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Renewing Christian Theology: Systematics for…

Renewing Christian Theology: Systematics for a Global Christianity

by Amos Yong

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The only word to describe this work is "impressive." Yong has provided a wonderful work of systematic theology that is truly astonishing in its breadth of reference, helpful in its clarification of difficult matters, and insightful in both the questions asked and solutions proposed.

Perhaps one of the BEST features of the text is the fact that each chapter follows a similar structure. (Believe me, having read other so-called systematic theologies, THAT is a huge help.) Also, Jonanthan Anderson's theological meditations on artistic works were FANTASTIC. If there's any piece of this text that I would adopt for my classroom, that would be it.

Which leads me to the difficulties this text presents, especially for uninitiated readers of theology. First, it is built entirely around the World Assemblies of God Statement of Faith. While this IS a remarkable and thorough theological summary and Yong does make thorough use of other theological traditions, it does strike me as a shade "parochial." Relatedly (and probably the real reason I find the use of the WAG SF off-putting), Yong elects to move through the enumerated articles in REVERSE ORDER. Even though he does offer a very convincing rationale for doing so in the first chapter of the text, I found it almost impossible to feel comfortable about "moving backward" through a foundational document.

The second major difficulty is that Yong is undertaking an "unabashedly evangelical" (his words) re-reading of the WAG SF. Uninitiated readers will not understand that this has been an undercurrent in Yong's work for some time (see especially his earlier "The Spirit Poured Out on All Flesh"). The issue is that seeing Pentecostal theology as a kind of "subset" of a larger "Evangelical" theology is a very particular-and debated-view of the Pentecostal theological enterprise. (For a different perspective on this question, I would encourage you to read the excellent "Passion for the Kingdom: A Pentecostal Spirituality" by Steven Jack Land.) The "fan boy"-ism for all things evangelical is palpable throughout the text; one prime example is Yong's extended interaction with the current evangelical debates related to theistic evolution/historical Adam debates. While they are in and of themselves intriguing and important discussions, very few Pentecostal scholars that I know would see them as "our" debates. Our approach to Scripture is so radically different than the fundamentalist/modernist rationalistic approach that such questions effectively do not register with the Pentecostal mindset; it may not be a "good" thing, but I think it most certainly is NOT a "bad" thing either.

Having given that critique, I must return to say what good work Yong has done. He is a formidable theologian whose output, just in terms of sheer volume (not to mention its top-notch scholarship), is staggering. I probably won't use this as a main text in any of my theology classes, but it will surely remain near at hand on my bookshelf; I undoubtedly will return to it often. ( )
  Jared_Runck | Aug 1, 2015 |
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