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Book Review on Wilkinson, Bruce.1999. Experiencing Spiritual Breakthrough: The Powerful Principle of the Three Chairs. Sisters,OR: Multnomah Publishers

by Dr Alex Tang

Wilkinson used a simple but effective teaching aid – 3 chairs which are used to represent 3 portraits or spiritual states in which everyone in the world can be divided into as illustrated in the diagram below:

CHAIR ONE

CHAIR TWO

CHAIR THREE

Commitment

Compromise

Conflict

Saved

Saved

Unsaved

Spiritual

Carnal

Natural

His thesis that by identifying which chair we are sitting on at present, we can make a ‘spiritual breakthoughs’ by making a decision to move from one chair to another.

Firstly, in an effort to make the concept relevant, Wilkinson have oversimplified the process of spiritual growth without reference to grace, spiritual formation, character development and development of new worldview. He seems to give the impression that spiritual breakthroughs is easy and achievable by human effort alone.

Secondly, there is weak theological support for his thesis except using Paul’s terms (spiritual, carnal and natural man). In his Biblical example, he used Joshua, elders and children of elders. While he made his point of generational slide, the children of elders were disobedient rather than non believers. But it is true that there is a generational slide if each generation do not develop personal faith in Jesus.

Thirdly, Wilkinson meant the three chairs for Christians, backslidden Christians and non-Christian but there is no reference to the work of Jesus Christ on the cross and of the Holy Spirit in spiritual transformation. Wilkinson seems to imply that spiritual growth can take place by decision making alone.  There cannot be movement between the chairs without adequate appropriation of the theology of the cross and inner transformation without the work of the Holy Spirit especially in his examples of Julia, Ernie and Kate.

Finally, while marriage and parenting is important, one wonders whether the three-chairs model is the right approach. Section 3 & 4 sounds like promotions for Walk-Thru-the Bible Ministries programs. Wilkinson’s book promises spiritual breakthroughs but one wonders whether it can delivers except for a short time haze of spiritual high.

 

                                                                                                                   Soli Deo Gloria

 

 

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