"Sculptor Spirit" by Leopoldo A. Sanchez M. A Review
My rating: 5 of 5 stars
In my "area of influence" (2 Corinthians 10.15) and among my fellow Reformed compadres, talk of the Holy Spirit is unfortunately limited and infrequent. I have tried to remedy this lack in my own preaching and teaching. Therefore I was excited to receive the 290 page softback "Sculptor Spirit: Models of Sanctification from Spirit Christology" penned by Leopoldo A. Sánchez M., the Werner R. H. and Elizabeth R. Krause Professor of Hispanic Ministries at Concordia Seminary in St. Louis, professor of systematic theology and director of the Center for Hispanic Studies. Dr. Sanchez writes for thoughtful readers, ministers, church leaders, seminary students and professors. This irenic work draws from fourth-century pastors and theologians, Martin Luther, as well as his own lived experience. The author rightly sees that all "Spirit talk must embrace its organic christological and ecclesial trajectories" (xv).
The main thrust of the work is to "argue that a Spirit Christology, which focuses on the role of God's Spirit in Jesus' life and ministry, serves as a constructive framework for articulating a models-based approach to sanctification that can assist" Christian leaders "in discerning and addressing some of the main spiritual concerns of various North American groups" (2). The five models of Spirit-produced sanctification Sanchez addresses are renewal, dramatic, sacrificial, hospitality and devotional. As the author acknowledges toward the end of the book, these models of Spirit-produced sanctification "do not merely comprise interesting metaphors about the spiritual life but intend to give us a window into divine realities grounded in God's ways of working in the world in and through Christ by the Spirit" and "reveal an economy of life in the Spirit that shapes hearers of God's story into spiritual persons" which is "nothing less than human participation by the grace of adoption into the life of Christ for the sake of the world" (229). His way of crafting these models and their lived-out activities was insightful, as well as sensitive to various North American ethnic groups and denominational bodies.
I appreciated "Sculptor Spirit" for many reasons, of which I will only mention two. First, Sanchez is not afraid to interact with early church theologians and pastors, but sees them as a valuable part of the conversation, along with Luther. This drawing from the past to speak into the present, for the sake of the future, is healthy and hygienic. Second, as the author unpacks the sacrificial model in the chapter "Sharing Life Together" he turns to the ways we can robustly but gracious engage with our neighbors, especially those who are poor. He maps out the dangers of having a romantic view as well as utilitarian, but then he looks into ways we can move from generosity to partnership (140-143). Here he rightly notes that those who want to help will ask their neighbors what they need, what they can contribute, identify personal skills and community resources of those being helped, foster problem-solving through local participation by stakeholders, and nurture interdependent relationships. He lists several other insightful aspects that show Jesus' model of not coming to be served, but to serve and give his life as a ransom (Mark 10.45). The reason this section sticks out to me is as my congregation and I serve among Native Americans in Southwestern Oklahoma, the author articulates what is our approach: an approach that self-consciously moves away from a paternalistic Messiah-complex, to partnering with God's children among Kiowas, Apaches, Delawares, Caddos and others. Sanchez states it beautifully!
In the end "Sculptor Spirit" is what it wants to be, a helpful read! Not only is it clearly academic in all the right ways, but it leads the reader to think through ways the Spirit's involvement in their life, individually and ecclesiastically, manifests itself. This volume would make a great gift for your pastor or favorite seminary student. But it will also benefit the purchaser to obtain a copy for themselves and to read with open eyes and an open heart. I highly and happily recommend the book.
My thanks to IVP Academic for sending me a copy of the book at my request, and allowing me to review it. They asked nothing more than an honest review, which I have freely given. And my thanks to the author for investing time and sweat in pulling together this material.
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