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,

Karl Barth on Pentecostalism

From Frank Macchia’s FB page:

A cautious but affirming response to Pentecostalism:

Barth“One could never have enough of Pentecost. This has to do with the Holy Spirit. For this reason, a little Pentecostalism — also again as salt of the earth (cf. Matt. 5:13)– cannot hurt any of us… It is quite necessary that someone draw attention to the fact that we all need the Holy Spirit. When one does that, and then something from Pentecost becomes visible again, how can we say something against it? There is nothing that can be said against it.”

– Karl Barth

(Busch, ed., Gasamtausgabe, Gesprache 1964-68, 430-32)

Someone responded:

A Barthian scholar and friend noted to me that Barth always left room for the surprising work of God, but did so only ‘out of the corner of his eye.’ Maybe that’s what he meant by ‘a little Pentecostalism.’

To which Macchia replied:

I like this corner of his eye. Yes, that is typically Barth. In the larger entry from which the quote was taken, Barth is responding to letters sent to him from David DuPlessis, which praised God for mass successes in Pentecostal crusades in various parts of the world. Barth was turned off by what he saw as a triumphalistic spirit which reminded him of sensationalistic worldly entertainment (He even said, “Das schmeckt mir nach Zirkus oder nach Kino“). But he was able to see past this to the deeper value of Pentecostalism for the churches. The value of the Barthian dialectic was precisely in his capacity to celebrate the essential and vital meaning of a movement like pentecostalism from which he would otherwise and for various reasons feel alienated.

….But he was able to see past this to the deeper value of Pentecostalism for the churches…  well, too bad more haven’t been able or willing to have similar considerations.   Obviously I think Barth’s approach is a good one to take.

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.

QTOD: on PhD’s in the Pulpit

From Mike Birds blog:

country churchIn the latest issue of ExpT there is a very good article by Gerald Hiestand on A Taxonomy of the Pastor-Theologian: Why PhD Students Should Consider the Pastorate as the Context for Their Theological Scholarship. The blurb reads:

The bifurcation of theological scholarship from pastoral ministry has led to a twofold problem in contemporary church/academy relations: the theological anemia of the church, and the ecclesial anemia of theology. This essay explores these twin problems and suggests that the way forward in bridging the gap between academy and church is to reunite the pastoral vocation with the vocation of the theologian. Toward this end, the essay offers a taxonomy of three contemporary models of the pastor-theologian, examining the strengths and limitations of each. Ultimately, the paper calls for a resurrection of an all but extinct, yet historically rooted model of the pastorate—the pastor as ecclesial theologian, and challenges the emerging generations of theologians to consider the pastorate as a viable context for their future theological scholarship.

Now you know why I have been wanting to subscribe to the Expository TImes for a while now.  🙂

Bird goes on to say:

When theology moved out from the church to the academy, the result was that “the theological water level within the pastoral community … fell considerably.” But not only that, the church became theologically anemic and theology itself became ecclesially anemic.  Hiestand argues that we need more capable theologian-types in our churches. “More theologians in our pulpits will deepen the theological integrity of our churches, while at the same time add an ecclesial voice to evangelical theology.”  He maintains that the theological integrity of the gospel in the Christian community will never rise above the level of her pastors and ecclesial theologians are best situated to produce ecclesially sensible, field-tested, theological work that deepens the faith and depth of the church.

I think this is exactly right, and I think it is also sorely needed in Pentecostal churches – all too many Pentecostal churches are in dire need of “contextual pastoral theologians” (as the program at Northern Seminary describes it).  Our movement is still young and developing.  By way and support of the Holy Spirit we need the help of trained theologians to guide Pentecostalism along the way, to prevent “theological anemia” in Pentecostal theology and praxis.

Now, here is what I want to say – this obviously is not for everyone.  This is not saying all pastors need to do this, but there is need for more.  Not all would be able to anyways, nor should they feel obligated to it or be made to feel lessor for a lack of it.  Instead, we need to do better to recognize the giftings of all and the contributions all can bring to the church, the body of Christ.   In many a Pentecostal church, even a basic MA is WAY TOO MUCH education.  But as I see it, it shouldn’t matter.  There can be equality without having to have everyone at the same educational level.  This is where things get weird.   What might be normal in other circles is an oddity in Pentecostal circles.  But I think times are a changin’.  Younger folks see the value of theological education and are going for it.  I think we’ll start to see things mature and develop theologically in Pentecostalism as more young people are getting good theological education in preparation for ministry.

So this is not mean to say all need to do this, or many more should, but I do think there is need for it!

Blessings,