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Friday, September 08, 2006

The changing face of Pentecostalism

I've written in the past about how Pentecostalism is taking over the world, even when it is not called by that name (see my post in July 2006 entitled "tongue talking demon smashing baptists"). Now I would like to consider the changing face of Pentecostalism. Pentecostals have long been chided for their theological ignorance and anti-intellectual bias. In the old days, to be a Pentecostal was virtually synonymous with low class and low education.

Those were the old days. Although some still cling to the tradition of cessationism (the idea that the miraculous gifts of the Holy Spirit died with the last Apostle), most will at least concede that tongue- speakers are not demon- possessed (a mainstream idea during the first half of the 20th century). In the book Are the Miraculous Gifts for Today? four scholars weigh in on the question of the perpetuity of miraculous gifts such as tongues, healing, and prophecy.

What strikes me about the book is the level of sophistication of the scholar defending the classic Pentecostal view of Baptism in the Holy Spirit with the evidence of speaking in tongues. Pentecostals have gone from arguments like "Well golly Martha, dems Apostles spoke in tongues. I guess that means we can too" to "Luke has a distinct pneumatology that need not be subjugated to Pauline distinctives" (my paraphrase). If you didn't understand that last line. Don't worry. I basically said the same thing that uneducated hillbillies have been saying for a century without using the sophisticated language. God has this funny habit of "choosing the foolish things of the world to confound the wise." While stiff ivory tower intellectuals have been inventing Liberation theologies for the poor masses of the world, the poor in masses have been turning to Pentecostalism.

Lastly, what I think is most exciting is that Pentecostals and Cessationists can now bring themselves to the discussion table without accusing the other of heresy. Both sides seem to recognize now that the essential issues of the faith are what should unite us. This is a healthy step for the Christian faith worldwide. Thank you Zondervan for showing us every side of this issue. I'll take a genuine dialogue over mudslinging any day.

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