Bill Muehlenberg's commentary on issues of the day...

A review of Full Gospel, Fractured Minds? By Rick Nanez.

Oct 18, 2006

Zondervan, 2005.

It is no secret that there has been a strong tendency in Pentecostal/Charismatic circles to downplay the use of the mind, the intellect, reason, theology and doctrine. Some even relish in bashing theology and the intellect. This of course is not always the case, but generally speaking, it is a fair assessment. Emphasis on the work of the Spirit, on emotion, on worship and on experience has tended to dominate in these circles, at the expense of the mind.

Then again, many non-Pentecostal denominations perhaps have the opposite problem. They may have deep theological acumen, make great use of the intellect and apologetics, delve deeply into the philosophical and theological issues of the day, but sometimes lack a vibrant, Spirit-filled walk with God. Again, this is a generalisation, but it tends to be the case quite often.

Thus it is quite difficult to find someone who shares in both traits: a first-class mind, great scholarship and wideness of learning, matched with a full-on, spiritually-dynamic, passion for Jesus. Such people certainly must exist, but they seem to be few and far between.

Indeed, the only two people that I know of who are both vibrant Pentecostal Christians, and also happen to be world-class New Testament scholars, are Gordon Fee and Rikki Watts, both of Regent College in Vancouver, Canada.

Well, there is at least one other person I have since discovered who is also concerned about uniting the mind with the Spirit: Rick Nanez. He is a committed member of the Pentecostal, or full gospel, tradition, being an Assembly of God pastor, and yet he decries the anti-intellectualism that is so rampant in this section of the Christian church.

Now before going any further, let me say that it is not just the Pentecostal world that tends to frown upon, and be uneasy with, the life of the mind, reason and theology. Much of the evangelical world as well shares this problem. And many evangelical authors have written books to address this very issue.

As such, evangelical thinkers like Os Guinness, Mark Noll, David Wells, to name but a few, have penned works, urging fellow evangelicals to love God with their minds as well as the rest of their being.

So Pentecostals are not unique in this regard. However, there probably has been a stronger, more-pronounced anti-intellectualism in this segment of the church than in most others.

But Nanez thinks this is just not good enough, and he wants things to change. Thus he has written this book to remind his colleagues that we are commanded by God to love him with the fullness of our being. And that includes our mind.

Too many believers have simply checked in their minds upon conversion, and have been running around with a large vacancy upstairs ever since. Of course, they often point to various texts that seem to indicate that the mind, learning, knowledge and theology are dangerous.

Nanez begins his work by examining those passages, especially as found in 1 Corinthians. He rightly points out that they are not arguing against the use of the mind, just a perverted understanding of it. The main focus of 1 Corinthians 1 and 8 is not centred on “the negative character of the intellect, learning, miracles, and philosophy; rather, it focuses on the problem of wrong attitudes about them.”

Another problem Paul is combating in the Corinthian letters is that of divisions within the church and promoting personalities. Nanez says that this is still a problem today in Pentecostal/Charismatic circles: the weakness of following personalities. It is in this context that Paul makes his statements about human wisdom, philosophy and the like.

He also examines the historical development of the Pentecostal tradition. In it we discover much anti-intellectualism, such as in Charles Parham, many in the Azuza and revivalism movements, evangelists like Billy Sunday, and so on. But there were rare exceptions. Donald Gee was one such Pentecostal who sought to bring balance in this area.

Nanez also discusses how Christians can recover the Christian mind. He has helpful chapters on logic, philosophy, science, apologetics, reading, education and theology. He asks us to get back to basics in these areas, and show the world that Christianity can provide the best in the sphere of the intellect as in other spheres.

In sum, this is a very important book. It is one thing for an outsider to criticise the full gospel folk for their lack of intellectual and theological wholeness. But for an insider to make such charges certainly gives the case much more credibility and impact. I hope this book is widely read in Pentecostal circles. Indeed, it needs to be widely read in evangelical circles as well.

I hope it is the beginning of a new wave of interest in a wholistic approach to the gospel amongst our Pentecostal brethren.

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12 Responses to A review of Full Gospel, Fractured Minds? By Rick Nanez.

  • I would add Guy Chevreau to the list as well. His book called ‘Turnings’ is a must read. It is his journey of discovery about the reality of a Christian walk centered on Jesus crucified and resurrected as opposed to one based on purely theology or cultural doctrines held by Western Christian churches. Interestingly enough he obtained his doctorate from Wycliffe College, Toronto.

    And Rolland & Heidi Baker, of Iris Ministries, Mozambique also theologically trained live a life straight out of the sermon on the mount. They seemed to have arrived there from the perspective of the mind, expecting that which is written to be true and living accordingly, yet they haved lived the experience of the fullness of the presence of the Spirit too, and their fruit is undeniable.

    Another peson who I hold in high regard for their balance of Spirit and Word is my sister, Rev Andrea Penglase, a practising Anglican minister in rural Australia, who holds a Masters of Theology from Regency and trained under Eugene Peterson. These Canadians seem to be onto something.

    I find that I am coming across more and more people who are questioning the relevancy of Western Christianity with its ‘theological habituation’. As Rolland & Heidi Baker put it: “We understood that Christianity among relatively wealthy Westerners is often unproven, irrelevant and easily distracted from Jesus and Him crucified. Our own weaknesses and lack of faith came to the surface constantly under the pressures of ministry to the poor. It seemed that we needed more understanding in every way, yet after years of theological study we could hardly find a book that could help us.”

    I perceive that, paradoxically, more and more people are coming to terms with the need for a solid understanding of the simplicity of the gospel through studying it in greater depth. Theological study is possibly not so needed in other cultures who generally accept the literal truth of the Word, simply because they do not need to undo the Greek philisophical foundation that Westerners are fed with from a young age which robs us of the power of our faith. However, I would suggest that for us Westerners it takes a process of peeling back the layers of reasoning based on humanistic philosophy and scientific elitist thought by engaging our minds in study to find the truth of the Word for ourselves instead of relying on the ‘theological habituations’ that we grow up under. And I say under, because in many ways these habitations often bind us.

    I have experienced in my own (Pentecostal) church a strong scepticism for theology and reasoned thought about the scriptures, and a strong distrust of intellectuals. I think this has come about through the emergence of churches started by people who are primarily unschooled in theology and often do not have a good basis of understanding of why they believe what they believe or its origin. And I am convinced that the majority of church-goers are in this same boat and simply parrot the accepted doctrinal line. I’ve often found ‘grace’ and ‘spiritual authority’ to be contentious topics on which people are very divided and yet have little foundation of thought or study to support their views, no matter where on the doctrinal spectrum those views may be.

    I once read a book called “The Christian Mind” which lamented the lack of a concerted biblical worldview in today’s society. Maybe a reason for this is because there just isn’t that much focus on the study of the Word and how it relates to the modern world, certainly from the ‘modern’ Christian movements such as Pentecostalism and Evangelicalism anyway.

    But I conclude with the paradoxical thought that while we duly suffer from a lack of knowledge and understanding of the Scriptures through our reliance on cultural doctines which have little basis in the Word and often nullify the power of the Word, and also suffer at the hands of secular humanists for our lack of concerted biblecal worldview, the other side of the coin is that so much of our current theology is actually made redundant by the experience of the power of the resurrected Christ in operation in non-Western countries.

    Garth Penglase

  • Well said, Bill. Your review accurately diagnoses a major problem afflicting much of today’s church.
    As Charles Swindoll says, Christians don’t have to “throw away their brains and commit intellectual suicide”.
    John Ballantyne, Melbourne.

  • What about the late Derek Prince? A man who clearly loved Jesus and had enormous intellect. I have found him to be an inspiration.

    Andrew Strout

  • This is good news indeed Bill.

    I remember a sermon by a Christian brother who I love and respect. He tried to say that when the Bible used the word ‘know’ that it somehow meant a spiritually acquired knowledge rather than a God given ability to apprehend an idea with our mind. Rational thinking is certainly downplayed in a number of congregations I have visited.

    Among my friends we have often discussed the need to possess both the power and truth of the Gospel. The apostle Paul is a perfect example of someone who could both demonstrate and defend the Gospel.

    I note the diminished male presence in Pentecostal churches and wonder if it is due to the lack of reasonable doctrine. As you know I’m involved with origins issues and I see a significant difference in the level of interest between men and women. Maybe men need that component more, being less intuitive. I know someone will cry ‘sexist’ but I didn’t invent the differences, they are real, I’m just observing them. Have you noted anything similar?

    Andrew Snowdon

  • Thanks Garth

    You make a number of good points.

    (Note for commentators: My blog rules do require short comments, However, there may be the place for the occasional longer one. I am told that the proper etiquette in the blogging world is for short comments to be made, and links back to a website if longer comments are desired. Thus I tend to be more lenient to those I know do not have their own website, while being more strict on those who do.)

    Bill Muehlenberg, CultureWatch

  • Gordon Fee and Rikki Watts are great examples of Pentecostal theologians. However, they are far from alone. Two outstanding Pentecostal theologians, Veli-Matti Karkainen (from Fuller) and Frank Macchia (who is editor of Pneuma, a Pentecostal theology journal), recently visited Australia. Also the faculties of Southern Cross College (AOG, Sydney), Tabor College (SA, Vic and NSW) and Harvest Bible College (AOG, Melbourne) contain some fine theologically informed Pentecostals and charismatics, many with solid earned doctorates. Also many Pentecostal and charismatic pastors are now studying for masters degrees. So while the anti-intellectualism lingers, progress is being made. Having said that, I am looking forward to reading the book you reviewed.

    Jon Newton

  • Rick Nanez’s new book is great news indeed! Coming from a Pentecostal church, I am always astonished at the number of (Pentecostal) Christians who do separate the mind from a full and complete walk in Christ. From observation, one factor that I have attested this to is a lack of humility. One denomination certainly does not have “all the answers”, yet if we are humble, and acknowledge that we are constantly learning (our God is so great and vast), even from other denominations, then together we can reap a walk so holistically sound, that we can confound the world with God’s illuminated Word in us.
    Victoria Kalapac, Melbourne

  • Thanks for the review and comments. I read them just after finishing a re-read of Balanced Christianity, a call to avoid unnecessary polarisation, John Stott, 1975. As well as considering Intellect-Emotion, he looks also at Conservative-Radical, Form-Freedom, Evangelism-Social Action. Well worth a hunt in the second hand book shops
    Carole DuBern, Lithgow

  • Apologies for the length of the previous comment, Bill. I will be more succint in the future.

    Victoria, I absolutely agree with your statement. Humility before God and before man is indeed the answer, and coming from Pentecostal circles I concur it is much needed.

    God-given revelation renews our mind. Lately, through a personal journey, I have been challenging the veracity of what I have previously understood, and have had the opportunity to discuss much theology with knowledgeable members of other denominations and I profess to an increasing awareness of my lack of knowledge in regards to the fullness of the revelation within scripture. I now have a much stronger understanding of the need for humility.

    Scriptures that I have heard a lot over the years and seem to be pivot points for avoidance of theological depth is that (1 Cor 8:1) ‘knowledge puffs up’ and that (Prov 3:5) ‘we are not to lean on our own understanding’ but overall the scriptures strongly suggest that we must seek a full knowledge of the Word and have a personal understanding of it (Him).

    However the more I have learnt about the knowledge of the Word is that it truly does confound the ‘wisdom’ of the world and of the natural mind. And yes, the simplicity of the Gospel should not be confused or complicated but I believe Godly wisdom comes from seeking more knowledge through revelation not less.

    Oh for a widely accepted biblical world view amongst Christians.

    Garth Penglase

  • I read Harry Blamires, The Christian Mind, many years ago (with great benefit) when I was a student in a Pentecostal Bible College that did not place “Christian thinking” in a prominent place. I note that Blamires has a follow-up book that should be a great read and thought provoker.

    Harry Blamires, author of The Christian Mind and The Post-Christian Mind, speaks about his work as both a theologian and literary professor. Blamires sees the maintenance of the purity of doctrine as the chief duty of the Church even above proclamation. The contemporary Church’s failure to give doctrine a high priority has left thinking-Christians at odds with ignorant Christians and at one with many secular thinkers. Thus, Blamires has encouraged Christians to be thinkers and to discern the preconceptions which found modern culture and are antagonistic to Christian faith. Blamires comments on the secularization of British culture and the erosion of the Judeo-Christian basis for moral order. He also comments on his work in literature and the influence that his studies with C. S. Lewis had on his understanding of literature (available from: )

    I endorse your call for a thoughtful Christianity that is not divorced from vibrant experience with the Spirit and the Word.

    In Christ,
    Spencer Gear, Queensland

  • Absolutely agree. There’s something about the human soul which is passionate. If we can scream for some mud-covered guy at a footy match, but can’t scream with joy for God at a church service occasionally, like David did before the ark, something’s wrong.
    On the other hand, God gave us a mind to use it. Think about it, God wouldn’t have gone to the trouble of giving us the ability to think if He didn’t want us to do it.
    A friend of mine got saved at a Pentecostal youth rally and then went to a vibrant Christian church for the next few years. I saw her love and passion for God grow but over time she felt like she wasn’t being fed enough “meat”. Secular worldviews were being thrown at her every day (from friends and from her university) and she was from an intelligent but unsaved family.
    We definitely need to use both our mind and emotions which is why I hope the churches that are rapidly growing in Australia catch onto this (I’d love to see Hillsong/Planet Shakers/CCC/etc. get involved with Summit ministries for example).
    I noticed a real gap in American churches while I was there. They were so intent on “Christian culture” that a lot of the intellectual stuff was left to the unsaved. I think this is changing but its certainly something we don’t want to see happen here.

    Amanda Fairweather, Newcastle

  • I’ll be adding Full Gospel, Fractured Minds? to my wishlist. Thanks for the great review on it.

    Annette Nestor

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