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Tony Richie: Essentials of Pentecostal Theology

Tony Richie, Essentials of Pentecostal Theology: An Eternal and Unchanging Lord Powerfully Present and Active by the Holy Spirit (Eugene, OR: Wipf & Stock, 2020), 250 pages, ISBN 9781532638817.

Dr. Tony Richie is a third generation Pentecostal (page 9) and an Ordained Bishop with the Church of God (Cleveland, TN). He serves as senior pastor of New Harvest Church of God in Knoxville, Tennessee and is an adjunct professor at the Pentecostal Theological Seminary located in Cleveland, Tennessee. In addition, he has authored several books including: Toward a Pentecostal Theology of Religions: Encountering Cornelius Today and Speaking by the Spirit: A Pentecostal Model for Interreligious Dialogue.

The contents of the Essentials of Pentecostal Theology may in some sense surprise you. The text is not an exposition of all of the major doctrines of the Church of God or any other Pentecostal denomination. The book is divided into three parts. Part One is called “Various Accents and Conflicts.” Three chapters make up Part One. In this section the author surveys some of the different emphases that various writers have regarding Pentecostal Theology. He also looks at two major controversies that exists in the Pentecostal movement, one concerns the doctrine of sanctification and the other concerns the Godhead. In the chapter about the Godhead he writes about the differences and similarities of Trinitarian and Oneness Pentecostals. Part Two is called “A Description Not a Definition.” Five chapters make up Part Two. In this section Dr. Richie calls attention to the fact that the Jesus Pentecostals believe in is the same Jesus that we read about in the New Testament (page 69). In view of this we should expect to see the works that He did in the New Testament in operation in our world today. Also in this section the author has two chapters given to the subject of experiencing God. In addition he devotes two chapters to a consideration of the Pentecostal gospel, which is called full or fivefold. Part Three is called “Crucial Commitments.” Four chapters make up Part Three. In this section Dr. Richie focuses on the Baptism in the Holy Spirit and speaking in tongues. Specifically he addresses the subjects of subsequence, purpose, and initial evidence with regard to the Baptism in the Holy Spirit. He also writes about the significance of tongues.

Pentecostals are very devoted to the authority of Scripture.

This book is scholarly, but not technical. There is some theological language in it, and some Greek, but the Greek is kept to a minimum. Those who do not have theological training can still read it and benefit from it. The size of the print is quite comfortable and this contributes to the book’s readability. The text contains a significant amount of Scripture references. The author also mentions a number of other writers in the course of his writing. It is clear that a lot of research went into the writing of this book. Dr. Richie also incorporates some stories into the book. This helps to demonstrate that doctrinal teachings do impact the real lives of Christians.

No doubt different readers will gravitate toward different parts of this book. Those who are interested in some of the “in house” debates within the Pentecostal movement will be drawn to Part One. Those whose interest is the experience of the Presence of God may be drawn to Part Two. And those who are interested in matters related to the Pentecostal distinctive doctrine of tongues as the initial physical evidence that a person has received the Baptism in the Holy Spirit will probably enjoy reading Part Three. Be that as it may I would encourage readers to read the whole book and not just the parts that especially appeal to them.

Pentecostalism is unashamedly a faith about encountering God, experiencing Him on both the personal and corporate levels.

I found a number of things particularly interesting in this volume. First, the author gives significant attention to the theme of fullness (pages 132-138). He demonstrates that this is a concept that is frequently found in Scripture. This may be of interest to readers because one of the major emphases of Pentecostals is fullness—the fullness of the Holy Spirit. Second, the book does not downplay the experiential aspect of the Pentecostal faith (Chapters 5 & 6 deal with this). It is unashamedly a faith about encountering God, experiencing Him on both the personal and corporate levels. This is vital. It is also interesting to read about this in a theology book! However, this does not mean that Pentecostals do not see doctrine as important. On the contrary, Pentecostals are very devoted to the authority of Scripture. Third, I enjoyed reading more about the various issues related to the Baptism in the Holy Spirit and speaking in tongues. Though Pentecostals are largely now considered mainstream this is probably the doctrine that most people tend to challenge us about. It is good to be prepared to answer those who question us regarding this important biblical teaching.

As Dr. Richie points out near the beginning of the book Pentecostal Theology can be “raw” and “messy” (page 4). It can be that, but there is no denying that the Pentecostal faith is also vibrant. The growth of the Pentecostal Movement around the world testifies to that. This book has a lot to offer in the areas of Pentecostal history, doctrine, and experience. May the Lord use it to help better equip His people to understand, explain, and experience the glorious life in the Holy Spirit.

Reviewed by John Lathrop


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Dr. Tony Richie, speaks about his new book, Essentials of Pentecostal Theology, in this short (4 min) video.

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Category: Spirit, Summer 2020

About the Author: John P. Lathrop is a graduate of Gordon-Conwell Theological Seminary and is an ordained minister with the International Fellowship of Christian Assemblies. He has written for a number of publications and is the author of four books Apostles, Prophets, Evangelists, Pastors, and Teachers Then and Now (Xulon Press, 2008), The Power and Practice of the Church: God, Discipleship, and Ministry (J. Timothy King, 2010), Answer the Prayer of Jesus: A Call for Biblical Unity (Wipf & Stock, 2011) and Dreams & Visions: Divine Interventions in Human Experience (J. Timothy King, 2012). He also served as co-editor of the book Creative Ways to Build Christian Community (Wipf & Stock, 2013). Amazon Author page. Facebook

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