A Review of “Rediscovering the Holy Spirit” by Michael Horton

God is Triune. That’s what the Bible presents and what the Christian church has confessed since the dawn of its existence. Yet, for all our verbal confession, in actual practice the church often acts as if God is binitarian, not trinitarian. We affirm much about the Father and the Son, but speak, think, or interact with the Holy Spirit rarely. Our focus is often, rightly, on Jesus Christi, but to such a degree that we do not affirm the necessity of the Holy Spirit. Reformed theologian Michael Horton aims to correct the church’s oversight of the Spirit. In Rediscovering the Holy Spirit he gives readers a sweeping look at the work of the Holy Spirit across the canon. In particular he aims to help readers rediscover the Spirit as a person who is actively involved in their regular lives. This book will help to expand your vision of the Spirit’s work.

Horton communicates his thesis as both emphasizing the distinct personality and operations of the Spirit  – in distinction and yet unity with the Father and the Son – and of His more regular and ordinary activity. “I want to challenge the association of the Spirit merely with the extraordinary,” says Horton (14). As the means of communicating this message Horton simply gives readers a Biblical-theological look at the Spirit’s work. His focus, as the subtitle says, is on the “Spirit’s perfecting presence in Creation, Redemption, and Everyday life.” The chapters, then, seek to zero in on these areas of theological study.

The book begins with a look a the key and crucial doctrines of the Spirit. He outlines the basics of Trinitarianism, distinguishing it from certain heresies (such as modalism), and demonstrating the complimentary work of the persons of the trinity. “We encounter the Father as the origin of creation, redemption, and consummation, the Son as the mediator, and the Spirit as the one who brings every work to completion” (36). It is within this framework that Horton derives the idea of the Spirit’s role as “perfecting.” “The Holy Spirit is the one who turns a house into a home – created space into a covenantal place where God dwells with his people…He is the person of the Godhead who brings everything to completion.” This becomes the key lens through which he looks at all the works of the Spirit.

He moves from introductory matters, then, to explorations of the Spirit’s activity across the narrative of Scripture. He explores the Spirit’s work in creation, in establishing and governing the people of Israel, in judgment, in the life of Christ, in the expansion of the church, and in the application of redemption. He addresses the major points of conflict as well throughout this study, including baptism in the Spirit, and the charismatic gifts. Readers will find here a very thorough work on the Holy Spirit which seeks to address the topic as comprehensively as a monograph can.

Readers will find Horton’s style academic in general. Like other works this volume is technical in certain ways, and a bit dry. Yet, the average educated laymen will find it generally accessible. Unlike some of his other scholarly works the volume is not designed be limited to academic theologians. Some level of theological awareness, however, will be required to navigate this volume. As will some patience with the prose.

Horton presents here a standard Reformed position on the Holy Spirit. As such some readers will not agree with all he says. His conclusions on the Spiritual gifts were particularly unpersuasive to me. Yet, full agreement is not necessary to find this volume immensely helpful. Horton’s Biblical-theological approach is not only refreshing, but the manner in which he expands the reader’s vision of the Spirit’s work is worthy high praise. We are far too reductionist in our theology of the Spirit, and here Horton challenges us to be more Biblical and to see all that Scripture says about the Spirit. In that regard this is a book that should be read by theologians, pastors, and laymen of all kinds.

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