“The person and work of the Holy Spirit” by Plantinga, R et al. Review

The Main Idea of the Reading

It used to be typical for Christian theology not to provide a distinct chapter for pneumatology or the Holy Spirit’s doctrine due to various reasons named in the introduction to the discussed chapter. First, since God by nature is spirit, and all His works are “pneumatic,” “has meant that the particular personhood of the Spirit … is not as transparent as that of the Father or the Son” (Plantinga et al., 2010, p. 284). Second, it was general to subsume the Spirit’s work under the salvation doctrine, which is soteriology. Nevertheless, it is extremely valuable that theological developments of the twentieth century have allowed to considerably change the relative neglect of the Spirit. Therefore, in this chapter, there is a clear justification for the person and work of the Spirit rightly warrant a distinct chapter. What is more, the authors explore various functions of the Spirit and its foundational images in the Old and New Testaments (Plantinga et al., 2010).

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For example, it is possible to notice that in the Old Testament, the Spirit’s divine and personal status is much more elusive. Furthermore, though there is a tendency to Its impersonal interpretation in the Old Testament, there are some exceptions in the cases when the Spirit grieves, instructs, and guides (Plantinga et al., 2010). Therefore, it is possible to argue that more animistic descriptions do appear in the Old Testament, and the Spirit is more likely personified as “she” (Plantinga et al., 2010, p. 291). In the New Testament, the personification of the Holy Spirit is much deeper.

The Strengths and Weaknesses in the Reading

This is a rather strong chapter with its own advantages and disadvantages. The main strength of the text is that there are many relevant references that allow its readers to be ensured in its credibility and trustworthiness. Whenever the authors draw a parallel between theological writings, namely, Genesis, the Old Testament, the New Testament, or Psalms, they always identify all necessary information like page numbers, lines, and chapters (Plantinga et al., 2010). Thus, the readers have an opportunity of checking all sources.

Another strength lies in the chapter’s clear and precise language and structure. Due to the fact that it has an introduction and three sections dedicated to discussions of the Spirit in the Old Testament, the Holy Spirit in the New Testament, and its personhood and identity allows the readers to follow the reading easily. All terminology is clear to various audiences because Plantinga et al. (2010) provide either their definitions or Greek roots. What is more, this chapter also allows to admit that there may be certain underestimations or mistakes in interpretations of theological doctrines, and revising them is essential even in the twenty-first century.

Furthermore, as to the content of the chapter, there are also several advantages. First of all, I was impressed by the authors mentioning that, in contrast to only several places in the Old Testament, in the New one, the Spirit is overwhelmingly called the Holy Spirit” (Plantinga et al., 2010, p. 288). This fact itself demonstrates the difference in both Testaments’ perception and interpretation of this person of the Trinity.

Nevertheless, there is one concept I would change in this chapter. When reading the text, one may sometimes miss the paragraph’s initial idea because the authors develop it further without answering the main question first. When providing numerous references and quotations from different sources, they build credibility but also cause misunderstanding and the necessity to return to the beginning of the paragraph and read it again (Plantinga et al., 2010). Therefore, I see the lack of a concise and clear comparison between the Holy Spirit’s functions, and I would provide it in a small paragraph with further development.

Contribution to Contemporary Theological Discourse

To draw a conclusion, one may say that this chapter contributes significantly to contemporary theological discourse on the topic in question. The main benefit is that it provides a number of solid arguments supporting the necessity of taking the doctrine of the Holy Spirit into a separate chapter and considering It a more important figure than it may seem in the Old Testament. The further questions to be explored are the following. Why precisely the Spirit is not always addressed as the Holy in the Old Testament compared to the New Testament, and does it actually influence Its interpretation? Of all the various roles and functions of the Holy Spirit, which one may be considered the primary and most vital?

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Reference

Plantinga, R., Thompson, T., & Lundberg, M. (2010). The person and work of the Holy Spirit. In An introduction to Christian theology (pp. 284-292). Cambridge University Press.

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