History and Future of Pentecostalism

I am doing a series of posts from the past (a trip down memory lane I suppose).  This post followed a class with Grant Wacker of Duke on the history and future of Pentecostalism, dated March 4, 2006:

Here I am with Grant Wacker.  He is a really nice man and a great pentecostal historian.  Interestingly, though his father was a professor at Evangel College and he grew up in the AG, he himself is not Pentecostal.  He is Methodist.  One daughter is a Quaker and another is Episcopalian.  But he is very friendly and fair  towards Pentecostals (even defending us often) and he supports many of their doctrines.

So, how was the class?  It was great!  We covered a lot of topics in too little time.  It seemed like we only really touched the surface issues.  We started out talking about historical method and how to interpret historical events and situations, especially those that occured in the Pentecostal world such as healings and miracles as well as the people and the lives they lived.  Fortunately, they were sinners just like the rest of us, but sometimes they seemed to think they were above all that.

We talked about the early days of the movement and how it developed theologically.  Pentecostalism is really just a natural outworking or development of Wesley’s holiness doctrine.  While Wesley argued for entire sanctification and a second work of grace, Pentecostals kept some of it and discarded other parts.  Eventually, the Methodist church abandonded Wesley’s doctrine and this resulted in the Holiness churches who held to entire sactification and second work doctrine.  Some eventually developed a third work of grace doctrine and broke off from even the holiness churches.  By the time of Asuza these works of grace were being called the Baptism of the Holy Spirit.  Some holiness churches gladly took this terminology on and others veered away from it.  Eventually more development came along and the “finished work” theology was being taught.  This is the idea that while our sanctification is finished at the cross, we still progress in our salvation.  This teaching offended the holiness churches who believed in a instantaneous perfection and lead to more splits and the formation of the Church of God movement and in 1914 the formation of the General Council of the Assemblies of God.

There was much contention between the holiness churches and Pentecostals.  The main issue was over the finished work theology and tongues as the initial physical evidence of the Baptism of the Holy Spirit.  If Pentecostals were willing to back off these issues, there would have been much less contention.

Other issues we talked about centered on key characteristics of Pentecostals such as their prophetic and institutionalizing inclinations, their resilience and determination, their belief in divine healing and God’s active involvement in the life of a believer through the work of the Spirit, and not least of all their drive for world evangelization.  Other faith traditions may exemplify these issues but not quite to the same degree as Pentecostals (historically).  Tongues aside, there is something unique about Spirit Baptism and what it does to those who recieve it.

On the issue of prophetic and institutionalizing inclinations, historically Pentecostals have abhored insitutions or organizations because they worried it would stifle the work of the Spirit.  Yet, as Grant Wacker pointed out, institutions are needed to channel prophetic inclinations.  Without inistutions (i.e., denominational oversight), there would be a lot of chaos.  So, today, while we may not like denominational oversight and feel like headquarters puts a damper on things, it could be worse without them.  I agree with Grant Wacker.  Insitutions, while they have their weaknesses, provide structure to the movement, and thus brings more freedom for our prophetic inclinations.  Without structure, there just isn’t any room for freedom, but rather it is prevented.

My paper will be on Angelus Temple and the commisary during the depression.  During the depression, the government pointed people to Angelus Temple for food and help because it was such a good program.  How come there isn’t anything like that today?

That’s all for now.  I highly recommend people get Vinson Synan’s book on the The Holiness-Pentecostal Tradition and Gary McGee’s book People of the Spirit.  These will really help in understanding who we are and where we have come from so we can know where we are going as a movement.  Plus, it is just really fun and interesting reading!

Shalom!

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