Saturday, September 29, 2012

Book Review: The Beauty and Glory of the Holy Spirit

Christians believe in one God, who is made known in three Persons; the Father, the Son and the Holy Spirit.  Of the Three, we often think of the Father and the Son in our worship and prayer but seem to attend less to the Spirit.  For example, we know of the Father’s work in creation and the Son’s sacrifice in redemption, and we frequently praise and thank God for these and many other things.  We take our requests to God in prayer, often ending our prayers with the refrain, “In Jesus’ name we pray.” 

The Spirit is less often present in our thoughts, prayer and worship.  But the Spirit is no less God.  The Spirit shares fully in all of God’s attributes, the things that make God God, so to speak.  He existed from the beginning, being uncreated and of the same essence as the Father and Son.   The nature and unity of the Trinity was perhaps clarified most strongly in the Athanasian Creed, a 4th century creed which is accepted today by most branches of Christianity.

In The Beauty and Glory of the Holy Spirit, (Grand Rapids, MI: Reformation Heritage Books) editors Joel R. Beeke and Joseph A. Pipa Jr. have collected 19 essays on the subject of the Holy Spirit, which were first presented at conferences sponsored by Greenville Presbyterian Theological Seminary and Puritan Reformed Theological Seminary, both in 2011. 

The preface opens saying, “We need the Holy Spirit.  It is impossible to overestimate the significance of the Spirit of God for the lives of Christians. “(ix)   The essays that follow then explore at depth a rich understanding of presence and function of the Spirit.  The essays are grouped in the categories of Biblical Studies, Doctrinal Studies and Historical Theological Studies, with a final essay being a Pastoral Study titled The Holy Spirit and the Unique Power of Preaching

I found each essay to be very rich, discussing the Spirit from a particular vantage point and being well-grounded in both the Biblical witness as well as the work of historical theologians.  Their common theological reference point was within the Reformed tradition, from which the authors drew deeply.  Collectively they had a tendency to cite Puritan pastors and theologians, people of whom I have little experience in reading, but whose work I found to speak vibrantly to my time and place. 

Beeke and Pipa have edited a book that digs deeply into the Spirit.  The essays they have collected present the Spirit’s work in an accessible manner, one which can help Christians more clearly and deeply understand what God has done, is doing, and will do through the Spirit. And that will always be both beautiful and glorious. 

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