Book Review: The Spiritual Gifts Handbook

The Spiritual Gifts Handbook, by Randy Clark and Mary Healy

[Note:  This book was provided free of charge by Chosen Books/Net Gallery.  All thoughts and opinions are my own.]

Sometimes knowing a bit about the author gives you an idea of what you think about him.  In this case, it was little surprise to me at least that one of the authors of this book (Randy Clark) is noted for his role in the Toronto movement given his dodgy theological understanding and his decided lack of biblical focus.  Likewise, when the other author (Mary Healy) focused most of her attention on attempting to appeal to Catholics, I realized that this book would be interesting to read but not a particularly biblical read.  Not being involved in charismatic circles myself, of which these authors are controversial figures, I figured that they would probably try to ease the concerns that readers would have about their clearly heretical opinions on the workings of the Spirit of God, but that proved not to be the case.  Obviously, this book is mainly of interest mostly to those who are in the community of charismatic believers, where it might prove to be one of many somewhat contentious books on the Spirit [1].

The version of the book I read was a bit more than 100 pages and was divided into eight chapters.  After acknowledgements and an introduction, the authors start by trying to define the gifts of the Spirit based on the understanding both of Catholics and Protestants (1).  After this there are a few chapters that provide some narrative discussion of the workings of the Holy Spirit in scripture as well as within the traditions of Hellenistic Christianity, starting from the workings of the Spirit in the life of Christ (2), the way that one is “clothed with power” in the Spirit (3), and the way that the Holy Spirit provides an effect on this earth (4).  The rest of the book is focused on defining the gifts of the Spirit in more detail, such as the authors’ idea of revelation gifts (5), power gifts (6), and the ever-popular gifts of tongues (7), along with some ideas about how to activate the gifts (8).  Though I am no cessationist myself, I found that this book made me feel pretty uncomfortable, not least because the authors seemed unaware of how little discernment there is in terms of the operation of many gifts and because there was so much of an attempt to claim the writings of Catholic mystics as being proof of charismatic modes of practice.

In many ways, this book does not quite live up to its name.  For one, the authors are not particularly qualified, in light of their ignorance or avoidance of a whole biblical theology, to write about the gifts of the spirit given their own involvement in heretical movements that show a different sort of spirit than the one they profess to write about.  That said, although this book is by no means an authoritative volume on the workings of the Holy Spirit, the book is worthwhile as a look at the attempts by some within the charismatic movement to promote an ecumenical focus where mystics of all kinds, not necessarily Christians even, can celebrate various spiritual phenomena under the belief that it is coming from God and that the workings of God’s spirit have minimal involvement with someone’s calling, the evidence of righteousness in their lives, or even whether they claim to be Christian at all.  Given the ubiquity of mysticism and appeals to mystical experience in the contemporary world, the authors at least should have a large amount of appreciative readers, despite the questionable at best nature of the authors’ previous efforts.

[1] See, for example:


About nathanalbright

I'm a person with diverse interests who loves to read. If you want to know something about me, just ask.
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