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The Globalization of Pentecostalism: A Review Article, by Paul Elbert

[31] Pinnock, “Divine Relationality,” p. 22, worries that “What concerns me about Pentecostal theology is that certain evangelicals may infect Pentecostal work with an unrelational virus, hamper Pentecostal theological development and diminish Pentecostal vitality.  I fear that Evangelicals may sneeze and Pentecostals catch cold.”   Pentecostals have already been chastised by Peter Hocken, “A Charismatic View on the Distinctiveness of Pentecostalism,” in Wonsuk Ma and Robert P. Menzies (eds.), Pentecostalism in Context: Essays in Honor of William W. Menzies (JPTSup 11; Sheffield: Sheffield Academic Press, 1997), pp. 96-106 (105), who critiques them in the context of potential submission to the paleoreformed paradigm outlined above: “Where these rationalist patterns are operative in the realm of theology they cannot help but be reductionist in their effects – taking a richer reality and filtering it through a theological grid that eliminates non-rational non-logical elements, even at the same time protesting vigorously against those who utilize the same Zeitgeist in more blatantly unbelieving ways… The Evangelicalism of Pentecostalism, as it has been called, represents at one and the same time contradictory tendencies: on the one hand, the acceptance of fundamental biblical principles that are essential for authentic spiritual growth, and on the other hand, yet another attempt to curb and constrain the divine largesse into restricted theological categories.”

[32] E.g., Luke Timothy Johnson, Religious Experience in Earliest Christianity: A Missing Dimension in New Testament Studies (Minneapolis: Fortress, 1998), thinks that Christian experience portrayed in texts is a neglected factor in scholarship treating these texts.  With apt concern for understanding the uniqueness of Christian experiential origins, Johnson rightly wonders how later developments can be legitimate if they do not go back to the earthly Jesus.  In this regard especially, cf. Steve Summers, “‘Out of My Mind for God’: A Social-Scientific Approach to Pauline Pneumatology,” and Mark J. Cartledge, “Interpreting Charismatic Experience: Hypnosis, Altered States of Consciousness and the Holy Spirit?,” Journal of Pentecostal Theology 13 (1998), pp. 77-106 and 117-132, respectively.  Without a properly balanced emphasis on experience in Christocentric global mission, “a-missionary pneumatologies” may be detected within some previously established missiologies. These missiologies are by and large silent about experience, and are themselves insufficiently grounded in the divine interactivity and supernatural (non-rational) transmission of the gifts (and fruit) of the Holy Spirit, according to missiologist Jan A. B. Jongeneel, “Ecumenical, Evangelical and Pentecostal/Charismatic Views on Mission as a Movement of the Holy Spirit, in Jan A. B. Jongeneel et al (eds.), Pentecost, Mission and Ecumenism: Essays on Intercultural TheologyFestschrift in Honour of Walter J. Hollenweger (Studien zur Interkulturellen Geschichte des Christentums 75; Frankfort: Peter Lang, 1992), pp. 231-46 (233, 237-39).

[33] William W. Menzies, “The Methodology of Pentecostal theology: An Essay on Hermeneutics,” in Elbert (ed.), Essays on Apostolic Themes, pp. 1-14; Lewis, “Towards a Pentecostal Epistemology,” pp. 109-17; Roger Stronstad, The Charismatic Theology of St. Luke (Peabody, MA: Hendrickson Publishers, 1984), pp. 82, 83; Prophethood of All Believers, p. 54ff.

[34] On the latter, cf. Carl F. H. Henry, God, Revelation, and Authority (3 vols.; Waco, TX: Word Books, 1976, 1979), I, p. 388; II, p. 55; III, pp. 248, 434.  Personal encounter and experience beyond written revelation, whether cognitive or noncognitive, is, for Henry, cultic and not part of biblical religion.  Henry’s exalted view of the human mind and the experience of reading may recall Calvin’s “mistress reason,” but in any case Pentecostals are not buying this narrow sola Scriptura vision.  Neither does Stanley Grenz, Revisioning Evangelical Theology: A Fresh Agenda for the 21st Century (Downers Grove, IL: InterVarsityPress, 1993), p. 92, with his Enlightenment-based idea that “experience cannot form a separate source” of knowing, impress Pentecostal theologians as consistent with the experiential portrayal of characters in the New Testament who repent, are forgiven, are directed, or who receive, for example, the Lukan gift of the Holy Spirit.  Even some Evangelicals, who may get a little nervous about revelatory activities of the Holy Spirit beyond enscripturation, believe that theological reflection has entered a cul-de-sac on Henry-Grenzstraße with their virtual banishment of experiential emphasis.  For example, Richard Shaull and Waldo Cesar, Pentecostalism and the Future of the Christian Churches: Promises, Limitations, Challenges (Grand Rapids, MI: Eerdmans Publishing, 2000), p. 170, lament that “As a result of all this we have practically lost the ability to connect with, enter into, and live out of the realm of the Spirit so central to the biblical witness.”

[35] John McKay, “When the Veil is Taken Away: The Impact of the Prophetic Experience on Biblical Interpretation,” Journal of Pentecostal Theology 5 (1994), pp. 17-40; Larry R. McQueen, Joel and the Spirit; The Cry of a Prophetic Hermeneutic (JPTSup 8; Sheffield: Sheffield Academic Press, 1995), pp. 107-12; cf. also James D. G. Dunn, “The Authority of Scripture According to Scripture” in his The Living Word (Philadelphia, PA: Fortress Press, 1987), pp. 89-140 (133), who fairly observes that “It is clear that the traditional evangelical dichotomy between scripture, reason and tradition as the source and measure of revelatory authority has often been too sharply drawn.”

[36] Pentecostal hermeneutics is not inclined to divorce the experience of God from discursive reasoning, from the community of charisms, cf. Land, Pentecostal Spirituality, p. 24; Terry Cross, “The Rich Feast of Theology: Can Pentecostals Bring the Main Course or Only The Relish?,” Journal of Pentecostal Theology 16 (2000), pp. 27-47 (35).

[37] So too, Willem Balke, “Revelation and Experience in Calvin’s Theology,” in David Willis and Michael Welker (eds.), Toward the Future of Reformed Theology: Tasks, Topics, Traditions (Grand Rapids, MI: Eerdmans, 1999), pp. 350-52.

[38] The narrow cessationistic conception of sola Scriptura sheds little light upon the experiential portrayals of examples and precedents provided by Luke-Acts which are not reflective of one of Luke’s two main themes.  That narrow paradigm accepts the portrayals of forgiveness, repentance, faith, salvation and conversion, but rejects the portrayals of Luke’s other main theme, those treating the gift of the Holy Spirit and delicate expressive variations of description thereof, like receiving the gift of the Holy Spirit, receiving the Holy Spirit, being filled with the Spirit, and the Spirit falling upon believer-disciples.  In the cessationistic conception these latter belong, not to a prophetic theme of the “last days” projected by the Lukan narrative, but supposedly to a post-Lukan epoch in which the interactivity and relationality of God with believers is necessarily redefined; cf. discussion of a narrowly conceived sola Scriptura with respect to one of these Lukan portrayals by James B. Shelton, “Epistemology and Authority in the Acts of the Apostles: An Analysis and Test Case Study of Acts 15:1-30,” The Spirit & Church 2/2 (2000), pp. 231-47.

[39] For a fuller perspective on Ma’s missionary experience, cf. Julie C. Ma, When the Spirit Meets the Spirits (Studien zur Interkulturellen Geschichte des Christentums 118; Frankfurt: Peter Lang, 2000).

[40] (New Haven: Yale University Press, 1998 and 2000 respectively).  My citation of Polkinghorne’s reflections within the current age of science – which brought about the intellectual transformation concerning the probability of the existence of God with the discovery of the Cosmic Microwave Background Radiation in 1963 and ushered in a new paradigm shifting era, which I call the Era of the Glimpse of God   – does not, of course imply my agreement with him on all points.

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About the Author: Paul Elbert, physicist-theologian and New Testament scholar, teaches theology and science at the Pentecostal Theological Seminary. He is co-chair of the Formation of Luke-Acts section in the Society of Biblical Literature and is a research advisor to the Dominican Biblical Institute, Limerick, Ireland. His writings have appeared, for example, in Zeitschrift für die neutestamentliche Wissenschaft and in Catholic Biblical Quarterly. He served as editor of two anniversary volumes for Old Testament scholars, Essays on Apostolic Themes (1985) and Faces of Renewal (1988).

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