A Review of “Birthright”, by David C. Needham -- By: Frederic R. Howe

Journal: Bibliotheca Sacra
Volume: BSAC 141:561 (Jan 1984)
Article: A Review of “Birthright”, by David C. Needham
Author: Frederic R. Howe

A Review of “Birthright”, by David C. Needham

Frederic R. Howe

[Frederic R. Howe, Associate Professor of Systematic Theology, Dallas Theological Seminary]

The book being considered in this review article is in the “Critical Concerns” series published by Multnomah Press. The book was published in 1979 and was reprinted in 1981. Needham, a Dallas Theological Seminary graduate (Th.M, 1955), is a gifted and respected Bible teacher on the faculty of Multnomah School of the Bible. An attempt will be made in this review article to consider the central theme of the book, and to give careful evaluation and criticism of some of the concepts related to this theme. Of course, issues, not personalities, are in view in this article. Needham seriously desires to honor Christ and to enable believers to live in the full light of their inheritance in Christ.

Needham’s Basic Position

A Christian, according to the book, is an entirely new person as the result of the miracle of regeneration. Again and again Needham stresses this, with illustrations and stories to help sharpen his readers’ understanding of his position. An example of this emphasis follows:

A Christian is not simply a person who gets forgiveness, who gets to go to heaven, who gets the Holy Spirit, who gets a new nature. Mark this—a Christian is a person who has become someone he was not before. A Christian, in terms of his deepest identity, is a SAINT, a born child of God, a divine masterpiece, a child of light, a citizen of

heaven. Not only positionally (true in the mind of God but not true in actuality here on earth), not only judicially (a matter of God’s moral bookkeeping), but ACTUALLY.1

According to Needham this change is so radical that it is a complete break with the entity of one’s personhood before his conversion. Crucial to this viewpoint is the realm where this new identity functions. Needham states: “This new identity is not on the flesh level, but the spirit level—one’s deepest self. This miracle is more than a ‘judicial’ act of God. It is an act so REAL that it is right to say that a Christian’s essential nature is righteous rather than sinful.”2

As the author’s argument unfolds, it becomes clear that he believes regeneration alters a Christian’s essential nature at the level of his spirit or inner being, but not at the level of his total life in the flesh. So the author virtually has a duality in the believer—redeemed spirit and unredeemed flesh. He states, “But even though all this is true—even t...

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