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Book Critique: "Why I Am Still Surprised by the Power of the Spirit" by Jack Deere from a Reformed Experiential Perspective

Updated: Jul 2

Jack Deere's "Why I Am Still Surprised by the Spirit" is an engaging and personal account of the author's journey with the Holy Spirit, reflecting on the supernatural and charismatic experiences he encountered throughout his life. While the book has garnered attention for its vivid storytelling and passionate defense of the charismatic movement, it presents several challenges and points of contention when evaluated from a Reformed experiential perspective.

Positive Aspects:

  1. Authenticity and Personal Experience: Deere's transparency about his spiritual experiences is commendable. His anecdotes and testimonies provide a heartfelt and genuine insight into his spiritual journey, making the book relatable to those who have had similar encounters.

  2. Encouragement of Spiritual Vitality: The book serves as a reminder of the active and living nature of the Holy Spirit, encouraging believers to seek a deeper and more intimate relationship with God. This aligns with the Reformed experiential emphasis on the believer's personal communion with God.

  3. Passion for the Work of the Spirit: Deere's enthusiasm for the work of the Holy Spirit is infectious. His dedication to sharing the transformative power of the Spirit is a call to the church to remain open to God's ongoing work in the world.

Critical Analysis:

  1. Theological Foundations: From a Reformed perspective, one of the primary concerns with Deere's work is its theological grounding. The book often lacks a robust biblical and doctrinal foundation for its claims, which can lead to subjective interpretations of spiritual experiences. Reformed theology emphasizes the importance of grounding experiences in the clear teaching of Scripture, ensuring that subjective experiences do not lead believers astray.

  2. Balance Between Word and Spirit: Reformed experiential theology maintains that the Word and the Spirit work inseparably. Deere's emphasis on the charismatic can sometimes overshadow the centrality of Scripture in guiding and validating spiritual experiences. This imbalance can create a dichotomy where experiences are valued over the objective truth of God's Word.

  3. Discernment of Spirits: The Reformed tradition places a high value on discernment, cautioning believers to test the spirits to see whether they are from God (1 John 4:1). Deere's narrative occasionally seems to lack this critical aspect of discernment, potentially opening the door to unverified and possibly misleading spiritual experiences.

  4. Experiential Focus: While personal experiences with the Spirit are important, Reformed experiential theology stresses the need for these experiences to lead to greater sanctification, humility, and conformity to Christ. Deere's book, at times, appears more focused on the sensational aspects of spiritual encounters rather than their fruit in the believer's life, which can be problematic from a Reformed perspective.

  5. Corporate Dimension of the Spirit's Work: Reformed theology emphasizes the Spirit's work within the corporate body of Christ, the church. Deere's individualistic approach to the Spirit's work may inadvertently downplay the communal and ecclesiastical aspects of the Spirit's ministry, which are vital in Reformed thought.


"Why I Am Still Surprised by the Spirit" by Jack Deere is a compelling and passionate account of one man's charismatic experiences with the Holy Spirit. However, when viewed through the lens of Reformed experiential theology, the book presents significant concerns. The lack of a strong theological foundation, the imbalance between Word and Spirit, the insufficient emphasis on discernment, and the focus on individual experiences over communal and sanctifying aspects, all pose challenges to its acceptance within the Reformed tradition.

For those in the Reformed community, Deere's book can serve as a conversation starter about the role and work of the Holy Spirit, but it should be approached with discernment and a critical eye, always measuring personal experiences against the immutable truths of Scripture.

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