on Pentecostal Hermeneutics

For those who may be wondering how Pentecostals go about interpreting the Bible – the Assemblies of God’s Enrichment Journal, which goes out quarterly to all licensed and ordained ministers in the Assemblies, but that can also be viewed online, has an article (written about 10 years ago) by Roger Stronstad summarizing different elements or currents trends of Pentecostal Hermeneutics.  I hadn’t seen it so it was interesting even for me to read – I was familiar with some of it but not all of it.  lol.

In the article you’ll see one call the “pragmatic” hermeneutic.  This portion gives you a little bit of history as to how the whole thing got started, well, at least a key even that seemed to really catapult the movement forward in a significant way.  There were workings of the Holy Spirit going on all over the world at the time, but this and other events leading to the Azusa Revival seem to be the most well known.   It is interesting too that this is listed first in the summary because really, the heart of Pentecostal theology, which can be really diverse with no one single simple definition, is pragmatics (used here in the sense of relating to practical considerations).  In too many ways, its both a good and a bad thing.

Here is an excerpt:

As Martin Luther is the fountainhead of Lutheranism, John Calvin of Reformed Theology, and John Wesley of Methodism, so Charles F. Parham stands as the fountainhead of Pentecostalism. Parham was not the first to speak in tongues. In one sense that honor goes to Miss Agnes N. Ozman.  In another sense, the birth of the Pentecostal movement is the climax to the growing swell of charismatic experiences among various revival and Apostolic Faith movements. What makes Charles F. Parham the father of Pentecostalism, Topeka, Kansas, the locus of Pentecostalism, and Agnes Ozman, the first Pentecostal, is not the uniqueness of this experience, but the new hermeneutical/biblical understanding of this experience.

Charles F. Parham bequeathed to the Pentecostal movement its definitive hermeneutics, and consequently, its definitive theology and apologetics. His contribution arose out of the problem of the interpretation of the second chapter of Acts and his conviction that Christian experience in the 20th century “should tally exactly with the Bible, [but] neither sanctification nor the anointing that abideth … tallied with the 2nd chapter of Acts.” Consequently he reports, “I set the students at work studying out diligently what was the Bible evidence of the baptism of the Holy Ghost that we might go before the world with something that was indisputable because it tallied absolutely with the Word.” He tells the results of their investigation in the following words: “Leaving the school for three days at this task, I went to Kansas City for three days services. I returned to the school on the morning preceding Watch Night service in the year 1900.

“At about 10:00 o’clock in the morning I rang the bell calling all the students into the Chapel to get their report on the matter in hand. To my astonishment they all had the same story, that while there were different things occurring when the Pentecostal blessing fell, the indisputable proof on each occasion was, that they spoke with other tongues.”5

In Parham’s report we find the essential distinctives of the Pentecostal movement, namely, (1) the conviction that contemporary experience should be identical to apostolic Christianity, (2) the separation of the baptism in the Holy Spirit from sanctification (as Holiness movements had earlier separated it from conversion/incorporation), and (3) that tongues speaking is the indisputable evidence or proof of the baptism in the Holy Spirit.

Well, be that as it may, I find it all very interesting and really, given the context, I don’t think you can really blame Parham for wanting to know what was the source of the Apostles zeal.  I think too his quest for “Bible evidence” is evident of the times he lived in – people were big then on wanting empirical evidence for things and in this case it morphed a bit in to wanting “physical” evidence for knowing without a doubt one is in fact baptized in the Holy Spirit.  Agree or disagree with this approach, I don’t think we can fault them for that.  He was a man of his time really.  And this is really the root of much Pentecostal theology and understanding of Spirit Baptism – that there is going to be “evidence” for it.

Well, feel free to give it a read and or let me know what you think.

Blessings,

on the strange fire conference

so john macarthur’s strange fire conference has been going on.  what’s it all about?  well it is mac’s attempt to confront and call out the pentecostal/charismatic/third wave movements as anything but christian.  this is the basic thesis of the conference:

The charismatic movement offers nothing to true worship because it has made no contribution to biblical clarity, interpretation, or sound doctrine.

he calls it an “alien movement.”

it really does seem that any self respecting Christian who’s really given time to reading and reflecting on the Bible and or has done a wide enough reading in christian theology and or biblical studies (especially in the area of the person and work and theology of the Holy Spirit) would know this statement is totally ridiculous.  the problem is that macarthur has put all his eggs in one basket and i think most know that is a big no-no.  he’s ignorant of the movment historically and theologically.  period.  (i just heard him list 1966 and the drug culture that lead to vineyard leads to excesses… gosh, he just doesn’t know does he??)

it seems to be becoming more obvious that “Mac and the pack” has to be speaking to the TBN related crowd and the WOF folk and those that write the “pop” theology type books, of which, sadly, he would could be correct – they have nothing to offer they can be frustrating to deal with (listen to, read, interact with)…. yet this statement reveals massive significant ignorance of the wider world of Pentecostalism and the Charismatic movement….

it denies the work of true pentecostal and or charismatic and or third wave theologians and scholars – there are many to mention, and while overall the movements are young – much good theology and scholarship has come of it – in fact it really is consider the third stream in historic christianity – catholicism, protestantism (word), and the pentecostal (spirit) movement.

well, anyways much as been said and for macarthur to critique a folks like piper and then weirdos like crowder in the same sentence is like comparing apples and oranges.  you just can’t do that.

much has been said already and i wanted to share some links for consideration (this isn’t an appeal to become a charismatic so much as to show some sensibility in taking this issue on – really, agree or disagree, these folks should know better.

Marc Cortez – covers the good, the bad, and the ugly

Luke Geraty has addressed the strained polemics of the conference and countered pennington’s case against contiuationism (which reveals even more the poorly thought out nature of it all).

Rodeny shares on Latino Pentecostalism

Michael L Brown – and AG pastor, scholar, apologist has had a few things to say as well, here and here (among others).

Michael Patton (a non charismatic) talks about how John MacArthur is “losing his voice.”

Scott Lencke confronts the odd [weird] approach of it all.

Here is an nteresting take on the Strange Fire conference titled: John MacArthur and the New Atheism: http://t.co/ggVjMbuTnD

David Hayward reflects on how John MacArthur consigns millions of Christians to Hell.

well, that should get y’all going on learning more about it all.

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.

On John 20:19-23 and Acts 2

One of my NT professors from AGTS, Ben Aker has written what I would say is a tremendous article on the Biblical distinction between Regeneration and Spirit Baptism in reference to John 20:19-23 and Acts 2. Trust me, its really good!

Dr. Aker writes:

There are two Biblical texts that scholars often discuss, frequently misinterpret, and thus confuse regarding regeneration and the baptism in the Holy Spirit. They are John 20:19-23 and Acts 2. In the first of these references the word “breathed” occurs. This study then will focus on the meaning and use of the word in John 20:22. I propose that “breathed” refers to regeneration and concerns an actual, supernatural event in which Jesus imparts eternal life to the first disciples through the Spirit. This paper will discuss“ breathed” under two main headings: its lexical and conceptual meanings and uses and the contribution of John’s theology to its meaning and use.

Well, it blessed me and I hope it will bless you too!

Truth of the Day: On the Charismatic Renewal

‎”Pentecostalism and the charismatic renewal have jointly given believers what historian Chris Armstrong calls Pentecostalism’s chief contribution to Christianity: an awareness of ‘a deep well of living water from which everything else flow[s] … the personal, relational presence of the living God.’”

It’s true.  Like it or not.  Believe it or not.  Pentecostalism and the Charismatic renewal have contributed to the overall spiritual health and well being of the Body of Christ at large.  How?  By being consistent in their message about and adherence to and reliance upon the Person and Work of the Holy Spirit.

Read more here.

Book Notice: Flourishing Churches and Communities

My Church history and Christian Ethics professor and chair of the PhD in BIble and Theology department at the Assemblies of God Theological Seminary has a new book out that I think is gonna be good and well worth the purchase!

Description from the site:

Pentecostal Front CoverPentecostal Christianity is just over a century old, and yet its impact in that time as an evangelistic force for Christ has been astonishing. One foundational scriptural understanding of the Pentecostal movement is that the Spirit empowers us to carry out the work of the gospel. Without a dependence on the work of the Spirit, we are mere humans.

Dr. Self provides here a vivid picture of what it looks like for followers of Jesus to take the Great Commandment and the Great Commission seriously in the context of their own local communities. His concern is that our view of discipleship is lacking a clear integration of faith, work, and economics. Christians have the means to bless their local economies in unique ways that can transform coworkers and neighbors alike as Christ is glorified. This primer aims at wholehearted discipleship that extends beyond our Sundays at church and into our workplaces the rest of the week.

With a strong biblical understanding of the all-encompassing nature of true discipleship as integral to the kingdom of God, combined with a unified view of church history and an appreciation for all members of the church body, Flourishing Churches and Communities presents a vision for Christians that is as beautiful as it is challenging.

Like I said, I think it gonna be a good one!

Co-creators with God?

Consider the following:

How are we co-creators with God in the world?  (via my friend Monte on Facebook and related to this post).

We create cultural artifacts. That’s a very simple answer. The cultural mandate.

A more relevant answer is that every true, good and beautiful thing we do that is born from the Spirit of God, God is using in the re-making of creation. The basis is the resurrection of Jesus through the power of the Spirit. The resurrection is God’s act of redeeming not just “souls,” but the whole material creation. What God is now doing in and through the Church, is a proleptic foretaste of what He is doing in all creation. He begins with the human, and through the human (the new human race of which Christ is the Head), renews creation. 

This is why our works shall follow us; what we do now will indeed echo in eternity. The good we do will in due time, become part of God’s new world. Every “good work” that is a true labour of Christ’s love, will find its way into God’s new world. 

Easter Sunday, actually every Sunday, is the the day when the Father proclaims in Jesus’ resurrection through the Spirit, “Behold, I will create new heavens and a new earth.” (Isaiah 65:17). It begins with the “new humanity.” “Behold, if anyone be in Christ, He is a new creation.” On the basis of the resurrection, the Scripture thus reads, “Therefore, my dear brothers, stand firm. Let nothing move you. Always give yourselves fully to the work of the Lord, because you know that: your labour in the Lord is not in vain.”

Every “good work” that is a true labour of Christ’s love, will find its way into God’s new world, and our works in Christ through the Spirit will commend us before God’s throne; there will be reward given for running the race well. So we are partnering with God in re-making, or “re-wiring” of all creation in the space-time continuum. In doing so, we manifest through word and deed, signs of God’s coming kingdom.

Spirit Baptism and Eschatology?

There is a connection.  Consider the following:  (via my friend Monte, and connected to this post):

Now we know the Spirit unites us in His mission towards shaping the entire historical direction of human history. We are thus become restored to our true human vocation as God’s co-creators upon the earth. As the Spirit restores in us our true face, our true voice and our true humanity, we discover that our life has historical purpose as we meaningfully contribute to the final consummation of God’s new world.

And again, I believe this sense of history clarifies the one important aspect of tongues speech: orally dramatizing the miracle of social and racial inclusiveness, and hence the reconciling of varied peoples into one common tongue of the Holy Spirit—thus prophetically visioneering through our gathering, God’s remaking of this present order into the moral and ethical likeness of His coming new world.

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!