Tag Archives | pneumatology

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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