Tag Archives | Baker Academic

Unifying Pentecostalism | Walter J. Hollenweger

Walter HollenwegerI believe that there is something unifying in the Pentecostal movement, but it is probably not on the level of doctrine. It is a way of doing theology: experience-related, open to oral forms, ecumenical (by virtue of its many worldwide forms), and expressing itself in categories of pneumatology.

—Hollenweger, Pentecostalism, 329.

Pentecostalism | Walter J. Hollenweger

The cover of Hollenweger's PentecostalismWalter J. Hollenweger (1927-1916), an ordained minister with the Swiss Reformed Church, book-ended his academic career with large works on pentecostalism. His ten volume (!) doctoral dissertation, Handbuch der Pfingstbewegung, was condensed then translated into The Pentecostals—a highly readable and insightful book on the origins of the global Pentecostal movement.

Pentecostalism is more than an update to The Pentecostals. In his earlier work he privileged history over theology. Pentecostalism, on the other hand, is “a thoroughly theological book” (92) in which he traces the diverse roots of global pentecostalism. Hollwenweger identifies five theological roots which have fed the movement we see today:

  1. The Black Oral Root. While in the West today, “Pentecostalism is fast developing into an evangelical middle class religion” (19), things were different in the beginning. Hollenweger shows how pentecostalism is thriving in Africa, even if sects like the Kimbanguists of Zaïre make Western theologians nervous!
  2. The Catholic Root. Pentecostalism was heavily influenced by the Wesley brothers, who were in turn influenced by Roman Catholicism. Hollenweger traces the uneasy but definable influence of Roman Catholic theology on the pentecostal movement.
  3. The Evangelical Root. In this slim section, Hollenweger follows “the traces of Wesley’s doctrine of sanctification through the American Holiness movement” (181). His discussion of the relationship between pentecostalism, fundamentalism, and evangelicalism (ch. 15) is particularly insightful.
  4. The Critical Root. In this disproportionately large section of Pentecostalism, Hollenweger reviews the numerous critical issues which pentecostals are beginning to face. Fortunately, pentecostals can no longer be described as “anti-intellectual, evangelical-fundamentalist and anti-ecumenical” (van der Laan in Hollenweger 201)! Pentecostal scholarship has started to rigorously address broader theological issues such as liberation theology, soteriology, ecclesiology, and post-colonial missions. From my perspective studying at McMaster Divinity College, the two decades of pentecostal/charismatic scholarship that followed the publication of Pentecostalism have added immensely to all the areas which Hollenweger surveys.
  5. The Ecumenical Root. This is Hollenweger’s wheelhouse. In both of his books on pentecostalism he repeatedly laments pentecostal disengagement with the ecumenical movement. In Pentecostalism he is cautiously optimistic that pentecostals are now engaging with the universal body of Christ as expressed by the World Council of Churches.

In Pentecostalism, the “elder statesman of Penteecostal studies” (Cox), shows the astounding breadth of global pentecostalism. Though technically an outsider, Hollenweger handles the diverse issues of this massive movement with critical sensitivity. I only wish he had a chance to update his work one last time before his passing.


Hollenweger, Walter J. Pentecostalism: Origins and Developments Worldwide. Grand Rapids: Baker Academic, 1997.

Theology Comes Standard | Kevin J. Vanhoozer

Kevin J. VanhoozerTheology is not a luxury, an optional extra (like leather trim), but a standard operating feature (like a steering wheel) of the pastorate.

—Kevin J. Vanhoozer and Owen Strachan, The Pastor as Public Theologian: Reclaiming a Lost Vision (Grand Rapids, MI: Baker Academic, 2015), 27.

Pastors and Theology | Owen Strachan

Owen StrachanThe pastor who leads well owes less to “best practices” or strategic vision and more to biblical theology and the way of the cross.

—Kevin J. Vanhoozer and Owen Strachan, The Pastor as Public
Theologian: Reclaiming a Lost Vision 
(Grand Rapids, MI: Baker Academic, 2015), 54.

The Pastor as Public Theologian | Kevin J. Vanhoozer & Owen Strachan

The cover of Vanhoozer & Strachan's The Pastor as Public TheologianFor centuries, the local pastor was a public theologian. The pastor was a peculiar kind of intellectual (not an academic specialist) who “opens up the Scriptures to help people understand God, the world, and themselves” (1).

Today, this classical vision of the pastorate is all but lost. The revivalist movement of the nineteenth century exchanged the thoughtful messages of the Puritans for “the freewheeling pulpiteer, master of the homespun story” (88). This devolved to the place where a person like Billy Sunday could boast that “he knew as much about theology as a jackrabbit knows about Ping-Pong” (90)! The movement of theology from the church to the university also undermined the pastor’s theological role. Where Luther and Calvin were the leading pastor-theologians of their day, pastors are now pressured to take on a host of church-growth leadership roles while they leave theology to the experts in the academy.

In The Pastor as Public Theologian, Vanhoozer and Strachan passionately call for a return of the pastor-theologian. Pastors have a ground-level knowledge that academics will never have. Pastors are called by God to guard their flocks by challenging and weeding out false teaching.

Methodologically, Vanhoozer and Strachan divide the book into four sections, following the classical division of theology:

  1. Biblical Theology: The Old Testament roles of prophet, priest, and king are examined in light of Jesus and their significance for pastoral work.
  2. Historical Theology: The history of the church is reviewed and the devolution of the pastor’s role is charted.
  3. Systematic Theology: The moods of the Greek language (especially indicative and imperative) are used as a framework for examining the intersection between biblical and cultural literacy in the pastorate.
  4. Practical Theology: The various biblical roles of the pastor are reviewed to see how they contribute to the health of God’s house.

The chapters in this book are interspersed with twelve short essays from pastors who show how assuming the role of pastor-theologian has benefited their own congregations. The book then ends with “Fifty-Five Summary Theses on the Pastor as Public Theologian” (183). These theses condense the message of the book into six pages.

I would encourage every pastor to buy and read this book. It is not only an accurate diagnosis of a modern illness—it offers motivation and the first steps toward a cure.

—Kevin J. Vanhoozer and Owen Strachan, The Pastor as Public Theologian: Reclaiming a Lost Vision (Grand Rapids, MI: Baker Academic, 2015).

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