I’m extremely sad that I feel bound to include this disclaimer.
‘Tongues Revisited’ was published in 2000. In 2002 Dr Peter Lineham made public that he was a homosexual – albeit a ‘non-practising one’. I do not know if his professed ‘non-practising’ status has changed. For a professing Christian to identify themselves as a homosexual I believe is untenable, an unrepentant confession to being a homosexual being inconsistent with professed commitment to Christ.
Though his association with Tongues Revisited is a significant bother, it is a matter of history now which cannot be changed. I thank him for his kind words, but want to be very clear I do not endorse his disclosed position.
Renton Maclachlan, the writer of this fascinating work, is a man of real passion and great integrity. In an age when Biblical interpretation has been captured by the academic experts, he presents in this work a layman’s interpretation. For this reason many people may be inclined to dismiss it.
And that would not be fair. For I have long known Renton to be someone who combines a passionate desire to spread the gospel of Jesus Christ, with a fearlessness in his thinking. He will take on recognised scholars, who are sometimes accorded respect because of their educational attainments and academic positions rather than the quality of their arguments. This is why so much Christian scholarship today has lost its cutting edge in the secular world. It plays around with ideas, but rarely presents bold or fresh theses.
Renton’s focus is a pastoral situation in an ordinary church which is struggling with the common problems of how to accommodate different cultures in the one assembly. Renton has the temerity to expect to find help in the words of Scripture. It is the attitude of a person with a very high view of the authority and value of Scripture. The approach inevitably has its dangers. He can be accused of eisegesis, of reading his situation into the text, and finding the answers that satisfy him. In an age when postmodern scholars have insisted that every interpreter does precisely this, Renton’s approach cannot be dismissed so easily. Readers will soon find that he grapples with the text seriously, thoughtfully and thoroughly.
And this is sufficient reason for others to read this work carefully, noting their questions and doubts, but pursuing the debate through to the end. They will undoubtedly gain an enriched sense of what the text says and does not say. Renton is obviously unsympathetic to the charismatic movement, and revives a traditional reading of the text that has been deeply challenged in recent decades. However he does so with some interesting twists, precisely because he is always aware of the force of the charismatic reading of the text, with its strength and weaknesses.
Renton comes from a family well respected among the Open Brethren community of New Zealand, and has in a way revived some of their lost emphases. He has also nurtured his skills as a debater in various debates over the veracity of Christianity. Tenacious in holding his ground as a person, he is a ‘Mr Valiant for the Truth’ in the best tradition of Pilgrims Progress. I continue to ponder how to interpret 1 Corinthians 12-14. This book has forced me to keep honest in my arguments. I commend it precisely for this reason.