The Varieties of Religious Experience by William James

Written at the turn of the twentieth century, James’ famous work remains a classic and standard in the field of religious experiences. James approaches his subject from the realm of science as a psychologist, not as a Christian. His objective is to detail, analyze and evaluate the various experiences found commonly in all religions. James demonstrates that certain experiences, feelings, practices and claims are shared by all religions from Christianity to Hinduism to the most grotesque forms of paganism. The question is how are these experiences to be evaluated? If a Hindu, a Protestant and Catholic (sounds like the beginning of a bad joke) all have similar visions or experiences upon which the validity of their faith is based, how are we to know which of these religions are true? Perhaps an even more fundamental concern for James (who is not particularly interested in truth) is from where did...

The Father’s Blessing by John Arnott

It has been called “the Toronto Blessing” and “the Laughing Revival” by its friends and various other things by its foes. Whatever it is called, it all began on January 20, 1994 at a church called the Toronto Airport Vineyard, pastored by John Arnott. Arnott believes that God is throwing a great party and six nights a week hundreds of people gather to become drunk in the Spirit and enjoy the festivities. The parties that God seems to be throwing would rival anything that the world has to offer, what with people laughing for hours, falling all over the floor, making strange noises, shaking, shouting, having visions and falling into trances. A mere twenty months into the “revival” Arnott penned this book billed as a firsthand account of a refreshing move of God. This “anointing”, as it is sometimes called, has spread throughout the world (Arnott claims some 5000...

Preparing the Way by Cal Pierce

Preparing the Way is the account of reopening the so-called “Healing Rooms” in Spokane, Washington. The healing rooms were originally the ministry of John G. Lake in the early twentieth century. Lake claimed that thousands of miraculous healings took place in those rooms as the Spirit of God swept over Spokane. For 80 years the rooms had been closed when Cal Pierce claimed he was led of God in the late 1990s to reopen the rooms and release the healing power of God, not only in Spokane, but ultimately throughout the world. According to Pierce the power of John G. Lake has been given to him and God is once again healing multitudes—and this is only the beginning. Pierce claims that God is using him and the healing rooms to prepare the world for the pouring out of God’s healing powers. By way of critique it is instructive to...

Pagans in the Pews by Peter Jones

In this carefully researched and documented book (there are hundreds of footnotes), Jones builds a case for a new spirituality invading not only society but the church as well. This new spirituality is really not new at all, however; it is the revival of ancient Gnosticism. Gnosticism, which had its roots in the mystery religions (p. 64), was the first major heresy faced by the early church beyond the New Testament era. It has gained new life today because of the collapse of secular humanism and the emptiness of postmodern deconstruction (pp. 42-43). Something must fill this void and that something appears to be a casserole of Gnosticism, Eastern mysticism and stripped-down Christianity. The result is a new spirituality which bares no resemblance to biblical Christianity. As a matter of fact, Jones points out that in order to change civilizations built on the Bible, you must change the Bible...

No Laughing Matter by Larry Thomas

This is a surprisingly good little book on the so-called “Laughing Revival,” especially in light of the fact that the author himself is a Pentecostal. While Thomas does not totally break free from the errors of the Pentecostal movement (he believes the sign gifts are still operative today) he nevertheless takes a strong biblical approach to the bizarre manifestations and claims being made in many circles today. You will find in No Laughing Matter a short history of revivals along with their link with today’s extreme Charismatic fringe, as well as with the Latter-Rain movement of the past. There are good appendixes on the subjects of being slain in the Spirit and identification of the “Jesus” with who people claim experiences. A major drawback to the book is that it lacks footnotes and documentation for many statements, quotes, and claims. This renders the book rather useless for research, although...

Good Morning, Holy Spirit by Benny Hinn

Good Morning, Holy Spirit was the best selling Christian book in the world a few years ago, which says more than I care to know about the state of the so-called evangelical church today. This is a semi-autobiographical look at the life of Benny Hinn, the popular Word of Faith evangelist. Along the way Hinn propagates his theological views of the Christian life, especially as it relates to the Holy Spirit. There is far too much heresy found in this volume to index in a short review. Hinn teaches typical Vineyard style views concerning the charismatic gifts: tongues, prophecy, visions, healings, and miracles. He believes that the Holy Spirit can and will speak to us audibly if we will but meet the conditions, and will even show up in bodily form on occasion....

For Many Shall Come in My Name by Ray Yungen

Yungen has done vast research into what is commonly called the New Age movement—“The age of Aquarius, supposedly the Golden Age, when man becomes aware of his power and divinity” (p. 108). The New Age movement, which came to the surface of our awareness in the 1970s, is a fusing of Eastern and Western thinking. New Age thought teaches that everything that exists, seen or unseen, is made up of energy—tiny particles of vibrating energy, atoms, molecules, protons, etc. All is energy. That energy, they believe, is God, and therefore, all is God. They believe that since we are all part of this God-energy, then we, too, are God. God is not seen as a Being that dwells in heaven, but as the universe itself. According to one writer, “Simply put, God functions in you, through you, and as you” (p. 17) (emphasis his). In the early days of...

Counterfeit Revival by Hank Hanegraaff

Hanegraaff has done a great job exposing the “counterfeit revivalists” within the Christian church. He pulls no punches, names names (in case you miss the point), documents like crazy, and lets no one off the hook. Along the way you get a solid history lesson on all three “waves” of the Spirit this century (Pentecostal, charismatic, the Vineyard), and revivals of the past (demonstrating how they differ from so-called revival today). Much of the material deals with the outer fringes: the laughing revival, Benny Hinn, John Arnott, and Rodney Howard-Browne. But the more mainstream (Vineyard, John Wimber, Jack Deere) are steamrolled as well. If you are looking for a biblical exposition dealing with the subjects of spiritual gifts, revivals and the like, this is not your book. If you are looking for something that clearly refutes the extremism of today’s evangelicalism, enjoy....

Beyond Belief by Elaine Pagels

Elaine Pagels is considered one of the leading authorities in the world on Gnosticism. Her earlier work, The Gnostic Gospels has been a standard reference on the subject for over twenty five years. In Beyond Belief, Pagels personalizes her journal, detailing her Christian roots, followed by disappointment with Christianity and her resulting interest in the alternatives, especially Gnostic beliefs. The reader is given a number of valuable pieces of information in Beyond Belief. There is a brief history of the early church fathers such as Tertullian, Irenaeus and Athanaius doing battle with opposing teachings of the time. Some of the debate sounds highly similar to debates of our time. While not obnoxious about it, Pagels obviously believes that orthodoxy was created by men wishing to solidify and retain their power base. As a result, Gnostic “Christians” were forced to flee and their “holy books” destroyed. But apparently some Gnostic...

A Time of Departing by Ray Yungen

Ray Yungen has written a very valuable book exposing the encroachment of New Age mysticism upon the evangelical church. Through the porthole of “contemplative prayer” numerous Christian leaders (e.g. Richard Foster, Brennan Manning, Henri Nouwen, etc.) are calling us back to the desert Catholic mystics of the Middle Ages for a deeper level of spirituality. These leaders seem unaware or unconcerned that the Catholic mystics drew deeply from the well of Eastern Mysticism. As a result, unsuspecting Christians are being served a casserole of Eastern Mysticism, occultism and mystical Christianity all under the guise of deeper spiritual living and prayer. Contemplative prayer is not biblical prayer, no matter how spiritual it may sound. Contemplative prayer, rather, is turning our minds off—putting it into neutral, in order to experience silence, at which point we somehow encounter God. All New Agers, occultist and Eastern Mystics teach this type of praying, along...