Molly T. MARSHALL, Joining the Dance. A Theology of the Spirit. 2003. pp 161. $16.00 pb. ISBN 0-8170-1413-6.
Reviewed by Mary ELSBERND, Loyola University Chicago, Institute of Pastoral Studies, 820 N. Michigan Av. Chicago, IL 60611

Marshall's constructive and pastoral theology of the Spirit draws on perichoresis, a choreography "in which persons draw their identity from being in relationship to others"(7), as the foundational and guiding image. Located solidly in Cappadocian and contemporary Trinitarian thinking, her holistic pneumatology highlights the Spirit's transforming work in all of creation. Through relationships of mutuality and incarnational interplay, human persons and the created world join the dance of God's own life and love toward partnership. Perichoresis suggests dynamism, participation and the very reconstruction of our interactions and relationships with God, one another and all creation. Marshall's work resists the confinement of the Spirit to soteriological affirmations and ecclesiological institutions in the world. Instead she finds telltale signs of the Spirit's movement in created life, in gathering the folks together, Jesus the Christ, in baptism, table fellowship and worship, in ongoing spiritual formation, in discernment and liberation from oppression, and in the eschatological promises including risen life and creation's longing for wholeness. The active chapter titles underscore the dynamism of the Spirit at work.

Chapter one sketches the context of Marshall's work as well as sets forth six theological presuppositions for her pneumatology. Chapter two turns to the Spirit's activity in interfacing divine, human and created life; consequently the Spirit is connected with body and nature as well as with religion and spirituality. In chapter three Marshall examines the role of the Spirit throughout the Hebrew scriptures in forming a people, by inspiriting leaders, gathering a community, teaching in word and wisdom, and promising a messiah. Chapter four develops the relationship of the Spirit and Jesus who is presented both as God's unique initiative and as an instance of what awaits each believer. Chapters five through eight look at the ongoing, transforming work of the Spirit in the lives of individual persons and the gathered community during this in-between time. Marshall's examination of the Spirit's drawing the believing community into life of God through sacrament and ritual presents a refreshing and core dimension to the foundational activities of a church (5). The ongoing formation of believers into the likeness of God provides a solid introduction to personal spirituality (6). Marshall's treatment of discernment and liberation offers a path through the ambiguity of daily living (7). Her focus then shifts to the eschatological context of daily life for the believing community: here the Spirit prods and moves the community toward the end times vision in hope and in Spirit-directed activity (8). Chapter nine briefly articulates the central metaphor and points to further work.

Marshall's approach begins in her perspective that the Spirit is the lens for authentic and meaningful living since God's breath creates life. This viewpoint expects the Spirit's movement in all creation and religious traditions. Marshall draws freely and effectively on biblical interpretation, classic pneumatologies, systematic (Trinitarian) theologies, contemporary theologians, Jewish mysticism, her Baptist tradition, some physicists, poets, and literary artists.

An exhaustive bibliography, excellent summaries and transitions make this book an outstanding resource.

Marshall notes topics that need more attention, namely the Spirit's role in mission and the transformation required for political, economic, ecological and social justice. In particular I would have appreciated a more thorough elucidation of the Spirit's work in the social structures and patterns of contemporary life. Creation includes both the created world and those creations of human and hopefully divine hands. She also notes that she does not address the feminine dimension to the Spirit; rather her fresh approach subverts the dominant masculine image of God. As much as I delighted in the rich and varied sources that she brought together, I did at times wish for more development to trace the steps from one point to another.

This book would make a thought-provoking addition to a personal library, an excellent text for graduate course in pneumatology or methodology as well as good reading for educated adult discussion groups. I have read this book for a review and now in the days leading up to Pentecost, I am re-reading it to enter into the transforming dance that it offers.

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