Wednesday, July 6, 2011

The God I Never Knew by Robert Morris

Several years ago, I preached a sermon entitled: "Have We Forgotten The Holy Spirit?" My point in that message is that we often treat the Holy Spirit, not as the 3rd member of the Trinity, but as some force or person that frankly scares us. In the theological circles I find myself, I believe we have greatly decreased the importance of the Holy Spirit. Fortunately, there have been a number of books written recently about the nature and purpose of the Spirit of God in our life.

The good news after reading The God I Never Knew by Robert Morris is that we have another book emphasizing the importance of the Holy Spirit in the life of the Christian. The book is adequately subtitled: "How Real Friendship with the Holy Spirit Can Change Your Life," because Morris writes in this book how seeing the Spirit of God as more than a force or power. He is a person who desires to have a relationship with us.

That's the good news. But here's the bad news. While I appreciate the emphasis he is trying to make, this book is poorly written, not insightful, & basically theologically confusing.  I understand that he comes from a different theological persuasion that I do. I understand that he is going to take some texts of Scripture differently than I will. But it was more than that.

I have been wrestling through how I would share what it was I disliked about this book. Time certainly doesn't allow me to talk about all of them. But let me share just a few of them.

He does rightly say that many people view the Spirit of God as a force instead of a person. He rightly makes the assertion that "the witness of Scripture is that the Holy Spirit is a full and equal member of the Trinity. The Holy Spirit is not a force, a 'thing,' or an 'it'" (33). Amen! The only problem is that this comes just a few pages after he quotes Charles Finney on his experience of the Holy Spirit coming:
"The Holy Spirit...seemed to go through me, body and soul...I could feel the impression, like a wave of electricity, going through and through me. Indeed it seemed to come in waves of liquid love, for I could not express it in any other way." (21)
I have no idea what Finney meant by that statement, but it just didn't seem to be helpful. And probably a bit confusing.

The last half of the book deals primarily with the gifts of the Spirit, primarily those that are looked at as miraculous. He spends a bulk of time detailing and describing three baptisms that are recorded in the Scriptures (although he spends lots of time on them, his argumentation is really poor). First, he writes about Baptism of the Holy Spirit. This is unto salvation. This is what is described in Romans 12:4-5 as we are baptized into the body of Christ. Second, he writes about water baptism. This is when we follow in obedience and example of Jesus. It is visible and we see it. Third, he writes about Baptism in the Holy Spirit. This is different from the first baptism, which leads unto salvation. This one is when we fully give our lives to the Holy Spirit to control us.

It is at this point that his use of Scripture becomes laughable. While earlier in the book, he described the Spirit of God as coming to be IN us and not just WITH us (indwelling). Now, he says that this even does not happen at salvation, but only when we are Baptized in the Holy Spirit. He says,
"On the day of Pentecost, the Holy Spirit descended upon the 120 gathered and remained upon them for the rest of their lives. The same things is available to you and me. As a matter of fact, I've experienced it. Once I got over all my suspicions, hang ups, and distorted preconceptions, I threw my heart open to the ministry of the Holy Spirit and asked Jesus to baptize me in Him. And the Holy Spirit descended upon me and remained upon me. My Christian life has never been the same!" (95)
So, the Spirit of God did not come to dwell when he was saved? But only after he asked to be baptized in the Spirit? His argumentation of seeing these three baptisms in the life of Abraham is extremely faulty handling of the Scriptures.

In the end, while I do believe we have ignored the ministry of the Holy Spirit, I would not recommend this book to anyone!

I received an advanced copy of the book: The God I Never Knew by Robert Morris from Waterbrook Multnomah Publishing Group for review.

1 comment:

  1. Pastor Bergmeier, your book review is very well written. I am a bit disappointed, however, in how you voice some of your disagreement with Robert Morris's theology (e.g. "...his use of Scripture becomes laughable"). Let's agree for a moment that your theology (with whatever credentials you hold) is in fact, completely correct. Please consider the following two scriptures (the end of verse 4 particularly):

    I Corinthians 1:2,4 NLT
    2 If I understood all of God’s secret plans and possessed all knowledge, and if I had such faith that I could move mountains, but didn’t love others, I would be nothing.
    4 Love is patient and kind. Love is not jealous or boastful or proud.

    At the end of verse 4, the NLT version uses the word "proud". Other versions use the phrase "puffed up". Respectfully, Pastor Bergmeier, when writing your book reviews and sharing your disapproval of other theologies, you need to use these scriptures as a check and balance when you determine you need to constructively disagree. Your phrases you use in your review clearly reflect a "puffed up" overly self-confident opinion of the theologies you hold so tightly to as the ultimate truth.

    If Thad Bergmeier possesses all knowledge, and if he has such faith that he can move mountains, but he doesn't love others... well there's an area he can ask for the Holy Spirit's help.

    Respectfully and with love,

    Rockstroh Friz
    Alpena, Michigan

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