Despite strong reference points to Britain and the post-WWII era, Lewis adeptly communicates several basic tenants of Christianity in both a conversational and persuasive manner. Notable points include Lewis’s famous Trilemma and his discussion on the moral law.

3. THE BIBLE AMONG THE MYTHS (John Oswalt)

The Bible Among the Myths

John Oswalt defines mythology and then demonstrates the ways in which the Old Testament stories consistently and dramatically differ from every other form of religious literature and narrative found in the ancient world. You will come away from this book with the tools for recognizing the common patterns found throughout the false religions of the world, past and present.

4. SHARE JESUS WITHOUT FEAR (William Fay)

Share Jesus Without Fear

A very simple, very powerful treatise and how-to guide for evangelism. Fay presents a tried and true method for gauging interest, opening up conversation, responding to objections, and leading individuals through the plan of salvation found in scripture – without fear!

5. REES HOWELLS: INTERCESSOR (Norman Grubb)

Rees Howells Intercessor

The best Christian book I have read apart from the Bible. A biography of a humble miner called into God’s service during the Welsh revival. This book will challenge you to your very core as the Holy Spirit systematically obliterates Mr. Howells’ pride and self-interest.