Book Review: Who on Earth is the Holy Spirit?

who on earth is the holy spirit review

Following on from my recent review of Sam Allberry’s “Is God Anti-Gay?“, I recently acquired another in the helpful little series of the well-presented ‘Questions Christians Ask’ series. This book, in a fetching shade of what is best described as duck-egg blue, seeks to engage with the huge question of “Who on Earth is the Holy Spirit?”. Here, authors Tim Chester and Christopher de la Hoyde seek to answer that big question in an accessible way.

This book is evangelical, straightforward, readable, and reasonably charismatic. I’m encouraged to see a book like this come out of the Good Book Company, particularly their publishing stable, and it was a joy to read. “Who on earth is the Holy Spirit?” is a pretty short read, coming in at just under 80 pages, but packs a lot in.

For me the standout chapter was the opening one, ‘The Spirit of Life’, where Chester and de la Hoyde unpack what it means to call the Holy Spirit the one who brings life. There is a helpful and interesting panel, showing some differing evangelical views, on whether Old Testament had the Holy Spirit, and also a very balanced panel on ‘Should Christians look to recieve the Holy Spirit after their conversion?’. Here the authors offer an essentially third wave approach, wary of the language of baptism and (to my mind) helpfully noting that “that work may take place through dramatic experience or it may take place through a gradual growth“.

I was also intrigued by chapter 4, “The Spirit of Truth: What is the gift of prophecy and is it for today?”. Due to much abuse of this gift in the wider Charismatic church, and the many misunderstandings around it in most Charismatic churches (in my experience at least), where we often confuse it with words of encouragement/knowledge, or interpretation of tongues, many non-Charismatics (and those who are open but cautious) have valid questions. Chester and de la Hoyde start by helpfully explaining a Spirit-filled evangelical Doctrine of Scripture, and answer the second question from that foundation. The authors believe that “at its heart, prophecy seems to be bringing God’s word to bear in a particular situation. So it’s intimately tied to God’s word in the Bbile, but also involves applying that word to specific situations“. This is an interesting observation, and I think offers a helpful corrective to some of us, and a good challenge to those of us who claim to love expository preaching. Chester and de la Hoyde close by helpfully reminding us of the authority of Scripture written over prophecy.

I found this a helpful and useful little book. I can imagine giving it to people of a wide variety of backgrounds in order to inform and aid their thinking. I think cessationist church leaders would do well to consider reading it in order to understand some of their wider family, whilst those in Charismatic churches would benefit from a friendly nudge towards scripture. I was reminded throughout of Simon Ponsonby’s excellent ‘MORE: How you can have more of the Spirit even though you already have everything in Christ’, and that would be the ‘next level’ book on this topic. Overall, though, Chester and de la Hoyde have written a helpful and reasonable contribution to the ‘Questions Christians Ask’ series, and a very useful little book on the Holy Spirit.

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