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What Kind of Spirit Are We Really Of? A Pentecostal Approach to Interfaith Forgiveness and Interreligious Reconciliation

Pentecostal educator and scholar Cheryl Johns concludes that Pentecostalism is not only capable of but actually conducive to “conscientization” among marginalized masses of oppressed peoples. Conscientization is “a process whereby persons become aware of the socio-cultural reality which shapes their lives and their ability to transform that reality.” She adds that the term implies action joined with awareness.8 Accordingly, Pentecostals are becoming more aware of and more actively involved in social and institutional areas of concern as an authentic extension and application of our individual religious concerns. As Johns says,

Despite its tendencies toward emphasizing personal experience over social witness, there is potential within Pentecostal-charismatic circles for a radical witness of the meaning of Pentecost for the world in which there is exhibited justice, peace, dialogue and authentic self-giving love and in which there is no oppressed-oppressor distinction.”9

The time has come that those social and institutional concerns more directly include our relations with other religions.

Where the Spirit is truly present, Pentecostals will present an attitude affirming Christlike values of acceptance and appreciation even where debate and disagreement honestly exist as well.

Pentecostal theologian of religions Amos Yong argues that a distinguishing characteristic of Pentecostalism is its multidimensional or holistic view of salvation. Personal, familial, ecclesial, material, social, cosmic, and eschatological facets of salvation are therefore included in a full-orbed Pentecostal soteriology.10 Again, this view advances considerably beyond traditional fascination (or fetish) with merely individual experience among many Pentecostals; but it is clearly consistent with the classic emphases of the mainline Pentecostal movement from its inception. Accordingly, relations among religions ought to be understood as an authentic and essential extension of salvific efficacy by Pentecostals and their peers. In Pentecostal parlance, this implies that “full gospel” believers ought to grapple with how our relations with religious others are affected by our relationship with God in Christ and the Holy Spirit. No area of our lives ought to be untouched by the Spirit’s presence and power made available to us in Christ and expressed toward all others through us as his witnesses to the world of God’s grace, love, and mercy. That, I think, includes attitudes and expressions of forgiveness and reconciliation among the religions.


Directions for Forgiveness and Reconciliation

Since I have repeatedly affirmed that Pentecostal involvement in institutional and social areas are authentic and appropriate extensions or applications of our Pentecostal theology and spirituality, I think the most profitable approach at this juncture is the further juxtaposition of personal salvation and social salvation with specific attention to interreligious relations. In other words, I wish to apply institutionally what we Pentecostals already endeavor to put into practice individually.

“Full gospel” believers ought to grapple with how our relations with religious others are affected by our relationship with God in Christ and the Holy Spirit.

Pentecostal New Testament scholar and theologian Hollis Gause speaks of the way of salvation (via salutis vis-à-vis ordo salutis) as a journey involving justification from sin and adoption into the divine family; and repentance for sin, regeneration, and sanctification—all issuing in a Spirit-filled and Spirit-led life of love toward God and others. He particularly stresses “the unity of redemptive experiences.”11 Accordingly, individual salvation cannot be complete without relational and social application. Experiencing God’s love for each of us overflows into our love for each other. This, of course, must now be understood to include relations with religious others. The sense in which I wish to be understood is not in some soteriological universalism, but in the unilateral application of Christian themes of forgiveness and reconciliation to interpersonal and institutional relationships.

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Category: Ministry, Spring 2009

About the Author: Tony Richie, D.Min, Ph.D., is missionary teacher at SEMISUD (Quito, Ecuador) and adjunct professor at the Pentecostal Theological Seminary (Cleveland, TN). Dr. Richie is an Ordained Bishop in the Church of God, and Senior Pastor at New Harvest in Knoxville, TN. He has served the Society for Pentecostal Studies as Ecumenical Studies Interest Group Leader and is currently Liaison to the Interfaith Relations Commission of the National Council of Churches (USA), and represents Pentecostals with Interreligious Dialogue and Cooperation of the World Council of Churches and the Commission of the Churches on International Affairs. He is the author of Speaking by the Spirit: A Pentecostal Model for Interreligious Dialogue (Emeth Press, 2011) and Toward a Pentecostal Theology of Religions: Encountering Cornelius Today (CPT Press, 2013) as well as several journal articles and books chapters on Pentecostal theology and experience.

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