Book Reviews By Tharwat Maher, PhD

The Radical Wesley and Patterns for Church Renewal - Howard A. Snyder
The Radical Wesley and Patterns for Church Renewal. By Howard A. Snyder. Eugene, Or.: Wipf and Stock, 1996. vi + 189 pp
Book Critique by Tharwat Maher Nagib Adly Nagib, PhD, Regent University, VA
The Radical Wesley and Patterns for Church Renewal, a book by Howard A. Snyder, is an insightful book that presents John Wesley’s ecclesiastical understanding and practices as a proposed pattern for church renewal. The book studies the Wesleyan ecclesiastical structure and examines the usefulness of this model in terms of the contemporary ecclesiastical context. In his previous works The Problem of Wineskins[1] and The Community of the King,[2] Snyder presented a balanced reassessment of the mission and structure of today’s church. In The Problem of Wineskins, he presented the Wesleyan model as “a lesson from history” of church renewal.[3] In The Radical Wesley, Snyder continues exploring the Wesleyan ecclesiastical model in greater depth.[4] The Problem of Wineskins, The Community of the King, The Radical Wesley, alongside Snyder’s The Divided Flame: Wesleyans and the Charismatic Renewal[5] offer an integrated inspiring proposal of church renewal.
The Radical Wesley consists of three sections, which include twelve chapters, in addition to an introduction and a short conclusion. The first section illustrates the early influences that formed Wesley’s ecclesiology. His parents’ influence, the idea of the religious societies that already existed in the Church of England, the Moravian impact, and biblical beliefs as well as his personal experience were the most significant factors that shaped Wesley's ecclesiology. The second section examines Wesley’s understanding of the church and traces the major developments in his ecclesiastical thought. Wesley’s ecclesiastical developments resulted from his practical experience and growing biblical understanding. Theology and practices in the Wesleyan tradition are inseparable. Snyder also proficiently explains how Wesley formulated a balanced approach towards church tradition, and how he distinguished between the biblical and traditional aspects in his ecclesiastical thought. In addition, this section emphasizes the Wesleyan understanding of church order as a functional structure that conveys God’s grace rather than an institutional structure that is controlled by strict instructions. The third section of the book discusses the renewal of the church today in the light of Wesley’s ecclesiology. It examines the distinction between the institutional perspective of the church and the charismatic one, and suggests a mediating model, inspired from Wesley, that combines elements of both the institutional and charismatic model. At the end of this section, Snyder offers a biblical critique of some aspects of Wesley’s ecclesiastical perspective.
The book shows the significance of the Wesleyan ecclesiastical structure and its centrality to the understanding of the history of church renewal movements. Snyder illustrates that the secrets of Wesley’s radicalism lay in his ecclesiastical structure which was built on “forming little bands of God-seekers who joined together in an earnest quest to be Jesus’ disciples.”[6] Wesley was dependent on these small entities to be the main vehicle of church renewal. The Wesleyan ecclesiastical structure of societies, classes, and bands, represented a new wineskin for the Holy Spirit’s new wine. Snyder suggests that Wesley saw these small entities as ecclesiolae in ecclesia or “little churches within the church.” Snyder explains that Wesley’s ecclesiology is a synthesis of “old and new”, “dogma and experience”, and “tradition and innovation.” Actually, the uniqueness of Wesley's ecclesiology, as presented by Snyder, could be seen, not in replacing the old components (because Wesley in fact did not want to replace the old components), but in Wesley's selectivity in adopting the old components, and his proficiency in combining the old and new components. The institutional ecclesiastical model did not represent a problem to Wesley, while its dryness did. So, Wesley realized the need for church renewal, and founded the Methodist system of various kinds of small groups, itinerant preachers, simple preaching houses, and love feasts to be the basic tools of this renewal. Snyder asserts that these “emerging patterns composed, above all, a system of discipline-in-community.”[7] The analytical reading of Snyder’s book shows that discipleship was the core of the Wesleyan structure, and living in a community of discipline, koinonia, was its distinctive character. In the Wesleyan ecclesiastical system, one cannot be that member who attends the church meetings and lives for himself. Snyder sees that because of this radicalism of the Wesleyan model it could be linked to the radical reformed movements, such as the Anabaptist. Snyder does not intend to prove any historical connection between Wesley and the Anabaptist, but rather he shows significant parallels in their ecclesiastical beliefs. He illustrates that Protestant radicalism focuses on both belief and life, and emphasizes the “Christian discipleship—not in isolation but in community.”[8] Life is the only true measure of real faith, and discipline is a distinctive characteristic of this real life. Snyder concludes that this radical perspective is identical to Wesley's beliefs. “Wesley was a radical Christian precisely because radical Christianity is not a system of doctrine but the experience of the body of Christ as a community of discipleship.”[9]
In The Radical Wesley, Snyder’s historical lens accurately spotted, as mentioned before, the historical influences that shaped Wesley's ecclesiology. Snyder cleverly selected specific events from Wesley’s journey that strongly formed his ecclesiastical beliefs. For instance, he professionally presented a detailed account of the paternal and maternal influences that perhaps attracted Wesley, early in his life, to the idea of religious societies. Also, he analyzed the Moravian influence, showed their contribution to Wesley’s ecclesiastical structure, and explained both Wesley’s appreciation and criticism of the Moravian ecclesiology. Through these examples and others, it could be noted that Snyder’s historical methodology in this book combines both primary and secondary sources reading them through an accurate analytical perspective. In addition, Snyder’s discussion of the ecclesiastical patterns and the tension between the institutional and charismatic models gives a strong proof of his practical ecclesiastical and missiological experience. For instance, his emphasis in chapter six on the Wesleyan understanding of the essence of the church ministry as functional rather than institutional offers a very important insight that can bridge the gap between the church as a living entity and as an institutional entity. The functional perspective, with its emphasis on the gifts of the Spirit, can revive the institutional roles, per se, by giving them a living identity. This is derived from ministering to the members of the church instead of having mere rigid roles with no purpose or function in the church.
When it comes to the theological issues, one cannot deny Snyder’s insightful remarks, but one cannot also ignore the lack of attempts to engage other academic resources in the discussion, even if this omission does not permeate Snyder’s entire text. For instance, in chapter seven, Snyder mentioned that Wesley’s “view of Christ’s Second Coming was postmillennial”.[10] Affirming such controversial claim requires at least an explanatory footnote that shows the other scholarly points of view.[11] Also, Snyder’s discussion of infant baptism, in chapter eight, and his statement that Wesley “felt that children baptized in infancy were at that time born again”[12] directly contradicts, not only with other scholarly secondary sources, but also with pieces of primary evidence that prove the contrary, such as Wesley’s explanation in his Sermon on the New Birth that, “baptism is not the new birth, they are not one and same thing.”[13] Therefore, Snyder’s claim about baptism needs, at least, a deeper connection with other academic resources.[14]
Contrary to previous observations, there are many examples of Snyder’s insightful theological remarks. For instance, in chapter four, Snyder emphasized the Wesleyan view of the “evangelical synergism” between God's grace and human responsibility. Wesley was convinced that salvation is “wholly by grace alone,” but also that “God graciously enabled men and women to cooperate with the Holy Spirit in the great work of salvation, of restoring the image of God.”[15] It is significant that Snyder linked some of Wesley’s theological convictions to the teaching of the fourth-century Eastern Fathers. Also, in chapter eleven, Snyder presents a precise illustration of Wesley's thoughts on Divine sovereignty and human freedom. He explains the Wesleyan understanding of human will in its relationship to the image of God in the human, and proficiently illuminates Wesley’s understanding of original sin in its relationship to the doctrine of prevenient grace. Snyder accurately noted that Wesley’s understanding of prevenient grace refutes the claim that “total depravity” and “double-predestination” are inseparable, because prevenient grace enables the corrupted human to use his free will, even partially, to accept or refuse the Gospel.
Concerning Snyder’s final suggestion of a mediating model that combines the institutional and charismatic structures in an appropriate framework, I do not think that this model could be a suitable realistic model that helps the church to attain the required renewal nowadays. Snyder describes this model as a charismatic movement, which expresses itself in small charismatic entities that exist inside the traditional institutional church. He gives Wesley’s ecclesiolae in ecclesia as an example of this model and asserts the fact that early Methodism was a charismatic church inside the institutional church. In spite of Snyder’s right historical description of early Methodism, it is clear that the existence of this model does not necessarily equate with its success. The failure of this model could be clearly seen in the Methodists’ separation and their departure from the Church of England. Snyder mentioned this proof of failure, but he did not discuss it in detail. It seems that Snyder tends to attribute this separation solely to the historical context. He depends on the fact that Wesley never left or got expelled from the Church of England to give a probable proof against the idea of the failure of this model. Snyder’s comment on this point does not seem to be sufficient to convince the reader of the success of this model. On the other hand, the Methodists’ separation from the Church of England remains as a strong proof of failure. Actually, it is undeniable that Snyder’s model seeks to revitalize the church without bringing division, but at the same time it is noticeable that this model tends toward the institutional perspective more than the charismatic. It places, perhaps unintentionally, the institutional model as a dominant party, and thus it does not guarantee genuine renewal. It is undeniable that Wesley brought a significant renewal and unprecedented change to the church in general. He is really the father of the contemporary renewal movements, and his ecclesiology is one of the authentic roots of church renewal, but specifically his success in renewing the Church of England is still a controversial issue. There is no doubt that Methodism, per se, succeeded in renewing the universal church and implanting the renewal genes in the contemporary ecclesiology, but the question about the success of the Methodists in renewing the Church of England precisely will remain as a great challenge to Snyder's model.

[1] See Snyder, Howard A. The Problem of Wine Skins: Church Structure in a Technological Age. Downers Grove, Ill.: Inter-Varsity Press, 1975.
[2] See Snyder, Howard A. The Community of the King. Downers Grove, Ill.: Inter-Varsity Press, 1977.
[3] Snyder, The Problem of Wine Skins, 169–177.
[4] Howard A. Snyder, The Radical Wesley and Patterns for Church Renewal (Eugene, Or.: Wipf and Stock, 1996), і.
[5] See Snyder, Howard A., and Daniel V. Runyon. The Divided Flame: Wesleyans and Charismatic Renewal. Grand Rapids, Mich.: F. Asbury Press, 1986.
[6] Snyder, The Radical Wesley, 2.
[7] Ibid., 53.
[8] Ibid., 113.
[9] Ibid., 165.
[10] Ibid., 87.
[11] For further discussion on this topic, see, for instance, Brown, Kenneth D. “John Wesley: Post or Premillennialist?” Methodist History 28 (1989): 33--41, and Newport, Kenneth G C. “Methodists and the Millennium: Eschatological Expectations and the Interpretation of Biblical Prophecy in Early British Methodism.” Bulletin of the John Rylands University Library of Manchester 78, (1996): 103--122.
[12] Snyder, The Radical Wesley, 104.
[13] John Wesley, “Sermon on the New Birth,” in The Works of the Rev. John Wesley, 3rd Edition, ed. Thomas Jackson, 14 vols., CD-ROM edition (Albany, Or.: Ages Software, 1997), 6: 90.
[14] For further discussion on Wesley’s understanding of infant baptism, see Randy L. Maddox, Responsible Grace: John Wesley’s Practical Theology (Nashville, Tennessee: Kingswood Books, 1994), 222–225, Theodore Runyon, The New Creation: John Wesley’s Theology Today (Nashville:  Abingdon Press, 1998), 140–145, and Robert G. Tuttle,  Sanctity Without Starch (Lexington, K.Y.: Bristol Books, 1992), 53–63.
[15] Snyder, The Radical Wesley, 47.
Spirit Cure: A History of Pentecostal Healing - Joseph W. Williams

Spirit Cure: A History of Pentecostal Healing. By Joseph W. Williams. New York: Oxford University Press, 2013. Pp. xi + 222. $55.00, ISBN 978-0-19-976567-6.
Book Critique by Tharwat Maher Nagib Adly Nagib, PhD, Regent University, VA

Joseph W. William, Assistant Professor of Religion at Rutgers University, offers through his first published book Spirit Cure: A History of Pentecostal Healing a perspective on the development of healing belief and practices among the Pentecostal and Charismatic circles over the course of the twentieth century. Williams argues that the Pentecostal approach to healing has changed over the years – from a strong denunciation of the medical profession and a sharp refusal of any “non-divine” practices that could detract the uniqueness of the direct divine intervention, to a broad acceptance and spiritualization of natural healing methods and psychology that might also be accompanied by scientific medicine. Williams also contends that the early Pentecostal healing practices strongly reflected metaphysical beliefs. He sees that understanding these early Pentecostal metaphysical tendencies is crucial to discerning the reasons behind the shift that occurred in Pentecostal healing practices over the twentieth century. Williams also sees that this shift in Pentecostal healing practices played a central role in engaging the Pentecostals with modern American culture, and stimulated the dramatic transition of Pentecostals from a despised minority to a major effective group in the socio-cultural context of American Evangelicalism.
The book consists of a well-articulated introduction, five chapters, and a conclusion. Williams begins the introduction with an insightful historical background that shows how Calvinism tended to teach believers to patiently endure the suffering of sickness as an act of submission to God, and how people, especially radical evangelists during the 1800s, started to reject this God who refuses to intervene in their suffering and only asks them for self-denial and endurance. Williams highlights how the historical and theological roots of the 19th century divine healing movement could be traced to the Wesleyan/Holiness emphasis on sanctification and life of Christian perfection, and how Wesley’s writings also emphasized the importance of following the “lows of health” implanted in nature by God. The first Pentecostals saw healing in the atonement and their healing practices focused on faith and prayer. The introduction also shows that by the second half of the 20th century, the distance separating Pentecostal healing from other healing practices employed by other streams started to diminish due to a significant change in the Pentecostal healing per se. The author describes this change by saying that the “claims of direct divine interventions by no means disappeared” at that time, and the reason was that “the strident denunciations of the medical profession characteristic of early Pentecostalism increasingly gave way to an unabashed embrace of healing methods condemned by previous Pentecostals, as the faithful commingled divine healing with the use of medicine, natural substances, and… forms of psychotherapy.”[1] At this point, Oral Roberts appears, through his understanding of divine healing as a marriage of medicine and spirituality, as a key person in Williams’ argument.
Like other academic studies of Healing Movements,[2] the first chapter of Spirit Cure begins with the healing revivals during the late 19th century. It shows the centrality of faith, prayer and fasting, and spiritual warfare in the healing process during this stage. The chapter highlights how central figures such as John Alexander Dowie and Frank W. Sandford emphasized a connection between Satan and illness, and how this perspective influenced the early Pentecostals, who refused to depend on any other means, except divine healing, strictly rejecting any other ideology such as Christian Science, New Thought, or Psychology. The author argues that despite this official Pentecostal rhetoric that refused any other ideologies of healing, “a careful look at the sources reveals a much more complicated picture regarding Pentecostal’ relationships with fellow unorthodox healers and spiritualized forms of natural healing.”[3] Williams quotes Charles Parham to prove a sort of similarity between Parham’s thoughts and New Thought beliefs. He also highlights how other early Pentecostal leaders had thorough knowledge of New Thought and Christian Science beliefs, and compares the early Pentecostals’ denunciation of symptoms of sickness (the Finished Work beliefs) with the New Thought adherents’ positive confessions.
This chapter also explains how G.F. Taylor’s differentiation between practices that maintain health and those that repair health has opened the door for accepting natural healing among Pentecostals. Williams concludes this part by arguing that the most important junction between the Pentecostal healing beliefs and the metaphysical beliefs is found in the Pentecostals’ conceptions of the Holy Spirit, which “looked a lot like unorthodox physicians’ descriptions of impersonal power.”[4] He affirms that these early Pentecostal metaphysical tendencies remained for later generations of Pentecostals and created an acceptance of natural substances and the power of mind as necessary mediators that facilitate healing.
The second chapter of Spirit Cure begins with showing the mid-century Pentecostal shift towards the appreciation of medicine. Williams argues that among the reasons that caused this shift were; evangelization of Pentecostalism, improvement of the social standing of many Pentecostals after World War II, the emergence of the interdenominational ministries such as the FGBMFI,[5] and the high educational level of some Pentecostals. Then, the author highlights different trends of healing that appeared among Pentecostals during that time. Some focused on the demonic source of illness, therefore they understood healing in terms of deliverance. Some brought the natural substances or the power of the mind into unity with divine power. Some, such as Franklin Hall, focused on fasting as a gateway to healing, which also, according to Williams, stimulated the acceptance of natural healing methods. The author also highlights the essential role of E.W. Kenyon in stressing the centrality of positive confessions in the process of healing, and directly links Kenyon’s teaching to the New Thought tradition.
In the third chapter, Williams highlights how the Charismatic Renewal matured the shift toward supporting the validity of modern medicine. Oral Roberts, Kathryn Kuhlman, Agnes Sanford, William Reed, Francis MacNutt, and Happy Hunters were among those who strongly influenced this shift. Oral Roberts’ university, especially the school of medicine, and his hospital were places where science and supernatural healing have been practiced together. The Charismatic acceptance of the validity of physicians and medicine influenced the AOG to provide funding for medical missionary and a formally approved medical missions program. Chapter four highlights Agnes Sanford’s inner healing teaching and attributes her thoughts to the New Thought teachings, explaining the effect of her thoughts on MacNutt and other Charismatic leaders. The Word of Faith movement was influenced by E.W. Kenyon, who was, in turn, as mentioned before, influenced by the New Thought movement. Despite the disagreement between Kenneth Hagin’s Word of Faith movement and the inner healing movement, Joyce Meyer and T.D. Jakes blended the two trends in their teaching, and with Paula White and Joel Osteen, they drenched their audience with New Thought teachings and psychological practices. The last chapter of Spirit Cure examined the Charismatic emphasis on diet and exercise. Williams offers a good overview of many Pentecostal and Charismatic leaders who emphasize the importance of healthy habits and practices. In his conclusion, the author affirms that his argument is not to claim that the Pentecostals/Charismatics deny the Holy Spirit’s role as the third person in the Trinity or equate Him with nature or the power of the mind, but rather to explain how the Pentecostal early metaphysical approach of healing helped to bring the contemporary Pentecostal healing practices into alignment with broader trends of healing in America.
Although it is fair to say that Spirit Cure offers a good contribution to the studies of the American religious history, it seems reasonable to say that some points in Williams’ argument and observations might not easily find high acceptance in the Pentecostal historiographical arena. A few suggestions could be provided here in order to align such an important study with classical Pentecostal historical studies. First, taking into consideration the distinction between the two major trends in classical Pentecostalism in America; the Wesleyan Pentecostals and the Finished Work Pentecostals, would sharpen Williams’ study and make it more comprehensive. Based on the theology and practices of these two different early Pentecostal camps, Kimberly Alexander’s Pentecostal Healing clearly differentiates between two models of Pentecostal healing attached to these two Pentecostal streams. It was expected in Spirit Cure that Joseph Williams would be able to distinguish, chronologically and theologically, between these historical streams, instead of deriving general observations that might neither express all the streams nor always guarantee accurate conclusions. Second, Williams, in many sections of his study, solely depends on the celebrities’ thoughts and practices, such as Oral Roberts, to describe those “shifts” that occurred during the history of Pentecostal healing. Such an approach, which produces what historians call “history from above,” may not be fully expressive of the entire historical reality. An approach that analyzes the beliefs and practices of both the celebrities (the leaders) and the masses, who always shape any movement, would be better for this kind of study that seeks to examine historical shifts and changes. Third, on the one hand, in many sections of the book, the author confirmed the Pentecostal refusal of certain traditions, such as the new Thought tradition, on the other hand, he continued to emphasize these traditions’ influences on Pentecostalism depending on some similarities in their thoughts and writings. One must wonder why the author did not try to explore the biblical and theological foundations of the Pentecostals’ beliefs and practices of healing, as the Pentecostals themselves have explained, instead of viewing them as imitators of the New Thought tradition, without tracing any actual historical links that could enhance the author’s argument.

[1] Joseph W. Williams, Spirit Cure: A History of Pentecostal Healing (New York: Oxford University Press, 2013), 7.
[2] For instance, see David Edwin Harrell, All Things Are Possible: The Healing and Charismatic Revivals in Modern America (Bloomington: Indiana University Press, 1975) and Kimberly Ervin Alexander, Pentecostal Healing: Models in Theology and Practice (Blandford Forum: Deo, 2006).
[3] Williams, 40.
[4] Ibid, 48.
[5] FGBMFI – The Full Gospel Business Men’s Fellowship International.

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