Literature Review – The Holy Spirit by Shults & Hollingsworth

I’m working on syllabi for the Spring and glancing at a few of the books I picked up with a view to at least reading them prior to January. One of my topics is the Holy Spirit – so I pulled out my recently purchased The Holy Spirit by F. Leron Shults and Andrea Hollingsworth. It was just released (2009) and I’m always interested in these kind of broad historical surveys.

A few personal notes. I have taught with Leron at Bethel University (he full-time; I adjunct; both of us are not currently associated with the school) and have enjoyed our interactions. I’ve found him interesting and provocative theologically, though I don’t think we function in the same theological grid in significant ways. And we share a personal connection – our kids attended the same school in Minneapolis for a while. So, I like him and expect to be provoked and to sometimes agree and sometimes disagree. That’s fine (and as it should be!).

I didn’t have time to read the book tonight (and decided it was just not going to work as a textbook after a quick glance – the deadline to decide is tomorrow, which is why I picked it up). As I perused the extended annotated bibliography, however, I began to feel something off-kilter – because though it is an interesting list, full of important historical and contemporary theological works on the Spirit, I had an impression of things missing that might have belonged there. I reviewed the list more carefully and here are my observations.

1) The bibliography extends through works published in 2007 (the latest one I noticed was Kim Kirsteen’s The Holy Spirit in the World (per Amazon, released October 30, 2007). Since it is a 2009 book, that seems a reasonable end date, so I can’t fault the authors for not including later works (and perhaps even a few right around that time, depending on when they had notice of them). There are a few very recent books I’d like to add.

2) Though the list has a few contemporary evangelical and pentecostal oriented books (e.g., Chan’s Spiritual Theology published by IVP), there are some glaring omissions that were somewhat troubling to me. Here are some that might warrant inclusion as being fairly significant works:

There are other things that one might make a case for (e.g., I saw no dispensationalist discussions – Walvoord, Ryrie, etc. or even Leon Wood’s The Holy Spirit in the Old Testament or Pettegrew’s The New Covenant Ministry of the Holy Spirit) or even some important historic discussions (e.g., Abraham Kuyper’s The Work of the Holy Spirit). I’m sure there are others that I missed, but all these would have been part of a bibliography if I were to create one. To be clear, there aren’t many things in their bibliography I would exclude, but still…

What conclusion do I draw from this? I’m not sure. Given the breadth of resources included in the bibliography (Catholic, Orthodox, Process theology, etc.) the absence seems unlikely to be accidental. Were these other more conservative works rejected as not being worthy or not contributing to the discussion? If so, then there is a sort of implicit anti-orthodox bias built into the result, whatever the intentions. Was there a deliberate attempt to exclude these voices as not being part of the discussion precisely because of their traditional orthodoxy? It seems difficult to believe this, for that would be a kind of perversely exclusive ecumenism! Perhaps the authors’ academic explorations just have led them to become relatively unfamiliar with the evangelical part of the conversation and they just didn’t even notice what they had missed. Or perhaps there is some other explanation – conceivably a benign one. Nevertheless, it seems to me a serious flaw in an otherwise wonderfully detailed annotated bibliography.

I still look forward to the read; I just wish that there was a bit “broader” focus in the bibliography.

Update: I’ve clarified that both Leron and I are not currently associated with Bethel.


2 Responses to “Literature Review – The Holy Spirit by Shults & Hollingsworth”

  1. Rich Sherry Says:

    LeRon hasn’t worked at Bethel for several years, it’s important to note. He left Bethel several years ago and is resident at a school of theology in Norway.


    • Carl Sanders Says:

      Thanks; I’ve clarified this. I’m not at Bethel either, currently, and was mostly attempting to document and personal and cordial relationship, not saying anything about Bethel! My time at Bethel (even as an adjunct) is one I look back at with great fondness!

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