Book Review: Who is the Holy Spirit?

The Holy Spirit, and the theological loci pneumatology, is easily the most neglected member of the Trinity. Most Christians are aware that there is a Holy Spirit, but their knowledge goes little further than that. Other Christians have an unhealthy imbalance that leads them to over-emphasize the third Person of the Trinity. In Who is the Holy Spirit? by R.C. Sproul this sometimes enigmatic Person is explained in another short entry in the Crucial Questions series.

Sproul sets out to explain some of the most complicated material in theology in a 72 quarter page book. Kudos to him for trying. He begins by establishing the personhood of the Holy Spirit and His co-equality with the Father and Son. He the proceeds to explain 5 roles that the Holy Spirit plays and how those connect with various doctrines.

While I want to applaud him for the attempt, and recognize that a short book such as this makes it difficult, I didn’t find the book terribly helpful. The best use of these short volumes is to serve as a primer for a new Christian (or as a catechetical tool). This volume, frankly, fails to deliver on that purpose. I think that some basic questions might be answered, but Sproul’s approach in this book seems to be somewhat indirect. Rather than begin with a definition of a given aspect, and move to a story or example for illucidation, it seems as though Sproul moves the other direction. This causes an uncharacteristic lack of clarity, which is part of what normally makes Sproul such an effective teacher. Beyond that, some of the chapters (“The Anointer” in particular) seem to lack any real connection to the life of the reader (For example, in “The Annointer” long discussion of the anointing of the Kings and Prophets of Israel is present, but other than a brief paragraph alluding to the anointing of the Spirit for our individual vocation and personal ministry there is no connection to the reader)

Unfortunately, there doesn’t seem to be much of an alterative available in terms of a suitable replacement to direct a new Christian toward. My suggestion for this in practical use would be for pastors and professors to read this book and accommodate the examples given, but to address questions and questioners themselves.

Please note: Reformation Trust / Ligonier Ministries has provided me with an electronic version of this book for review purposes, and will be providing me with a hard copy edition in exchange for this review. They do not require positive reviews, nor have they edited or modified this review in any way.