Stanley Hauerwas (Gilbert T. Rowe professor emeritus of divinity and law at the Divinity School of Duke University) and William H. Willimon (professor of the practice of Christian ministry at the Divinity School of Duke University) offer a concise but compelling confessional presentation of the Church’s confession of the Holy Spirit. They reflect pastorally upon the third article of the Apostle’s and Nicene Creed to provide structural flow to this volume (they provide the text of the Creeds on pp. 93–95). The refrain throughout this volume echoes the rhetoric of application: Come, Holy Spirit!
Hauerwas and Willimon have written from within the Methodist tradition (of which they belong) and target this tradition with specific remarks regarding the need for direction in reflecting on the person and work of the Spirit. However, their work is applicable to the wider church (by reflecting within the broader Wesleyan tradition and even addressing the growing Pentecostal movement) and deserves a broad reading that is not hampered in the slightest by their address of Methodism, but enhanced by their direct approach. The pastoral concerns espoused in this volume point to liturgical and devotional application by returning to the practices of the church. Further, this volume allows for tensions, difficulties, and ambiguities which have arisen in the church’s response to the revelation of the Spirit whether in discussing the embodied nature of the Spirit in the Church, the Spirit in the world, or the work of the Spirit in baptism.
The volume is broken up into four chapters: “Trinity” (pp. 1–32), “Pentecost: The Birth of the Church” (pp. 33–60), “Holiness: Life in the Spirit” (pp. 61–84), and “Last Things” (pp. 85–91). The first chapter offers a succinct theological and biblical reflection on the Spirit in historic trinitarian reflection. Chapter two points to the mission of the Spirit as the mission of the church and thus as Christ present in and with his church. It also addresses the Spirit as not restrained by the church nor as the Spirit simply for the church. The Spirit points to Christ Jesus (who points to the Father) and is at work to redeem and restore, teach, guide and judge. Chapter three treats sanctification as that work of the Spirit to make saints. For Hauerwas and Willimon, “[to] be sanctified is to be drawn into a way of life so compelling that our worry that we may not be doing enough for God is lost” (p. 63, original emphasis). This Wesleyan perfecting is the life of the Spirit lived in the life of the Church as a compelling vision of that which has been separated being set apart and joined together for the redemption of the world. In their final chapter, Hauerwas and Willimon reflect upon the eschatological significance of the Spirit who has made the kingdom of God present (though not yet fully realized).
This book would serve well as a study for a small church group, as pastoral enrichment, or possibly as supplemental reading in an undergraduate course studying the person and work of the Holy Spirit. If anything would be hoped to be improved in this volume it is its size. While the smallness of this volume will appeal to small groups that are looking for a readily accessible work on the Spirit (which they will certainly find here), one wishes there was further development of each of the themes by these careful and word-wise pastoral theologians. Their work provides a means of confessing with the church historic and universal what the Scriptures confess concerning the Holy Spirit. And the church says to the Spirit, “Come!”