Roger STRONSTAD. The Charismatic Theology of St. Luke: Trajectories from the Old Testament to Luke-Acts, 2nd Edition. Grand Rapids, MI: Baker Academic, 2012. pp. 123. $16.99. ISBN: 9780801048586. Reviewed by Eric W. HENDRY, Plano, TX 75026.
Stronstad’s second edition of his groundbreaking charismatic study of Luke-Acts remains a rich, practical and convincing contribution to contemporary biblical studies. His expository skills and theological interpretations have carried persuasive credibility within the wider academic and ministerial communities; ten successive printings of his original text (1984), and this recently updated edition from Baker Academic will extend his pentecostal-charismatic biblical scholarship to an entirely new generation of students and clergy.
Stronstad remains true to his original premises – that Luke-Acts is a two-volume work by the same author; that both volumes share the genre of historical narrative; and that Luke wrote with significant theological independence, presenting a unique pneumatology that is very distinct from the more historically-dominant Pauline and Johannine views on the Holy Spirit. In arguing for the literary unity of Luke-Acts, he makes a compelling case for the contemporary reader to recognize the theological homogeneity of both volumes; as such, Luke-Acts may present several pneumatological foundations that convey normative implications for charismatic activities by contemporary followers of Jesus.
Stronstad is particularly convincing in describing how the Septuagint and Jewish Hellenistic historiography had furnished Luke with a practical model for writing his two-volume work; the Septuagint’s use of charismatic motifs provided Luke with the specific terminology to describe the charismatic activities of the Holy Spirit in the lives of Jesus and his disciples. In discussing this, Stronstad notes Luke’s particular reliance upon twenty-three Greek phrases describing the various charismatic activities of the Spirit of God, as demonstrated in the lives of Abraham, Moses, the seventy elders, various kings, and especially the prophets.
The most prominent charismatic activities are found in the transfer, sign and vocational motifs associated with the Spirit being given to new leaders; for Stronstad, the charismatic activities in the lives of these new leaders were seen to both authenticate and empower them for their new roles and responsibilities within the historic communities of the Jewish covenant. Just as Moses (prophet) imparts the Spirit of God among the seventy elders (community), Jesus too (prophet) imparts the Holy Spirit to his disciples (community) at Pentecost. For Stronstad, this transfer motif explains how Jesus’ disciples became a body of Spirit-baptized, Spirit-empowered, and Spirit-filled prophets, who were heirs and successors to the earthly charismatic ministry seen in Jesus. They, in turn, spread this prophetic and charismatic activity across the Roman Empire, establishing new communities of charismatic disciples.
Stronstad does not shy away from controversial statements. For instance, he does not think that Luke’s characteristic phrase “filled with the Holy Spirit” implicitly refers to Christian initiation (soteriology), but argues that this phrase is the terminology of empowerment and commissioning for charismatic activity and mission (vocation). As Stronstad’s interpretation of Luke’s Pentecost narrative continues to find increasing acceptance within the wider theological community, it may reinforce elements of Holiness and Pentecostal approaches to a theology of “second blessings.” Moreover, in directly affirming that Jesus was charismatic, that the disciples were a charismatic community, and that contemporary churches must also be charismatic, Stronstad contests that it is imperative for all traditions to reassess both their experience and doctrine in light of Luke’s charismatic pneumatology.
This text could be useful supplemental material for biblical courses in Luke-Acts, in addition to Systematics courses dealing with pentecostal-charismatic theologies, contemporary approaches to pneumatology, or ecumenical understandings of ecclesiology. It might also be of value in pastoral courses dealing with vocation and gifting for ministry.