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Do Full-Gospel Ministers Need Theology? by Larry Taylor

The irony of full-gospel history in this country is that it produced a rich heritage of dialogue about the person and work of the Holy Spirit and proclaimed the uncompromising gospel of Jesus Christ, yet rejected in principle  structured elucidation of Biblical precepts. Doctrines were outlined and presented, of course, but research and analysis were neglected or avoided. In short, full-gospel churches inadvertently supplied theological statements without reference to theological rationale. Tragically, it became acceptable simply to claim, “We believe what the Bible believes!” It is always more convenient to claim that the Bible supports our beliefs than to explore the reasons why we believe the Bible originates those beliefs.

It is always more convenient to claim that the Bible supports our beliefs than to explore the reasons why we believe the Bible originates those beliefs.

Consequently, much criticism has been leveled at the full-gospel movement by those who belong to other fundamental and evangelical bodies.3 The full-gospel leader often not only refused to provide a theological framework supporting his beliefs, but actually regarded such efforts as contrary to the authenticity and integrity of his spiritual experience. Some full-gospel ministers had come out of mainline denominational seminaries, and had learned to associate theology with “the dead letter of the law.” While the believer could experience the fullness of life in Christ, he could never explain it. And if this line of thinking applied to the baptism of the Holy Spirit, it should also apply to everything we believe about the Scriptures! The ineffable character of the full-gospel Christian’s life led him to believe that there was nothing to study about it.

Such well-meaning attempts to preserve the sanctity of genuine spiritual experience resulted in religious gibberish. Full-gospel theology remained elusive; people began to entertain nonsensical statements such as, “I believe in the Bible because I believe in the Bible,” “Christ is God because He said He was,” or even, “I don’t need a church because the Bible says, ‘You have no need that someone teach you.’” Yet these are theological statements themselves; for fearful as it may seem, all theology becomes practical sooner or later.

Full-gospel theology is inevitable, and even if we decide not to articulate our position it will eventually be evident in our practice.

If we could learn one valuable lesson in studying Pentecostal and charismatic history it should be this: full-gospel theology is inevitable, and even if we decide not to articulate our position, it will eventually be evident in our practice. For this reason it is important to define the core tenets of a full-gospel theology which have been the hallmarks of our presence within the larger evangelical community, applying to these tenets the disciplines of Biblical research and theological clarification.

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Category: Fall 1998, Ministry, Pneuma Review

About the Author: Larry L. Taylor, M.A., D.Min., is Affiliate Faculty at Regis University in the Denver area and formerly professor of humanities at Portland Bible College. Larry Taylor founded a church in Colorado and has 17 years of pastoral experience.

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