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Good News of the Kingdom of God: An Interview with Paul Pomerville

Jesus’ redemptive death for sin enabled the indwelling of God’s Holy Spirit in people who had faith in Jesus; this experience of the good news of the kingdom is the focal point of all of God’s efforts to bring salvation to humankind.

Ralph Winter’s book The Twenty-five Unbelievable Years, 1945-1969 notes the historical fact that prior to 1945, 99.5 percent of the non-Western world was under colonial domination, but that at the end of 1969 99.5 percent of the non-Western world was independent! This dramatic change took place in the global South in a short twenty-five-year period when 400 years of colonial domination was rolled back to zero. In that stunning new context of freedom, the developing nations were free of colonial domination and began to seek a new national and cultural identity. Their churches also began to seek their cultural and biblical identity, focusing not only on expressing their faith according to local cultures, but they also focused on the New Testament in their search for authentic Christian identity. In other words, the Christians of the Southern Hemisphere who were very conversant with the spirit world and power-encounters with spirits began to read the New Testament story of Jesus’ “good news of the kingdom of God,” a present-powerful Holy Spirit in the lives of Jesus’ followers and their experience of power over the world of demonic spirits.

Those having an expectant eager faith who received the Pentecostal-charismatic experience did not think of their experience as “subsequent” to receiving Jesus as their savior or as a historical “renewal” of the Spirit, but rather as normative New Testament Christian experience. They saw the good news that Jesus declared was the presence of a powerful kingdom in their lives, the rule of a powerful God. After reading about the Pentecost story they understood that Jesus’ good news of the kingdom of God meant that (l) Jesus died for their sins on the cross and (2) they were given the gift of the Pentecostal-charismatic Holy Spirit to enable them to overcome the power of Satan in their lives and to carry out Christ’s mission. This was the gospel that they shared with their animistic spirit-oriented near neighbors and it ignited a firestorm of Spirit-enabled missions that swept across the global South. This powerful Christian movement in the poverty belt of the global South is strategically poised for the evangelization of Islam, whose societies in spite of their belief in Islam are often animistic, believing in a world of spirits, and poor. Therefore, not only did Pentecostal-charismatic Christianity numerically shift to the global South but also the Christian mission did. It was the global South’s distinct Spirit-oriented, holistic, event-oriented worldview—without the influence of the Northern rationalistic-oriented and logical-time oriented worldview—that enabled them to receive the twofold good news of the kingdom of God, sins forgiven and the gift of the Pentecostal-Charismatic Spirit simultaneously.

 

PneumaReview.com: Why has there been a great silence about the Holy Spirit in the church in the West?

The Holy Spirit is the impetus for Christ’s mission, the Spirit-empowered church is the means for mission, and the Spirit himself is its Chief Strategist. He is a missionary Spirit.

Paul Pomerville: The churches of the Western culture have been highly impacted by the Enlightenment in Western Europe with its rationalistic-scientific view of the world. This is the context in which theology developed in the West and that rationalistic context eroded the sense of the supernatural, eclipsing the experiential Spirit-dimension of the Christian faith. At the time of the Protestant Reformation theologians reached back to the biblical texts to do their theology, the Bible was their “horizon” for theological work and the result was that the biblical role of the Holy Spirit was acknowledged, especially with reference to the inspiration of the Scriptures. However, in the immediate post-Reformation period Western scholastic theologians began to systematize Reformation theology from the horizon of their rational thought, giving little space to the doctrine of the Holy Spirit and the “problematic” experiential dimension of the Holy Spirit was neglected. The “great silence on the Holy Spirit” was from this stream of theology in the post-Reformation period.

This is the stream of rationalistic theology that has influenced evangelicals since the beginning of the nineteenth century, largely through the influence of the Harvard theologians who used this rationalistic theology in a defense of the Christian faith against attacks on the inspiration of the Scriptures. Evangelical theologian Bernard Ramm spoke of this scholastic influence when he said that the doctrine of the internal witness of the Holy Spirit (with respect to Scripture’s inspiration) had almost disappeared from evangelical literature and theology. Therefore, Pentecostalism was a historical “correction,” revealing this Spirit-deficiency in Western theology but also revealing that the Pentecostal experience was an enablement for Christ’s mission to the world; the Pentecostal experience was an intense experience with a missionary Spirit.

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Category: Ministry, Spring 2018

About the Author: Paul A. Pomerville, PhD (Fuller Theological Seminary), is a seventeen-year veteran of the Seattle Police Department who served as a missionary to Asia and Europe for thirteen years and as a Graduate Professor and Department Chairman of Christian Missions and Cross-cultural Communications at the Assemblies of God Seminary for two years. He is a graduate of Fuller Theological Seminary’s School of World Mission. For seven years he trained police in cultural diversity all across the United States, and continued for another seven years training police in Indonesia, East Timor and Bosnia Herzegovina. He is the author of The Cross-Cultural American: Ending America’s Obsession with Race (CreateSpace, 2009), Culture Blind Evangelicals and the Good News of the Kingdom of God (CreateSpace, 2009), Recovering Jesus’ Gospel of the Kingdom in American Culture: A Study in Luke’s Gospel-Acts of the Apostles (CreateSpace, 2010 and second updated edition 2016), The New Testament Case against Christian Zionism: A Christian View of the Israeli-Palestinian Conflict (CreateSpace, 2014), and The Third Force in Missions: A Pentecostal Contribution to Contemporary Mission Theology (Hendrickson Publishers, 1985 and second updated edition 2016).

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