In my opinion, many evangelicals have neglected, if not denied, the supernatural due to a general search for respectability. Nowhere is this evangelical search for respectability more evident to me than among Pentecostals. All Pentecostal Christians pay lip service to miracles, but how many actually believe in and pray for miracles? Many do, but I would guess their number is fewer than fifty years ago. To a very large extent, according to my observations, American Pentecostals have blended in with American society and lost their particularity—except on paper.
One notable feature of Pentecostalism that is gradually changing is its anti-intellectualism and that I consider a positive sign of maturation. In the past, intellectually inclined Pentecostals had to work outside their tradition (in non-Pentecostal evangelical organizations and institutions) or leave Pentecostalism altogether. Today there is a rich and growing intellectual subculture among American Pentecostals evidenced by the large and flourishing Society for Pentecostal Studies and its scholarly journal Pneuma. Pentecostal leaders are far less devoted to anti-intellectualism than fifty years ago. It’s not difficult to identify Pentecostal scholars with reputations beyond the movement’s borders: Veli-Matti Kärkkäinen, Amos Yong, Gary Tyra, Frank Macchia, Gerald Sheppard, Russell Spittler, Cheryl Bridges Johns, Stephen Land, Gordon Fee, Craig Keener, James Smith. Continue reading Why American Pentecostals Stopped Being Pacifists→
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. Continue reading A Pentecostal Alternative to Dispensationalism→
I have been saving for the right time my likely one good shot at the subject of non-Trump evangelicals, and it looks like now is a good moment. The publication of Stephen Mansfield’s Choosing Donald Trump, an attempt to explain why religious conservatives flocked to Donald Trump, seems like the right moment (see Mansfield). Like Mansfield, I am a non-Trump evangelical.
I thus get a little sensitive when people complain that “evangelicals,” as if a monolithic group, stand behind Trump. I seek to respect the office of president and love my neighbor, including presidents I disagree with. But I did not vote for Trump, yet theologically I am plainly evangelical.
Withinevangelicalism, I undoubtedly live too sheltered a life. Polls show that of self-declared evangelicals who voted, 80 percent voted for Donald Trump, and it appears that most of them still support him.
Review originally published at the LSE Africa Blog. Reposted with permission.
Gregory Deacon of Oxford University says that the book Pentecostalism and Development: Churches, NGOs and Social Change in Africa (edited by Dena Freeman) provides some compelling answers regarding Pentecostalism and development.
With its noisy churches and high profile media presence, Pentecostalism is religion writ large and exciting. Dramatic claims are made – for example that it is ‘redrawing the religious map of the world’. Dena Freeman’s edited volume tackles head on whether this is good or bad for development. This is done in the context of 30 years of neoliberalism and an explosion in numbers of non-governmental organisations (NGOs) as well as Pentecostal churches. The role of both in alleviating poverty and improving living conditions for Africans is considered.
Over the past three decades, Pentecostal Christianity has exploded across Africa. At the same time many secular development agencies, including the UK’s Department for International Development (DFID), have been struggling to incorporate religion and faith based organisations into their policies and processes. As a research fellow at the University of Oxford looking at religion and development, I have similarly found Pentecostalism impossible to ignore. Continue reading Is Pentecostalism Doing More for Africa’s Poor than International NGOs?→
A couple of years ago I was at a Christian conference. The speaker was a completely ordinary charismatic with a dramatic voice, a suit, some extra pounds and was – of course – a man. Nothing out of the ordinary. This man even made attempts at being funny. And judging by the reaction of the room, he succeeded. Only I couldn’t laugh.
Pentecostal biblical scholar French Arrington details the popularization of dispensationalism by John Nelson Darby and by C. I. Scofield. Arrington describes dispensationalism as “an interpretive scheme grafted onto the traditional body of Christian doctrine.” He defines it more specifically as a “basic assumption that God deals with the human race in successive dispensations.” A dispensation is a period of time marked by a beginning, a test, and termination in judgment through human failure or sin.
Though dispensationalism has influenced Pentecostal theology, probably because of the avid attachment of both to eschatology, “the earliest Pentecostal teachings were not tied to directly to dispensationalism.” In Arrington’s opinion, the statements of faith of major Pentecostal denominations do “commit them to premillennialism but not necessarily to dispensationalism.” Continue reading Why Did Pentecostalism Merge With Fundamentalism?→
Followers of Jesus have a spiritual obligation to bring into the light offenses or injustices otherwise hidden from sight. While discernment is certainly needed in knowing how and when to speak, prohibiting leaks is like silencing the prophets, who in Scripture carried out a function in Israel similar yet far beyond that of WikiLeaks or the best investigative journalism.
Jesus himself taught: “Blessed are those who hunger and thirst for righteousness, for they shall be filled,” affirming all who long for truth and justice. This hunger and thirst will lead us to walk in the light ourselves through personal confession and repentance, and also to expose injustices that affect the vulnerable.
Think of confession of sin as the exposure of our own hidden secret attitudes and actions that the Holy Spirit brings up. The Spirit sounds our hearts, “leaking” our sins into our conscious awareness, bringing conviction and inviting confession, renunciation and new, life-giving choices. Continue reading Blessed Are the Leakers→