Christian Century asked eight diverse theologians for their list of the most important theology books of the past 25 years. It was an interesting list. There were a ton of books on it that I had not read. So I added a bunch to my Amazon Wish List and a friend bought me several of them as a gift.
My first book from this list was Flame of Love. I have read Pinnock’s book on preaching in seminary but I have not read any of his theology books before. Based on this, I will likely be reading more.
I think that the Holy Spirit is quite neglected, both in my own theology and in general among most Christians. Some Christians seem to have replaced the Holy Spirit with the Holy Scripture as the third member of the trinity. The book started out with one of the best theologies of the Trinity that I have ever read.
There is also several different sections that read like a proto-NT Wright. Flame of Love was written in 1996, years before Surprised by Hope. While Surprised by Hope was really about Heaven and the Resurrection, the sections in Flame of Love that are similar are about salvation and the role of the Holy Spirit in Salvation, the role of the Holy Spirit in the church and the role of the Holy Spirit in the individual Christians union with God.
I was very interested in Pinnock’s response to Penal substitution theory of salvation. He does not at all reject Penal Substitution, but instead suggests that there are at least two other images of salvation in scripture that are usually ignored by Protestants, Union with God and Representative Journey. Pinnock suggests that one of the weaknesses of only using Penal Substitution, which is what was emphasized in the reformation, is that we tend to look at salvation as an event, not a process. Both Union with God and Representative Journey are about the process more than the event. I think that salvation is both a process and an event, so having a theology of salvation that includes all three as partial descriptors helps to balance our view of salvation.
There is also a very good section that is similar to Wright’s (but better) about the Spirit’s ongoing role in the creation and maintenance of the universe.
The most controversial chapter will probably be the one on Spirit and Union. This is about how the Spirit draws us into relationship with God. The section on baptism will probably have something that irritates everyone, but makes some interesting points about baptism and the Spirit. This is also by far the most Arminian chapter. Reformed readers may want to skip it if they do not like being challenged. Other than this chapter, I think most Reformed readers will enjoy this book.
This will definitely be a book that I Read Again. But I will probably get it for kindle.
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