Flame of Love: A Theology of the Holy Spirit. By Clark Pinnock. Downers Grove: InterVarsity, 1996, 280 pp., $16.99 paper. Hearing God: Developing a Conversational Relationship with God. By Dallas Willard. Downers Grove: InterVarsity, 1999, 228 pp., $12.99 paper. Knowing the Face of God. By Tim Stafford. Colorado Springs: NavPress, 1996, 249 pp., $14.00 paper. The Sacred Romance. By Brent Curtis and John Eldredge. Nashville: Thomas Nelson, 1997, 213 pp., $13.99 paper. The Shape of Living: Spiritual Directions for Everyday Life. By David Ford. Grand Rapids: Baker, 1997, 224 pp., $14.99 paper. Walk This Way: An Interactive Guide to Following Jesus. By Tim Woodroof. Colorado Springs: NavPress, 1999, 207 pp., $14.00 paper.
In between the organizational morass of institutional Christendom and the New Age of spiritism lies the fertile, tenuous land of evangelical spiritual theology. In the past five years the six books listed above have been added to the older works of Ian Thomas, Richard Foster, Andrew Murray, Oswald Sanders, and others.
Four common themes arise from these contributions: (1) a re-evaluation of individual and corporate dimensions of spiritual life; (2) practical theology and spirituality, that is, the daily experience of living the Christian life; (3) a means of personal spiritual enrichment; and (4) the contributions of historical theology to spiritual theology today. Each of the books marks a significant contribution to one of these themes, and some books address most of them. The books by Curtis and Eldredge, Pinnock, Stafford, and Willard primarily address spiritual issues, but all the books have some direct suggestions and applications for spiritual life. The works by Ford and Woodroof address practical spiritual issues, but include biblical and theological foundations.
Clark Pinnock's work is the only book that approaches the topic of spirituality directly and comprehensively. Flame of Love pursues the presence and work of the Holy Spirit in seven aspects, from God and Christ to universality and the truth. Pinnock interacts in the best theological tradition with many historical sources representing various approaches to understanding and practicing spirituality. He speaks to the heart of the issues that have arisen for humanity through the centuries and deals fairly with all the traditions. The tone of the volume maintains a consistently biblical theology and a vibrant understanding of the application of the resulting theology to life. The whole work manifests a passion for life in the Spirit. This is perhaps Pinnock's finest work as a systematic theologian. It is the most comprehensive of the six books on spiritual theology.
Ecclesiastes tells us we can look at life "under the sun" and see, on the one hand, the ultimate frustration of human striving. Or we can see, on the other hand, the same life as a gift from our loving God and receive it from him and find a new meaning to living. Curtis (since deceased) and Eldredge write about the beauty, majesty, and, from a human perspective, potential "wildness" of the presence of God in our lives. God invites us to walk with him and in his presence throughout our daily lives. The most intimate human relationship-love-is the model for explaining how we can have a deep personal relationship with a loving God. …