Baptism in the Spirit: Luke-Acts and the Dunn Debate

By William P. Atkinson

A critical discussion of James Dunn’s influential analysis of the doctrine of baptism in the Holy Spirit, written from a Pentecostalist perspective.

ISBN: 9780718892685


This book is about that treasured doctrine of Pentecostalism: baptism in the Holy Spirit, understood as a work subsequent to conversion to Christ. Since the British theologian James Dunn’s publication of his influential work Baptism in the Holy Spirit, there has been heated response from Pentecostals in defense of the doctrine. Key players are Roger Stronstad, Howard Ervin, David Petts, James Shelton, Robert Menzies, and ex-Pentecostal Max Turner. This book reviews Pentecostal criticisms of Dunn with respect to Luke-Acts, concluding that Pentecostals are right: for Luke, receiving the Spirit was not the inception of new covenant life. It was a powerful enabling for prophecy and miracles; for the church’s outward mission and its internal life. After placing Luke-Acts in a wider canonical context, the book closes with some practical lessons from Luke-Acts for today’s Pentecostal churches.

Additional information

Dimensions 229 × 153 mm
Pages 164

Trade Information LPOD

About the Author

William P. Atkinson is a Pentecostal minister in Essex, England and Associate Research Fellow at the London School of Theology. He is author of the awardwinning The “Spiritual Death” of Jesus (2009).


Foreword by Robert W. Graves

1. The Dunn Debate and Its Inception
2. Pentecostal Criticisms of Dunn
3. Pentecostal Alternatives to Dunn
4. Luke-Acts in Its Canonical Context
5. Baptism in the Spirit Today

Subject Index
Author Index
Ancient Document Index


Endorsements and Reviews

A correct understanding of what it means to be baptized in the Holy Spirit is of vital importance, not only to the Pentecostal Movement, but to the entire Christian Church of the twenty-first century. William Atkinson’s book is a valuable contribution to the discussion, summarizing and critiquing the views of key Pentecostal scholars in relation to Dunn and offering a refreshing conclusion of its own. It will undoubtedly prove essential reading for Pentecostal scholars and Bible College students alike.
David Petts, Honorary Academic Fellow, University of Wales

In Baptism in the Spirit Atkinson tackles afresh the controversial and sometimes divisive doctrine of the same name. Deftly and with mature even-handedness the author canvasses four decades of scholarship on the subject. He is generous in giving credit where it is due and is equally forthright in giving criticism where he believes it is due. This is a must read for those informed laypersons, pastors, theological students, and scholars who are seeking a clearer understanding of the doctrine of baptism in the Holy Spirit.
Roger Stronstad, Biblical Theology Director, Summit Pacific College

No single book can offer a comprehensive academic reflection on the subject of the baptism of the Holy Spirit. However, I consider this work as a useful manual on the academic presentations of this doctrine. One may not agree with all the arguments William Atkinson has raised but I do recommend this book as an essential reading for all those who are eager to understand the New Testament doctrine of the Spirit Baptism.
Opoku Onyinah, Chairman, Church of Pentecost, Ghana

Atkinson has done a superb job of synthesizing and evaluating key elements of the ‘Dunn Debate’. To borrow a phrase from a cable network, this book is ‘fair and balanced.’ It should be required reading for all students preparing for Pentecostal ministry. And I strongly encourage all ministers who identify themselves as Pentecostal or charismatic to read it.
Anthony D. Palma, Emeritus Professor of New Testament, Assemblies of God Theological Seminary

The leading New Testament scholar James Dunn vigorously argued 40 years ago that, in the New Testament, baptism in, or the gift of, the Holy Spirit was fundamental to becoming a Christian, and that only those who received the Spirit could be called Christians. William Atkinson, a British-based Pentecostal, here surveys the Pentecostal responses to Dunn’s book, and offers his assessment.
Dr Forster, in Church Times, 11 January 2013

This is a book pastors and students could easily assimilate, and there is at the very end a practical as well as a theological evaluation of the various positions.
William K. Kay, in The Journal of the European Pentecostal Theological Association, Vol 31.1

It is vitally important for us to know why we believe what we say we believe! … This book will be a great help to Pentecostals and Charismatics of all steams as it gives a solid basis for our beliefs …
Richard Dodge, in Bookcase, Issue B6

This book is quite useful for those seeking to understand this distinctly Pentecostal doctrine. … it is a fine survey of intra-Pentecostal discussions using Dunn’s work as a dialogue partner.
J. Brian Tucker, in Bulletin for Biblical Research, Vol 23, 2013

… a welcome and positive contribution to an ongoing discussion.
James D.G. Dunn, University of Durham, in The Expository Times, Vol 125, No 1

The book offers an interesting discussion of the Baptism in the Spirit debate. … It is an academic text, but is written in a sufficiently accessible style for informed lay readers.
Isaac N. Hopper, in Reviews in Religion & Theology, Vol 20, Issue 4

Atkinson approaches the book with the intention of presenting the Pentecostal position as cogent, relevant and practical.
Craig Stephans, Church of the Redeemer, USA, in Theological Book Review , Vol 25, No 1

Useful for people seeking to comprehend this distinctive Pentecostal doctrine …
Bradford McCall, in Mission Studies, Vol 31, Issue 2