CLOSE UP: R.T. Kendall Print
Written by Leslie Santamaria   
Monday, 23 December 2013 11:55 AM America/New_York

HolyFireLatest project: Holy Fire: A Balanced, Biblical Look at the Holy Spirit’s Work in our Lives ($15.99, 9781621366041 Charisma House, Jan. 7).

Why did you write Holy Fire at this time? My publisher, Charisma House, got word that a leading noncharismatic evangelical was writing a book that would almost certainly be a broadside attack against Pentecostals and charismatics generally. They knew this man would particularly try to discredit the view that the gifts of the Holy Spirit are available to the church today. They asked me to respond, although there would be no opportunity to read his book. I did my best to write Holy Fire in a manner that would anticipate what I thought he would say. I was pretty sure he would defend the cessationist perspective, that is, the view that the miraculous ceased after the first century of the Christian church. I devote two chapters to expose the folly of cessationism and to demonstrate the contemporary relevance of holy Scripture regarding this issue.

Who is this book for? Because it addresses the heart as well as the mind, I would honestly say it is written for every single believer on the planet—the conservative, non-charismatic evangelical, the anti-charismatic, the Roman Catholic, any Protestant, the preacher, the layman, the teacher, the Pentecostal and the charismatic. I also kept the young student and new Christian in mind, and someone preparing for ministry. And yet, as I say in the preface, I wanted to make people “hungry for the Holy Spirit.” Therefore, it is not merely a cerebral book.

What do you mean in the book by  “a silent divorce in the Church”? It is my view that there has been a silent divorce in the church, speaking generally, between the Word and the Spirit. When there is a divorce, sometimes the children stay with the mother, sometimes with the father. In this divorce, you have those on the Word side (calling for sound doctrine, earnestly contending for the faith once delivered to the saints, Reformation teaching [justification by faith, sovereignty of God], expository preaching and the need for people to be saved) and those on the Spirit side (urging people to get the same power demonstrated in the book of Acts and to experience signs, wonders, miracles, healings, prayer meetings where the place is shaken and even seeing people being struck dead for lying to the Spirit). Both emphases are exactly right. But they talk past each other, and neither side seems to deeply respect the other. We need both. The simultaneous combination will result in spontaneous combustion and bring the Great Awakening so desperately needed.

What exactly is “strange fire”? Taken from Lev. 10:1 (KJV) and also translated “unauthorized fire” (NIV, ESV), it is what Nadab and Abihu produced on their own. [Both] were consequently destroyed by God. The author of the book Strange Fire applies this to all Pentecostals and charismatics today, claiming that their manifestations, including speaking in tongues, are demonic. I include a chapter called “Strange Fire” in my book.

What motivates you to be frank about the various types of strange fire? I was compelled to point out that too much that has taken place in the modern Pentecostal and charismatic movement is strange fire. False. Counterfeit. I warn against false healings, false teaching, sheer showmanship, hyper-grace teaching, open theism, universalism, so many songs that are shallow theologically and the notion that gifts are more important than character. I also lament the fact that prosperity teaching has taken a front seat where the traditional emphasis had been on signs, wonders and gifts of the Holy Spirit. 

You speak of a time when “the Word and Spirit come together.” To what are you referring? My final chapter in Holy Fire forecasts the next (and in my opinion, final) great move of the Holy Spirit before the Second Coming. It is the cry in the middle of the night (Matt.25:6), when the church is awakened from its slumber. I call it “Isaac,” the true coming together of the Word and Spirit. I liken it to the ancient promise to Abraham. For 13 years, Abraham sincerely believed that Ishmael, son of Hagar, was the promised child; likewise, so have many Pentecostals and charismatics assumed that their movement of the past 100 years was the ultimate “last days ministries” before the Second Coming. It was Ishmael (in my opinion), although Ishmael was a major part of the sovereign purpose of God. But the best is yet to come, as prophesied, too, by Smith Wigglesworth in 1947, when the Word and Spirit would at last come together—which I call “Isaac.” This awakening is coming soon.

How can retailers promote Holy Fire? I would like to think that every person who reads Strange Fire will also read Holy Fire. ... Who am I to give advice to these retailers? I realize they cannot take sides. I suppose I would like them to challenge the buyer to read both books and let the reader decide. I would also hope they could somehow make available an open letter I have written to the author of Strange Fire, which I wrote after I read his book and heard all his talks at his Strange Fire Conference. I have asked him to pray about having a civil debate—presidential style—on the issue of cessationism. Everybody tells me he won’t do it, but let us hope he will.