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Amos Yong: Beyond the Impasse

 

Amos Yong, Beyond the Impasse: Toward a Pneumatological Theology of Religions (Grand Rapids: Baker Academic, 2003), 192 pages, ISBN 9780801026126.

The goal of this thorough and erudite book by Amos Yong is explicit in the title, Beyond the Impasse, the impasse in question being the Christological question that throws up immediate blockades to inter-faith dialogue among the world’s varied religious traditions. Yong notes the reality that every attempt by Christians of any stripe over the years to engage in dialogue with representatives of other religions runs almost immediately headlong into the Christian conviction of the finality of Jesus Christ for revelation and salvation. The book is far too comprehensive and conceptually rich to visit every facet of the argument in a short review. Thus, I will briefly comment on a few elements of Yong’s method for approaching theology of religions.

Yong’s proposed solution for advancing “beyond the impasse” is taking a pneumatological approach to theology of religions, or, approaching the matter from the perspective of the Holy Spirit rather than the usual Christological center. As a Pentecostal evangelical, Yong knows that involving himself in theology of religions and inter-faith dialogue at all places him very small company within the evangelical world, and taking the particular approach advanced in this book ups the ante on the controversy front. He proceeds by reaffirming his evangelical and Pentecostal pedigree and allegiances (p. 32) in the introductory chapter. His thoroughly evangelical Christian perspective is buttressed by the explicitly Trinitarian approach taken in developing the pneumatological theology of religions (pp. 42-44). Herein lays, in my opinion, one of the great achievements of this book. The Trinitarian perspective is unflinchingly Christian while enabling us to approach theology of religions from the ancient metaphor of the Logos (Word) and Pneuma (Spirit) as the “two hands of the Father,” a concept derived from Irenaeus in the second century (p. 43). This concept understands all of reality as infused with both static or concrete (Word) and dynamic (Spirit) qualities. This understanding allows Yong to develop three axioms that allow for the universal presence of God through the Spirit, including presence in the world’s religions (pp. 44-46). Simply put, up to now the conversation has stalled over the particularity of Jesus Christ the Word, but this is insufficient from a Trinitarian perspective, because we then exclude the Spirit, the dynamic “hand” of the Father. To be thoroughly Trinitarian is to refuse to subordinate the Spirit to the Son, but to recognize that the two are coequal. This is, after all, orthodox Christian thinking. Therefore, dualisms between the particularity of Christ and the universality of the Spirit are overcome (p. 47), and the conversation can move forward.

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Category: Ministry, Spring 2004

About the Author: Matthew K. Thompson is a PhD student in systematic theology at Luther Seminary in St. Paul, MN. He holds a Master of Theological Studies (MTS) from Saint Paul School of Theology in Kansas City, MO.

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