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Fire From Heaven: an interview with Harvey Cox

The other strength I see is the community. It provides a sustaining, nurturing community for people who have been dislodged in some way, who need this kind of familial context. This is a desperately needed counter measure in a world where community is being disrupted and destroyed.


What do you see as some of the weaknesses of the Movement?

Well, in an odd sense, the weaknesses grow out of the strengths. The major weakness I see is the temptation to manipulate or conjure experience in some Pentecostal settings. Although at its best, Pentecostalism and Pentecostal people and leaders know that you can’t force the Spirit. The Spirit works at the Spirit’s own speed and pace. Nonetheless, there is sometimes an effort to make sure some kind of experience occurs. That’s pushing it. I think there is that danger.

There is also maybe the anti-creedalism, although I strongly resonate to that. As a Baptist, I’ve never thought that creeds were very useful. I think they are divisive, arbitrary, and very quickly superseded by another controversy. As soon as you have a creed, then you have an argument about what the creed really says. Nonetheless, I think that Pentecostalism needs to develop a critical theology at this stage of its growth, and be more aware of its own history. I think there is a calamitous lack of knowledge of the history of Pentecostalism among Pentecostals. I am astonished to find out how little they know about their own history. Understandable in one sense, the Pentecostal movement started as a millennial movement. Pentecostals didn’t think the history was going to be around much longer, so why bother? Now it is almost a century later and it has a rich and marvelous history that I really enjoy studying. It has some phenomenal figures in history, courageous and inventive people, but this is unknown to many Pentecostal people.

I also believe Pentecostals need to be careful that they are not co-opted into religious and political movements contrary to the core message and vision of Pentecostalism. I think sometimes Pentecostals are pulled into some far right political shenanigans that really do not exemplify the vision that is there at the core of the original Pentecostal message.

I really don’t like to talk about weaknesses. When you study this movement you find there’s been so much criticism and so much dismissive language used toward Pentecostals. If anything, I think my book probably leans a little the other way to balance the record. Although I do have some critical things to say toward the end of the book, but it is appreciative.

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Category: Church History, Summer 2015

About the Author: John P. Lathrop is a graduate of Gordon-Conwell Theological Seminary and is an ordained minister with the International Fellowship of Christian Assemblies. He has written for a number of publications and is the author of four books Apostles, Prophets, Evangelists, Pastors, and Teachers Then and Now (Xulon Press, 2008), The Power and Practice of the Church: God, Discipleship, and Ministry (J. Timothy King, 2010), Answer the Prayer of Jesus: A Call for Biblical Unity (Wipf & Stock, 2011) and Dreams & Visions: Divine Interventions in Human Experience (J. Timothy King, 2012). He also served as co-editor of the book Creative Ways to Build Christian Community (Wipf & Stock, 2013). Amazon Author page. Facebook

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