October 15, 2010

The Empire of the Holy Spirit

Michael A.G. Haykin has drawn upon a lifetime of biblical studies, spiritual experiences, and focused scholarship to write a popular volume on the Holy Spirit and spirituality entitled The Empire of the Holy Spirit: Reflecting on Biblical and Historical Patterns of Life in the Spirit, published by BorderStone Press. This is perhaps the most important book yet written by a prolific author. In eleven chapters, beginning with a discussion of why Christians believe that God is Trinity and the Holy Spirit is one of the three persons sharing in the Godhead, Haykin demonstrates how orthodox theology may be presented in a popular format.

There are four things to note about Haykin's sources and methodology: First, Haykin exposits Scripture at length with regard to its teachings about the person and work of the Holy Spirit. I did not discover one instance in which I found the author to have missed Scripture's presentation of pneumatology, including matters of emphasis. Second, Haykin has read the early church fathers deeply but wears his profound knowledge of Patristic history and theology with humility and without any trace of pretension. Even as he draws upon Irenaeus, Basil, and Hilary, the citations are always appropriate to the discussion and always illuminating. Third, Haykin draws upon his long interest in the eighteenth-century Puritans, especially the pioneers of the missionary Baptist movement. The illustrations from this period do not dominate the text, though his studies therein have dominated his career for many years. Fourth, Haykin engages with contemporary expressions of spirituality, both Christian and non-Christian, evaluating them with both judiciousness and gracefulness. If you want to know what the German philosopher Martin Heidegger contributes to postmodernity or where the pop spirituality of Eckhart Tolle has gone astray, Haykin provides a succinct and accurate Christian response.

At 180 pages, this slim volume was not intended to function as a systematic exploration of the doctrine of the Holy Spirit in all of His glorious deity and powerful works, but nevertheless it does touch upon much of what a traditional systematic text would. Many of the chapters were presented in other venues, both spoken and written, but the book does not read as a compilation of chapters but rather flows seamlessly from one subject to the next. What is unique about the presentation is that more contemporary issues are not addressed until the end of the book, which means that some of the more culturally relevant portions will not be discovered until the book is nearly completed. And yet, this may also be a strength, for the book is biblically relevant from cover to cover.

Although I might quibble with some of the matters presented herein, such as Haykin's construal of the Spirit's movement of grace in salvation as "irresistible," I found myself in almost wholehearted agreement with nearly every word. While Haykin acknowledges that he was once involved in the Charismatic movement popular in the 1970s and is involved in the Calvinist movement that is currently the rage, these are merely secondary even tertiary matters in this book. Haykin has not set out to prove or disprove Charismatic theology or Calvinist theology, but to bring the reader closer to an understanding of what true "spirituality" is. And that true spirituality is, according to Haykin, a biblically-faithful, God-honoring, personally-embracing love for God and His church through Christ in the Holy Spirit.

This little treasure, The Empire of the Holy Spirit: Reflecting on Biblical and Historical Patterns of Life in the Spirit, comes with my highest recommendation.


  1. Anonymous9:04 PM

    You should put this review in Amazon, too.


  2. Malcolm,
    As one of the editors at BorderStone Press, we too think Dr. Haykin has "hit a home run!" He is a marvelous Christian gentleman and scholar and it was a real joy to get to know him better during this project.

    Also, thank you for the kind and gracious words.

    Roger D. Duke


Edifying comments always appreciated!