The Big 5 is a series where theologians tell us what 5 books have most shaped, changed, or inspired their theology, philosophy, or thought. 

Next up, Amos Yong. Check out Amos’ big 5 plus his runners up, what book he wished he had written, what book he needs to re-read, his “summer reading” suggestions, tips for teaching, favorite places he’s visited, a question he is currently thinking about, the most overlooked thinker he loves, his favorite craft beer or beverage of choice, and what person (living or dead) he liked to answer his questions.

  1. Jurgen Moltmann, The Crucified God
    I read Moltmann early in my seminary studies (ca. 1990) and it transformed my way of thinking about theology, period! It turned on my theological light bulb, so to speak and possibly set me on the path toward becoming a theologian.
    Favorite Quotes
    That God delivers up his Son is one of the most unheard-of-statements in the NT…. the first person of the Trinity casts out & annihilates the second… A theology of the cross cannot be expressed more radically than it is here (p. 241); What proceeds from this event between Father and Son is the Spirit which justifies the godless, fills the forsaken withe love and even brings the dead alive, since even the fact that they are dead cannot exclude them from this event of the cross; the death in God also includes them (p. 244) … it is not the event of co-humanity, but the event of Golgotha, the event of the love of the Son & the grief of the Father from which the Spirit who opens up the future & creates life in fact derives (p. 247)
  2. Steven J. Land, Pentecostal Spirituality: A Passion for the Kingdom:If Moltmann invited me to become a theologian, Steve Land’s book, among others, invited me to think about being a distinctively Pentecostal theologian.Favorite Quotes

    Pentecostalism represents a major new approach in Christianity which is both supplementary and complementary. It is an indigenized folk religion which overwhelmingly has a black & brown majority in its constituency. Although there are theological, ethical & political differences, have argued that at the core, a spiritual fundament present in the first part of the [20th] century with roots in the nineteenth and eighteenth centuries and, through Wesley, all the way back through eastern and western sources to the early church. This is an important point which an exclusive focus on phenomenological or external similarities may obscure. It is also important for the theological revisioning and cooperative praxis – a simultaneous operation – of the future (p. 207)

  3. Walter Hollenweger, The Pentecostals:In hindsight from the quotation produced here, I wonder if I became a pneumatological theologian in response to Hollenweger’s claim! Yet in reality, Hollenweger’s book expanded my pentecostal theological horizons from those reaching back diachronically through the centuries (a la Steve Land’s work) to those stretching synchronically in global context, given Hollenweger’s accounting of majority world Pentecostalism in theological (not just phenomenological) terms! I became a global pentecostal and pneumatological theologian in part through Hollenweger’s work!Hollenweger’s later (1997) Pentecostalism: Origins & Developments Worldwide, I did not read until when I was in my PhD program; it carries on his analysis from his earlier work and frames the five-roots theory of pentecostal global origins more elaborately.

    Favorite Quotes

    It is here, in a sphere of liturgy and preaching, that the Pentecostal movement seems to me to have made its most important contribution, & not in the sphere of pneumatology, as is constantly & quite wrongly supposed (p. 466)

  4. Norman Pittinger, The Word Incarnate: A Study of the Doctrine of the Person of ChristI wrote my first MA thesis (Western Evangelical Seminary, now George Fox Seminary) in 1992 and read Pittenger’s book as part of my research; I did not know it until after I studied philosophy at Portland State University in 1993-1994, but Pittenger was a process theologian and this provided, if one wills, a Whiteheadian or organismic christology from that perspective. All I remember is being inspired and challenged by The Word Incarnate as it made sense, historically, theologically, and philosophically, of the orthodox tradition in ways which confirmed what Pittenger said (in the quotation produced above): how later developments can account, extend, and inform earlier understandings, but that our theological thinking cannot remain static in an organic (evolutionary) world. I did not even understand theology as operating in such an evolutionary framework itself until after my PhD, but this shows the impact of this work in orienting me toward such a trajectory during my seminary studies. Effectively, unknown to me at this time, works like Pittenger’s opened me up to an interdisciplinary mode of thinking about theology, one that has carried over in my work in multiple ways.Favorite Quotes

    … the refusal to grant a true human centre to the humanity of Jesus is bound to lead to a serious minimizing of that humanity… (p. 93); [Pittenger urges that] the person of Christ is interpreted against the background of an organic universe, in which through emergent evolution, new levels of organization appear, each succeeding level including within itself the earlier levels & yet not explicable in terms of any of them but providing the terms in which the preceding levels may be understood (p. 107)

  5. Clark Pinnock, Flame of Love: A Theology of the Holy SpiritThe title of the book is a bit deceiving since this is not just a theology of the Spirit (pneumatology) but a systematic theology guided by pneumatology, or a pneumatlogical systematics which revisits the full scope of the genre of systematic theology from a pneumatological perspective (as opposed to a systematic pneumatology, which is still Spirit-focused). Thus, when I read Pinnock at the beginning of my PhD studies, I became also a systematic pneumatologian – effectively a systematic pneumatological-pentecostal-global-interdisciplinary theologian, inspired by Pinnock to think all things through systematically from such a pneumatological frame of reference, leading to my thesis that the many tongues of Pentecost motif can theologically fund the diversity of global, interdisciplinary, and intercultural voices and perspectives needed for systematic theology in the 21st century – a programme that I have now carried out and prosecuted for the last two decades.Favorite Quotes

    … both-and, not either or… (p. 192); We may find the Spirit’s face also on those outside the church who give a cup of cold water to thirsty ones (p. 41); [Trinity is] a symbolic picture of the shared life that is at the heart of the universe (p. 42); The Spirit is not nowhere (as the secularists tell us) but everywhere, & our lives can be immeasurably enriched by taking account of this (p. 62); Spirit is not an esoteric “ghost” but an empirical power that breaks forth in perceptible ways. This is the power that called forth life from nonlife & the power drawing humanity to God (194-95); I have suggested a way to see these issues [other religions] in the context of the Spirit’s work. The universal salvific will of God is implemented by the Spirit, who is at work everywhere in creation. We ought to be saying not that “outside the church” but that “outside grace” is no salvation…. [I have] suggested a Spirit-oriented model of development that understands Spirit as bearing witness to truth in the bosom of community (p. 241)

The books I most enjoy teaching are Michael Welker, God the Spirit; Donald Gelpi, The Divine Mother

The book I wish I had written: the 5 I am writing now 🙂

What do I need to re-read? the Bible

What do I recommend for summer reading? my books 🙂

Tips for: note taking while reading these (or other) books
enter into a computer word document with full bibliographic materials for citation later if needed
Tips for: presenting or teaching this (or other) material
see my lectures on You Tube
What’s your favorite place you’ve visited?
Cancun & Costa Rica vacations with my family
What’s a question you are currently thinking about?
the future of theological education
Who is the most overlooked thinker you love?
My Nigerian Pentecostal colleague Nimi Wariboko is brilliant, although a bit dense in engaging Continental philosophy
What’s your favorite craft beer or beverage of choice?
teetotaler but I love teas 🙂
Who’s answers (living or dead) to these questions would you really like know?
how does Craig Keener write all his books?