I Believe in the Holy Spirit

Many theology professors inform classes that the average Christian is “docetic”. That is, they explain how most Christians affirm the humanity of Christ but when it comes down to it they are often uncomfortable with what it means to embrace Jesus’ full humanity. So, the humanity of Christ for many only “seems” to be human — he’s God in skin. That sort of idea.

Those same theologians also must inform classes that many Christians totally ignore the Holy Spirit. (Which, if you are now counting, means many Christians end up being “binitarians”.) But, when it comes to the Spirit, there is a re-awakening of not only interest but practice itself.

Hence, the new book by LeRon Shults and Andrea Hollingsworth, The Holy Spirit (Eerdmans Guides to Theology), is a huge help. This is a perfect book for a budding theologian or for one who needs to catch up. Here’s why:


First, it is brief — appr 150 pages.

Second, it has a readable, informed, and comprehensive sketch of the history of thinking about the Holy Spirit — not too dense for students and brief enough for the pastor. Excellent sections on the Cappadocians and on Calvin, who is often neglected when it comes to the Holy Spirit. Nice sections on Pietism and Pentecostalism.

Third, it is not shaped by inter-evangelical debates but by the great ideas and thinkers in the history of the Church. The door is open for all the major thinkers, whether it is Charles Hodge or Friedrich Schleiermacher — and not to be forgotten are the ecumenical movement, feminist and liberation theologies. The discussion ends with the prospects of how Holy Spirit will be understood in light of recent developments in theology.

And, fourth, a complete annotated bibliography. I read the annotations and for everyone I have read I thought the brief description was accurate and useful.

This is, unless I’m mistaken, the first volume in Eerdmans’ new series, Guides to Theology, a series sponsored by the Christian Theological Research Fellowship. If all the volumes are like this … we’re in for some great reading!

About Scot McKnight

Scot McKnight is a recognized authority on the New Testament, early Christianity, and the historical Jesus. McKnight, author of more than fifty books, is the Professor of New Testament at Northern Seminary in Lombard, IL.

  • http://www.whiterose4jon.net Mike Mangold

    Scot: what has Calvin got to do with God’s holy spirit? Isn’t that an oxymoron?
    When you say “many Christians totally ignore the Holy Spirit, don’t you mean mainline Christians, even mainstream evangelicals? We Pentecostals put more emphasis on our relationship to the power of God’s spirit and the body of his church than we do on conventional services and Tradition (yuck). Although we cherish the power of God’s spirit even if we don’t give it a human face like the 3-headed God of Roman Catholicism (i.e. capitalizing “Holy Spirit” as if that was a formal name!), that makes us “binitarians” DESPITE an overwhelming emphasis on his spirit, the power of his spirit in our lives, the fruits of that spirit, and especially the gifts of that spirit. Once we start thinking of the Ruach Ha-Kodesh as a power available only to prophets, kings, and priests in the OT, and then to his whole church since Jesus made us all kings, priests, and prophets, then can we experience all of the fruits and gifts. Such as: raising from the dead; casting out demons; healing the sick; making the blind see and the lame walk; moving mountains; resurrecting the dead; and so on.
    Amen!

  • http://www.newwaystheology.blogspot.com/ Mason

    Mike #1,
    You asked
    “what has Calvin got to do with God’s holy spirit?”
    Actaully Calvin had quite a lot to say about the Holy Spirit. Calvin insisted that it is the Spirit who enlivens us to salvation, that it is the Spirit who sanctifies the Christian, that effective preaching and true response in the way we think and live are only through the Spirit.
    For a good overview of this check out ‘Living for God’s Glory’ which examines Calvin and Reformed theology and has a good amount of space devoted to this issue.
    Also, your “the 3-headed God of Roman Catholicism” comment and derision of ‘Tradition’…it is unfortanate that you would attack the Roman church in that way. Whatever theological issues they may have, their doctrine of the Trinity and the three in one Father, Son, and Spirit is firmly and undebatebly Orthodox, something that can not be said of ‘binitarianism’.
    If you see your tradition as having parted from the Orthoxod Nicene understanding of God, it may be wise to seriously examine whether or not what you are teaching is no longer grounded in the Bible.

  • http://www.mysticallimpet.blogspot.com Travis Greene

    Mike @ 1,
    Calm down. I don’t think this is supposed to be a fight about who gets the Holy Spirit right. So stop bashing Catholics. If you think this criticism (ignoring the Spirit) applies to mainliners and non-Pentecostal evangelicals and not to Pentecostals, you’re probably right. You don’t have to defend your tribe here. We welcome your perspective, but I think it would help if you turned it down just a notch.

  • Your Name

    Mike @ 1
    The conclusion of your post says, “…and so on.” Would that list include taking care of the poor, the widows, and the orphans? Would it include working with the gay community and those who are racist? BTW: All “we Pentecostals” don’t “put more emphasis on our relationship to the power of God’s spirit….” I would appreciate it if you just spoke for yourself and not include me in your rather one-pointed and somewhat elitist view of the Spirit. Remember, your brother/sister is not your enemy.
    BTW: Thanks Scot for your recommendation of this book.

  • Winn

    ooops, My name #4 is Winn.

  • mariam

    I thought Mike was being tongue-in cheek. Just when I think someone has written a bit of clever satire, I find out they were serious. Tell me it ain’t so, Mike :-)

  • Dianne P

    Hearkening back to my Eastern Christian upbringing, I recall (and yearn for) the leaning into the Holy Ghost throughout worship. Prior to reading the Holy Gospel, as all stood up, the priest invoked the Holy Ghost – “Wisdom! Be attentive!
    Ahhh.. miriam, always the one to catch the subtleties here (praying that you are right). Though we likely capitalized the Holy Ghost, I don’t recall anyone intimately calling out to him/her as “Holy”, or in a more deferential tone, “Mr./Mrs. Ghost”. Hmmmm.
    I’ve often felt a bit disoriented in our modern protestant churches with the strong, almost exclusive, emphasis on Jesus. Not a strongly trinitarian theology in my personal experience.
    OTOH, I greatly appreciate a study of the Holy Ghost that doesn’t simply take a look at the current practice of Pentacostalism (not that there’s anything wrong with that). Look forward to adding it to my way-too-long-already amazon list.

  • Matt Jenson

    Calvin’s sacramental theology is wonderfully rich stuff. For Calvin, the Spirit protects the integrity of the humanity of Christ in the Lord’s Supper and unites us to the ascended Christ.
    And, see this: http://www.theonion.com/content/node/31330

  • Jared

    Scot,
    I too would recommend this book. It was a great source as I prepared to teach a class that covered the Holy Spirit.
    Also, I believe Eerdmans also has a book on the Trinity as well in the same manner.

  • http://www.newwaystheology.blogspot.com/ Mason

    Jared,
    I think you are correct about the Trinity book. I have heard very positive reports about it, one of my friends was planning to use it as a text for his systematic theology class next semester in fact.

  • Mike Mangold

    Mariam: of course I was being tongue-in-cheek. Maybe a theology blog is not the kind of place to waste sarcasm. Sorry if anyone was offended.

  • http://www.whiterose4jon.net Mike Mangold

    Well, maybe I’m out of sorts these days. Our pastor left and is now tending bar.

  • http://www.mysticallimpet.blogspot.com Travis Greene

    Mike, your sarcasm was just too realistic. I had flashbacks of “Oneness” Pentecostals trying to evangelize me away from believing in the Trinity.

  • http://www.whiterose4jon.net Mike Mangold

    Travis (#13): I hear you. Except for the first 2 lines of my post (which I personally think are hilarious), most of the rest are direct quotes. Not from the Oneness Pentecostals though, but mainly Sabbatarians of whatever hue.

  • mariam

    Phew! Satire is a tough thing in America, because there is always a good bit of reality that is weirder and more wonderful (or not) than the joke, especially when it comes to religion and politics. You simply can’t exaggerate enough to outdo the absurdities found in real life – or surreal life. I’ve made the mistake before of thinking someone was doing a “Borat”, and laughing loudly, only to find that they were serious. Not that I have anything against weirdness, as long as it doesn’t involve weapons or bylaws. Absurdity is one of things that make life more bearable.


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