Veli-Matti KARKAINNEN, The Spirit of the World. Emerging Pentecostal Theologies in Global Contexts. Grand Rapids, MI: Eerdmans, 2009. pp. 272. $20.00 pb. ISBN 978-0-8028-6281-5.
Reviewed by Maureen Beyer MOSER, 12 Woodlot Road, Eastchester, NY 10709

This volume is a collection of essays reflecting on Pentecostal theology and bringing it into conversation with a range of contemporary theological concerns. The Spirit in the World arose from an international symposium on Pentecostalism held in 2006. Contributors are from four different continents, and a range of Pentecostalisms is represented in the book. The collection will interest theologians from many areas; the authors speak of topics ranging from Spirit baptism and divine healing to liberation in Latin America and Asia, and from the roles of women in African Pentecostal churches to the Pentecostal dialogue with Buddhism.

The Spirit in the World begins with a preface by Jurgen Moltmann, who emphasizes the experiential nature of Pentecostalism and the possibilities it holds for the future of Christianity, particularly if it develops new models for interpreting the experiences of the Spirit.

Editor Veli-Matti Karkainnen’s introduction highlights the diversity of Pentecostal movements. As he says, unlike other Christian movements, Pentecostals do not base their affiliations on creeds, shared history, or ecclesiastical structures. Rather, Karkainnen thinks the common thread in Pentecostalism is a Christ-centered spirituality. In the first part of the book, on “Pentecostal Theology and Spiritual (em)Power(ment),” Frank Macchia writes as a systematic theologian about Spirit baptism, examining its importance in the history of Pentecostalism and reinterpreting scriptural accounts of the working of the Spirit among Christians. Margaret Poloma looks at divine healing as understood by many North American Pentecostals, Wonsuk Ma considers charismatics as the weak and the poor and pneumatology as their empowerment, and Douglas Petersen speaks of the “moral imagination” of Pentecostals at work among the poor of Latin America.

Part 2, which addresses Pentecostal theology and cultural diversity, contains essays on Pentecostalism in Africa (Ogbu Kalu and Dierdre Crumbley), Asia (Koo Dong Yun), and India (Paulson Pulikottil). There is a pervading sense in these essays that, as Koo Dong Yun says, refutes a “narrow, colonial, egotistical, Western definition of Pentecostalism” and attempts to reinterpret it from below—from the perspective of “minjung.” Approaching Pentecostalism from the perspective of the oppressed opens up important avenues. In addition, the heritage of many different cultures can provide new insights into the working of the Spirit. For example, the “charismatic worldview” of Africa has resonances with that of Paul, the New Testament, and Jewish literature of the same period (Kalu).

Part 3, on Pentecostal theology and religious plurality, begins with Veli-Matti Karkainnen’s own essay which outlines Pentecostal pneumatology. Karkainnen, Opoku Onyinah, Amos Yong, and Tony Richie then try to bring Pentecostalism into conversation with non-Christian religions, despite the inclination of many Pentecostals to avoid interreligious dialogue. All of them are hopeful that Pentecostal theology can move in new directions; as Yong says, “the charisms of the Spirit will ultimately enable communication to occur, not apart from but precisely in and through the diversity of languages, experiences, and commitments.”

The Spirit in the World provides a rich array of perspectives from Pentecostal theologians. Pentecostalism is uniquely situated to lend its voice to the development of pneumatology in contemporary Christian theology. The essays in this book also show the association of Pentecostalism with the weak and disempowered and its openness to the real, ongoing experience of the Spirit. This kind of theological reflection on Pentecostalism illustrates the serious work that theologians can do across the boundaries of cultures and academic disciplines when they allow the experience of the Spirit, rather than other affiliations, to be their primary criterion.

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