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‘Everyday God-Talk’: Understanding Christ as ‘the anointed one’

Guest says being Christocentric means we acknowledge the work of the Holy Spirit in the life and ministry of Jesus

By Paul Seebeck | Presbyterian News Service

Amos Yong is dean of both the School of Theology and the School of Intercultural Studies — and professor of theology and mission — at Fuller. Courtesy of Fuller Theological Seminary

LOUISVILLE — In the latest edition of “Everyday God-Talk,” So Jung Kim, associate for theology in the Presbyterian Church (U.S.A.)’s Office of Theology & Worship, speaks with theologian Amos Yong about his most recent book regarding the work of the Holy Spirit.

Yong is a faculty member and administrator at Fuller Theological Seminary. A prolific Pentecostal theologian, his 2020 “An Amos Yong Reader: The Pentecostal Spirit” is a sampling of his work in one volume and provides key insights into understanding his “Spirit-Word-Community” book.

At the beginning of the conversation with Kim, Yong affirmed the Presbyterian Church (U.S.A.) Christocentric approach to matters of faith.

“Jesus Christ is the center of our faith,” he said. “Scriptures tell us Christ was anointed by the Holy Spirit. So, to be Christocentric means we acknowledge the work of the Holy Spirit in the life and ministry of Jesus.”

Yong described his theology as being about the work of the Holy Spirit, in both what the Spirit is trying to do and where it is doing that work. He believes the Spirit is working in every life, in a very particular way and in a very particular historical circumstance, drawing each life to Christ.

Instead of thinking in the abstract about the proposition or certain truth claim about the Holy Spirit, Yong said those following “the one anointed by Spirit” are invited to think about how the Holy Spirit might be at work in the lives of our neighbors, whom we are commanded to love.

Pentecostal theologian Amos Yong invites Christians to reread the work of Jesus as a man empowered by the Holy Spirit, born into the political context of the Roman Empire. Courtesy of Fuller Theological Seminary

As an example, he said, the Holy Spirit might be asking you to bring a meal to the neighbor on your left, while the neighbor on your right could be an elderly couple who needs someone to pick up their newspaper and bring it to the front door.

Yong was born in Malaysia but moved with his family to the U.S. when he was 10. Hence, Yong is well aware of the universal work of the Holy Spirit around the globe.

“There are more Christians outside the West than in the West,” he said. “The fact that there’s been such a response to Christ outside the West helps us imagine how the Holy Spirit is at work in really exciting, powerful ways in the rest of the world.”

But it also invites us to ask deeper and more problematic questions, he said, about what it means to talk about the Holy Spirit being at work in our public places in the U.S. — no less in an election year when even the COVID-19 pandemic has become a political issue.

Yong said that no matter what country one lives in, one finds Christians across the spectrum of fraught, contested issues — which the gospels are familiar with.

The author of Luke frames the story of the birth of Jesus (Luke 2:1) and his growing up (Luke 3:1) in a particular time in history, situated within a political space and environment.

“That doesn’t necessarily translate into here’s five things we do in relationship to empires or governments,” Yong said. “But I do think it invites us to reread the work of Jesus as a man empowered by the Holy Spirit within that framework.”

Yong acknowledged that in his Pentecostal tradition many Christians have hardly read the Bible like this before — or asked themselves, “what does it mean for Jesus to do what he did as a subject of the Roman Empire?”  In this perspective, he said, is an invitation to consider what it means to bear faithful witness to Christ as global citizens, in the U.S. and West today.

Watch the first part of “Everyday God-Talk” on the Theology & Worship Facebook page.

In coming episodes, Kim and Yong will talk more about the Holy Spirit in various contexts of our everyday lives.

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