Book Reviews: Awakened by the Spirit: Reclaiming the Forgotten Gift of God, by Ron Phillips, Thomas Nelson Publishers, September 2000. Amazon Book Reviews: <>. 

The following four book reviews were posted on in September of 2000.  Two of the reviews are supportive of the work and two call it into question.  One should take note of the basis for either conclusion. 

A Disappointing and Unreliable Work, February 8 & 14, 2000
Nelson D. Roth, from Dayton, Tennessee

Dr. Phillips provides the reader with a work that is historically, linguistically and logically unreliable. The quality of his scholarship leaves a great deal to be desired and calls into question his method of research and presentation.  Those interested in a genuinely authoritative and scholarly work regarding the Holy Spirit will find such in Fee's, "God's Empowering Presence" (900 + pages).  Fee's work is a comprehensive and scholarly treatment of every reference to the Holy Spirit within Paul's letters.

It is evident that circular reasoning played a significant role in the formulation and collection of data for Awakened.  Dr. Phillips evidently set out to research and document what he already believed to be true. The result is a work that presents church history, Baptist history, biblical theology and language analysis in such a questionable manner that I was stunned. Please understand this criticism comes from one who spent his first ten years within the charismatic movement. In addition, I affirm the perpetuity of spiritual gifts to this day. Thus, it cannot be argued fairly that I have some innate antagonism to Dr. Phillips position. I do not! I do, however, believe that an honest, accurate and careful analysis of the facts, as they exist, and an objective presentation of those facts is essential. Awakened by the Spirit does not meet these criteria. Awakened is, however, a fine example of how not to do research and present your data.  

I will provide one example: Dr. Phillips attempts to demonstrate his new found Baptist-Charismatic "roots" as being a continuation of the first century church.  He lists several historical movements as an example of these "roots", i.e., the Montanists, the Novatians, the Dontanists, the Paulicians, to name only a few. Regarding the Montanists Phillips explains that they placed the Holy Spirit first.  He continued by saying "Montanists experienced ecstatic worship, visions, prophecies, and the exercise of all the gifts of the Spirit. One young convert of Montanus described this ecstasy by saying, 'On the wings of a dove I was carried above'."  From this one would be led to believe that the Montanists were orthodox charismatic Christians. What the reader is not told, however, is that Montanism was a morbid overstraining of the practical morality and discipline of the early church.  It was an excessive supernaturalism and Puritanism against Gnostic rationalism and Catholic laxity. It is the first example of a well-meaning, but gloomy and fanatical hyper-Christianity, which like all hyper-spiritualism, is apt to end in the flesh.  F.F. Bruce states, "Two outstanding deviations from the central stream of Christian life in the second century were the movements respectively called Gnosticism and Montanism." Bruce adds additional clarity of the Montanist movement that you will not find in Awakened. When speaking of Montanus, its leader, he says, "For (he maintained) Christ's promise of the coming Paraclete [Holy Spirit] had now been fulfilled, and he, was the Paraclete's mouthpiece." There were additional problems with the Montanists. They were waiting for the Lord's return with such anticipation that they were quite indifferent to their ordinary human affairs. In other words they were so "spiritually minded" that they were no "earthly good". This is just one example in a book that is ripe with skewed and prejudiced analysis of the facts.  

I am saddened that this work is being "consumed", by so many within the church, without serious challenge and question. Perhaps this is more indicative of another more serious problem, the lack of real and genuine critical thought on the part of many within the church today. While this may be the case it does not have to be the case!  

In an effort to blunt any criticism of my critique of Awakened, I'd like to make two points:

1)      I have been walking with the Lord for twenty years. The first ten were spent within the Charismatic/Pentecostal realm (I am not a "rookie" Christian)

2)      All of my formal theological training came from a conservative Charismatic college. Also, during this time I spent 7 years working with an apologetic ministry.

 To this day I maintain the perpetuity of spiritual gifts! As the publisher of a theological magazine I frequently review books, articles, submissions, etc. As an avid reader and writer I find this task quite enjoyable. Because Dr. Ron Phillips pastors within my locale I am very familiar with his teachings. I have acquired numerous of his audio and video tapes. In addition, I have visited his church on many occasions, thus, [I] cannot be considered a stranger to his theological views. Dr. Phillips, in essence, continues the old line between the "haves" and the "have not's". Now that he has "it" all others, in his opinion, should have "it" also.  Sadly, speaking as one of the "haves", I have to say that this book [is] strangely reminiscent of the literature produced by the Watchtower Bible and Tract Society. I[t] lacks objectivity and is ripe with distortions of linguistic, historical and biblical data.  He unashamedly abuses biblical texts frequently to make his point and will even resort to using The Living Bible to establish his point. Dr. Phillips professes to know the Greek language, and while he may, he selectively references Greek words to make his point at times, while at other critical times, he completely neglects an appeal to the Greek New Testament. His selective appeal is quite revealing.

It is quite obvious that Awakened by the Spirit is the fruit of circular reasoning, i.e., Dr. Phillips set out in the book to prove what he already believed. This, seemingly, justifies the warping of facts, as they exist, for his perceptions of how they should be viewed.

In following some of his references I was startled at how selective and distorted his presentation of historical data was, and this, after having said that his look at history would be objective and "fresh".

I am saddened to say that this is one of the poorest examples of Christian scholarship I have read in quite some time. I would expect this type of "scholarship" from the "fringe", though not from the "main-line". This publication, while written as an apologetic for his position, is an unreliable source for those interested in gaining genuine insight into this already controversial issue. No doubt it will serve to deepen the divide in an already fragmented church. I could only recommend the book as an example of how not to interpret biblical, historical and linguistic data. 

Poor defense, March 2, 2000
Reviewer: Elkins, WV from Elkins, WV

Phillips has failed to provide biblical support for the "manifestations" of the Spirit, specifically "trembling", "holy laughter", and "falling out" or as it is sometimes referred to, experiencing the, "slaying of the Spirit".  Phillips states on pg.161, "We must be grounded in scripture for everything we believe, say, and do. Christians must be anchored firmly to the authority of scripture. God does extraordinary, supernatural events, but He will never violate or depart from His Holy word." To this I would respond in total agreement.  However, in the context of Peter's water walking experience Phillips writes, "Suppose that the disciples grabbed their bibles consisting of the thirty-nine books of the Old Testament. They found no record that the Messiah would walk on water. Then, thumping their bibles, they rejected Him. Jesus will not contradict scripture, but neither is He confined to Scripture." Phillip's approach to scripture at this point is at best, highly volatile. The obvious question one must ask themselves under this approach to scripture is this, "who is going to be the standard bearer"? Who will determine what is "of God" or "not of God"? To leave that in the hands of human beings is toxic. One only has to read the histories of the cults to see where extrabiblical teaching leads. This is one of the reasons, thank God, He gave us His word. To offer His instruction for living to please Him.

Phillips appeals to such groups as the Novatians, Albigenses, Paulicians, Petrobrusians, and Patarenes among others to support his views. Very little study will provide much evidence that these groups were much less grounded in scripture than they were in experience.

Phillips says about music in worship within the local church, "The church that downplays the important role of music in worship and praise is likely quenching the Holy Spirit's work in the body" pg.134. The Petrobrusians, followers of the teachings of Peter de Bruys and Henry of Lausanne believed that, "Song was fit for the tavern but not for the worship of God. God is to be worshipped with the affections of the heart and cannot be moved by vocal notes or musical modulations.  The Paulicians held to dualism as their fundamental principle. That the "good God" created the spiritual and that the "bad God" or demiurge created the sensual world. They rejected the Old Testament as the work of the demiurge as well as the Epistles of Peter.  Peter was viewed as a false apostle. According to Photius, the Paulicians were also utterly deficient in veracity, and denied their faith without scruple on the principle that falsehood is justifiable for a good end. 

Are these the types of fringe groups we would want to appeal to in support of New Testament, Holy Spirit living?

Historically and Scripturally Enlightened, April 3, 2000
Reviewer: Dwain Miller from El Dorado, AR

Having been a Baptist all of my life I found Dr. Phillips' book to be very challenging. I found myself searching the scriptures and prayerfully considering the content. I must say that when I place the Bible beside Dr. Phillips' book I can find nothing but truth. I believe Awakened by the Spirit to be the most historically and scripturally accurate treatise on the Holy Spirit and His work in the New Testament Church in the past several decades. I believe his kind but honest approach toward cessationism exposes it as the greatest apostasy in the 20th century church. I appreciate His transparancy and his honesty. Thank you Dr. Phillips for helping the 21st Century Church return to Her spiritual roots. I highly reccommend this book to those who are seeking the truth about the work of the Holy Spirit in the New Testament Church. (Underlined emphasis added)

Spiritual awakening, June 14, 2000
Kevin Liddie from Antigua

I have read the other reviews of this book and though that it was being attacked rather poorly.  After reading the book my desire and thirst for more of GOD has increased. That is the purpose of this book. I found that there was a semblance of balance and that it was for the most part objective. He did not go over into any "fringe" view. AS born-again believers GOD does want us to be filled with HIS SPIRIT. The purpose for that is to live holy lives and HE empowers us for witness. PLEASE read this book from the heart and not the mind. The big picture is a closer walk with GOD. I am a Baptist and many of the things he stated are true and I know that if our traditional and religious bias was cast aside and w hungered for GOD, He would show up in our lives. I am tired of religion just give me the WORD and THE HOLY SPIRIT. (Underlined emphasis added)

One definition of “cessationism” is the belief that after the cannon of the New Testament was complete the manifestation gifts (1 Cor. 12:7-11) ceased.  Some, but not all Baptists are cessationists. 
Apostasy is an abandoning of faith in God. (Excerpted from Compton's Interactive Encyclopedia. Copyright (c) 1994, 1995 Compton's NewMedia, Inc.)