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Mel Robeck and Amos Yong: The Cambridge Companion to Pentecostalism

Cecil M. Robeck, Jr., and Amos Yong, eds., The Cambridge Companion to Pentecostalism (New York: Cambridge University Press, 2014), xiii + 340 pages, ISBN 9780521188388.

The serious scholar of Pentecostalism recognizes the incredible complexity of Pentecostal/Charismatic Christianity. The numerical and geographical explosion of Pentecostals continues to produce an ever-diversifying movement that proves both challenging and exciting for researchers. For this volume, coeditors Cecil Robeck and Amos Yong assemble a team of well-respected scholars, skilled in multiple disciplines and from across the globe, to lead us into and not through this spaghetti junction. True to the nature of a Companion volume, the contributors refuse to provide easy answers and choose instead to offer sufficient introduction to chosen topics so that readers may navigate their way through the maze of scholarship. The editors divide the book into three parts.

What is the glue that holds this worldwide movement together?

The historical section consists of chapters on the origins of the three major strands of modern Pentecostalism. Robeck introduces the volume with a survey of numerous attempts to discern the beginnings of Classical Pentecostalism. He exposes readers to various methodological approaches employed to locate the movement’s origin. Similarly, Michael McClymond narrates the emergence of the Charismatic renewal not as a Big Bang – with origins around a single locale or theme – but as a “String-of-Firecrackers” – a vast array of renewal movements across North America and around the world. David Reed explores the origins of Oneness Pentecostalism and refuses to reduce their origins simply to early separation or expulsion from opponents such as Trinitarian Pentecostals (and indeed by Christendom in general). Instead, he surveys a movement made up of manifold independent streams not only with little internal coherence, but often in isolation from one another. It goes without saying that the multiple roots of the Pentecostal/Charismatic Christianity do not generate a uniform renewal movement.

What are the basic family resemblances among Pentecostals around the world?

In the second section, five contributors take readers on a world tour of Pentecostal/Charismatic Christianity. From the Global North (North America and Europe including the former U.S.S.R.) to the Global South (Latin America, Africa, and Asia), each writer provides a short historical introduction to his respective region with particular attention to indigenous contexts. The contributors highlight critical issues relevant to specific regions such as political engagement, socio-cultural integration, current trends, and prospective areas for optimism and concern. Given the diversity of African or Asian Pentecostalism, careful readers will recognize the struggle of contributors to not succumb to generalizations that reduce or ignore the significant differences within such expansive continents (e.g., between Nigerian and South African Pentecostalism or Chinese and Korean Pentecostalism). Because these writers must work with a limited word count, they seek to locate Pentecostalism on a global map and whet the appetite for readers to zoom into specific nations of the various continents. Robeck and Yong utilize contributors who share ethnic and/or geographic identity with their assigned region.

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Category: Fall 2014, In Depth

About the Author: Martin Mittelstadt, M.Div. (Providence Theological Seminary, 1990), Ph.D. (Marquette University, 2000), serves as Professor of Biblical Studies at Evangel University in Springfield, Missouri. He primarily makes his living in the Gospels and Luke-Acts (see his The Spirit and Suffering in Luke-Acts: Implications for a Pentecostal Pneumatology (Bloomsbury, 2004) and Reading Luke-Acts in the Pentecostal Tradition (CPT Press, 2010)). Ongoing interests tend to convergence around Pentecostal / Charismatic studies with a special attention to Pentecostal – Anabaptist relations (i.e. Mennocostalism), and spiritual formation. See his bio and publications on his Evangel University faculty page.

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