Educational Ministries graduate Paul J. Pastor released his first book, “The Face of the Deep: Exploring the Mysterious Person of the Holy Spirit,” on February 1 (David C. Cook, 2016). It’s available for order wherever books are sold. Until you can get your hands on a copy, Pastor answers our questions about “Face of the Deep” and the unique vision behind it.
Can you give a brief synopsis of your book?
I’d love to. “The Face of the Deep” is a theology book about the Holy Spirit, but from an unusual angle.
The book embodies a theology of the Holy Spirit in its form as well as its content — in how I wrote, not just what I wrote. As a result, “The Face of the Deep” is structured symbolically, and written in tight creative non-fiction (prose poetry at times). My style has been very generously compared to Wendell Berry or Annie Dillard, a wonderful, unusual way to write about doctrine.
If I had to say the book is about one aspect of that theology, it would be the Holy Spirit’s immanence, which is the two-dollar word for the closeness God keeps with creation. But with that said, people shouldn’t get false expectations. The book is not an exhaustive work of pneumatology at all, nor is it an organized spiritual memoir. It’s really meant to be a prose icon — art that embodies theology and sharpens our ability to see and know God. There’s a lot of personal story in the book, a lot of history, theological meditation, biblical exegesis, even a fair bit of nature writing. But it all traces how the Spirit and his love is much closer and more meaningful than we think.
What compelled you to write “Face of the Deep”?
A personal question and a community mission.
In many ways, I wrote this book because I needed to read it. I felt a gnawing question about the Holy Spirit for many years — where is he? My family came to Christianity in a Charismatic tradition, but even still, it seemed that my experience of the Spirit, and the ways people talked about him in church were light years away from the stories and poetry I read about him in the Bible. I needed to see the Spirit in my life, my world, the way that I saw him in the Bible — close, and good, and strange, and very holy. I began to find him, often where I least expected him.
But that quest soon spilled over into a broader calling. I began talking about the Spirit with others who shared my questions or frustrations, and began to see that the calling to explore was for more than just myself. I wrote my graduate thesis on links between the stories of Babel and Pentecost, then began teaching a yearly class on the Holy Spirit here at Multnomah that taught doctrine in that “immanent” way, integrating icon, art, poetry, and story with classic systematic theology. Each time, the response was overwhelming: “Why don’t we talk about this in church?” “I see God even more richly now.” “Where can I go to learn more of this?”
Eventually, the vision for the book came to me all at once, in the time it took me to walk from the front step of our house inside. I saw it all—that it needed to include stories from my life, art, symbol, densely and beautifully written, structured as symbols within symbols.
You and graphic artist Martin French collaborated to create 14 modern icons of the Holy Spirit for your book. Can you tell us more about the images you two came up with? Why did you want to include original iconography?
Holy beauty leads us deeper into the knowledge of a holy God. There are times that an image can speak in ways that rational arguments cannot, and it was important for me to ground the book with powerful, compelling illustration. Wow, did Martin ever do that!
We worked together to create symbolic images (“Seven Stars” and “Seven Lampstands”) that integrated ancient symbols and a few modern ones, each visualizing a particular doctrine about the Holy Spirit, emphasizing the way that he works in and loves our world. The images form a path to think about the Holy Spirit in images, not just words.
How might reading “Face of the Deep” benefit the journey of a Christ-follower?
I think they’ll fall much more in love with God, in renewed imagination and wonder.
They’ll come out on the other side of this book with new language to talk about the Spirit’s holy work in their own life, a clearer understanding of how the Spirit works with the Father and Son, and most importantly, the invitation to live with the Spirit in a deeper, richer way than they might have imagined possible.
Also, I think that it’s beautiful book to read — and that never hurts the soul!
What are your hopes for this book?
Before anything else, my hope is that the Spirit himself is happy about it! From the beginning, I prayed that this book would be an offering to him, something lavish and lovely, purely from a sincere heart and adoration for the Trinity.
As well, I hope that it sparks conversation — that people, pastors, churches, even book clubs or small groups all can use it as the first step in discovering the Spirit’s work and closeness in their own lives.
And thirdly, I hope that other young theologians, writers, artists, and poets are inspired to pick up their pens and paintbrushes, notebooks and cameras, and begin considering how they can express the historic truths of our beautiful faith in fresh, exciting ways. Theology is rational, but so much more than a bare mental exercise. It needs to live, breathe, burn. This book is one small way that the truth of the Creator God is coming out in my life. I hope it inspires others to explore the mysterious life of God’s Holy Spirit in theirs.