Even though Beverley is not a cessationist and makes that fairly clear in this book and I am very strongly cessationist, I thought that this was a wonderful book. This is, in fact, one of the best, fairest, and most balanced books I have read so far on Toronto. He speaks as an "outsider" without a strong interest in either proving or disproving it, and makes a strong effort to represent both sides of the issue as fairly as possible. This is a refreshing change to so much of the literature out there, almost all of which seems to be pro-Toronto rhetoric crying "Pharisee" at anyone who dares question Toronto in any way, or anti-Toronto rhetoric that is too quick to cry "cultist." Well, I certainly don't approve of Toronto and am a cessationist, but I also think that labelling it a cult is unwarrented. Nor should anyone "buy into" the rubbish that anyone who questions Toronto is a "Pharisee" or guilty of "blasphemy of the Holy Spirit." Toronto has certainly given enough reason to question them, and it would be irresponsible and dishonest not to. In addition, it would be unBiblical. 1 John 4:1 tells us, "Dear friends, do not believe every spirit, but test the spirits to see whether they are from God, because many false prophets have gone out into the world." (NIV) In any case, though, Beverley does a good job, in my opinion, of being balanced towards Toronto and of balancing criticism of the bad and praise of the good, which not many authors have done.
There were some minor flaws though. For example:
- His analysis of Hank Hanegraaff's and John MacArthur's objections to the "Toronto Blessing" was not entirely fair to either author. His analysis of their objections was not that thorough, but he gives the impression that it was much more thorough than it actually is. In fact, he gives the impression that he addresses ALL of their concerns about Toronto, even though that isn't really the case. In addition, he is a little too dismissive of John MacArthur's "Charismatic Chaos" in my opinion, although in all fairness he does say many positive things about that as well.
- He seems very willing to give the benefit of the doubt to Toronto and other groups that have been criticized, but a little less willing to do so for the critics of Toronto. This isn't all that purvasive of a problem in this book though.
- Towards the very end of the book, he brings up several MAJOR issues regarding Toronto that really should have been addressed in much more depth than they are and have been raised sooner in the book. Specifically:
1. Toronto does not emphasize Jesus enough. One study, which he refers to, statistically tracked Toronto's emphasis based on how frequently certain things were referred to. The study found, among other things, that prophecy was referred to more THAN 2.5 TIMES more than Jesus was! He doesn't dwell much on that, but I think that he should have made a MUCH bigger deal of that. The fact that their emphasis is that skewed should suggest SIGNIFICANT issues with Toronto! This was very much my experience when I was a charismatic, that secondary issues like tongues and prophecy tend to be dwelt on to the extent that it often takes away focus from the essentials of Christianity.
2. He states that the "Toronto Blessing represents a FAULTY UNDERSTANDING OF SIGNS AND WONDERS." (P. 157, capitals were italics in original).
3. He also says on p. 153 that "The Toronto Blessing offers A REDUCTIONISTIC VIEW OF THE HOLY SPIRIT." (Again, capitals were italics in the original). Although he points out the irony of these facts, I would argue that, if these two points are true, it is much more than just ironic! This would mean that the "Toronto Blessing" has failed on the most fundamental level it possibly could! Since the Holy Spirit and "signs and wonders" are the MAIN thrusts of the "Toronto Blessing," then why go to them at all if they don't understand these things? Would you knowingly go to a quack doctor? Obviously not! If the "Toronto Blessing" does not understand the Holy Spirit or signs and wonders, then it is no more useful than an umbrella that dissolve in the rain, since it fundamentally cannot accomplish what it set out to do. How can you promote and teach others about what you don't understand yourself? If you want to teach math, you'd better be able to do math yourself. If you want to teach chemistry, you'd better know chemistry. If you want to teach piano, you'd better be able to play the piano yourself. Why should the Toronto Blessing be any different? If you want to teach others about the Holy Spirit and signs and wonders, you'd better understand them yourself! To knowingly go to someone to "receive the Holy Spirit" who doesn't really understand the Holy Spirit would be like going to a quack doctor to get medicine. Perhaps I am being a bit too harsh here, but it seems that, since these are two of the most important aspects of the Toronto Blessing, as evinced by the fact that they refer to the Holy Spirit and prophecy 2.5 times more than they refer to Jesus, they'd better understand these themselves!
- Finally, some of this book is a bit out-of-date, since it was written awhile ago. However, it is still TREMENDOUSLY useful in my opinion.
In spite of the flaws listed above, I still consider this book to be superb and one of the best I have written on the subject. There is a trememdous amount of useful information in this book. It also has some excellent comments on the "Kansas City Prophets." This book is a wonderful resource that has been undervalued by the church in my opinion. Although the initial excitement about Toronto has long since died down, this book is still necessary, as many related groups - and Toronto itself - are still around and doing quite well. Toronto and its related groups show no sign of slowing, and I get the feeling that it is going to be a LONG time before Toronto and its related groups are gone.
If you have not studied Toronto in great depth, or even if you have and think you understand it, read this book with an open mind. No matter which side of the debate you are on, you will learn from it. This book is a great contribution towards an honest dialog on and evaluation of Toronto.