Surprised by the Power

Jack Deere Author

Jack Deere may not be a name familiar to the majority of people within the mainstream evangelical tradition, but to those who identify themselves as “charismatic”, his story has been a source of encouragement and validation.

Deere first tells this story in his book Surprised by the Power of the Spirit which was originally published in 1993. This was followed by a sequel, Surprised by the Voice of God in 1996. In it, he shares how he went from being a cessationist professor teaching OT and biblical languages at Dallas Seminary to being not only a believer in, but practitioner of the very gifts he once denied.

Well this year he released Why I am Still surprised by the Power of the Spirit which is more than a revision. It has been (in the words of the front cover), completely rewritten and updated. Deere has more stories to tell, more responses to make, and more exhortations to give.

How the Book is Structured

The book is 311 pages in length, which includes five appendices. The chapters are not long (since there are twenty-six of them!), but they are easy to follow and have a definite order.

The first five chapters largely deal with his journey, and the two main men who were prominent in his life to move him from “professor to healer”. Those two men were John White and John Wimber. Again, these names will not be familiar unless you are in Charismatic circles, or read wider than your own tribe. It was Wimber who founded the Vineyard family of churches. Chapter five covers “modern miracles” where he gives examples. Your attitude toward these stories will largely depend upon your overall theological understanding of the charismata, but this is where Deere goes next.

Reasons for Continuationism

Chapters 6-11 is for me, Deere’s tour de-force. He systematically responds to every cessationist argument concerning the gifts of the Spirit. He begins by dealing with the culture of cessationism, pointing out that the real reason for cessationism is a lack of experience of the miraculous, as opposed to clear scriptural teaching (p.48).

However this is not to say that there are no cessationist arguments based on scripture. Deere takes these to task, explaining the origins of cessationism in the writings of John Calvin, Conyers Middleton and B.B. Warfield. Here is an extended quote I particularly appreciated:

‘If you want to know what the scriptures teach about the miraculous gifts, you won’t find out by reading Warfield. Here’s what you do. You open your Greek New Testament and look up every occurrence or teaching about the miraculous. You make a list of all the verbs of healing, then the nouns of healing, every reference to anything miraculous, all the spiritual gifts, every reference to the demonic, and so on. You let nothing fall through the cracks. Then you take your list and make notes about the content and purpose of each supernatural act or each teaching about the supernatural. And you do it with an open mind. And you will be overwhelmed with how little you really know about the miraculous ministry of the Spirit of God.

Deere, Why I Am Still Surprised at the Power of the Spirit, p. 88.

Deere is no slouch. He could have had a long career in academia, but his experience in aspects of the work of the Spirit meant he had to resign his post. This is a man who did not drop his brains at the door because he all of a sudden believed in prophecy, and praying for healing etc. His experience in the Spirit is one thing; but his carefully articulated and thought-through biblical arguments are worth paying attention to.

A Christ-Centred Approach

After dealing with cessationism, Deere covers the topics of healing, demonization, the filling of the Spirit (three wonderful chapters that focus in on Luke and Acts), before dealing with the abuses within charismatic gifts and the tricky topic of physical manifestations.

I’m deliberately holding back from quoting each chapter here, because it would take too long, and there would be too many to choose from. I will however get a little personal:

A favourite chapter of mine that I think will be easily overlooked in the book is his chapter on the gift of teaching (p. 204). I have read my fair share of books on preaching and teaching, but Deere had a wonderfully simplistic and fresh perspective on it that was humbling. So let me quote you the paragraph that touched my own heart:

‘Here are my priorities in preaching and teaching. The older I grow, the more I love the Bible, and the more I realise how little I really know it. I read the Bible every day. I read it with pleasure and awe. I love the Bible. I love God more. God has given me the great honour of standing on stages around the world telling his family the story of my experience of his excellencies. My first obligation in standing before his people is not to be articulate but to have a spiritual life that my hearers want.

Deere, Why I Am Still Surprised at the Power of the Spirit, p. 216.

Furthermore he later goes on to say that before he gives his hearers commands to follow, he gives them a person to enjoy (p.217).

Words like these (among many others) reflected an extremely Christ-centred approach to the gifts of the Spirit. This is why I would thoroughly recommend this book to anybody.

Who Should Read This Book?

Let me address the types of Christian that would benefit from Still Surprised:

Cessationist Christian: For those who are not convinced, Deere is excellent at responding to the theological objections raised by cessationism. At the very least, you’ll be challenged to rethink some of the popular arguments used.

Confused Christian: Maybe you’re a believer and you don’t know what to believe. Deere writes with a simplicity and contagious faith that I think endears the reader. By the end of the book you’ll at least know the reasons why he believes both from scripture and experience

Charismatic Christian: Charismatics are not monolithic, so this will depend how much you embrace and are comfortable with. His chapter on abuse will probably be the most relevant to you.

So in conclusion: Buy it. Read it. Re-read it. Have scripture open beside it, to test its claims. You’ll greatly benefit from it.

Johnny Carson

Johnny is pastor at the Way Church Ballyclare and is married to Sandra.

Leave a Reply

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *