A Profound Ignorance
Modern Pneumatology and Its Anti-modern Redemption
Imprint: Baylor University Press
463 Pages, 6.00 x 9.00 in, 1 b&w photo
- Published: November 2019
In the march of modernity and the opening of global boundaries, the face of the world changed. How we understood the world, and our place in it, changed. And with that great shift, our concept of the Holy Spirit also changed. Now the third person of the Trinity became a diffusive power in a universalizing attempt at resolving the expansively harsh realities of human existence.
In A Profound Ignorance, Ephraim Radner traces the development of pneumatology as a modern discipline and its responses to experiences of social confusion and suffering, often associated with questions linked to the category of theodicy. Along the way, study of the Spirit joined with natural science to become study of spirit, which was at root study of the human person redefined without limitation. Radner proposes that the proper parameters of pneumatology are found in studying Israel and her historical burdens as the Body of Christ, showing how the Spirit is the reality of God that affirms the redemptive character of Christ, the Son.
The traumas of the twentieth and twenty-first centuries have brought to the fore the problematic distance between earlier and more modern approaches to the Spirit. Drawing on writers from Paracelsus to John Berryman, and including theologians and philosophers like Anne Conway and John Wesley, as well as literary figures from d’Aubigné to Duhamel, Radner attempts to locate modern pneumatology’s motives and interests within some of the novel social settings of a rapidly globalizing consciousness and conflicted pluralism.
It is by following Israel into the Incarnation of Jesus, Radner contends, that humans find their unresolved sufferings and yearnings redeemed. The Holy Spirit operates in deep hope, the kind of hope that is inaccessible to simple articulation. Finally, Radner argues for a more limited and reserved pneumatology, subordinated to the christological realities of divine incarnation: here, creaturely limitations are not denied, but affirmed, and taken up into the life of God.
Part One: Corruption
1. The New World, a New Spirit
2. The Modern Invention of Pneumatology
3. A Short History of Pneumatic Human Being (I)
4. A Short History of Pneumatic Human Being (II)
5. The Spirit against the Body
Part Two: Redemption
6. Jesus and the Spirit
7. Life in the Spirit
This is a remarkable book. It is bold in its telling of history, and incisive in its theological judgements. But above all, it articulates a theology of the Spirit that takes the limitations of creaturely life seriously and fills them with bracing joy.~Judith Wolfe, Professor of Philosophical Theology and Deputy Head of the School of Divinity, University of St Andrews
By reading vast numbers of forgotten books and thinking theologically in order to survive, Radner has become one of the very few indispensable theologians writing today. He puts his finger on the Christian pretense -- which he traces from the seventeenth century forward -- that the Holy Spirit should serve to alleviate the grim difficulties that plague the fallen world. Instead, Radner invites us to see how the Spirit works in and through the difficulties of Jesus Christ's life. A brilliant and deeply challenging tour-de-force.~Matthew Levering, James N. and Mary D. Perry, Jr. Chair of Theology, Mundelein Seminary
Radner’s writings are never for the faint of heart, and this is no exception! While there might be a good deal of historical esoterica and theological arcana, the bold thesis espoused by Radner calls for a genuine reconfiguration of our perspective on the movement of the Holy Spirit, in particular how we think about the discourse of ‘modern pneumatology.’ Whether one agrees with Radner’s conclusions or not, one will never regard the act of reading as an exercise in boredom or futility. Take up and read it!~Paul C. H. Lim, Associate Professor of the History of Christianity, Vanderbilt University
An erudite and in-depth analytical study, A Profound Ignorance: Modern Pneumatology and Its Anti-modern Redemption is enhanced with the inclusion of 116 pages of Notes, an eighteen page Index of Subjects and Persons, and a three page Index of Scripture.~The Midwest Book Review