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Some Reflections of a Participant in Pentecostalism and Science



1 Ian G. Barbour, Religion in an Age of Science (San Francisco: Harper, 1990), 260.

2 Paul Elbert, “Possible Literary Links Between Luke-Acts and Pauline Letters Regarding Spirit- Language,” in Intertextuality in the New Testament: Explorations of Theory and Practice (ed. Thomas L. Brodie, Dennis R. MacDonald, and Stanley E. Porter; New Testament Monographs 16; Sheffield: Sheffield-Phoenix Press, 2006), 226-54.

3 Steven J. Land, Pentecostal Spirituality: A Passion for the Kingdom (JPTSup 1; Sheffield: Sheffield Academic Press, 1993); Paul W. Lewis, “The Role of Experience in Pentecostal Hermeneutics,” Spirit & Church 2 (2000), 95-125; Gary B. McGee, “To the Regions Beyond: The Global Expansion of Pentecostalism,” in The Century of the Holy Spirit: 100 Years of Pentecostal and Charismatic Renewal (ed. Vinson Synan; Nashville, TN: Nelson, 2001), 69-95; Kenneth J. Archer, A Pentecostal Hermeneutic for the Twenty-First Century: Spirit, Scripture and Community (JPTSup 28; London: T&T Clark, 2004); Kimberly Ervin Alexander, Pentecostal Healing: Models in Theology and Practice (JPTSup; Blandford Forum, England: Deo, 2006).

4 Howard M. Ervin, These Are Not Drunken as Ye Suppose (Plainfield, NY: Logos, 1968), passim; Léon Joseph Suenens, Une nouvelle Pentecôte? (Paris: Desclée de Brouwer, 1974); Claus Heitmann and Heribert Mühlen, eds., Erfahrung und Theologie des Heiligen Geistes (Munich: Kösel, 1974); Heribert Mühlen, Einübung in die christliche Grunderfahrung (Mainz: Matthias-Grünewald, 1975- 76); Michael Harper, ed., Bishop’s Move (London: Hodder & Stoughton, 1978); Mary F. Ingoldsby, Padre Pio: His Life and Mission (Dublin: Veritas, 1978), 87-97; Francis Martin, “Le baptême dans l’Esprit, traditiion du Nouveau Testament et vie de l’Eglise,” NRT 106 (1984), 23-58; Francis A. Sullivan, Charismes et renoueau charismatique: Etude biblique et théogique (Loir-et-Cher, France: Nouan-le-Fuzelier, 1988); J. Rodman Williams, Renewal Theology: Systematic Theology from a Charismatic Perspective >(Grand Rapids, MI: Zondervan, 1996); Raniero Cantalamessa, The Mystery of Pentecost (tr. Glen S. Davis; Collegeville, MN; Liturgical, 2001); Ralph Del Colle, “The Holy Spirit: Presence, Power, Person,” ThSt 62 (2001), 322-40.

5 There would be little interest here in a noninterventionist theory of divine action, as proposed by Denis Edwards, “Resurrection and the Costs of Evolution: A Dialogue with Rahner on Noninterentionist Theology,” ThSt 67 (2006), 16-33 (818-21).

6 Once one rightly gets past the faulty deistic conception of God, based on a closed Newtonian worldview, one is led to a probable picture of the Holy Spirit at work in the microcosm of nature, present in intervention to influence chance and present to add energy and matter into creative processes or “into the open grain of (otherwise) natural processes” (John Polkinghorne, “The Hidden Spirit and the Cosmos,” in The Work of the Spirit: Pneumatology and Pentecostalism [ed. Michael Welker; Grand Rapids, MI; Eerdmans, 2006], 169-82 [180], parenthesis mine).

7 John Polkinghorne, Belief in God in an Age of Science (New Haven, CT: Yale University Press, 1998), 76-124. A part of this dialogue may be illustrated by John Leslie, “How to Draw Conclusions from a Fine-Tuned Universe,” in Physics, Philosophy and Theology: A Common Quest for Understanding (ed. Robert J. Russell, William R. Stöger, and George V. Coyne; Vatican City: Vatican Observatory, 1988), 299-311; B. J. Carr, “On the Origin, Evolution and Purpose of the Physical Universe,” in Physical Cosmology and Philosophy (ed. John Leslie; New York: Macmillan, 1990), 134-53.

8 Polkinghorne, Belief, 80.

9 Jürgen Moltmann, Wissenschaft und Weisheit, Zum Gespräch zwischen Naturwissenschaft und Theologie (Gütersloh: Kaiser, 2002).

10 James A. Marcum, “Exploring the Rational Boundaries Between the Natural Sciences and Christian Theology,” Theology and Science 1 (2003), 203-220 (214).

11 Amos Yong, “Discerning the Spirit(s) in the Natural World: Toward a Typology of ‘Spirit’ in the Religion and Science Conversation,” Theology and Science 3 (2005), 315-29 (319).

12 Polkinghorne, Belief, 80.

13 See my review of Review of Walter R. Hearn, Being a Christian in Science, in the Ashland Theological Journal 34 (2002), 177-80; an expanded version is available on-line at

14 Paul Elbert, “Biblical Creation and Science: A Review Article,” JETS 39 (1996), 289-91; available on-line at; idem., “Genesis 1 and the Spirit: A Narrative-Rhetorical Ancient Near Eastern Reading in Light of Modern Science,” JPT 15 (2006), 23-72, abstract available on-line at

15 Physical cessationism or young-Earthism is a dangerous sectarian misrepresentation of all of physical reality and of prophetic biblical history. Hebrew scholar William Sanford LaSor, “Biblical Creationism,” Asbury Theological Journal 42 (1987), 7-20 (7), refers to this misleading combination of physical cessationism and pious charlatanism as the “cult of creationism.” Langdon Gilkey, Blue Twilight: Nature, Creationism, and American Religion (Minneapolis, MN: Fortress, 2001), views the theocratic agenda of young-Earthism as a perversion of the gospel (52). Much more than a bizarre irritation, Gilkey, a theologian who was called into courtroom battles with the sect, sees its dangerous pseudoscientific theories as destroying culture and as a recipe for national self-destruction (52, 54, 57), cf. my review of Blue Twilight in Pneuma 25 (2003), 134-38; an expanded version is available on-line at For a critique of this cessationist movement from the point of view of a science historian, cf. Ronald L. Numbers, The Creationists: The Evolution of Scientific Creationism (Berkeley, CA: University of California Press, 1993), who concludes that “To understand twentieth-century creationism, little knowledge of formal science and philosophy is necessary; familiarity with the Byzantine world of popular religion is essential” (337).

16 Polkinghorne, Belief, 79.

17 This insistent performance, no doubt based on a belief that an evolutionary mechanism will eventually be found, could also be due, perhaps in no small measure, to the bombastic claims made in legal proceedings by young-Earthism devotees whose misrepresentation of Christianity paints a devastating picture, engendering both anger and patriotic reactions. My reservation with respect to this overly intense insistence is that it seems to me that noisy advocates of macro-evolution have got the cart before the horse. Normally in science, a working theory must be confirmed by repeated experimental confirmations before it is afforded this kind of allegiance. The theory of relativity, predicting that gravity bends light, comes to mind.

18 I say evidently premature because it is obvious that the two main theories underpinning evolutionary dictums re the origin of microbial life-forms on Earth around 3.85 billion years ago, have found no experimental or even theoretical confirmation. Further, the two theories, the cold prebiotic soup theory and the hot volcanic or “pioneer organism” theory, are mutually exclusive and the subject of controversial discourse employing language like “mechanistically obscure self-organization” and “magic of self-organization,” cf. “Debating Evidence for the Origin of Life on Earth,” Science 315 (2007), 937-39.

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About the Author: Paul Elbert, physicist-theologian and New Testament scholar, teaches theology and science at the Pentecostal Theological Seminary. He is co-chair of the Formation of Luke-Acts section in the Society of Biblical Literature and is a research advisor to the Dominican Biblical Institute, Limerick, Ireland. His writings have appeared, for example, in Zeitschrift für die neutestamentliche Wissenschaft and in Catholic Biblical Quarterly. He served as editor of two anniversary volumes for Old Testament scholars, Essays on Apostolic Themes (1985) and Faces of Renewal (1988).

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