A Pentecostal Alternative to Dispensationalism

by Tony Richie. Part 3 of 3 (part 1, part 2). Read the whole article as a PDF here.

A Provocative Theology

R. Hollis Gause, a prominent Pentecostal theologian (Church of God, Cleveland, TN), elucidates an alternative to fundamentalist dispensationalism through a careful comparison-contrast of dispensational theology and a theology of progressive revelation. Gause explains that progressive revelation does not divide up biblical history as dispensationalism. It does not hermeneutically distinguish between the Church, Israel, and the kingdom of God. The nature of God, the history of salvation, and the character of the people of God are progressively revealed. Earlier events anticipate and predict later events. The inspiration of the Holy Spirit gives Scripture a progressive and even prophetic or predictive quality.

In stark contrast to the hermeneutical compartmentalizing of dispensationalism, progressive revelation affirms a more unified approach to biblical interpretation and understanding. Gause concludes that “the view of progressive and unified revelation of the history of salvation offers the better interpretation of Scripture.” For Gause, considerations of the unchangeableness and unity of God and God’s Word consistently lead to this conclusion.[12]

Interestingly, Gause does not sacrifice Pentecostalism’s staunch emphasis on premillennial eschatology through his espousal of progressive revelation. The premillennialism, however, explicated in his study of the Book of Revelation is of a decidedly different flavor than the Darby-Scofield-Dake type. It is less esoteric, more open. It is concerned with God’s activity and sovereignty throughout history and its providentially teleological redemptive consummation rather than with designing elaborate last days predictive schemas of events.

Progressive revelation, therefore, based solidly on the ubiquitous and unified character of God and of God’s Word rather than on the frailties and vicissitudes of human knowledge and nature, is for Pentecostalism a more attractive option than dispensationalism. It is also provocative in a positive sense. It is provocative for Pentecostals because it calls for serious rethinking and substantial revision of political and theological ideologies inordinately tied to dispensationalism.

This would, of course, among many other matters, include covertly and overtly aggressive attitudes toward world politics and religious others regarding the Middle East, particularly between Israelis and Palestinians or Jews, Christians, and Muslims. It is also provocative for many nonPentecostal Christians because its maturity and moderation call for reconsideration of an all-too-often casual casting away of the central significance of eschatology in Christian faith and life. This would include, of course, how political and theological ideologies ought to be appropriately centered in and shaped by conviction that the consummation of human history is ultimately directed toward a divinely ordained destiny in Christ.

Conclusion

We have deemed dispensationalism to be deficient for Pentecostalism due to divergent identities. When we apply this assertion to the surging crisis in the Mid East concerning Christian Zionism and its international implications certain responsibilities become clearly incumbent upon us. Regrettably, war rages on in our world, raping and ravaging it without reprieve. To the extent that our theological positions direct and shape our political practices, including issues of war and peace, truly devout people cannot and should not avoid addressing the role of religion in the reality of war. Obviously, Christians are called and commanded to be peacemakers and pursuers of peace (Matt 5:9; Heb 12:14).[13]

We have already observed that our theological positions have political ramifications. This, of course, is the case for both Pentecostals and non-Pentecostals. Accordingly, Pentecostal and non-Pentecostal Christians, including so-called conservatives, liberals, moderates, or progressives, are called upon to provide a viable alternative to fundamentalist dispensationalism for our people in the pews.

In my opinion, the shape of our response ought to include the following minimal elements. First, it should take seriously the biblical teaching on eschatology. Second, it should apply biblical eschatology with ethical responsibly to today’s local and global societal settings. Third, it should candidly confess the limitations of all our paradigmatic models. Fourth, and finally, it should center its doctrine and practice in a stress on the temporal and eschatological preeminence of love. All of the above principles are simply amplifications of an eschatologically underrated biblical chapter from Apostle Paul—1 Corinthians 13. Lord, grant us sufficient grace to thus think, speak, and act; in Jesus’ name. Amen!

1929869_13225543455_9247_n.jpgBishop Tony Richie (D. Min., Asbury Theological Seminary/D. Th. Candidate, UNISA), Senior Pastor, New Harvest Church of God in Knoxville, TN, is also a missionary teacher at SEMISUD (Quito, Ecuador) and does adjunct teaching at the Church of God Theological Seminary (Cleveland, TN). He serves the Society for Pentecostal Studies as liaison to the Interfaith Relations Commission (IRC) of the National Council of Churches of Christ, and the IRC as liaison to christianzionism.org.

Footnotes

[12] R. Hollis Gause, Revelation: God’s Stamp of Sovereignty on History (Cleveland: Pathway, 1983), pp. 18- 21. Significantly, this book was published by the Church of God denominational publishing house.

[13] I am not here advocating or arguing for absolute pacifism, though some Pentecostals have and do. See D. J. Wilson, “Pacifism,” NIDPCM, pp. 953-55. Cf. Pentecostals & Charismatics for Peace and Justice at pcpj.org. Personally, I am here simply stressing a strong preference for peace so far as is possible.

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Pentecostals & Charismatics for Peace & Justice is a multicultural, gender inclusive, and ecumenical organization that promotes peace, justice, and reconciliation work among Pentecostal and Charismatic Christians around the world. If you like what we do, please join our Facebook forum, and sign up for our newsletter!

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