The Theologist is your guide to all things writing and publishing in the fields of theology and biblical studies, from finding inspiration for your work to reading the best literature on writing, from overcoming writing obstacles to finding writing mentors, and more. In this newest installation of The Theologist, we interview Amos Yong, author and editor of many books, including The Bible, Disability, and the Church: A New Vision of the People of God (2011), Who Is the Holy Spirit?: A Walk with the Apostles (2011), and The Spirit Poured Out on All Flesh: Pentecostalism and the Possibility of Global Theology (2005). In 2020, Wipf and Stock also published An Amos Yong Reader: The Pentecostal Spirit under our Cascade imprint.
How long does it generally take you to write a book?
Depends; for instance:
My PhD dissertation (the published version [Discerning the Spirit(s), Sheffield, 2000]), almost identical with the defended version, took me six months, although I had two months within that time of mental block (so four months of writing after research was done).
In the Days of Caesar (Eerdmans, 2009) took a year to research and a year to write (while teaching full-time).
Who is the Holy Spirit? (Paraclete, 2010) was written Sunday afternoons over a year (2007–8?) with each chapter shared with a Sunday School class that met weekly.
My two books on Buddhist-Christian dialogue (both Brill, 2012) were drafted in 2002–3, revised substantively and expanded in 2004, and revised again in 2010–11.
Renewing Christian Theology (Baylor, 2014) was written over a six-month period of a yearlong Louisville Institute sabbatical sponsored grant.
My Mission after Pentecost (Baker, 2019) began as blogs in 2015 and was finalized during a sabbatical quarter in fall 2017.
I wrote Learning Theology (WJK, 2018) in four weeks during the summer of 2017.
Not including the research phase that lasted a few years, it took me three months to produce the first full draft of my Revelation theological commentary in the WJK Belief series (2021).
In cases where I am breaking some new ground, the reading and research takes time of course; I am addressing in the above particularly the time it has taken me to produce a manuscript, once the writing begins.
To what extent do you “workshop” your writing before publishing? What role do colleagues play in shaping your writing pre-publication?
When breaking some new ground for me, e.g., my Acts theological interpretation, Revelation theological commentary, theological interpretation of Scripture work, theology and disability works, science and theology volume (Spirit of Creation, Eerdmans, 2011), book on theology of the affections (Spirit of Love, Baylor, 2012), I usually have colleagues read the manuscript before sending to the publisher; various of my books include material presented at conferences, etc., and these are usually indicated in the prefaces.
What are the most enjoyable parts of the process from research to writing to publishing?
I have been privileged to have had significant segments of three-to-six-month periods of time over the years to sit and write in my home (with the family gone to school, etc.), and it has been very enjoyable to end each day seeing I have added one thousand words, or in some cases, four thousand to five thousand words from day to day; I am very thankful for my wife, Alma, who has supported these efforts for three decades.
What qualities do you look for in a publisher when you have a book project in mind?
Having published across the gamut, there are different benefits publishers bring to the table; university presses or historically renowned academic publishers are for those more theoretically oriented texts seeking to break new ground, or sometimes I have tried textbook writing, or other times I am hoping to appeal to a wider audience, etc. I have also published a number of collections of previously published essays with Cascade, for which I have been delighted to work with Rodney Clapp, Robin Parry, and others of you at W&S.
How do you feel about promoting your own work versus promoting peers’ and students’ work?
On a scale of 1–10, with 10 being someone who does a lot of promotion work, I’m probably a 3–4 perhaps; I should do more promotion especially of my own work. As Dean at Fuller I have tried to promote the work of colleagues but my administrative labors have impeded even some of that. I hope to support the work of my students more as I can in this next season/chapter of my work.
When did you know you had an intellectual vocation?
At a Society for Pentecostal Studies annual meeting in 1994 when I met other pentecostal academics; I had just finished seminary and after that applied to do PhD studies.
In what ways has your approach to writing changed since you first started writing for publication?
I am probably writing more freely rather than having to footnote every sentence; I would like to write in an even more accessible manner for a wider church (and even beyond) set of audiences going forward.
Which of your prior book projects holds the dearest place in your heart, and why?
My Theology & Down Syndrome (Baylor, 2007) was motivated by my brother’s life, and my Spirit of Love was dedicated to Alma at our twenty-fifth-year anniversary. I am going to be working on a book with my practical theologian son, Aizaiah (pronounced like the biblical Isaiah) and that will be special when it’s done.
Describe the thread(s) running through your oeuvre in three words or less.
Now in three sentences or less.
I have sought to think through all things theological from my background, experience, and perspective as a pentecostal-charismatic Christian and this has led me to foreground the work of the Holy Spirit and, more recently, the after-Pentecost (not just incarnational) character of all Christian theologizing; how’s that for one sentence (I know: with multiple clauses!)?
What motivates you to read and write?
I have been blessed to have emerged at a time when pentecostal-charismatic Christians were arriving to the theological conversation and thus been motivated to ask in each case something like, what difference does the Holy Spirit make in this conversation?
Who are your favorite theologians, dead or alive, to read, and why?
I am not sure there are favorites now; but see this from a few years ago…
What about your favorite non-theological writers to read (and why)?
I have not read as much non-theologians but anticipate ranging into more non-theological arenas in the next decade so we’ll see . . .
What project(s) are you working on next?
A book on trauma (with my son, mentioned above), while finishing my missiology (on evangelism and conversion more specifically) and my (perhaps long-awaited by some) christology.
What books are you currently reading?
A book on religion in Brazil (for my first trip there in July 2023), one on cartographical theory (for my christology), and one on money (anticipating that sojourn beyond the theological arena in the next few years . . .
Amos Yong is Professor of Theology and Mission at Fuller Theological Seminary in Pasadena, California. His graduate education includes degrees in theology, history, and religious studies from Western Evangelical Seminary (now Portland Seminary) and Portland State University, both in Portland, Oregon, and Boston University, Boston, Massachusetts, and an undergraduate degree from Bethany University of the Assemblies of God. Licensed as a minister with the International Church of the Foursquare Gospel, he has also authored or edited dozens of scholarly volumes. He and his wife, Alma, have three children and six grandchildren. Amos and Alma reside in Southern California.