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Peter Marina: Getting the Holy Ghost

Of particular note was his argument that conversion does not necessarily happen through a crisis in the convert’s life but through a series of choices, situations and movements building up to that moment. Primarily, this is important as it leads away from the idea of Pentecostal Christianity as a crutch for the weak, so often repeated in both secular and Christian spheres. Throughout the work there is an emphasis on the empowering nature of Pentecostal Christianity. He has come to the same conclusion as Bridges Johns’ without having read her: Pentecostalism has the power to empower and to do so for good. One senses that though he doesn’t feel Pentecostalism, he clearly respects it, and the effect which it has upon those whom he interviews.

This is also important due to the pastoral/pedagogical implications here. If conversion is a series of events and moments, perhaps we should reconsider the consistent emphasis we place on one rational, verbal moment? This re-emphasis could greatly benefit our growth and understanding as we consider the redemptive moments in the whole narrative arc of our lives. Furthermore, it would have obvious beneficial implications for those who are cognitively disabled amongst us in particular.

It would not be the first time that a sociologist has done work which speaks powerfully to the church. This is no easy task, as the researcher is faced with a method firmly placed in the concrete and a community firmly placed in the transcendent. Though this problem can never be fully solved, Marina deals with it well. He does not overwrite the explanations of his participants with one of psychology or immanence. He does not do so in the faux, ‘whatever works for you’ way favoured by so many postmoderns. Rather, his silence makes for good sociology. Further, in doing so, he has written space for good theology to be done within the silence. Those of us who work ‘from inside the belly of the whale’ can view and take apart the words of his scholars for a different, but not dissonant purpose from Marina. We can use them because they are clear of his lens. This is a skill and one which is much needed and often missing from current research on Pentecostalism.

All in all, this is a piece of work which is written with clarity and understanding, and which has the potential to bring clarity and understanding to those within both the academy and the church. As such I do not hesitate to recommend it. Even if sociology is not your thing, it is a gripping read.

Reviewed by Deborah Joy Allan


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Category: Ministry, Summer 2015

About the Author: Deborah Joy Allan, M.A. (University of Aberdeen), is currently a Ph.D. candidate in the University of Aberdeen School of Divinity, History and Philosophy. She has served in pastoral care, social care, mental health care, and education for various schools and churches.

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