Levison, INSPIRED
Levison, INSPIRED

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.” [1] Or, as with the example he gave, we do not have to drive a wedge between say “glossolalia and inspired interpretation of scripture.” [2] 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”. [3] 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. [4]

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.

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[1] p. 1

[2] Ibid.

[3] pp. 2, 4, 5

[4] p. 6

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