It is with thanks to Angie from Crossway Publishers that I offer a review of Kenneth Berding’s short book Walking in the Spirit (Crossway, 2011).
My wife didn’t like me too much for saying this but if there were ever a book that could be truly described as “how to be a Pentecostal or Charismatic, without actually being one…”. Ken Berding’s latest book Walking in the Spirit would be it! Really, I don’t mean to be presumptuous or condescending on purpose but the things Berding talks about in this book is what you hear about in your average Pentecostal church on a fairly regular basis. For the average Pentecostal or Charismatic Christian (not the fringe folk you see all too often on Scott Bailey’s blog) this is what living the Christian life is all about, Walking in the Spirit. Hearing the voice of the Spirit in one’s heart and life; walking and or living in the power of the Spirit; praying in the Spirit (not necessarily in tongues); hoping in the Spirit (for the eschatological fulfillment of all things); living life led by the Spirit of God and so on. This is the essence of what it is to live the Spirit led life. Well, that is how I see it anyways.
Dr. Berding (PhD, Westminster; Prof at Talbot) then, has written a tightly focused work centering on one of the more significant passages in the Bible on the person and work of the Holy Spirit in the life of the believer, Romans 8. It is not a scholarly work and does not interact too much with major scholarly commentaries on Romans.
Instead, he seeks to talk specifically about a life led by the Spirit and draws his points from the text of Romans 8:1-24. In a lot of ways it reads a bit like a 7 part sermon series on the Holy Spirit since he fills the texts with plenty of personal stories and anecdotes and points of application along with questions for consideration at the end of each chapter (hint, hint, wink wink, for those wanting to do something like that in their congregation).
It is a short book with only 112 pages (7 chapters) of main text with two appendices one of which he seemed to write to calm some scholars down who might read the book (it addresses some basic academic issues with regarding the passage, i.e., some OT in the NT stuff with regard to the use of the “law”). It could easily be read in one sitting but I think the better approach would be to read one chapter at a time and let the concept and points sink into one’s heart and life. Personally, I found it quite stirring and am still feeling the effects of having read it).
Each of the chapters talk about a different element of the work of the Spirit and follows the flow of the text so the first chapter hits on the first instance of the work of the Spirit in the passage. So, for example, one chapter focuses on what it means to set one’s mind on the things of the Spirit. Another focuses on what it means to put to death the misdeeds of the body by the Spirit. Yet another, what it means to be led by the Spirit, and what it means to know God as our Father by the Spirit (no, Abba doesn’t mean “daddy”), to hope in the Spirit and also what it means to pray in the Spirit.
FWIW, I actually agree with him that “praying in the Spirit” is not about tongues per se, but, that it is to pray in conjunction with, or alongside the leading of, the Spirit. For example, all too often a person gets sick or is injured in some fashion, prayer requests go out for quick healing and such for said person. Well, to the consternation of many, it should be asked, is this the leading of the Spirit as to how we should pray for this person? Maybe we should simply pray that they be strong through the process and so on. How is the Holy Spirit leading us to pray regarding various situations? That is what it is to be led by the Spirit.
So, if you want to be invigorated in your “spirit-ual” life and walk this book is certainly a good place to start. I really do recommend it to any and all, and even maybe especially to scholars who tend to get all too heady about stuff (not that there is anything wrong with that per se).