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Perspectives on Spirit Baptism: Five Views

The chapter by Horton begins with nine pages of interesting Pentecostal history and personal anecdotes, but I question the propriety of that genre in this volume. Does it not reinforce the perceived Pentecostal shibboleth of placing experience above scripture? Horton does cover the relevant Lukan passages, but much of it (at least 10 lengthy quotations) comes from his previously published works. One of his assertions will, no doubt, serve only as a distraction, i.e., that tongues are always foreign languages. He bases this on Acts 2, where tongues are indeed foreign languages, but that is the only place they are so identified, and the only place where their occurrence is logical, occurring before an international gathering.

Larry Hart capably represents the Charismatic view, which he considers a “dimensional perspective,” as Spirit’s activity” (112). Evangelicals and Pentecostal are both right—”both the regenerational/indwelling and empowering dimensions of the Spirit’s work are included in Spirit baptism” (118). Unfortunately, in this view, Spirit baptism becomes so many things that it becomes nothing and, ultimately, obscures the genius of Luke-Acts.

Ray Dunning’s chapter representing the Wesleyan perspective was an eye-opener. I was unaware of the undercurrents of resentment that swirl in the tradition against the Holiness and Pentecostal movements. It appeared to me that, at every convenient place he could find, Dunning tried to distance Wesleyanism from these movements. God forbid that adherents of these movements use the sacred writings of Wesley to defend their errant doctrines! Dunning caps off his presentation contra Pentecostalism by quoting C. H. Dodd and James S. Stewart in their assessments of the value of Paul’s contribution to the understanding of the Spirit. “It saved Christian thought,” writes Dodd, “from falling into a non-moral, half-magical conception of the supernatural in human experience.” According to Stewart, Paul saved Christianity from reverting to “the cruder conceptions of the Spirit,…in such phenomena as speaking in tongues. It was Paul who saved the nascent faith from that dangerous retrogression” (228). This is appalling—all the more so because its source is the tradition that emphasizes entire sanctification and perfect love!

Ralph Del Colle, a charismatic Catholic, displays exemplary knowledge of the history of the Pentecostal/Charismatic movement within Catholicism. He recounts the history and theology of early and later leaders such as the Ranaghans, Clark, O’Connor, Gelpi, Suenens, Baumert, and McDonnell. In reading Del Colle’s contribution, Evangelicals and Pentecostals will experience something akin to culture shock, since, for the Catholic, it is not scripture that is the touchstone for doctrine, but the church. In other words, the Catholic need not bring exegetical concerns to the table. For Del Colle and these other Charismatic Catholic leaders, it becomes a matter of fitting their Pentecostal experience suitably into Catholic tradition. Nevertheless, Del Colle’s presentation is performed with intelligence and graciousness.

Reviewed by Robert W. Graves

This review was originally published on the Pneuma Foundation’s In Depth Resources page on August 21, 2006.

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Category: Spirit

About the Author: Robert W. Graves, M. A. (Literary Studies, Georgia State University), is the co-founder and president of The Foundation for Pentecostal Scholarship, Inc., a non-profit organization supporting Pentecostal scholarship through research grants. He is a Christian educator and a former faculty member of Southwestern Assemblies of God College in Waxahachie, Texas, and Kennesaw State University (adjunct). He edited and contributed to Strangers to Fire: When Tradition Trumps Scripture and is the author of Increasing Your Theological Vocabulary, Praying in the Spirit (1987 and Second Edition, 2017) and The Gospel According to Angels (Chosen Books, 1998).

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