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Key Words and Phrases: Charismatic, Classical Pentecostal, Controversy, Critical Review, Debate, Evidence of the Baptism in the Holy Spirit, Holy Spirit, Initial Evidence, Narrative, Pentecostal, Pneuma Review, The Pneuma Foundation, Soteriological, Speaking in Tongues, Subsequence, Tongues, Robert W. Graves, Rick Walston.
Rick Walstons Response to Robert Gravess Review
"The Speaking in Tongues Controversy
A Narrative-Critical Response"
While I cannot reproduce Dr. Graves's review, due to the fact that it is copyrighted, you may read his review in the Pneuma Review, Fall 2005, Volume 8, Number 4, and the subsequent edition of the Pneuma Review as his review was so long that they had to publish it in two parts.
Raul Mock, Executive Director of The Pneuma Foundation, asked if I would care to write a response to Dr. Grave's review. He wrote: "We have received a critical review for this book and are wanting to know if Dr. Walston would be interested in responding to the critique in an irenic discussion" (email on file, Sat, 26 Feb 2005 09:10:43 -0500).
I accepted the invitation to respond to Dr. Graves's critical review. However, after I wrote my response as they requested and submitted it to them, they decided not to publish it. Obviously I was disappointed with this strange turn of events, and with the fact that Dr. Graves's critical review of my book will simply go unchallenged in the Pneuma Review.
So, I decided to post my response as a Coffee Talk for those who would care to read my rebuttal.
First and foremost, I think that it is important to establish the fact that my response to Robert W. Gravess review is not an attempt to pit a believer against an unbeliever. In short, this is a "family discussion." Robert Graves and I are brothers in the Lord, as such we need to recognize that Jesus said that His disciples will be known by their love for one another. To love each other, however, is not necessarily to agree on all things. Certainly Graves and I disagree when it comes to the topic of the initial, physical evidence of the baptism in the Holy Spirit, and thats OK. At least, it should be. What is not OK, however, are the misuse of logic and misrepresentations by one brother of another. This is what Graves has done.
Almost immediately Graves correctly identifies my work as being written at the popular level. In fact he says, There is nothing wrong with this; we need writers who can translate biblical truths into common language. But then he makes the category mistake of identifying the book as popular but critiquing it as though it were at the academy level. A category mistake of this caliber sets an influential stage that may confuse readers. If youll allow me an illustration, the principle would be similar to a food critic going to an American-style family restaurant, recognizing it as such, but then criticizing it because of its lack of fine French cuisine on the menu. It lacks escargot. Well obviously it would since it is a simple American-style family fare meant to bring basic nourishment to its patrons.
Apparently for Graves, the menu in this case is the bibliography and his reductionistic assessment of my book based on the listed resources (or lack thereof). This is simply and unmistakably a red herring. The author of the red herring points the attention of the readers to an irrelevant issue. Rather than dealing with the issue of truth and the conclusions posited, the supposed issue is a lack of resources to which Graves directs his readers attention. So, the red herring moves the readers from the real issue to the supposed faulty bibliography, even though--and even according to Graves!--this is a popular-level book. Perhaps its just my folksy style that he dislikes? Nonetheless, within his first couple of paragraphs, we run into just a couple of Gravess logical fallacies.
He goes on to argue that I dont quote the right people in my book; apparently, according to Graves, I dont quote some enough, and I quote others too much. This is another logical fallacy called the fallacy of Argument from Authority (also known as the Celebrity Endorsement). Truth is not determined by whom one quotes. I remember when my niece learned her addition and subtractions, and she delightfully informed me that two plus two equals four. Now, be it my niece or Albert Einstein who says, two plus two equals four, the fact remains that it is true. Two plus two do equal four. This is not to say that my conclusions in my book are therefore correct. It is, however, to say that Graves commits the fallacy of Celebrity Endorsement, and the readers should be aware that truth is not determined by whom one quotes or does not quote.
Next, early on in his review Graves says that, For Walston, this entails . . . (3) redefining the baptism in the Holy Spirit as a salvific event. Note well that Graves accuses me of redefining the baptism in the Holy Spirit. To redefine something is to suggest that a prior definition was the correct and only definition. It is to imply that I have strayed from the truth. So, if I have redefined the baptism in the Holy Spirit, I must ask, According to whom? It was not God who clearly graced us with an undeniable revelation that the Classical Pentecostal definition of the baptism in the Holy Spirit was the absolute truth. Herein also lies another of Gravess logical fallacies. He begs the question (popularly called circular reasoning). He starts with his conclusion rather than proving his argument. If the Classical Pentecostal definition of the baptism in the Holy Spirit is indeed the correct and only definition and if that definition had been clearly endorsed by God Himself, then the argument is over. My book is incorrect and Graves is correct. However, only one who is hopelessly locked into the Classical Pentecostal party line could possibly see my definition of the baptism in the Holy Spirit as a redefinition rather than an opposing definition. Should someone show me that God is indeed the author of the Classical Pentecostal definition of the baptism in the Holy Spirit, I shall repent and burn my book. Short of that, we must see Gravess accusation for what it is, an obvious case of begging the question.
Next, Graves says that I have constructed an anti-Pentecostal interpretation of Acts using the hermeneutical principle of authorial intent as a singular, over-arching, controlling interpretive canon. A bit confused by this charge, I have to wonder if Graves honestly wishes to say that desiring to find the authors intent is an anti-Pentecostal interpretation of Acts. I would think that finding the biblical authors intent should be exactly the Pentecostal hermeneutic, as it should be for all other Bible believers. Withoutat minimum the attempt at findingthe authorial intent, we are left guessing at what the Bible means. Furthermore, I am assuming that Graves wishes for all of his readers to understand his intent, and not simply disregard what he means to say.
Another interesting statement that Graves makes is this: In his own words, Walston is attempting to lead the reader to the obvious conclusion that Luke does not intend to establish tongues-as-evidence as a doctrine or as a paradigm (85); the same can be said for the doctrine of separability and subsequence, though he devotes a scant eight paragraphs to it (141-144). Closely related to the red herring fallacy, this is called the Fallacy of Accent. This fallacy consists of directing the reader toward an unwarranted conclusion by placing improper or unusual emphasis upon a particular aspect of an issue or claim. In brief, which seems to be an anathema to Graves, since when does length determine truth?
Interestingly, Graves claims, Furthermore, all of these issues are pervaded by a sense of staleness and amateurism due to Walstons omission of current scholarship. Oh, my. If my work is so stale and bush league, why all the hubbub? Raul Mock, the Executive Director of The Pneuma Foundation wrote that Gravess review is significantly longer than any single article we have published in the Pneuma Review (Raul Mock, email July 6, 2005). Rather than just name calling, as Graves has done, it seems obvious that his 10,978 word (according to my Microsoft word counter) review of my book signifies that I have struck a chord with this work. A chord that resonates with some and, apparently, causes some to spring into a defense mode. Thus, my book has been aptly titled: The Speaking in Tongues Controversy: The Initial, Physical Evidence of the Baptism in the Holy Spirit Debate.
Next, though he does not explicitly say so, Graves not-so-subtly offers up the implication of my hermeneutics as cessationist (using that word or its cognate four times). Lest any of the Pneuma readers be confused by this tactic of guilt by association, I am no cessationist. I am a fellow Pentecostal who believes that all of the gifts are viable and operative today.
Toward the close of Graves review, we see what appears to be the real agenda of his review. He says that, This is not the time, in the 100-year history of the Pentecostal movement, to take a step backward or call for a compromise on the Pentecostal doctrines of subsequence/separability or initial evidence. . . . If Pentecostal scholarship continues to develop as it has in the last twenty years, by the end of the twenty-first century it may be that no serious NT scholar will deny the Lukan data supporting subsequence/separability and initial evidence.
It is a lockstep, no-questions-asked sort of party line that Graves calls his readers to. We must maintain the Classical Pentecostal group-think. And, should any of our Pentecostal siblings step out of line, we shall militaristically browbeat them back in line, pejoratively describe them as having left our ranks, and implicitly list them as traitors to their Pentecostal roots. Such zeal. Such fire. Such should be reserved for preaching the gospel to all people. Another very austere but not so unique tongues-as-evidence proponent of whom Graves reminds me once said, We should preach the gospel of tongues as much as we preach the gospel of salvation. Thats my point: there is no supposed gospel of tongues. It is the gospel of Christ that we should center on.
Graves says, This is not the time . . . to take a step backward or call for a compromise on the Pentecostal doctrines of subsequence/separability or initial evidence. By whose determination is this a step backwards or a compromise? Such pejorative terms only serve to expose the agenda of the writer. This step backwards is the Slippery Slope fallacy. His argument seems to simply be, We must tow the line. This is not and must not be a freethinking zone.
Finally, if Gravess logical fallacies are not enough to make Pneuma readers suspect that there may be more to my book than Graves admits, then perhaps this last tidbit will be representative. Graves says, What do Pentecostal scholars actually believe about the soteriology of Acts? Based on Walstons assessment, they think it is void of soteriology. Nothing could be further from the truth.
When I read that, I wondered what book Graves had been reading. He says that he was reading my book, but if thats true, then I have to question how closely (or honestly) he was reading it. Did I really say, as Graves charges, that Pentecostal scholars believe that the book of Acts is void of soteriology? No. Of course not. It appears that Graves was far more interested in fighting a straw man than dealing with what I actually said. Let me give my actual words from the book:
On page 44, I stated: I do not believenor have I impliedthat the tongues-as-evidence proponents have missed Lukes soteriological intent. This would be a charge that would be unfounded. I have been a Pentecostal for nearly 30 years. In that time I pastored in Assemblies of God churches and independent Pentecostal churches. Also, during those years, I have heard many Pentecostal preachers use the book of Acts for salvation messages. So, I am certainly not implying that somehow tongues-as-evidence proponents miss the fact that Luke intends to show that people got saved throughout the book of Acts.
On page 54, I state: Earlier I said that I was not arguing that Classical Pentecostals entirely miss Lukes soteriological intent, but that they major on the charismatic aspects in the book of Acts and minor on Lukes soteriology.
And, finally, my comment on page 55 of my book should put this straw man to bed: Again, and I want to make sure that this is clear, I am not saying nor implying that all tongues-as-evidence proponents miss Lukes soteriological intent in Acts. As stated before, Classical Pentecostals do see in Acts many soteriological passages. This is obvious. No one is saying that they do not.
Up to this point I have dealt with Gravess logical fallacies that only tend to obfuscate the issue, and finally I pointed out his blatant and egregious misrepresentation of my words. The final issue to discuss is simple: What about the passages in question? What about the Scriptures in Acts that Gravess has dealt with in relation to my book?
Please allow me one final illustration. If two people with two different colored glasses look at a white orchid, they will not agree on its color. The one with blue glasses will argue for the blue hue, while the one with the rose-colored glasses will see red. The crux of the way that Graves and I see the passages in Acts is based upon the premise from which we both proceed. He as a tongues-as-evidence proponent, and I as a tongues-as-evidence opponent. It is not that I am herein unwilling or unable to address the various passages in question; however, to address the passages tit for tat would be simply an exercise in showing how we differ in our conclusions based upon our guiding principle of interpretation.
Should the readers have an honest desire to see my point for point interaction with the passages in question, they should read my book. Which is, after all, the impetus for Gravess review.