Though I’m not usually at a loss for words, I have so many thoughts running through my head that I truly don’t know where to begin reviewing The Face of the Deep: Exploring the Mysterious Person of The Holy Spirit by Paul J. Pastor (David C. Cook, paperback, 2016). So we’ll do this one a little differently.
Overview: The Face of the Deep is a consideration of different passages in scripture which evidence the presence of the working of what we sometimes term ‘the third person of the trinity’ or simply ‘the Spirit.’ Arranged in two sets of seven chapters each, the first set is more focused in the Old Testament, the second in the New (though there is some overlap) with each chapter beginning in the narrative but with the aim of highlighting some aspects of what we usually term the work of the Holy Spirit. These sections are categorized as Seven Stars and Seven Lampstands, though it is made clear that the terms are not being applied in the traditional manner.
The writing style: The book is just over 300 pages long. Normally, I would consider that piece of information superficial, but I raise it here only to say that many sections of the book could easily have been typeset as poetry, bringing it to around 500 pages; such is the care that has gone into the writing. One endorsement said it better: “…the elegance of the prose befits its strange and beautiful subject.”
“If you want to build a ship,” Antoine de Saint-Exupery said, “don’t drum up the men to gather wood, divide the work and give orders. Instead teach them to yearn for the vast and endless sea.”
Many theological understandings of Pentecost see it as some pragmatic extension of wood gathering. The “power from on high” that Jesus promised is perceived primarily as a means to an end–the evangelization of the world. The thinking is that in the face of a humanly impossible mission (making disciples and baptizing unto the ends of the earth), a divine resource is needed to carry out orders.
Of course Pentecost is power-giving. But its means of power is not just the transfer of ability or capacity, but the lighting of desire. It was an act of God that taught us to yearn for the vast and endless deep. More than the Spirit as some impersonal fuel for our “gas tanks” or a yes-man helper for missionary workers, God the Spirit, as an intimate in the souls of Christ’s people, as breath in the lungs, teaches us to yearn, to desire, to burn alive with holy passion. (p. 219)
Subjectivity: The book is far from a theological treatise on God’s spirit, rather, I was taken by the degree to which Pastor wrote himself and his life experiences into the story. Minus the more journalistic style, it reminded me so much of Philip Yancey, one of my favorite writers, whose works are equal parts theology and autobiography. Which brings us to…
Take a deep breath: I’m sure that somewhere mid-University I stopped inhaling books for good, but with this one I flipped the pages, held it close, and took a deep breath. Why on earth did I do this? Paul Pastor is from the Pacific Northwest and you are reminded of this every chapter. I could picture the forest, the rocks, the waterfalls, and I wanted to smell the trees. The book did not disappoint, though the publisher could might have anticipated this and helped me out a little more. The use of the word refreshing in today’s header was intentional. Considering the associations of wind and breath with God’s Spirit, I guess I was in the right zone.
The author’s name: What is usually trivial must be addressed here. Paul was my Wednesday Link List editor at Leadership Journal for over a year, but in days prior, I had dismissed it as a pen name. After all, this was the same publication that gave us the unlikely Url Scaramanga, “adjunct professor of interdisciplinary pseudonymology,” so I felt I was on safe ground. Not so. As the back cover blurb states, “His last name is either providence or coincidence.” (You can hear him do some real pastoring at this link; fast forward to 9 min. mark.)
What I learned: It wasn’t so much that this book introduced new information as much as it brought a number of a-ha moments as I was reminded of things I had heard before but never deeply considered or tied together. Finishing the final chapter, I immediately flipped back to the beginning and started all over, having now better appreciated the full rhythm and cadence of the book.
Bonus cuts: Each chapter features full page iconography by artist Martin French. (View them online.) At the end of the book, Pastor and French annotate each of those. Normally, I skip over illustrations — that’s not true, I usually don’t even see them — but this forced me to go back over each and read the descriptions, which was part of my decision to start the book a second time. (I’m now in chapter five!) There are also some questions for group or individual discussion.
Conclusion: Five stars. Borrowing yet again from another endorsement, “Thank you Paul J. Pastor for writing the book I didn’t know I needed…”
Thanks to Martin at David C. Cook Canada for allowing me to review this great book.
Previously at Thinking Out Loud:
- In 2009, we looked at another book on the same subject: Francis Chan on The Holy Spirit: The Forgotten God
- Last year we looked at a book by another member of the Leadership Journal family who now also dwells in the Pacific Northwest, Drew Dyck: Yawning at Tigers: Holiness for a New Generation
- From 2012, a memorable quotation from Steven Furtick: The Holy Spirit is the Operating System, Not an App
Link: Paul J. Pastor on Twitter.