Tag Archives | pneumatology

From Pentecost to the Triune God | Steven M. Studebaker

The cover of Studebaker's From Pentecost to the Triune GodIt should go without saying in 2017, but in case you haven’t heard, pentecostal scholarship has come of age. The days when pentecostals only focused on the Luke-Acts canon (as fruitful as it is) are over. From Pentecost to the Triune God is an exemplar of current pentecostal thought. In it, Steven M. Studebaker presents a full-orbed theology of the Trinity that gives the role of the Spirit its proper place.

Experience and the Spirit of Christ

From Pentecost to the Triune God falls into three sections. In section one (chapters 1 and 2), Studebaker argues for the importance of bringing experience to exegesis. “Since the ancient Israelites reflected on their formative religious experiences, so can contemporary Pentecostals (and all Christians)” (19). Next he turns his attention to the overarching role of the Spirit throughout the entire canon. A survey of scripture shows that the Spirit’s activity has three characteristics: liminal, constitutional, and eschatological. Theses three characteristics are exhibited in the three main narrative roles: creation-redemption, the life of Jesus, and Pentecost. This chapter is a must-read for pneumatology students of all stripes.

The array of three characteristics spread across three narrative roles leads to nine sections full of insight into the Spirit. I’ll share one of them in this review: the constitutional role of the Spirit in the life of Jesus. Theologians often describe the Trinity in terms of procession. The Son proceeds from the Father and the Spirit proceeds either from the Son or the Father and the Son. This understanding of the Trinity can lead to a Logos Christology which subordinates the Spirit. Studebaker points out that twice in scripture that the Spirit is named the “Spirit of Christ” (Romans 8:9, 1 Peter 1:11). The simple genitive construction can have two meanings:

  1. “Of” can mean source—the Spirit which proceeds from Christ. This underscores a Logos Christology.
  2. “Of” can mean origin—the Spirit which is the “source of the incarnation of Jesus Christ” (82). This opens the door for a Spirit Christology to be developed.

The same Spirit which hovered over the surface of the waters and played a constitutive role in creation hovered over Mary’s womb and played a constitutive role in the incarnation. It’s important to note that Studebaker does not develop his Spirit Christology in order to replace Logos theology, the doctrine of processions, or even the mutual love model. His Spirit Christology adds to the richness of our understanding of the Trinity, underscoring the Spirit’s personhood.

Trinitarian Theology Through the Ages

Trinitarian theology has a lengthy pedigree. In the second section (chapters 3-5), Studebaker delves into the history of Trinitarian theology and evaluates various traditions in light of the theology he developed in the second chapter.

Studebaker delves deep. He considers the roots of Eastern and Western Trinitarianism before moving to the Reformation, Evangelicalism, and Charismatic theologies. Using a variety of dialogue partners representative of the various positions, he considers the strengths and weaknesses of the various views before suggesting what his theological vision has contribute.

World Religions and Environmentalism

The final two chapters are a test drive of Studebaker’s freshly envisioned theology. In “The Spirit of Pentecost and Theology of Religions,” he offers a provocative view that will challenge the presuppositions of many pentecostals. Arguing exegetically that the Spirit was indeed poured out upon all flesh (not just believers), it follows that anyone who responds to the Spirit of Christ (regardless of their religion) will be saved.

The scope of the creative-redemptive work of the Spirit of Pentecost is universal. The Spirit is always seeking to initiate people into and to develop in them a fuller experience of the Spirit of Pentecost. (239)

It’s worth noting that Studebaker is not a Universalist. Although the outpouring of the Spirit is universal, human response to the Spirit of Pentecost is not. This understanding of the Spirit will enable Christians to re-envision mission not as a way carry Jesus to places he’s never been, but as a way to participate in the mission of the Spirit of Pentecost.

The final chapter considers creation care. If creation-redemption is one act of the Spirit, then the theological separation of common and special grace is a fiction. “The Spirit’s work does not have two orders—creation and redemption—but one, the redemption of creation” (261). It follows that creation care is a way of participating in the work of the Spirit who filled the liminal space between chaos and order, played a constitutive role in creation-redemption, and brought all things to eschatological fulfilment at Pentecost.

[F]ew Pentecostal and evangelical Christians consider creation care as an arena of the Spirit’s work and, much less, as a form of sanctification and path of discipleship. However, creation care, no less than the traditional disciplines of Christian formation, is a way that Christians can “keep in step with the Spirit” (Gal. 5:25). In other words, buying organic fair-trade coffee and turning the heat down may be just as much a way “to work out your salvation with fear and trembling” as praying, attending church, and fasting ( Phil. 2:12). (262)

From Pentecost to the Triune God is more than theology for Pentecostals—it’s a detailed and inspiring look at the life of the Trinue God from the perspective of its least-recognized person.

Studebaker, Steven M. From Pentecost to the Triune God: A Pentecostal Trinitarian Theology. Grand Rapids: Eerdmans, 2012.

Unifying Pentecostalism | Walter J. Hollenweger

Walter HollenwegerI believe that there is something unifying in the Pentecostal movement, but it is probably not on the level of doctrine. It is a way of doing theology: experience-related, open to oral forms, ecumenical (by virtue of its many worldwide forms), and expressing itself in categories of pneumatology.

—Hollenweger, Pentecostalism, 329.

Spirit Prophecy | Roger Stronstad

Roger StronstadThe phrase “filled with the Holy Spirit” in the Pentecost narrative, and throughout Luke-Acts, always describes a specific, though potentially repetitive, act of prophetic inspiration.

—Roger Stronstad. The Charismatic Theology of St. Luke: Trajectories from the Old Testament to Luke-Acts. Second Edition. Grand Rapids, MI: BakerAcademic, 1984, 2012, 61.

The Charismatic Theology of St. Luke | Roger Stronstad

The cover of Stronstad's The Charismatic Theology of St. LukeIt is easy to forget that what we call the Bible (singular) is actually a library of many books and letters from many Spirit-inspired authors each with their own story and message. In The Charismatic Theology of St. Luke, Stronstad takes Luke’s book, the historical narrative we know as Luke and Acts, on its own merits.

When you take Luke at his word instead of subjugating him to Paul, certain themes in Luke-Acts become crystal clear. You begin to hear the echoes of the LXX in Luke’s text. You are able to see Jesus as the Spirit-filled prophet who transfers his Spirit to his community. You are able to see the the empowering vocational purpose of Spirit-Baptism.

Pentecostals often speak of Luke-Acts as a “canon within the canon.” I find that sort of language unhelpful in that it depreciates the rest of the biblical witness. I do, however, applaud any effort to allow the Biblical witness to speak in its full diversity.

Stronstad, Roger. The Charismatic Theology of St. Luke: Trajectories from the Old Testament to Luke-Acts. Second Edition. Grand Rapids, MI: BakerAcademic, 1984, 2012.

Baptized in the Spirit | Frank D. Macchia

The cover of Macchia's Baptized in the SpiritBaptism in the Spirit is the central distinctive note of Pentecostalism. Unfortunately, that central point has been relegated to the realm of experience, with little serious work done on its theological implications.

For all of their talk about the importance of pneumatology, Pentecostals have yet to couch their narrow pneumatological interest in charismatic/missionary empowerment within a broader pneumatological framework. (19)

This is the task Macchia undertakes in Baptized in the Spirit. What are the soteriological, eschatological, Trinitarian, missional, and ecclesiological implications of Spirit Baptism? As Macchia connects the dots between these fields of theology it becomes apparent that Pentecostal’s distinctive doctrine has much to contribute to the ecumenical conversation.

Don’t let the cover of the book fool you. A translucent sheet blowing in the desert overlaid with “Spirit” in flowing script implies that the writing is aimed at a superficial level. It’s the sort of book I would pass over had it not been given to me by a trusted friend (thanks Pastor David Long)! This is an academic work that demands the attention of the reader.

The chief strength of Baptized in the Spirit is the way Macchia uses Spirit Baptism to make connections that were not clearly visible before. It is as if Spirit Baptism is a missing puzzle piece that pulls together and unifies the diversity of Christian theology. Given this Spirit’s first appearance as the wind of God blowing over the chaos of pre-creation, this shouldn’t come as a surprise! While reading, my mind bounced back and forth like a Plinko puck as connections between what I had formerly assumed were separate doctrines were bridged.

If you’re the sort of Pentecostal who values both experience and theology, this book is an inspiring exploration of Spirit Baptism across the wide expanse of systematic theology.

—Frank D. Macchia, Baptized in the Spirit: A Global Pentecostal Theology (Grand Rapids, MI: Zondervan, 2006).

Torrance’s Incarnation 2.2b: Outline of the Doctrine of the Person of Christ

The cover of Torrance's Incarnation

After exploring the background matters relating to the incarnation, Torrance pauses to offer an outline of his theology of the incarnation before launching into the details. (This section technically comes between chapters 2 and 3. I’ve listed it as “2.2b” in the title to reflect its positioning.)

1) The mystery of true God and man in one person

It’s difficult to grasp something so new that it lies at the outskirts of our human understanding. This is the mystery of divine and human nature in one person. The best way to approach this is doxologically: with worship and praise.

2) The mystery of Christ only capable of negative definition

The incarnation is a mystery. When we try to say positively what it is, we end up limiting our understanding. It’s better to define what the incarnation is not. There are four terms used to describe the incarnation negatively. In Christ, the divine and human natures are united:

  1. inconfuse (without confusion)
  2. indivise (without division)
  3. immutabiliter (without change)
  4. inseparabiliter (without separation)

3) The inseparability of anhypostasia and enhypostasia

Consider these theological terms:

  1. Anhypostasia (not person) means that the humanity of Jesus did not exist apart from the divine union. It’s not as if God invaded a preexisting human container with his divinity.
  2. Enhypostasia (in person) means that the human nature of Christ “is given existence in the existence of God” (84). This means that Jesus was fully human, with a real human mind, will, body, etc.

These two ideas are inseparable which helps us to understand the hypostatic union dynamically.

4) The hypostatic union to be understood dynamically and soteriologically

In order to understand Jesus’ nature (hypostatic union), you have to view it in terms of his atoning work. This prevents us from viewing the nature of Christ as a metaphysical puzzle.

5) Reconstruction of the classical doctrine of Christ: integration of Patristic and Reformation Christology, and of Christology with Pneumatology and the doctrine of the Trinity

The patristic theologians emphasized the being of God with a lack of concern for his acts, while the Reformed theologians emphasized the acts of God with a lack of concern for his nature. We need to rethink this to bring the sides together. This rethinking process will require that we reconsider our pneumatology. Anything “through the Son” must be “from the Father” but also “in the Spirit” (86).

Some Reflections

The place of the mystery of Christ in our understanding can only be stated and guarded in negative terms. … In this way we allow the mystery to declare itself to us, and to keep on declaring itself to us without hindering the depth and breadth of its self-disclosure by positive man-made definitions of what it actually is. (83)

My first reaction to defining the hypostatic union in negative terms (declaring what Jesus wasn’t) was frustration. I generally believe that it’s a lot more helpful to offer a positive suggestion than a warning. As I began to think this through with respect to Jesus, however, I found Torrance’s negative definition to be more freeing.

Jesus’ nature—the hypostatic union—is so grand and mysterious, any human definition will fall short. Negative definition allows Jesus to be who he is and to reveal himself to us.

Of course, our negative definitions could always infringe on his person as well—and I have a suspicion that, defined or not, positive ideas about the hypostatic union will inevitably fill the empty space in our minds.

← 2.2: The incarnation and the new Israel
3.1: The biblical witnesses to the virgin birth →

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