Thursday, April 10, 2014

Review: Holy Fire by R.T. Kendall

R.T. Kendall's Holy Fire steps into the current debate concerning the Spirit's work in our lives, providing an inspiring, bold, yet curbed approach to the current presence and activity of the Holy Spirit. Kendall does not openly respond to John MacArthur or the "Strange Fire" conference, but has taken the occasion to write a book that strongly emphasizes the continuation of the supernatural gifts of the Holy Spirit, the Spirit's "direct and immediate" work in our lives, and reformed theology. Kendall's emphasis on the activity of the Spirit in assurance of salvation and transformation opens the door to the current work of the Spirit by bridging into the supernatural with sound theology and common experience.While hardly an exhaustive work on the Holy Spirit, Kendall's book stands as an inspiring and accessible introduction to the reformed charismatic perspective.

Kendall's writing remains exceptionally clear and accessible throughout the book, in spite of handling some rather deep theological issues and citing a number of nuances in theology from different puritan writers. He illustrates his theology with testimonies from his own life, illuminating how his own personal journey and his relationship with Christ revealed his current stance on the continuing operation of the gifts of the Spirit and reformed Calvinism. The book also draws heavily from the life and teachings of Dr. Martin Lloyd Jones, Kendall's mentor and one of the most respected reformed preachers of the last century. Jones' own embrasure of the gifts and operation of the Holy Spirit and his passionate advocacy for receiving the Spirit's empowerment stands as one of Kendall's most drawn upon arguments. These factors make the book seem more like an appeal to the reformed church to embrace the Spirit, though Kendall does take a significant amount of time advocating reformed theology to Charismatic readers.

I greatly appreciated Kendall's emphasis on the transforming power of the Holy Spirit. A large portion of Holy Fire reminded me of the teaching of Roy Hession and Norman Grubb, which sprang out of the revivals in Africa in the 1950's. The reminder of the Spirit's work to convict, correct, encourage, refresh, inspire, and cleanse is desperately needed in the church today, as is Kendall's teaching on grieving and quenching the Spirit. One of the most disappointing parts of the book was his outlandish claims regarding open-theism and "hyper grace" teaching. While I'm not an open advocate of either, Kendall's brief and scathing misrepresentation of both views will not help either side of the debates regarding God's foreknowledge or His grace. His final chapter, which contains a prophetic word for the future of the Church was exhilarating and the most inspiring and poignant chapter in the book for me.

While I would only recommend portions of this book, it stands as an important bridge from cessationism into the work of the Spirit. I hope it will have a profound impact on the reformed church and a positive impact in redirecting the Charismatic church back to focusing on transformation and a step by step walk with the Spirit of God.


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