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Wolfgang Vondey: Pentecostal Theology

Wolfgang Vondey, Pentecostal Theology: Living the Full Gospel (London: Bloomsbury T&T Clark, 2017).

Over the last decade Wolfgang Vondey has ascended the ranks of Pentecostal theologians, writing several important monographs, and his book Pentecostal Theology only enhances his stellar reputation.  In short, Vondey principally argues that “Pentecost is the core theological symbol of Pentecostal theology, and its theological narrative is the full gospel” (1). Pentecost is a historical event, but it is also much more. Vondey hopes to demonstrate that Pentecost can also function as the foci of a theological system. Pentecost symbolizes a direct encounter with God through the Holy Spirit and manifests in various signs that point to God’s redemptive activity. Ultimately, a theology of Pentecost is an ecumenical vision. It can reach beyond Pentecostalism to make a valuable contribution to the broader theological horizon.

In the opening chapter, Vondey argues that doctrine is not the end for Pentecostal theology; rather, its primary goal is to encounter God. Thus play, inasmuch as it is an encounter with God, is an alternative way to frame worship. Vondey writes, “Play is therefore a way of engaging the world not exclusively through doctrine but also materially, physically, spiritually, aesthetically, morally, and socially. Theology as play has the character of spontaneity, enthusiasm, improvisation, and the free engagement of others in an unbounded movement of God’s Spirit” (13). Through play, Pentecostals become participants in the narrative of Pentecost and the anticipation of encountering God in this manner fuels Pentecostal experience.

The primary goal of Pentecostal theology is encounter with God.

Following his prolegomena, Vondey divides his book into two primary parts. The first part focuses upon rituals and practices at the altar. According to Vondey, Pentecostal theology emerges from narrative, and the full gospel always leads to the altar–a metaphor for an encounter with God–where transformation takes place. Subsequently Christians leave the altar for mission, only to return to the altar for another unique encounter with God. Vondey uses the full gospel (e.g., Jesus as Savior, Sanctifier, Spirit baptizer, Healer, and Coming King) as a framework to unpack the narrative dimensions of Pentecostal theology. He devotes a chapter to each of these dimensions, which give shape to Pentecostal theology. Although Pentecostal theology has typically embraced the full gospel, Vondey argues that it is equipped to integrate other doctrines through the lens of the altar.

In part two, Vondey applies a Pentecostal understanding of the full gospel to creation, humanity, society, church, and God by committing a chapter to each of these topics. He argues that “the full gospel can function both descriptively and constructively for developing a systematic Pentecostal theology” (156). By structuring his text in this manner, Vondey implies that Pentecost begins and ends with the worship of God. In this sense, Pentecostalism is a liturgical movement. Furthermore, Vondey shows that Pentecostal theology invites all to the altar, even as the altar is located everywhere.

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Category: Fall 2018, Ministry

About the Author: David Bradnick, Ph.D. Theological Studies (Regent University School of Divinity), is an instructor in the philosophy department at Stevenson University and York College of Pennsylvania. His dissertation is titled "Loosing and Binding the Spirits: An Emergentist Theology of the Demonic" (2015).

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