Pentecostal Eschatology pt 2

(see part 1)

This will be a bit of a long post but well worth the read!  :-)

Pentecostals in the States have been known to more or less be dispensationalists – you know, especially of the popular Darby-Scofield type.  Well, I think times are indeed a changin’!  :-)

Once again, my friend Monte shared the following reflection from Frank Macchia’s book Baptized in the Spirit:

The final chapter of Frank Macchia’s book Baptized in the Spirit: A Global Pentecostal Theology (Grand Rapids, MI: Zondervan, 2006). Here are some interesting extracts from Frank Macchia’s book, has a section titled “Hope and Love” under the chapter on “The Spirit Baptized Life.”

There Macchia, who ordained with the American Assemblies of God, reflecting on Spirit-baptism as the outpouring of God’s love, states that, “Divine love is eschatological . . . calling forth dry bones from their graves and inspiring hope where there is despair.” Spirit baptism thus grants us “to a prophetic call” drawing us again to God’s “heart . . . and empathy . . . for the world.” Hence, “The central role of Spirit baptism for Pentecostal theology is eschatological through and through.” 

Macchia then addresses head-on, incongruencies of Darbyian dispensationalism in Pentecostal experience, spirituality, and theology. There he refers to Donald Dayton’s explanation [Theological Roots of Pentecostalism (Hendrickson, 1987)].of how early North American Pentecostalism had no choice, given lack of available models to early forerunners of the movement, but to take on the apocalyptic dispensationalism popularized by John Nelson Darby, the Plymouth Brethren, and the Scofield Bible.

He states “I essentially agree . . . to distance Pentecostalism from dispensationalism.” One reason he gives is that, “My reading of early Pentecostal literature shows a nondispensationalist openness to different understandings of end-time events, even a certain lack of interest in such questions.” Here he refers to an article by Glen Menzies and Gordon L. Anderson, “D. W. Kerr and Eschatological Diversity in the Assemblies of God,” Paraclete (Winter 1993): 8-16. He then goes on to note that early Pentecostal approaches to end-time eschatology issues was to avoid any attempt to theorize time-lines, etc. 

He quotes an unknown author in The Apostolic Faith: “Dear ones, do not puzzle yourselves by theorizing, but tarry in Jerusalem!” (“The Apostolic Faith Movement” (author unknown), The Apostolic Faith (Los Angeles: Sept 1906), 2; cited in Macchia 275). Macchia thus writes, “Clearly, the Pentecostal priority with regard to eschatology was the empowerment of the Spirit for faithful life and mission rather than useless speculation about end-time doomsday scenarios.” 

Macchia cites Sheppard, who argued that Pentecostals did not deeply move into dispensational timelines until they where they sought to gain acceptance of conservative evangelical churches. (citing Sheppard, “Pentecostalism and the Hermeneutics of Dispensationalism,” 32-33,).

Meanwhile, following is a stimulating quote from Tony Ritchie, a bishop in the Church of God (Cleveland): “Dispensationalism, especially of the popular Darby-Scofield type, evidences innate elements essentially at odds with the authentic ethos of Pentecostal spirituality and theology. Pentecostalism is not dispensationalist. Elements of dispensationalism militate against Pentecostalism.  An unfortunate fact is that Pentecostals allowed themselves to be lured into accepting a dispensationalist theology that literally by definition undermines their own identity.”

A related problem is the very nature of privitised ahistorical readings of Scripture. Within Evangelical traditions this has historically contributed to a highly dogmatic ethos between and within separate Evangelical traditions, churches and movements, given their incapacity to maintain space for varied doctrinal nuances within their respective communities. Therefore, as denominations largely reflect varied readings of the Bible, so also, rather than allowing space for varied theological nuances, they have tended to gravitate towards singular meanings of core Christian doctrines such as the atonement, justification and sanctification, with each denominational or congregational network drawing their ecclesiological boundaries according to their presumed objective identification of biblical truth. 

This compulsive problem of having to gravitate towards singular, doctrinal positions thus gives rise to the problem of sectarianism, defined by Donald Bloesch as the “unduly narrowing the range of Christian experience and elevating marginal doctrines into dogmas.” Bloesch thus notes that, “Just as liberals, gravitate to eclecticism and latitudinarianism, so conservatives veer in a sectarian direction. Evangelicals and fundamentalists are notorious for majoring in the minors.” (Donald G. Bloesch, God the Almighty: Power, Wisdom, Holiness, Love (The Paternoster Press, 1995), Truth thus becomes detached from history and authority— though assumed to reside in a “singular, authorial meaning of Scripture, thus shifted to the peculiar privatistic readings of Scripture, reflecting a given interpretive community; hence also contributing to the fragmentation of Protestantism.

Bloesch thus argues that this compulsive problem of having to gravitate towards singular, doctrinal positions, coupled with Evangelicalism’s a-historicalism, has also contributed to the making of Christian eschatology a highly divisive trajectory, which has been especially characteristic amongst conservative Evangelicals who have embraced dispensational premillennialism along with its attendant doctrine of a “pretribulation rapture of the saints,” or other “rapture/tribulation” schemes.

Now to shift my preceding comments even more towards a healthy link between Spirit baptism and eschatology: Jesus is indeed the baptizer in the Holy Spirit— who restores our true historical calling and prophetic destiny, as God’s co-creators in the making of His coming new world. Spirit baptism is indeed then a baptism into God’s love— the inner life of the Triune God. Through Pentecostal experiences of Spirit baptism, God gives us new dreams of His coming new world of Perfect Love— hence, a true eschatological horizon. 

Because the Holy Spirit is for us now a down payment of what is coming, He indeed creates in us an “end-time urgency.” He gives us a providential-orchestrated destiny towards the shaping of history and even of God’s coming new world. We learn that everyday is “kairos” time. We receive a sense of history. We receive shattering, apocalyptic moments of destiny— restoring to us a sense of apostolic commissioning. We receive the profound knowledge of God’s own pathos for the redemptive liberation of all creation from its present suffering. 

So as we enter into His heart, God endows us with a prophetic imagination that causes us to see radical disjunctions between the prevailing order and the order that is even now breaking into the present— which is the kingdom of God.

Whew, that should be some things to think upon for a while!  lol!

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One response to “Pentecostal Eschatology pt 2

  1. Pingback: Spirit Baptism and Eschatology? | συνεσταύρωμαι: living the crucified life

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