Saturday, January 21, 2012

Pneumatological Trends

One of the key trends in recent theologies of the Holy Spirit seems to be a movement away from confining our concern for the Spirit only to the spheres of personal salvation, understood as a purely “spiritual” matter, or mediation through institutionalized church hierarchies. There seems to be a greatly increased acknowledgement of the holistic nature of the human person and hence of the Holy Spirit’s work not only in personal spiritual matters for a person but also in physical, economic, ecological, and communal matters as well.

Thinkers such as Pannenberg, Moltmann, and ecological thinkers, for instance, rightly stress the Spirit’s role in creation and in sustaining and creating life, thus giving the Spirit a more biblical, more universal role than has often been done in Evangelical theologies where care for creation both by the church and by God have been shamefully set aside, probably partly due to an overreaction to perceived theologically and politically liberal excesses and the wish to avoid guilt by association.

There is also the important theme of the Spirit’s involvement in sustaining and empowering community and justice and liberation, such as can be found in various pieces in the writings of Zizioulas, Welker, African theologians, and ecological and feminist thinkers. Again, this is an important emphasis that was long neglected by Evangelicalism but which I think, with the mainstreaming of a lot of Evangelical concerns for justice and racial reconciliation, can quickly be reinfused into the Evangelical heritage – it only requires us to take those concerns just mentioned and relate them more directly to the Holy Spirit.

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