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Pneumatology's Biblical Foundations

Review of 'The Spirit Throughout the Canon'

George P Wood on August 18, 2022

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What does the Bible teach about the Holy Spirit?

The Spirit Throughout the Canon answers that question by surveying pertinent biblical passages from Genesis to Revelation. These passages refer to the Spirit using either the Hebrew word ruach or the Greek word pneuma. They lay the biblical foundation of an authentically Pentecostal doctrine of the Holy Spirit.

Chapters in this book originally appeared in the pages of Pneuma: The Journal of the Society for Pentecostal Studies. Their authors are an international team of Bible scholars and theologians. All are “members of global pentecostal traditions, [who] recognize the divine Personhood of the Spirit.” Consistent with classical Pentecostalism, they emphasize “the theme of empowerment, whether for life, worship, or ministry for God.”

These two points offer a useful reminder that Pentecostals agree with the broader Christian tradition on fundamental doctrines, such as the Trinity, even as they emphasize themes that the tradition has downplayed, such as empowerment for prophetic ministry. Consequently, in its relationship with other Christian traditions, Pentecostal theology always moves between affirmation and critique.

It is impossible in a short review to adequately summarize the contents of a multiauthor book. However, in the book’s concluding chapter, Nimi Wariboko points to five themes that run throughout its chapters. They describe both the work of the Holy Spirit as well as the Pentecostal spirituality which results from that work. 

The Spirit Throughout the Canon is an academic work, but it should be read by a broader audience, especially Pentecostal ministers.  

The five themes are creativity, empowerment, mindset, common good, and presence of God.

Pentecostals can interpret the Spirit’s work narrowly in terms of the Church’s evangelistic mission. Empowerment for that mission is undoubtedly a key element of the Spirit’s work, as well as of authentic Pentecostal spirituality. As Acts 1:8 puts it, “you will receive power when the Holy Spirit comes on you; and you will be my witnesses.”

However, the themes Wariboko identifies remind us that the Spirit’s work must be interpreted broadly, too. The Spirit who breathed life into creation is involved in every aspect of believers’ lives. Having been “conformed to the image of [God’s] Son” (Romans 8:29), Spirit-filled people contribute to the positive transformation of the broader community.

The Spirit Throughout the Canon is an academic work, but it should be read by a broader audience, especially Pentecostal ministers. Its chapters are short and clearly written. The book is a helpful resource for all who preach or teach about the work of the Holy Spirit.

As a publisher, Brill often prices its books out of the market for the average reader. The authors of this volume have declined payment for their work to keep the book’s price low. Their scholarly labors, combined with this generous spirit, is truly a gift to the Church.

 

Book Reviewed

Craig S. Keener and L. William Oliverio Jr., eds., The Spirit throughout the Canon: Pentecostal Pneumatology (Leiden and Boston: Brill, 2022).

 

This review appears in the summer 2022 issue of Influence magazine.

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