Thursday, July 27, 2017

Book Write-Up: Spirit-Empowered Theology

Charles Carrin.  Spirit-Empowered Theology.  Chosen, 2017.  See here to purchase the book.

Charles Carrin is a minister.  He has a D.D., and his education was from the University of Georgia and Columbia Theological Seminary.  Spirit-Powered Theology is a book that addresses questions about various topics, including (but not limited to) theology, Christology, anthropology, the church, spiritual gifts, demonic possession and influence, historic revivals, Israel, science, and cosmology.  Carrin writes from a charismatic perspective, one that believes that spiritual gifts such as tongues and healings did not cease with the New Testament church but exist even today.

Here are some of my thoughts about the book:

A.  The book was rather meandering and elliptical in places, at least in some of the early parts, and I wondered how exactly some of the answers addressed the questions.  The book was clearer and more direct as it progressed.  The elliptical parts were still interesting, though.  When reading those parts, I had to pay close attention to follow what Carrin was saying.  Plus, Carrin in those parts seemed like he had something important and profound to say yet had difficulty putting it into words.  Or, sometimes, he appeared to find a more interesting tangent that distracted him from the question.

B.  What makes the book distinct, perhaps, is its focus on charismatic issues.  It covers other issues, though, such as text criticism, biblical inerrancy and inspiration, and covenants.  In some cases, it was not entirely clear why he was including certain pieces of information.  Why discuss one pope, for example, but not others?

C.  The book is informative and educational about charismatic and Pentecostal history.  What is the difference between charismatics and Pentecostals?  What is being slain in the Spirit like?  What are soul ties?  Who were prominent charismatic and Pentecostal figures throughout history?  I learned a lot in reading this book.

D.  While the book contains material that one can find in other Christian books, it also contained interpretations that were new to me.  Carrin interprets Jesus’ cry on the cross (“My God, my God, why have you forsaken me?”) as Jesus’ response to the Holy Spirit departing from him.  Carrin seems to regard the physical heart as an actual, literal seat of emotions and states that it is not enough to believe in Jesus with our minds, for we need to believe in Jesus with our hearts.  On that note, Carrin in his anthropological sections made intriguing points about the interrelationship among the body, soul, and spirit.  Carrin observes that I Kings 18:36 notes that Elijah’s sacrifice at Mount Carmel occurred when the evening sacrifice was being offered at Jerusalem; Carrin relates this to the importance of church unity.  That was an element of the story that had not stood out to me before, and it gives the story a cozy feel: Elijah seems to be isolated in standing up for God in the North, and yet he offers a sacrifice at the same time that people in the South are offering them.  (Could that part of the story have been added after the Northern Elijah traditions reached Judah?)

E.  According to Carrin, most charismatics and Pentecostals have believed, and Carrin seems to agree, that the baptism of the Holy Spirit is a second blessing: that people become saved and receive the Holy Spirit, but later they may receive a baptism of the Holy Spirit, a filling that may manifest itself in tongues.  My understanding is that this position implies that the baptism of the Holy Spirit is not required for salvation.  In places, though, Carrin said that one should believe in Jesus with the heart, not just the head, and should actually experience God.  Otherwise, one has an empty intellectual faith.  Are spiritual experiences required for salvation, according to Carrin?  What if one lacks those sorts of experiences?

F.  Some parts of the book made me uncomfortable.  For instance, according to Carrin, if you have a bad or self-pitying attitude, you may be opening yourself up to demonic influence.  Maybe there is some Scriptural basis to that: Ephesians 4:26-27 exhorts people not to be angry or give place to the devil.  Does the first entail or lead to the second?  But does being human truly make a person vulnerable to spiritual forces that can influence a person, even beyond that person’s control?  Can anyone truly say “The devil made me do it?”, or does free agency always exist?  I do not know if Carrin was saying that, say, being angry can lead to a person losing his or her free will at the hands of a demon, for he did differentiate between demonic possession (which he denies can happen to believers) and demonic influence; he also said that a demon can make a person ill, without necessarily possessing that person (i.e., the woman in Luke 13:16).  Still, he did at one point present a scenario of believers getting over their head and needing outside intervention to be freed from demonic influence or oppression.

G.  Overall, Carrin appeared knowledgeable, though he was overly dismissive of evolution, in my opinion.  The book also may have benefited from documentation.  Carrin’s case that spiritual gifts such as healings remain today was somewhat convincing; Carrin cites church fathers who believed that such gifts existed in their day (albeit without documentation).

H.  The page about the author states that Carrin ceased being a cessationist after a “Spirit-anointed prisoner in the Atlanta Federal Penitentiary” laid hands on him.  More detail on that would definitely have enhanced this book, making it more personalized!

I received a complimentary copy of this book from the publisher through Cross Focused Reviews.  My review is honest!

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