The Holy Spirit in Ecumenical, International, and Contextual Perspective

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"Kärkkäinen has authored an excellent survey of contemporary reflection on the theology of the Holy Spirit. His book provides a map of the discipline charted by a seasoned traveler and, as such, will be an asset to students embarking on the study of pneumatology."--Elizabeth Groppe, Theological Studies

One of the most exciting recent developments in theology has been an unprecedented interest in the person and work of the Holy Spirit. In fact, Veli-Matti Kärkkäinen describes this phenomenon as a "pneumatological renaissance." But such discussion should be informed, he contends, by two overarching principles. First, we must acknowledge the variety of approaches to the experience of the Holy Spirit ecumenically: "No church can claim a monopoly on the Spirit, and no tradition is specifically 'spirited.'" Second, talk about the Spirit must always be contextual and therefore culture-specific: "The Spirit of God . . . indwells believers and creation in specific and tangible ways."

Working from this perspective, the book introduces readers to pneumatology, the theology and spirituality of the Holy Spirit, in current international theology. As such, the work offers a biblical, historical, and theological assessment of the Third Person of the Trinity. However, unlike most textbooks on pneumatology, Kärkkäinen takes a fresh, innovative approach. Rather than focusing on any single topic, his aim is to chart the various territories of contemporary writings and reflections on pneumatology.

Consequently, the volume examines various theological and denominational understandings of the Spirit (all major Christian traditions are reviewed), assesses key contemporary theologians of the Spirit (e.g., Pannenberg, Moltmann, and Pinnock), and inquires into several contextual approaches (e.g., liberation, feminist, and green). These distinctives and the emphasis on the contemporary global scene make this a unique volume.

An up-to-date survey of the most noteworthy and theologically pregnant orientations to the Spirit in the worldwide ecumenical and intercultural scene, this work will guide readers in discerning the Holy Spirit's activity at the beginning of the third millennium. 


"Veli-Matti Kärkkäinen's Pneumatology is the most comprehensive yet succinct introductory text to the doctrine of the Holy Spirit on the market today. It covers a tremendous amount of ground and does not miss much of importance in reflection on the Holy Spirit in the last two generations. Readers will come away with their appetite whetted for more in-depth study on this topic. Even seasoned theologians would be well-advised to look at Kärkkäinen's text to ensure that they do not overlook important resources for reflection and engagement. Here is evangelical theologizing on pneumatology at its best: ecumenical, engaged, aware, and alert."--Amos Yong, assistant professor of theology, Bethel College

"Karkkainen brings to the study of pneumatology an unusual breadth, namely a deep knowledge of the classical Pentecostal tradition at the international level and an understanding of Lutheran systematics and Eastern Orthodoxy pneumatology, as well as a more than passing acquaintance with the Roman Catholic tradition. Few young scholars can boast as much. To his scholarly concerns he adds his experience as a missionary in the Far East. His review of theologians working in the field of pneumatology is especially helpful."--Kilian McDonnell, president, Institute for Ecumenical and Cultural Research

"Somewhat unexpectedly, the Holy Spirit has become a main topic of systematic theology at the end of the second millennium. We can indeed speak of a pneumatological renaissance, but it is difficult to understand the variety of new theologies inspired by this renaissance. Veli-Matti Kärkkäinen offers a balanced account of contemporary debates on the Holy Spirit. He outlines the extensive biblical, exegetical, and historical roots of Christian pneumatology and shows how these roots have influenced various churches' teachings. He discusses and clarifies the academic theories of Barth, Rahner, Pannenberg, and Moltmann, while also paying attention to feminist, liberationist, and ecological approaches to the study of the Holy Spirit. This instructive overview is always connected with a sincere ecumenical quest to preserve the unity of Christian doctrine."--Risto Saarinen, professor of systematic theology, University of Helsinki

"Veli-Matti Kärkkäinen's book provides an excellent introduction to the study of contemporary pneumatology. It offers the reader a number of entry points to the subject by looking at pneumatology from various perspectives. Kärkkäinen summarizes an impressive array of positions and viewpoints accurately and succinctly without losing sight of the main issues, themes, and theologians. Pentecostals and charismatics will find it particularly helpful, as Kärkkäinen keeps many of their distinctive concerns in view. I highly recommend it as an introductory text."--Simon Chan, Trinity Theological College

"Kärkkäinen's book will help scholars and students alike appreciate recent efforts at reflection on the Spirit in the light of their ecumenical and historical past. Kärkkäinen successfully takes readers through the maze of contemporary pneumatology. He is attentive to the complexity of thought involved in pneumatologies past and present but utilizes a lucid style that will make his work valuable for the classroom. This up-to-date treatment makes an important addition to the histories of pneumatology written in the past."--Frank D. Macchia, director of graduate studies in religion, Vanguard University of Southern California

The Author

  1. Veli-Matti Kärkkäinen

    Veli-Matti Kärkkäinen

    Veli-Matti Kärkkäinen (DrTheol, University of Helsinki) is professor of systematic theology at Fuller Theological Seminary in Pasadena, California, where he has taught for over fifteen years. He is also docent of ecumenics at the University of...

    Continue reading about Veli-Matti Kärkkäinen


"Stepchild of the Trinity, the Holy Spirit is frequently ignored in theology or indifferently understood, but this far-reaching study by Finnish theologian Kärkkäinen should go a long way toward curing that neglect. Per his subtitle, the author touches on various perspectives of the Holy Spirit, including Orthodox, Pentecostal, and Catholic, and grounds the book in a firm understanding of Christian Scripture passages relevant to the questions a Christian believer might have. For most collections, especially where interest in Christian theology is strong."--Library Journal

"This volume will be welcomed by both the specialist in trinitarian theology and pneumatology, and by those seeking a synthetic overview of the state of the discussion. . . . A welcome resource for teachers in the field."--Jeffrey Gros, New Theology Review

"A brief yet comprehensive introduction to the field of pneumatological thought."--Mike J. Knowles, Pneuma Review

"An outstanding primer for understanding the diversity of beliefs regarding the Spirit. . . . There is a breadth here that brings fresh energy to pneumatological understanding. . . . A very fine book."--Patrick Blackwell, Reformed Review

"Allows for a plurality of pneumatologies to emerge over the course of six chapters. Voices as disparate as African, feminist, Pentecostal, J. Zizoulas, and K. Rahner are heard. As a fresh survey of pneumatology, this book is largely successful. . . . The best and most thorough chapters of the work fall within the range of the author's expertise in the fields of ecumenics and systematics. . . . The book serves as a valuable contribution to the field and should be considered for any course in its subject matter."--Dale M. Coulter, Religious Studies Review

"A useful introduction to the wide-ranging discussion on the Holy Spirit in contemporary theology. . . . This is a very useful primer, a resource for further study and exploration."--John Bolt, Calvin Theological Journal

"Kärkkäinen has authored an excellent survey of contemporary reflection on the theology of the Holy Spirit. His book provides a map of the discipline charted by a seasoned traveler and, as such, will be an asset to students embarking on the study of pneumatology. Even advanced students and professionals in the field may find helpful references in these pages. The book is clear and succinct without being simplistic, a notable accomplishment for surveys of this sort."-Elizabeth Groppe, Theological Studies

"In a comprehensive yet succinct introductory text on pneumatology, Kärkkäinen describes the recent global and ecumenical interest in a theology of the Holy Spirit as a 'pneumatological renaissance.'. . . This slim volume will be of value for theologians and students keenly interested in pneumatology."--Mark Medley, Interpretation

"It is to the author's credit that he is able to flesh out the richness and variety that pneumatology has taken in the life of the church. . . . Kärkkäinen's emphasis on the future of the study of the Holy Spirit and his work is praiseworthy. He argues that such study should not arise from the academy but rather from fresh contextual approaches. This book is indeed a handy tool for a pedagogy of the Spirit, for it seeks to give an overview of this vital subject. It would be especially helpful as a textbook for graduate-level courses on the doctrine of Spirit."--Dennis Ngien, Eusebeia