Monday, May 14, 2007

More of what's new in pneumatology

In a recent article, "Poured out on all Flesh," Pentecostal scholar Amos Yong suggests that "Christian systematic theology itself can benefit from a pneumatological (as opposed to creational or christological) reframing, a ‘starting with the Spirit’, as it were." This move to "start with the Spirit" is not an idea that originated with him; he notes that it has been suggested in the works of Henry van Dusen (Spirit, Son and Father: Christian Faith in the Light of the Holy Spirit, New York: Charles Scribner’s Sons, 1958), J.V. Taylor (The Go-between God: The Holy Spirit and the Christian Mission, Philadelphia, PA: Fortress Press, 1973), Clark Pinnock (Flame of Love: A Theology of the Holy Spirit, Downers Grove: InterVarsity, 1996), and my dissertation advisor, Lyle Dabney (Starting with the Spirit: Task of Theology Today II, ed. Gordon Preece and Stephen Pickard, Adelaide, Australia: Australia Theological Forum, Inc., 2001).

A name that should be added to that list is Stephen Bevans, who in "God Inside Out: Notes Toward a Missionary Theology of the Holy Spirit," writes "I’ve come to see that it is indeed the Spirit that we know first, who precedes Jesus not only in our own lives but in the history of the world and in cultures which have not known him." [Props to Kelly Fryer for pointing me toward this article when I met her at the recent Southeast Michigan Synod Assembly where she was the keynote speaker].

Congratulations, Pastor Phetsamone Vannavong!

Two weeks ago, it was my honor to preach at the ordination and installation of Phetsamone Vannavong, who has been called to serve as pastor (alongside of Pastor Donna Brown--who is pictured to the right of Phetsamone and his wife, Inthaly in the photo) of St. Paul's Lutheran Church, Milwaukee, Wisconsin, where I served from 2000-2005.

Phetsamone came to St. Paul's in the fall of 2001 with the desire to reach out with the gospel to the Lao immigrant population in Milwaukee. In 2002, St. Paul's voted to establish a Lao Ministry as part of their neighborhood outreach. Phetsamone was hired as part-time minister to the Lao community in Milwaukee while preparing for ordination in the ELCA through the TEEM (Theological Education for Emerging Ministries) process. It was wonderful to be a part of the beginning of this ministry at St. Paul's which under Phetsamone's leadership is steadily growing. My prayers are with him, Inthaly, Donna, and the Lao- and English-speaking members of St. Paul's as they continue to respond in faith to Jesus' command to "Go and make disciples of all nations!"

Sunday, May 6, 2007

What's new in pneumatology

In the recent issue of Trinity's alumni magazine, Te Deum, I was the featured faculty member to offer some theological book recommendations. Two of my recommendations were in the area of pneumatology--an often neglected topic in Lutheran theology and one of my particular scholarly interests. One is the important work by Michael Welker, God as Spirit. The basic outline of Welker's book can be found in his earlier article in Theology Today, "The Holy Spirit." The other is the excellent resource Advents of the Spirit: An Introduction to the Current Study of Pneumatology, ed. by Bradford Hinze and Lyle Dabney. Dabney was my dissertation director at Marquette University. For an introduction to his concept of a "theology of the third article," check out these on-line articles and papers: "J├╝rgen Moltmann and John Wesley's Third Article Theology," "The Church as a Community of (Un)Common Grace: Toward a Postmodern Ecclesiology," and "The Possibility of God: The Spirit in God’s Creation and in God."

For a helpful review of what is new in pneumatology, check out "Current Trends in Pneumatology" by LeRon Shults, professor of theology at Adger University in Kristiansand, Norway. This is a draft of a paper he gave at the Nordic Conference in Systematic Theology in January 2007. Shults is a prolific Reformed theologian whom I met at the Future of Lutheran Theology Conference in Aarhus, Denmark back in January 2003. I also recommend checking out his blog where you can read what he is working on (and much, much, more!). For a survey of feminist pneumatologies, check out "Feminist Voices on the Spirit of God" by Helen Bergin.