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Do Full-Gospel Ministers Need Theology? by Larry Taylor

There are good reasons for believing that God continues to act in miraculous signs and wonders on earth. Such knowledge, of course, requires faith; but faith can respond to rational explication when it joins with hearts that are seeking straight answers (cf. Acts 17:2-4).

We should be able to demonstrate that some Christians practice glossolalia, prophetic utterance, and spontaneous worship because they are theologically sound. Isolated examples of Pentecostal heresy and charismatic nonsense do not preclude the authenticity of the full-gospel experience, less still that of the full-gospel church.

The history of Christendom is filled with examples of theologies erected as catapults and siege batteries for internal religious wars—conflicts in which Satan has been the principle victor.

However, if our theology is intended to be truly a “full” gospel, we must not hesitate to explore the full range of Christian theology. The doctrine of the Holy Spirit must not be the only doctrine that concerns us. Instead of “borrowing” the rest of our theology from non-charismatic evangelicals or others, we can work out answers of our own to the problems posed to theology, taking into account the thorough and relevant work done by spokesmen for other traditions but allowing the distinctive stance of our full-gospel heritage to shape the final result.

As ministers, we should approach this challenge as a genuinely spiritual endeavor, responsibly researching and working out our ideas while, at the same time, “(fixing) our eyes on Jesus, the author and perfecter of our faith” (Heb. 12:2). Seeking answers, literally “doing theology,” is a means of expressing our love for the Savior. We show our fidelity to Him and to His Word by taking careful steps toward knowing the truth and relating it responsibly to others.

VI. Postscript and a Plea for New Balance

The history of the full-gospel movement has been observed by some to be a heritage of excesses. I trust that the reader may find my plea to be one characterized by balance. There is no need to advance any particular doctrinal “cause” except the “cause of Jesus Christ and him crucified.” No other issue, even the sincere conviction that full-gospel ministers need theology, should be viewed as unique or fresh revelation. As with all else, a danger lurks behind every extreme. Those who trust rational inquiry as the sole justification for their beliefs are in danger of substituting “dead precepts” for authentic Biblical faith. Those who neglect reason as a viable means for ascertaining truth, while clinging to their immediate spiritual institutions, are in peril of substituting “pet doctrines” for authentic Biblical sanity.

The church has never suffered from a lack of controversial topics; what it needs in place of these is a theology which addresses the common issues of our lives—a ‘marketplace theology.’

The church will probably continue to march into the twenty-first century regardless of internal factionalism. One can hope, however, that in the process it will begin to recognize and correct two equally mischievous parties: the “intellectual snobs” with their textbook answers, and the “spiritual snobs” with their personal revelations. Let us, therefore, move above the battle by squarely admitting the need for balance. Let us develop a theology of the whole man–one which may, in fact, preserve us … “blameless at the coming of our Lord Jesus Christ” (1 Thess. 5:23).

 

PR

 

Notes
1 Blaise Pascal, Pensees, translated by Martin Turnell (Harvard Press, 1962), p.163.
2 For more on the history of Pentecostalism, see, Vinson Synan, ed. Aspects of Pentecostal-Charismatic Origins (Plainfield, NJ: Logos International, 1975).
3 For examples of recent criticism of the full-gospel movement at this point, see John MacArthur, Jr., Charismatic Chaos (Grand Rapids: Zondervan Publishing House, 1992).
4 By an “existential” encounter we mean an experience of subjective or inward awareness, one which affects our senses and makes God immediately real.
5 Unlike the modern empiricists, we are not using the term “verifiable” in the strict sense of empirical or linguistic verification. On this subject, see Anthony Flew and Alasdair Macintyre, eds., New Essays in Philosophical Theology (New York: Macmillan, 1955).
6 Karl Barth, Evangelical Theology: An Introduction (Grand Rapids: Wm . B. Eerdmans, 1979), p. 18.
7 Fredrich Schleiermacher, On Religion: Speeches to Its Cultured Despisers, translated by John Owen (New York: Harper & Brothers, 1958), p. 16.
8 On this subject, see the insightful book by James M. Sire, Scripture Twisting: 20 Ways Cults Misread the Bible (Downers Grove, Ill.: Intervarsity Press, 1980).
9 J.B. Phillips, Your God is Too Small (New York: Macmillan, 1957).
10 Long before this passage raised questions about a so-called “kenotic theory” of Christology, Paul had written it to a group of believers as an example of how to live the Christian life.

 

“Do Full-Gospel Ministers Need Theology?” originally appeared in Issue 2 (Winter 1986) of Basileia: A Journal of Theology for Worshipping Churches published by Christian Life College in Mt. Prospect, Ill. Used by permission.

 

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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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