One thing that I have purposefully about is reading works that are from an international point of view. Sadly, a lot of theology is written from the cultural perspective of Americans. While this is not bad, this does comes through the thought process. Therefore, I enjoy reading theology from other nations. In this case, Chinese.
In discussing Pneumatology, Pentecostals (I am one!) tend to have the corner on the market. However, this book is written mostly from people of reformed traditions. Historically, the theological discourse on the Holy Spirit has not been a strength in their tradition so seeing a serious attempt at development is refreshing.
It is also worth stating that I have no exposure to Peter L.H. Tie or Justin T.T. Tan. In fact, Amos Yong is the only contributor I have experience with their work. Simply put, I am going into this with eyes wide open and no prior understanding of what to expect.
On a personal level, I am a student of Pneumatology and it was a focus on study while in seminary. I tend to various works that I may or may not completely in in agreement with. I am thankful for any attempt to understand the subject, Pentecostal or reformed; American or Chinese.
Spirit of Illumination
Throughout the book is a purposeful focus on how the Holy Spirit is the “Spirit of Illumination.” The importance of the growing in truth and understanding through the work of the Spirit is valued as a basis of the Pneumatology.
It is of interest that there is a difference drawn between “Spirit Illumination” and “seminarian interpretation.” There is a demarkation of the spiritual and the academic understanding of text. It build on this using cultural, educational and personal experience. (p. 14) This was especially of importance for the canonity of scripture.
Rightful so, the heart of the book is for the Holy Spirit to speak to people in the context of growing in understanding of biblical knowledge. The is the foundation of hunger among the Chinese church and the depth of desire for truth increases from seeking Jesus to be unveiled from the scriptures.
The deeper into the book one goes, the more clear it become that this concept is central to the Pneumatology. The focus moves to how growing in truth develops into a community. The depth of hermeneutics is a driver to deeper Ecclesiology among the Chinese believers.
Peter Tie of the Christian Witness Theological Seminary creates an progression of Illumination from mere community into how we communicate with each other and unbelievers. He agrees with Craig Keener that the Spirit illuminates on an anthropological level. There is an integrate exchange present within application of biblical text through the Spirit of God.
There is a challenge between how the Chinese believer view hermeneutics and how American seminaries support the academic expression. We tend to focus completely of grammatical, historical, and literacy questions without making room for the Spirit. On the other side, it is supported that believers in China are more interested in the Spirit’s voice and the academic expression is secondary. (p. 24) This might help us understand some of the unsound teaching that have surfaced out of the underground church in China.
Esther Yue Ng of Christian Witness Theological Seminary has written a chapter of Montanism which she tries to ties the modern prophetic movement to a heretical movement in the early church. (p. 101) As a Pentecostal thinker and a support of the prophetic expression of the Church; this is concerning.
The teachings of Montanus and what became known as New Prophecy were troubling. There was prophetic utterances that were not discerned, tested and given accountability. When it was all said and done, John of Ephesus siezed the church buildings and burned the bones of Montanus, Maximilla and Priscilla. After this, many became Catholic mystics.
She presents the Pentecostal expression and more so, the Charismatic influence on the church in China is a redevelopment of Montanism. This seems to be informed by her personal theological values more than what is actually happening in Asia. It seems to flow from misunderstanding of how Pentecostals approach prophecy and hold false prophets accountable.
Unlike the handling of Maximilla’s false prophecies going unchecked, modern Pentecostal hold accountability for prophecy very serious. People who give messages that do not come to pass will be silenced and in some cases, disfellowshipped.
While there can be concerns, Esther Yue Ng is presenting an unfair point of view concerning Pentecostalism in China based on negative experience.
Spirit Wind: God is using the Chinese
The final chapter is Amos Yong given a review of how the Spirit is moving within and through the believers of Chinese origin all over the world. He gives examples of people that operate in the Vineyard, Charismatic, Foursquare and Elim families of ministries. He presents a case for the Spirit being poured out on all flesh in his passion for Global Theology.
As a son of a missionary from Malaysia to the Chinese in California, Yong has a view that many do not. He understand how to be Asian outside of Chinese culture. He also see the impact they are having without the lens of western cultural identifiers.
He presents that no matter what culture informs the mission, the Spirit is calling us to continuously discern the Spirit of God from other spirits, especially in Asia. (p. 206) The case is given that we must engage with the people of God and fellowship with the Spirit. If either was missing, we do not have a complete Pneumatology.
The tension of the activity of Holy Spirit that is not of this world but is in this world is something that theologians will struggle with until the coming of the Lord. We don’t understand the inworking of the trinity in reality. However, until He breaks the clouds, we embrace the questions.
In Spirit Wind, I learned of how a group of people in a nation on the other side of the world is desiring to see God do what we want to see him do here within their culture. To that, we must pray together, Come, Holy Spirit, Come.