Pentecostal theologian Amos Yong undertook a vast project: how to speak theologically of the Holy Spirit, the elusive and mysterious force that Christians believe is the part of the Holy Trinity that animates the world today.
Often associated with the wind or the flame, the Holy Spirit does not lend itself to the rational categories established for discussing theology. “Historically, it is often associated with groups [such as Pentecostals] who have gained heretical labels, with groups troubling orthodoxy, ”Yong says.
In The Future of Evangelical Theology: Surveys of the Asian American Diaspora (IVP Academic, Sept.), Yong – professor of theology and mission at Fuller Theological Seminary in Pasadena, Calif. – continues his plan to bring a variety of voices, stories and cultures into a theological tradition that has been widely dominated by European and North American thinkers. With the center of Christianity moving to the global south and Pentecostals one of the fastest growing movements, Yong hopes to infuse diverse voices into not only religious but also theological conversations.
After all, when the Holy Spirit descended on the first disciples soon after Jesus’ crucifixion and resurrection, he spoke not with one voice but through a multiplicity of languages and cultures that have succeeded in coming together. understand, says Yong. Young and old, male and female, slaves and free are an integral part of the Christian worldview. Yong examines a complex situation: What does it mean, for example, to be an Asian American today, a term for a large group of cultures and ethnicities? This diversity “invites us to think beyond our own groups to allow different voices to register,” he says.
Yong himself is an energetic theologian who has written or edited over two dozen books covering topics ranging from disability and the church to the interaction of Christianity with Buddhism and science. Two more books by Yong came out this year: Renewing Christian Theology: A Systematic for Global Christianity (Baylor University Press, August) and The Cambridge Companion to Pentecostalism, which he edited with Cecil M. Robeck, Jr. (Cambridge University Press, July). Yong was also recently appointed director of the Center for Missiological Research at Fuller.
A thirst for the Holy Spirit runs through contemporary Christianity, says Yong. This desire is manifested today by an increased emphasis on spirituality both in the main Protestant denominations and in the Catholic Church. “There is a primary desire to engage the spiritual dimension,” Yong says. His work pursues answers to the questions, “How do we understand this theologically?” What does it mean to be a person of faith?