An Introduction to Ecclesiology: Ecumenical, Historical & Global Perspectives. Veli-Matti Kärkkäinen. InterVarsity Press (Downers Grove, Ill., 2002), 238 pages, ISBN 9780830826889.
Veli-Matti Kärkkäinen is a Finnish Pentecostal who teaches systematic theology both in Europe and at Fuller Theological Seminary. He brings to his writing his vast ecumenical and extensive missionary experiences of worldwide Christianity. And arguably, Kärkkäinen is the most prolific Pentecostal theologian in the world today. Building on his dissertation research on the Pentecostal-Roman Catholic dialogues-two volumes: Spiritus Ubi Vult Spirat: Pneumatology in the Roman Catholic-Pentecostal Dialogue (1972-1989) (Luther-Agricola Society, 1998), and Ad ultimum terrae: Evangelization, Proselytism and Common Witness in the Roman Catholic-Pentecostal Dialogue (1990-1997) (Peter Lang, 1999)-Kärkkäinen has since produced a number of introductory texts on key theological topics in an amazingly short period of time. In the last year, two books have appeared: Pneumatology: The Holy Spirit in Ecumenical, International and Contextual Perspective and Christology: A Global Introduction (both from Baker Academic). Within the next year, a volume on the doctrine of God in global perspective will be available (also Baker Academic), as well as two other books on religious pluralism (InterVarsity Press) and the doctrine of the Trinity in relationship to theology of religions (Ashgate).
This background provides a window into the format and objectives of the volume under review. The material presented in this and much of Kärkkäinen’s other books have been shaped by his teaching, and the survey character of these texts make them eminently suitable for classroom use. And, of course, what is most valuable about Kärkkäinen’s introductory surveys is their global awareness, a feature practically absent from most evangelical treatments of these same topics. I gather that this global sensitivity has been nurtured in part because of Kärkkäinen’s background, but also in (perhaps larger) part because the Pentecostalism which nurtures his faith, spirituality and piety is now truly a worldwide movement. Thinking theologically as a Pentecostal today requires just this kind of global vision in order that justice can even begin to be done to the topics under consideration.