A Review of “Perspectives on Spirit Baptism” ed. by Chad Owen Brand

Counterpoints provide us a great opportunity to wrestle with various views, assess their strengths and weaknesses, and draw our own conclusions. Often, this means reading a bunch of different books on a single subject from various authors, but when an editor can compile various authors together to work through a subject we can read just one book. I love the Perspectives series for this reasons, it provides us a one-stop read to work through views on a subject. While Perspectives on Spirit Baptism does provide us various views it does not provide the usual give and take that this series has come to be known for.

The relationship of the Spirit to the believer has been a subject of major contention in modern theology. Is there a post-conversion second work of the Spirit? Is speaking in tongues a sign of Spirit Baptism? Do all Christians have the Spirit? There are a number of questions that this subject calls us to wrestle with in modern theology. In Perspectives on Baptism Chad Owen Brand pull together five authors to help introduce the various views on the subject of Spirit Baptism. Each author represents a specific distinct view: Ralph Del Colle (Sacramental view), Ray Dunning (Wesleyan view), Larry Hart (Charismatic view), Stanley Horton (Pentecostal view), and Walter Kaiser (Reformed view). Each author has the opportunity to develop a decent introduction to their view. In addition, each chapter concludes with a response from the other authors. Usually this is one of the strengths of the Perspectives series. The responses attempt to interact with specific details of the other views, exposing weaknesses and challenging points of doctrinal or exegetical work. Surprisingly, however, this particular volume does not offer as much help in this area.

The chapters themselves are decent. Larry Hart’s dimensional approach to a Charismatic view of Spirit Baptism is particularly compelling and unique. Readers will find it to be something worth engaging with simply because of its distinct theological approach. Walter Kaiser presents a generally classical Reformed perspective, yet leaves some room for Charismatic nuances. Those not familiar with a Sacramental view will also find Del Colle’s chapter enlightening. The book serves to give some good introductions to these five perspectives. While no chapter can be completely thorough there is enough there to adequately represent each view.

The responses to the views, however, leave much to be desired. They are often so brief as to add nothing to the discussion. So, for example, Stanley Horton’s response is literally six short paragraphs, and basically asserts that since others have refuted James D.G. Dunn’s views on Spirit Baptism (an assertion that can be debated) then responding to Kaiser is unnecessary. Larry Hart gives more paragraph’s to praising Horton’s view than critiquing it in his response. Horton offers almost no critique at all to Hart’s view. Engagement with actual content was limited in the responses. Contrast the responses in this volume with those in Zondervan’s Counterpoints volume on Are Miraculous Gifts for Today? In this volume respondents are given an entire chapter to take issue with the position previously presented. So, for example, Sam Storm’s response to Richard Gaffin’s view covers 14 pages. The respondents in Perspectives on Spirit Baptism are given just a few paragraphs to take issue and the detailed interaction is significantly lacking. This hampers the work and makes it less useful than it would otherwise have been.

The benefit of the types of counterpoint works is not simply that they compile all dominant perspectives into one volume, it is that readers are allowed to see the interaction and debate over all the details and nuances of a view. We get to see the weaknesses of the views and wrestle with that level of detail. Perspectives on Spirit Baptism gives us some great introductions, but it does not provide the level of detailed interaction that makes these volumes worthwhile. Without those interactions readers should just read more detailed works on each view of Spirit Baptism.

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