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Veli-Matti Karkkainen’s An Introduction to Ecclesiology, reviewed by Amos Yong

In brief, Pneuma Review readers will be surprised (shocked?) at the recurrence of pneumatic and charismatic motifs across the ecclesiological spectrum. Eastern Orthodoxy, we will learn, is not only ‘spirit-sensitive, but also understands the Church to be constituted by the Spirit. Post-Vatican II Catholic ecclesiology has emphasized the importance of the charisms in the life of the Church (thus opening the door to the Charismatic Renewal in the Church, for sure). Lutheran ecclesiology understands the Spirit to make alive both the Word and the sacraments. Obviously, Pentecostal/charismatic ecclesiologies emphasize the Church as a charismatic fellowship.

Turning to contemporary ecclesiologists, we see similar connections. Zizioulas emphasizes christology and pneumatology as the dual foundations of the Church. King writes about the Church as the creation of the Spirit. Pannenberg’s is a thoroughly pneumatological ecclesiology-an understanding of the Church permeated by the person and work of the Spirit. Moltmann wrote a very influential book titled The Church in the Power of the Spirit (ET: SCM Press, 1977). Volf focuses on the charismatic and trinitarian structure of the Church. McClendon’s baptist vision is very similar to those of Pentecostals, emphasizing the this is that correlation between the present experience of the Spirit and the experiences of the earliest Christians as recorded in the book of Acts (for more, see Yong, The Baptist Vision of James William McClendon, Jr.: A Wesleyan-Pentecostal Response, Wesleyan Theological Journal 37:2 [2002]: 32-57). And, of course, how can one have a missionary ecclesiology such as Newbigin’s without a robust pneumatology? Thus Newbigin’s portrayal of the Church as a community of the Holy Spirit. Pneumatic and charismatic themes are evident also in the contextual ecclesiologies, not only in the African ‘spirit-churches, but also in the Shepherding Movement’s renewal ecclesiology.

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Category: In Depth, Winter 2004

About the Author: Amos Yong is Professor of Theology & Mission and director of the Center for Missiological Research at Fuller Theological Seminary, Pasadena. His graduate education includes degrees in theology, history, and religious studies from Western Evangelical Seminary and Portland State University, Portland, Oregon, and Boston University, Boston, Massachusetts, and an undergraduate degree from Bethany University of the Assemblies of God. He is the author of numerous papers and over 30 books. Facebook

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