Read Rediscovering the Holy Spirit for an exegetical, theological, and historical understanding of the Holy Spirit. While Michael Horton’s exegesis may not convince everyone, it should please those who confess the primacy of Scripture for theological understanding. I recommend Michael Horton’s book on the Spirit to pastors, to interested readers, and even to academics. Here is why.
First, Horton engages not only with the theology of his own tradition but also with Roman Catholics and Orthodox theologians. Not only that, but he engages with the Spirit’s providence in the history of theology. He cites Gregory Nazianzes, Simeon the New Theologian, and John Calvin among others. His historical and theological sensitivity lends itself to a well-balanced presentation of the Spirit.
He does not find himself locked into a historical debate about the sign-gifts, for example, because he not only engages with contemporary North American thought but also the thought of many Christians. As a result, Horton speaks of the Spirit as a person and not simply the empowerment for spiritual gifts or the means by which regeneration occurs.
Second, this historical and theological engagement allows him to make fitting theological judgments about the Spirit: namely, that the Spirit is the Lord and Giver of life. He does not merely bestow upon the church gifts or empower for service. “The Holy Spirit is Lord in exactly same sense that the Father and Son are the Lord” (30).
Third, Horton engages with the text directly and often. His broad engagement does not entail that he agrees with those whom he cites. He returns to Scripture and evaluates theologians by Scripture and by a right theological reflection on Scripture
Fourth, Horton writes well. This means his book not only teaches and informs but delights. While the subject-matter may not be easy, his writing sure is. Sentences make sense. Paragraphs flow. Any interested reader can grasp what Horton argues—granting that it can a lifetime (and more!) to understand the fullness of the Spirit’s person and work.
Since Horton has written an introduction that aims to be understandable to a broad audience, he does not provide the kind of in-depth analysis that most scholars would want. Nor does he engage in speculative theology to spell out the exact relationship of our union by the Spirit with Christ. Now, he does not have to do so. Every book has its limits and scope. But it is good to be aware of these limits before buying.
I recommend Rediscovering the Holy Spirit to anyone interested in knowing God. The Spirit is Lord and Giver of life. And this book explores what that means.
Horton, Michael. Rediscovering the Holy Spirit: God’s Perfecting Presence in Creation, Redemption, and Everyday Life. Grand Rapid: Zondervan, 2017.
Disclaimer: Zondervan provided me with a review copy of this book.
Steve Adams says
That seems a bit scant Wyatt. I’d love to hear a little about the issues that you are referring to for example when you say Michael’s book isn’t going to convince everyone’? What are the issues that he addresses in this book?
He uses a theological approach to Scripture, which means that many historical-critical readers will not jive with his interpretations. He also makes some big assumptions like: the old age / new age means life without or with the Spirit (I think he follows Ridderbos here). The main thing he focuses on is the Spirit as a Person: the Lord and Giver of life. But he still treats items like gifts, etc.
Steve Adams says
That’s interesting. I notice in your opening sentences you say, “the theology of his own tradition but also with Roman Catholics and Orthodox theologians. Not only that, but he engages with Spirit’s providence in the history of theology….”
Maybe it’s just a typographical thing or did you intent to leave out the article ‘the’ before the word ‘Spirit’ here? Either way, it got me thinking. It seems to me that the Holy Spirit or the Spirit of God does not have a personal name like Jesus does. We would not speak of The Father simply as Father unless we are addressing Him of course, but that is different isn’t it. So, we should not speak of Spirit but as the Spirit in the same way that we would not speak of Father (rather The Father or The Spirit) And, for that matter we wouldn’t speak of Jesus as Son either! but as The Son. Is this theologically significant? I’m not sure. But I have heard some people speak of the Spirit intentionally dropping the article and it just doesn’t sound right to my ears. How significant I don’t know, and maybe I’m just confusing some things, but it just kind of got me thinking a little today. I appreciate that. Cheers. And thanks for your review work.
It was a typo! I think people say “Spirit” with no “The” to indicate some sort of force or power. But using “The Spirit” seems to indicate personhood—strangely enough!