Trinity After Pentecost, Written By William P. Atkinson

Trinity After Pentecost, Written By William P. Atkinson

Click to join the conversation with over 500,000 Pentecostal believers and scholars

Click to get our FREE MOBILE APP and stay connected


book reviews 151 William P. Atkinson Trinity after Pentecost (Eugene, or: Pickwick Publications, 2013). viii + 185 pp. $22.00 paper. This book is a Pentecostal systematic theology of the Trinity. It is Pentecostal because Atkinson takes Pentecostal experience as a source of theology. Starting with the Pentecostal experience of the Holy Spirit rests on a foundational pneumatology—the Holy Spirit is the source of Pentecostal experience. Pentecostal experience has two dimensions: personal experience of the Holy Spirit and the historic outpouring of the Spirit on the Day of Pentecost. The experiences of the Spirit in the early Christian communities and their record in the New Testament are included in the latter. It is systematic because Atkinson consistently moves from the economic Trinity to the immanent Trinity by way of “imaginative analogy” (14). This method shows the influence of Karl Rahner’s maxim of the reciprocity between the economic and immanent Trinity. Drawing on Amos Yong’s Spirit-Word- Community, Atkinson’s method of imaginative analogy moves from Pentecostal experience to constructive theology; the foundation of this move is pneumato- logical. Pentecostal experience arises from the Holy Spirit. Pentecostal trinitar- ian theology can “trace back” from this experience of the Spirit to the nature of the triune God (39). Pentecostal trinitarian theology, therefore, starts with the Spirit. The Spirit, moreover, enables the process of theological reflection and discernment. Theology, grounded in the experience of the Spirit of Pente- cost, however, is not free floating. Christology, the primary revelation of God, remains the chief criterion for theological reflection. And it is theological because Atkinson affirms that the Pentecostal move- ment is a source of theology and can contribute to other theological traditions. Scholars like Veli-Matti Kärkkäinen and Keith Warrington highlight the impor- tance of charismatic experience to the Pentecostal movement. That vein of scholarship, however, can reduce theology to epiphenomena of Pentecostal- ism. Atkinson rejects that tendency. He agrees that charismatic experience is central to Pentecostalism but argues that experience carries theological freight. Atkinson creatively explores its significance in respect to the Trinity. The chapter organization reflects Atkinson’s theological method. After an introductory chapter that details methodology, chapter two starts with the Spirit, chapters three and four treat the Son and the Father, and the final chapter engages vital issues in trinitarian theology—e.g., divine unity and plurality. This chapter progression reflects the economy of grace. The Holy Spirit is the first contact of grace who meditates the risen Christ and brings the believer into relationship with the Father. © koninklijke brill nv, leiden, 2015 | doi: 10.1163/15700747-03701015 ========1========152 book reviews Key to this trinitarian theology is the reciprocating kenosis and exaltation between the divine persons. The Son’s kenosis occurs in the Incarnation, during which the Son relies on the Holy Spirit for his life, resurrection, and ascension. The Spirit’s kenosis occurs at Pentecost. Upholding the Son throughout his incarnate life, the Spirit now becomes the Spirit of Christ, the Spirit sent by Christ to glorify and mediate the exalted Christ. The Father undergoes kenosis too by sharing divine authority with the Son in the ascension-exaltation of the Son and by giving the Son purview over the dispensation of his Spirit. Yet, the gift of the Spirit of Christ ultimately glorifies the Father by bringing believers into fellowship with him. Their economic kenosis reveals the eternal self-giving love of the Trinity. Two points need clarification. First, Atkinson describes a transition in the life of the Son “from non-being to being” and “from non-being to eternal being” (67, 71). He attributes this change to the Spirit. This phrase occurs in the context of describing the Spirit’s exaltation of the Son, e.g., from death to life in the resurrection and from earth to heaven in the ascension. The phrase is the result of seeing the Spirit’s role in the life of Christ as revelatory of the eternal relations between the Spirit and the Son. In that respect, Atkinson is on the mark. But the phrase, if taken literally, means the Son is not eternal. The Son goes from non-being to being. Atkinson affirms the eternity of the Son (130), so clarifying this transition in the life of the Son would be helpful. Second, in respect to the trinitarian relations, Atkinson suggests that, “the Son’s eternal existence and relation to God as Father is achieved by the Spirit: in all, eternity, the Spirit is the means by which the Father holds the Son in existence” (73). Though based on the relations and roles between the Spirit and the Son in the Bible, the formulation also bears similarity with Thomas Weinandy’s (“the Father begets the Son in the Spirit … the Spirit proceeds from the Father as the one in whom the Son is begotten;” see The Father’s Spirit of Sonship, 89). This formulation (along with Weinandy’s pneumatology) makes the Spirit an instrumental activity of the Father. The Father upholds the Son through the Spirit. The Spirit is the medium of the Father’s activity toward the Son—“the Father speaks to the Son by means of the Spirit … By the Spirit, the breath of his mouth, the Father speaks to the Son words of eternal and intimate love” (74). The Spirit is not an agent, but one through whom the Father acts. The Spirit is the relative operation of the Father toward the Son. Consequently, this formula makes the Spirit instrumental as does the mutual love model. The Father loves or, in Atkinson’s formulation, upholds/speaks to the Son through the Spirit. Atkinson recognizes his theology, like Augustine’s mutual love model, portrays the Holy Spirit’s identity as an instrument of the Father, but also maintains that it differs. He suggests that “in my rendition, the PNEUMA 37 (2015) 111–171 ========2========book reviews 153 Spirit is the means of the communication of love between the Father and the Son” (76). Nevertheless, more work remains to articulate this difference. One of few comprehensive treatments of the Trinity by Pentecostal theolo- gians, this book is imperative reading for anyone working in contemporary trinitarian theology. Steven M. Studebaker Associate Professor of Systematic and Historical Theology Howard & Shirley Bentall Chair in Evangelical Thought McMaster Divinity College, Hamilton, Ontario [email protected] PNEUMA 37 (2015) 111–171 ========3========

Be first to comment

This site uses Akismet to reduce spam. Learn how your comment data is processed.