📖 eBook - ePub
The Holy Spirit in Ecumenical, International, and Contextual Perspective
📖 eBook - ePub
The Holy Spirit in Ecumenical, International, and Contextual Perspective
About This Book
An internationally respected scholar offers a biblical, historical, and theological assessment of the doctrine of the Holy Spirit, focusing on the ecumenical and contextual experiences of the Spirit. This comprehensive review of pneumatology in global perspective examines various theological and denominational understandings of the Spirit, assesses key contemporary theologians of the Spirit, and inquires into several contextual approaches. The new edition has been substantially updated throughout to account for major developments in theology over the past decade and includes added coverage of interfaith issues.
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TopicTheology & Religion
Introduction to Pneumatology as a Theological Discipline
A Pneumatological Renaissance
In recent years, one of the most exciting developments in theology has been an unprecedented interest in the Holy Spirit. A renaissance concerning the doctrine and spirituality of the Holy Spirit has stirred much interest and even enthusiasm from all theological corners. The reverberations can be felt everywhere from new theological studies in the academy to the publication of popular books to the emergence of new spiritual orientations and movements, such as “green” pneumatology and liberation pneumatology. The Catholic theologian Elizabeth Dreyer vividly describes this enthusiasm:
Renewed interest in the Holy Spirit is visible in at least three contexts: individual Christians who hunger for a deeper connection with God that is inclusive of all of life as well as the needs of the world; the church that seeks to renew itself through life-giving disciplines and a return to sources; and the formal inquiry of academic philosophy and theology. In effect, one can hear the petition, “Come Creator Spirit” on many lips these days.1
When studying the Holy Spirit, we need to remember that he is not out there just for the sake of academic study—as important as an adequate and respectful intellectual understanding of this topic may be. According to the scriptural testimonies, we ourselves are subjected to the deepest and most penetrating investigation of the Spirit of God: “The Spirit searches all things, even the deep things of God” (1 Cor. 2:10). At the same time, the Spirit feeds, nurtures, and cultivates our lives. Hence, as Dreyer goes on to say, “many Christians desire to encounter a Holy Spirit who brings new life to their spirits in the concrete circumstances of their lives and who renews the face of the earth as we enter the third millennium.”2 As God’s divine energy that permeates all life and everything in the cosmos, the Spirit is also the most intimate “contact point” between the Triune God and human beings. The Spirit manifests himself in various ways in the lives of Christians and churches, such as in the form of a rushing wind or the most subtle breeze.
While there may be several reasons for the resurgence of pneumatology in the cultural and religious environment in postmodern, pluralistic societies, three interrelated reasons in theology and spirituality seem to be of decisive importance. First, the entrance of the Eastern Orthodox churches into the official ecumenical organization, the World Council of Churches (WCC), has made the rich pneumatological and spiritual tradition of this ancient church family more easily available to other churches. The doctrine of the Spirit has always played a more prominent role in Eastern Orthodox theology, with roots in the classical works of Athanasius, Cyril of Alexandria, and the three Cappadocians (Basil the Great, his brother Gregory of Nyssa, and their friend Gregory of Nazianzus). The Eastern Church gives a balanced priority to pneumatology, whereas the Christian West (Roman Catholicism, Anglicanism, and Protestantism) focuses on Christology.3 The Eastern Church’s cultivated pneumatological sensitivity comes to the fore in doctrine, liturgy, and spirituality.
Second, the dramatic spread of Pentecostal and charismatic movements throughout the world has made other Christians wake up to the significance of the Holy Spirit in the everyday lives of all Christians. “The rise of the charismatic movement within virtually every mainstream church has ensured that the Holy Spirit figures prominently on the theological agenda. A new experience of the reality and power of the Spirit has had a major impact upon the theological discussion of the person and work of the Holy Spirit,” remarks the Anglican Alister McGrath.4
Third, there is the massive and dramatic shift of the Christian church from the Global North (Europe and North America) to the Global South (Africa, Asia, and Latin America). That has meant—particularly in Africa, soon to be the most “Christianized” continent—a new and fresh rediscovery of the charismatic element in church and personal Christian life.
These and related developments, including the rise of the doctrine of the Trinity to the center of theological attention and a fresh appreciation of spirituality in liturgy, have further contributed to the pneumatological renaissance. No wonder the world’s largest Christian family, the Roman Catholic Church, in preparation for the commencement of the third millennium, paid special attention to the spirituality of the Holy Spirit.5 In the Christian world at large, the issuing of publications, the celebration of special services, and the organizing of lectures and research programs related to pneumatology all witness to the continuing heightened import of the doctrine of the Spirit.
Significantly, the WCC, under the overall theme “Come Holy Spirit—Renew the Creation,” already in its 1991 World Assembly focused theological reflection on various aspects of the doctrine of the Holy Spirit in relation to the church, ecumenism, and creation. Two years later, the WCC-related Faith and Order meeting at Santiago de Compostela, Spain, offered a groundbreaking theological understanding between the Spirit and the koinonia (“communion”) of the church. Similarly, the following WCC General Assembly at Harare, Zimbabwe (1997), gave attention to pneumatological topics and founded a Joint Working Group between Pentecostal/charismatic Christians and the WCC. One of the purposes of this team is to assess the meaning of the pneumatological renaissance for the Christian church worldwide.
These “signs of the Spirit” and many others are reverberations from a renewed theological reflection on the Spirit that had already begun during previous generations of contemporary theology. The “church father of the twentieth century,” Karl Barth, wrote these often-quoted, programmatic words toward the end of his life as he reflected on the starting point of Christian theology: “Everything that one believes, reflects and says about God the Father and God the Son . . . would be demonstrated and clarified basically through God the Holy Spirit, the vinculum pacis between Father and Son. The work of God on behalf of creatures for, in, and with humanity would be made clear in a teleology which excludes all chance.”6 Not without reason, Barth considered pneumatology a major focus of the theology of the future.7 And the great Russian Orthodox thinker Nikolai Berdyaev, in his fierce opposition to materialism, argued for “The Reality of Spirit” and the search for “The New Spirituality [for] the Realization of Spirit.”8
The Experience of the Spirit
A distinctive feature of this new search for the Spirit and spiritual life is that rather than looking for generalizations and abstract definitions, as too often has been the case in the past, people are experiencing a hunger for a concrete, lived experience of the life-giving Spirit:
Many Christians desire to encounter a Holy Spirit who brings new life to their spirits in the concrete circumstances of their lives and who renews the face of the earth as we enter the third millennium. Not unlike earlier times of perceived crisis, Christians today attempt to reconnect with the wellsprings of the faith, hoping these roots will bring stability, order and meaning to a postmodern world that is often felt to be hopelessly fragmented. In particular, many seek to retrieve a three-personed God who is related to the human community and to the entire universe in love, challenge, and care—a personal God who identifies with human joys and sorrows.9
Consequently, the challenge given to theology in its reflection on the Holy Spirit is to retrieve concrete, particular aspects of the pneumatological tradition. The task of theology is to reflect on these experiences. In the words of Jürgen Moltmann, one of the most widely acclaimed pneumatologists of our day, “whatever we may say in general about ourselves and other people in the light of eternity, the Spirit of life is present only as the Spirit of this or that particular life.” Therefore, “the experience of the Holy Spirit is as specific as the living beings who experience the Spirit, and as varied as the living beings who experience the Spirit are varied.”10
Table of contents
Citation styles for PneumatologyHow to cite Pneumatology for your reference list or bibliography: select your referencing style from the list below and hit 'copy' to generate a citation. If your style isn't in the list, you can start a free trial to access over 20 additional styles from the Perlego eReader.
APA 6 Citation
Kärkkäinen, V.-M. (2018). Pneumatology ([edition unavailable]). Baker Publishing Group. Retrieved from https://www.perlego.com/book/1285265/pneumatology-the-holy-spirit-in-ecumenical-international-and-contextual-perspective-pdf (Original work published 2018)
Kärkkäinen, Veli-Matti. (2018) 2018. Pneumatology. [Edition unavailable]. Baker Publishing Group. https://www.perlego.com/book/1285265/pneumatology-the-holy-spirit-in-ecumenical-international-and-contextual-perspective-pdf.
Kärkkäinen, V.-M. (2018) Pneumatology. [edition unavailable]. Baker Publishing Group. Available at: https://www.perlego.com/book/1285265/pneumatology-the-holy-spirit-in-ecumenical-international-and-contextual-perspective-pdf (Accessed: 14 October 2022).
MLA 7 Citation
Kärkkäinen, Veli-Matti. Pneumatology. [edition unavailable]. Baker Publishing Group, 2018. Web. 14 Oct. 2022.