Saturday, 21 November 2009

Holy Spirit: readings and poems

As mentioned in an earlier post, this semester I taught an undergraduate course on the Holy Spirit. There were some requests to post my reading list – so here it is. I've listed each of the weekly topics, together with the set readings. Each class also included a brief reading/discussion of a poem – so I've also listed the poems here.

Assessment consisted of class participation (the weekly class included a tutorial discussion of one of the set readings); an essay on patristic pneumatology, an essay on contemporary/constructive pneumatology, and a series of brief written reflections on the set readings.

The required text for the subject was Eugene Rogers' wonderful new anthology, The Holy Spirit: Classic and Contemporary Readings (Wiley-Blackwell 2009). I was very impressed by how much the students seemed to enjoy and appreciate this book (with one small exception: see Week 9 below) – I'll definitely use it again in future. All asterisked items on the reading list are from this anthology. I've also added a few notes on the overall shape of the course.

1. Knowing the Spirit

  • Robert Jenson*; Eugene Rogers, After the Spirit, 1-16
  • Poem: Veni Creator Spiritus (hymn)*
2. The Spirit in the NT
  • Gordon Fee, God's Empowering Presence, 860-83; Hans Urs von Balthasar*; Kärkkäinen, Pneumatology, ch. 2
  • Poem: John Milton, Paradise Lost, 1.1-32
3. The Spirit and the body
  • Eugene Rogers, After the Spirit, 45-72; Alasdair Heron, The Holy Spirit, ch. 5; Staniloae*
  • Poem: Gerard Manley Hopkins, "God's Grandeur"
  • Note: These first three weeks were all focused on the Spirit's narrative identity in the NT. Luke-Acts was really the central text for these opening weeks, and we continued to return to Luke-Acts throughout the semester (and also to Romans 8). Next time around, I'll probably replace "The Spirit and the body" with a topic that refers more specifically to Luke-Acts; and I'll also replace some of these early readings with some specific exegetical readings on Luke's theology of the Spirit.
4. The Spirit and prayer
  • Sarah Coakley, "Why Three? Some Further Reflections on the Origins of the Doctrine of the Trinity"; Adrienne von Speyr*; Thomas Smail, The Giving Gift, ch. 9
  • Poem: R. S. Thomas, "Sea-watching"
5. The Spirit and worship
  • Kilian McDonnell, The Other Hand of God, ch. 3; Richard Norris*; Yves Congar, I Believe in the Holy Spirit I, ch. 5
  • Poem: Rowan Williams, "Rublev"
6. The Spirit and scripture
  • Amy Plantinga Pauw, "The Holy Spirit and Scripture" (in Jensen, ed., The Lord and Giver of Life); Stephen Fowl*
  • Poems: George Herbert, "The H. Scriptures"; R. S. Thomas, "Paul"
7. The Spirit and freedom
  • Rowan Williams*; Joerg Rieger, "Resistance Spirit: The Holy Spirit and Empire" (in Jensen, ed., The Lord and Giver of Life)
  • Poem: Keith Green, "Rushing Wind" (song)
  • Note: I particularly enjoyed the class discussion of this Rowan Williams essay. Williams comes close to arguing that the Spirit is itself the abolition of pneumatology – a challenging thought for a class on pneumatology! In some ways, this tension between the Spirit and pneumatology – or between the Spirit-as-reality and talk-about-the-Spirit – was central to the course. (The texts we read by Coakley also explore this tension in various ways.)
8. The Spirit and desire
  • Sarah Coakley*, "Living into the Mystery of the Holy Trinity: Trinity, Prayer and Sexuality"; Karl Barth, CD II/1, 650-51; Augustine (selections from Confessions and Homilies on I John)
  • Poem: John Donne, "Holy Sonnet XIV"
9. The Spirit and the triune God
  • Augustine, selection from Homilies on I John*; Thomas Smail, The Giving Gift, ch. 6
  • Poem: George Herbert, "Grace"
  • Note: This Augustine selection was my only disappointment with the Rogers reader. Unfortunately, Rogers used the old NPNF translation, and the students were completely put off by the clumsy 19th-century syntax. This was a real shame, since I'd used other selections from the lovely new translation of Augustine's Homilies on I John, and the students found this very accessible. Maybe Rogers could update the translation in his next edition...?
10. The Spirit as God’s mission
  • Gregory, On Pentecost*; Kirsteen Kim, The Holy Spirit in the World, 41-66
  • Poem: Sufjan Stevens, "Seven Swans" (song)
11. The gifts of the Spirit
  • Cyril*; Jürgen Moltmann, The Spirit of Life, ch. 9; Amos Yong, The Spirit Poured Out on All Flesh, 292-301; Gordon Fee, God's Empowering Presence, 886-95
  • Poem: George Hebert, "Whitsunday"
  • Note: This class unexpectedly turned into a discussion of "discerning the Spirit", especially with reference to the Spirit's work in other religions. It was probably the best discussion of the whole course, so next time around I'll add "Discerning the Spirit" as one of the main topics, and I'll probably combine "gifts of the Spirit" and "charismatic experience" as a single topic.
12. The Spirit and charismatic experience
  • Sarah Coakley* (Church of England Doctrine Commission), "Charismatic Experience"; Frank Macchia, "The Spirit and the Power: Spirit Baptism in Pentecostal and Ecumenical Perspective"; Augustine, Homilies on I John, 6.8-13
  • Poem: John Michael Talbot, "One Dark Night" (song; words by St John of the Cross)
13. The Spirit and Christian hope
  • Jürgen Moltmann*; Karl Barth, "Life in Hope", in CD IV/3; Denis Edwards, "Ecology and the Holy Spirit" (in Preece and Pickard, ed., Starting with the Spirit)
  • Poem: Kevin Hart, "The Last Day"
Poem for concluding reflection: Kevin Hart, "Prayer"


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