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Global Pentecostal Renaissance? Reflections on Pentecostalism, Culture, and Higher Education, by Jeff Hittenberger

The Sack of Magdeburg (1631) was one of many great tragedies of the Thirty Years’ War. The siege and subsequent plundering of the predominantly Protestant city by forces of the Holy Roman Empire and the Catholic League convinced many Protestant rulers to take a stand against the Catholic emperor. So many of Magdeburg’s 30,000 citizens were slaughtered after the city fell that only 5,000 survived.
Image: Wikimedia Commons.

It was in the early years of persecution and exile that Comenius wrote The Labyrinth of the World and the Paradise of the Heart, an autobiographical allegory along the lines of Pilgrim’s Progress, in which he examines the ways of humanity and finds corruption and suffering in all his endeavors, until he comes to Christ and finds there the peace, the hope, and the purpose for which he had been searching. The book ends with this statement of faith:

Lord, lead me, hold me, that I may not stray and fall. Grant that I may love you with an eternal love and love nothing beside yourself except in you and for your sake, O endless love! But what else shall I say, my Lord? Here I am, I am yours; I am your own, yours eternally. I renounce heaven and earth that I may have you alone. Only do not withhold yourself from me, and I have enough. To all eternity, unchangeably, I have enough in you alone.13

Orbis Sensualium PictusDrawing on the love and empowerment of God, Comenius became a teacher and leader of extraordinary influence during his forty-two years in exile. During those years, he moved frequently from nation to nation in Europe, serving as an educational counselor to Princes and Kings, writing 154 books in the process. He introduced a fresh approach to education focused on the inherent value and preciousness of each student, in contrast to the heavy-handed and often brutal methods of previous generations. His book entitled The Great Didactic brought this new pedagogy to teachers, influencing systems of education around the world. His book Orbis Sensualium Pictus (The Visible World in Pictures) was the first textbook to incorporate illustrations, a phenomenon we take for granted, but which was a revolutionary idea at the time. Such was his influence that Comenius was invited to be the first President of Harvard College, but refused the invitation in order to remain with his people in exile.

Comenius believed that all truth was God’s and that Christians should eagerly seek to understand God’s world. He encouraged an experimental, empirical, and scientific approach to learning that incorporated all the senses. He attempted a grand synthesis of ideas by gathering knowledge from all domains into a “pansophic” (all wisdom) encyclopedia. This encyclopedia was never completed, though he worked on it for decades. Another battle of The Thirty Years War destroyed many of his unfinished manuscripts when he was in his sixties.

Pentecostals have the resources to live lives that are holistic and exploratory, in communities that are global and diverse, and to experience a transformative relationship with Christ that reshapes all facets of life through the guidance of the Holy Spirit who leads us into all truth.

He served as a mediator between warring Catholics and Protestants and called for peace and unity among all Christians, decrying the idea of war in Christ’s name. Comenius influenced all subsequent generations of European and world education with his holistic methods of education. No less an educator than Jean Piaget wrote the introduction to a collection of Comenius’s works published by UNESCO in the 1950s.14

Comenius, serving as Bishop, kept the Moravian Church alive in spite of great personal suffering. He died in 1670, with the Moravian believers still in exile. To fully appreciate Comenius’s contributions, and appreciate the relevance of his work for the idea of a Global Pentecostal Renaissance, one must describe the ways in which his influence extended into subsequent generations and centuries.

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Category: Living the Faith, Pneuma Review, Spring 2013

About the Author: Jeff Hittenberger, Ph.D. (University of Southern California), serves as Provost/Vice President for Academic Affairs at Vanguard University. He previously served as Director of Graduate Studies at Evangel University and as Dean of the School of Education at Vanguard University. He served as a Rotary Ambassadorial Scholar at Mohamed V University in Rabat, Morocco, has served as a consultant and researcher in Cameroon, Mali, South Africa, Israel, and Haiti.

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