"If the Spirit that 'blows where it wills' is the power that creates images and symbols and the power that makes us conscious of the transcendent and enables us to communicate with it, it is also the power that enables us to communicate across cultures," writes Choan-Seng Song in Jesus in the Power of the Spirit. This is the final book in a series that includes Jesus, the Crucified People (1989) and Jesus and the Reign of God (1993). Here Song, Professor of Theology and Asian Cultures at the Pacific School of Religion, Berkeley, explores how Jesus in the power of the Spirit crossed frontiers to proclaim God's reign to outsiders. The author wants us to reflect on "how this Jesus urges us today to cross our Christian frontiers to experience God's loving truth and saving grace in our multi-social historical and multi-cultural religious world."
Song presents Jesus as a Spirit-filled person who envisioned truth as relational, contextual, historical, and transcultural. This man from Nazareth was an enemy of "spiritual colonialism," which the author defines as "a closed truth that comes in the guise of absoluteness and uniqueness." In his ministry, Jesus ignored the barriers that separated the sinners from the righteous and that divided law from grace.
The same Spirit enabled Paul on the Areopagus in Athens and Peter in Joppa to cross their own frontiers of truth. They came to realize that "God through the Spirit is at work in the world outside their community as well as inside it."
Song emphasizes Jesus' creative use of images and symbols in conveying his good news about the Kingdom of God. Armed with the Spirit, he imaginatively communicated across cultures. Song contends that the contemporary Christian church has been stingy in its use of images and symbols. He is also dismayed that far too often literalism has overshadowed an imaginative vision of the Gospel. Even as Jesus told his disciples, "Put out into deep water and let down your nets," Song is convinced that Christians today must take a closer look at the Spirit's operations in other cultures and religions. That is why this book contains parables, stories, and poems from Jewish, Buddhist, Yoruba, and Taoist sources.
Song sees Pentecost as another occasion where frontiers were crossed in the name of the Spirit. Here "language was liberated from its religious captivity." Because the Spirit blows where it wills, we can no longer honor the dictum "no salvation outside the church." Instead, Song asserts, we must admit that God's saving grace is operating freely and powerfully at large in the world.
Jesus in the Power of the Spirit is extremely relevant to our age of spiritual renaissance and religious pluralism. It gives voice to the Spirit that lives at the core of Christian testimony.