Book Review by Amos Yong: Vince McLaughlin, Ruach in the Psalms: A Pneumatological Understanding.

By: Enoch Charles
Wednesday, June 1st, 2016

Vince McLaughlin, Ruach in the Psalms: A Pneumatological Understanding (Self-Published: Xlibris Corporation, 2012). 149 pp. Paperback, $19.99, ISBN: 9781479716517.

The back cover of this slender volume says that McLaughlin holds at least three terminal degrees (ThD, D.Litt., and PhD), was ordained as a Messianic Jewish Rabbi of Beth Messiah, is an Anglican Church Worldwide and Episcopal Missionary Church clergyman and Associate Rector at Church of the Word in Gainesville, Virginia, and serves at Provost and Academic Dean and Chairperson of Biblical Studies and Languages at Valley Forge Christian College’s (of the Assemblies of God) Woodbridge, Virginia, campus. Although the volume abstract and introductory chapter with standard literature review, methodology, and thesis sections combine to suggest that this was submitted originally as partial fulfillment for one of his graduate degrees (information available on the internet suggests he has at least three other masters degrees as well), there is neither a preface nor acknowledgments page that makes the connection explicit, nor is there any indication of the context amidst which the book was written. The book’s argument is that analysis of the ruach passages in the book of Psalms – the five appearances are 33:6, 51:10-13, 104:30, 139:7-12, and 143:10 – invite reconsideration of the notion that the Holy Spirit not only guided believers but also indwelt them during First Testament times, contrary to the common opinion that such indwelling did not occur until after the Day of Pentecost.

After a second chapter lays out the structure of the Psalms and defends reading its five books not only in terms of the Davidic covenant, but more precisely as windows into the (Davidic) “life of faith” (here following Walter Brueggemann’s orientation-disorientation-reorientation motif), three chapters engage with the ruach texts in canonical order: chapter 3 on the first two, chapter 4 on the middle reference, and chapter 5 on the final two. In each case, the form of the psalm in question is delineated, followed by exegesis and commentary, and then a section titled “pneumatic contribution” concludes the discussion. A brief summary chapter nicely encapsulates the volume and reiterates how the proposed “pneumatological understanding” (subtitle of the book) enables contemporary lives of faith in the power of the Holy Spirit.

McLaughlin makes no claims to be writing for the Hebrew Bible academy and this book ought not to be read as making such a contribution. For instance, the indwelling thesis was itself subject to critical scrutiny and counter-argued in James M. Hamilton, Jr.’s 2006 book, God’s Indwelling Presence: The Holy Spirit in the Old and New Testaments (B&H Academic), and the latter was not even referenced by McLaughlin. Further, although the reader is alerted to the “conscious avoidance of New Testament references so as not to bias the inductive approach within the Hebrew text” (p. 22), much of the rest of the book presumes not just a New Testament but post-Nicene trinitarian pneumatology in relationship to the Psalter’s ruach.

Yet those who approach Ruach in the Psalms aware of these episodic appearances of the divine breath across the pages of ancient Israel’s songbook and wanting further illumination of these passages – as indeed describes this reviewer, who is not himself a Hebrew Bible scholar – will benefit from this book, including its scholarly perspectives, since it is the first of its kind to wade into this arena. In addition, readers alert to the author’s charismatic sensibilities and commitments will appreciate his pastorally informed exegesis of these ruachic dimensions of the Psalter and perhaps even be inspired by his desire that his readers experience a deeper life in and with the Holy Spirit. Students of charismatic renewal thus have in this volume the first steps toward filling a gap in the literature on the pneumatology – or better: ruachology – of the Psalter, even if further scholarly work remains to be done.

Amos Yong

Professor of Theology & Mission, Fuller Theological Seminary, Pasadena, California

Enoch Charles
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