Reviews - What do customers think about The Speaking in Tongues Controversy: The Initial, Physical Evidence of the Baptism in the Holy Spirit Debate?
follow the truth . . . wherever it leads Nov 4, 2007
In response to the Harris review, I must say that I find his remarks unconvincing and, to be honest, distracting. Whatever position one takes, the manner in which Harris opposes Dr. Walston is invalid for a number of reasons. For one, to list a number of Scriptural texts as support for one's position is never enough. Indeed, this is often where the debate rages, i.e., over how, precisely, to interpret said texts. If you read Harris' remarks, the impression given is that various passages of Scripture unquestionably lead to a certain conclusion. What isn't taken into consideration is that there can be divergent opinions over the meaning of various passages. These texts, within the flow of the entire New Testament, must be interpreted if one is to arrive at a viable position.
Second, the argument is made that 500 million Christians testify against Dr. Walston. Beside the questionable tactic of aligning such large numbers against any author, since when does truth depend on how well it is received? Was Jesus to be rejected because most of the religious establishment of his day didn't like what he had to say? Was Martin Luther wrong for standing up to the great majority of those within the church at the time of the Reformation? This kind of reasoning is absurd and does not help to facilitate helpful discussion and debate. It is the truth that matters . . . whether or not a majority concur with its discovery. (By the way, if one truly wants to argue simply by numbers, there are far more Christians who agree with Dr. Walston than with Harris. In relation to the multi-millions of Christians in all the various denominations world-wide, those who believe as Harris does are called Classical Pentecostals and their numbers are few in comparison. In fact, typically even the term "Charismatic" is applied to people who believe as Walston does.)
Third, the reviewer pulls the "God card," somehow thinking that if he evokes the divine name (e.g., "God set them free"), his position will be strengthened. On the contrary, nothing could be more unhelpful. The issue is not whether God is involved in the lives of many people; all reasonable believers agree that he has been (and is). The real issue is whether our theological positions and some of our practices are warranted by a careful reading of Scripture. Whatever view one takes on this or any issue, we have to be open to the truth, to the evidence . . . to what God has said in his Word.
One more point. The author in question here is DR. Rick Walston. Though, of course, he is also a Mr., it is inappropriate to not even acknowledge his credentials. While truth is never decided by academic degrees, and though one's position is not thereby proven by the letters behind his or her name, it is shameful to intentionally remove a man's proven credentials in order to foster one's agenda.
As I look at the Harris response-the lack of substantive data, the purely emotional appeal, etc.-I can't help but think that such attacks are precisely why Dr. Walston's book deserves further consideration. When a critic's best evaluation lacks exegesis, logical debate, and theological acumen, it just may be that the author under attack has something relevant to say. For these and other reasons, I encourage interested readers to honestly and fairly evaluate the arguments put worth by Dr. Walston. Emotional commitments and personal biases acknowledged, let's follow the truth . . . wherever it leads.
Excellent resource for Christians in all denominations Nov 4, 2007
I have been blessed by the work of Dr. Walston on the topic of speaking in tongues. His book is well written and an excellent resource. He approaches the topic from a scholarly yet also in many ways pastoral vantage point.
I believe that readers can really be blessed by this work. I do not worship in a Pentecostal church, but do respect the fact that the Holy Spirit has blessed people with many gifts. One of those is speaking in tongues, and Dr. Walston does an excellent job of helping people understand how God is working. I recommend this book!
A Non-Pentecostal Book Written By One Who Calls Himself Pentecostal Nov 2, 2007
Mr. Walston has taken great strides to fight the traditional Pentecostal view that the initial, physical evidence of the Baptism in the Holy Spirit is speaking in other tongues, according to Acts 2:4, 10:44; 19:6; Mark 16:17, etc. In fact, Mr. Walston even denies a subsequent crisis experience of any kind for the Christian. This flies in the face of the preaching of not only Pentecostals, but also the holiness preaching of John Wesley, A.B. Simpson, Dwight L. Moody, R.A. Torrey, etc.
Mr. Walston has attempted to take Pentecostals back to the denominational theology from which God set them free when He baptized them in the Holy Spirit. 500 million Pentecostal/Charismatic Christians around the world who have received the Baptism in the Holy Spirit with the initial, physical evidence of speaking in other tongues stand to testify against Mr. Walston's book.
For a throughly scriptural and scholarly rebuttal to Mr. Walston's book, please read the book "Spirit and Power" by Robert Menzies (available on this site.com).
A Wrench for Walston's Spirit-Baptism-Is-Conversion Doctrinal Gears Jan 30, 2007
Dr. Denny Nissley, Assemblies of God (AG) minister and Director of Christ in Action Ministries, stated: "Dr. Walston has thrown a 'big wrench' into my tongues-as-evidence doctrinal gears." Well, consider this review a wrench for Walston's Spirit-baptism-is-conversion doctrinal gears. I attend the same AG home church as Nissley, and recommend that not only he but all other AG ministers consider the following.
For many Christians, Walston has made a persuasive case that Christian conversion is synonymous with Spirit baptism and that speaking in other tongues is not the initial evidence of it. But here is the problem for both him AND classical Pentecostals (CPs): the assumption that Spirit baptism is a single event, either occurring at conversion (which Walston now believes) or some time after it. It is true that scripture uses the definite article "the" in reference to "the gift my Father promised" (Jesus in reference to the Spirit, Acts 1:4 [NIV]) and "the gift of the Holy Spirit" (Acts 2:38). However, scripture NEVER speaks of "the baptism with [or in] the Holy Spirit," using the definite article. It only speaks of being "baptized with the Holy Spirit" (Acts 1:5) which is later called being "filled with the Holy Spirit" (Acts 2:4). Why is this significant? Because scripture equates the two phrases whereas Walston and CPs do not. True, they believe that Spirit baptism is a Spirit filling, but they do not believe that every Spirit filling is a Spirit baptism. Walston cannot accept the notion that a Christian may experience multiple "Spirit baptisms" because he equates the term "Spirit baptism" with conversion and he doesn't consider Spirit fillings after salvation as re-conversions. CPs cannot accept the notion that a Christian may experience multiple "Spirit baptisms" because they equate "Spirit baptism" with the first time one speaks in tongues which, they admit, does not occur for most Christians at conversion and for many Christians never occurs.
Walston agrees with Gordon Fee that "to be saved is to be filled with the Spirit". He accepts this position based not only on his interpretation of Acts 2:38 - 41 (in conjunction with Acts 2:4 which uses the phrase) but also the writings of Paul which assert that all Christians have the Spirit living in them (1 Cor. 3:16; Rom. 8:9). Personally, I have no problem with asserting that all Christians are "filled with the Spirit" if, by this term, we mean that all Christians are indwelt by the Spirit. However, Walston is seriously wrong when he asserts: "The New Testament never makes the distinction between (1) getting saved and (2) being filled with the Holy Spirit as though they are two entirely different experiences" (Ch. 7, pg. 139). Luke, the author of Acts, in his Gospel used the phrase "filled with the Holy Spirit" several times for certain faithful Jews: Luke 1:15 (John), 1:41 (Elizabeth), and 1:67 (Zacharias), the last two resulting in prophetic words (NOT other tongues). He also used it in reference to the 120 Christians who spoke in other tongues on the day of Pentecost (Acts 2:4). Regarding the last reference, it is interesting that Walston admits that the 120 disciples were already saved before they were filled with the Spirit, although he doesn't seem to realize that he contradicts himself. Here I must refer readers to a book that Walston quotes from but obviously misunderstands: The Charismatic Theology of St. Luke (1984) by Roger Stronstad. On page 53, Stronstad references the above scriptures in relation to the phrase "filled with the Holy Spirit" and makes these surprising statements: "...the gift of the Spirit to the disciples on the day of Pentecost is not an isolated and unique event. It is but one of several occasions, both prior to and following Pentecost, when people are filled with the Spirit. The experience is the same whether it is Zacharias or Peter who is filled with the Spirit." At the end of Chapter 14 of Walston's book, he admits that "on four occasions Luke says that people who were already saved were 'filled with the Spirit'" (pgs. 198 - 199) and then discusses them. First, he doesn't seem to realize that like the references discussed above, these too contradict his statement in Chapter 7 that the New Testament never makes the distinction between getting saved and being filled with the Spirit. Second, he fails to see that these Spirit fillings can also be called "Spirit baptisms" because he erroneously, and contradictorily, equates Spirit baptism (a.k.a. being "filled with the Spirit") with conversion. If Walston was merely arguing that speaking in other tongues is not the initial, physical evidence of Spirit baptism, he could have used some points I've made here and developed a better case. But, unfortunately, he argues that Spirit baptism is synonymous with conversion which seriously weakens his case, making it implode by contradiction.
Robert W. Graves, the current president of The Foundation for Pentecostal Scholarship (TFFPS), is a classical Pentecostal who wrote a "narrative-critical" response to Walston's book which was first published in the Pneuma Review back in the Fall of 2005 and the Winter of 2006 in two parts. This review (or a slightly modified version of it, if I'm to rely on Walston's quotes from it) is now available through the TFFPS website. Walston's response to this review is available through the website of the Columbia Evangelical Seminary where he currently resides as president. Those who recommend Walston's book should read both responses. I read them after posting my initial this site review of Walston's book in 2007 which is now replaced with this one (March 2008). Graves confirmed some of my own observations, and Walston's response to Graves did not challenge them.
Walston's response accuses Graves of numerous logical fallacies and misrepresentation of his book. What he does NOT do is meaningfully dialog with the most important part of Graves's review: the biblical passages in question, especially the interpretation of Acts 2:38 - 41 which Walston considers the paradigmatic passage of Acts when it comes to interpreting Spirit baptism as conversion. Instead, he dismisses the need to do so by appealing to an illustration of "two people with two different colored glasses" and asserting: "The crux of the way that Graves and I see the passages in Acts is based upon the premise from which we both proceed. He as a tongues-as-evidence proponent, and I as a tongues-as-evidence opponent. It is not that I am herein unwilling or unable to address the various passages in question; however, to address the passages tit for tat would be simply an exercise in showing how we differ in our conclusions based upon our guiding principle of interpretation." What are we to make of this evasive response? The implication is that there is no way to challenge the premise or guiding principle from which someone proceeds (the glasses one wears), so why try? He fails to see how this reasoning undermines the authority of his own position. He treats the core of Graves's review as he does the biblical analysis of other scholars, including Stronstad mentioned earlier, who have challenged his position: by failing to meaningfully interact with it.
Without defending Graves's review against all of Walston's accusations, I must affirm that Graves had a valid point when he stated that Walston fails to interact with key authors (both Pentecostal and non-Pentecostal) who have addressed the subject years before Walston's book was published. Walston's accusation that this commits the fallacy of Argument from Authority (a.k.a. Celebrity Endorsement) is ridiculous. Yes, truth is not determined by who one quotes, but one expects an author of a book on a "controversy" and/or "debate" (terms Walston uses in his book's title and subtitle) to meaningfully dialog with some of the earlier publications of key influential authors, especially those who have given arguments against his position and biblical interpretations. The failure to do so shows that one has NOT significantly and meaningfully contributed to the debate, even at the "popular" level. Writing at the "popular" level does not excuse one from such interaction. When I read Walston's book, I kept thinking of other classical Pentecostal scholars such as Robert Menzies (see, for example, his book Spirit and Power , co-authored with his father) who years ago already addressed many of Walston's key points by addressing the critiques of other authors who reflect them (including Gordon Fee, Walston's primary supporting reference).
Really! I dont have to speak in tongues? Jan 12, 2007
After talking with classical Pentecostals and reading other books on this topic, I was led to believe that I was not baptized in the Holy Spirit because I didn't speak in tongues. The overwhelming biblical evidence that Dr. Walston exegetes from the scriptures in this book, reaffirms my position that this simply is not true. I would recommend this book to everyone on either side of the aisle.