Monday, July 19, 2010

Review: The Holy Spirit is Not for Sale

J. Lee Grady is not, by his own admission, a theologian. But he is an observer from within a movement and his observations are worth engaging with. The reason I start where I did is that his theological analysis is not very well done. This leads to some problems in his suggested solutions to the problems that his beloved Pentecostal movement faces. Despite the lack of a compelling self-critical analysis - he does make a good case that something has shifted and allowed the movement to be characterized by what Grady might call false spiritualities. He is calling for a reformation of sorts, part return to the first passions of Pentecostalism and part new passion for personal piety.

A couple notable new ideas, at least for old school Pentecostals, are the recognition that the Spirit's activity is not restricted to the Pentecostals and the ways in which even Pentecostal practice/theology has pandered to enlightenment individualistic ideas. His critiques are often good. Where he goes with them, not always so. He seems to hold the same fear of intellectualism that prevents Pentecostal theology from improving (thank God that there are so many great Pentecostal intellectuals coming on the scene these days - there is much to be encouraged about in this area) and he also seems to hold a truncated version of the gospel missing that this individualistic gospel is part of the problem that he has noticed.

On another side of it, I come from Pentecostal roots. There are things that I really love about my Pentecostally-formed spirituality. Grady's stories reminded me some of what I loved about that. The passion for God's presence. The desire for a holy life in God. The passion to see God's love transform people all around me. These are good things. Grady is right to lament their weakening in Pentecostal experience. I think some of his suggestions are worth a deeper reflection. Perhaps that is the best place to put this book - Grady starts an honest and hard conversation that Pentecostals must have to move forward. In this he does a real service to the Body of Christ.

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