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Jack Levison: Fresh Air

Jack Levison, Fresh Air: the Holy Spirit for an Inspired Life (Brewster, MA: Paraclete Press: 2012), 217 pages, 9781612610689.

Jack Levison, in his work Fresh Air: the Holy Spirit for an Inspired Life, aims to clear a foggy, often caricatured view of the Holy Spirit in today’s church. Does one feel a move of the Spirit only through mountain-top, ecstatic experiences? Or may one also drudge forth in the mundane of the daily with full-confidence of the Spirit’s presence? Levison’s honest piece, filled with top-notch exegetical work, answers a resounding “yes” to the question of the Spirit’s presence in our daily work. In fact, as Levison defines it, the spirit functions not only as the third person of the Trinity, but also as “the breath that animates and motivates all people” (17). For this reason, he keeps the title Holy Spirit in lower case throughout his work. Levison presents a convincing case for the spirit as “the breath within” every person, offering a Fresh perspective on how one understands the spirit’s role in a person’s life (36).

Does one feel a move of the Spirit only through mountain-top, ecstatic experiences?

The form of Levison’s work is loveably pragmatic. He sprinkles personal stories, study-guide tools, and practical advice on how one may experience the spirit in daily life. Levison’s warm stories draw the reader in and his gift to teach leaves the reader with plenty to consider. At the outset, he advises in a devotional tone, for the reader to “keep a Bible handy,” “take time to breathe,” and to “write” (18). Following, Levison investigates the full range of the spirit’s role in Scripture. He explores the role of the spirit in individuals such as the depth of Job’s agony “where grief stomps on our chest,” (25) in Daniel’s “dogged faithfulness” toward good discipline (59), and even “violently” in Jesus’ journey into the wilderness (173). Levison also explores how the spirit functions in communities, such as in the outpouring at Pentecost in the early church as well as in present day Christian communities. For the Pentecostal pastor, Levison provides a helpful reminder of the diversity of the spirit in individuals and communities. As he puts it, the spirit is present in the programmatic “Salsa and Chips Crowd” as well as the charismatic “Cane Ridge, Kentucky” crowd (198).

Levison’s hope for unity among churches, centered in our understanding of Jesus and our study of the Scriptures, should be heeded by all.

Occasionally rough around the edges, Levinson’s strategy appears at times corrective. This is apparent from the outset when he decides to render Spirit as spirit (which may cause eye-brow-raising for some). Levison’s view of the spirit (as life-breath) is also quite universal. As on the day of Pentecost, the spirit’s work is present in every person, indiscriminate of age, gender, socio-economic class, or even religious affiliation. Levison’s sensitivity arises from misappropriations of the spirit and he seems to have specific works and movements on his mind as he writes. In one example, he refers to the misleading of “popular books” which articulate the spirit’s power for one “to do with ease things that would otherwise be difficult or impossible” (88). In another place, Levison insists that the promise of the spirit is “not an excuse for failing to study, think, consider, plan, ponder, muse, read, and contemplate” (181). For this reason, Levison’s own academic posture (of which he is keenly aware!) appears to flavor how he views the spirit to function, namely in a more studious, programmatic sense. Thus, my lingering question for Levison is if he understands the spirit to also function positively in one’s ecstatic experience. Certainly, education and reason provide coherency to (at times) irrational experiences of the spirit. However, might also the spirit move in ways that surprise or even contradict one’s rational expectations?

Finally, Levison concludes with hope for the “uncommon unity” of the spirit (212). Regardless of background or experience, Levison believes that the spirit should bring us together and not tear us apart. Levison’s hope for unity among churches, centered in our understanding of Jesus and our study of the Scriptures, should be heeded by all. For if there is division in the household of God, it is unlikely to remain standing (cf. Mark 3:20-30). Overall, Levison’s work embodies the spirit’s own ability to inspire freshness. After reading, every Pentecostal pastor should experience a renewed excitement to return to the biblical text and to re-examine how the spirit works both in the individual and the community, in the mountain-top and the valley.

Reviewed by JP O’Connor


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Category: Spirit, Summer 2015

About the Author: J.P. O’Connor, Ph.D., is Associate Professor of New Testament at Northwest University (Kirkland, WA). His first book explores the nature of morality and ethics in the Gospel of Mark: The Moral Life according to Mark, LNTS 667 (T&T Clark/Bloomsbury, 2022). His next book length project will consider the nature and role of judgment in Mark. For more of his publications, see LinkedIn

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