Tag Archives: CCH

CCH – ST – Pneumatology – Major Methodologies

So, what was initially supposed to be a week hiatus turned into roughly 3.  Without further delay, let’s resume by shifting gears to pneumatology, where Veli-Matti Kärkkäinen has provided a helpful typology to survey major “contemporary approaches” in pneumatology, each illustrated by a representative theologian:

  1. According to Kärkkäinen, Moltmann’s Spirit of Life represents the trend of blending traditional and novel approaches to pneumatology.  Moltmann brings pneumatology into conversation with pressing social concerns like “the environment, justice, and equality” while also seeking to deal with “traditional topics, such as the Trinity.”  While this approach may not seem especially provocative initially, what makes Moltmann’s approach interesting is the level of integration he seeks between current and traditional questions.  As Kärkkäinen writes, Moltmann “is in search of a ‘holistic’ pneumatology in which the doctrine of the Spirit encompasses areas that are often left behind in older pneumatologies, such as the human body and the earth.”  Thus Moltmann is not merely trying to apply traditional dogmatic inquiries and answers to pressing concerns, but rather seeks to cast a wider net of investigation throughout the process of theological construction.
  2. In Michael Welker’s book, God the Spirit, Welker makes two methodological moves in developing his pneumatology worthy of attention.  First, Welker attends to the biblical witness, and does so not in the interest of proof-texting, but rather “to discern the patterns and leading themes that emerge from the biblical discussion of pneumatology.”  Second, Welker does not try to systematize the diverse perspectives, but rather “allows the plurality its own witness.”  It is this second move that grants significance to the first, because while Welker has attempted to develop a “biblical theology of the Spirit,” it is one that departs from the normal meaning of that term.
  3. Finally we turn to the late Clark Pinnock, and his Flame of Love: A Theology of the Holy Spirit.  Simply stated, in this work Pinnock “endeavors to construct a full-scale systematic theology from a pneumatological perspective.”  Traditional theological loci are treated in light of “pneumatological foundations.”

While there are other important approaches to pneumatology today (which we will survey in the future), Kärkkäinen believes these to be the major ones; holistic, realistic, and foundational.  Obviously, typology can be a dangerous tool to theological work, being useful primarily as an object of deconstruction once the preparatory service it provides has been rendered.  So, how would you poke, pull, and blur the edges of Kärkkäinen’s typology?  Is there anything he is missing that borders on criminal?  In trying to explain contemporary approaches to pneumatology to a first year M.A. student, what, if anything, would you change or amend?

While interacting critically with Kärkkäinen’s typology is valuable what interests me more is how each approach illuminates a major concern in contemporary pneumatology.  That will be the subject of the next post.


Kärkkäinen, Veli-Matti.  Pneumatology: The Holy Spirit in Ecumenical, International, and Contextual Perspective.  Grand Rapids: Baker, 2002.


CCH – OT – Genesis – “Diversity and Continuity”

In this inaugural post (for more info on this series click here), I will attempt to outline and to hint at an answer to a fundamental concern in reading not only Genesis but the Pentateuch as a whole; dealing with the composite text left to us.

To properly understand the difficulties in reading the text of Genesis left to us, a brief historical examination is in order.  A primary reason behind the current struggle to interpret Genesis (and indeed much of scripture) stem from the watershed publication of Julius Wellhausen’s Prolegomena to the History of Israel in 1878.   As Marvin Pate has documented, it was this work among others in the “Religionsgeschichte approach” that “dealt the deathblow” to biblical theology in the 19th century (15).

According to Pate, Wellhausen’s Prolegomena made its splash by taking the (1) composite author theory of the Pentateuch and (2) Darwinism and combining them in a “popularized and integrated” way.  It is the composite author theory, or the “JEPD theory,” that is of lasting significance for studies of the Pentateuch, and our specific concern here (Ibid).

Basically, each letter of the JEPD theory stands for a specific “author” of the text, each of which had unique theological (and political) concerns that informed their memory/presentation of Israel’s history and it’s interaction with their God.  To note one popular example, in the Pentateuch God is called, among many names, both Yahweh and Elohim.  These different names are significant, because the actions and descriptions of God when named as Yahweh seem to present a fairly consistent picture of God, but one much different from the also relatively self-consistent Elohim.  This suggests that two different authors wrote these two depictions of God, one where Yahweh (the “J Source”) is portrayed with very human characteristics and one where the otherness and transcendence of God is emphasized (the “E Source”).  Each perspective was cut and pasted together over the centuries, leaving the composite text of the Pentateuch today.

The upshot of all this is that we are left with a diverse and composite text (even after the return of biblical theology as documented by Pate), “consisting of a patchwork quilt of traditions from various periods (Birch et al, 38).”  Despite the relative lack of attention given to the “documentary hypothesis” today, as Birch writes, “general agreement continues that Genesis 1-11 is a composite work (Ibid).”  The situation for the Pentateuch as a whole is no different.

At this juncture the problems of the Scripture’s authority and its ability to present a coherent understanding of God and humanity come into view.  Birch and company are right caution against a mere grab bag approach that would encourage the creation of an idol, but then how is unity maintained (29)?  A more complete answer to this question will come in a subsequent post that deals with the nature and tasks of systematic theology, but for now let me gesture at the concept of witness.  Briefly, this approach can be understood through Jesus’ rebuke in Jn 5:

You search the scriptures because you think in them you have eternal life; and it is they that testify on my behalf.  Yet you refuse to come to me to have life (39-40, NRSV).

By seeing the scripture as a witness, its unity is found in the One it points to, despite the diversity of ways it does so.

In sum, as we begin to examine Genesis, and much of the rest of scripture for that matter, we take from this initial inquiry into the composite nature of Genesis that one must have the courage to deal with the text as it, and often it turns out to be a great deal messier than probably all would prefer.  This however, is not an invitation to despair, but instead to look towards the “common focus on the character, activity, and will of Israel’s one God (Ibid, 30).”

*With that, off to bed for a couple hours rest before the weekend camping trip.  I will be checking the post on my mobile, so feel free to comment suggestions, pushbacks, questions, spelling/grammar checks, etc etc.  The CCH continues Monday, see you then!  


Birch, Bruce C., Walter Brueggemann, Terence E. Fretheim, and David L. Peterson.  A Theological Introduction to the Old Testament.  Nashville: Abingdon Press, 1999.

Harris, Stephen L. and Robert L. Platzner.  The Old Testament: An Introduction to the Hebrew Bible.  2nd ed.  New York: McGraw Hill, 2008.

Hartsfield II, Wallace.  Lecture Notes, “Hebrew Bible I.”  Fall 2008.

Pate, Marvin C., J. Scott Duvall, J. Daniel Hays, E. Randolph Richards, W. Dennis Tucker Jr., and Preben Vang.  The Story of Israel:  A Biblical Theology.  Downers Grove: InterVarsity Press, 2004.

CCH Update

Sadly, the CCH hasn’t gotten off the ground yet. BUT, I’m determined that neither circumstances nor laziness will kill this series. I think I’m ready to go now, so check back tomorrow evening for the first post in this series.

Summer Series: Compendium of Christian Thought

Hello Patient Readers!

As I mentioned recently, one of my primary tasks this summer is to prepare for my entrance exams.  After doing a bit of reading and lots of fiddling with how to best attack all that I need to review and learn this summer, I want to try something new here at ST.  Roughly seventy questions have been sent to me to aid in my preparation, all of which I should be able to answer to sufficiently demonstrate a “Master of Divinity or Master of Arts degree level” response.  I am going to attempt to use these question to create a “Compendium of Christian Thought.”

Obviously, attempting to create a Compendium of Christian Thought (hereafter CCH) often veils as much as clarifies, and this will be no different in this case.  First, due to the genre of theoblogging and the amount of material I have to work through, all my posts will aim for 800-1000 words in length*, which will help capture the salient features or sufficiently inventory the main themes under discussion in each post.  While this will make for helpful cheat sheets for me to look back on (for this fall and for hopefully longer than that), no doubt I will leave aside certain issues or reject certain positions others would deem vital and true.  To this I say: convince me!  You really might be right, and the discussion will be helpful for me.  My hope is that while the CCH will of course be primarily my creation, it will also be one shaped by others who visit here.  My one special guideline  in this vein is this: if you want to argue a point with me, please be able to make some mention of any specific sources you’re drawing  on, even if by memory.  This way I can briefly review those too, either way helping my preparation and keeping above reproach as it relates to integrity issues on my actual exams.  Sustained reflection without mention of sources won’t be responded to and likely will be deleted-this makes it less tempting to cheat, even if by accident :).

Second, certain editorial decisions are unavoidable.  In particular, certain fields and thinkers will be excluded since they are outside the focus of my exams.  In a similar vein, some questions encourage choosing a particular subtopic or particular thinker(s) to write on out of numerous options.  Here more than anywhere my distinctive interests and concerns will be evident.  Again, if you think there is a more fruitful way to approach the topic convince me, just have sources at hand.   Finally, some entries will amount to merely recounting commonly accepted information, while others will be more constructive in nature, depending on the question I’m responding to.

Well, this is probably more than enough by way of introduction.  The first post will hopefully be up by late tonight, and be sure to periodically check the CCH page to conveniently access all posts as the summer moves along.  I look forward to hearing from you this summer to work on creating a “Master’s in a nutshell!”

*Update 6/25/11: My first post has already made clear how off my initial word count would be.  I am going to try to write several (hopefully) smaller posts instead, and see how that goes.