A scene from The Canterbury Psalter (12th century)

Recommended Reading on the Holy Spirit

If you were to ask me, this week, what book you should read about the Holy Spirit, I would assume you were messing with me. Because I just now published one and am very excited about it. So pardon my authorial pride, but right now my own book, The Holy Spirit: An Introduction, would absolutely be the first thing to pop into my mind.

But if you were to ask me at any other time (like last year or next year), I’d surely tell you about the standards, my own favorites, and the sources I reach for when I think about pneumatology. As a matter of fact, at the end of my book (third link’s the charm, go get it), I provide an annotated list of eleven sources I recommend for further reading.

Here they are:

  • Allison, Gregg, and Andreas Köstenberger. The Holy Spirit. Theology for the People of God. Nashville, TN: B&H Academic, 2020. Solid, current, and evangelical, this coauthored volume manages to go deep in biblical studies and systematic theology.
  • Athanasius. Letters to Serapion. In Works on the Spirit: Athanasius the Great and Didymus the Blind. Translated by Mark DelCogliano, Andrew Radde-Gallwitz, and Lewis Ayres. Crestwood, NY: St. Vladimir’s Seminary Press, 2011. Athanasius was famously preoccupied with refuting Arianism and gave most of his attention to the doctrine of the Son. But as soon as he turned his attention directly to the doctrine of the Holy Spirit, he wrote this wonderful exposition of early Christian Trinitarian pneumatology.
  • Basil the Great. On the Holy Spirit. Crestwood, NY: St. Vladimir’s Seminary Press, 2001. Perhaps the most satisfying early Christian work on the Spirit, because of its balance of detailed argumentation (close analysis of prepositional phrases) and broad scope (a biblical theology of the Holy Spirit).
  • Buchanan, James. The Office and Work of the Holy Spirit. Edinburgh: John Johnstone, 1842. A great example of how much pneumatology a good teacher can get from analyzing spiritual experience biblically. With case studies mostly drawn from Acts, Buchanan traces the work of the Spirit in conversion and edification.
  • Cole, Graham. He Who Gives Life: The Doctrine of the Holy Spirit. Foundations of Evangelical Theology. Wheaton, IL: Crossway, 2007. A single-volume treatment of pneumatology that handily folds the key systematic and historical topics into a canonical framework under the headings of Old Testament perspectives and New Testament perspectives.
  • Cumming, James Elder. Through the Eternal Spirit: A Biblical Study on the Holy Ghost. Chicago: Revell, 1896. Cumming begins by listing every reference to the Holy Spirit in Scripture, then making remarks about the styles and groupings of these passages. He goes on to do much more than this, but the book is well worth consulting to see just how far you can get starting from a rigidly inductive point.
  • Ferguson, Sinclair. The Holy Spirit. Contours of Christian Theology. Downers Grover, IL: IVP Academic, 1997. Highly recommended as an unsurpassed biblical theology approach to the doctrine. Ferguson starts at Genesis and ends at Revelation, drawing doctrinal points directly from Scripture and handling all the material with striking freshness.
  • Kuyper, Abraham. The Work of the Holy Spirit. NY: Funk & Wagnalls, 1900. Though some of Kuyper’s remarks are dated because they were too specific to his context, most of the 123 short chapters of this book deliver sturdy instruction on a surprisingly wide range of topics in applied pneumatology.
  • Murray, Andrew. The Spirit of Christ: Thoughts on the Indwelling of the Holy Spirit in the Believer and the Church. London: James Nisbet, 1888. Full of insight and littered with arresting turns of phrase, this is a deeply devotional volume that is aimed at bringing about spiritual change in the reader.
  • Oden, Thomas. Life in the Spirit. Vol. 3 of Systematic Theology. NY: HarperCollins, 1994. Oden’s goal is to restate the classic, consensual doctrine of the Holy Spirit, which he does by way of quotation and interaction with older sources. Oden handles “the pivot of pneumatology” from for us to in us especially well.
  • Stott, John R. W. Baptism and Fullness: The Work of the Holy Spirit Today. Downers Grove, IL: InterVarsity Press, 1975. A short, biblically focused discussion of the work of the Spirit that has been especially helpful in guiding non-Pentecostal evangelicals into an informed appreciation of the Spirit’s current work.

Special bonus: These next six books didn’t make my short list for print, but I do recommend them also. (I’m pasting this sub-list in from a blog post I wrote in 2011)

  • Robert Philip, The Love of the Spirit Traced in His Work (1836). Has anybody read this book (Joel Beeke, put down your hand)? It’s a great biblical meditation on knowing the Spirit personally, knowing his love, through his work in the history of salvation. Kind of John Owen lite, with all the pluses (clarity and readability!) and minuses (necessary drop in IQ and power) that implies.
  • Yves Congar, I Believe in the Holy Spirit (1980). A sprawling, three-volume affair (printed as one by Crossroad Herder, thank you!) with digressions as good as the main text, footnotes that really go somewhere, and an author who has read just about everything. French Dominican genius Congar probably could have used an editor, but this is a guy who survived a Vatican silencing and came back to be a Cardinal, so who was going to edit him?
  • Gordon Fee, God’s Empowering Presence: The Holy Spirit in the Letters of Paul (1994). Trust this Pentecostal Bible scholar to find the Holy Spirit everywhere in Paul. The book runs nearly a thousand pages, but that’s because it’s a commentary on every Spirit passage in Paul. The synthesis section at the end has been published all by itself, but I’m not going to tell you its name. Because, you know, read the whole thing!
  • Gary Badcock, Light of Truth and Fire of Love: A Theology of the Holy Spirit (1997)Best academic-level overview of the history of the doctrine (doesn’t skip the millennium and a half between the Fathers and the Victorians), great systematic insights, and plenty of Trinity.
  • Christopher J. H. Wright, Knowing the Holy Spirit Through the Old Testament (2006). This is an Old Testament Bible study, short and sweet. But Wright is not just rehashing verses, he is consistently asking, have you met this person, this Holy Spirit?
  • James M. Hamilton, God’s Indwelling Presence: The Holy Spirit in the Old and New Testaments (2006). This is not a study of everything about the Spirit in Old and New Testaments, but about what changed in the work of the Spirit at the changing of the covenants. A book-length gloss on “He is with you, and He shall be in you,” carefully weighing the continuity and discontinuity between the testaments.

About This Blog

Fred Sanders is a theologian who tried to specialize in the doctrine of the Trinity, but found that everything in Christian life and thought is connected to the triune God.

Explore Blog Categories