The Kerygmatic Spirit

Apostolic Preaching in the 21st Century

Reddit icon
e-mail icon
Twitter icon
Facebook icon
Google icon
LinkedIn icon
Amos Yong
Editor(s): 
Joshua Samuel
  • Eugene, OR: 
    Cascade Books
    , November
     2018.
     258 pages.
     $30.00.
     Hardcover.
    ISBN
    9781498298179.
     For other formats: Link to Publisher's Website.

Review

The Kerygmatic Spirit: Apostolic Preaching in the 21st Century should be considered a fourth volume succeeding Amos Yong’s The Dialogical Spirit (Cascade, 2014), The Missiological Spirit (Cascade, 2014), and The Hermeneutical Spirit (Cascade, 2017). Yong, considered the most prolific Pentecostal theologian to date, is dean of the School of Theology and the School of Intercultural Studies and professor of Theology and Mission at Fuller Theological Seminary.  While the previous three works “focused on theological, missiological, and hermeneutical methods” from Yong’s Pentecostal perspective, this volume is suggestive for “homiletical methods” (xi).

Moreover, while the three earlier works are reprinted articles and essays, the present volume is unique in that it is a collection of sermons that Yong preached between 2009 and 2016. However, since Yong admits that he does not write out his sermons, the editor of this volume, Josh P.S. Samuel, transcribed them. In addition, Pentecostal preaching pastor and theologian/scholar Tony Richie offered brief, yet astute, reflections on each of Yong’s sermons.

Following the preface in which Yong outlines the direction of the project, Samuel sets out to “situate” Yong’s preaching within the North American Classical Pentecostal tradition (4). As a scholar of homiletics, Samuel reflects on Yong’s overall approach to preaching. Samuel rightly notes that Yong’s sermons are often an accessible introduction to his theological work. As a Pentecostal theologian, Yong emphasizes the Holy Spirit’s work, yet in a more holistic manner than might be typically espoused in the traditional Pentecostal pulpit.

For instance, as Samuel notes, the sermons in this volume touch on themes of the Spirit’s work among migrants/immigrants, politics, disability, justice, the life of the mind, mission and hospitality, the natural environment, and much more (3). Samuel is right: “these sermons model how scholars might translate their sometimes highly technical language for those outside the guild” (3). Further, Samuel locates Yong’s preaching within the Pentecostal tradition, noting both continuities and discontinuities.

For example, while Yong’s “extemporaneous preaching” and use of “call and response” (12, 14) certainly places his overall approach within the tradition, his intentional move away from “supernaturalism” and the altar call perhaps expresses discontinuity with the classical Pentecostal homiletical tradition.

Yong, then, offers an autobiographical perspective in the prologue to “set the stage for the reading of the sermons to come” (19). Overall, Yong provides a general narrative of his journey as an Assemblies of God immigrant and pastor-missionary’s kid, to a prolific systematic theologian whose Pentecostal background fuels his theological imagination.

Nonetheless, as a preacher he does not make much of his background as a scholar and/or theologian, but seeks to “focus on accessibility to laypersons and relevance for their lives” (24). Often Yong begins with either a story or joke to connect with his audience and seeks to relate and connect with his audience. Each of his sermons centers on a biblical text, though he will interweave applicable exhortations throughout and will sometimes bring up events or news that relate to his audience.

Notably, twelve of the fifteen sermons are derived from Luke-Acts. As he notes in the prologue, “it might be said that my Pentecostal theology is a theology of and from the book of Acts; on the other hand, it might also be said that Acts is the canon-within-the canon that opens up to the wider scriptural horizon” (25).  Thus, his “Lukan-imagination or Acts-hermeneutic” is clearly seen in the construction and themes that are developed in this volume of sermons.

Tony Richie’s contribution to the volume is in his brief (2-3 paragraphs) reflections following each of Yong’s fifteen sermons, along with an afterword in which he commends Yong’s ministry of preaching while also explicating the necessity of theological preaching. Richie’s judgements are insightful and often provide reflective links between Yong-the-homiletician and Yong-the-theologian. Richie as a pastor-preacher-theologian often provides perceptive and concise engagements with Yong’s material. Between the final sermon and Richie’s afterword, Yong also offers an epilogue in which he moves to generalize “toward a normative pentecostal and Christian theology of preaching” (195).

The Kerygmatic Spirit, then, makes important contributions to both Pentecostal studies and the ecumenical interchange surrounding homiletics. Those who are familiar with Pentecostal studies and/or the theological work of Amos Yong will discover that “Amos Yong the teacher and Amos Yong the preacher are working in the same theological field” (26). Yong’s sermons are often associated with the major themes that he engages in his theological work yet are geared towards the layperson and the building up of the church.

In this volume, the reader not only receives Yong’s sermons but also is provided an inside look into his personal life and assessments on preaching. Those who are perhaps unfamiliar with Yong’s previous work will discover an example of “what apostolic preaching means for today” (27).

The greatest strength of the work is the result of the collaboration between Yong, Samuel, and Richie. The volume’s structure helps it avoid some of the common drawbacks of many volumes of collected sermons. With Samuel’s introductory comments locating Yong within a homiletical tradition, Yong’s autobiographical sketches, and Richie’s reflections following each sermon, this volume is thoughtfully constructed and makes an important contribution to the field. Especially helpful to the interested reader is the inclusion of links to the audio/video recordings of the preached sermons contained within the volume.

Despite the strength of this work, there is room for constructive criticism. First, within Samuel’s work on locating Yong’s preaching, there is a notable lack of engagement with recent, significant articles or chapters on Pentecostal preaching.

For example, Samuel fails to engage Lee Roy Martin’s edited volume, which seeks to contribute to the literature on Pentecostal preaching and theological construction (Toward a Pentecostal Theology of Preaching, CPT, 2015). In my estimation, engaging these essays certainly would have helped further situate Yong’s preaching and theology of preaching within current Pentecostal scholarship.

Additionally, since most of the sermon texts stem from Luke-Acts, the reader fails to witness fully how Yong’s Lukan-imagination could inform and interact with other Scriptural texts outside Luke-Acts. Significantly, only one of Yong’s sermons reflected on an Old Testament text.

Despite these considerations, The Kerygmatic Spirit is worthy of attention. Certainly, readers of Yong will find this volume particularly stimulating, but it merits engagement from those unacquainted with Yong’s work since it offers an original example of apostolic preaching thereafter. Thus, this volume has much to offer to the fields of Pentecostal studies and Christian homiletics.

 

About the Reviewer(s): 

Andrew Ray Williams is a PhD candidate at Bangor University in Wales, UK.

Date of Review: 
May 23, 2020
About the Author(s)/Editor(s)/Translator(s): 

Amos Yong is Professor of Theology and Mission and the Director of the Center for Missiological Research at Fuller Seminary in Pasadena, California. He is the author and editor of more than forty books, including Hospitality and the Other: Pentecost, Christian Practices, and the Neighbor (2008). This book is a companion to his The Dialogical Spirit: Christian Reason and Theological Method in the Third Millennium (Cascade, 2014).

Joshua Samuel is Visting Lecturer in Theology and Global Christianity at Union Theological Seminary.

Comments

Reading Religion welcomes comments from AAR members, and you may leave a comment below by logging in with your AAR Member ID and password. Please read our policy on commenting.