This week I’ve bee participating in the Koinonia Blog’s Book Tour for Michael F. Bird’s Evangelical Theology: A Biblical and Systematic Introduction. If you’ve been following along you know that it was my responsibility to review Part 6, The Promise and Power of the Gospel: The Holy Spirit. I hope my notes have encouraged you to read Bird’s new work if you are someone who is an Evangelical seeking for a fresh way to describe your theological worldview. If you have not read my previous posts you can begin with Bird’s Gospel then go to Bird’s Pneumatology: Overview (Pt. 1) and Bird’s Pneumatology: Evaluation (Pt. 2) (see also my An “Evangelical” Theology?).
I am appreciative of this section of the book. First, I thought Bird covered the topic well. Second, I thought he remained consistent in his theologizing. Third, he went beyond where most Evangelicals go when discussing the Spirit. Fourth, he rightly interacted with the movement most known for Pneumatology: Pentecostalism (and I think he was quite fair in his agreements and disagreements). Fifth, he dealt with relevant subjects like the person of the Spirit, the charismatic gifts, and the Initial Evidence Doctrine without being caught in the web of the most recent controversy. There is a difference between being timely and gossipy and Bird is timely.
In the last post I registered some complaints. I thought Bird’s quick assessment of the Spirit and gender was a bit flippant. Although I know it is impossible to interact with everyone it would have been wonderful to see some engagement with Amos Yong, a great theologian who might be classified as a Evangelical-Pentecostal if you will. Yong’s inclusive Pneumatology has immediate influence on how we understand the Gospel and it deserves a broader audience. Finally, while I understand while the doctrine of inspiration was tucked into the end of this section the coverage left me with little resolve. Personally, the inerrancy debate exhausted me. I know the Evangelical Theological Society has made the topic the theme of their conference and my guess is that ETS will reinforce a strict, precise definition of inerrancy that leaves many Evangelicals outside of their society. ETS cannot be a real representation of Evangelicalism as long as it shuns those Evangelicals who do not either affirm inerrancy as the more influential members would like them to affirm it or who do not affirm it at all preferring words like “infallibility” which they understand to address the big picture rather than the minuta of Scripture. Bird seems comfortable with “inerrancy,” but he seems to acknowledge that it is problematic as well as he subtly tries to introduce “veracity” as a better option. At a time like this it would have been helpful for Bird to say whether or not he thinks the circle should be enlarged or shrunken, whether the tent can include those who prefer “infallibility” or “authoritative” or if Evangelical equals Inerrantists.
I think readers will benefit from reading this book. I plan on slowly working through the rest of it (I’ve read pp. 1-150, 611-648 thus far) and when I finish it I will give the book a holistic review. I want to thank Zondervan for giving me the opportunity to receive a review copy and Michael Bird for seeing a need and filling it for Evangelicals. I hope this book receives a broad audience!
This book was provided for free by Zondervan in exchanged for an unbiased review.
FWIW, I noticed that on Tuesday, November 19th at the Annual Meeting of the Evangelical Theological Society Bird is scheduled to give this presentation: