Why I Am Still Surprised by the Power of the Spirit | Book Review


Twenty-seven years ago, Jack Deere published Surprised by the Power of the Spirit, the story of how and why he stopped being a cessationist and started practicing a charismatic form of spirituality. Why I Am Still Surprised by the Power of the Spirit significantly revises and updates its predecessor. The revisions and updates make Still Surprised a substantially new book.

Surprised included 14 chapters, an epilogue, and three appendices. Still Surprised includes 26 chapters and five appendices. Entire chapters have been revised, deleted, and/or replaced. Deere explicitly divided the old book into three parts—roughly, his testimony, his critique of cessationism, and his advice about the practice of spiritual gifts. The new book largely follows this same organizational structure. Deere’s combination of memoir, critique of cessationism, biblical exposition, and seasoned advice about using spiritual gifts is written clearly and engagingly, reads smoothly, and made me think, even when I disagreed with it.

Cessationists—that is, people who believe certain “supernatural” spiritual gifts ceased after the apostles’ death—often argue that Pentecostals and charismatics put experience before Scripture. Deere’s conversion from cessationist to charismatic reversed that argument. “My thinking had not changed because I had seen a miracle or heard God speak to me in some sort of supernatural way. … This shift in my thinking was the result of a patient, exhaustive, intense study of the healings and miracles recorded in the Scriptures” (25).

In fact, Deere reverses the cessationist argument. “There is one basic reason why otherwise Bible-believing Christians do not believe in the miraculous gifts of the Spirit today. It is this: they have not seen them” (48). The lack of experience, rather than sound biblical argument, is wellspring of cessationism. Even so, throughout the book, Deere engages cessationists’ arguments, pointing out to the contrary that the Bible consistently and persistently teaches believers to expect and experience spiritual gifts.

Having shared his testimony and refuted cessationism, Deere goes on to offer advice about how to use the spiritual gifts, especially healing. Readers within the Pentecostal, charismatic, and Third Wave traditions will notice Deere weighing in on some of the intramural debates within our communities, such as the nature of and evidence for being filled with the Holy Spirit, whether certain gifts are resident within the believer, whether Christians can be demonized, and the nature of apostolic ministry.

As a classical Pentecostal, I didn’t agree with every jot and tittle of his biblical exposition or seasoned advice. The book is well worth reading, regardless of these disagreements. Deere is a trusted charismatic teacher and practitioner, and much of his advice is just good sense, avoiding the extremes of cessationist nonuse as well as hyper-charismatic abuse.

One final comment: Among Pentecostals, especially Pentecostal academics, there is an anxiety about evangelical influence on Pentecostalism. I understand that concern and agree with it in parts. Why I’m Still Surprised by the Power of the Holy Spirit serves as a standing reminder that influence goes both ways. When the Pentecostal revival began, cessationists held the commanding heights of evangelical institutions. Today, that is no longer the case, and those cessationists who still exist concede that Pentecostals and charismatics have contributed to the revival of Christianity in this century.

Book Reviewed

Jack Deere, Why I Am Still Surprised by the Power of the Spirit: Discovering How God Speaks and Heals Today (Grand Rapids, MI: Zondervan, 2020).

P.S. If you liked my review, please click “Helpful” on my Amazon review page.

The World Wide (Religious) Web for Thursday, December 22, 2011


DECEMBER 22: Happy Winter Solstice Day!

POT, MEET KETTLE: “The Accidental Universe: Science’s crisis of faith.”

That same uncertainty disturbs many physicists who are adjusting to the idea of the multiverse. Not only must we accept that basic properties of our universe are accidental and uncalculable. In addition, we must believe in the existence of many other universes. But we have no conceivable way of observing these other universes and cannot prove their existence. Thus, to explain what we see in the world and in our mental deductions, we must believe in what we cannot prove.

Sound familiar? Theologians are accustomed to taking some beliefs on faith. Scientists are not. All we can do is hope that the same theories that predict the multiverse also produce many other predictions that we can test here in our own universe. But the other universes themselves will almost certainly remain a conjecture.

“We had a lot more confidence in our intuition before the discovery of dark energy and the multiverse idea,” says Guth. “There will still be a lot for us to understand, but we will miss out on the fun of figuring everything out from first principles.”

YEP: “Call It Christ’s Mass and Let Best Buy Keep the Holiday.”

AZUSA STREET, 100 YEARS LATER: “More Than 1 in 4 Christians Are Pentecostal, Charismatic.”

COME ON IN, THE WATER’S FINE! “Baptists, Pentecostals Seek Common Ground.”

OR PERHAPS EUROPE HAS MOVED AWAY FROM FOLLOWING? “Christianity is still the largest religion in the world but followers have moved away from Europe.”

BECAUSE VIRTUE ISN’T GOING AWAY: “Why We Need a ‘Stuck with Virtue’ Science.”

BECAUSE SOCIOLOGISTS HAVE NOTHING BETTER TO DO: “Sociological rules of Christmas gift giving.”

QUESTIONABLE RELIGIOUS STATISTIC: “Study: Atheists distrusted as much as rapists.”

GOOD FOR THEM! BUT DIDN’T SCROOGE CONVERT? “Atheists aim to change image of penny-pinching Scrooges.”

CRAP OR CONSCIENCE? “Manure Makers, Yes; Catholics, No.”

ANTISEMITES, RACISTS, CONSPIRACY NUTTERS: “The Company Ron Paul Keeps.”

IVY LEAGUE PERVS: “The Postmodern Pedophile: Meet the academics who try to redefine pedophilia as ‘intergenerational intimacy.’”

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