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Frank Macchia: Baptized in the Spirit

Frank D. Macchia, Baptized in the Spirit: A Global Pentecostal Theology (Grand Rapids: Zondervan, 2006), 296 pages.

Frank Macchia, (ThD, University of Basel, Switzerland) represents that interesting paradox once thought of as a possible oxymoron: a true Pentecostal scholar. At least no one who reads his Baptized in the Spirit should any longer doubt the evident reality, vitality, and maturity of today’s Pentecostal scholarship. Dr. Macchia, one of the world’s leading Pentecostal theologians, is currently a professor of theology at Vanguard University in Costa Mesa, CA, serves as senior editor of Pneuma: The Journal of the Society for Pentecostal Studies, is a former president of the Society of Pentecostal Studies, and serves on the Faith and Order Commission of the National Council of Churches. Some have yielded to a temptation to paste Pentecostal insights onto an already existing theological paradigm but Macchia proposes a truly all-encompassing theology organized around Spirit baptism that is a profound integration of an authentic Pentecostal ethos with classic and contemporary Christian theology. As such it deserves to be read widely by Pentecostals themselves and by others seeking to understand Pentecostal theology today.

Professor Macchia begins his task by “framing the issue” in a helpful introductory chapter. Here he shares his exciting Pentecostal testimony of being baptized in the Holy Spirit. That Spirit baptism is much more to Macchia than an interesting item for intellectual reflection is readily apparent. Then he outlines the main themes he develops throughout the book: that Spirit baptism “involves experience;” is a “fluid metaphor surrounded by ambiguous imagery” capable of encompassing numerous emphases; is both charismatic (Lukan) and soteriological (Pauline) in nature; and, that it includes “a Pentecost/kingdom of God correlation” in which “the highest description possible of the substance of Spirit baptism is an eschatological gift that functions as an outpouring of divine love.” Significantly, Macchia maintains that the Holy Spirit’s work “cannot be compartmentalized or separated,” chiding Pentecostals for being too narrow and consequently not developing a broader (and deeper?) pneumatology. He declares that “the vision of the whole for which this book reaches” is that purposeful development.

Macchia insists that though many helpful and insightful Pentecostal monographs have been produced, a central focus on Spirit baptism is regrettably missing in more recent scholarship. He therefore calls for a return to Spirit baptism as the central distinctive of Pentecostals. His survey of the historic development and current state of Pentecostal theology and his passionate argument for completing “the unfinished business of Pentecostal theology” is worth the price of the book. Macchia makes plain his wish to expand the boundaries of Spirit baptism to include applications to all of Christian life and even God’s eventual and ultimate cosmic presence. For him, Spirit baptism in the present age points to and partakes of existence with God in the resurrection and the new heavens and new earth. Macchia places Spirit baptism in Trinitarian perspective. He elucidates the Pentecost-Kingdom connection he argues for throughout the book, the Church’s faith in Jesus as Spirit Baptizer, and in an especially stimulating section, the Trinitarian implications of Spirit baptism itself, before unpacking his understanding of how Spirit baptism impacts present and future life in the Kingdom. Macchia confessedly shows his “Pentecostal colors” here. Then he extensively examines ecclesiology in light of Spirit baptism. Among other things, Macchia stresses koinonia in the Spirit as a possible key to Pentecostal progress on understandings of the Church and also argues for a more pneumatological anthropology. Macchia takes a prime opportunity to address the problems of contemporary religious pluralism too. He describes the uniqueness of the Church in terms of “a critical dialectic” of witness and sign of God’s grace in an all-too-graceless world before addressing the more traditional marks of the Church. He confessedly shows his “Barthian colors” here. The capstone of the book argues emphatically for the Spirit baptized life as an expression of the depths of divine love. Macchia suggests an integrative theology of love that relates cardinal Christian virtues and incorporates sanctification and charismatic gifting/empowerment, personal and social transformation, and historical and eschatological concerns and values through the doctrine and experience of Spirit baptism.

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Category: Fall 2006, Spirit

About the Author: Tony Richie, D.Min, Ph.D., is missionary teacher at SEMISUD (Quito, Ecuador) and adjunct professor at the Pentecostal Theological Seminary (Cleveland, TN). Dr. Richie is an Ordained Bishop in the Church of God, and Senior Pastor at New Harvest in Knoxville, TN. He has served the Society for Pentecostal Studies as Ecumenical Studies Interest Group Leader and is currently Liaison to the Interfaith Relations Commission of the National Council of Churches (USA), and represents Pentecostals with Interreligious Dialogue and Cooperation of the World Council of Churches and the Commission of the Churches on International Affairs. He is the author of Speaking by the Spirit: A Pentecostal Model for Interreligious Dialogue (Emeth Press, 2011) and Toward a Pentecostal Theology of Religions: Encountering Cornelius Today (CPT Press, 2013) as well as several journal articles and books chapters on Pentecostal theology and experience.

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