Reviewed by: Ken B. Montgomery
Date posted: 12/16/2018
Rediscovering the Holy Spirit: God’s Perfecting Presence in Creation, Redemption, and Everyday Life, by Michael Horton. Zondervan, 2017. Paperback, 336 pages, $15.54 (Amazon). Reviewed by OP pastor Ken B. Montgomery.
“Let’s start at the very beginning, a very good place to start” (from The Sound of Music). Michael Horton suggests that by “introducing the Holy Spirit too late in the story—at the application of redemption—we miss much of the action” (47). In the creation narrative (Gen. 1:2), we find the “Lord and giver of life” (Nicene Creed) hovering over the dark waters, as he “broods with … bright wings” (Gerard Manley Hopkins, “God’s Grandeur”). The Spirit is pleased to showcase God’s goodness through the vitality and fecundity of the created order, so the gifts we reap here below on earth are in every case to be traced “from above” (James 1:17).
Throughout his presentation, Horton exemplifies the skill of the kingdom scribe “who is like a master of a house, who brings out of his treasure what is new and what is old” (Matt. 13:52). The Holy Spirit who was at work in the craftsmanship of the wilderness tabernacle (Ex. 31:3) was preparing God’s people for the Spirit’s part in building the final tabernacle of the Lord in the flesh of Christ (John 1:14, 21). “Not only did Christ give us the Spirit; the Spirit gave us Christ” (42).
In a further explanation of this point, Horton writes: “All along it was the Spirit hidden behind the scenes who kept the promise moving forward, over the deep trenches and barbed wire that human beings had placed in his path, preparing a body for the Son from the flesh of Israel” (85).
I found the discussion on the Spirit’s role in divine judgment and witness especially valuable. In the exodus, the Spirit “stands in the witness pillar and in the judgment cloud to judge as well as to defend” (112). The resurrection of Jesus involves the judicial act of the Spirit (Rom. 1:4), as the death sentence for Christ is reversed and the last-days verdict of justification is pronounced, resulting in life for the new Adam and his sons.
Herman Bavinck states in Reformed Dogmatics, “After the creation and the incarnation, the outpouring of the Holy Spirit is the third great work of God.” Horton likewise sees the watershed significance of the Spirit’s forming and filling on this new day of history: “At Pentecost, however, a new creation dawns with the Spirit once again transforming chaos into cosmos. From the rubble he will build not a restored temple of stone but a living sanctuary consisting of ‘living stones’ ” (225).
The pace of Horton’s prose is neither too slow (belaboring the point) nor too fast (zooming past important matters). He engages the reader partly by interacting with many conversation partners throughout the book, and students of theology will appreciate his readiness to remind us of the keen insights of Reformed luminaries such as Owen, Warfield, and Kuyper.
Anselm wrote, “I believe in order to understand.” Christians believing in the Holy Spirit (“be-living” in him!) and seeking a doxological understanding of his person and work will almost certainly be edified by reading this work.