Tag Archives: Pneumatology

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.


Resource for Pneumatology Studies

The Holy Spirit is one of my primary interests, so I was happy to learn about Duquesne Universities’ Annual Holy Spirit Lecture & Colloquium.  Several lectures are available, by notable scholars like Geoffrey Wainwright, Kallistos Ware, & Elizabeth Johnson.  I’m not sure how I missed this until now, but definitely worth checking out.

Barth & Pneumatology

Quick question: what secondary literature should I be looking at concerning Barth’s pneumatology?

A Brief Commendation

Like most theobloggers my Spring semester has kicked into gear, and as usual I am quite excited about my classes.  I might lay those out at some point soon, but briefly tonight I wanted to commend to all who stop by Lois Malcolm’s Holy Spirit: Creative Power in Our Lives.  It was one of the books I was assigned to read for my independent study on Pneumatology this semester and since it was a short primer (90 pgs), I decided to get it kicked out right away.

I was assigned this book to study a Lutheran approach to the Holy Spirit.  It showcases how Lutherans read the biblical narrative as it concerns the Holy Spirit, and does so in easy to grasp language.  Major chunks of the narrative are engaged concisely, one of the chief virtues of the work.  While it goes without saying that for some there would be points of contention with Malcolm’s constructions, nonetheless it serves as a useful tool to begin to engage Pneumatology from biblical and Lutheran perspectives.

Vital Reading for the Filioque


After a mere cursory reading of Torrance and Moltmann, a few salient factors are already coming into focus.  One of those factors it the two authors very different opinions regarding the filioque.  To put it simply, Torrance believes it was a good addition, while Moltmann is very critical of it, and lays part of the blame for the minimalization of the Spirit at the feet of this addition.

I’ve come to the opinion that i need to comprehend more deeply what’s at stake theologically in this issue.  So, i would love to hear what anyone thinks would make for helpful reading on this topic.

End of Semester


The end of the semester is so close i can taste it.  i just finished writing my last paper for the semester, and all that i have now is a few routine assignments and exams and i’m officially 5/8 done with my M.A. 

In a really fortunate turn of events, i get to start working on my thesis way ahead of time (i’ll have over a year at least).  I just barely started, so this topic could and likely will be revised. 

For now here is my basic idea: bring the trinitarian theologies of Jurgen Moltmann and T.F. Torrance into conversation with each other in the hopes that i might be able to propose/construct a pneumatology that is characterized by the best that each thinker brings to the table in this area, while hopefully losing what i at least perceive to be their respective weaknesses. 

I’m excited to work on this project.  Oddly, i can’t wait for finals to be over so that i can really start digging in.

My Current Thinking on the Lord’s Supper


Over the last year or so, a lot of my beliefs have been shifting significantly.  To cite one example, growing up in a conservative church, i never knew that there was a view other than the one i held, which i later learned was called the memorial view.  My beliefs on this matter have already shifted somewhat, and are still a bit in process.  So, here are my current musings on the Lord’s Supper, which i originally discussed here:

I think that since nearly all conservative evangelicals typically (over?)emphasize the sermon, the Eucharist is an afterthought.  It seems that most people don’t even think about what is happening at the Lord’s Table.  To me this is tragic.

My two cents on why many evangelicals downplay the Lord’s Supper is that most have a severely underdeveloped pneumatology.   Although this is changing the Holy Spirit is still, to paraphrase the great theologian Karl Barth’s (and maybe Picard’s) words: “the last theological frontier.”

How this fleshes out in the Eucharist is that since we often fail to realize the presence of Christ in the Holy Spirit many relegate Jesus back to the 1st century and “remember” Him in the Lord’s Supper.  Jesus doesn’t need to merely be remembered.  Jesus wants to connect with us here and now when we take the sacrament.  I know that i’m caricaturing the memorial view a bit, but i think that many fall into this trap of merely “remembering” what Jesus did for them, as opposed to being lifted into the presence of Christ here and now in the sacrament.

All that said, i’m not sure what category i best fit into.  I don’t know if i need to have absolute clarity on this matter: a little mystery seems okay at this point.  I do know that i’ve moved past a mere “memorial” view.  I think this is healthy.  It seems to me that to think about the Lord’s Supper in pneumatological (and thus Trinitarian) terms forces us to do so.