Creator Spirit: The Holy Spirit and the Art of Becoming Human
Steven R. Guthrie
Baker Academic, 2011
240 pp., $26.00
Thinking in Tongues: Pentecostal Contributions to Christian Philosophy (Pentecostal Manifestos)
James K. A. Smith
Wm. B. Eerdmans Publishing Co., 2010
192 pp., $19.00
W. David O. Taylor
Nothing is possible in the Christian life without the Holy Spirit. To state this is surely to state the obvious. It is surprising, then, and not a little distressing, to note how often the speech habits of Christians follow a binitarian rather than a Trinitarian pattern. Listen to the preacher's sermons. Read the devotional books. Note the prayers. Grab a hymnal and thumb through the index. Once you look for it, you begin to see it nearly everywhere. God language and Christ language suffuse our common dialect as Christians, yet Spirit language receives only scant attention, surfacing far less even than "spirit" or "spiritual." At stake is not the Spirit's "invisibility." At stake is the Spirit's de-personalization and therefore the weakening of the Trinitarian character of classical Christian faith. Our speech habits simply make manifest what we uncertainly believe. It does not have to be this way, of course, and both Steven Guthrie and James Smith summon readers to a more vibrant pneumatological faith.
In Creator Spirit, Guthrie argues that to understand "spirituality" rightly we must first understand the Spirit rightly, and one of the principal works of the Spirit is to remake our humanity. In Guthrie's typology the Spirit is the humanizing, freeing, and perfecting Spirit. First, then, the Spirit remakes our humanity. In an examination of John Coltrane's A Love Supreme, Guthrie shows how the Spirit makes the most of the "basic stuff" of our lives. Second, the Spirit remakes our physical humanity, and here Guthrie takes aim against all attempts to jettison the body for the sake of a "purer" version of humanity (Plato, Kandinsky, Schoenberg, et al.). Third, the Spirit remakes communal humanity. In a lovely exposition of Ephesians 5, Guthrie notes how music, pneumatologically rendered, promotes a differentiated unity:
Music enacts and makes sensible, as few other activities can, a self that is " 'inhabited' or 'indwelled by others.' " When I sing among others, I hear a ...