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Harlyn Purdy: A Distinct Twenty-First Century Pentecostal Hermeneutic

In the next chapter, Purdy expands upon a quadratic interpretive process that includes scripture, the Spirit, the community, and trained leadership. He discusses each of these dynamics individually and corporately, proposing how they can contribute to a Pentecostal hermeneutic. For example, Purdy makes clear that the Spirit will not contradict scripture; even though tradition and experience have a place in the interpretive process, scripture will always trump both of them; and experience is also open to critique from the community. Ultimately, the author concludes that this approach can benefit both Western and Majority World Christians. It may open up Western Christians to the role of the Spirit and the interpreter and help Majority World Christians better understand the role of human agency in the development of scripture.

The final part of Purdy’s book is dedicated to a series of lessons that have been designed for use in an Introduction to Hermeneutics course. This includes a course syllabus, lecture outlines, and “lab” activities for thirteen weeks.

This book is helpful in several respects. First, it provides an adequate introduction to Pentecostal hermeneutics. Second, it extends the current conversation concerning this topic. Purdy principally extends the conversation by proposing the role of leadership within the hermeneutical process. While this may be a worthy pursuit, in my opinion his book lacks sustained discussion of this topic. Only ten pages expand upon this idea, and even then his attention is sometimes focused elsewhere. Given his quadratic proposal, I would have welcomed greater focus upon the role of leadership in hermeneutics.

Another primary goal for Purdy is to contribute to hermeneutics in the Majority World, which is not surprising given his context. He writes, “This book intends to expand the discussion to at least include African Pentecostals” (89). My concern is that the author does little to include African Pentecostals in the dialogue, and primarily speaks to these Pentecostals instead of dialoguing with them. I think it would have been beneficial to include the views of African Pentecostals on this topic. Instead the book predominately focuses upon the views of Classical Pentecostals in a North American context.

As the title and the text indicate, Purdy is focused upon developing a distinctive Pentecostal hermeneutic. But it should be noted that his framework is not distinct from other Pentecostal proposals. In fact, it could be argued that his approach largely mirrors that of Kenneth Archer – with the addition of the role of leadership in hermeneutics. Rather, Purdy maintains that his proposal is distinct from non-pentecostal frameworks because it is Pentecostal. This may not be satisfactory to those looking for a more novel alternative.

In conclusion, for those looking to enter the stream of Pentecostal hermeneutics, Purdy’s text provides a readable introduction. He also makes a valid argument to consciously expand the role of leadership in hermeneutics, and this certainly deserves greater attention. But whether or not his view advances the Pentecostal conversation far enough is up for debate.

Reviewed by David Bradnick


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Category: Biblical Studies, Summer 2016

About the Author: David Bradnick, Ph.D. Theological Studies (Regent University School of Divinity), is an instructor in the philosophy department at Stevenson University and York College of Pennsylvania. His dissertation is titled "Loosing and Binding the Spirits: An Emergentist Theology of the Demonic" (2015).

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