Review - Radio Rhema

Radio Rhema 
(Christian Radio Station, New Zealand.)
9th & 10th February 2001
by Renton Maclachlan
Published by ClearSight.  
Reviewed by:  John Ward Scripture Union Bible Ministries

One of the benefits of having been around for a good many decades is that there is a lot to look back on and learn from.  Younger people tend to accept situations as they find them but older people, having lived through different times, know the changes that have taken place. 

It takes wisdom and courage to know which changes are good and therefore should be embraced and enjoyed and which changes are contrary to the will of God and need to be recognized as such and be rejected.

Some changes take place as a reflection of what is going on in society in general and often result in Christians compromising the clear teaching of Scripture.  Other changes that are not always good evolve over time without people realizing what is happening.  It is a form of spiritual erosion that takes place because ideas and practices become widely accepted even though they may well be wrong and should be resisted.  People often get tired of resisting and give up the fight or, for fear of being thought negative or out of step with progress, they just cave in. 

One of the great preoccupations over recent years has been the subject of ‘spiritual gifts’ or the ‘gifts of the Spirit’.  Probably the most controversial and divisive of these are the so-called ‘speaking in tongues’ and ‘interpretation,of tongues’.  At one extreme there are those who believe that every Spirit filled Christian should speak in ‘tongues’ as a proof that they are truly born again and/or that they have been baptized in, or with, the Holy Spirit. 

Others would say that as the gifts of the Spirit are distributed among believers as God chooses only some would possess this gift.  There are also those who believe that these gifts were actually signs, which were no longer needed once the Bible was complete and therefore were discontinued. 

So much is claimed for tongues, and the interpretation of tongues, that the few actual passages of Scripture that would seem to deal with the subject have been squeezed dry in an attempt to give credence to their use.  Some such Scriptures have been given meanings that may well not have been intended when first penned under the inspiration of the Holy Spirit.

Spiritual experiences differ from person to person.  When a person has what they believe to be a supernatural experience, be it in private or in a gathering of Christians, there is a tendency to do three things.  Firstly: to try to find biblical warrant for the experience.  Secondly: to think that everyone else should have the same experience.  The third thing that can develop is spiritual pride at having been given a blessing that others, for whatever reason, have not yet entered into.

As a result there can be a lot of confusion, division and misunderstanding, which poses a serious threat to the unity, and effectiveness, of the Church of Jesus Christ.  In his new book “TONGUES REVISITED – A Third Way”  Renton Maclachlan clears away a lot of the fog that surrounds this subject and seeks to discover what the Bible actually has to say.

If we were to come to the Bible without any of the debris that has silted up our understanding of it, what would we understand the references to ‘tongues’ to mean?  One of the first things that Renton points out is that there has been a word meaning change in the last one hundred years and that the word ‘tongues’ should really be translated ‘languages’ in modern versions. A fact that the NIV at least acknowledges in the margin.

Another significant point he makes is that the term ‘spiritual gifts’ used in I Corinthians chapters 13 & 14 in not true to the original Greek which does not have the word ‘gift or gifts’.  The more accurate translation would be “Now about spiritual things brothers.” Both of these errors have directed the reader’s thinking away from the intended meaning of the text.

Obviously there are many other details and verses that need to be explained and Renton Maclachlan does this very fully and persuasively.  His arguments are well reasoned and I found his approach to be one of love and genuine concern.

Much more could be said but time does not permit.  I hope that I have wetted your appetite to think more deeply about this subject.  Dr. Peter Lineham, who wrote the foreword, says, “This fascinating work has forced me to keep honest in my arguments.  Renton’s approach cannot be dismissed easily.  Readers will find he grapples with the text seriously, thoughtfully and thoroughly.”

Dr. Ronald Nash writes, “The tongues movement has puzzled many people. Is it fake, psychological, demonic, or genuine? I do not believe the phenomenon called ‘Tongues’ today is what is described in the Bible. Neither does Renton Maclachlan who has written what I regard as an outstanding contribution to the literature on this subject. I highly recommend this book.” If you are among the many puzzled people Dr Nash referred to this could well be the book for you.

For readers wanting to see the authors style of writing and taste some of his provocative endnotes, the publisher has established a very informative website at (website URL has changed). “TONGUES REVISITED – A Third Way” by Renton Maclachlan, is published by ClearSight at a R.R.P. of $NZ29.95.