Awakening To God

Written by James Montgomery Boice Reviewed By Rick Scheideman

Dr Boice is the popular and influential pastor of Philadelphia’s Tenth Presbyterian Church. Volume II of Boice’s series on the Foundations of the Christian Faith deals with the saving work of the Spirit of God. This third offering is concerned with the application of salvation to the believer through the ministry of the Holy Spirit. This, of course, was a topic of special emphasis in the Institutes.

James Boice’s approach to the work of the Spirit of God is refreshingly different from most of the literature we encounter today. Contemporary believers often divide over the gifting or non-gifting, the baptizing or non-baptizing of the Spirit. The Divine Guest is often brought to the deplorable level of human rationalization. While Boice deals with these thorny issues his concern is much broader.

Boice states that two dangers must be corrected among Christians regarding the Spirit of God’s work in the believer. The first danger is a hyper-subjectivism which emphasizes personal experience and neglects propositional truth from the Bible. Danger number two lies in the opposite direction, where objectivity amounts to cognitive assent without vibrancy or warmth of experience. Boice summons Christians to examine the full biblical teaching on the work of the Spirit to find stability in a balanced perspective of experience and confession.

The Spirit of God is the Agent by which a redeemed humanity receives the saving effects of Christ’s death. Christianity is personal, proclaims Boice, because the Spirit individually ministers a full salvation to each believer.

Boice touches upon many aspects of the Spirit’s work. Initiation into the faith is covered with sections on the new birth, faith and repentance, justification and union with Christ. Living as a believer means dealing with remaining sin, experiencing a radical freedom, knowing and doing the will of God. Finally, Boice deals with the preserving aspects of the Spirit’s ministry.

For the technical specialist, Awakening to God will not add much by way of novelty to the modern potpourri of liberation theology or process thought. But, of course, that is not Boice’s intent. Rather, as Calvin’s work was intended for the general Christian public, so Boice has approached the issues of becoming a Christian and living before Christ as a believer from the perspective of a biblical theology which is readable and relevant.

The book is helpful for pastoral and catachetical needs in the churches where biblical ignorance increases although the market is filled with so-called Christian literature. Certainly some topics need further elaboration. For example, the discussion about death to self as a discipleship methodology needs amplification, taking into account the problem of pain, the various sub-biblical answers in culture, and the misunderstandings of extreme pietism or false materialism. Each section of the book gives the pastor and the teacher fresh ideas and biblical solutions to spur further reflection and application to individual needs.

James Boice has done a vital service to the church of Christ in the era of theological disdain, on the one hand, and pluralism, on the other. He has been faithful to Scripture and relevant to the contemporary situation. The truth he shares is timeless, while his method and illustrations are timely and fresh. It is this reviewer’s hope that this work will be used by the same Spirit of God to create a reformation in the lives of the Christian populace.

Rick Scheideman

Rockmont College, Denver, Colorado