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Subversive Fire



This book offers a historical survey and analysis of the ways that medieval and earlymodern European Christian writers and visionaries conceptualized the meaning of the pentecostal narrative found in the New Testament.

While the primary aim of this study is the recovery and examination of the various meanings of Pentecost as envisioned by Christian thinkers during these two historical periods, the relationship of such ideas and concepts to pneumatology in their respective contexts is also discussed in this book.

Pneumatological foundations form the core of numerous Christian doctrines in soteriology, ecclesiology, and eschatology. However, rather than attempting a detailed survey of topics and themes already covered in other histories of pneumatology, this study presents a series of vignettes describing Christian conceptions of Pentecost and pneumatology from the late 1100s to about 1670 while examining related questions of theological discourse.

Key questions considered in this study are: What is it about Pentecost and the Western imagination that allows Pentecost to show up in a variety of literary and theological forms throughout Christian history? Why have so many Christian visionaries revisited the story of Pentecost as an act of theological reconstruction often aimed at subverting dominant ecclesiastical paradigms? What is the relationship between the miraculous pneumatic communication signified in the biblical story of Pentecost and the empowering voice and gifts of the Holy Spirit?


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