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Vinson Synan: The Century of the Holy Spirit


Vinson Synan, The Century of the Holy Spirit: 100 Years Of Pentecostal And Charismatic Renewal, 1901-2001 (Thomas Nelson Publishers, 2001), 484 pages.

Vinson Synan has lived many of the 100 years he chronicles in his latest book which was published to be ready for the World Pentecostal Conference in Los Angeles in May 2000. Actually the book contains 15 chapters or sections, seven of which were written by Synan and nine other familiar names wrote the rest.

The book starts with an overview of the last century—the Pentecostal century. Synan then reviews our Pentecostal roots describing the Holiness setting that emerged in the 19th century and set the stage for the Azusa Street revival and all that followed.

We learn of the global impact of the revival and then there are chapters on the Holiness Pentecostal Churches, the “Finished Work” Pentecostal Churches, the charismatic renewal at mid century and later in the established mainline denominations.

There are chapters on the Catholic Charismatic renewal, women in the movement, African American Pentecostal Churches and Hispanic Churches. Most of the white Pentecostal North Americans have no idea of the importance and place of the African American Pentecostal churches and this book will help bridge that unfortunate gap. There is a chapter about the healers and the televangelists of the last 55 years. The book closes with Synan’s synopsis of the last hundred years, an excellent study on our growth by David Barrett, and a chronology of our God’s dealing with the Pentecostal church starting from its beginning unto today. There are also predictions of things to come, some of which are hard to even imagine.

Synan is one of my favorite contemporary historians. His earlier books on the Pentecostal Holiness traditions are the best treatment of much of our history. I, like Synan, have lived 70 years of that history so for me the book is filled with stories of people I know, places I have gone and meetings that I attended in my own quest to be filled with the Holy Spirit and thus endued with power from on high.

One aspect of the book that I found disappointing was that while the guest authors brought the reader up almost to the end of the century in their respective chapters, all of Synan’s portions ended in the late 1980’s. The last five to ten years of the century were not covered in his half of the book. There is never enough time.

Nonetheless it is the best summary of last century available. I use this book as the main text in my course on Revivals at Pacific Rim Bible College. It belongs in the library of every Pentecostal preacher, adherent, and student.

Reviewed by H. Murray Hohns


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Category: Church History, Summer 2002

About the Author: H. Murray Hohns went home to be with Jesus on November 28, 2012. He was on staff at the largest church in Hawaii and served on his denomination's investment committee from 1999 until his death. Hohns held two degrees in Civil Engineering, an MA in Theology from Fuller Seminary, and served as an instructor at Foursquare's New Hope Christian College (formerly Pacific Rim Christian College) in Honolulu. He wrote six engineering books and hundreds of articles in every type of newspaper, magazine and journal.

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