Tag Archives: Pentecostal authors

Review: The 1:8 Promise of Jesus

Rating: ★★★★★

Author: Denzil (Denny) R. Miller, missionary to Malawi and director of the Acts in Africa Initiative. Miller saw that evangelism was alive and well in Africa, but very few African pastors were being discipled about the filling and gifts Holy Spirit, so this has been his primary ministry focus for some years. He has many books on the Holy Spirit and on Luke-Acts.

Overview:

Loren Triplett said that Denny Miller has pointed us to “the lost secret of Pentecost.” I think he’s right. Disconnecting the Spirit’s power from the Spirit’s mission has led to Pentecostal and Charismatic churches that have great experiences but lack influence or persuasive power. The Holy Spirit does not give us his gifts or power to titillate us or to make us feel good. Denny shows that the Holy Spirit gives us tools with an intention: to reach the world, from our nearest neighbors to the ends of the earth. That is the theme of The 1:8 Promise of Jesus (2012).

In my view, this is probably the most important book I have read about the Holy Spirit.

Meat:

What is unique about this book, as well as many of Denny Miller’s books, is that he brings both biblical scholarship and Classical Pentecostalism to the table, and it is unfortunate that this is a rare combination in North America.

I believe recovering this missional intention of God in the book of Acts will lead to more young people being filled with the Spirit. Today’s young people in America are disillusioned with purposeless power and treadmill churches; they want to be involved with something that will change the world. Acts 1:8 offers us the means as well as the purpose; the means is the Spirit’s power, and the purpose is the mission of God to restore the lost to him.

Bones:

While this book re-explores an important truth about the baptism of the Holy Spirit, it is a very small book, and is only intended to re-orient our understand of the purpose of the gift of the Holy Spirit. If you want more about the mechanics of the Holy Spirit or the history of Pentecostalism, I would recommend Dr. Miller’s other books, such as The Spirit of God in Mission. If you want more about the missional work of the Holy Spirit, I would recommend John V. York’s Missions in the Age of the Spirit, or his son Paul York’s A Biblical Theology of Missions.

Review: From Azusa to Africa to the Nations

Rating: ★★★★

Who: Denzil (Denny) R. Miller, missionary to Malawi and director of the Acts in Africa Initiative. Miller saw that evangelism was alive and well in Africa, but very few African pastors were being discipled about the filling and gifts Holy Spirit, so this has been his primary ministry focus for some years. He has many books on the Holy Spirit and on Luke-Acts.

Overview:

From Azusa to Africa to the Nations (2006) is a simple summary of the leading figures and missionary movements that spawned out of the Azusa Street Revival, focusing on the baptism of the Holy Spirit and the works that were birthed in Africa.

This little book addresses an important historical idea that began in the early modern Pentecostal movement: the idea that missionaries who spoke in tongues would be able to “preach in tongues” as on the Day of Pentecost (Acts 2:1-12).

Early leaders like Charles F. Parham and William J. Seymour even believed that those who were baptized in the Holy Spirit would always speak in a known language of the world. They would then be able to supernaturally preach the gospel to that particular people without ever having to study the language. (p. 33)

Some showed up to a mission field, and when their speaking in tongues “didn’t work,” they thought—I must be in the wrong mission field!—and moved on. Eventually, a clear consensus was reached that they had misunderstood the purpose of modern tongues, drawing on Acts 2 when they should have been comparing the passages on “tongues” in 1 Corinthians, which are pretty clearly differentiated in Scripture by the following points:

  1. “Missional tongues” in Acts 2 are directed towards God, but readily understood by hearers; “edification tongues” in 1 Corinthians are directed towards God, and not readily understood by bystanders. (See 1 Cor. 14:1-14.)
  2. “Missional tongues” in Acts 2 edified onlookers; praying in “edification tongues” edifies yourself (1 Cor. 4:4).
  3. “Missional tongues” in Acts 2 require no interpreter; “edification tongues” do require an interpreter (1 Cor. 14:27-28).

One point apparently common to both types of tongues is that they are both used by God as “a sign” for unbelievers (1 Cor. 14:22). Early Pentecostals were right in believing that all tongues had an empowering element; they were wrong in believing that all tongues were readily understood without interpretation.

The Azusa Street Outpouring reminds us that missions is at the heart of true Pentecostalism. (p. 66)

While they were mistaken on that point, Miller points out the positive aspects of the story: 1) they left their homeland in outstanding (although perhaps somewhat mistaken) faith; 2)  the modern Pentecostal movement began as a missionary movement, not as a selfish club for boosting self-esteem; 3) their failure to “preach in tongues” led to the refinement of Pentecostal theology, which now differentiates more readily—though this is not always clear from the pulpit—between the “missional” tongues of Acts 2 and the “edification” tongues of 1 Corinthians 12-14. This was a key development in modern Pentecostalism and should not be neglected when an explanation of the purpose of “tongues” is given.

Meat:

Miller treads a fine line in this book: cessationist writers would have you think that the early Pentecostals were crazy for showing up in an overseas mission field expecting to re-live Acts 2; many Pentecostal writers would rather not talk about it. I appreciated his courage in addressing a theme that I have not found other Pentecostal authors writing about at any length.

Miller is also a scholar. All of his books are well-researched and documented, so you know that he is not just making generalizations; he gives numerous names and dates that help us orient our understanding of the early Pentecostal movement.

Bones:

This book is a very brief read, and probably will only require one or two sittings for most readers; unfortunately, I do not know of any other references for those interested in going deeper on this topic.

Read:

At the time of writing, you can read From Azusa to Africa to the Nations for free on Denzil R. Miller’s personal website.

Review: Missionary Tongues Revisited

Rating: ★★★★★

Who: Denzil (Denny) R. Miller, missionary to Malawi and director of the Acts in Africa Initiative. Miller saw that evangelism was alive and well in Africa, but very few African pastors were being discipled about the filling and gifts Holy Spirit, so this has been his primary ministry focus for some years. He has many books on the Holy Spirit and on Luke-Acts.

Overview: This brief book begins with Miller’s take on early Pentecostal missionaries, who thought that the gift of tongues was for the “regions beyond,” and that when they got to China, they could evangelize using the gift of tongues. Needless to say, they were mistaken; but, Miller says, the thrust of the idea was correct, and we need to return to a missional understanding of the Holy Spirit in general and of the gift of tongues in particular. He writes:

“While the early Pentecostals’ bold experiment with missionary tongues was a failure, they were, I believe, right to place speaking in tongues into missiological categories.” (Loc. 1129)

Meat: I thought that this book would deal primarily with “missionary tongues,” but, after Chapter 1, the rest of the book (six chapters) is about shifting our understanding of tongues and of the gifts of the Holy Spirit. For many Pentecostals, tongues are the “initial physical evidence of the filling of the Holy Spirit.” Miller agrees with this, but he adds the following:

  1. Tongues are confirmatory evidence of the filling of the Holy Spirit.
  2. Tongues are a missional sign that the believer is a Spirit-empowered witness.
  3. Tongues are a prophetic release for Christians desiring boldness to preach to the unreached.
  4. Tongues are an empowering element for Christians living in mission.

If we think of tongues only as a confirmatory evidence of receiving the Holy Spirit, we have missed the place of the gifts of the Holy Spirit in God’s global mission. “For Luke tongues were part and parcel of the empowering experience.” (Loc. 971)

Miller quotes Martin Kähler as stating that “mission is the mother of theology” and John V. York on “theology with feet”. He writes that our pneumatology (i.e. doctrine of the Holy Spirit) should be reformed around Scripture to include not just an individualistic edificational tongues (from 1 Cor. 12-14), but also Luke’s empowering tongues.

Interestingly, before the modern Pentecostal movement, the Cambridge Seven (including C. T. Studd) and A. B. Simpson expected a renewal of missional tongues as an accompaniment and empowerment for end-times revival.

After the early Pentecostals’ failed experiment in missional tongues, “the movements’ scholars set themselves to reexamining their stance on the nature and purpose of speaking in tongues . . . [leading to] among other things, the emergence of the ‘initial physical evidence’ construct still held by most Classical Pentecostals today.” (loc. 230)

Miller notes the significane of other forms of prophetic speech accompanying the filling of the Holy Spirit; Acts contains a pattern of speaking in tongues immediately followed by Spirit-inspired speech in the vernacular. Miller uses this as a model when praying with believers to be filled with the Holy Spirit.

Bones: Honestly I could not think of any criticisms. Miller is concise and biblical.

Quotes: “The Classical Pentecostal doctrine of ‘initial physical evidence,’ while true in itself, is an incomplete understanding of Luke’s missional presentation of tongues.” (Loc. 136)

“In Acts Luke presents Spirit baptism as a powerful missions oriented experience accompanied by Spirit-inspired prophetic speech in both unlearned and learned languages.” (Loc. 942)

This missional empowering takes place, not only when one is first baptized in the Holy Spirit signified by speaking in tongues, it occurs again and again each time the Spirit-filled believer prays in the Spirit.” (Loc. 1001)

Related: The 1:8 Promise of Jesus.

You can buy this book on Amazon for just $5.95 for a digital copy, or $10.95 for the paperback.