Spirit of LoveIn three posts I will review Amos Yong’s recent piece, Spirit of Love: a Trinitarian Theology of Grace. For the first review, click here.  I received this book as a review copy from Baylor University Press. Many thanks to all of you over there! 

In part two, it seems that Yong develops a distinct hermeneutical lens by weaving together early Pentecostalism, contemporary Pentecostal theology, and the Pentecostal canon-within-the-Canon, Luke-Acts. 

Chapter Four is entitled, “Spirit-Empowered Transformation: Pentecostal Praxis and the Energy of Love.”[1] In this chapter, Yong explores early Pentecostalism and Spirit Baptism. He makes the case that early Pentecostals believed Spirit baptism to be a baptism in the divine love of God.[2] In the early Pentecostal communities, this experience of the Spirit resulted in racial reconciliatory dynamics – in the wake of the Jim Crow era – and an emphasis on non-violent resistance.

hot springs arkansas AG
First General Council of the A/G – Hot Springs, Arkansas

In this chapter, Yong notes that the Assemblies of God (the largest Classical Pentecostal denomination, in which Yong is a minister) has traditionally understood Baptism in the Holy Spirit to be an empowerment for witness, not a baptism in love, nor a crisis experience where dramatic sanctification of the affections occurs (contra COG/COGIC). Interestingly, Yong notes that the Assemblies of God, the group which did/does not officially believe baptism in the Spirit to be a baptism in the love of God, fell into racism and faltered on their commitment to non-violent resistence (circa 1967). While the Assemblies of God was the primary white Pentecostal group (see the Hot Springs Arkansas picture picture – not one African American is in this photo), they largely revised their position on this matter with the rise of the Civil Rights movement in the 1950’s. Yong’s strives to show that Classical Pentecostal groups which understood and continue to understand Spirit baptism to be a baptism in divine love have largely and prophetically maintained their emphasis on racial reconciliation against the cultural opinion of the day (COG and COGIC)[3] and that COGIC has maintained their commitment to non-violent resistance.[4]

Chapter Five is entitled “The Spirit’s Baptism of Love.”[5] Yong now introduces the work of contemporary Pentecostal theologians and reveals how they have contributed to a theology of love. Yong engages the work of three theologians, Steven J. Land, Samuel D. Solivan, and Frank D. Macchia. Yong explicates on the affective theology of Land, showing that power apart from a transformation of pathos “run[s] the risk of becoming a ‘sound brass and a tinkling cymbal’.”[6] After this, he explores the work of Latin American theologian, Samuel Solivan, showing that the Spirit orients the pathos toward the suffering of particular people groups.[7] He lastly surveys the work of Macchia on Spirit Baptism, and his belief that creation is moving towards a Spirit baptized reality.

Chapter Six is entitled “The Spirit Poured Out on All Flesh.”[8] Yong strays from the either-or dichotomy presented by Pentecostal biblical scholars, Roger Stronstad and Robert Menzies (See The Charismatic Theology of St. Luke and Empowered for Witness). Stronstad and Menzies have long contended that Luke in Acts articulates a theology of Spirit baptism that results only in powerful procalamation of the Gospel by word and sign. Yong would take the position that Luke understands baptism in the Spirit not only to be a baptism for the purpose of powerful proclamation, but also a baptism in divine love of God.

The book of Acts barely – if it all – makes mention of love explicitly. Because of this, Yong contends that Luke gives meaning to the Acts narrative from his previous writing to Theophilus, G. Luke. He believes that Luke roots the descent of the Spirit on those at Pentecost, in the event of the Dove’s descent at Jesus’ baptism. According to Yong, an expression of the Father’s love for the Son is revealed in the giving of the Spirit:[9] “You are my Son, whom I love;” (Lk. 3.22). Thus, the descent of the Spirit at Pentecost represents not only empowerment for ministry (which the Spirit was empowerment for Jesus’ ministry in G. Luke), but also a sign of the Father’s love. To show the result of this experience of divine love within the early church, Yong fixes his attention on Acts 2:42-47, showing that a result of Spirit baptism was divine koinonia. He contends that “a gracious God forms a gracious—a grace-filled—community, and that because of the divine gift of the Spirit of love.”[10]



[1] Amos Yong, Spirit of Love: a Trinitarian Theology of Grace (Waco, Tex.: Baylor University Press, 2012), 59.

[2] Ibid., 60-64.

[3] Ibid., 66-68.

[4] Ibid., 70-72.

[5] Ibid., 75.

[6] Ibid., 79.

[7] Ibid., 81.

[8] Ibid., 93.

[9] Ibid., 100.

[10] Ibid., 98.