POC Blog

The random technotheolosophical blogging of Reid S. Monaghan

Book Review - Perspectives on Spirit Baptism: Five Views

Brand, Chad Owen. Perspectives on Spirit Baptism: Five Views. Nashville: Broadman and Holman, 2004. 338 pp. $19.99 


Perspectives on Spirit Baptism is a volume in the recent Perspectives series being published by Broadman and Holman.  The series endeavors to present a wide cross section of views on various theological issues from the wider Body of Christ.   This particular edition, edited by Southern Baptist Theologian Chad Brand, deals with the subject of Spirit Baptism.   As the introduction of the book so aptly presents, Spirit Baptism is a doctrine that is important in today's theological landscape for several reasons.  First, the Bible speaks of the baptism of the Holy Spirit and any treatment of the integral work of the Holy Spirit in the believer and Christ's church must consider all the relevant texts.  Second, the historically recent Pentecostal and Charismatic renewals in various theological traditions as well as the spawning of new Pentecostal and Charismatic movements has encouraged the church to address the nature of the working of the Spirit in intentional theological study.   The book's format is to present five essays, each of a differing viewpoint, followed by responses by each of the other authors in turn.   This provides a multifaceted view of the issues from all sides which has become a welcome format in current theological literature.  


As necessary with multiple view books, the volume begins with an introduction to orient the reader to the backdrop to the theological discussion.  Although brief, the introduction of the book is well written and sets the stage for the debate which follows placing all relevant issues before the reader.  Dr. Brand's introduction serves well as a tour of the working of the Spirit in the early church as well as the continued interplay of Word and Spirit throughout the centuries of the Christian church.  As in similar perspectives volumes, this book offers the views of five theologians laying out their understanding of "baptism in the Holy Spirit" from within their church tradition.   Walter Kaiser writes in favor of a Reformed perspective; Stanley M. Horton presents the case for classical Pentecostalism; Larry Hart a dimensional Charismatic perspective; H. Ray Dunning a Wesleyan assessment; and Ralph Del Colle a view of Holy Spirit renewal within the Roman Catholic Church.  Each of these will be evaluated in turn in the bulk of this review.  Overall, the book was a very helpful work of historical theology with each author presenting substantial views of the developments of both doctrine and experience in each tradition.  This was a pleasant surprise as it positioned each essay in a proper historical light.  Each author covered their historical bases with such clarity that the theological dialogue, cross pollination, and even spiritual interdependence which has taken place among all of these traditions was quite apparent.   Observing the biblical, theological, cultural, and existential issues which have unfolded over the past several hundred years was very helpful in understanding the issues.  I found this to be one of the foremost strengths of the volume.  Additionally, it was surprising that not one theologian of a thorough cessationist vantage point was included among the essays.  In my mind this was refreshing and encouraging, yet some may have desired to hear such a voice.  In summary, I found this volume to be irenic in its voice, collegial in tone, and rigorous in its treatment of the topic.  What will follow are short critical evaluations of each of the author's essays and then some concluding remarks.

Part 1 - The Baptism of the Holy Spirit as the Promise of the Father - A Reformed Perspective by Walter Kaiser

The first essay of the volume was by Dr. Walter Kaiser of Gordon-Conwell Theological Seminary.  Dr. Kaiser writes representing a reformed perspective; a Protestant view which couples the baptism of the Holy Spirit with regeneration, being converted as a believer, or becoming a Christian.  Dr. Kaiser's essay places the baptism of the Holy Spirit within Redemptive history by carefully putting forth the Old Testament prophetic promises of a coming age of the Spirit (Joel 2, Isaiah 44, Ezek 37:14).  This anticipation is directly predicted in the Old Testament and points beyond the old covenant to a new and coming age which unfolds in the overall plan of redemption (19).   This anticipation found fulfillment with the New Testament giving of the Holy Spirit to the people of God.   I found the strength of Kaiser's essay to be in that he handles all the references to Spirit Baptism with care and deference to the Bible's actual usage of the terms.  The case is made that in the didactic literature, one is baptized in/with the Spirit into the body of Christ, all being given the same Spirit to drink.  This emphasis on Paul's teaching in 1 Cor 12:13 - that all are unified because all are believers, all have been baptized in one spirit.  If one does not have the Spirit he does not belong to Christ (Rom 8:9, 14); so in one sense all believers are indwelt by the Spirit, having been baptized by the Spirit into the body of Christ.  Kaiser's discussion from this point is to address whether Paul and Luke/Acts deal with the theology of the Spirit in different manners.  Paul, as noted, was concerned with soteriology, Luke it is said was primarily concerned with the empowered and Charismatic doctrine of the Spirit.  Kaiser delicately stresses that the gift of the Spirit in Luke, though empowering and at times charismatic, is always related to salvation and initiation into the new age of the Spirit.  The included debate about the nature of narrative to provide doctrine and theology was especially helpful as this relevant in many discussions today.[1]  Overall I felt Kaiser did a good job relating to all the texts associated with spirit baptism and he made a compelling case that it refers to the initiatory work of the Spirit placing us in the body of Christ rather than a subsequent experience signified by tongues.  It was refreshing to see openness from the reformed position to subsequent empowering and infillings and perhaps all the charismas.  This is a welcomed trend in some reformed circles (Lloyd-Jones, Piper, Grudem) and one that will not doubt continue to be explored in the time remaining until the Lord comes. 

Part 2 - Spirit Baptism: A Pentecostal Perspective by Stanley M. Horton

Stanley M. Horton, offers the case for a classical Pentecostal view of Spirit Baptism as a subsequent experience to conversion/initiation evidenced initially by speaking in tongues.  The essay was an excellent introduction to the history of the Pentecostal revival for those new to the discussion.   All theology is done by persons in historical contexts and knowing the "story of Pentecostalism" was very helpful.  The essay was robust and thorough yet the approach to the material seemed a bit tendentious.  I found that he supported the use of the Acts narrative to formulate doctrine, but then found him lacking in integrating the teaching of actual references to the terms "spirit baptism" into his doctrine.  His focus on the overall phenomena in Acts is helpful to show the work of the Spirit in the lives of believers as they were empowered in prophetic witness, but I found him unconvincing in presenting the doctrine of subsequence as universally taught in the narrative.  His arguments for the second facet of Pentecostalism, that of tongues as the initial evidence was even less persuasive.  He seemed to used arguments from silence in the case of Simon in Acts 8 and Paul's conversion experience in Acts 9.  He even used terms such as "it should be obvious that" (76) and "he must also have spoken in tongues" (76) and "only one thing it could it be" (75) which seemed to be question begging.   As the Acts narrative is not universal in presenting tongues as the initial evidence of the Spirit's coming upon a person, it is unadvised to extrapolate this to all believers.  I find the doctrine that tongues is THE evidence of the Spirit's work a bit strained in its correspondence to the Bible (1 Cor 12:30), church history, or contemporary experience of the diverse body of Christ.  Dr. Dunning's illustration of a mute man who came to faith in his ministry was very compelling as well.  Could this man who could not speak receive the Pentecostal baptism of the Holy Spirit as evidenced by tongues as defined by Horton?  This point was well taken.  Other parts of the essay that I enjoyed were the stories of people's lives being changed and Dr. Horton's anti-cessationist summary on pages 81-83.  His handling of the cessationist argument from 1 Cor 13 was well done.  I also enjoyed his chronicling of the growth of the church in various parts of the world.  Overall I was encouraged by the missionary efforts of the Pentecostals, the stories of the work of the Spirit in the lives of people in various traditions, and their bold witness for Christ.  However, I was thoroughly unconvinced by the doctrine of subsequence evidenced initially and exclusively by speaking in tongues.

Part 3 Spirit Baptism: A Dimensional Charismatic Perspective by Larry Hart

Dr. Larry Hart, a charismatic of Southern Baptist background, presented the third essay of the book, what he called a dimensional charismatic perspective.  As one interested in philosophy, I appreciated the creative (though probably irrelevant) use of Hegelian synthesis to put for his dimensional view.   The thesis is the traditional view that Spirit Baptism is initiation/conversion.  The antithesis is the Pentecostal View of subsequence evidenced by tongues.   The synthesis spawned would be the dimensional view which he summarizes on page 124: Spirit Baptism in the New Testament refers to conversion-initiation, initial sanctification, and spiritual empowerment as well as the outworking of these in the total Christian life.  Hegel would be proud; or would he?

In his survey of the Biblical material, Hart makes the distinction between Pauline and Lukan emphasis on the doctrine of the Spirit with a helpful enumeration of Luke's language in reference to Acts.  Paul speaks of initiation and Luke complements this by adding the empowering nature of the Spirit.  It was good to see the range of vocabulary Luke employs describing the work of the Spirit.  The following phrases are used: baptized in, come upon, filled with, the Spirit is poured out, receive the Holy Spirit, the Holy Spirit is given, and the Holy Spirit falls upon believers.   The emphasis is clear to Hart; Luke's emphasis is the "power for mission" dimension of pneumatology.  Such a both/and of initiation and empowering fillings seems to be a good tact when considering the overall witness of the text.  I found the categories of pneumatology on page 128 to be a great addition to the book, although a bit broader than the topic of Spirit "baptism."  Though perhaps beyond the stated topic, I felt this was a strength in Hart's contribution.  His categories of the Paschal work of the Spirit (Salvation, conversion, present in the Johanine literature), the Purifying work of the Spirit (Sanctification, Consecration, found in the Pauline literature), and the Pentecostal work of the Spirit (Service, Charisma, found in the Lukan account in Acts) are very helpful in viewing a dimensional work of the Spirit.  I also found his treatment of tongues to reveal some irony in the debate about the gifts of the Spirit.   Some use 1 Cor 12-14, which is addressing an overemphasis on tongues, to overemphasize tongues, while others use the same few chapters to rule them out all together.  The truth does seem to lie somewhere in between.  Finally, I agree with Dr. Kaiser that his use of Jesus' baptism and the decent of the Spirit as paradigmatic for our own empowerment for service brings problems in Christology that are not addressed in Hart's essay.  Also, Kaiser's critique that he misses the main issue in the debate between Pentecostals and Evangelicals about the "baptism" of the Spirit is on target.  I enjoyed seeing the multidimensional work of the Spirit in this essay, but the baptism of the Spirit is either regeneration/initiation/conversion or something else.   I would therefore prefer the language of one baptism, many infillings to the attempt to make the baptism a big happy metaphor into which we can stuff all our pneumatic wanderings.   With all that said, Hart's essay was insightful into the broad workings of the Spirit in believer and church and a joy to read.

Part 4 - A Wesleyan Perspective on Spirit Baptism by H. Ray Dunning 

H. Ray Dunning writes for the Wesleyan viewpoint as one who is striving to maintain a tradition which has been fragmented and perhaps high jacked over the years.  In reading his historical account of the thought of Wesley on the ministry of the Holy Spirit one can see why.  As Wesleyan thought diverged under his successors and then subsequently moved into the American holiness movement, and then Pentecostal thought, one can see why Dunning makes such a concerted effort to clarify the views of Wesley himself rather than his theological descendants.  Much of the essay focused on Wesley's primary theological concern; that of the moral transformation of the believer.  Wesley's concern was the sanctification, or making holy, of the Christian and his pnuematology kept this as a primary concern.  The Spirit was the agent of sanctification in Wesley's mind; the Spirit transforms the believer's life.   As a result Dunning's efforts focused upon character and moral development rather than gifts and empowerment.  Wesley held that initial salvation was indicated by the biblical terminology of baptism in the Holy Spirit.  He then held that entire sanctification, a second work of completion in love by the work of the Holy Spirit, but he did not equate this to the "baptism." (193).  As much of the Pentecostal arm of Christianity traces its roots back to Wesley and subsequently American revivalism, Dunning provided a great look at the historical evolution which brought about today's debate.  The American Holiness movement departed from a classic Wesleyanism and then this departure, combined with Finney's revivalist theology, led to the Pentecostal revival in the early 20th century (see page 204-206).  This was helpful to understand how movements and their modifications spawn certain viewpoints over time. 

Dunning's own Wesleyan view was primarily Christological in focus.  The Spirit is focused on the mission of Christ and the working of Christ in us to change our lives.  This view of the Spirit as the working of Christ's mission to bring forth the new age of the Spirit, change the lives of the believers, was a good complement to the foci of the other essays.  In his focus on moral transformation rather than gifts of the Spirit, I think Dunning missed something organic to the very work of the Spirit he seeks to preserve. The gifts in the New Testament are given to build up the body, which includes the transformation of the people of God.  This corporate nature of the gifts is missed by Dunning in that a body, serving in mission, according to the gifts of the Spirit is morally transformed in the process.  I see his neglect of the charismas as his not wanting to be overly "gifts centered" like some in Pentecostal and Charismatic circles, but I see the charismas needed for the body.  The gifts are given to assist in mission and to fulfill Dunning's noble realization in Wesley's theology, the ethical transformation of the believer.   Although my own view of sanctification is different than that of Dunning (ie my rejection of Wesleyan perfectionism), this perspective is appreciated as the goal of the believer ought to be increasing sanctification and holiness over time.

Part 5-Spirit Baptism: A Catholic Perspective by Ralph Del Colle 

The final chapter is a Roman Catholic perspective on the Pentecostal revival and outpouring of the Spirit in Catholic faith.  This chapter was interesting to me for several reasons.  First, the noted evolution of the Catholic renewal as originating from the interaction with the Protestant Pentecostal movement is a fascinating occurrence.   Second, as Del Colle states, the concern for stated Catholic thought about the Spirit's movement flowed from existential and pastoral concerns.  Something is happening! So the question as to how one thinks about the practice from within the framework of Catholic dogma and spirituality must be addressed.  Del Colle notes that the classic Pentecostal doctrine of subsequence enabled quick reception of the Pentecostal experience into long standing ecclesial traditions (p 244).  Something has happened, but it is a subsequent experience that in no way invalidates Sacramental Catholic theology.  This enables the Catholic system to remain intact while the church, over time, figures out the right place to fit in official teaching on the matter.  The rest of the essay, both historical, and the offering made by Del Colle are about how Catholics have gone about integration of Spirit baptism with the Catholic system (249).  Some have connected it to a fullness of the Spirit received at the rite of initiation, that of water Baptism.  Others have connected it to the rite of continuation, the Sacrament of Confirmation, while still others have given it an extra-sacramental status and related it to a Protestant understanding of "multiple infillings."  Del Colles own constructive proposal holds fast to the sacramental giving of the Holy Spirit in water baptism and the continuation through confirmation.   His view then claims outpourings of the Spirit upon the Catholic as an available experience related to the reception of the sacraments, not replacing them. The Spirit is given to renew the believer, enrich the believer in the full scope of the graces and gifts to be richly received as the Lord gives, but not coveted for their own sake (279).  Overall, I found this essay interesting and an enjoyable read.  Like Hart, I was encouraged to see a portion of the body, wrestling to integrate a thoughtful theological response to a Pentecostal experience in its members.  My main problem was with the whole system of Catholic Sacramentalism.   Del Colle, as a good Catholic scholar, goes to great links to fit the experience many have had into Catholic dogma.  Yet, he does very little to seek to align it with the teaching of the Bible as the norm for doctrine.   However Del Colle's contribution to the volume was much appreciated.  He is very well read and grasps the larger confessional debates.  His approach is a good illustration of wrestling with new theological issues with a pastoral concern for genuine renewal and Christian well being.  The historical connection of Catholic Pentecostal renewal taking place after a renewed evangelical concern (trust in Jesus alone, concern for the lost, etc) among Catholics was a very welcome addition to his essay.


On the outset of reading this book I was not looking forward to a long discussion of something I have looked at with some depth over the years.   So I must say that I was very pleased and pleasantly surprised by the volume.  I loved the historical horizon provided by the book as each author positioned doctrine within its pastoral, historical, and theological context.   The tone of each writer was collegial and the voice of the book was one that seemed to be moving towards a mutual appreciation, and perhaps even some doctrinal convergence.  The classic Pentecostal and the Reformed view perhaps will never meet, but recognition of the initial baptism of the Spirit into the body (1 Cor 12:13) and continued infillings of the Spirit (as seen in Acts and Eph 5:18) seems to be embraced by all.   I am torn with whether a Cessationist viewpoint should have been included in the book as it is a position still held by many.   Perhaps this view would have been injurious to the tone of the book and personally I am happy to see the influence of cessationism fading as its textual support to me seems scant.   As with most multiple view books, this one is helpful in the formation of ones own views on a matter as seeing all sides represented is always helpful is such growth.  So for this I am very thankful to have been given this volume to read.  May the Lord, the Sovereign triune God of the Bible, continue to save, sanctify and empower his church by the Promised Holy Spirit, our counselor, comforter, teacher and deposit of the glories to come!

[1] It is especially relevant in discussions of church polity as the Acts narrative provides several texts which weigh heavily in that debate (Acts 14:23,15, 20:17-38)