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Who's Afraid of the Holy Spirit? Preface and Abstracts

 M. James Sawyer and Daniel B. Wallace, eds.

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Interview with Wayne Grudem (foreword author to the book) where he discusses WATHS.

Biblical Studies Press...Dallas, Texas                             ISBN: 0-7375-0068-

  • Daniel B. Wallace
  • Richard E. Averbeck
  • Gerald Bray
  • M. James Sawyer
  • J. I. Packer
  • Timothy J. Ralston
  • Reg Grant
  • Willie O. Peterson
  • David Eckman
  • Jeff Louie
  • Donald K. Smith


The origins of this book came in the early 1990s when both of us editors (Jim Sawyer and Dan Wallace) were facing trauma in our lives and in the lives of our families—traumas that our rationalistic theological training had left us unequipped to deal with. The propositions of our theology left us cold, and failed to speak vitally to the pain we each felt. Independently, as scholars trained in the evangelical cessationist tradition we came to grips with the spiritual sterility of that tradition. As we shared our personal “war stories” we discovered similar trajectories in the development of our understanding of the reality and necessity of the personal and existential work of the Holy Spirit in our lives. Doctrine and biblical knowledge alone simply did not cut it.

Out of our conversations, the sharing of the pain and reflection on our background, the idea for a book addressing our concerns was born. While not embracing what we consider to be the excesses of Pentecostalism, the charismatic movement, and the Third Wave, we have embraced what we have tentatively called pneumatic Christianity. We contend that the way evangelical cessationism has developed was reactionary and reductionistic. Rather than focus upon scriptural images of the Holy Spirit as a presence deep within the soul of the believer, cessationism has reactively denied experience in opposition to the Pentecostal overemphasis upon experience, which at times supplanted the revealed truth of scripture. In one sense this volume is not intended to be programmatic; rather it is exploratory. One theme that surfaces numerous times throughout the essays is the issue of control. As a group we have individually and independently recognized that we really are not in control of our lives. The place of control belongs to God alone. Our attempts for control can be a subtle grasp at self-deification. The fear of loss of control, we are convinced, has driven much cessationist literature.

In another sense it is programmatic in that it marks a departure from the way many in the cessationist camp think. In this respect, it is much closer to the way charismatics think. The difference, then, is in the details. But the big picture for both charismatics and pneumatics is the same: God is in control; we aren’t.

In short, our tradition framed the issue wrongly. It threw out the proverbial baby with the bathwater. The Pentecostal/charismatic tradition has focused on the sign gifts of the Spirit. We have become convinced that the ministry of the Spirit is far wider and deeper but more subtle than even the Pentecostal/charismatic tradition envisions it. Consequently the essays of this volume explore, however tentatively, an attempt to steer a middle ground between the sterile cessationism that essentially locks the Spirit in the pages of scripture, and an anything-goes-approach that has characterized parts of the Pentecostal/charismatic/Third Wave movements.

The contributors to this volume come from different backgrounds: two are Anglican, one is Chinese, one is African-American, two are Baptist, one is Presbyterian, and several others come from the Bible Church tradition. We would emphasize that as a group we do not represent a unified position on the nature of the ministry of the Spirit, but we are united in asserting the vital personal presence of the Holy Spirit in our lives. We have different emphases, perspectives, and concerns. We do not all agree with one another in every point. While we all agree that hard cessationism is inadequate, some are far closer to the Pentecostal/charismatic/Third Wave tradition while others are closer to the traditional cessationist position.

Finally, it is our prayer that evangelicals would interact with the points raised in these essays. We hope that men and women of God will be touched by what is written here, and that there will be renewal in the church.

“Who’s Afraid of the Holy Spirit? The Uneasy Conscience
of a Non-Charismatic Evangelical”

Daniel B. Wallace


Through the experience of my son’s cancer, I came to grips with the inadequacy of the Bible alone to handle life’s crises. I needed a existential experience with God. I got in touch with my early years as a charismatic and began reflecting on how the Holy Spirit works today. I saw scripture in a new light and began wrestling with the question, If the Holy Spirit did not die in the first century, what in the world is he doing today? This essay offers eleven theses that begin to explore answers to that question.

Dr. Daniel B. Wallace (Th.M., Ph.D., Dallas Theological Seminary) has taught New Testament for over two decades. His Greek Grammar beyond the Basics: An Exegetical Syntax of the New Testament (Zondervan, 1996) is used in more than two-thirds of the schools that teach intermediate Greek. He has written one other textbook and has several more in progress, as well as more than a score of articles in theological journals. Recently his scholarship has shifted from syntactical and text-critical issues to more specific work in John, Mark, and nascent Christology. His postdoctoral work includes work on Greek grammar at Tyndale House in Cambridge, England, textual criticism studies at the Institut fuer neutestamentliche Textforschung in Muenster, Germany, as well as work at Tuebingen University. He is also on pastoral staff at Stonebriar Community Church in Frisco, Texas, and senior New Testament editor of the NET Bible.

The Holy Spirit in the Hebrew Bible
and Its Connections to the New Testament

Richard E. Averbeck


Understanding the OT terms “Holy Spirit” and “the Spirit of God (or the LORD)” and the theology associated with them depends on grasping the significance of the fact that, in about 40% of its occurrences, the Hebrew word “spirit” (ruakh) basically means “wind or breath,” not “spirit.” The NT word (pneuma) is also used in this way on occasion. And when these Hebrew and Greek words mean “spirit,” the reference is often to the human “spirit.” Furthermore, certain passages draw out the correspondence between the Spirit of God and the human spirit, and the importance of God’s work through this correspondence (e.g., 1 Cor. 2:10-12). The Spirit of God is the person of God that vivifies the spirit of people to God (Ezekiel 37; Romans 8:16). The baptism of the Spirit shifts the metaphor from “wind” to “water,” the point being that physical purification by water has a corresponding reality in the purification of the human spirit through the Holy Spirit (Matthew 3:11; John 1:32-34; Ezekiel 36). Similarly, like physical water, one can drink of the Spirit as water that gives life to the human spirit (e.g., John 7:37-39). The Holy Spirit did all of these things for both Old and New Testament believers, so in this sense the Holy Spirit not only indwells NT believers, but also did something similar in the lives of OT believers.

Dr. Richard E. Averbeck (B.A. Calvary Bible College, Kansas City. M.Div., Grace Theological Seminary, Ph.D. Annenberg Research Institute (formerly Dropsie College), M.A, biblical counseling from Grace Theological Seminary.) is professor of Old Testament Studies and Biblical Counseling at Trinity Evangelical Divinity School (1994-). He is also the Director of the Spiritual Formation Forum. His publications include contributions to The Dictionary of Biblical Theology, New International Dictionary of Old Testament Theology and Exegesis, Dictionary of the Old Testament: Pentateuch, Spiritual Formation: An Evangelical Perspective; and chief editor of Life and Culture in the Ancient Near East.

The Witness of the Spirit in Romans 8:16:
Interpretation and Implications

Daniel B. Wallace


A comprehensive examination of the usage of summarturevw in Greek literature, as well as other exegetical evidence, leads to the conclusion that this verb means “bear witness to” in Romans 8:16. The passage thus is affirming that the Holy Spirit has an ongoing witness to our inner being. One implication of this is that we have assurance of salvation not just because of the word of God but also because of the testimony of the Spirit to our hearts. There are also implications for perseverance of the saints and for believers working at the highest levels of scholarship (e.g., it is dangerous to think that mere exegesis will give one certainty; ultimately, a vibrant relation to God through the Holy Spirit must be at the heart of loving God with one’s mind).

The Spirit and Community: A Historical Perspective

Gerald Bray


This essay surveys the ways in which Spirit-led community has been understood at different times in Christian history. After explaining the basic principles of medieval Christendom, it examines the ways in which Protestantism has developed a doctrine of the invisible church, which is manifested in visible ecclesiastical institutions to varying degrees. It concludes with a challenge to Evangelicals to re-examine their basic assumptions in an effort to find new ways to build Spirit-led communities today.

Dr. Gerald Bray (B.A., McGill University, M.Litt., D. Litt., University of Paris-Sorbonne) is an ordained minister of the Church of England and taught theology for many years at Oak Hill College in London. Since 1993 he has been the Anglican Professor of Divinity at Beeson Divinity School, Samford University, Birmingham, Alabama. He is the author of numerous books, including The Doctrine of God; Biblical Interpretation: Past & Present; Creeds, Councils and Christ; Personal God; and Documents Of The English Reformation as well as numerous articles. He is also the editor of the Anglican journal "Churchman".

The Witness of the Spirit in the
Protestant Tradition

M. James Sawyer


This essay traces the historical articulation of the Protestant doctrine of the Witness of the Spirit as an immediate pre-reflective personal experience in the heart of the believer from its initial articulation by John Calvin to the present day. Include in this survey are the doctrine’s reconceptualization by the Puritans, the return to Calvin’s emphasis in the teaching of Wesley and Edwards followed by a survey of the nineteenth century debate over the doctrine between the Princetonians on the one hand and Charles Briggs and Abraham Kuyper on the other. It concludes that contemporary evangelicalism has succumbed to the same type of rationalism as characterized the Princetonians and in the process has stripped the doctrine of its existential viability.

Dr. M. James Sawyer, (B.A., Biola University, Th.M., Ph.D., Dallas Theological Seminary) has taught Theology, Church History and Historical Theology for more than twenty years. He is Professor of Theology and Church History at Western Seminary’s Northern California extension (1989-). His publications include numerous articles and books including, Taxonomic Charts of Theology and Biblical Studies, Charles Augustus Briggs and Tensions in Late Nineteenth Century Theology, and The Survivor’s Guide to Theology and co-author of Reinventing Jesus? His non-academic ministry experience includes Youth for Christ, and mission work in South America. He is also regularly involved with the “Perspectives on the World Christian Movement.”

The Ministry of the Spirit in Discerning the
Will of God

J. I. Packer


The Holy Spirit is given to all Christians to transform them by his teaching, making them into God-focused thinkers and equipping them to discern his will and make decisions accordingly. They do this by rational reflection on their life-situation, helped by wise and godly advice, within the parameters that the Word of God establishes. The idea that the superior path in matters of guidance is to wait passively before God for direct promptings to action to come into one’s mind is a mistake. So is the superstitious notion that failure to discern the specifics of God’s vocational guidance sentences one irrevocably to a second-best life, with no restoration possible.

Dr. James I. Packer (M.A., D.Phil. Oxford University) has had a long and distinguished career in ministry including several years service as assistant minister at St. John’s Church in Birmingham, England; Senior Tutor at Tyndale Hall, Bristol (1955-61); Warden of Latimer House, Oxford (1961-1970); Principal of Tyndale Hall Bristol (1970-72); Associate Principal, Trinity College, Bristol, (1972- 1979). He has served at Regent College Vancouver since 1979, beginning as Professor of Systematic and Historical Theology (1979-1989), Sangwoo Youtong Chee Professor of Theology (1989-1996), Board of Governors’ Professor of Theology (1996-). His numerous writings include: Fundamentalism and the Word of God, Evangelism and the Sovereignty of God, Knowing God, Keep in Step with the Spirit, Christianity the True Humanism, A Quest for Godliness, A Passion For Faithfulness The Redemption and Restoration of Man in the Thought of Richard Baxter. His Collected Shorter Writings are available in four volumes, and a selection of his articles has been published as The J.I. Packer Collection. He is also an Executive Editor of Christianity Today.

The Spirit’s Role in Corporate Worship

Timothy J. Ralston


The Holy Spirit assumes a vital role in Christian worship as the sign of God’s work through Christ. The Spirit confirms God’s covenant relationship, a prerequisite for acceptable worship. His presence creates the worship sanctuary, forming the bounds of its community and unifying its members. By convicting of sin, he ensures the integrity of the covenant worshippers and with his gifts he strengthens them to serve one another. Emphasizing the experience of the worshipper as the evidence of the Spirit depreciates his more significant functions, often leading to misunderstanding, pragmatism, narcissism and an idolatry of self rather than the worship of God.

Dr. Timothy J. Ralston (Th.M., Ph.D., Dallas Theological Seminary) lives in Dallas, Texas, where he serves as Professor of Pastoral Ministries at Dallas Theological Seminary. A member of the North American Academy of Liturgy, he is a specialist in worship and Christian spirituality. He is recipient of the Henry C. Thiessen (Th.M.) and William F. Anderson (Ph.D.) Awards in New Testament Studies at Dallas Theological Seminary.

God, People, and the Bible:
The Relationship between Illumination and Biblical Scholarship

Richard E. Averbeck


As a canonical text, the Bible has two horizons: first, the ancient authors (divine and human) intention in the text itself and, second, the modern reader as he or she engages in the study of the text. The authorial intention in the text itself carries the Holy Spirit’s intended “meaning.” Therefore, on the one hand, the “meaning” of the text shines forth from the author/text horizon. “Understanding,” on the other hand, derives from the Holy Spirit’s work of “illumination” on the horizon of the reader. This finds corresponding categories in modern speech-act theory. What we need to engage in is the kind of biblical scholarship in which the Bible is not only the subject of investigation, but the investigation itself turns back upon the scholar in a transforming way. This is what illumination is all about. There are three parts to this discussion: (1) the intent of biblical scholarship -- our goal in the study of the Bible is the transformed life of love from a pure, a good conscience and a sincere faith, (2) the nature of biblical scholarship -- our way of studying the Bible is that it is encounter with God as fully human person in submission to the Word, and (3) the nurture of biblical scholarship -- is through guiding people into a kind of reading of the Bible that corresponds to this intent and nature of biblical scholarship.

The Holy Spirit and the Arts

Reg Grant


This essay examines the Christian’s interaction with the Holy Spirit in the creation of art. We reflect on our shared doxological goal, then consider the difficult question of process, how we are to depend on the Holy Spirit to guide us from concept through production, to help us reach that goal. We consider two utilitarian approaches to dependence before endorsing an organic approach that emphasizes union with the Savior as the source and sustaining influence of our creative work. Finally, we illustrate the difference between subjectivism and objectively-based spirituality in the persons of Thomas Munzer and Martin Luther.

Dr. Reg Grant (B.A, SMU, Th.M, Ph.D., Dallas Theological Seminary) is Professor of Pastoral Ministries at Dallas Theological Seminary where he teaches courses in preaching, drama, voice, creative writing and creative radio production. His publications include STORM: the Surprising Story of Martin Luther as well as contributions to numerous books and articles. Several of his films have won major film festival awards including “Top Educational Film in America”; two have won Emmys. He currently hosts the radio program EarSight, a daily devotional program. He serves on the advisory board for Nest Entertainment, and on the board of directors for Probe Ministries.

The Spirit in the Black Church

Willie O. Peterson


The traditional dispute cessationists have with the charismatics usually ends in a sharp separation, but not so with all evangelicals who are cessationists. Some evangelicals firmly hold to a cessationist position, disallowing the operation of sign gifts for today, but they also fellowship with evangelicals who are charismatics and who argue for the continuation of the sign gifts. This essay presents a plausible understanding of evangelicals who, although cessationists, embrace evangelicals who are charismatics. Finally it addresses the question “Are such cessationists merely a misguided exception; or is the biblical basis for their position sound and thus commendable to all evangelicals who are cessationists?”

Dr. Willie O. Peterson, (B.A., Dallas Baptist College, Th.M., Dallas Theological Seminary, D. Min., Western Seminary) has broad ministry experience over the past two decades including fourteen years as Senior Pastor of Bethel Bible Fellowship in Carrollton, Texas, Assistant Director for the Doctor of Ministry Studies at Dallas Theological Seminary, and Vice President and National Field Director of the Urban Evangelical Mission in Dallas, Texas. He also has a recognized International Conference Speaking ministry covering Africa, Europe, Southeast Asia and India.

The Holy Spirit and Our Emotions

David Eckman


Emotions are an ignored reality in much of the Evangelical Church, but it is not so in the Bible. Within the Bible’s pages the Trinity manifests a rich emotionality. Within the New Testament the Person of the Spirit not only manifests rich emotions Himself, but is given to the believer to profoundly influence her or his emotional life. As we cooperate with the Spirit and sound spiritual principles, we shall experience an increasingly rich emotional life. The health of our emotions is a critical category of our spiritual life. The why and how of that is explored.

Dr. David Eckman (Th.M., Ph.D., Golden Gate Seminary) specializes in the Old Testament, and Spiritual Formation. He has pastored for a decade and a half and has served as Executive Vice president for Western Seminary. Presently is Associate Professor at Western Seminary’s Northern California Campus and Co-Founder and Director of Becoming What God Intended Seminars ( He has written the Guideposts Commentary on the Minor Prophets, and Becoming Who God Intended and has contributed to the New King James Study Bible.

The Holy Spirit and the Local Church

Jeff Louie


Jesus is the Lord of his church, and the Spirit of God can work vibrantly among his people. Too often our church life is devoid of the Lord’s spiritual dynamism. We become overly dependant upon human wisdom and planning, to such a point that we no longer rely upon the Lord who can deliver us. As we lift up the exalted Christ and depend upon him through worship, prayer and his truth, the majestic working of God will be manifest in the local churches.

Dr. Jeff Louie (Th.M., Ph.D. Dallas Theological Seminary) is an ordained minister and has been in pastoral ministry for twenty years, six years at Chinese Bible Church of Oak Park, IL (1984-1990) and for the past fourteen years as Senior Pastor at Sunset Church in San Francisco, CA. He also serves as adjunct professor at Western Seminary’s Northern California Campus.

The Holy Spirit in Missions

Donald K. Smith


God is not geographically-biased; the Holy Spirit is equally at work in every part of the world, and not in special ways on traditional mission fields. The arguments that “new” Christians need miracles to undergird their faith is inadequate; the center of the world Christian population is today in Africa, while the Christian population of Europe and North America is statistically declining. The visibility of the Holy Spirit’s work in Asia, Africa, Latin America, and the Middle East seems more dependent on an openness to His interventions there than in North America and Europe. It is a matter of human perception, rather than a difference in God’s working. Rationalism excludes the invisible spiritual world, thus evidences of the Holy Spirit are seldom perceived. The core issue for man is control - man himself or God. It is the primary work of the Holy Spirit to work within man to give new hearts, to make new creatures that submit to Jesus as Lord. That is the Spirit’s great work, not the more visible and striking evidences of His presence.

Dr. Donald K. Smith (B.S., M.S., M.A., Ph.D., University of Oregon) was for twenty-one years Distinguished Professor of Intercultural Communication and Missiology at Western Seminary in Portland, Oregon. He is presently Dean of WorldView Institute (a graduate level international living-and-learning community). For 30 years a missionary evangelist, journalist and educator in Africa, based in South Africa, Zimbabwe, and Kenya, Dr. Smith was founder of Daystar University in Nairobi. His experience includes teaching, editing, publishing, developing literacy materials in African languages, anthropological research, evangelism, preaching and supervising Bible translation programs in more than 40 languages. His books, Creating Understanding and Make Haste Slowly, are used widely in missions training. Through WorldView Institute he continues an extensive overseas ministry, focusing on emerging Third World mission societies and leadership of national churches.

The Father, the Son, and the Holy Scriptures?

M. James Sawyer


While the Evangelical tradition has its roots in the Reformation, the tradition associated with mainstream American evangelicalism has been heavily influenced by the Enlightenment through its employment of Common Sense Epistemology. It has often become so thoroughly rationalistic that the existential presence of the Holy Spirit has been all but denied. This essay traces the history of this rationalism within evangelicalism, and contemporary challenges by major evangelical thinkers as to the inadequacy of this rationalism and the need to return to a recognition of the full-orbed existential ministry of the Spirit in the life of the believer.

Related Topics: Pneumatology (The Holy Spirit)

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