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Book Review: “Flame of Love: A Theology of the Holy Spirit” by Clark H. Hinnock (Second Edition)

Flame of Love: A Theology of the Holy Spirit is a deep look at pneumatology- the theology of the Spirit.

Pinnock starts off noting the importance of the Spirit as a Person of the Trinity as well as the oft-neglected study of the same. Then, over the course of seven chapters, he outlines theological questions and answers related to the spirit: the Trinity, Spirit in Creation, Spirit and Christology, Spirit and Church, Spirit and Union, Spirit and Universality, and Spirit and Truth.

These chapters provide broad outlines of the titular topics, while also challenging Christians to think more deeply about them. For example, in the chapter about the Spirit and Universality, Pinnock presses the point that the Spirit is truly work in all things. He draws from C.S. Lewis’s depiction of Aslan in The Last Battle to note that Christian thinkers have not inconsistently pointed out that God can even work through and in other religions. And how else to consider this than to think of the activity of the Spirit in drawing all towards God? Elsewhere, Pinnock considers the question of the filioque clause in the Nicene Creed, arguing that it seems to him to subordinate the Spirit to the Son. He also touches on a number of other potentially controversial topics. At more than one point, Pinnock notes that he considered using feminine pronouns for the Spirit due to the use of feminine imagery as well as feminine words for the Spirit in Scripture, but opted out. His reasoning here seems somewhat confusing, and largely amounts to that he wasn’t sure evangelicals would be ready for that yet (see esp. page 277).

The second edition features a foreword and commentary by Daniel Castelo. I found these additional notes to be helpful, and enjoyed his summaries at the end of each chapter. I was actually a bit disappointed that the frequency of notes went down a bit towards the end of the book. Whenever they appeared, Castelo’s comments were insightful and helped elucidate the text in some way.

Flame of Love is a fascinating read that explores issues in which Christians, unfortunately, are not often well-versed. Pinnock not only brings the focus to the Holy Spirit, but also challenges some potential preconceived notions about the same. Readers, whether they agree or disagree, will be challenged by his work.

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SDG.

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