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Spring 1990 · Vol. 19 No. 1 · pp. 129–30 

Book Review

Wonders and the Word

ed. James R. Coggins and Paul G. Hiebert. Winnipeg, MB and Hillsboro, KS: Kindred, 1989. 162 pages.

Reviewed by Herbert D. Neufeld

When I first heard of the pending publication of a book to critique the Vineyard movement, I was concerned that the content might once again pit one part of Christ’s body against another. It was therefore somewhat reassuring to read in the Foreword that the book was not written to discount what God is doing in the Vineyard churches or to refute the fact that God is working through John Wimber. The book Wonders and the Word was written to help believers test the teaching and practice of this movement so that they will be better able to discern what is of God.

The contribution of eleven authors, each writing a chapter, brings balance and adds to the overall impact of the book. The chapters are divided into three sections. Part one includes a brief sketch of the way John Wimber came into prominence, and offers several testimonies by individuals who have observed and/or participated in the movement.

The second section, “Historical Considerations,” appears to labor especially in the first chapter in making a relevant point. Nonetheless, the historical perspective will help the reader to understand the present-day phenomena in the context of other similar renewal experiences in the life of the post-reformation church. Along with the genuine, there has often also been the superficial. The point is that believers need to learn to distinguish between the two. Ronald Lewis, one of the contributors to this section, writes: “My motivation (for writing) arises from a pastoral concern, for while many have been helped by John Wimber’s ministry, many have been rightly upset by his actions, and others will, I fear, be disillusioned by the weakness in his theology” (p. 61). {130}

The third part of the book is perhaps the most helpful from a practical point of view. A number of scholars from several colleges and seminaries deal with the “Theological Consideration” which provides some helpful perimeters for the evaluation of the Vineyard and other similar movements. John Vooys reminds us that, “Renewal movements have been sent by God to breathe new life into his church” (p. 67). He then asks, “Could this new movement in the 1980s be intended to revitalize God’s church again?” Arthur Glasser of Fuller Seminary likewise points out that the charismatic renewal movement has penetrated all six continents, touched virtually every denomination and significantly impacted “their theologies, worship patterns and churchly practices” (p. 98). What then is an appropriate response? All six chapters in this section provide helpful insights which will help the serious reader to “formulate clear theological guidelines rooted in scripture” (p. 121). Paul Hiebert in particular adds several lists of biblical criteria which will help believers to evaluate current fads. These fads include elements of the New Age Movement, self-centeredness and a variety of expressions of spiritual renewal.

Readers will find the book insightful, interesting and easy to read. For those who wish to use the book as support to dismiss or to discredit the charismatic or Vineyard movement there will be disappointment. Likewise for those who are looking for wholesale endorsement of all that is attributed to “signs and wonders,” this volume will also be less than encouraging. What the book does however, is press for balance and discernment based on a solid biblical foundation. If it accomplishes this it will make a major contribution to the spiritual health of the church.

Herbert D. Neufeld
British Columbia Conference Minister

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