In the Days of Caesar by Amos Yong

Again, I wanted to post this because I think that my readers can see in my questions some of the problems that I have with Amos Yong’s writing and theology. This is a class response posting to my reading of his book. Obviously, I had to be a bit generous due to the fact that he was the professor 😉

In his book In the Days of Caesar: Pentecostalism and Political Theology Yong presents his argument for a distinctly Pentecostal and ecumenically concerning political theology. Yong’s central motif is centered around his unique hermenutic concerning the pouring out of the Spirit on all flesh which is taken from Lukan pneumatology. In his work he handles such issues as the phenomenology of a Pentecostal politic, an overview of political theology, a Pentecostal trajectory within political theology, political dimensions of Pentecostal deliverance from powers, a culturally concerned pentecostal holiness, Pentecostal power within civil society, a theology of economics and Pentecostal eschatology. Yong’s thesis is “that Pentecostalism invites not one but many forms of political, economic, and social postures and practices” (38).

Yong’s book is especially helpful to Renewal Studies and Pentecostalism in that he focuses our attention upon the need for a multicultural view of the Church. His hermenutic surrounding the Spirit being poured out on all flesh leads him to affirm the uniqueness of the Pentecostal message of unity through diversity. He also emphasizes the need for people of renewal to concern themselves with social involvement. Yong connects the people of God with the heavenlies by promoting the enthronement of God through Pentecostal praise and worship (157). In addition, he attacks dispensational eschatology which has been responsible for a demeaning of the Church and a lack of concern for the present.

Yong’s book should receive great attention and recognition from the wider world of academia. Much of what Yong promotes is in agreement with the trends of North American society and academy within our postmodern context. His concern for a more tolerant, politically concerned, ecologically friendly Christianity fits in well with the montra of modern academy.

Questions Emergent from the Text:

1. Is it exegetically correct to use Luke – Acts to say that the pouring out of the Spirit on all flesh was on every single individual on earth rather than narrowly for the community of believers? Specifically, what was Luke talking about when he said “this is what” in the Acts passage? Does not the near demonstrative pronoun τοῦτό (touto) and the context of Peter saying “for these men are not drunk, as you suppose,” point to the fact that this is specifically the insiders/believers in the upper room who experience the pouring out?

2. Does being “prophetic” mean being more socially active (35)? Also, does the indication that these socially active groups “are more prophetic” because they “have some focus on non-members” indicate that conservatives do not (35)? Is social transformation the same thing biblically as liberation theology?

3. Is Yong’s question here not the real central concern of the debate: “Are liberation and black theologians correct in depending on social scientific analyses as part of the theological task, or are the ‘Radically Orthodox’ theologians right to insist on theology (or the biblical text – my emphasis) as an interpreter of rather than a dialogue partner with the social sciences” (83-84)?

4. Was America really founded on the principals of separation of church and state (84)?

5. Does Sola Scriptura really lead to cessationism, or does the Bible (scripture) not teach the practice of charismata (89)? Does the lack of cessation lead to an open canon, or is there not a unique foundational element to the scriptures which is unrepeatable? Furthermore, as Yong has aptly pointed out that the Spirit moves differently at different times and locations, then is it not plausible that the Spirit simply moved in a unique and different way with the writing of scripture which is not repeated but does not indicate a lack of spiritual or Spirit efficacy for today?

6. Is Christian community meant to be the model which draws others in by love and evangelism or is it meant to promote social activism (107)?

7. Is it healthy to use experiential elements of the pentecostal global south to promote theology while not dialoging with penetecostal theology proper (i.e. theological writings from the tradition)?

8. Is it responsible to compare Christians who support their military in a fight against terrorism to those who are guilty of supporting Montt’s wholesale slaughter of peoples (133)?

9. Exegetically, is it correct to say that Paul intended to speak about powers and principalities as something other than spiritual in the context of Paul’s statement that “we wrestle not against flesh and blood but against…”?

10. Are the premises of pentecostal apocalypticism in which the world will come to destruction by God’s wrath and be remade incorrect biblically (327-28)?

11. Is there still a uniqueness to Israel as a people or nation apart from the Church?

12. Is it not a modern expectation which sees the Church helping to bring about the kingdom on earth through making the earth better and better (347)? Are plants, animals and geographic spaces recipients of the Spirit being poured out?

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