Guest Post: on Pentecostal Eschatology

The following is a guest post book review of Larry McQueen’s Toward a Pentecostal Eschatology by my friend Monte Lee Rice, who lives in Singapore. This was originally posted on the goodreads site and is re-posted here with permission.  Be blessed!

pentecostal eschatologyMcQueen, Larry R. Toward a Pentecostal Eschatology: Discerning the Way Forward (Journal of Pentecostal Theology Supplement Series). JPTSup 39. Dorset, UK: Deo Publishing, 2012.

McQueen’s published dissertation surveys and critiques the development of eschatological perspectives and diverse doctrines in the early North American Pentecostal movement. He begins by surveying recent Pentecostal approaches to eschatology over the past two to three decades, which have illustrated revisions away from classical Darbyian-rooted dispensational categories, in attempts to articulate eschatology in manners best congruent to core elements of Pentecostal ecclesiology, soteriology and spirituality. As McQueen shows, this includes efforts by persons such as Peter Kuzmic, J. Rodman Williams, Steven J. Land, Peter Althouse, Amos Yong, and most notable is the comprehensive proposal envisioned by Matthew K. Thompson in his own published 2010 dissertation, Kingdom Come: Revisioning Pentecostal Eschatology, JPTSup 37 (Dorset, UK: Deo Publishing, 2010). McQueen’s work falls within this direction, which I will more specifically summarize further along in this discussion.

Next, McQueen devotes substantial effort towards reviewing early Pentecostal periodical literature representative of the two major streams of early Pentecostalism, namely the Wesleyan and Finished Work Pentecostal streams. Following are some of McQueen’s own conclusions reached through this critical survey. Concerning the Wesleyan stream as exemplified in early Church of God (Cleveland) periodical literature, McQueen argues that a diversity of eschatological perspectives existed, and not all strongly followed the Darbyian system. Others better rooted eschatological assumptions within ideas of Spirit baptism “in the via salutis and its meaning for the missional task of the Church.” McQueen thus argues that it was “Spirit baptism” which gave foremost “eschatological significance to the core testimony of the early Pentecostals,” narrated in what they called the “full gospel” of Jesus as Saviour Sanctifier, Spirit Baptizer, Healer, and Coming King (p. 141).

McQueen argues that the early Finished Work stream of Pentecostalism (along with Oneness Pentecostalism) more readily adapted and comprehensively expressed Darbyian dispensational doctrinal categories. This was due to greater compatibility with the finished work tendency to closely tie all soteriological benefits to the atonement, which are then presumed as wholly available through faith, rather than entered into in through the salvific journey that comprises Christian life (as assumed in more Wesleyan terms). Consequently, McQueen argues that this stream is more prone to an “over-realized eschatology” (p. 294). In his book review on McQueen’s work Peter Althouse (Pneuma 35 [2013]: 253-255) however, observes in McQueen’s contrast between the Wesleyan and Finished work streams, some over extended and far too rigid generalizations. Althouse argues that McQueen fails to adequately appreciate “cross-fertilization” between the two streams, which can be observed in several notable early Finished Work Pentecostal pioneers who articulated more process oriented soteriologies as well as softer dispensational categories. Hence, Althouse finds McQueen strict contrast between the two streams as “counterproductive to an ecumenical reading of early Pentecostalism.”

Notwithstanding these supposed limitations to McQueen’s analysis, I find his concluding proposals for ongoing development of Pentecostal eschatology highly constructive. I will just briefly mention some of his key points. First, McQueen argues that Pentecostals should bring eschatology “into dialogue with their holistic spirituality, allowing the experience of the Spirit, in both its individual and corporate dimensions, to inform their hermeneutical practice and subsequent conclusions about eschatology” (p. 201). What results is a perspective towards eschatology, which McQueen finds within much of early Pentecostal literature, that is more shaped by the “dynamic spirituality” of Pentecostalism, rather than by the “predefined script of the future” that Darbyian dispensationalism espouses and imposes on the apocalyptic and prophetic texts of Scripture (p. 201).

McQueen provides some helpful guidelines on just how such a Pentecostal spirituality-informed hermeneutic would shape our reading of John’s Apocalypse as well as other apocalyptic texts, moreover— in manners that critically discern and engage spiritual conflict in context of contemporary culture and settings. He writes,

I suggest that Pentecostalism must reappropriate the book of Revelation, not as a text to be dissected and pieced together to form a map for the future, but as a symbolic world into which we enter in order to be challenged and transformed by the same Spirit in which John received the revelation. This method of reading the text in the present tense preserves the pathos of immediacy so valued in Pentecostal spirituality and reflects the way we interpret other portions of Scripture.” Hence, “We find ourselves in the visions of the innumerable multitude, the two witnesses, the thousand-year reign of Christ and the New Jerusalem. But we also find ourselves in the apathy of the Laodicean church . . . In essence, one way to discern the relevance of eschatology is to discern what the Spirit is saying to the churches (Rev. 2:7) through the visions of the book of Revelation.  (pp. 286-287).

To further demonstrate this more robust eschatological understanding of Christian life, McQueen’s climaxes his book with a reading of John’s Apocalypse through the Pentecostal fivefold gospel motifs, while also integrating theological contributions via recent scholarship in Pentecostal eschatology (such as reviewed in his second chapter). Hence, McQueen stresses that

“recent theological contributions to Pentecostal eschatology that take seriously Pentecostal presuppositions point to the need need to articulate the fivefold narrative within a larger trinitarian and creational framework. Such a move expands the eschatological scope beyond individual salvation to include a vision of cosmic redemption and helps to unify the experiences of salvation within this larger vision for the kingdom of God. (p. 215).

Here, McQueen’s conclusions parallel themes strongly argued by Matthew Thompson (Kingdom Come: Revisioning Pentecostal Eschatology). Concerning the more common popular Pentecostal approach to the Apocalypse interpreted according to Darbyian dispensational categories, McQueen writes,

A major lesson learned form the past is that Pentecostals should not adopt uncritically any eschatological vision developed apart from a distinct Pentecostal soteriology and spirituality. Otherwise, the eschatology may impose various foreign elements that must be held in tension with Pentecostal perceptions or be allowed to compromise those perceptions. Such as has been the case with the long-standing ‘uneasy relationship’ between Pentecostalism and dispensationalism. (p. 215).

In the concluding chapter, McQueen states, “this study demonstrates that Pentecostal eschatology is not so much concerned with mapping a script of the future as it is in discerning the Spirit of the future in our present life and witness.” McQueen thus argues that this thesis can be substantiated in early Pentecostal literature and also by John’s testimony in the Apocalypse.” He strives to demonstrate this by utilizing the fivefold gospel as a hermeneutic for arriving at a distinctive Pentecostal reading the Apocalypse (p. 296).

Finally, another core motif McQueen challenges Pentecostals to integrate into their development an eschatology deeply reflecting Pentecostal spirituality, is the kingdom of God. He thus proposes,

Current studies in Pentecostal theology that take account of the fivefold gospel . . . point to the kingdom of God as an appropriate eschatological symbol. A constructive contribution to Pentecostal eschatology could be offered with the themes of the kingdom of God articulated in the Synoptic Gospel narratives serving as the principal entry points into the eschatological dimensions of the fivefold gospel.

Hence, as McQueen himself concludes, his study exemplifies a current response to Steven Land’s earlier call for “the revisioning of Pentecostal eschatology within an integrative view of God’s eschatological presence” (p. 297), in manners that moreover retrieve early Pentecostal motifs and core elements that characterize Pentecostal spirituality.

Advertisements

Leave a Reply

Fill in your details below or click an icon to log in:

WordPress.com Logo

You are commenting using your WordPress.com account. Log Out / Change )

Twitter picture

You are commenting using your Twitter account. Log Out / Change )

Facebook photo

You are commenting using your Facebook account. Log Out / Change )

Google+ photo

You are commenting using your Google+ account. Log Out / Change )

Connecting to %s