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Holy Spirit Primer,
This review is from: Forgotten God: Reversing Our Tragic Neglect of the Holy Spirit (Paperback)
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The Holy Spirit is one of my favorite topics. Since rediscovering Him in my early twenties, I've pursued a life full of His presence: His fruits, His power, and above all else His love. The infilling of the Spirit and a life spent hearing the voice of the Counselor has become of top priority to me, and so I find any reading material on the subject, regardless of evangelical or pentecostal viewpoint, to be interesting and worthwhile. Chan is somewhere between the two camps (but certainly more Evangelical than Charismatic) and attempts to walk the line between those two distinct groups of Christiandom.
Chan's primary argument is that many modern churches lack presence of the Holy Spirit because of a failure in willingness to let Him do and be who He is--out of fear, out of lack of knowledge, or because of church tradition. Chan argues compellingly that the fullness of what it means to be a Christ follower is lost without the presence of the Holy Spirit. In a series of succinct and to the point chapters, he writes about why we need the Holy Spirit, who He is, and what it looks like when He is operating unencumbered in our lives.
Where the book is less satisfying is Chan's reluctance to engage with the debate surrounding the work of the Holy Spirit in the modern day church. He does not identify himself as a cessationist, but the fact that he doesn't even mention tongues, and that he spends an entire book describing the work of the Holy Spirit largely in terms of internal, personal change instead of radical, world impacting power through signs, wonders, and miracles leads me to believe he is very Evangelical in his views, if not a complete cessationist.
Even as he argues for more of the Holy Spirit in the lives of his readers and the Church in general, he seems to skirt around what sort of impact that really will have. If Chan pushes Evangelicals to welcome more of the Holy Spirit in their lives, he doesn't challenge them to radically reevaluate what God is willing to do and how, either through a discussion of the miraculous power of God, or through an in depth look at the gifts of the Spirit. These are mentioned, but left very vague, which is very strange considering Chan highlights 1st Corinthians 12 throughout the book. Gifts are left at the periphery, and even in his "Supernatural Church" chapter they are left on the sidelines. If the work of the Holy Spirit is in part to draw us towards Christ-likeness, in part to empower us to do the miraculous (whether you define that as supernatural freedom from pervasive sin or as empowered to do miracles) and in part to give us certain gifts, Chan spends 80% of the book on the role the Spirit plays in character change and discipleship. I would have liked to see him give each part equal time, and especially give a chapter or two to the gifts of the Spirit.
In chapter 4 "Why do you want Him" Chan spends a little time talking about miracles. He says:
"A lot of people want to talk about supernatural things like miracles, healing or prophecy. But focusing inordinately on those things quickly becomes misguided. God calls us to pursue Him, not what He might do for us or even in our midst. Scripture emphasizes that we should desire fruit, that we should concern ourselves with becoming more like His Son." (88)
This is a true statement. However, what Chan seems to miss is that Christ's life was FULL of the miraculous. Nearly constant miracles through His entire ministry. If Christ is the perfect example of walking in harmony with the Father and the Spirit, and we are called to become Christlike, it follows that our lives should also be marked by the presence of the miraculous--not that it should supplant our desire for God Himself, but that it should be a natural part of being a disciple.
Chan also says:
"God wants us to trust Him to provide miracles when He sees fit. He doesn't just dole them out mechanically, as if we put in a quarter, pray the right prayer, and out comes a miracle." (88)
God does want us to trust him to provide miracles, but He also desires that we walk in obedience to Jesus command in Matthew 10:18: "Heal the sick, raise the dead, cleanse the lepers, cast out demons. Freely you received, freely give.
Being Christlike means to become like Christ, and pursuing a life modeled after His. Jesus taught his disciples to follow His example, and after they were empowered by the Holy Spirit at Pentecost, they did exactly that. Much of their ministry was supernatural in nature. So while I agree fully with Chan that blind pursuit of the supernatural that replaces seeking God first and foremost is a form of idolatry, I don't agree that we shouldn't pursue it at all. I would argue that a life filled with the presence of the Spirit necessitates a life modeling a demonstration of God's goodness, and specifically the release of his Power through the miraculous.
Chan's chapters each end with a brief biography of a person living a Spirit filled life. It's striking that while all his choices are exemplary individuals, none of them are someone with a supernatural ministry. I would have loved to see him reference someone like Heidi Baker or Brother Yun--The Heavenly Man is fantastic reading if you want to see what a truly radical encounter with God and a miraculous lifestyle can look like. With the emergence of the Chinese church (and eastern church in general) it seems like it would have been a good idea to include someone from that region where the supernatural is a frequent occurrence--especially in a book on the Holy Spirit!
Aside from my complaints about Chan's Evangelical bias, this is still a very well written and engaging book. While I don't agree with all of his viewpoints, I found myself agreeing and cheering Chan on more than arguing with him. Chan's biggest strength is his humility and willingness to discuss the Spirit in the context of his own successes and failures. It gives his book a friendly and convincing tone. It's my hope that many Christians read this book. That they are impacted by Chan's call to a deepening of relationship with the Holy Spirit in individuals and in the Church. Because regardless of our differences, the Spirit has been ignored for far too long, and it's time to give him the worship He so rightly deserves.
Location: Chicago, IL
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