The Theology for the People of God series by B&H Academic combines biblical and systematic theology in dialogue with historical theology with application to the church and life. The series addresses the classic loci of systematic theology by pairing a biblical scholar and a theologian. The first volume released on the Holy Spirit pairs Andreas J. Köstenberger, research professor of New Testament at Midwestern Seminary, with Southern Seminary’s own Gregg R. Allison, professor of christian theology.
Can you explain the outline of the book—putting the biblical analysis first and the systematic synthesis second?
Our approach in the outline of the book resonates deeply with my personal approach to doing theology, that is, that our practical theology is rooted in exegetical, biblical, historical, and systematic theology in dialogue together. Andreas wrote the first half of the book, looking at all the passages about the Holy Spirit in the Old and New Testaments. It was wonderful to work with him. Then, I wrote the second half, providing a systematic theology of the Spirit aimed at the church. When we’re doing systematics, we can’t just move directly from biblical to systematic theology, because, when we do the exegetical work, we already have our theology in mind. But we have to begin somewhere. Because we believe in the authority of the Bible, it’s both right and helpful to begin with the text, allowing it to correct our assumptions, then moving forward from there.
How would you expect this book to be used profitably by students of the Bible?
It’s an exhaustive work that’s going to be helpful for any student of the Holy Spirit. Anyone who wants to look at every passage in the Bible that talks about the Holy Spirit will have Andreas’s first half; every passage is discussed. But, more importantly, we pray and hope that people who read our book would become more consciously dependent upon the Spirit, being filled by him and walking with him. We also hope that that readers of the book will have some of their fears about the Holy Spirit calmed.
What particular fears about the Holy Spirit do you address?
Fears arise on at least two fronts. First, people fear what will happen if we submit ourselves wholeheartedly to the Spirit—if we place our lives entirely under his control. As Americans, we don’t like to lose control. There’s a fear that if we submit ourselves to the Spirit, he may call us to be missionaries, for example. He may, but his leading can be trusted. Second, a lot of readers will have heard about or experienced the excesses of the Pentecostal and charismatic movements. Some readers, as a result, fear the Holy Spirit. “If the Spirit is about those weird excesses,” some may say, “then we’ll have nothing to do with him.” We hope our book will calm people’s fears by presenting an alternative perspective on the Spirit that’s grounded biblically.
What other aspects of our doctrine of the Spirit are significant for pastoral ministry?
There are three key doctrines. First, the Spirit and the Word. Baptists are well-known as people of the book, but we’re less well-known as people who entrust ourselves to the Spirit. The reformers achieved a great balance here. We call upon pastors and Christians to regularly ask the Spirit for illumination so they may rightly understand the Bible and have soft hearts to respond to God’s Word. Second, the Spirit and salvation. Readers will be amazed at how every mighty act of God in saving us is connected in some way to the Spirit. Before we believe, the Spirit convicts us of sin. He brings about the work of regeneration, unites us with Christ, brings about our adoption, and gives us assurance; he sanctifies, guides, and ultimately will resurrect us. Finally, the Spirit and the church. The Holy Spirit gave birth to the church when he was poured out by the Father and Son on the day of Pentecost, and it’s the Spirit who gives birth to new churches today; he directs, empowers, and pushes churches to engage as a witness to the world.