“How Broad the Spirit?”

 Delivered by Dr. David L. Wheeler to American Baptist Theologians Conference
 American Baptist Churches USA Mission Summit, Overland Park, KS
June 20, 2013

 

On the official American Baptist Churches, USA website, there appeared a post last year entitled “What is Transformed by the Spirit?”  There followed the description of “an ambitious initiative of the National Executive Council of American Baptist Churches, USA” which “will engage local congregations across the denomination in a process of identifying the significant challenges that face [them] … and wrestling with the changes that will be required of all American Baptists if we are to seize opportunities to serve as the hands and feet of Christ.”1  This is an admirable goal.  But invoking the Holy Spirit as the driving agent of personal and institutional changes must not be simply a promotional slogan.

Baptists have had a fraught relationship with the Holy Spirit.  The concept of God as Creator – source and sustainer of all reality – “Father” in traditional creedal language, we understand.  God as Redeemer – Jesus Christ, the Son – stands at the center of our faith profession and piety.  But the Spirit is hard to imagine, and the Spirit’s role sometimes seems redundant to the work of transformation centered in our “personal relationship” with Christ.  Indeed the Holy Spirit has perennially been a stepchild in the Christ-centered, rationalistic theologies inheriting from the Reformation.  Also, the Spirit’s metaphorical roots in concepts of “wind” and “breath” have been difficult to translate into personal terms.

Nevertheless, in the light of the current “Transformed by the Spirit” initiative, there do seem to be compelling motives for as Baptists to engage in foundational work in the doctrine of the Holy Spirit.  For one thing, the postmodern spirit so prevalent in contemporary culture and intellectual life questions the rationalism of traditional foundationalist systems, including our Logos-centered, Bible based Protestant traditions. ( In a delicious irony, the same rationalism that creates Christ-centered doctrinal systems from authoritative scripture also underlies the modern science with which faith is often at loggerheads.)

Postmodernism privileges experience and the power of narrative. 2  From the divine ru’ach moving across the primordial waters in the opening verses of holy scripture (Genesis 1:1-2) to the roaring wind of Pentecost (Acts 2:1-4), Spirit imagery underlines dramatic and formative faith experiences and symbolizes the power of faith – to create community, communicate across linguistic and cultural barriers, heal infirmities and transform character.

The individualism characteristic of Baptist life and thought – Christ as our personal Savior, the emphasis upon the new birth as the unique entryway into the sphere of divine redemption – presents a peculiar challenge to Baptists who would do serious foundational work in the doctrine of the Holy Spirit in today’s globalizing economy and converging, clashing cultures.  Many Baptists and evangelicals have long recognized that the original preaching of Jesus as portrayed in the synoptic gospels was not essentially individualistic. Instead it was centered on the transformation of creation through the advent of the Reign of God. 3  And Baptists from Walter Rauschenbusch to Martin Luther King, Jr.  have engaged in transformative action based upon their view of the beloved community.  Missional church life “transformed by the Spirit” can be situated in this lineage.

Today the question comes with compelling force:  Who or what is to be transformed by the Spirit?  The default answer in Protestant theological traditions, both magisterial and evangelical, has been sinful humanity. Broad based biblical references to the transformation of the entire creation — images such as the “peaceable kingdom” (Isaiah 11:1-9) and the “creation subjected to futility”, but with the expectation that it “will be set free from its bondage” in concert with the redemption of humanity (Romans 8:18-23) – are typically read as “stage settings” for the divine-human drama of creation-fall-redemption.

It is humanity which is created “in the image and likeness” of God” in the first Genesis creation narrative (Genesis 1:26-27), and it is “man” that the Lord God created from the dust of the ground in the second Genesis creation narrative and infused directly with the divine ru’ach so that “he became a living soul”  (Genesis 2:7). It is humanity whose rebellion casts the entire creation into chaos, and it is human “flesh” with which the divine Logos clothes himself, and human beings among whom he dwells in order to restore them to uncompromised status as children of God” (John 1:10-14) and gift them with “eternal life” (John 3:16). 

Karl Barth in Church Dogmatics III-1 speaks of the created world as “the external basis of the covenant” which is fundamentally between God and humanity, though in other parts of the Dogmatics, he does celebrate God’s delight in the broader creation. 4   Baptists of a fundamentalist formation here in the United States further narrow this focus by speaking of “soul saving”, in apparent ignorance of the equivalence of nephesh in the Hebrew Bible with, simply, the “self”, or our essential being, and most assuredly not with an intrinsicly immortal, immaterial internal component of human being, housed in a disposable material body, as in Neoplatonic tradition .

This tradition of the ”immortal soul” is not limited to fundamentalists, but is widespread in American Christianity, in neognostic religious movements such as “New Thought”,5 and even in secular culture.  From an anthropocentric view of biblical faith – and a docetic anthropocentrism at that – has emerged a strong tendency to denigrate the physical body, either directly in ascetic practices, or ironically through practices of antinomian hedonism. 6

I will argue in the continuation of this essay that:   1) the Spirit of God must be recognized as the agent of creation  not only for human community, but for the entire earthly – and cosmic —  community, and  2) that the redemption accomplished objectively in Jesus Christ and realized subjectively in the work of the Holy Spirit is equally cosmic in scope, for “the (whole)creation [kosmos] waits with eager longing for the revealing  of the children of God” (Romans 8:19).

Who are these “children of God”?  Are the four-footed ones, the winged ones, the finned ones and the rooted ones also to be included?7  Is the same Spirit who “breathed into Adam so that he became a living nephesh(Genesis 2:7)”  also present in them?  To be sure, there has been a plethora of environmental theologies in both Protestant and Catholic circles in recent years .8  But within evangelical circles it is has been tempting to dismiss these efforts as yet another “niche” theology, just as feminist, black and liberation theologies are sometimes thought to be.

Instead, I will argue that 3) we must undertake a fundamental expansion of the scope of Christian theology to include all that is created in the power of the Spirit (Jurgen Moltmann) and all that is ultimately transformed by the Spirit.  We may, indeed, continue to understand our relationship to God in the light of our being created in God’s own image and likeness – after all, we are human beings – but in an ecological age we have,  perhaps of necessity, returned  — with new understandings forged by the scientific method and chastened hubris in the light of the contemporary ecological crisis  — to a premodern  understanding of our complete immersion in, connectedness to  and dependence upon  the eco-system that comprises God’s entire creation.  Will we presume to believe that the life everlasting and the Kingdom of Heaven in its fullness will leave behind the extra-human creation which God also loves, and will suspend that essential connectedness which is integral to God’s original created work?

If the Kingdom of God, understood as the ultimate expression of “Transformation by the Spirit,” comprises both the progressive transformation of the human and cosmic condition here and now —  “The time is fulfilled, and the kingdom of God has come near” (Mark 1:15) – and the final state toward which God’s redemptive action is moving – “Then I saw a new heaven and a new earth, for the first heaven and the first earth had passed away” (Revelation 21:1) —  then the breach between Christian action here and now and the Christian life as a pilgrimage toward eternity is overcome in the Spirit’s embrace.  In the felicitous image of  Moltmann, God’s future releases our now into being. 9

1. The Spirit of God as the Universal Agent of Creation

It is so obvious we often fail to note it:  we read scripture from the perspective of our human concerns.  Indeed we are its human authors.  Thus we read, for instance, the first creation narrative in Genesis as a grand unfolding and furnishing of the stage for our common human drama.  But if human authors and interpreters  are instruments of the Divine Author, then it is likely that there are motifs and meanings that transcend our conscious intentions and our initial impressions.

In the midst of his work, God “saw that it was good” six times before the creation of humankind  (Genesis 1:4, 10, 12, 18, 21, 25), and the “very good” of Genesis 1:31 is in response to a summary of the entire world system presented to the humans, and not just about them. Our role as “tiller and keeper” of the creation speaks as much to the precious importance of the creation to its Creator as it does to our own importance. The ru’ach of God in this narrative is the mighty force creating order out of the primordial chaos before it is the Divine Breath giving life to the first man in the second Genesis narrative (Genesis 2:7).  And our promise of God’s provision is also made to “everything that has the ru’ach of life (Genesis 1:30). 

The universal presence and efficacy of the Spirit in and for all creatures and the entire creation is a consistent theme throughout the Old Testament.  Consider the marvelous panorama of Psalm 104.  Mountain springs, winds and clouds, wild asses  and songbirds, bears and storks, young lions and human laborers, “[t]hese all look to you to give them their food in due season” (Psalm 104:27).  “When you take away their breath, they die/and return to the dust. / When you send forth your ru’ach they are created / and you renew the face of the ground(Psalm 104:30).  In this same spirit of exuberant gratitude, the psalmist proclaims, “Let everything that has breath praise the Lord!” (Psalm 150:6).10  “Where the Spirit is” – everywhere! – “there is liberty”  — for everyone and everything (2  Corinthians 3:17)!    

For me, one of the most surprising and informative expressions of the universal scope of God’s creative intention, and God’s limitless love of what he has created, comes at the conclusion of that dramatic scriptural mediation upon – as popular interpretation would have it – the mystery of the world’s unfairness to putatively virtuous (self-involved) humans.  I refer, of course, to Job.  

Many commentators have noted that Yahweh’s “answer” to Job is not an answer at all in the normal sense of the word.  Why is life so unfair?  Yahweh responds, “Where were you when I laid the foundation of the earth (Job 38:4)”?  And then follow two extraordinary speeches in which the Creator revels in the complexity and profusion of his creation, especially that part of it which has no apparent connection to human wellbeing.  “Is the wild ox willing to serve you? / Will it spend the night at your crib? / Can you tie it to the harrow with ropes, or will it harrow the valleys after you? / Will you depend upon it because its strength is great, or will you hand over your labor to it (Job 39:9-11)?” 

Most striking of all in these chapters are the twin odes to “Behemoth” (Job 40:15-24) and “Leviathan” (Job 41:1-11), fearsome aquatic creatures, concocted from hippo, whale and myth, who are not only of no conceivable benefit to humankind – “Will [Leviathan] make a covenant with you / to be taken as your servant forever (Job 41:4)?” – but are positively malign from a human point of view.  “No one is so fierce as to dare to stir it up. / Who can stand before it? / Who can confront it and be safe (Job 41:10-11)?”   Indeed, Yahweh styles Behemoth, “which I made as I made you” (Job 40:15), as “the first of the great acts of God” (Job 40:19).  It is as if the Creator is saying, “My dear human one, as much as I love you, it’s not all about you.”   

In the teaching of Jesus, the call to true inner integrity described in the Sermon on the Mount and the call for repentance in preparation for the advent of the Kingdom of Heaven are, indeed, specifically addressed to humanity.  But the Kingdom itself has pancreationist dimensions (cf, Isaiah 11:1-9, Revelation 21:1-4, 22:1-5), and Jesus’ first auditors are members of an agrarian culture living in the midst of herds, flocks and fields of grain upon whose wholeness their lives depend.  And Jesus lifts up birds, flowers  and vulnerable children (not romanticized as per modern Western culture) as paradigms of faith (Matthew 6:25-33).  “We are all of us – humans and the denizens of the ‘natural world’ – in this together.”

The “new creation” associated in evangelical tradition with the work of Christ – “So if anyone be in Christ, there is a new creation…” (2 Corinthians 5:17 – is also construed in the New Testament, particularly in the Lucan tradition, as the work of the Spirit.  The Holy Spirit is the agent of Messiah’s birth (Luke 1:35), the witness to his public inauguration through baptism (Luke 3:22), the Power who launches him – via the dangerous  vision quest into the wilderness – into his public mission (Luke 4:1ff) and the one whose authority Jesus claims at the beginning of this mission (Luke 4:18-19,cf Isaiah 61:1-2).  At the conclusion of Luke’s gospel, the risen Jesus promises his disciples this same power (Luke 24:49).

In Acts it is the Holy Spirit who transforms the cowed survivors of the Jesus movement into the powerful witnesses who extend the Good News, in the concentric circles of the narrative’s structure, from Jerusalem throughout Jewish Palestine and Samaria, south to the Horn of Africa and west to Rome.

In the Pauline epistles we meet the wonderful image of the Body of Christ ( 1 Corinthians 12), with Christ as head and the Christian believers as the “members” or organs of the body, endowed with certain capacities which may have roots in natural endowments, but are essentially charimata or giftings of the Holy Spirit.  Through these giftings the individual members, and the Body of Christ in its totality, become the continuing presence of the risen Christ in post-Incarnation, pre-eschaton history — “the hands and feet of Christ” in contemporary American Baptist promotional language.

The key move which I am advocating comes next.  Acknowledging that the Lucan and Pauline material about the transforming work of the Spirit has individual humans and human community as primary referents, I urge contemporary exegetes, theologians and practicing Christians to shed all vestiges of docetism and neoPlatonism, and acknowledge that human bodies and Christ’s Body are not divorced from eco-systems, neither here on earth or upon the eagerly awaited “new earth”; that human character is not divorced from questions of hunger, health, wholeness and embeddedness in community; and that salvation, the motto and goal of evangelical Christianity – rooted, as it is, in the Latin salvus, “healed”, “safe”  – has to do with the whole person, constructed through relationship, embedded in community, woven into ecosystem, both here and hereafter.  Thus the gap between traditional evangelism and the “Social Gospel” is overcome.     

2.  The Cosmic Scope of Redemption

Throughout the history of Christian thought, we have commonly read our sacred texts, compiled our creeds and organized our Christian endeavors while looking through self-colored lenses.  We cherish the notion that humanity is the crown of creation.  And of course we are, if one is testing for reasoning power, moral sensibility and other humanly valued qualities.  “But if soil aeration is your value, the earthworm is creation’s climax, and if auditory ability and skill at ecolocation, then the bat.”11

Furthermore, we have bowed in adoration and wonder before the God who would empty himself and take on the condition of sinful humanity for our redemption.  “And the Word became [human] flesh and dwelt among us” (John 1:14). This enfleshed Word is the human one, Christ Jesus, who “emptied himself, taking the form of a slave, being born in human likeness.  And being found in human form, he humbled himself and became obedient to the point of death—“ (Philippians 2:6-7). 

A great leap of our imagination, a great standing outside of ourselves, is required, just at this point.  If our being created “in God’s image” makes us uniquely suited for an intentional, covenantal relationship with God, to what end is that so?  Our expansive capacities as moral and environmental engineers have come with an equally expansive capacity for conceptually flawed and concretely destructive actions.  “[F]or the creation was subjected to futility, not of its own will but by the will of the one who subjected it… (Romans 8:20, my emphasis).  “[B]y the will of the one who subjected it:” God himself, foreseeing the inescapable risk and price of self-consciousness and freedom?  Humanity as the immensely talented but undisciplined and destructive two-year-olds in the garden, who must be brought around, for the sake of all?

What marvelous symmetry; we are, in God’s providence, both the instruments of chaos and the instruments of redemption!  “We know that the whole creation has been groaning in labor pains until now, and not only the creation, but we ourselves, who have the first fruits of the Spirit… (Romans 8:22-23, my emphasis)…  “First fruits”: the beginning here and now of the ultimate redemption and transformation by the Spirit, the Agent of creation now acting as the Agent of re-creation and completion.

The “redemption of our bodies”:  no informed person today can construe our individual human bodies as self-contained, self-sufficient monads. Not only are we inextricably woven into a global ecosystem of which we are one expression, but we ourselves are ecosystems in an extraordinary sense which blurs the distinction between “self” and not-self”.  Some estimates are that for every “human” cell in our bodies – “us” – there are as many as ten cells that are “other” – trillions of bacteria, fungi and viruses, for whom our bodies are their ecosystem, indeed, their universe. 12  Generations live and die within us; mutations and new species emerge in this microcosmos.

And as we let our imaginations soar to the macrocosmos, we can assume that God is at work not just on planet earth but across God’s entire creation to transform it toward a grateful and exuberant expression and embodiment of God’s love and creativity .13

Consider the great vision of “the peaceable kingdom” in Isaiah 11.  God’s Anointed One exercises wisdom and understanding and counsel and might in the power of the Spirit — “The Spirit of the Lord shall rest upon him…” (Isaiah 11:2-3).  The first result is justice and equity for poor and meek humans and judgment for the wicked who exploit them (Isaiah 11:3-4).  Then follows the famous vision of wolves and lambs and leopards, cows and bears and vegetarian lions, and little children playing, all together in perfect peace and security. “ Good for us, and for our children”, we say.  “At last we’ll be safe!”  Well yes, but so will they, the wolves and lions and leopards whom we persecute and whose habitats we destroy, and the lambs and cows we confine on factory farms!14

“They will not hurt or destroy on all my holy mountain” – the shalom of God’s Reign in its fullness – “for the earth will be full of the knowledge of the Lord as the waters cover the sea” (Isaiah 11:9).  In an ecological age, “the knowledge of the Lord” must comprehend not just knowledge of God’s will and plan for humanity, but knowledge of God’s love for and God’s plan for the whole creation.  And our Christian communities, to be faithful in such an age, must see our works of “transformation by the Spirit” in this light.

Ecological concerns voiced in a Christian context sometimes meet the objection that when the Lord comes to bring this present age to an end, “the heavens will pass away with a loud noise, and the elements will be dissolved with fire, and the earth and everything in it will be dissolved” (2 Peter 3:10).  Ironically, this picture accords with predictions of the end of earth put forth by physical cosmologists.  But fire is a purifying and renewing agent as well as a destructive force.  And whatever form the life everlasting promised in scripture takes, it will be an embodied life, characterized by the transformation and perfection of our embodied life in this present age (cf, the resurrection body, 1 Corinthians 15:35ff). And it will be a return to Edenic existence, enriched by the knowledge and gratitude gained through painful experience, and comprehending all creation (cf, Isaiah 11:-9; Romans 8:18-2; Colossians 1:15-20, “all things”; Revelation 22:1-5).

 

3.  A Fundamental Reordering of Theology  

Ultimately, in our rethinking of the scope of the Spirit’s work, what is needed is not simply a more expansive doctrine of the Holy Spirit, but a fundamental reordering of the Christian theological enterprise.

In the second half of the twentieth century, we saw successive waves of new theologies, developed from the experience and perspective of groups not represented in the theological canon.  Feminist theologies looked at Holy Scripture and church traditions through women’s eyes, lifting up the Sarah’s, Deborah’s, Lydia’s and Phoebe’s of scripture for closer examination as pathways to new understandings of God’s will and action, and expanding our understanding of sin by naming the overlooked or trivialized misogyny of “texts of terror.” 15

Latin American theologies of liberation, radiating out in both Catholic and Protestant forms from the Latin American Episcopal Conference of 1964 in Medellin, Colombia looked at scripture and tradition through the eyes of the poor and marginalized, connecting Old Testament themes of exodus and shalom to Jesus’ proclamation of the Reign of God in a through-going critique of Christendom’s embrace of power and privilege. 16

Black theologies of liberation in the United States connected the experience of slaves and their contemporary descendants, and the vital traditions of worship, proclamation and activism in the Black church, in a powerful critique of the continuing power of racism and racist structures in our society. 17  Womanist theologies wrested feminist readings of scripture and tradition from what its practitioners saw as the relative privilege and comfort of white, middle-class women, and rethought their conclusions in light of the “triple oppression” of race, gender and poverty .18  Other liberationist hermeneutics emerged from the experience of marginalized Asians, creating, for instance, Korean minjung theology. 19

Those of us who are heirs of the western catholic theological tradition, and who are living in relative privilege and comfort, are often tempted to trivialize or patronize these newer theological visions, seeing them as “niche” theologies.   In so doing we remain completely oblivious to the fact that a theological stream which flowed from Rome to western Europe to North America, carried by white Europeans with Latinate, Germanic, Anglo-Saxon , Celtic, etc. linguistic heritages, and reading Divine Law through lenses of Roman Law and English Common Law, can itself be construed as a bundle of niche theologies.

This understanding is becoming increasingly difficult to ignore.  As the magnitude and dynamism of the contemporary Body of Christ shifts toward the global south, new ecclesial traditions and theologies spring from  sectors of human experience beyond our ken.  Church historian Philip Jenkins teaches us that there have always been ecclesial communities and traditions of worship and theology different than our standards “west from Jerusalem” model. 20

Of course among the contemporary putative “niche” theologies there has been, as I mentioned above, an explosion of “environmental theologies” in recent decades.  But by suggesting what could be described as an environmental theology riff on the work of the Holy Spirit, I wish to propose something far more dramatic than yet another niche theology.  Each broadening of the hermeneutical circle includes more perspectives and yields – potentially – a more comprehensive understanding of God’s creative and redemptive purposes and a more complex and fruitful rendering of the Christian project.

The final widening of the hermeneutical circle – using an exploration of the “breadth” of the Spirit as an entry point to the task – will yield, yes, in some sense, an environmental theology, but actually a theocentric theology.  God, in the famous words of the Elder John, “is love”(1 John 4:8, my emphasis).   If we truly wish to love and honor God, we will love whoever and whatever God loves.  Everyone and everything.

David L. Wheeler, June 2013

 

1   www.abcusa.org/2012-06-20/transformed+by+the+spirit

For characteristic emphases of this mode of thought, see John D. Caputo, Deconstruction in a Nutshell:  A Conversation with Jacques Derrida, Fordham University Press, 1997, or Mark C. Taylor, Erring:  A Postmodern A/Theology,  University of Chicago Press, 1984.

Jesus’ original proclamation in the synoptics:  “Now after John was arrested, Jesus came to Galilee proclaiming the good news of God, and saying, ‘The time is fulfilled and the kingdom of God  is at hand; repent, and believe in the good news’” (Mark 1:14-15; cf, Matthew 4:12-17, Luke 4:14-15).  See, for instance, Walter Rauschenbusch, The Social Principles of Jesus, Association Press, 1916; or from a contemporary Baptist:  “According to the synoptic gospels, God’s eschatological rule stood at the heart of Jesus’ entire ministry.  This theme was the central message of his preaching.”  Stanley J. Grenz, Theology for the Community of God,  Broadman & Holman, 1994, 434.

“Like man himself, the beasts have a propius nutus . . . But in contrast to man they have no independent dignity and function even within the creaturely world.  They belong to man.”  Karl Barth, Church Dogmatics, III-1, 205.

RE New Thought:  “We affirm God as Mind, Infinite Being, Spirit, Ultimate Reality. . . We affirm that we are all spiritual beings, dwelling in a spiritual universe that is governed by spiritual law, and that in alignment with spiritual law, we can heal, prosper and harmonize.” www.newthought.info/beliefs/nt_beliefs.htm

We are reminded of the words of Paul to first generation followers of Jesus:  “What then are we to say?  Should we continue in sin in order that grace may abound?  By no means (Romans 6:1-2)!”

Cf,  Jay McDaniel,  With Roots and Wings:  Christianity in an Age of Ecology and Dialogue,  Orbis Books, 1995.

See, for instance, Andrew Linzey,  Creatures of the Same God:  Explorations in Animal Theology, Lantern Books, 2009; Jay McDaniel,  Of God and Pelicans:  A Theology of Reverence for Life, Westminster / John Knox, 1989;  Fred Bahnson, Bill McKibben and Norman Wirzba, Making Peace with the Land:  God’s Call to Reconcile with Creation, Intervarsity Press, 2012.

Cf, Jurgen Moltmann,  Theology of Hope, Fortress Press, 1993.

10  This connection suggested by Dr. Kent Berghuis, Palmer Theological Seminary, in correspondence with the author, March 6, 2013.

11  David L. Wheeler,  “Job 38:1-40:2 – Rain on a Land Where No One Lives, Oxen Who Won’t Plow Your Field,”   Review & Expositor 96-3, Summer, 1999, 447-448.

12 ”Humans Have Ten Times More Bacteria Than Human Cells:  How Do Microbial Communities Affect Human Health?” www.sciencedaily.com/releases/2008/06/080603085914.htm

13  See David L. Wheeler,  “Cosmic Incarnation,”  Explorations:  Journal for Adventurous Thought  8-3, Spring 1990.

14  For sophisticated and challenging application of these texts to these conditions, from a literalistic hermeneutic, see Andrew Linzey,  Animal Theology, SCM Press, 1994;  also Why Animal Suffering Matters:  Philosophy, Theology and Practical Ethics, Oxford University Press, 2009.

15  Cf, Phyllis Trible,  Texts of Terror:  Literary-Feminist Readings of Biblical Narratives,  Fortress Press, 1984.  There are many challenging and important works in this field.  See Mary Daly, Beyond God the Father:  Toward a Philosophy of Women’s Liberation, Beacon Press, 1973Letty M. Russell,  Human Liberation in a Feminist Perspective – a Theology,  The Westminster Press, 1974;  Elisabeth Schussler Fiorenza,  In Memory of Her:  a Feminist Theological Reconstruction of Christian Origins,  SCM Press, 1995Elizabeth Johnson,  She Who Is: The Mystery of God in Feminist Theological Discourse,  Crossroad Publishing, 1992.

16  The seminal work is by the Peruvian Dominican, Gustavo Gutierrez,  A Theology pf Liberation:  History, Politics, Salvation,  Orbis Books, 1973.  Other notable representatives of this mode of thought include the Franciscan Leonardo Boff of Brazil, and the Jesuit Jon Sobrino of El Salvador.  The American Baptist Old Testament scholar and theologian George Pixley has lived and worked from this perspective in Mexico and Nicaragua.  His many works include On Exodus: A Liberation Perspective,  Orbis Books, 1988.

17  A seminal figure is the AME minister and long-time professor at Union Theological Seminary in New York, James Hal Cone.  His productivity and creativity continue unabated from 1969’s A Black Theology of Liberation (Orbis Books) through more recent works such as The Spirituals and the Blues, Seabury, 1972, 1991; God of the Oppressed, Orbis, 1975; Malcolm & Martin & America:  A Dream or a Nightmare, Orbis, 1991.

18  See, for instance, Delores Williams,  Sisters in the Wilderness:  The Challenge of Womanist God-Talk, Orbis, 1993.  American Baptist Clergywoman and Yale Divinity School professor Emilie M. Townes has written extensively in this field, including the recent collection, Womanist Theological Ethics:  A Reader, Westminster John Knox, 2011.

19  A seminal figure in  minjung theology was Ahn Byung-Mu.  See his Jesus of Galilee, memorial edition, Christian Conference of Asia, 2004.  I find particularly winsome the works of the Taiwanese Methodist C.S. Song, who taught at the Pacific School of Religion in Berkeley for a number of years.  See his Third Eye Theology:  Theology in Formation in Asian Settings, Orbis, 1979;  Jesus the Crucified People,  Fortress, 1990;  Jesus in the Power of the Spirit,  Fortress, 1994.

20   Philip Jenkins,  The Lost History of Christianity:  The Thousand Year Golden Age of the Church in the Middle East, Africa and Asia – and How It Died,  HarperOne 2008.