The author of this book is Vice Principal of Regents Theological College, part of the Elim Foursquare Gospel Alliance branch of Pentecostalism. He has a genuine concern that the Holy Spirit is too often ignored among Christians, and provides some helpful insights as he takes the reader through biblical references to the Spirit.
However, those expecting a thorough and balanced discussion of the Spirit will be disappointed. The book eschews any study of the Spirit’s place in the Trinity and ignores his role in both revival and the preaching of the gospel, while his significance in regeneration and sanctification are given only cursory treatment.
What the author aims at, rather, is encouraging readers to seek a personal ‘encounter’ with the Spirit, to ‘explore’ the Spirit, to ‘gaze on’ the Spirit. He tells us that students at Regents College ‘have, with reference to the Spirit, begun to tread where few others have gone before’, and he wants his readers to follow the same path.
Such excessive emphasis on actively seeking a direct experience of the Spirit left this reviewer feeling distinctly uneasy. A similar effect was produced by the author’s unbalanced focus on the role of the Spirit. There is no clear appreciation here of the key significance of Christ’s teaching in John 16:14 that ‘He will glorify me’. This results in statements that are at best misleading, such as — to quote the title of one section — ‘The Holy Spirit provides access to God.’
There are many other assertions that cause raised eyebrows. We are informed that believers ‘are to remember that the law is no longer to be their [ethical] guide, for the Spirit is their superior mentor’. We are also told that, while the Spirit ‘may choose to speak’ through the Bible, he ‘may as easily speak’ through, among other things, prophecy, visions, dreams, ‘and even, though rarely, an audible voice’.
The gifts of the Spirit are inevitably dealt with from a Pentecostal perspective. Whatever one’s views on their cessation since the first century, the fact that nearly all the major figures in post-apostolic church history were cessationists in their doctrine and/or practice surely demands that the subject should receive more than the author’s summary dismissal in a brief footnote.
Those interested in a Pentecostal view of the Spirit will no doubt welcome this volume. It seems strange, however, that such a book should be published by IVP, and especially in its ‘Bible speaks today: Bible themes’ series.