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Jelle Creemers: Theological Dialogue with Classical Pentecostals

Members of the Pentecostal Dialogue teams have attempted to understand themselves as a conversionist, revivalist, and restorationist movement.

Here, enumerated in no particular order, are a few important findings relevant to Pentecostal ecumenical prospects in particular and for developments in and for Pentecostal theology more generally. First, explorations in theological method in this project are a posteriori, dependent on analysis of the actual dialogues as they occurred, and demonstrate how methodological approaches are embedded within and manifest through dialogical engagement on the one hand even as they reflect theological instincts and habits on the other hand; put another way, even if in the theological academy there is a tendency to come clean with one’s methodological orientation up front, in reality, it is probably truer to say that such segments are written as much in hindsight (of writing the book, etc.) as they are presuppositions brought into the project. Second, the methodological frame delineated in this case study (which is actually a set of cases: five rounds of cases to be more exact) was forged dialogically (with Roman Catholic interlocutors, more precisely) in and through pragmatic strategies of honestly bringing forth perceived hard questions to the conversation (which Creemers notes that in comparative context did not work well in other bilateral dialogues!); as such theological methodologies discerned post facto are inevitably contextually constrained if not determined and this is something to be borne in mind rather than to be regretted as then not allowing access to any putatively global or universal methodological key (which aspirations for reflect more habits of Enlightenment thinking than they do actual consideration of how our epistemic and procedural practices are historically informed). Third, and as an extension of the previous point, methodological character is not only contextually situated but teleologically guided, even compelled; what I am referring to is how not only mutual consideration of the sources within the Christian tradition (preferred by the Roman Catholic dialogue team) made their presence increasingly palpable as joint undertakings (emerging most fully during the fifth round), but also to how focused efforts on pastoral challenges related to mission, evangelism, proselytism, and ecclesial practice foregrounded certain resources derived from socio-historical and other modes of shedding light on the real issues while foreclosing other pathways.

… coming to grips with the role of experience in the theological task.

Last and most importantly for reflection on the interrelationship between method and theology is that the Pentecostal team could not be forged, nor its commitments adequately represented, apart from a presumably shared spirituality and praxis, one which operated as much if not more on the practical and affective levels as at the cognitive dimension. This meant both that experience (of the Holy Spirit, specifically!) became central to these dialogues in ways remarkably distinguished from what happens at bilateral conversations more generally (which work often, sometimes exclusively, on received dogmatic documents), and that the Roman Catholic conversation partners were also invited – forced may be too strong a description – to come to grips with the role of experience in their own theological efforts. With experience being bedrock to the Pentecostal theological task, the normative role of scripture (even tradition) was, and is, not compromised but such was complicated indeed. Pentecostal theologians will come away from this volume with additional fodder for construing pentecostal spirituality, in all of its experiential and historical diversity, as central to their ongoing theological work, as has generally been the trend so far.

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Category: In Depth, Spring 2017

About the Author: Amos Yong is Professor of Theology & Mission and director of the Center for Missiological Research at Fuller Theological Seminary, Pasadena. His graduate education includes degrees in theology, history, and religious studies from Western Evangelical Seminary and Portland State University, Portland, Oregon, and Boston University, Boston, Massachusetts, and an undergraduate degree from Bethany University of the Assemblies of God. He is the author of numerous papers and over 30 books. fuller.edu/faculty/ayong/ amosyong@fuller.edu Facebook

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