Flame of Love: A book review

**Disclaimer: This is copied and pasted from a paper and as such sounds much more heady.** 

 As Pinnock sees it, “Western Christianity has confined the Spirit to the margins of the church and subordinated it to the mission of the Son.” [1]  However, the Spirit, “called the Paraclete in John’s gospel…is personal agent teacher and friend.”[2]  In his first chapter, “Spirit & Trinity,” Pinnock lays out what is seems to be the foundation for his pneumatology: the “social trinity” where “God is constituted by three subjects, each of whom is distinct from the others and is the subject of its own experiences in the unity of one divine life.”[3]  Moving on to discuss what this might look like, Pinnock writes about Spirit in Creation, which will be discussed more in a different post, as well as Spirit and Christology.  This is a most interesting chapter in that it highlights the obvious oversight on much of Western Christianity with respect to the interaction between Son and Spirit.  In the opening for this chapter, Pinnock states “The title ‘Christ’ itself signifies anointing—in this case by the Spirit.”[4]  While this is somewhat obvious, it seems to be something that is commonly overlooked by scholars and laity alike.  It seems as though the paradox of the Trinity is too much for our minds to handle and so despite the acceptance of God as Triune, we continue to split the Trinity to help communicate our ideas about the members of the Trinity.  But “Christology must not lack for pneumatology.”[5]

In his chapter ‘Spirit and Church,’ Pinnock opens with discussion of how to view the church saying, “Let us see it as a continuation of the Spirit-anointed event that was Jesus Christ.”[6]  Just as Christ was anointed by the Spirit, so the church was anointed by the Spirit at Pentecost and is “dependent on the power of the Spirit just as Jesus was.”[7]  And so are people as individuals.  While it is true that a salvation or conversion experience results in change in status from guilty to not guilty, the emphasis on this aspect of salvation has left a rift in the whole point of that change in status: namely, union with God that is now possible via the Spirit.[8]

After his chapter on ‘Spirit and Union,’ Pinnock goes into slightly murkier waters and takes the concept of union further by tackling the idea of Universality.  “The Spirit meets people not only in religious spheres but everywhere,”[9] he says.  Would a gracious and loving God send someone to hell that lived a God honoring life even if they didn’t know God’s name?  After all, Paul praises the Athenians for their worship of an unknown god and goes on to explain to them who this known God really is (cf. Acts 17:23).  Lastly Pinnock discusses the concept of ‘Spirit and Truth.’  He opens with the statement, “A theology that does not inquire after God’s will for the present may be orthodox but is not really listening to God.”[10]  While some may find this statement somewhat dangerous, Pinnock goes on to say that “doctrines are to be timely witnesses, not timeless abstractions.”[11]  This seems to be a healthy challenge for those who are engaged in theology, since “fidelity and creativity are both called for.”[12]

[1] Clark H. Pinnock, Flame of Love: A Theology of the Holy Spirit, (Downers Grove, IL: IVP Academic, 1996), 10.

[2] Ibid., 35.

[3] Ibid.

[4] Ibid., 79.

[5] Ibid.

[6] Ibid., 113.

[7] Ibid.

[8] Ibid., 149.

[9] Ibid., 187.

[10] Ibid., 215.

[11] Ibid.

[12] Ibid.


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