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:
- 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.
- 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.
- 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.