Monday, September 12, 2011

Review: An Essential Guide to Baptism in the Holy Spirit by Ron Phillips

An Essential Guide to Baptism in the Holy Spirit by Ron Phillips is book 1 in a series currently being published by Charisma House on the Foundations of the Holy Spirit. The book is a brief introduction to the doctrine of the Holy Spirit and the Charismatic experience as a whole. Phillip's style is bold and clear, but at times rushed. Though only one hundred pages long, the book covers a large amount of doctrines and experiences at times only loosely connected to the central topic of the baptism of the Holy Spirit. This book is not meant for skeptics, but I would guess for those who seek to understand their own experiences or are simply seeking more.

The book succeeds the greatest where it stays closest to its main topic. Though hardly a holistic introduction or apologetic to the doctrine, Phillips covers most of the main aspects of the doctrine and is careful to consider an audience not familiar with Charismatic or Pentecostal doctrine or experience. He draws from history and mainline texts to establish credibility and bring the doctrine more in the center of Christian thought and his background as a Southern Baptist pastor grounds his context. He has a talent for explaining things quickly and clearly:

the apostles in Jerusalem had heard that there were some people in Samaria who had "accepted God's message," so they (the apostles) sent Peter and John (Acts 8:14, CEV). When these two mighty apostles from Jesus's inner circle arrived, they prayed with the knowledge that the people in Samaria were already believers, that those same brothers and sisters would be given the Holy Spirit, "for as yet He had fallen upon none of them. They had only been baptized in the name of the Lord Jesus." Then, when Peter and John laid hands on these baptized believers, "they received the Holy Spirit" (vv. 15-17). p. 20
This passage leads the reader into the argument and integrates scripture smoothly. By retelling the event in a clear summary, Phillips gives the reader the perspective of how the passage fits into his explanation without cumbersome explanations. At times, this ability is used too much, however, and the arguments feel unsupported and rushed. In addition the most important question for seekers remains unaddressed, namely, "How do I receive the baptism of the Holy Spirit." Most of those who buy this book will find this question important, but I find no specific or general answer in the pages. Phillips includes enough scriptural examples for the reader to deduce for themselves, but any introduction to the doctrine should include this major point.

Though the book does not attempt to be a thorough apologetic, Phillips makes a large amount of unsupported statements and is often incomplete in his arguments. Though I find myself agreeing with much of the book, I was often concerned by what seemed like lazy assertions and loose ends. In addition, the book trails into unnecessary territory, which is where I found myself most at odds with Phillips' doctrine:

Remember also that no matter how social values and mores may change, the Bible is clear that "no fornicator, unclean person, nor covetous man, who is an idolater, has any inheritance in the kingdom of Christ and God" (Eph 5:5). This verse makes it clear that immorality does not steal your salvation but limits your blessings. This list is expanded in 1 Corinthians 6:9-10, where it states, "Do you not know that the unrighteous will not inherit the kingdom of God? Do not be deceived. Neither fornicators, nor idolators, nor adulterers, nor homosexuals, nor sodomites, nor thieves, nor covetous, nor drunkards, nor revilers will inherit the kingdom of God." ps. 21-22
This is gross doctrinal error. According to this doctrine practicing homosexuals can continue in a homosexual lifestyle and still be saved. They will only lose blessings in the here and now. This is absolutely incorrect. At best it is a grave mistake in discourse, but at face value it is a grave mistake in doctrine. Anyone who lives a willfully sinful lifestyle, in knowledge of sin but refusing to repent, identifies themselves with sin and is neither saved nor will go to heaven. The phrase "inherit the kingdom of God" absolutely does mean salvation as well as spiritual blessing. This major doctrinal error does not in fact relate directly to the baptism of the Holy Spirit but Phillips includes it and it will completely undermine his credibility for conservative Christians.

While I found that Phillips often succeeded in a concise introduction, the book leaves much to be desired. I wish the 100 pages would have spent more time on the main points of the doctrine of the baptism of the Holy Spirit, but seeing as this is the first book in a series, a more general introduction to the Charismatic experience, explaining physical manifestations etc. seemed needed. If it weren't for my doctrinal disagreement on the above point, I would have had no trouble recommending the book as a very brief and general introduction to Charismatic doctrine, but most will want a more apologetically sound study. That said, this book is short, concise and very accessible.

My thanks to Charisma House for providing this complimentary copy. I was not required to give a positive review, but an honest review. 


  1. This is only the second negative review I've had to give, which isn't at all bad, but I finding myself wishing so hard that the book was better. There is a chapter in The Normal Christian Life by Watchman Nee that I would recommend as a very brief introduction to the doctrine. I've heard that Surprised by the Power of the Spirit by Jack Deere is excellent, but I have not read it myself.