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Amos Yong, The Spirit of Creation

The Spirit of CreationAmos Yong, The Spirit of Creation: Modern Science and Divine Action in the Pentecostal-Charismatic Imagination, Pentecostal Manifestos 4 (Grand Rapids: Eerdmans, 2011), 256 pages, ISBN 9780802866127.

As one of the most prolific Pentecostal theologians, Amos Yong is no stranger to the science and religion dialogue, although this volume is his first independent monograph dedicated to Pentecostal contributions to the debate. Yong’s previous writings on the topic are distributed across a variety of academic essays and articles and not always readily accessible. The Spirit of Creation assembles a collection of these texts into a deftly argued Pentecostal manifesto that calls Pentecostals out of the dark ages of the pre-modern world. For Yong, Pentecostals have a significant place in the scientific discussions due to their emphasis on the dynamic presence and activity of the Holy Spirit.

Yong’s primary rationale for insisting on the Pentecostal engagement of the sciences (and vice versa) emerges from a reading of the forces of modernization that have enabled the prospering of both the sciences and Pentecostalism. For Yong, it is a mistake to equate Pentecostalism with a pre-modern movement or anti-modern tendencies. Instead, Pentecostals are also impacted by the advance of the scientific worldview and both worlds do not have to be seen in contrast to one another: science and Pentecostalism are different linguistic and cultural outlooks on the natural world that both declare the fullness of God’s truth. For Yong, a withdrawal of Pentecostals from the conversation would damage their credibility not only from the scientific perspective but from the entire viewpoint of the late modern world. In contrast, Yong suggests that the Pentecostal perspective offers a unique contribution to the dialogue of science and theology.

Amos Yong

Amos Yong

The book consists of six chapters. Yong begins with a discussion of the Pentecostal encounter with the sciences and the possibility of a Pentecostal contribution. The second chapter approaches the kind of Pentecostal sensibilities Yong has for some time termed the pneumatological imagination: the start with and the engagement of the world from the perspective of the Holy Spirit. This perspective represents for Yong a methodological advantage to engage theology and science. The third chapter proposes a Pentecostal perspective on the Divine Action Project organized by the Center for Theology and the Natural Sciences at Berkeley, California, and the Vatican Observatory. Yong’s particular proposal suggests that the Pentecostal emphasis on both the Spirit (i.e., pneumatology) and the existence in the last days (i.e., eschatology) can lead to a pneumatological and teleological framework for the explanation of divine action. This framework is developed in chapter four into a model for understanding miracles in a world governed by the laws of nature. Yong’s goal is to speak of divine action in a manner that takes seriously the miraculous without violating the laws of nature. He concludes that the pneumato-eschatological framework necessitates a rethinking of the laws of nature in non-necessitarian terms. Yong’s methodological and theological proposal is examined in chapter 5 as a case study on the cosmic “history” of the world. He adopts and modifies the theory of emergence to include the Spirit of God and re-narrates the standard evolutionary account of the world into a teleological narrative. It is due to the central figure of the Spirit that this cosmogony can be told from both a scientific and theological perspective. The final chapter takes this potential dialogue into a programmatic direction and proposes a pneumatological cosmology that speaks of all creation as filled with the Spirit.

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Category: Spirit, Summer 2012

About the Author: Wolfgang Vondey, Ph.D. (Marquette University) and M.Div. (Church of God Theological Seminary), is Professor of Christian Theology and Pentecostal Studies at the University of Birmingham, UK. He is an ordained minister with the Church of God (Cleveland, TN). His research focuses on ecclesiology, pneumatology, theological method, and the intersection of theology and science.

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