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Spiritual Gifts

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If you have questions or curiosity regarding spiritual gifts, this short, reader-friendly book is the one you need to pick up. Schreiner argues for nuanced-cessationism but he does so in a way that is very kind and not off putting.
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Concise in a brilliant way, non-academic without dumbing it down. Schreiner is straight forward in defending his position (moderate cessationism) and fair in representing other viewpoints. This work is a nice primer to the issues surrounding this distinctive belief, would recommend it to someone looking to start studying pneumatology. I think Schreiner hit the nail in the head without sounding pedantic.
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Spiritual Gifts are mentioned several times in the New Testament. Once someone accepts Christ as their Savior, they are given a spiritual gift. Though that belief is accepted, many wonder about what the gifts are, and are all of them still given today. Thomas R. Schreiner addresses these questions in Spiritual Gifts: What They Are and Why They Matter.

Schreiner gives a brief description of each gift, and ways they are used in the church. He also includes different viewpoints on some of the gifts that people question whether they are still given today or not.

As part of the book, he offers several cautions about using our gifts and working with one another. People have different gifts, and there is not one that is more important than another. Gifts are to be used in love, and to glorify God by helping others. We aren't to use them for selfish reasons.

Having an understanding of each one better allows people to use their gifts in conjunction with each other. This book answers common questions about spiritual gifts and can help Christians learn about the purpose of each gift.

I like that Schreiner admits that he is not above correction and that that disagreements about gifts are not on the same level as salvation, so they shouldn't be used to create rifts between fellow believers.

I received a complimentary copy from the publisher through NetGalley. All opinions are my own.
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When I found out that Thomas Schreiner had written a book on spiritual gifts, I knew I wanted to check it out. When the opportunity came to review it, I jumped at the chance. Dr. Schreiner is a professor at The Southern Baptist Theological Seminary in Louisville, KY. He is a professor of New Testament Interpretation and has written several New Testament commentaries as well as other books. Given his credentials, one should pay attention when he weighs in on a topic such as this.

In Spiritual Gifts, Dr. Schreiner explains the purpose of spiritual gifts and hones in specifically on the two controversial gifts— namely prophecy and speaking in tongues. Schreiner states in the introduction, “I wanted to write a small book on spiritual gifts because I support a position called ‘cessationism’—at least, it is a kind of cessationism” (1). He later says, “My desire is that this short, relatively nontechnical book could be given to people who want to read a brief discussion on spiritual gifts” (4). 

There has been no shortage of discussion on this topic lately. Matt Chandler has preached sermons on it and endorsed a new book by Sam Storms called Practicing the Power advocating for the continuationist position. Another well known continuationist is Wayne Grudem. Grudem is best known for a work called Systematic Theology. Simply put, cessationists believe that some of the more miraculous spiritual gifts were given to bear witness to Christ’s Lordship after His resurrection and to strengthen the early church; after that time, they have now ceased and are no longer needed nor given. Continuationists believe those gifts are still available today.

Schreiner dedicates the book to Wayne Grudem, John Piper, and Sam Storms. All of these men disagree with Schreiner’s position, but Schreiner humbly acknowledges that this is not an issue to divide over. In fact, the reader will sense Schreiner’s humility throughout the whole book. Even if one disagrees with Schreiner’s take, he has left us a beautiful example of disagreeing well in an age where we want to demonize anyone who takes an opinion different from ours.

Schreiner masterfully argues his position from the biblical text. Even if you disagree with him, you must wrestle with the arguments he makes from the Bible. Because of Schreiner’s position as a New Testament scholar, I think every continuationist owes it to themself to read this work and grapple with what he is saying. I am also impressed with the accessibility of this book. Schreiner could easily speak in a very technical way making it hard for most people to understand. His ability to dumb it down for people like me shows just how gifted he is.

One particularly interesting part of the book for me was Schreiner’s distinction between prophecy and impressions. This is a helpful category I think. Schreiner argues that both Old and New Testament prophecy are without error and that we think of as prophecy today would be better termed “impressions”. He helpfully unpacks this thought and I found it to be a very valuable section of the book.

Overall, I highly recommend this book to both continuationists and cessationists alike. I think we all can learn from Schreiner and he gives a very knowledgeable and fair treatment to the subject. In the Epilogue, Schreiner helpfully reminds the reader, “ As evangelicals, we need to continue to grow in our ability to have loving discussions on where we differ without demonizing one another and without suggesting that those who disagree are somehow less spiritually mature” (171). He ends reminding us that the gifts are all about making much of Jesus and that if we don’t have love then we are nothing.

Disclaimer: I received this book for free in exchange for a fair and honest review. All opinions expressed are my own.
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An interesting book on spiritual gifts.  Honestly, I don’t have enough background on this topic to be able to review this book in the scholarly way that it deserves, so I’m not going to comment on the author’s conclusions.  However, it’s an interesting discussion and gives me a viewpoint for more study on my own.  

I received a copy of this book from the publisher. All opinions are my own.
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Cessationism is the belief that certain spiritual gifts in the New Testament—namely the more miraculous gifts—have ceased. However, far from concentrating on controversy Dr. Tom Schreiner’s approach is conversational, compassionate to those who hold a different conviction, and compelling in his unpacking of the Biblical text. Schreiner seeks to remind his readers that while he holds a nuanced cessationism (a term he fully explores in the book) this is not a first-order issue; we are not discussing the person of Christ or justification by grace alone through faith alone. At the same time, I appreciate the seriousness with which he approaches the matter of spiritual gifts. There are many churches today that either seek to quench the Spirit through a strict liturgy that allows little room for remembering that our religion is one of relationship, while others engage in hyper-spiritualised ecstatic experiences that have little or nothing in common with the spiritual gifts as they were practiced by the apostles and the early church.
So this is an important book.
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Spiritual gifts are important for us, individually as well as for the  Church. While there are different interpretations of what they are and how they are used, the general agreement is that they are from God and are used for the edification of the body of Christ. Unfortunately, many churches and believers have unwittingly allowed their differences and interpretations get in the way of seeing the bigger picture of what spiritual gifts are essentially about. What are the essential and non-essential aspects of spiritual gifts? How do we disagree without tearing our communities apart? In this book, author Thomas Schreiner deals with one of the most contentious gifts in the history of the Church: What about the gifts of apostle, prophets, and tongues? Have they ceased? Schreiner argues from a "nuanced cessationism" perspective. Healing and miracles still exist but are increasingly rare because all we need are in the revealed Scriptures already. More importantly, he wants us to focus more on the "nuancing" rather than the "ceasing." For once we understand the nuances, we will understand why he is arguing for the cessation perspective.


Schreiner begins by arguing that the matters is not a "first-order issue," meaning it does not come into doctrinal category of faith statements and convictions. Nuancing means the ability to distinguish what are the first, second, third, or other order matters. It is about respectable discussions based on reasoned interpretations of Scripture. It means learning to disagree in a respectful and mature manner. He notes upfront about disagreeing with friends and teachers such as Wayne Grudem, John Piper, Sam Storms, and others. His purpose is to offer a defense of his views and to briefly discuss the alternative views to the "continuationist" view.  He highlights the pluses and minuses of the charismatic movement and poses probing questions about how our own backgrounds colour our interpretations of the charismatic movement. He defines spiritual gifts as "gifts of grace granted by the Holy Spirit for the edification of the church." Using Kenneth Berding's table of spiritual gifts, he goes on to highlight the gifts of teaching to help us understand the place of prophecy. With teaching comes knowledge. With prophecy comes revelation. The simple logic is that if the Scriptures are already fully revealed, what is the place of prophecy then? The gift of faith is not about salvation but about vision for the future. Healing and miracles may still exist but they need a shroud of regularity in order to be considered mainstay of faith. He deals with other gifts such as discernment, help, administration, exhortation, giving, evangelism, and mercy before making an exception for apostles and tongues. He nuances the latter two into gifts of serving and speaking according to 1 Peter 4:11. One helpful thing he does is to share more about pastoral aspects of Spiritual Gifts, something he notes as "Five Truths about Spiritual Gifts." First, the Lordship of Christ means we let our gifts reflect our obedience to our Lord Jesus. Second, we need to think reasonably and constructively about our giftings.  Third, we honour the diversity of gifts from God. Fourth, we cannot let gifts set us apart in superior or inferior categories. Fifth, only God decides what gifts are given. We are not what the gifts tell us. We are what God says we are. Other truths include the edification of the Church; empowerment for service; edification through understanding; and most of all, love. After setting down the primary rules of engagement, we are ready for a fuller treatment of tongues, prophecies, and all the other controversial gifts made popular by the charismatic movement.

Three Thoughts
First, this book is a bold attempt to deal with something often avoided because of the fear of conflict and disagreement. Truth is, whether we admit or not, we already have different opinions about spiritual gifts. By using his nuanced approach, Schreiner has expanded the space for inclusiveness regardless of where we stand. This is helpful because it gives us room to be different. We can take our time to understand one another without being hasty in abandoning our convictions. Such a space for discussion will be good for conversation and constructive feedback. When we no longer feel threatened about being forced to change our views, we are more able to see beyond self-interests and selfish motives. We all have a common desire for truth and being inclusive about such a topic will help us approach that objective.

Second, the manner of "nuanced cessationalism" adopted by Schreiner is an example for us to follow. Sometimes, we are tempted toward a binary perspective which forces us to take sides. While it can help in terms of clarity of positions, it may harm the overall mood of the relationships we have. By nuancing our views and understanding the nuances of other perspectives, we are better able to reason, to argue, and to debate in a loving and constructive manner. We open ourselves to the gifting of others which would do wonders to the exercise of the spiritual gifts for the edification of the Church at large.

Third, I believe the conclusion is not so important. That means the cessation or non-cessation statements should not be the main thing. The main purpose is the glory of God. The more important thing is the truths of spiritual gifts as described in the set of ten truths discussed over two chapters and beyond. These truths help the various gifts be exercised altogether. One helpful thing I have learned is to distinguish the majors from the minors. Schreiner calls the majors as "first order." Since the gifts of prophecy and tongues are of the second or third orders, we should be able to maintain a more open stance.

This is a useful book that would help believers of different backgrounds to come together for discussion or learning from one another, without any need to dumb down anyone or any one perspective. He helpfully deals with the different questions and gives us his views about them. He even challenges some conventional views that argue for the cessation of such gifts and shows us how we could argue more constructively and biblically. Whether you are cessationist or not, Schreiner is one person that you would feel you could engage with.

Thomas R. Schreiner is the James Harrison Professor of New Testament Interpretation at The Southern Baptist Theological Seminary in Louisville, Kentucky. He has also taught New Testament at Azusa Pacific University and Bethel Theological Seminary.

Rating: 4 stars of 5.

conrade
This book has been provided courtesy of B and H Publishing and NetGalley without requiring a positive review. All opinions offered above are mine unless otherwise stated or implied.
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This is a great little booklet on spiritual gifts and answering tough questions in regards to the "miraculous gifts". The only little issue I see is in the chapter addressing the "desire the higher gifts". I think Schreiner misdiagnoses the situation a bit, as his answer doesnt really address the question (sovereignty vs responsibility). The issue is that the corinthian congregation was elevating uninterpreted tongues and Paul says, elevate prophesies instead.
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