Book Reviews: Awakened by the Spirit: Reclaiming the Forgotten Gift of God, by Ron Phillips, Thomas Nelson Publishers, September 2000. Amazon Book Reviews: <www.amazon.com>.
The following four book reviews were posted on Amazon.com 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.
Disappointing and Unreliable Work,
February 8 & 14, 2000
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
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
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!
an effort to blunt any criticism of my critique of Awakened, I'd like to make two points:
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.
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.
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.
March 2, 2000
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?
and Scripturally Enlightened,
April 3, 2000
June 14, 2000