Published by Baker Academic on November 3, 2020
Genres: Academic, Non-Fiction, Theology
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In Gift and Giver, leading New Testament scholar Craig Keener takes a probing look at the various evangelical understandings of the role of the Holy Spirit in the church. He explores topics such as spiritual gifts, the fruit of the Spirit, the Spirit's power for evangelism, and hearing God's voice. His desire is for Christians to "work for consensus, or at least for unity in God's work despite our differences on secondary matters."
Employing a helpful narrative approach and an ample number of stories, Keener enters into constructive dialogue with Pentecostals, moderates, and cessationists, all the while attempting to learn from each viewpoint. He seeks to bridge the gap between cessationists and Pentecostals/charismatics by urging all Christians to seek the Holy Spirit's empowerment. His irenic approach to this controversial issue has been endorsed by charismatics and non-charismatics alike.
Sure to provoke helpful dialogue on a topic that has caused unfortunate divisions within the church, Gift and Giver will be a valuable addition to college and seminary courses on pneumatology. It will also be helpful to lay readers interested in a balanced discussion of spiritual gifts. This repackaged edition includes an updated preface and a substantive new afterword.
In 1996, Craig Keener wrote a book called 3 Crucial Questions About the Holy Spirit. Five years later, that content got significantly reworked into the first edition of Gift and Giver: The Holy Spirit for Today. And about twenty years after that, Baker Books and Dr. Keener are revisiting that text to ensure that the “today” element in still relevant as we march through the twenty-first century. I mention the book’s history simply to show how the topic has remained consistently relevant across the decades and how Keener has been regarded as an academic authority on the issue for just as long.
The bulk of the text is largely unchanged from the first edition, as Keener has remained committed to his exegetical conclusions and not found any better arguments for his continuationist position or heard any stronger rebuttals from the cessationist position. That’s interesting to me because, usually theological arguments like this have a firm grounding where the peripherals shift over time as nuances of the debate change. Keener seems convinced that the debate has virtually gone nowhere in twenty years and—looking around at the scholarship—he appears to be right.
The Charismatic/continuationist “side” often has the misfortune of being categorized with television evangelists, Word of Faith practitioners, and others who misuse or overemphasize the supernatural. It’s also, and I say this carefully, largely academically deficient. The most well-known Charismatics aren’t academically pedigreed (sometimes looking down upon such training) and have been known to spout some wild and unorthodox theories. The academic rigor with which continuationism has been defended does not match the rigor with which cessationism has been defended.
Craig Keener almost singlehandedly changes that. Gift and Giver didn’t make me a continuationist (I already was one), but it made me more academically comfortable with that position. It is the book I would go to in order to outline and present a case for the supernatural role of the Holy Spirit today. Keener writes with precision and personality, interweaving his personal journey toward his current beliefs with an accessible and understandable exposition and defense of those beliefs. He is fair and nuanced, has an adept understanding of the cessationist position and the flawed extremes of some within continuationism. His tone is irenic and conversational. His exegesis is excellent. It’s very well thought through and presented and, even when I come down with a slightly different understanding, I’m left with a better understanding of his position.
Pair this book with Spiritual Gifts by cessationist Thomas Schreiner and you have the very best scholarship that each side of the debate can give you presented in a fashion that is both academic and agreeable, absent from the vitriol and extremism that characterizes the debate in popular circles. Gift and Giver is a breath of fresh, calming air on a contentious topic. A true masterpiece!