- Hospitality and the Other: Pentecost, Christian Practices, and the Neighbor
From violent conflicts in Sri Lanka and Nigeria to academics at the American Academy of Religion, from St. Athanasius to Derrida, from missiology to theologies of religions, Pentecostal theologian Amos Yong's Hospitality and the Other: Pentecost, Christian Practices, and the Neighbor demonstrates Yong's command of an impressive breadth of materials. This is both the book's strength (i.e., the creative synthesis of so much) and its vulnerability (i.e., some pieces seem sketchily developed and only tenuously integrated, though in fairness some are addressed in Yong's other works). Yong's strategy appears to be triangular in shape: (1) theology of hospitality ought to inform theology of religions, (2) theologies of religions need to articulate their implied interreligious practices, and (3) pneumatology links these other two legs, because God's hospitality as manifest in the Holy Spirit empowers interreligious practices.
In an effort to move from abstract theory to concrete realities, Yong's first chapter begins with three case studies of interreligious relations: those of Sri Lanka, Nigeria, and the United States. This choice of cases is, by Yong's own admission, somewhat arbitrary, as is the selection of material within each study. This chapter does at least succeed, however, in reminding us with some power and specificity that interreligious relations are complex, diverse, and bound up with all sorts of factors (political, social, cultural, economic), and therefore that we must approach religious others in a context-sensitive manner with a wide variety of practices.
The second chapter explains how beliefs are connected to practices in general, and why pneumatology provides the theological rationale for that connection. This sets up the eventual narrower discussion of the link between beliefs about the Holy Spirit and interreligious practices.
Yong discusses how orthodoxy for early Christians such as St. Athanasius and St. Basil of Caesarea was bound up with orthopraxis. He then moves quickly to recent theorists, drawing on the writings of J. L. Austin, J. R. Searle, and Nicholas Wolterstorff, whose work, when applied to biblical interpretation, reveals the performative aspect of biblical texts. Yong explains the influence of such work on George Lindbeck's cultural-linguistic theory, according to which doctrinal beliefs are understood as "illocutionary rules informed by and in turn formative for the religious community's practices" (p. 50). Although Yong agrees with the thrust of Lindbeck's view, he also thinks that that view needs a "pneumatological assist" in order to sustain more than ad hoc engagement and to "do so in ways that maintain continuity with the historic Christian tradition" (p. 53). For this—and this is where it gets especially interesting—Yong employs Kevin Vanhoozer's model of theology as dramatic performance. The idea is that theologians and the church are the "players" in the "theater" of the world. God is "director" and scriptures are the "script." Performances (practices) in new and changing circumstances will require improvisation but also fidelity [End Page 156] to the script (beliefs). Referring to Nicholas Lash's explanation, we "can and must tell the story differently" in today's world and varied contexts, and yet we cannot tell a "different story" (p. 55).
For Vanhoozer and Yong, it is the Holy Spirit that brings about our "faithful improvisations" (p. 55). This usefully allows—and in fact requires—a diversity of practices and yet avoids total relativism. Building from this base, Yong wants to unpack what this means for theology of religions, reinterpreting theology of religions as performative, as others have reinterpreted performatively other types of theology (p. 57, n. 59). Yong believes that Michael Welker's work has shown, and this is clear especially in Acts, that the Spirit reveals a diversity of expressions and activities. The "miracle of understanding occurs not through a unified voice but through the cacophony of many tongues and languages . . . [T]he Spirit brings about a new community out of radical diversity even while ensuring that diversity is preserved" (p. 58). Yong, following D. Lyle Dabney, suggests...