Hardly any theological subject has such diverse writings than those addressing the Holy Spirit. Pick up the first five or six books on the Holy Spirit that you come across and as you peruse them you may wonder if they are even talking about the same subject! Who the Holy Spirit is, what His importance is, how we should view Him, how we might imbibe Him into our lives, apparently, finds little agreement among Christian people. If nothing else, that suggests that there is need of thoughtful works on the Holy Spirit. Enter here Gordon T. Smith as he throws his hat into the ring.
To be honest, I had more trouble than usual in deciding how to rate this book. My trouble is that on some pages there is the most remarkable theological insight while on others I found myself asking the question, are you kidding? Though I had trouble, I think I might suggest how you can know in advance whether you will like this book or not. I’ll assume that you want good theology, so the whole thing hinges on how ecumenical you are. Are you convinced that being ecumenical is the most important thing in this day? You will love this book. If you are skeptical of being too ecumenical, then, perhaps, not so much.
I wasn’t very far into the book as I was enjoying some of his theological insights before I was thinking in the back of my mind, wow, this guy is really ecumenical. To be honest, he went fullbore in the last two chapters. Let me give an example. In the last chapter he commends the Presbyterian Church of Canada for coming up with “an extensive theological framework for engaging expressions of aboriginal spirituality including especially those that were typically of indigenous prairie belief systems.” He listed things like “the pipe ceremony, the sun dance, the powwow, the sweat lodge, the medicine wheel, and the smudge ceremony.” A little later on he made a wonderful statement that, “we must, of course, be radically Christocentric and orthodox – intentionally Trinitarian.” I love that last statement! But how could the earlier statement not be a direct contradiction to it? To be fair, he gives a detailed explanation of his reasoning. It didn’t add up to me. In my view, he went a field too far, or maybe two or three fields too far. Again, if you think being broadly ecumenical is the best way to advance the gospel in our day, you may find this riveting.
To try to give the full picture, he does write with an engaging style and comes across as likable. He doesn’t overly talk about himself, but there are a few clues that give you insight to him as a person. He grew up in a charismatic setting. He currently is part of the Christian Missionary Alliance. Along the way, he came to value liturgy too. Maybe that explains why he has more than average desire for everyone to respect each other, but I diverge with him when he says to fit their practices into orthodoxy. Respect is one thing. Syncretism is another.
Though his ecumenicalism was a glaring fault in my view that even weakened the book, I must admit still enjoying some of his theological observations. I usually read with a pencil in my hand and in the front of the book I will write the page number of special pages that really spoke to me. I just checked and I had 14 such pages notated and that is a little above average for an 180-page book. The aforementioned faults notwithstanding, this isn’t the usual fluff that clutters bookstore shelves on the Holy Spirit.
I received this book free from the publisher. I was not required to write a positive review. The opinions I have expressed are my own. I am disclosing this in accordance with the Federal Trade Commission’s 16 CFR, Part 255.