Spiritual Gifts by Thomas R. Schreiner: A Book Review

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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.