Today, Christianity Today online posted "A Wind that Swirls Everywhere: Pentecostal scholar Amos Yong thinks he sees the Holy Spirit working in other religions, too." I have one word to describe this development: frightening!
This article is written about Amos Yong, an up-and-coming Pentecostal scholar. Here is a brief glimpse into some of his views:
This has remained Yong's pressing question: Is it possible that the Holy Spirit is active not only among Christians of all denominations but also among believers of non-Christian world religions?
The question arises in each of Yong's most important publications: Spirit-Word Community (Ashgate, 2002), Beyond the Impasse (Baker Academic, 2003), and The Spirit Poured Out on All Flesh (Baker Academic, 2005). His central thesis is that, because the Spirit of God is universally active in creation and new creation, "the religions of the world, like everything else that exists, are providentially sustained by the Spirit of God for divine purposes." Where most Pentecostals see the devil's work, Yong sees the Spirit's. Concretely, that means Christians should be open to learning from and being enriched by the Spirit's work in world religions. Dialogue must take place alongside evangelism, he argues, so that all the religions—including Christianity—can learn from each other what the Spirit is doing.
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Yong has yet to answer where his investigations are leading him. Does the Holy Spirit reveal something of God truthfully in non-Christian religions? Does the Spirit work salvation through them? Does this salvation look anything like what Jesus describes to Nicodemus in John 3 or what Paul depicts in Romans 8? On the one hand, he underscores the dynamic and unpredictable work of the Spirit in world religions; on the other hand, he always links Word (Christ) and Spirit together. Is he leaning toward religious pluralism or promoting inclusivism? One thing is certain: He regards these traditional categories as too static and is looking for an alternative.
This raises a second question: What criteria should we use for discerning the Spirit's work in non-Christian movements? Yong hesitates to elevate Jesus Christ to exclusive status for such discernment. For him, "signs of the kingdom," such as personal and social transformation in love, might serve as such tools. The Spirit might be active, then, wherever the kingdom of God is being advanced, whether or not Jesus Christ is central to the religious messages and practices. But can Christians ever separate the person of Jesus Christ from the kingdom of God? That seems problematic and will raise doubts in many Christians' minds about Yong's project.