Today I received a copy of Jack Levison‘s new book Inspired: The Holy Spirit and the Life of the Mind courtesy of Eerdmans Publishing. Although I am in the middle of reading his 2002 The Spirit in First-Century Judaism I had to set it aside long enough to read the introductory chapter of this new book because I’ve been waiting in anticipation for it for several months. I think those who have read Jack’s two most recent books on Pneumatology—Filled with the Spirit and Fresh Air—will find that this book shares some of the ideas found in those others, yet it is unique and not merely the repackaging of older material.
I want to say something about the opening chapter for those who are considering reading this book. I became a Christian as a Pentecostal. I will be indebted to this heritage as long as I live. While there are many aspects of popular Pentecostalism that I’ve shunned there have been other things that have helped me navigate the world of broader Evangelicalism giving me a means by which I could avoid some of the misguided fundamentalism and biblicism that has distracted many Evangelicals (and to be fair many Pentecostals as well). Likewise, Pentecostalism led me to ask the questions that have motivated my own academic research. (Isn’t it funny how some of the things that were important to you during your most formative years remain important no matter how far you stray from them?) Sadly, the Pentecostalism with which I was affiliated was dangerously anti-intellectual. It was put in no uncertain terms that education was more likely to derail one’s spirituality than mature it. I found this to be a lie and also found myself unable to be comfortable in mainstream Pentecostalism. (I’m haven’t quite found a new “tribe” over the last decade, though I do see some forms of Methodism as most akin to my own thinking.)
I wish Jack’s book would have been printed about ten years earlier. I could have used it in my early twenties. In this new work he sets out to overcome the false dichotomy wherein Pneumatology refers to the ecstatic but not the intellectual side of our religious lives. In his words, early Christians—as well as ancient Israelites and Jewish writers— “discovered a rich symbiosis between various experiences akin to ecstasy and inspired intellectual acuity.”  Or, as with the example he gave, we do not have to drive a wedge between say “glossolalia and inspired interpretation of scripture.”  We don’t have to choose between the spontaneous, the immediate, the ecstatic and the premeditated, the long-haul, the life of the mind.
In his introductory chapter Jack says that he will discuss in this book (1) how “the spirit inspires virtue and learning”; (2) “the symbiosis between ecstasy and comprehension that pervades Jewish and Christian scripture”; and (3) “the quintessential expression of the presence of the holy spirit in Israelite, Jewish, and Christian literature [as] the inspired interpretation of Scripture”.  In the process he hopes to challenge our theology of the spirit (Pneumatology), our hermeneutical paradigm, our culture of overlooking Hebrew/Jewish Pneumatology as a precursor to Christian Pneumatology, and finally the role of Pneumatology in reshaping our Ecclesiology. 
If you are familiar with Jack’s earlier works, or if you’ve never written anything he’s written, consider getting this book. For all those of us who have sought to overcome the false dichotomy between spiritual and intellectual pursuits this looks like it will be the book for us. If you haven’t seen the promo videos Jack did for this book yet go here.
 p. 1
 pp. 2, 4, 5
 p. 6
From the blurb on Amazon he appears to take a ‘universalist’ approach that the Spirit is given to all humanity. But a key aspect of the Spirit in Scripture is the absence of the Spirit where God is not present. Does he attend to this?
@Ian: In previous works Jack has tended to bring closer together the idea of the spirit endowed upon all humans, ala Genesis 2-ish and the S/spirit given to Christians. We chatted about this at a regional AAR/SBL a few years ago and I know that Pentecostal interactions with his previous works have pressed him on the matter. As to whether this book will blur the lines between a holy spirit as we see in the Hebrew Bible, some Jewish literature, and in Jack’s view Christian literature as well as the Holy Spirit, i.e., the Spirit of God that is distinctly God’s identity is yet to be seen (haven’t read far enough).
In this opening chapter (p. 4) he says the following:
(bold emphasis mine)
This seems to make a distinction between the two, but not as drastic a distinction as we might find in most Pneumatologies.
Ecstasy and Protestant Christianity, especially of the Calvinist varieties are mutually exclusive. Indeed Protestant Christianity is the cult of Narcissus that has always suppressed the Ecstasy that is the natural instinct and heart-based urge of human beings.
Paul obviously provides the necessary criticism to this idea when he told us that the letter always kills the Living Spirit.
In more modern terms the left-brained letter upon which all modern Christian theology
and writing is based, always kills or shut downs the Living Spirit or the Energy of Ecstasy.
Consciousness without inwardness.
Thus It becomes Obvious.
Every object is only Light, the Energy of
Even so, there is no mind.
Ony this stark embodiment, without inwardness.
First transcend the mind, not the body.
Only the body is Full of Consciousness.
Therefore, be the body-only, feeling into Life.
Surrender the mind into Love, until the body
dissolves in Light.
Dare this Ecstasy, and never be made thoughtful by
birth and experience and death.
@Leah: The author of this book is Protestant (Methodist affiliation). Pentecostals are Protestant. There are many “charismatic” Protestants of various denominational affiliations. I’m a bit confused by your assertion, unless you’re defining “ecstasy” differently, which may be the point of your poem at the end.
Brian, you don’t need a tribe. You are your own tribe. In all things, be convicted by your own doubts and convinced by your own conscience. (Each person must be convinced in their own mind).
The idea Christianity has tribes is a theme Mark Driscoll has been spewing lately, and although there are common threads where people appear to agree, the idea of ‘tribe’ is itself a pigeon hole and theologically enslaving.
You’ve done well enough rejecting those aspects of fundamentalism that you find offensive, just as you’ve done rejecting elements of Pentecostalism without discarding it all. This is evidence of discernment.
The greatest discernment may be a product of having no tribe at all. It suggests you possess a habit of weighting all things on their own merits with a healthy reliance on the Holy Spirit.
@Andrew: Ideally, yes, you’re correct, but (1) individualism has become its own disconnected tribe by default: non-denominationalism and (2) try professional development without some sort of affiliation…its really, really difficult in my world.
Yes, your second point is very true. I’ve pondered that a lot since I started frequenting your blog.
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