Tag Archives | pentecostal

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.

Spirit Hermeneutics | Craig S. Keener

The cover of Keener's Spirit HermeneuticsEveryone has a hermeneutic lens through which they view the world—whether they realize it or not. For every academic who examines their hermeneutics with rigor (i.e. Gadamer, Thiessen), there’s that sweet soul in the congregation ‘claiming’ Jeremiah 29:11 for herself.

In Spirit Hermeneutics, charismatic New Testament scholar Craig Keener examines what a healthy pentecostal hermeneutic might entail. His conclusion is encouraging. The sceptical cessationism of twentieth-century Western christianity has given way to a hermeneutic that values God’s current active role in interpretation.

Keener thoughtfully covers a number of key topics. He emphasizes the role of global pentecostalism in reading scripture. Majority world views are just as valuable as Western views. He values careful exegesis (as his four volume commentary on Acts amply demonstrates), yet emphasizes boldly emphasizes the value of lay devotional reading.

For devotion and for church edification, . . . exegesis occurs within the believing community. Acts 15:28 does suggest the value of truly Spirit-led community understandings. (277)

When I ordered Spirit Hermeneutics, I expected to read a scholarly approach to pentecostal hermeneutics. What surprised me was the personal elements of this work. Keener adds autobiographical details which do more than illustrate his approach—they inspire the reader to challenge their presuppositions and to engage scripture afresh.

Keener, Craig S. Spirit Hermeneutics: Reading Scripture in Light of Pentecost. Grand Rapids: Eerdmans, 2016.

Practical Theology | Mark J. Cartledge

The cover of Cartledge's Practical TheologyEmpirical and Theology are unlikely partners. Empirical refers to that which is verifiable through observation. Theology (at least in the more conservative traditions) is rooted in revelation and textual studies. In Practical Theology, Mark Cartledge demonstrates how these two ideas play well together in a Charismatic milieu.

Practical Theology is written in two parts. In the first three chapters, Cartledge explains his methodology along with a variety of research methods that suit. Particularly enlightening is the way he weaves contemporary philosophy and charismatic scholarship together to define truth.

The chapters in the second half of Practical Theology illustrate the methodology of the first half. Cartledge has used both quantitative and qualitative research methods in his career. He uses the data he gathered throughout his research to demonstrate various ways of doing sociological studies. These chapters are interesting on two levels. They illuminate some key ideas in charismatic theology: prophecy, the role of women, and glossolalia to name a few. At the end of each study Cartledge offers a reflection on the methods used to interpret the data.

Practical Theology should be read by anyone interested in doing sociological research from a charismatic perspective.

Cartledge, Mark J. Practical Theology: Charismatic and Empirical Perspectives. Eugene: Wipf & Stock, 2003.

The Prophethood of All Believers | Roger Stronstad

The cover of Stronstad's The Prophethood of All BelieversThe genre and theology of Luke-Acts is fundamentally different from the other three gospels. Luke-Acts is “the only self-consciously written, self-designated historical narrative in the New Testament” (4). As such, it must be read on its own terms.

In The Prophethood of All Believers, Stronstad focuses in on the unique viewpoint of Luke-Acts. He demonstrates that Luke uses a host of literary devices to point to the fact that the entire eschatological Christian community is made up of prophets. Prophethood for Stronstad is not limited to Spirit-inspired speech, but goes beyond to word and deed. Just as Jesus was anointed as a prophet, powerful in word and deed, the disciples are anointed by the same Spirit to do and witness to what Jesus did.

One of Stronstad’s fundamental views is that Spirit-baptism in Luke-Acts is not salvific, but empowering. This is a long-standing Pentecostal/Charismatic distinction that comes into clarity when Luke-Acts is taken on its own terms.

The majority of Stronstad’s slim volume is taken up with a close exegesis of Luke-Acts. The most inspiring (and controversial) part comes in the last three pages where Strongstad offers a brief contemporary reflection. He lambastes the Pentecostal/Charismatic movement for usurping mission with personal experience:

This shift in focus from vocation to personal experince, from being world-centered to self-centered, renders the service of the Pentecostal, charismatic movement just about as impotent as the service of the contemporary non-Pentecostal, non-charismatic church. This focus on experience rather than on service is like selling one’s birthright of Spirit-empowered service for the pottage of self-seeking experience and blessing. (121)

Stronstad closes with the desire that the entire church, Pentecostal/Charismatic and beyond, would recapture the world-changing doctrine of the prophethood of all believers.

Stronstad, Roger The Prophethood of All Believers: A Study in Luke’s Charismatic Theology. Cleveland, TN: CPT Press, 2010.

Christian Initiation | Frank D. Macchia

Frank MacchiaMany Pentecostals lessen the power of their focus on Spirit baptism by removing it completely from Christian initiation and identity and making it merely an enhancement of power supplemental to the life of grace.

—Frank D. Macchia, Baptized in the Spirit: A Global Pentecostal Theology, (Grand Rapids, MI: Zondervan, 2006), 152.

The PAOC’s Identity Crisis (Part 1 of 6)

The Pentecostal Assemblies of Canada has set up a Theological Study Commission (described here, near the bottom of the page). The first-fruits of this commission have arrived. Masters Pentecostal Seminary has released a series of six papers that can be downloaded here. The stated intent of these papers is to “provoke thought and discussion”, not to layout the PAOC’s official position on these matters.

I’ve read the papers and they’re quite interesting. I thought I’d do my part to further the discussion by calling out and responding to the papers with some thoughts and questions of my own. Six papers (+ one appendix) = six posts. Here we go:

Paper #1:
Pentecostal Identity—A Pastoral Perspective
by Peter Cusick and Brandon Malo

Cusick and Malo anonymously surveyed PAOC pastors on a variety of issues surrounding our pentecostal identity (the raw data can be found here). The paper begins with bit of history about Pentecostal identity before diving into the results of the survey. Continue Reading →

Ezekiel 39:1-8: It’s Done

Blest cross! Blest sepulchre! Blest rather be
The man that there was put to shame for me.
— Paul Bunyan

My background is pentecostal. Pentecostal Assemblies of Canada to be precise. Under the pentecostal banner, there are a wide variety of experiences. Some churches resemble liturgical mainline parishes. Others are full-out charismatic with all the excesses that brings. Most are somewhere in between these two poles. Maybe I shouldn’t have used a polarizing metaphor! Church reality is far more subtle than the stereotypes.

One of the streams that I’ve noticed in some churches is the tendency to thank God for something before he does anything. You often see it when people pray for the sick.  It sounds like this: “Lord Jesus, we thank you that _______ is already healed.”

At its worst, it becomes a mind-game—a way to trick God into thinking we believe so much, we are already thanking him. At its best, though, it can be a deep expression of trust in God’s sovereignty.

. . .

We’re in the middle of a section in Ezekiel about a future battle: the Armageddon-style conflict between God and Gog. In the current passage, God announces the utter defeat of Gog one more time, and concludes with these words:

It has come! It has happened, says the Lord GOD. This is the day of which I have spoken. (v. 8, NRSV)

The difference between my pentecostal experience and this passage is that here God is doing the talking. When God says that something is done, it is—even if it has not yet played out in history.

. . .

Maybe I still have Easter on the brain, but this reminds me of Jesus. In fact, you can understand this battle with Gog as having happened on the cross. The battle was over when Jesus said, “It is finished”. A few days later when Jesus rose from the grave, he proved that he had defeated Gog—even death itself.

So where does that leave us?

We’re in an awkward time when we know Jesus has defeated sin and death, entropy and decay, but are ravaged by them nonetheless.

I think we need God’s perspective from v. 8. “It has come!”  “It has happened”. Even if the consequences of that day have not yet played out in history, God’s work is fully accomplished.

Regardless of your view of eschatology, we all agree that the decisive battle has been won. All that’s left is for the kingdom to spread, and for the remnants of evil to be driven away like shadows from a candle.

. . .

Lord God, in discouraging times, help me to remember that the you have already defeated death. Give me the endurance and patience to continue announcing your kingdom. In Jesus’ name, Amen.

< Ezekiel 38:17-23 | Great Shaking

Ezekiel 39:9-10 | Ravaged Ravager >

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