A Theology of the Holy Spirit

by Frederick Dale Bruner

A Theology of the Holy Spirit, by F. D. Bruner

Full title: A Theology of the Holy Spirit: The Pentecostal Experience and the New Testament Witness.

First published by Wm.B Eerdmans in 1970, this edition is a 2001 reprint by the Trinity Foundation.

Available here.

Preface by Frederick Dale Bruner

What follows is an essay in case-study theology. The focus of the study is the doctrine and experience of the Holy Spirit. The particular case through and by which this doctrine is studied is the missionary movement known as Pentecostal.

The study began under missionary considerations. The late Dr. Hendrick Kramer directed me in my course of studies at Princeton Theological Seminary to the University of Hamburg for missionary research. The later Professor D. Walter Freytag accepted me for study at the university and made available the resources of the university’s well-known Missionsakademie. Professor D. Heinrich Meyer, Bishop of Lübeck, himself a doctor of theology in New Testament studies and a missionary for several decades in India, guided me into the study of what had for some years interested me – the Book of Acts, particularly the experience of the Holy Spirit.He encouraged me to compare the Pentecostal and apostolic understandings of the Spirit. I want to record my gratitude to these missionary gentlemen for their direction and kindness.

As the study developed I came increasingly to see that my concerns with the subject matter were principally doctrinal. The truth-question became the paramount consideration. Is the Pentecostal teaching on the experience of the Spirit in conformity with the New Testament teaching? Is Acts represented by Pentecostalism today? Should Christians seek a second, what is sometimes called a Pentecostal, experience subsequent to their Christian initiation? I found that this complex of questions was gradually forming me into what is called, in the division of theological studies, a student of systematic theology.

I was not strictly a New Testament scholar because my questions, though beginning in the first century, were too “American-pragmatic” twentieth century, too concerned with a current missionary problem, to make me a thoroughgoing biblical scholar.

But I was not principally a missionary scientist, either, because me questions were too first century, too New Testament oriented, and in these sense, perhaps, too narrow for the broad-ranging, world-oriented, and particularly nineteenth- and twentieth-century foci on mission studies.

I was in between. Which meant, I was in systematic theology. I have found that I enjoy the “middle kingdom” of systematic theology between the empires of exegesis, on the one hand, and of missionary theology on the other.

I have sought to understand, first, the Pentecostal movement and its experience of the Spirit. I have attended Pentecostal and Neo-Pentecostal [i.e., Charismatic*] meetings, conferences, clinics, and prayer meetings, talked with members and leaders, read the literature. But because my concern has wanted to be more than merely academic, I have asked myself the persistent question asked by Pentecostals of any who will listen: Should I have the Pentecostal experience? As Pentecostals sometimes put it: Did I want more than a head knowledge, did I want a heart knowledge of the Pentecostal gift first known by the apostles and known now by the Pentecostals themselves?

This question of “should I,” and then the larger churchly question of “should we,” led me as a Protestant to the New Testament. The result is this essay.

May I express a series of personal and institutional gratitudes: to the Cobb Fund of the First Presbyterian Church of Hollywood, California, my home congregation, for the larger share of the financing of my graduate studies; to the late Dr. Henrietta C. Mears of that church, my student Sunday School teacher, for initiation into Scripture and into a fellowship as close to Christian realities as I have experienced, her college department; to the evangelical theological faculty of the University of Hamburg for the privilege of association with it, and particularly, if I may do so again, to Bishop Meyer, as well as to Professor D. Georg Kretschmar, my learned co-referent; to the Rev, Dr. Darrell Guder for German mercies; to the staff of the McAlister Library of Fuller Theological Seminary for help at important periods of my research; to the Commission on Ecumenical mission and Relations of the United Presbyterian Church of the U.S.A; to the faculty of Union Theological Seminary, Philippines, particularly my senior colleagues, Dr. Emerito Nacpil, Dr. Gerald Anderson, and the Rev. Dr. Earl Palmer, for the high standards of their own work and for their kindness in helping me into my theological task; and, quite particularly, to those to whom this book is respectfully dedicated [To Dr. and Mrs. F Carlton Booth], for whom I and my family have special reason to feel affection.


Union Theological Seminary, Philippines
Palapala, Dasmariñas, Cavite

– – – – – – –

[*Comment added by Simon Padbury.]


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