The Prodigal Spirit: The Trinity, The Church, and The Future of The World

Tomlin, Graham
Alpha International (2011)
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It says a great deal about the contemporary state of Christianity in the United Kingdom that when I saw the publisher's HTB imprint I momentarily groaned but then, I reflected, as far as the Holy Spirit is concerned, HTB is the horse's mouth.

In fact, Tomlin's first chapter provides the most lucid, balanced and constructive summary of the history of the theology of the Holy Spirit that I have ever come across and so the book is worth it for that; and throughout, he sees the merits in a surprisingly wide range of theological and philosophical positions.

There does, however, come a point when just about everything that needs to be said has been said. Writing about pneumatology isn't quite as bad as dancing about architecture or painting about wine but, as Tomlin would admit himself, although he wouldn't be quite so demotic as me, the Holy Spirit is best subjected to the 'duck test'; you know when she's there (Tomlin always uses the male pronoun). That's the trouble; it's really difficult to write about the numinous without either resorting to bathos or hammering the focal point too hard because you can't quite find the right words.

Tomlin's central points, about the Spirit being the embodiment of the love between the father and the son, operating in an earthly context to help us perfect creation as our kingdom-building mission are well made, nicely integrated and amply sourced. You couldn't wish for more. But I suspect he wouldn't mind that after a couple of chapters I felt the need to close the book and open myself the Spirit. This is once subject where praxis is far superior to theory.

But if you need a book on The Spirit to get you thinking or, betters till, praying, you could do a lot worse than this.