I know many of us have a shared Pentecostal ancestry, so to speak. I have spent the better part of a year contemplating how my Pentecostal heritage is going to continue to influence my Christian walk. There has always been an element of Pentecostalism, and charismatic movements for that matter, that has resonated with me spiritually. In fact, as a confirmed member of the Episcopal Church, I have found that the spiritually efficacious nature of charismatic/Pentecostal theology is still very much part of how I live out my faith. Indeed, I have even been caught off guard by it in a couple of settings. I bring this up, because I have never been academically satisfied with the Pentecostal doctrinal propositions or defenses offered by Pentecostal scholars. However, I am not willing to “throw the baby out with the bath water,” to borrow from a colloquialism that I have oft heard being tossed around in Pentecostal institutions. So, after a couple of years spent ruminating and a couple of very long conversations with one of Loyola University’s professors emeritus, I have finally found a way to begin articulating, theologically, the struggle I have with Pentecostal doctrine.
As an undergraduate student, it quickly became evident to me that some doctrines are, well, more “doctrinal” than others. I mean to say that some doctrines that are entertained by Christians are orthodox, and some are not. They are a matter of personal preference, and do not really constitute something the broader community must believe or practice, though they may articulate the official position of one Christian sect. This may seem nit picky, but it makes all of the difference in the world to me. I cannot abide by the fact that many Pentecostals see in their Pentecostal doctrine certain elements that are essential for belief. I agree that many elements of charismatic/Pentecostal theology are edifying, that they enhance spirituality, and that they offer practical ways of living out our faith – and, as such, are worthy of pursuit. However, Pentecostal doctrine is not essential to the Christian walk, and to teach it as such is an abuse of authority. These were the only ways that I was previously able to articulate my frustration.
Lately, though, I have found a cleaner way to address the problem I have with the Pentecostal experience and the teaching of Pentecostal doctrine. I think the problem I have is a simple disconnect that exists between the mystical and the intellectual. I think the church has been experiencing and will continue to experience some fallout over the western church’s reaction to the Enlightenment. The modernist response to the Enlightenment has made mystical Christianity all but an anathema. However, this is the source of my issues with Pentecostalism. The charismata is something to be approached apophatically and not cataphatically. The gifts of the Spirit, including tongues, constitute legitimate mystical experiences, and, yet, the Pentecostal church wants to teach it cataphatically. I think this is the same problem the Roman church ran into with its teaching on transubstantiation – they wanted to “teach” a mystical experience. As a result, I feel a lot better about the role that the charismata will play in my Christian life. They are, as I believe Paul intended, an ad hoc mystical experience designed by God to enable Christians to interact with the Spirit as the Church functions as Christ’s agents in the world.
 One instance in particular comes to mind – at a spiritual retreat with 310 teens, I found myself laboring in prayer with a girl and was surprised to be led by the Spirit to pray in tongues, so I did – privately.
 Honestly, how many times have you heard a Pentecostal call that phrase, “Pentecostal scholar,” an oxymoron? I have heard professors at A/G institutions do it.
 Though, not necessarily with Pentecostal practice – which doesn’t even scratch the surface of how hard it has been to separate the frustrations I have with evangelical theology/practice from that of Pentecostal heritage.
 I hope to invoke not only the denotative (a collection of teachings, beliefs, etc) sense of “doctrine,” but also the connotative element as well. The emotional force of saying that something is the official teaching of your church amounts to saying, “you must believe, do, say…”
 Remember those camp evangelists that had everyone at the altar doing “Pentecostal calisthenics” to warm the new initiates up for the baptism in the Holy Spirit?
 It, incidentally, is also where many protestant churches run into trouble as well. They want to make the “mystical” aspect of communion into a memorial or “visible” Christian practice, and just end up robbing it of meaning. What good is a mystical experience without mystery?