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Practical Theology: Charismatic and Empirical Perspectives

To aid the topic of his study, Cartledge includes a chapter on epistemology—“[t]he question as to how we know what we know” (p. 41)—and how it relates to Pentecostal/charismatic spirituality. Theories of truth, at their basic core, help us to determine criteria for determining truth from error, as well as deciding sources of truth. Cartledge draws on the work of epistemologists to present us with five sources of truth, but the fifth source is the most significant one for charismatics: testimony. He upholds the importance of the testimony of Scripture, as well as the testimony of the community of the faithful (which holds significance for experientially-oriented charismatic spirituality). Community (and individual) testimony, as long as it is judged on the basis of the testimony of Scripture, can provide a valuable resource for practical theology.

In the final chapter of his first section, Cartledge explains the actual methodology he used in his practical research, which consisted of participant observation, study of documents relating to the church, interviews with and surveys of members of the congregation, and finally computer analysis of the data compiled. He ends the chapter with a brief and helpful introduction to his statistical methods.

The second half of Cartledge’s volume deals with the “what” of his study—the actual results and analysis of the research he did in a certain charismatic church in the U.K. (identified with a pseudonym). Specifically, he surveyed charismatic worship as a performance of spirituality, glossolalia and its relationship to postmodernity and socialization, charismatic women and prophetic activity, as well as the relationship between faith and healing, and an additional chapter on the Toronto Blessing (and its relationship to charismatic experience). He follows up these chapters with two appendices, which include the surveys he used in the research study, as well as a helpful glossary of terms and an exhaustive bibliography.

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Category: Ministry, Spring 2005

About the Author: Michael J. Knowles earned his Bachelor of Theology degree at Summit Pacific College in Abbotsford, BC, Canada, and has published numerous articles and book reviews. He and his family currently live in Washington state, where he teaches health education at Skagit Valley College in Mount Vernon, and also works as a pharmacy technician in Bellingham.

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