Pentecostals face a theological problem. We are comfortable with a language of power. With our roots sunk deep into the Luke-Acts “canon within a canon” (93), we proudly proclaim, “you will receive power when the Holy Spirit has come upon you” (Acts 1:8 ESV). So far so good. The problem comes when we emphasize power at the expense of love. Did you know that the book of Acts does not even contain the word “love”?
Do Pentecostals have anything to say about a theology of love?
In Johannine literature we find two similarly constructed phrases:
- “God is love” (1 John 4:8, 16)
- “God is spirit” (John 4:24)
While John doesn’t go so far as to say that “The Spirit is love,” the relationship of the Spirit to love is important and worth exploring. This is what Yong accomplishes in Spirit of Love. Here’s his thesis:
Pentecostal understandings of the Spirit of God can shed new light on God as love and loving, and on what it means for creation as a whole and for human beings in particular to receive the love of God who gives graciously. (x)
Yong explores various fields of research to make his point. He looks at the science of altruism and the history of the Pentecostal movement before diving exegetically into the Lukan, Johannine, and Pauline writings.
The relationship between God’s love and the history of the Pentecostal movement is particularly enlightening. Yong describes the racial unity (and subsequent disunity) in the early days of the pentecostal outpouring as well as the movement’s explicit pacifism (and subsequent follow-your-conscience theory). I cannot think of two more critical love-based issues than racial integration and non-violence!
Yong makes every written page count—even the 44 pages of fine-print notes that followed the 164 pages of main text were interesting! A work like this has the potential not only to challenge one-sided Pentecostal theologies of power but also to remind us of our close connection to the Wesleyan tradition, which emphasizes love more explicitly.
—Amos Yong, Spirit of Love: A Trinitarian Theology of Grace (Waco, TX: Baylor University Press, 2012).