Right Thinking is a collection of articles written by a dozen men associated with The Master’s Seminary, Master’s University and/or Grace Community Church and edited by Nathan Busentiz, professor and Dean of Faculty at TMS. Some years earlier a similar book, Right Thinking In A World Gone Wrong, was published from the same source dealing with ethical and social issues. This present volume supplements nicely the earlier work, however focusing more directly on matters related to the church. There are three sections of five chapters each: the church and contemporary issues, the church and sound doctrine, and the church and the Great Commission. Within each section there are chapters dealing with contemporary and pressing challenges to truth, the church and the Christian life. As expected with a multiple authored book, various styles and approaches are evident but each writer covers his subject well, with obvious research and biblical insight. Subjects addressed include Christian celebritism, Muslim debates, homosexuality, mystical approaches to Christian living, doctrinal concerns, church history, and evangelism.
Each chapter is well worth reading and it is always with caution that a reviewer recommends particular articles found in such a volume. Preference is dependent upon the reader’s needs and interest at the moment. Nevertheless, some highlights for this reviewer were: an excellent critique of the incredibly popular, and dangerous book, Jesus Calling by Sarah Young, a solidly biblical and wise overview of homosexuality by Alex Montoya, a call to truth in a culture dominated by feelings by Abner Chou, a balanced and thoughtful discussion of the church’s involvement with social justice issues by Jesse Johnson, and an important overview of threatening trends within evangelical missions by Mark Tatlock.
One of the most helpful chapters was written by Nathan Busentiz entitled “The Charismatic Question.” Here the reader will find a defense of cessationism, which “is the belief that the revelatory gifts (like prophecy and tongues) and the miraculous sign gifts (like the healings performed by the apostles) passed away, or ceased, shortly after the apostolic age ended and the cannon of Scripture closed (p. 115). This premise is followed by an extremely insightful discussion of the charismatic movement, demonstrating that the miraculous spiritual gifts being touted by some today are not the same gifts as found in Scripture. He writes, “When we approach the continuationist/cessationist debate by first defining the gifts biblically, it becomes apparent that modern charismatic practice does not match the New Testament precedent” (p. 119). For example, tongues in the New Testament were the supernatural ability to speak authentic foreign languages unknown to the speaker. But virtually no one in the charismatic movement today would make such a claim. D. A. Carson, himself a continuationist, confirms, “The few instances of reported modern xenoglossia are so poorly attested that no weight can be laid to them,” (p. 240). Modern tongues are not languages as was true in the Scriptures. Turning to prophecy, we find biblical prophecy authoritative, inspired and inerrant, but such is not the case concerning modern prophecies which can be in error, partially given by God and partially from one’s imagination. The best known supporter of this latter view is Wayne Grudem who writes in his Systematic Theology, “Prophecies in the church today should be considered merely human words, not God’s words, and not equal to God’s words in authority” (p. 239). Even Jack Deere, who claims to be a prophet himself, admits that modern prophets are prone to errors and mistakes and says, “Prophets are really messy. Prophets make mistakes” (p. 239). When we turn to miracles and healings the same disconnect between Scripture and contemporary practices are evident. At the hands of Jesus or the apostles healings were immediate, complete and undeniable (p. 117), but these features do not attend the claims of healing ministries today. Jack Deere states, “It is wrong to insist that the apostolic ministry of signs and wonders is the standard for the gifts of healing given to the average New Testament Christian” (p. 240). Deere clearly recognizes that modern healings are not on the same level as the healings found in Scripture. Whatever is going on today in the charismatic movement is not on par with what was taking place in the New Testament.
The common thread running throughout Right Thinking is a call to evaluate every trend, every fad, every movement, every doctrine by the authoritative Word of God. The authors within this volume not only lay down this challenge, they model it in their handling of the various subjects. Highly recommended.
Right Thinking In A Church Gone Astray, Finding Our Way Back To Biblical Truth by Nathan Busentiz (General Editor), (Eugene, Oregon: Harvest House, 2017) 249 pp., paper $15.99
Reviewed by Gary E. Gilley, Southern View Chapel