When I heard that Michael Horton was publishing a book-length treatment of Pneumatology, I did a little happy dance. This is a subject that is so often neglected, that it is to the shame and detriment of the Church. This book, however, is an absolute game changer.
I say with absolute confidence that this book ranks in my top five books of all time.
What Horton has accomplished, drawing from a vast array of classical and contemporary sources, in this book is breathtaking at times. In essence, this book is a systematic theology with each chapter drawing out the role of the Third Person of the Trinity through a given topic. Beginning with the vivifying and ordering activity of the Spirit in Creation, and culminating with the Spirit’s role in giving life and structure to the Church, Horton masterfully demonstrates how the inseparable operations fully involve the Spirit.
Perhaps most applicable to our time is the way that Horton destroys the faulty and interrelated concepts of Lordship Salvation and the idea of a second baptism in the Holy Spirit (distinct from water baptism). Demonstrating both exegetically and systematically that water baptism and baptism in the Spirit are inexorably linked, he forcefully proves that you cannot have Christ as Savior without having him as Lord. Flipping the argument which Lordship advocates put forward, he proves that Christ only saves those who acknowledge his sovereignty, and baptism by water and Spirit are the sign and guarantee of his Lordship.
Additionally, by making a compelling positive case for the Spirit being the gift of our salvation, as well as the one who gives us the ultimate gift of union with Christ, he redirects all questions concerning the so-called charismatic gifts to the role of secondary question, and thus places it within its proper realm of significance.
This is a technical book, and in terms of his other writings is in the same range of difficulty as the Christian Faith. However, like the Christian Faith, it is written in such a way that the educated layperson —with some effort and guidance— will find it worthwhile to struggle through.
I really cannot recommend this book strongly enough. Pneumatology is an area which is sorely lacking in the theological diet of most Christians, and this book is a feast of epic proportions. I came to the end of the book and wanted more. Like a good meal, it satisfied my appetite but left me longing for more of the rich nourishment it provided. My youth pastor used to say “If you read one book this year, read the bible. If you read two books this year, read this one.” I will add “If you read three books this year, read this one twice.”