Review: Holy Smoke! Unholy Fire!

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I want to thank Energion Publications for this review copy.

From the outset, several things are apparent. First, Dr. Robert C. McKibben is not writing to the hardened theologian, the pentecostal, or those with a balanced view of the work of the Spirit of God in the Church. Instead, he is writing a pastoral letter to those who he feels are abusing, or perhaps, not using properly, the gift of the Spirit.

First, the drawbacks. This is not a book written towards theologians, but one to be made use of the lay people. Because of this, I believe that those trying to find support for one position on the issue or another may not make use of this book. Simply put, I do not agree with several of his positions, as he takes the standard Billy Graham position on sanctification.

One of the best things about this book, is that it is not written towards theologians. It is made to be read and used by those who encounter, perhaps daily, the ill effects of hyper-pentecostalism/charismaticism and by those who not only encounter it, but are starting to explore it. While I don’t agree with his position on sanctification, I do agree with many of his positions on evidences and the need to balance those evidences with Scripture.

His writing style is light and loose and I can imagine that he is mimicking his preaching. Not to say that he has not filled a few of these pages with a great wealth of Christian devotion. Dr. McKibben, I believe, has a deep concern for Christians to mature around the aspect of an active Holy Spirit in the Church, but while basing it on New Testament understanding. He fills his pastoral letter with a personal connection, admitting his past short comings and failures, calling others out while remaining sensitive to them, and allowing you in to see how his views were formed and shaped throughout his life. He comes across as a deeply likable person with a passion for his congregation and the right teaching on this subject. Like any pastor, he shares with his readers sometimes rather personal insights into his life to build his story.

At the end of each chapter is a series of questions meant to make the reader ask him or herself questions about the preceding work and to examine their current and changing viewpoints on the material as presented. While some of the questions betrayed a self-importance of the material, some of these questions need to be asked by many readers today, in that all too often, people are unhappy to live a life unquestioning of their belief system.

I can recommend this book, because it presents a middle road into the field which, while I may disagree with some of his doctrinal positions, I agree with him overall that what is going on in much of the pentecostal/charismatic world is entirely unscriptural. Christians must get back to testing things by the words which they purport to hold most dear.

I have to wonder how the book would have been written in a post Lakeland Revival Florida?

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24 Replies to “Review: Holy Smoke! Unholy Fire!”

  1. Thanks for the review, Joel. I have, in fact, been discussing the idea of a new edition of the book including a chapter that might look at Lakeland and related things. It’s too early to say just what will happen.

    1. Henry, I think that in a post-Lakeland, pre-next Lakeland, something like that might be needful, especially given his openness to (biblical) manifestations.

      1. Polycarp – I would be very surprised if anyone actually involved wanted to read it. I think it is more likely that those considering but not committed. I think Todd B has gone further in almost all areas than is described in the book.

        As I mentioned in my previous note, a few of my friends were quite angry–and that’s the friendly ones. I consider Bob to be quite gentle in his admonitions, however, but I guess it doesn’t look that way to some.

        1. Henry, please let me know if there is an update. I was impressed with Bob’s allowances for manifestations, showing his balance in the Wesleyan Tradition. You may be correct that it is for the non-committed, but I would hope that others pick up the book as well.

    1. I’m the publisher. The copyright is 2005. Bob McKibben became pastor of Pine Forest United Methodist Church during the waning days of the Brownsville revival. Pine Forest UMC was greatly impacted by the revival. Bob speaks from experience.

      Some of my friends were quite annoyed that I published this book, but I have no doubts about the decision to do so.

        1. I have friends on both sides. I consider myself somewhat charismatic in doctrine myself. But there are some who dislike being questioned.

          One of the great dangers in the charismatic and pentecostal movements, but even more particular in some of the current revival movements is the notion of anointed leaders who are above criticism and questioning. One is not allowed to approve of some things and disapprove of others; one is expected to be 100% for or against. I am rarely 100% on a movement. Even the best have problems.

          So there were some who questioned why I would publish Bob’s book which certainly (and rightly, in my view) questions some practices.

          This has been an interesting problem with starting an individually owned publishing company–people expect me to publish only things I agree with. Even now, with our 27th title coming out in about a week, I hear from people who think I must agree with every word in the books I publish. Perhaps incorporation would help–but then again, maybe not!

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