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Spirit of the Last Days: Pentecostal Eschatology in Conversation with Jurgen Moltmann.

Spirit of the Last Days: Pentecostal Eschatology in Conversation with Jurgen Moltmann, Peter Althouse, T & T Clark International, New York, 2003, 229 pages, US$27.95.

The Spirit and Spirituality: Essays in Honour of Russell P. Spittler, Wonsuk Ma, Robert Menzies, eds, T & T Clark International, New York, 2004, 323 pages, US$32.95.

These two volumes touch important themes in Pentecostal theology and the wider Christian dialogue. Althouse's church volume places the popular eschatological tradition, four contemporary Pentecostal scholars and Moltmann's theology in dialogue around the nature of future thinking for Christians in the modern world. The Spittler Festschrift brings together twenty significant voices from three generations and four continents, in order to chart the course of Pentecostal theological history as influenced by the pioneering thinker and ecumenist that Moltmann was.

Eschatology faces the modern Christian community with a variety of challenges. Millennialist interpretations of the end time, with threats of apocalyptic catastrophe and ominous political implications, especially in the Middle East, grip the popular imagination of certain sectors of the evangelical subculture. Liberation movements recognize a theology of the kingdom that impels Christian engagement and even radical transformative action in the world.

Althouse provides a very helpful set of analyses and interactions that bring together both of these tendencies. The book includes four chapters directed toward the revisioning of Pentecostal eschatology for a more engaged and liberating approach to the world. The first chapter lays out the early Pentecostal understanding of end time urgency. The Latter Rain movement was a celebration of the inbreaking of the joyous gifts of the Spirit in contrast to the more apocalyptic premillennial fundamentalist eschatology, which was caught up in images of the tribulation and the world-delivering rapture. However, association with the evangelical subculture brought many Pentecostals into line with this more fundamentalist, doomsday expectation.

The book then goes on in the second chapter to outline the eschatological theologies of four prominent Pentecostal thinkers: Stephen Land, with his emphasis on spirituality and a realized sense of the presence of the kingdom in his explication of orthopathy; Eldin Villafane, with his Hispanic-oriented kingdom social ethics; Miroslav Volf, a student of Moltmann, and someone who works out his eschatology through the significance of work and embrace; Frank Macchia, who reinterprets Pentecostal miracles, especially glossalalia, as signs of the kingdom. In all of these Althouse sees diverse contributions to his revisioning project.

Chapter three summarizes the political, cosmic and transformative dimensions of Moltmann's eschatology. The final and central chapter of the volume brings the four Pentecostal contributions to the eschatological discussion into dialogue with the categories of Moltmann's theology. This provides resources for a prophetic, politically engaged Pentecostal eschatology, both as a return to the authentic, prefundamentalist heritage, and as an opening to a liberating engagement with Christ's message for the modern world.

In many ways, Fuller Seminary's Russell Spittler takes up the ecumenical torch from the late David du Plessis, and brings it into Christian academia. Spittler was among the first generation of Pentecostal scholars to build on a classical education--for him, he did so at Harvard--to create for himself and his students a biblical and theological approach that was thoroughly Pentecostal. In doing so, he used all the tools of the modern Christian scholarly community, who were committed to the renewal of the church and the unity of Christians. He was among the founders of the Society for Pentecostal Studies, and his leadership ensured its ecclesial and intellectual inclusiveness from the beginning.

The essays in this volume take the theme of Spirit and Spirituality through three perspectives of Christian scholarship: biblical; historical; theological. The first part includes five essays on biblical themes: actualization in the psalms; Spirit in Luke--Acts from an Old Testament perspective; koinonia in the Johannine communities; Ephesians on personal spiritual development. While all of these essays focus on the theme, they are also often in dialogue with traditional Pentecostal interpretations, either from within the Pentecostal hermeneutical perspective or in dialogue with it from, for example, a Reformed point of view.

The theological perspective provides important references for the ecumenically-interested reader. The themes covered include worship in Pentecostal analysis, spiritual discernment, the ethical import of glossolalia, suffering from a Pentecostal perspective, the theology of the cross, and a reflection on Karl Barth's understanding of Spirit baptism. These essays demonstrate the maturity and comprehensiveness of Pentecostal engagement in theological, ethical and spiritual themes.

Finally, the historical perspectives provide insights important for the ecumenical movement as Pentecostal scholars, and occasionally their churches, become increasingly integrated into the pilgrimage toward unity. Essays touch on the role of female prophecy in Pentecostalism, and its waning under the influence of the evangelical subculture, Anabaptist roots of Pentecostalism, the growth of a magisterium in the Assemblies of God, and case studies of three important personalities in the Pentecostal heritage: Louis Dalliere; David du Plessis; Jashil Choi.

The volume also includes a bibliography of Spittler's publications, three appreciation essays, and indices of references and authors. This volume provides a rich Pentecostal sampler that cuts across a variety of themes, contexts and disciplines, and demonstrates the richness of Pentecostal thinking at this juncture of history. It is an appropriate testimony to a gentleman who is both a witness to the potential of Pentecostal scholarship and ecumenism, and an educator who has encouraged several generations in this pilgrimage in the Spirit.

Both of these volumes open up aspects of the Pentecostal tradition to the ecumenical reader, and challenge other churches and scholars to penetrate deeper into the riches and ecumenical potential of that tradition. We can be grateful to Althouse and the editors of the Spittler volume for orchestrating these dialogues for the rest of us.

Jeffrey Gros is the Associate Director of the United States Conference of Catholic Bishops Secretariat for Ecumenical and Interreligious Affairs.
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Title Annotation:The Spirit and Spirituality: Essays in Honour of Russell P. Spittler, Wonsuk Ma, Robert Menzies
Author:Gros, Jeffrey
Publication:International Review of Mission
Article Type:Book Review
Date:Apr 1, 2005
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