So long as one is drudging themselves through the process of acquiring basic linguistic skills, fantasizing about future research projects can provide the necessary motivation to continue to drudge. I already have a running list of books and articles that I’m “going” to write and the other day I posted one of my ideas on Twitter and Facebook,
“Of Pilgrimage and Handkerchiefs: The Implicit Sacramental Ontology of Classical Pentecostalism”
Reactions hovered around amazement at my astute imagination. But our long time reader George P Wood asked the perennial question: “How does this move the missional ball down the Kingdom field?”
The funny thing is that I feel this has huge implications for missions and ecumenism. I realized that it maybe was time for me to clarify a bit more why I wish to continue to engage Pentecostalism and perhaps even hint at some of my own hopes future academic work. So here are a few of my persistent thoughts on Pentecostalism and what I hope to do about them.. I am more than aware that I might ‘accomplish’ little of this but I figure it’s more fun at least to plan big and trim as the situations require than stew in perpetual uncertainty like a fourth year sophmore who has changed majors six times.
For the sake of clarity I always attempt to differentiate between “Pentecostals” and “Charismatics” even if the difference is blurred. Consider it heuristic. Charismatics are those in Mainline, Catholic and other historic churches who experience(d) and promote(d) the “charismatic gifts and experiences” (thought of more narrowly as the type normally associated with “Pentecostals”) and Pentecostals are those Protestants who look to various ‘revivals’ which happened roughly a century ago for their roots. They are also generally differentiated by idiosynchratic eschtologies.
- It seems clear based on the unique rise and spread of Pentecostals that it is a work of the Spirit. If it is, then it is incumbent on the whole Church to ‘get on board’ with it, though with discernment. This is really just another way of saying that the charismatic gifts of the Spirit are for the whole Church.
- So I hope to work ecumenically with Pentecostals and encourage the use of the charismatic gifts in the wider Church.
- This engagement is hindered by several things:
- Pentecostals have historically been skeptical of ecumenism. They have been especially hostile to Catholics and Mainline Christians and have tended to feed this with an etiological narrative that sees in intellectualism and liberalism (among other things) a “fall” from the Spirit. So the “start” of Pentecostalism is seen as Gods judgment that the rest of the Church has failed and so is better ignored and left behind than looked to as partners and teachers. This has also borne fruit as anti-intellectualism, anti-institutionalism and anti-tradition.
- So part of what I want to do is demonstrate how under the surface of Pentecostal experience and practice there is a substantive overlap with Catholic Christian theology, experience and practice. By doing this I can help prepare the ground for fruitful dialogue between pentecostal and other churches as well as for cooperation in mission.
- On the other hand, despite initial flowering in various charismatic renewals, other churches still often remain skeptical of pentecostalism on the grounds that it is anti-intellectual, anti-institutional and anti-traditional and just plain ‘weird.’ So by speaking the historic theological language of the Church, I hope to show how the whole Church needs to be renewed by the Charismatic work of the Spirit.
- Additionally I’d like to explore the future of anglo-catholicism and argue that only a charismatic anglo-catholicism can de-clericalize the movement and renew a focus on missions and the sacraments.
- I’d also be interested in exploring the historic three-fold ministerial order, and ‘laws of ecclesiastical polity’ in general, with reference to the charismatic gifts.
- Similarly I’d like to look into the charismatic theology of the Eastern Orthodox because I’ve often found that their theology of the Spirit connects brilliantly with Pentecostal experience.
- I’ve got a million more of these.
- Another minor premise of mine that is rather disconnected to the points I’ve already made is that Pentecostals have done us all a disservice by selling their soul to buy street cred with Evangelicals. So even now Pentecostals need a Charismatic renewal! Especially with respect to how they read Scripture.
A basic underlying premise of all this is that Pentecostals are right in certain things and can enhance and be part of a larger renewing work of the Spirit who is reconciling all things to Christ, but in many things she is young and wrong and needs the whole Church to teach her.