It was just a little over a week after Ralph had received the Anointing of the Sick. A large community of folks had been in prayer for Ralph during his final days that God’s will would be accomplished in his life. His death is a great loss for all of us in the Christian community. I am sure that there will be other tributes to Ralph in the coming days, but, for now, I offer this initial effort to honor the life of one who sought God with all of the theological acumen he possessed. Read the rest of this entry »
Archive for July, 2012
It is great to hear that you have met friends at graduate school who are also Pentecostals. Can you imagine that I was warned even about those? One of them, I was told, would have strange ideas “even for a Pentecostal.” We ended up becoming very good friends. It is important to have a sounding board as a Pentecostal. We cannot become theological hermits. On the other hand, I understand your surprise at the discovery that few of your friends actually want to study doctrine and that you wonder if your interest in systematic theology is peculiar. When I visited some graduate programs to learn more about them, one professor told me that Pentecostals are really afraid of the hard work of theological doctrine and that they hide behind the study of history or the Scriptures. Not that historical or biblical scholarship is somehow easier, I don’t think that’s what he meant; but there are very few Pentecostals who engage constructive, systematic theology to this day. Let me take the opportunity to explain some of the reasons for that gap and tell you about the promise and problems of historical scholarship among Pentecostals. Read the rest of this entry »
I half-anticipated your stormy response to my first letter. You are upset by the accusation that Pentecostals are anti-intellectual and at the same time you know it to be true. Pentecostals become scholars (and sometimes the other way around) but continue their work only with a sense of uneasiness amidst the ivory tower of the educational and academic system so dominated by the ideals of Western pedagogy that they reflect little (if anything) of a Pentecostal ethos. If I continue, it may sound like a defense of Pentecostalism; but I must try to be honest with you, with myself, and also take an authentic look at Pentecostals. I promised you more thoughts on the nature of Pentecostal anti-intellectualism. I hope I can answer some of your questions and stir up some new ones. Read the rest of this entry »
-what is my life calling?
-what are my unique gifts and talents, and how can I steward them for God’s glory?
-how can I serve God in what I’d like to do, yet still make a living?
-what job would be most fulfilling to me?
-is what I am doing significant, and even more probing, am I significant?
These questions take time, experience, discernment, reflection, prayer, and input from others to address. No matter what our life season, we occasionally circle back to these basic questions. However, we must remember that vocation is not to be equated with a job. Vocation first begins as a general call to follow Christ, followed by a specific call that is unique to each individual in contributing to Christ’s mission in the world, followed by an immediate call involving the duties at hand, such as family responsibilities. All three coalesce into our discipleship journey and reflect loving and serving God and others. God promises to guide us and does so each step along our journey. How God guided Albert Schweitzer (1875-1965), German Lutheran theologian, musician, and medical doctor, offers some key principles!
He chronicled how his sense of calling morphed from theology and music to include becoming a medical doctor. Although few will be called by God to serve as a medical doctor in Africa, the path that Schweitzer followed is equally as compelling today as it was during his lifetime. Notice the progression that carried him along in life purpose discovery and subsequent decision making.
While focused in academic studies and music, Schweitzer developed a growing empathy for others “struggling with sorrow and suffering.”
Identification of one’s calling often begins with a burden of compassion to assist others. Then at age 21, Schweitzer realized that he could not accept his good fortune relative to university study, scholarship, and organ proficiency as “a matter of course” but determined to “give something in return.”
So you have made the decision to become a Pentecostal scholar! What a decision! Yet, it does not surprise me at the least. All along it has been apparent to all of us that you have felt the strong calling of God in your life and that your faith was more a challenge of the mind than of the heart. Few are there like you who can debate the significance of the Incarnation at one moment and then pray for my anointing the next. And still, your email shows that you have been struggling with your decision. Being called a “Pentecostal” does not easily mix with being called a “scholar”! I remember our conversation before I left for graduate school: how you asked why being a Pentecostal was not enough for me and why I had to go to study theology. I recall the comments made by our family and friends –even our pastor–that a Pentecostal doesn’t need education, that all that intellectualism is an obstacle to the work of the Holy Spirit, that the anointing is not in the head but in the heart, that graduate school would teach me heresy, and that Pentecostals don’t belong at universities. (Even after I moved, people called me a heretic because I attended a Jesuit university.) But what choice did I have? At my time, there simply were no Pentecostal institutions that offered a doctorate. The number of Pentecostal scholars is still small, perhaps there are about 500 of us with a Ph.D. I had to make a choice, and I believe I made a good one. But enough of me! It is you who gets to surprise us today. What a day to celebrate that you are studying for a Ph.D. and that deliberately as a Pentecostal. I am proud of your courage and full of prayer for the challenges ahead. I know you are aware of the difficulty of your decision; your email is full of questions as if I could answer them. I am not sure if I can–if anybody can–but I will try in the next weeks to address your concerns. Today, let me only speak to your first question: How did Pentecostals get involved in scholarship in the first place? Read the rest of this entry »