Essay / Theology

Thiselton, Briefly, on the Holy Spirit

thiselton short guide coverMy review of Anthony Thiselton’s Shorter Guide to the Holy Spirit is out in the new issue of Theology Today. Here’s the most substantive paragraph from the review, which picks out an important contribution Thiselton makes:

There are a few theses running through all this material. One of the most important is that we should unlearn the pervasive bad habit of associating the Holy Spirit with heightened human capacities. The Holy Spirit, as God, is truly and fully transcendent. To confuse the Spirit’s otherness with the otherness of human nature in its most excited state is to cancel the Spirit’s divine identity. Thiselton hears this confusion at work in the widespread use of the word ‘‘spirituality,’’ which has migrated from its original reference to the work of the third person of the Trinity to a way of talking about a domain of human experience. Whether in the Hebrew ruach or the Greek pneuma, ‘‘spirit’’ in Scripture is a homonym whose various meanings must be distinguished in usage: breath, wind, life, and God are not the same. If this distinction between the Spirit of God and excited human spirits were consistently acknowledged, Thiselton notes, we would not identify spiritual vitality with mere excitement, spontaneity, or intense feeling. We would not esteem people with more personal charisma as divinely gifted for church leadership.

Not every tingle you feel is the Holy Ghost! Sometimes it’s just the good old animal spirits getting riled up. Remembering the difference would indeed be a good step toward a better-ordered pneumatology and church life.

You can read the review at my academia page.


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