Schreiner, Dr. Thomas R. Spiritual Gifts: What They Are and Why They Matter. B&H Books, Nashville, TN. 2018. 192 pages.
In the church, God has saved a people through Jesus Christ. For the church, God has given these people spiritual gifts for service. Yet, any discussion on spiritual gifts can quickly turn into a debate when the question about whether the gifts like prophecy and tongues are still given today. These debates can sometimes lead to caricatures of those who hold opposing viewpoints and denounce the stance of the other’s position. Both claim the Bible speaks to their stance and may even go so far as to say any other belief is unbiblical. The need for a convincing, yet humble approach to the biblical topic of spiritual gifts is evident. This is exactly what Dr. Thomas R. Schreiner delivers in his new book Spiritual Gifts: What They Are & Why They Matter.
Foundation and Framework
This approach is laid out from the beginning of the book. Dr. Schreiner opens the book by stating his position as a cessationist, holding to what he calls “nuanced” cessationism. He admits he could be mistaken in some areas but adheres to what he is most convinced by biblically. Nevertheless, he sets the tone for the book when he reminds the Christian reader this is not a first-order issue (Schreiner 2). From there, Dr. Schreiner honestly and humbly considers strengths and weaknesses of the Charismatic Movement (chapter 1), defines the various spiritual gifts in Scripture (chapter 2), shares ten foundational Scriptural truths about spiritual gifts (chapters 3–4), and answers some common questions about spiritual gifts (chapter 5). This sets the framework to gain a biblical understanding and significance of the gifts of prophecy (chapters 6–7) and tongues (chapters 8–9). With the foundation laid and framework built, the final two chapters feature Dr. Schreiner sharing unconvincing arguments for the cessation of the gifts (chapter 10) and showing a convincing argument of cessationism from Scripture (chapter 11). The reader is able to take in all Dr. Schreiner teaches through the chapters through the discussion questions listed at the end of each chapter.
A Biblical and Humble Approach
Spiritual Gifts is thoroughly biblical as Dr. Schreiner aims to define, describe, and discuss spiritual gifts according to the Word of God. This goes beyond merely looking at the listing of spiritual gifts in Romans 12 and 1 Corinthians 12. The book examines challenging passages like Acts 8:4–24 and connects passages like Acts 2 and 1 Corinthians 14. On what can quickly become a confusing topic, this book brings biblical clarity. One of the highly debated passages, namely 1 Corinthians 13:8–12, Dr. Schreiner proves to be convincing and faithful in his biblical interpretation. Without being too technical, Spiritual Gifts provides a theology of spiritual gifts.
Yet, the enduring value of this book lies in the timely tone of the book. Theological camps prone to throw grenades at each other are shown a better way—the way of grace. The introduction informs the reader spiritual gifts are not a first-order issue and chapter 3 instructs the Christian a biblical understanding of spiritual gifts begins with the lordship of Christ (Schreiner 30). Throughout the book, Schreiner points the reader back to Scripture with what he asserts but humbly admits he could be mistaken. Biblical conviction and earnest charity are two overarching characteristics of this book.
For all the commendations of conviction and charity, however, two caveats must be mentioned. The first matching the purpose of the book up with the content of the book. To be clear, the biblical content of the book is not at issue. The matter is the length. In a book described as “a brief discussion on spiritual gifts” (Schreiner 4), the overall work does accomplish this task in less than 200 pages. But in that same description, the chapters are said to be relatively small. While some chapters are longer than others, chapter 4 stretches across over 30 pages of the book. For the sake of brevity, dividing chapter 4 into two chapters, with one chapter devoted to the theme of love from 1 Corinthians 13 would have seemed fitting.
While not all believers will agree with Schreiner’s conclusion on nuanced cessationism, he is fair in interpreting 1 Corinthians 13:8–12 and gives the reader much to consider in light of the rest of the New Testament on the gift of prophecy and tongues. With so many strong points of discussion, an argument made on page 150 seems unnecessary and possibly confusing. In observing unconvincing arguments for the cessation of the gifts, Schreiner forms an argument that can make the Apostle Paul come across as a little ignorant. To be fair, Dr. Schreiner does try to keep this from being the case when he says, “[t]his isn’t to take away from Paul’s authority or accuracy, for nothing he wrote is contradicted by two thousand years of history passing,” (Schreiner 150) but with many other strong points, this potentially confusing comment is unnecessary for his argument.
The Book on Spiritual Gifts You Need
These two caveats do not take away from the theological content or timely approach of the book. If you are a Christian wanting to gain more knowledge and a biblical understanding of spiritual gifts, this is the book you need. Weary of constant debates from the culture and in the church, this charitable discussion with conviction on spiritual gifts is a breath of fresh air. Biblical and brief with a commitment to clarity and charity, Spiritual Gifts: What They Are and Why They Matter by Dr. Thomas R. Schreiner is the book on spiritual gifts you need.
I received this book from B&H/Lifeway Bloggers Program in exchange for this review. I was not required to write a positive review. The opinions I have expressed are my own and are my honest review of the book.