Essay / The Third Person of the Trinity

A Black American Pneumatology of Freedom

The new book that Oliver Crisp and I co-edited, The Third Person of the Trinity (Zondervan, Dec 2020), has a dozen chapters exploring the doctrine of the Holy Spirit from a number of angles. I’d like to draw your attention to the one by my Biola colleague Leon Harris. Here’s a quick interview in which Leon explains it in his own words:

What’s your chapter in The Third Person of the Trinity about?

“The Holy Spirit as Liberator: An Exploration of a Black American Pneumatology of Freedom”

How does this chapter fit into your teaching or your writing?

My current interest focuses on the relationship of the Holy Spirit as the third person of Trinity who perfects liberty and koinonia. So I continually reflect on the idea that the Holy Spirit brings about the freedom to love and the freedom to be loved, which is ultimately expressed within the new community of Jesus Christ. I also reflect on the particularizing work on the Holy Spirit who disperses gifts to each member. Putting all this together, I tend to explore the Holy Spirit’s work as seen in Acts where various people groups are brought into the Kingdom of God as an eschatological fulfillment of many nations, people, and languages—that is particularity—we see in Revelation. Ultimately, I’m concerned with the Spirit who brings about unity-in-diversity as a reflection of Jesus Christ’s kingdom.

Where did the idea for this particular essay come from?

The idea came while reading Dwight Hopkin’s Down, Up, and Over: Slave Religion and Black Theology. In an over simplification, Hopkin’s work focuses on Christianity as a religious experience of the enslaved African-Americans as a catalyst for their liberation. Based on Hopkin’s inspiration and my interest in the work of the Holy Spirit, I decided to look into slave narratives for the working of the Holy Spirit. And to my pleasant surprise, I could see the Holy Spirit active in the words, deeds, epistemology, and experiences of the slaves working toward their full liberation into humanity as defined in and by Jesus Christ.

What’s the next thing you’re working on, or looking forward to working on?

I do not have any official books or articles upcoming. But, my next desire is complete a work on the Holy Spirit using the model that I have used in my classes for the past five years.

A bonus question not related to this book chapter: What’s the most stimulating thing you’ve read lately in theology?

Lately, I’ve been reading, or should I say struggling, with Tillich’s Systematic Theology. I’ve also found J. Kameron Carter’s Race: A Theological Account and Philip Ziegler’s Militant Grace: The Apocalyptic Turn and the Future of Christian Theology to be quite stimulating this season as well.

For more sneak-peeks of The Third Person of the Trinity, check out our other interviews. You can pick up a copy of the book here.

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