I greatly enjoyed Timothy Tennent’s book on Trinitarian missiology for its attempt to root thoroughly all of missiology in the Trinity. There is much that I could write about his approach (and certain aspects have me thinking of how to apply it to future doctoral studies), but I just want to comment briefly on one aspect that I found interesting and questionable at the same time.
In discussing the Holy Spirit’s role in mission, Tennent makes the following comments:
The Reformation’s emphasis on the authority of Scripture, ecclesiology, and Christology are clearly reflected in the post-Reformation attempt to systematize the theological deposit of the Reformers. However, as was the case during the patristic period, this meant that a full development of the doctrine of the Holy Spirit was delayed and several vital aspects of the person and work of the Holy Spirit were neglected in post-Reformation Protestant theology in the West. Over time, several major theological traditions developed that either denied completely or extremely limited the active role of the Holy Spirit in miracles, divine healing, demonic deliverance, prophecy, tongues speaking, and other elements that later would become central features of the Pentecostal doctrine of the Holy Spirit. This tendency is evident in many expressions of Reformed theology, as well as the later nineteenth-century dispensationalism, although the precise lines of their argumentation against the exercise of the gifts of the Holy Spirit today are quite different from one another.” (Kindle Locations 4719-4725)
Clearly Tennent seems to think that it’s not simply that the Reformers and their heirs did not focus enough on the doctrine of the Holy Spirit, but also that they were essentially wrong about the role of the Holy Spirit (and the rest of the chapter seems to indicate this as well).
I have heard from several places that the doctrine of the Holy Spirit was underdeveloped in the Reformation and the Reformed tradition (though I have never studied this out myself). As an example later in the chapter, Tennent notes that in Berkhof’s classic systematic theology (now free online), he deals with the Holy Spirit almost exclusively with regard to soteriology, and that in classic Reformed works the Holy Spirit does not usually even get his own section.
I do hope to do a little more reading on this area in particular (update to add: a helpful commenter pointed to some good resources specifically related to the WCF: The Beauty and Glory of the Holy Spirit, and the audio from the GPTS 2011 conference), but I must note two things:
(1) The Reformers, and even some of those that came after them, were not primarily concerned with the doctrine of the Holy Spirit because they were responding to so many other theological issues in light of their split from Rome. Thus it is possible that they didn’t always concentrate as much on the doctrine of the Holy Spirit as did certain other movements. But this only indicates the way theology generally develops: in response to specific circumstances.
(2) The weight of his criticism depends on whether or not the Reformed theological evaluations of the issues he mentions are correct or not (“miracles, divine healing, demonic deliverance, prophecy, tongues speaking, and other elements that later would become central features of the Pentecostal doctrine of the Holy Spirit”). That is, he essentially criticizes the Reformers for being cessationists. Thus he assumes that continuationism is the only way to appropriately convey the role that the Holy Spirit plays in the work of the church today.
It seems that we can simultaneously affirm that the Reformed tradition has not always emphasized the full work of the Holy Spirit as it should have while yet also teaching that Scripture indicates that the manner in which the Spirit works through the church since the Apostles does not entail the ways that Pentecostalism has described that work.
Along those lines, I recently listened to Burk Parsons’ talk at TGC 2013, entitled “Recapturing a Robust Doctrine of the Person and Work of the Holy Spirit.” I may post a summary and more thoughts later if time allows, but basically, while affirming cessationism, he urges toward a greater recognition of and dependence on the Holy Spirit in all of our theology and ministry.
And in case you’re wondering: there is no connection between the picture and the post. I’m just using pictures that I’ve taken through my world travels because I like them. That and I don’t have a time of time for Photoshop these days.Read More