Archive for the ‘Book Reviews’ Category

Book Review by Andrew Williams: Scripting Pentecost: A Study of Pentecostals, Worship and Liturgy

Monday, October 10th, 2016 by Enoch Charles

Mark J. Cartledge and A.J. Swoboda, eds., Scripting Pentecost: A Study of Pentecostals, Worship and Liturgy. (London: Routledge, 2016). xi + 251 pp. Hardback, $149.95, ISBN: 9781472443274.

Contrary to common perception, a number of significant studies on Pentecostal and Charismatic liturgy and worship have already been completed. However, as the editors note, this study is unique in that the essays contained in this work focus on the nature of Pentecostal and Charismatic worship and liturgy from a theological viewpoint that provides both ‘breadth and depth’ (p. 3). Specifically, this volume focuses on liturgical rites and worshipping practices from historical, theological, and global perspectives.

The volume is organized into two main sections. The first section is comprised of four historical and three theological essays while the second section offers six global case studies. The thirteen chapters are written by a team of scholars that specialize in the field of Pentecostal and Charismatic studies. Therefore, Cartledge and Swoboda have gathered a group of qualified contributors on a wide range of issues including historical, constructive theological, and contemporary observed research that add to the current field of knowledge. The first four chapters cover various, relevant topics within Pentecostal and Charismatic worship and liturgy such as early Pentecostal preaching in North America (Leah Payne), parallelism between the Welsh and the Azusa Street revivals (Jennifer Miskov), classical Pentecostal liturgy (Aaron Friesen), and the emphasis on sung worship within Pentecostal and Charismatic Christianity (Neil Hudson). Within the same section the attention shifts to constructive theological contributions of sung worship (Andy Lord), Pentecostal sacramentality and the altar (Wolfgang Vondey), and worshipping and living liturgically (Chris Green). The second section covers modern-day case studies spanning from North America (A.J. Swoboda), Europe (Anne Dyer), Kenya (Samuel Muindi), Myanmar (Denise Ross), Venezuela (Greg Burch), and Papua New Guinea (Sarita Gallagher). Each case study focuses on a particular topic within liturgy and worship that emerges from their own unique contexts.

Although scholars and students of Renewal studies might not look to purchase this volume for their personal library due to its high cost, they certainly should take time at some point to read its contents for two reasons in particular. First, the global case studies fulfill a great need in Renewal studies to move beyond European and North American contexts. This is a major strength of this volume, as it gives Western readers a window into how the majority of Pentecostal and Charismatic Christians worship around the world and how their worship is shaping the global movement. Second, as Swoboda’s title suggests ‘God is doing something new’ in Pentecostal and Charismatic liturgy across the world, making this volume on the cutting edge of Renewal studies. Further, the frequent attention paid to the history of Pentecostalism as it relates to constructing Renewal theology makes this volume especially relevant to the field of scholarship. Nonetheless, in spite of these strengths and the overall robustness of the essays, I found myself wanting additional constructive theological contributions. Although I agree with the editors on the fact that the theological essays were informed by historical sources, the degree to which the contributors moved beyond them I believe warrants these three robust essays their own section within the volume, paired with at least one more contribution. The strength of the historical and contemporary research begs for additional theological constructions. However, this reproach notwithstanding, I believe this volume offers groundbreaking research postulating the necessity for Pentecostal and Charismatic contributions to worship and liturgical studies.

In my estimation, the editors were correct in saying that this work ‘complements and in some ways supplements what has gone before’ (p.10). Collectively, this volume pushes the borderline of knowledge and summons further investigation and evaluation. I highly recommend this edited collection for both scholars and students of Renewal studies, for it fills a gap in the existing scholarship by offering relevant and stimulating essays that open a new window into the world of global Pentecostal and Charismatic worship.

Andrew Ray Williams is a PhD Candidate at Bangor University, an ordained Foursquare pastor, and recent graduate of Regent University’s School of Divinity.

Book Review: The Wisdom of the Spirit

Tuesday, September 22nd, 2015 by Mark Cartledge

Martyn Percy and Pete Ward, eds., The Wisdom of the Spirit: Gospel, Church and Culture, Contemporary Ecclesiology series (Farnham, UK, and Burlington, Vt.: Ashgate Publishing, 2014). xii + 216 pp. Hardback, $104.95, ISBN: 9781472435651.

Only a close reading of the back-cover endorsements, the inside-front-cover-flap description, or the table of contents will make clear what the title of the book does not: that this is a festschrift for Andrew Walker, Emeritus Professor of Theology, Culture & Education at King’s College London and Ecumenical Canon of St. Paul’s Cathedral in London. Walker burst on the theological scene thirty years ago with his sociological and theological study, Restoring the Kingdom: The Radical Christianity of the House Church Movement (Hodder & Stoughtoon, 1985), which by now has gone into multiple reprintings and editions, and since then he has been at the forefront of the sociology of religion in general and the sociology of Christianity in particular, engaged in ongoing exploration of new forms of the Christian faith especially in Western Europe in the late twentieth and early twenty-first centuries, and guiding and directing doctoral researchers in these and related areas. The contributors to this honorary volume include a few former students and a who’s who of those working on contemporary ecclesiological trends, broadly understood, particularly in the United Kingdom (besides the editors: Alister McGrath, Keith Chappell, William Kay, James Heard, Kirstin Aune, Robert Warner, Dave Tomlinson, Nigel Wright, David Martin, and American Methodist theologian and philosopher, William Abraham). The volume concludes with an interview of Walker by David Hilborn, although unfortunately it lacks the honoree’s bibliography of published writings.

Readers of this blog will not be motivated to purchase the book for their personal library because of the exorbitant prices of Ashgate hardback monographs, but those working in the arena of renewal studies will want at some point, sooner better than later, to look at it carefully. If Walker’s primary, even if by no means singular, contribution emerged at what might he understood in historical hindsight as one of the crests of renewalist waves on the British scene in the mid-1980s – he may have been led down this scholarly path in part as a recovering pentecostal preacher’s kid and adult convert to Orthodoxy – then the scholarship that seeks to build on and extend his reach since has been able not only to apply the tools he so expertly deployed (Walker being one of the first to foray in an interdisciplinary manner, combining sociology and theology primarily, into the contemporary study of the church, what is now known as congregational studies), but to also track the sociological unfolding – or ebbing and flowing – of trajectories charted over the last three decades. Scholars of renewalism will especially appreciate two related aspects of this book: that various case studies update the whence from and perhaps where to of church movements barely incipient at or (some slightly) antedating Walker’s groundbreaking study (including Roman Catholic charismatic renewal, classical Pentecostal denominations, the Alpha program, the house churches, etc.), and that of more sociologically informed but nevertheless non-reductionist assessments of evangelical Christianity in its various permutations looking into the latter part of the second decade of this third millennium (e.g., the post-evangelicalism phenomenon, current trends in evangelical theology, fatherhood in evangelical Christianity). In a number of instances, the tone of analysis is sober: the heyday of Evangelicalism in the British world lies in the past, and movements of renewal, revival, and restoration will need to creatively and courageously engage in and with an uncertain future.

Scholars of global renewal ought not to minimize the relevance of a book focused on renewalism in the British context as if to believe that majority world and other globalization dynamics will prove these nay-sayers wrong like they currently appear to have promoters of the secularization thesis half a century ago. Most if not all of the contributors to this volume, like Walker, are committed to the church and in that respect, are not heralds of Evangelicalism’s (which is inclusive for the varied and many movements discussed in the volume) demise for the sake of wanting to conduct a quick burial, but seek through their analyses to probe about the nature of Christian faith and what that might look like precisely through the transnational and postmodern flows that characterize our contemporary global village. In the end, then, there is something subtly at work in the title of the book that gestures to its quest – the path of inquiry precipitated by Walker and now pursued upon by those who have written appreciatively in his wake – for a fresh breeze of the divine wind that might enable the church to emerge anew from out of the present malaise. Readers of The Wisdom of the Spirit may thus be in a better position than others to innovate forms of the gospel for the next generation.

Amos Yong

Professor of Theology & Mission

Fuller Theological Seminary, Pasadena, California

The Holy Spirit and the Christian Life: A Review of the Inaugural Volume of CHARIS

Wednesday, February 11th, 2015 by L. William Oliverio Jr.

ShowJacketThe Holy Spirit and the Christian Life: Historical, Interdisciplinary, and Renewal Perspectives. CHARIS: Christianity and Renewal – Interdisciplinary Studies 1. New York: Palgrave Macmillan, 2014), edited by Wolfgang Vondey. ISBN 978-1-137-37812-5. 

A compilation of eleven essays, The Holy Spirit and the Christian Life is the inaugural volume of a new series titled CHARIS: Christianity and Renewal-Interdiscplinary Studies. This series, with its interdisciplinary focus, joins several other existing series on pentecostal and charismatic, or renewal, studies, that have been published by a high quality academic press, in this case Palgrave Macmillan. CHARIS is edited by Wolfgang Vondey (Regent University) and Amos Yong (Fuller Seminary), two leading theologians from the charismatic-pentecostal guild who have utilized interdisciplinary approaches in their own writings. Vondey edits, introduces and provides a conclusion to this volume, while Yong offers an afterword. Although some might have the impression that interdisciplinary projects necessitate breaking with traditions, the historical emphasis of this collection demonstrates otherwise! Read the rest of this entry »

Paul and the Miraculous: A Review of Graham Twelftree’s Historical Reconstruction

Tuesday, December 10th, 2013 by David Johnson

twelftreeGraham H. Twelftree. Paul and the Miraculous: A Historical Reconstruction. Grand Rapids: Baker Academic, 2013. xxv+390 pp. ISBN 978-0-8010-2772-7

Paul has been widely studied as a theologian; however his views on the miraculous have been often neglected. Twelftree attempts to alleviate this situation by addressing to what extent Paul’s ministry and teaching included the miraculous. A guiding principle in deciphering the historical Paul is that Paul’s life and work are as important as his theological contributions. The book consists of 5 parts addressing the person of Paul, Paul’s inheritance, Paul’s testimony, Paul’s interpreters, and Paul’s relationship to the miraculous. Will Twelftree agree with the majority view that Paul excised Christianity of the miraculous or will he take up arms to defend the charismatic view that Paul was comfortable with the miraculous? Read the rest of this entry »

Pentecostal Scholarship Observed: Amos Yong as Theological Type

Wednesday, November 20th, 2013 by Michael Wilkinson

BrillWolfgang Vondey and Martin William Mittelstadt (eds.). The Theology of Amos Yong and the New Face of Pentecostal Scholarship: Passion for the Spirit.  Global Pentecostal and Charismatic Studies 14. Leiden: Brill, 2013. xvi+290 pp. ISBN 978-90-04-25174-8

Sociologists are observers and interpreters. We have the task of observing the taken for granted assumptions of social life and the power of invisible structures.  We pay attention to structure, culture, social interaction, stratification, social institutions, and social change. We do not always agree on what we see or what it means. And yet, we are given this gift of interpretation, of making sense of the familiar and the strange. The sociologist Max Weber developed a specific methodology of interpretation that focused on the subjective meanings of social interaction and the social worlds humans creatively constructed. His approach focused on the Ideal Type. An ideal type is an analytical device for observing and interpreting a complex social reality. It is a measuring stick or a conceptual tool that represents specific aspects of a case. Ideal types are especially useful for making historical comparisons as Weber did in his work on religion and capitalism. Yet, ideal types may also be useful in the advancing our understanding of Pentecostal scholarship.

The Theology of Amos Yong and the New Face of Pentecostal Scholarship is a new volume in the Global Pentecostal and Charismatic Studies series published by Brill. The volume, edited by Wolfgang Vondey and Martin Mittelstadt, is in my view an exercise in establishing an ideal type, and the specific case is the work of Amos Yong. The volume is organized around the work of Yong in two sections spanned by twelve scholars. The first group of essays introduces the work of Yong, his methodological assumptions, hermeneutical commitments, and theological arguments on many contemporary topics from world religions, to pneumatology, science, and Renewal. The second half consists of a series of critical essays from an ecumenical perspective with assessments from Evangelical, Orthodox, Anglican, and Roman Catholic viewpoints.

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John MacArthur Strikes Again with Strange Fire

Friday, November 1st, 2013 by Vinson Synan

imageJohn MacArthur, the Calvinist, Fundamentalist, Cessationist preacher from California has done it again. With his newest attack on Pentecostals and Charismatics, Strange Fire, MacArthur, like Don Quixote tilting at windmills, continues his hopeless quest to put an end to the most energetic and fastest growing group of Christians in the world. MacArthur never quits. This is his third book on the subject, and perhaps his last. Read the rest of this entry »