Critical Book Review

Effectiveness of William and Robert Menzies in responding to James Dunn and Max Turner

Robert and William Menzies book is divided into two parts: Part 1, Theological Foundations, and Part 2, Theological Affirmations. The first part covers the recent history of Pentecostalism with its roots in the holiness movement and fundamentalism, and the others talking about Protestant Orthodoxy and Evangelical Revivalism. Also discussed are the characteristics of early Pentecostalism, which includes, of course, the Baptism in the Spirit, and others such as a commitment to evangelism and missions, strong faith, pre-millennial expectancy, supernatural experiences between man and God, inerrancy and power of the scriptures, and believers association. Church sects with a bias on the Pentecostals are given an in-depth analysis with an emphasis on doctrinal issues that the Pentecostal’s embrace.

Dunn holds the view that the doctrine of the Holy Spirit baptism in the day of Pentecost is the main basis of the new age dispensation. This means that at Pentecost, when Joel’s prophecy was fulfilled, the gift of the Spirit was one of the decisive marks of the new age and that for the first Christians the gift of the Spirit was the decisive mark of the end of the old dispensation from the new. Although Christ is the actual initiator of the new age period, the Pentecost served as a predictor of what was to come. In actuality, it was a shadow of the new life that each new Christian convert experiences when new life is marked in him or her.[1] Note that, the physical manifestation of the Pentecost was a one-time event that will never be experienced again. However, in another sense the experience of Pentecost, can and must be repeated in the experience of all who would wish to become Christians. The first account of the infilling of the Holy Spirit on the 120 individuals who had gathered in the upper room marked the Old Testament continuation of God’s fellowship with His creation.

However, this should not be misunderstood to mean that Christians do not experience the Holy Spirit baptism any more[2]. In fact, each Christian must have at least one Pentecostal incident to act as prove of their Christianity. Dunn then goes ahead and gives an example where he says that the Samaritans’ conversion was deficient under Phillip since there was no manifestation of the Spirit. His overall thesis and assertion is that conversion had to be a drastic incidence that could only be noted by some sort of change. Dunn does not agree with the “Oneness Pentecostals” faith that argues all spirit filled converts ought to speak in tongues (of angels or men) as a confirmation of the Spirit’s presence. He questions the Samaritans’ initiation because they were not manifesting the Spirit in an analogous fashion to Pentecost, arguing that one needs to prove their faith by manifesting the Spirit in some extraordinary fashion.

Turner in his essay raises a number of questions regarding initial evidence and the doctrine of subsequence. He pointed out the distinction between tongues as initial evidence and tongues as prayer. Turner also states that if the initial evidence doctrine is to be defended on grounds other than from the biblical references to it, then NT evidence regarding the nature of `glossolalia’ which is the speaking in tongues, cannot be used to defend the view that Pentecostals do experience tongues in these two ways. Turner, however, thinks that not all who claimed to be filled with the Spirit had an overwhelming sort of ecstatic experience. On the subject of receptivity, Turner describes it as not only one particular psychological state but there may well be several different degrees of passivity and different ways of expressing it, including what he terms as “power,” “electricity” and “tingling”. Turner says that theologically Spirit-baptism must be interpreted within the conversion-initiation complex.

Factual replies to James Dunn and Max Turner are seen on chapter 5 and 6, respectively. The Menzies believe that these manifestations of the Spirit are what are termed as the ‘gifts’ of the holy Spirit in the scriptures. These gifts have to be imparted spiritually with the Spirit overshadowing nature on the Christian and are given freely as the Holy Ghost pleases. An individual is well capable of having more than one gift. The gift’s importance on imparting power on a Christian for God’s service is indispensable. The Menzies defense is an attempt to make sense of the distinctive way Pentecostals have experienced ‘glossolalia’ at the point of their initiation into a new relationship with God that they term Spirit-baptism. They say that tongues as initial evidence makes the best sense when it is understood as denoting a relationship of intimacy characterized by receptivity or passivity. They continue to say that within such an understanding of Spirit-baptism, a strong case can be made for tongues as the initial evidence on theological and philosophical grounds.

The Menzies use receptivity as the key term and as a phenomenological description of Spirit-baptism, they argue that it has a much wider application than what one first understands. Concerning the doctrine of John the Baptist, the Holy Spirit is symbolized as ‘wind’ that parallels the breath of God upon his creation just like in the creation account. The Spirit’s movement just as if wind entails carries away weak elements and only the strong survive. This act of filtering is symbolic of the Spirit’s division between believers and non-believers. Luke also shares the same sentiments with his teaching on the divine calling of the early church. He confers the witnessing ministry solely to the Holy Spirit. The spirit is then viewed not as cleansing repentant individuals and giving them a heart for God but rather as a force that sifts the nation separating the repentant from the unrepentant.

The Menzies further state that John’s prophecy should not be understood as the one exception to Luke’s prophecy but the prophecy is in accordance with it. In conclusion, the element of receptivity must be present if the doctrine of initial evidence is to make any sense. However, they continue to state that for the fact that for some, conversion is a movement or a series of movements, involving unknown changes in one’s religious consciousness rather than a single experience, does not falsify this phenomenological description. They state that the “ideal type” of conversion may well include a range of different experiences from the very dramatic to the relatively quiet type. Holding the distinction between the function of tongues does not mean that tongues that occurred at one’s initial Spirit-baptism necessarily precludes anything less spontaneous, neither does it imply that tongues spoken subsequently are completely devoid of ecstatic elements. The kind of tongues that occurred at one’s initial Spirit baptism may well be repeated in the course of one’s spiritual development.

The success of the Anthony D. Palma in defending the doctrine of “subsequence” and “Initial evidence”

Palma argues that ‘subsequence’ takes place in two distinct phases. The initial phase is termed as salvation, which is then followed by the Spirit’s baptism when the timing is right. Palma defends the doctrine of subsequence and initial evidence. He states that it is a critical charismatic doctrine where the teaching says that at conversion, a Christian gets a bit of the spirit and then later gets it fully by being baptized by it[3]. The occurrence is experienced by speaking in tongues, spiritual relinquishment and at times miracles may happen. The key characteristics are that the baptism of the Holy Spirit is distinct and happens after the rebirth. Speaking in tongues is usually the evidence of the rebirth. Palma defends his views on the topic against other scholars. His success in defending his views is first seen when he provides concrete and persuasive biblical substantiation of a post-conversion Spirit-baptism. The baptism was both taught and experienced in the early church.

With the use of a Pentecostal hermeneutic that employs the medium of history to put across theological truths, Palma discusses all the narrative examples of Spirit baptism in Luke’s texts and shows precise characteristics and patterns that undoubtedly signify a Pentecostal experience consequent to salvation. Palma clearly shows the significance of the outpouring of the Holy Spirit on Pentecost and its importance to the early church and cites examples of post-conversion Pentecostal experiences that give power to believers to aid them in evangelism. The author examines specific biblical citations and observes clearly that an experience exists in the Holy Spirit that is not similar to and is subsequent to conversion that occurs among the believers in early church. In response to scholars who oppose his opinions, Palma meets their arguments head on with logical and persuasive enlightenments of the biblical texts in question[4]. Bruner and Haenchen add to the discussion by citing the Samaritans as their basis for their arguments in that the ‘subsequence’ phases are not always as distinct as Palma might have indicated them. This is because, the Samaritans did not have to wait for a latter time to be peptized with the Holy Ghost but rather that they got the infilling immediately after conversion.

Responding to Bruner’s and Haenchen’s disagreement, Palma explains that Luke never disputes the indwelling work of the Spirit at the time of rebirth, but relatively seeks to emphasize the discrete nature of the charismatic experience following salvation. Scholars, such as Dunn and Hoekema, argue that at the time of the spirit baptism of the Samaritans, regeneration did not occur but rather getting salvation instead of a consequent Pentecostal occurrence[5]. Palma elaborates that Luke records that the Samaritans had previously been converted. Notwithstanding the opposing opinions of other scholars, Palma is successful at defending the doctrine of subsequence by citing relevant biblical accounts and presenting sufficient evidence to support the understanding of Spirit-baptism as an experience that happens after conversion.

The speaking of tongues as a Pentecostal principle still holds the view that it is the first indication of the Holy Ghost’s presence in a true Christian. Establishing his defense of the doctrine of tongues as the initial evidence of Spirit-baptism, the author explains when the Holy Spirit comes upon people how stirred utterances occur throughout biblical history. He continues to elaborate on the topic by stating that with the fulfillment of the Joeline prophecy on Pentecost, the disciples, after their Holy Spirit baptism, responded with stirred utterances or speaking in tongues. Palma states that after Pentecost the narration in the book of Acts repeats time and again the patter of tongues speaking as the initial evidence of spirit baptism, which creates an example for believers in the early church. Apparent from Palma’s book several scholars oppose the doctrine.

Carson, another opposer, argues that Luke writes in several areas where we see individuals being filled by the spirit and there being no evidence of speaking tongues[6]. Carson also tries to argue that if tongues really are the initial evidence of spirit baptism then wind and fire should be present just as in the Day of Pentecost. Palma responds’ to Carson by stating that Luke was not compelled to mention every single occasion of spirit baptism where tongues were experienced, but in text evidence totally supports the doctrine of initial evidence. Palma states in response to Carson’s second objection that unlike the evidence of speaking in tongues, which is strongly stated in numerous texts, wind and fire were only present at Pentecost and are not mentioned anywhere else where people are being Spirit-baptized. Despite the fact that nowhere in the Scriptures nowhere does it state that tongues are the initial evidence of Spirit-baptism, Palma shows how all the individuals spoke in tongues signifying that tongues is regarded as the realistic manifestation that authenticates the Pentecostal experience. Despite all of the opposing opinions, Palma presents a Biblically sound and persuasive defense of the doctrine of tongues as the initial evidence of the Spirit-baptism and regard the manifestation of tongues normative for every believer who receives the Pentecostal experience.


Buschart, W. David. Exploring Protestant traditions: an invitation to theological hospitality. InterVarsity Press, 2006

Horton, Stanley M., and Anthony D. Palma. The Holy Spirit: A Pentecostal Perspective. Gospel Pub House, 2006

Kling, David William. The Bible in history: how the texts have shaped the times. Oxford University Press US, 2004

Menzies, William W., and Robert P. Menzies. Spirit and Power: Foundations of Pentecostal Experience. Zondervan, 2000

Menzies, William, Wonsuk Ma and Robert Menzies. Pentecostalism in context: essays in honor of William W. Menzies. Sheffield Academic Press, 2008

Menzies, William, Wonsuk Ma and Russell P. Spittler. The spirit and spirituality: essays in honor of Russell P. Spittler, Volume 4. Continuum International Publishing Group, 2004

[1] Menzies, William, Wonsuk Ma and Russell P. Spittler. The spirit and spirituality: essays in honour of Russell P. Spittler, Volume 4. Continuum International Publishing Group, 2004

[2] Menzies, William W., and Robert P. Menzies. Spirit and Power: Foundations of Pentecostal Experience. Zondervan, 2000

[3] Stanley M. Horton and Anthony D. Palma. The Holy Spirit: A Pentecostal Perspective. Gospel Pub House, 2006

[4] Buschart, W. David. Exploring Protestant traditions: an invitation to theological hospitality. InterVarsity Press, 2006

[5] Horton, Stanley M., and Anthony D. Palma. The Holy Spirit: A Pentecostal Perspective. Gospel Pub House, 2006

[6] Buschart, W. David. Exploring Protestant traditions: an invitation to theological hospitality. InterVarsity Press, 2006

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