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The Speaking in Tongues Controversy: A Narrative-Critical Response, Part 2

So, it would seem that the authorial intent argument posed against the biblical doctrine of initial evidence is not as impervious as Walston believes, having been found to be vulnerable on at least two critical fronts: (1) it is deficient in recognizing rhetorical techniques contemporary to Luke and (2) it is falsely assumed to be imperious to objective critique, thereby neutralizing it by reductio ad absurdum—logically reduced to the absurd.



Concerning his work, Walston writes, “This book argues that the tongues-as-evidence position cannot be biblically supported. In fact, I shall show that the main book, i.e., Acts—from which this Classical Pentecostal peculiarity is derived—does not teach this idea at all” (27). His attempt to show this fails because (1) he does not prove that the passages that explicitly mention Spirit-baptism (or its synonyms) are describing conversion rather than post-conversion experiences, (2) he wrongly extrapolates Spirit-baptism to every incident of repentance/conversion/salvation in Acts, (3) he misunderstands the nuances of the elements that make up pneumatology and, thus, misreads his Pentecostal sources, (4) he uncritically accepts Fee’s unwarranted and, now, outdated conclusions concerning authorial intent, and (5) he shows no knowledge of and thus does not interact with the Greco-Roman rhetorical narrative conventions and their vindication of the Pentecostal understanding of Acts. Furthermore, all of these issues are pervaded by a sense of staleness and amateurism due to Walston’s omission of current scholarship.

The last two decades have seen tremendous strides in Pentecostal scholarship. This is not the time, in the 100-year history of the Pentecostal movement, to take a step backward or call for a compromise on the Pentecostal doctrines of subsequence/separability or initial evidence. In our lifetime, the strength of the evidence for the validity of these doctrines has grown exponentially. Perhaps their acceptance shall develop as have two other Pentecostal issues: First, at the beginning of the twentieth century, no serious NT scholar believed that all of the NT spiritual gifts were for the contemporary church; before the century’s end, few serious scholars believed in the cessation of any of the gifts; second, a mere thirty years ago, a consensus of scholars relegated Acts to the genre of history; today, its didacticism is clear.25 If Pentecostal scholarship continues to develop as it has in the last twenty years, by the end of the first quarter of the twenty-first century it may be that no serious NT scholar will deny the Lukan data supporting subsequence/separability and initial evidence. Of all times in the history of the Pentecostal movement and New Testament scholarship, today is not the time to seek a tertium quid (middle ground). I would say to Walston, “You left too early. But you’re welcome to return.”

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Category: Spirit, Winter 2006

About the Author: Robert W. Graves, M. A. (Literary Studies, Georgia State University), is the co-founder and president of The Foundation for Pentecostal Scholarship, Inc., a non-profit organization supporting Pentecostal scholarship through research grants. He is a Christian educator and a former faculty member of Southwestern Assemblies of God College in Waxahachie, Texas, and Kennesaw State University (adjunct). He edited and contributed to Strangers to Fire: When Tradition Trumps Scripture and is the author of Increasing Your Theological Vocabulary, Praying in the Spirit (1987 and Second Edition, 2017) and The Gospel According to Angels (Chosen Books, 1998).

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