Friday 27 March 2009

Holy Spirit: what to read?

No, the title of this post is not a prayer, but a request for some input. Next semester I’ll be teaching a course on pneumatology, so I’ll be compiling a set of about 30 short texts (e.g. book chapters, essays) for students to read throughout the semester. So what are the indispensable texts on the Spirit? Which texts would you set? They don’t all have to be modern writers either – I’d prefer to have a good mix from different periods and traditions. (I’ll probably start with Romans and the Fourth Gospel, then move on to a couple of patristic writers, etc.)

I’ll be very grateful for your suggestions!


Alex Abecina said...

St. Basil, On the Holy Spirit might be a good one?

Kevin said...

Hi Ben,

You're in luck: Gene Rogers just published a reader on the Holy Spirit for Blackwell, and I imagine it would be perfect for your class.

Beyond that, it's hard to beat Congar's I Believe in the Holy Spirit and von Balthasar's Theo-Logic, vol. 3, The Spirit of Truth.

I hope your teaching is going well.


Brian Lugioyo said...


Here are my top picks (I read these a while ago for a class with Ray Anderson and really enjoyed them):

- Michael Green, I Believe in the Holy Spirit
- Norman Kraus, The Community of the Spirit
- Ray Anderson "Living in the Spirit" in Theological Foundations for Ministry

Brad East said...

Being introduced recently to Gregory of Nazianzus' Five Orations was wonderful to see the beginning of serious patristic reflection on the Spirit. So sad that I have never heard of a class devoted solely to pneumatology before!

Len MacRae said...

I'm in the middle of a pneumatology seminar course at the moment. Highlights for me were Moltmann's The Spirit of Life and Robert Jenson's "The Pneumatological Problem" in his Systematic Theology.

Nick Norelli said...

Gordon D. Fee, God's Empowering Presence: The Holy Spirit in the Letters of Paul (Peabody, MA: Hendrickson, 1994), any chapter.

Anonymous said...

Gordon Fee,
- Paul, the Spirit, and the People of God.
- God's empowering presence: the Holy Spirit in the letters of Paul.

Daniel Migliore,
- "The Holy Spirit and the Christian life" in Faith seeking understanding: an introduction to Christian theology.

Anonymous said...

Benny Hinn's Good Morning, Holy Spirit

Matt said...

Pneumatology by Veli-Matti Karkkainen

and because I think Quakers have quite a bit to say on the subject,

Theses Theologiae by Robert Barclay

Matt Jenson said...

Tom Smail's "The Giving Gift". He just gets so much right in such accessible, generous, yet still nuanced prose.

Phillip said...

Some good essays in 'Starting With the Spirit' published by ATF Press.

John H said...

Luther's exposition of the third article of the Creed in the Small Catechism. Only a couple of paragraphs, but an indispensable summary of the Spirit's work in "calling, gathering, enlightening and sanctifying" both his church and us as individuals, in the face of the paradox expressed in the opening words: "I believe that I cannot […] believe".

steph said...

I like the sketch. Who did it? And I'm disappointed you aren't coming to the Bib dinner!!

d. w. horstkoetter said...

Wait, Ben, you're not going to let the Spirit move you? Since when was the Spirit not understood on the same level as an ouija board?

Seriously though, will you be trying to limit the class to more of a focus to strictly pneumatology or might it have a section on spirit christologies?

Tim said...

I second Tom Smail, The Giving Gift. He writes in words I actually understand!

Andy Goodliff said...

Colin Gunton's various essays in Father, Son and Holy Spirit.

After the Spirit by Eugene Rogers

James said...

Is it just me, or do all these suggestions - patristics aside - point to a relative poverty of pneumatological reflection in Christian thought?

Scott Stephens said...

Hi Ben -

On the Holy Spirit, three words: Hegel, Hegel, Hegel. The section on Community in the 1827 version of his lectures on the philosophy of religion are unbelievable. For Hegel, the trinity proper is Father, Son, Church. It seems to me that what you really ought to be teaching next semester is ecclesiology (whatever else you have to call it).

You should also have a look at Milbank's chapter "The Second Difference" in The Word Made Strange for the anti-Hegelian position.

Finally, for something a little more accesible, check out Timothy Radcliffe's beautiful meditation on Spirit in "Why Go to Church" (RW's 2009 Lent book).

W. Travis McMaken said...

To echo some things already said:

Basil's On the Holy Spirit and Nazianzen's 5th theological oration are excellent texts. Karkainnen's book is a fair introduction.

Burns and Fagin have an edited volume of patristic texts that would be handy, titled The Holy Spirit.

Sinclair Ferguson's book, The Holy Spirit: Contours of Christian Theology is worth reading.

Clark Pinnock's Flame of Love: A Theology of the Holy Spirit is interesting.

Calvin's Institutes book 3 chapter 1 is short and sweet.

You might excerpt from Moltmann's The Church in the Power of the Spirit.

Hope these suggestions help!

Jacob S. said...

Fun Post. My two cents:
-Bulgakov's The Comforter.
-John Milbank's "The Second Difference" (from The Word Made Strange).
- Moltmann's Spirit of Life, yes, but for my part I lik Pannenberg's Systematic Theol. vol 2 (the whole field of Spirit bit).
-Clark Pinnock's Flame of Love, from an evangelical with charismatic sympathies
-Amos Yong's The Spirit Poured Out on All Flesh
Elizabeth Johnson's chapters on the Spirit in She Who Is (similarly, but still dated, New Blackfriars carried an interesting article by Mary Grey back in 1991 with the title. “Where does the Wild Goose Fly to? Seeking a New Theology of Spirit for Feminist Theology?” New Blackfriars 72 (846), 89-96.)
-Von Balthasar and Congar, certainly, but Rahner's On The Trinity still has legs.

saint egregious said...

The Breaking Wind: Why the Church Lost the Spirit and How to Get it Back by Stan K. Schmuel

Drew Tatusko said...

James Loder's Logic of the Spirit. He frames human development in terms of the interaction of human spirit with the Holy Spirit in terms of an infinite loop. Gives a different perspective than many strictly theological texts. Very Kierkegaardian too.

Anonymous said...

John Owen has quite a bit to say concerning the Holy Spirit. Seems like he might be a good choice as the list, so far, seems to be a little light on Puritans.

B.B. Warfield also has a three part essay on the leading of the Holy Spirit.

Chris TerryNelson said...

The Holy Spirit and the Christian Life by KB

Anonymous said...

I would recommend:

Charles Williams, "Decent of the Dove: A short history of the Holy Spirit in the Church." Regent College Pub (2001).

In my humble opinion, this is a must read!

A. Bookbinder said...

Some interesting picks here, but no one has yet mentioned a recent text of particular significance: John MacArthur's most developed pneumatology can be found in his 1996 book, The Silent Shepherd: The Care, the Comfort and the Correction of the Holy Spirit.

Christian Collins Winn said...

Michael Welker's book God the Spirit is quite an interesting text to read alongside Basil, Moltmann and Barth. I wonder if you might not find something interesting in the Summa as well, just so that you have a medieval source alongside the modern and patristic. Spener's short "Spiritual Priesthood" (in the Erb volume on the Pietists) would also be worth checking out and something from John Fletcher or early Pentecostalism; and both Frank Macchia and Amos Yong would give you some outstanding sources in modern Pentecostal theology. Best of luck with the seminar!

Brian Hecker said...

The Pauline Eschatology by Geerhardus Vos. An earlier development of a portion of this work can be read here:
“The Eschatological Aspect of the Pauline Conception of the Spirit,” in Biblical and Theological Studies (New York: Charles Scribner’s Sons, 1912), 211-259.

Guy Davies said...

John Owen and the doctrine of the Holy Spirit, by Sinclair Ferguson, a good summary of Owen's Works Vol. 3 in John Owen, The Man and his Theology, P&R/Evangelical Press, edited by Robert Oliver

The Doctrine of the Holy Spirit Banner of Truth Trust, by George Smeaton. Classic 19th century work in the Reformed tradition.

The Spirit of God in the Old Testament essay by B.B. Warfield in Biblical and Theological Studies, P&R.

The Holy Spirit, Contours of Christian Theology, IVP, by Sinclair Ferguson.

Paul: Fresh Perspectives, SPCK, N.T. Wright, Chapter 5, 'Rethinking God'.

Anonymous said...

The Holy Spirit

Editied by George Vandervelde.

Has some great contributions worth checking out.

Anonymous said...

Wow, surprised no one has mentioned this one yet:

Alasdair I.C. Heron, The Holy Spirit: The Holy Spirit in the Bible, the History of Christian Thought, and Recent Theology (Westminster, 1983). A great genealogical survey of the doctrine that would serve as a nice "main" text in addition to other readings.


dave b

Unknown said...

The theology of Baptism in the Holy Spirit is one of the seminal theologies that have influenced the church in the past 100 years.

If you don't mind a bit of shameless self-promotion. I suggest both of my books on this subject.

The first is a historical look at how the theology of the Spirit developed in America (along with some of its European influences) and outlines the major views of Baptism in the Holy Spirit.

See Amazon for "Promise of the Father: Healing The Christian Legacy of Segregation and Denominationalism"

The second book is an exploration of the Biblical theology of Baptism in the Holy Spirit

See Amazon for "Have You Not Yet Received the Spirit?: Finding Unity through the Baptism in the Holy Spirit

I hope you gave both of these a read... I honestly believe they are worth your time and the time of your students!

Anonymous said...

Do any of those text listed above by everyone discuss in depth the Holy Spirit as an integrated person rather than a conglomeration of gifts or other reified concepts (I do not like essays about how the "relationship" between the Father and the Son IS the Spirit in the way that a Marriage exists between a couple)?

I thought I heard Bede Griffiths did something along those lines..identifying the Spirit as the feminine in God.

Robert Minto said...

I can think of many excellent portions from Abraham Kuyper's The Work of the Holy Spirit. This book was hugely formative for neo-calvinist notions of the Holy Spirit. CCEL has a free version of it online.

Alan said...

Making the Spirit the "feminine" in God does nothing to acknowledge the full personality of the Spirit. Indeed, it is perhaps a paradigmatic reified concept.

Jordan Barrett said...

A few that haven't been mentioned:

Webster's article in Themelios, available online here:

From a conservative approach there is more recently Graham Cole's "He Who Gives Life: The Doctrine of the Holy Spirit" (2007) in Crossway's Foundations of Evangelical Theology.

Maybe even Dunn's "The Christ and the Spirit: Pneumatology" (Eerdmans, 1998)

paul said...

What about the lyrical, the symbolic, and the mystical?

St John of the Cross, Living Flame of Love
Gerard Manley Hopkins, God's Grandeur
[Stephen Langton]?, Veni Sancte Spiritus
Robert Herrick, Litany to the Holy Spirit
Solomon Raj, Pentecost [image]

Unknown said...


You might want to think of teaching this course in such a way that you're not simply reading stuff that is written about the Holy Spirit, and think of some pieces that might get your students themselves thinking and speaking of the manifestation of the Spirit's work in the world -- in prayer, desire, etc. Sarah Coakley's article, "‘Batter My Heart’: On Sexuality, Spirituality, and the Christian Doctrine of the Trinity," is an example of what I'm talking about.

Or you could always have them screen and discuss the film Run, Lola, Run.

Jon said...

I'm so glad I'm not in your class Ben... I don't think anyone could get through all these texts in a semester.

Good luck in choosing the best ones!

bob said...

David Ford, 'Holy Spirit and Christian Spirituality' in Cambridge Companion to postmodern theology. Ends up being mostly about Bonhoeffer.

Anonymous said...

Hendrikus Berkhof, The Doctrine of the Holy Spirit.

If you are compiling a Reader for undergraduate students the trick is to have a very easy essay or chapter to start off with: Shirley Guthrie Jr's, “The doctrine of the Holy Spirit” in Christian doctrine is such a chapter.

A. Bookbinder said...


Believe me. In his redoubtable treatise, Pastor John MacArthur teaches that the Holy Spirit is indeed a person.

Anonymous said...

Thanks to those people who suggested Basil. I just went and read Basil “On the Spirit” in Nicene and Post-Nicene Fathers, and its pretty good. Its been a while since I’ve even opened these books.

Paul said...

This is another to add to your list Ben:

Gary D. Badcock, Light of Truth & Fire of Love: A Theology of the Holy Spirit (Eerdmans, 1997).

Tony Hunt said...

Gordon Fee's - "God's Empowering Presence" is a massive exegetical tome. So if you want your students to get through the book I would recommend his "Paul, the Spirit and the People of God" - which is basically his theological exposition minus the advanced exegesis.

Anonymous said...

Thanks to those who point out specific texts that address the personhood issue. And I agree that just saying the Holy Spirit is the feminine aspect of God is another case of a weak reification.

kim fabricius said...

Feminising the Holy Spirit is, of course, nothing new. But it is a strategy to be resisted, and not only on theological grounds: feminists should be suspicious too. Nate mentions Sarah Coakley. So too does Janet Martin Soskice in The Kindness of God: Metaphor, Gender, and Religious Language (Oxford: OUP, 2007). Criticising Yves Congar's mother-function pneumatology, Soskice writes:

"Along with deifying one particular, modern Western version of a 'mother's function' (why is it not a mother's function to raise the crops so that her family may eat?), the Spirit by implication is helpmeet to the other two Persons, who are really there to be known and loved. Feminists are surely right to reject what Sarah Coakley has called 'mawkish and sentimentalised versions of the feminine' as both providing warrant for a particular stereotype of the feminine and at the same time feeding the unorthodox suggestion that there is sexual difference in the Trinity. Furthermore, this kind of feminizing rhetoric does nothing to counteract the genuine neglect of the Spirit in modern theology, in which the Spirit appears as a sort of 'edifying appendage' to the two real Persons, those who have faces, the Father and the Son. We must avoid, as Coakley says, subordinating 'the Spirit to a Father who, as a 'cause', and 'source' of the other two persons, remains as a 'masculine' stereotype with the theological upper hand...
Well-meant attempts at inclusiveness which feminize the Spirit almost always introduce unacceptable difference between the three Persons. The more orthodox strategy is to style all three Persons of the Trinity as feminine as well as masculine.... In this rhetorical excess, God is not lacking in gender but exceeds gender" (pp. 112ff.).

Soskice's reference to "the two real Persons, those who have faces" is an ironic criticism of those who equate the Latin persona with the English "person"- with inevitably tritheistic results.

adlterlouw said...

Not mentioned yet, but of importance:

- St. Anselm, 'De Processione Spiritus Sancti' (gives an excellent introduction in the beginnings of the scholastic period and is shortly after the important year 1054)

- William Alston, 'The Indwelling of the Holy Spirit', in: William P. Alston (ed.), Divine Nature and Human Language (Ithaca 1988); 121-150. (a classic in philosophy of religion / systematic theology)

Anonymous said...

Kim, thanks for the great quote. It seems spot on, and also reflects a concern I have heard from minorities about how “diversity awareness” days backfire; there’s never a “white male” (in the US here for context) awareness day, and so everyone else is always in the context of the white male, which remains dominant. By suggesting the Holy Spirit is the feminine aspect, it backfires in the same way. I like your suggestion better that all the persona have masculine and feminine characteristics (knowing that’s all probably projection anyway).

Have you read anyone address the issue that as long as the Holy Spirit is the relationship/mutual outpouring of love/power/creative force/whatever between the Son and the Father, then it excludes the Holy Spirit from having a distinct relationship with the Son and the Father? Then we clearly don’t have a Trinity, it seems…or not a balanced one anyway.

Where did this need to explain what the Holy Spirit is (in terms of something else) come from anyway.

Ben will probably cover all that in his class…I hope…


Ben Myers said...

Thank you, learned readers! You folks are an inexhaustible storehouse of insight and information! There are so many great suggestions here (and several books that I hadn't heard of till now, which I've promptly ordered). So thanks very much.

Steph, to answer your question, the picture is a sketch of the Trinity by William Blake—one of my favourite pictures (and for sheer theological depth, it could give Rublev's icon a run for its money).

Ben Myers said...

Ann: Thanks for raising these important questions. These will certainly be some of the problems that the class will be trying to explore. For what it's worth, my own suspicion is that modern theology has invented a lot of problems for itself by understanding the "hypostases" as something like "personalities" or "individual selves". So that it suddenly becomes important to be sensitive and inclusive towards all three persons, or to make sure all three get equal recognition, or to figure out which person we should "start with" (or, as you mentioned, to decide which ones are boys and which are girls). My own hunch is that some of the patristic writers can offer a much saner and more sober way of thinking about the Spirit—so that pneumatology is freed from the anxious and unedifying idea that the Spirit is somehow competing against the Father and Son.

But I'll no doubt learn a lot more about all this by the end of next semester!

Unknown said...

Besides some good sources already suggested, I would also consider these titles:

Bloesch, Donald G. The Holy Spirit: Works & Gifts. Downers Grove: InterVarsity, 2000.

Hildebrandt, Wilf. An Old Testament Theology of the Spirit of God. Peabody: Hendrickson, 1994.

Lodahl, Michael E. Shekhinah/Spirit: Divine Presence in Jewish and Christian Religion. New York: Paulist Press, 1992.

Neve, Lloyd. The Spirit of God in the Old Testament. Tokyo: Seibunsha, 1972.

McDonnell, Kilian. The Other Hand of God: The Holy Spirit as the Universal Touch and Goal. Collegeville: Glazier/Liturgical, 2003.

Morgan-Wynne, John Eifion. Holy Spirit and Religious Experience in Christian Literature ca. AD 90-200. Milton Keynes, UK: Paternoster, 2006.

Shults, F. LeRon, and Andrea Hollingsworth. The Holy Spirit. Guides to Theology. Grand Rapids: Eerdmans, 2008.

Turner, Max. The Holy Spirit and Spiritual Gifts in the New Testament Church and Today. Rev. ed. Peabody: Hendrickson, 1998.

Welker, Michael, editor. The Work of the Spirit: Pneumatology and Pentecostalism. Grand Rapids: Eerdmans, 2006.

Marcos De Benedicto
Sao Paulo, Brazil

Anonymous said...

The Blake drawing appears is a great book not yet mentioned: John V. Taylor, "The Go-Between God."

Szaszi Bene said...

From the Free University of Amasterdam one book must be put on the list: Abraham Kuyper / The Work of the Holy Spirit.

Anonymous said...

Wow Ben,

What a ridiculously long list this post has sponsored. I like long lists, so I'd consider the following:

Ray S. Anderson, 'Living in the Spirit', Pages 302-29 in Theological Foundations for Ministry: Selected Readings for a Theology of the Church in Ministry (ed. Ray S. Anderson; Edinburgh/Grand Rapids: T&T Clark/Wm. B. Eerdmans, 1979).

Donald G. Bloesch, The Holy Spirit: Works and Gifts (Downers Grove: InterVarsity Press, 2000).

Gordon D. Fee, God’s Empowering Presence: The Holy Spirit in the Letters of Paul (Peabody: Hendrickson, 1994)

Colin E. Gunton, The Christian Faith: An Introduction to Christian Doctrine (Oxford: Blackwell, 2002). (the relevant chapter).

Colin E. Gunton, Father, Son, and Holy Spirit: Essays Toward a Fully Trinitarian Theology (London: T&T Clark, 2003).

Jürgen Moltmann, God in Creation: A New Theology of Creation and the Spirit of God (trans. Margaret Kohl; Minneapolis: Fortress Press, 1993)

Thomas Oden, Life in the Spirit, Systematic Theology: Volume 3 (Peabody: Prince, 2001)

John Owen, A Discourse Concerning the Holy Spirit (vol. 3; London: Banner of Truth Trust, 1965–1968)

Henry Wheeler Robinson, The Christian Experience of the Holy Spirit (London: Nisbet, 1928)

Thomas A. Smail, The Giving Gift: The Holy Spirit in Person (London: Hodder & Stoughton, 1988) (Definitely Yes Yes Yes!!!)

John A. Studebaker Jr., The Lord Is the Spirit The Authority of the Holy Spirit in Contemporary Theology and Church Practice (Eugene: Pickwick, 2008).

Helmut Thielicke, The Evangelical Faith, Volume Three: Theology of the Spirit (ed. Geoffrey W. Bromiley; trans. Geoffrey W. Bromiley; vol. 3; Edinburgh: T&T Clark, 1997)

John Webster, Holiness (Grand Rapids/Cambridge: Wm. B. Eerdmans, 2003).

Also James D.G. Dunn, Jesus and the Spirit; John V. Taylor, The Go-Between God; Jürgen Moltmann, The Spirit of Life: A Universal Affirmation and Yves Congar, I Believe in the Holy Spirit, Vol. 1.

Doug Harink said...


You yourself have already mentioned Rublev's Hagios Trias Icon. I think it would be an essential text when dealing with the Holy Spirit in the Trinity.

Doug Harink

Ben Myers said...

Thanks for all these additional suggestions. And you're right about Rublev, Doug: I've been using his icon in my course on the Trinity this semester, and I've been very struck by the fact that it really says everything. We started the course with a discussion of the icon, and I get the feeling that everything else is just an elaborate exegesis of—and return to—Rublev.

Alejandro said...

I am surprised to see so minimal mention of Kärkkäinen! He is truly a must read for contemporary theologians.

You can find it here.

John Mark Inman said...

I'm not widely read, but Max Turner's book is good, but a little dry.

I think your students would enjoy Surprised by the Power of the Spirit by Jack Deere. Cessationist to non-crazy pentecostal who believes in healing and tongues and the rest. At least he wasn't crazy last time I heard.

Rev. Scott Schultz said...

This a pretty much a staple to Reformed Biblical Theology: Meredith Kline's Images of the Spirit.

Anonymous said...

Did anyone recommend Williams' "Descent of the Dove"? They should have. I do.

Anonymous said...

The Holy Trinity, Robert Letham (2004, P & R Publishing Co.)

A new classic! Among other fascinating interactions, Letham leans on Gregory Nazianzen to argue there is no ultimate priority between the one and the three, but that we must "oscillate" between both -- "No sooner do I conceive of the one than I am illumined by the splendor of the three; no sooner do I distinguish them than I am carried back to the one."

Hoover said...

I bet there are a number of folks that along with me would love to see a future post with the reading schedule you end up putting together for your students. There are so many great suggestions!

Anonymous said...

If these are undergraduate students then the following is very helpful for getting a hold of some key issues and thinkers quickly:

McFarlane, Graham, 'Why Do You Believe What You Believe About the Holy Spirit?', Paternoster: 1998.

I can also endorse the other recommendations for anything by Max Turner (including a little Grove booklet on 'Baptism in the Holy Spirit', Grove Books: 2000). Also Karkkainen's 'Pneumatology: The Holy Spirit in Ecumenical, International and Contextual Perspective', Baker Academic: 2002.

Paddy O said...

Really late to this one. But still have some thoughts--pneumatology is a particular interest of mine.

Karkkainen is the best resource as a text that introduces a broad range of theologians.

Also really good, and note mentioned, is Jose Comblin's The Holy Spirit and Liberation, which is a lot more than liberation theology. It's a great postmodern pneumatology.

Kirsteen Kim's Holy Spirit in the World is a superb introduction to global pneumatologies.

Moltmann has been mentioned, his Spirit of Life is profound, but his Source of Life has a lot of the same points while being more approachable/applicable.

I've heard It's a Dance: Moving with the Holy Spirit is decent too. :-D

More conversational and emerging if that's an area your students might respond to.

Paddy O said...

Oh, and one more, Michael Welker's God the Spirit is also really good. His work blends a bit of Moltmann and Pannenberg. He's not as well known, but his writing is engaging and his thought quite profound.

Anonymous said...

'The Day of the Spirit', by Geoffrey C. Bingham, NCPI, 1985, is an excellent treatment.

See NCTM for "The Day of the Spirit

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