Posts Tagged ‘doctrine’

Salvific Motifs of Renewal Theology

Tuesday, December 17th, 2013 by Monte Lee Rice

RENEWALTHEOLOGYA notable feature of renewal theology within the ongoing development of Pentecostal scholarship is its construal of Pentecost and pneumatic experience as an epistemological resource that initiates and informs engagement with the human and natural sciences.  In doing so, renewal theology can generate innovative responses to an array of  challenges that threaten human and planetary flourishing and in manners filial to the Christian vision of God’s mission within history and towards creation. But given its methodological nuance on the Spirit’s immanence within creation, frequent criticism raised against renewal theology concern the strength of this fidelity.  Simon Chan for instance, consistently argues that all ideas of Creator Spiritus “must be subsumed under the Spirit of the Church.”[1]  Renewal theology would generally deem Chan’s limiting of the Spirit to ecclesial loci unnecessarily restrictive.  Yet, while we may find Chan’s church-bounded pneumatology utilitarian pr anachronistic, might not the “pneumatological imagination” also prompt us towards recalibrating such Tradition- and ecclesial-centered methods of theology towards the multi-disciplinary aims of renewal theology?

This question calls to mind the Chinese proverb, “When you drink the water, remember the source.”  I find Chan’s insistence helpful as it prods us to foster a mutually empowering interface between the epistemic resources (e.g., the “pneumatological imagination”) that renewal theology generates towards the sciences, and how we might find these resources a priori generated via the ecclesial-shaped contexts of spiritual encounter and formation.  In what follows, I shall briefly suggest three theological motifs I find beneficial towards fostering this interface. Read the rest of this entry »

Boasting Heresy: The New Ignorance

Saturday, May 25th, 2013 by Wolfgang Vondey

heresyIf you have spent any time lately in theological discussion you surely have come across the label “heretic.” No, I don’t mean the derogatory use of the term to denounce someone else’s beliefs as unorthodox or unacceptable. Surprisingly, I mean the use of the term to label one’s own position. “I am probably a heretic but …” or “This is probably heretical …” and similar phrases now introduce theological positions and beliefs in which the speaker is not quite clear or certain about what is to be believed. I see these phrases regularly in my classes, on discussion boards, Facebook posts, and in any conversation that goes beyond a mere superficial chat to probe the deeper theological questions. Not surprisingly, “I am called a heretic but …” and similar phrases start a position that is rarely heretical but more often ignorant, incoherent, and amateurish. Often I find in these phrases also a sense of discomfort with existing positions or a sense of pride, a boasting in heresy as if to say: “I do not conform to the tradition” and “I have found a better way no one has thought of before.” I find this trend alarming. Boasting heresy is a threat to the renewal of Christian theology! Read the rest of this entry »

Wanted: Pentecostal Theology

Tuesday, June 28th, 2011 by Wolfgang Vondey

I have been reading Pentecostal works on systematic theology. I think I read all of them. There aren’t that many. What I am missing is any kind of idea of what exactly is Pentecostal about them. The order of topics, and much of the content, is not different from, say, a Millard Erickson text or a similarly widely used volume. At the same time as I am reading these texts, I am writing on a book that introduces Pentecostalism. “A Guide fo the Perplexed” says my subtitle. What perplexes me is that the things I wish to say, I cannot find in the theology books written by Pentecostals.

Yesterday, I was a discussion of my last book, Beyond Pentecostalism, and I was asked what exactly identifies a Pentecostal theology as Pentecostal. Perhaps the only thing that we can say today, I was told, is that the book is written by someone who is Pentecostal. But in the content we find very little that distinguishes it from other works. I am afraid, I tend to agree with this assessment. It’s not that Pentecostals do not have a particular form of theological reflection and content. It’s that they do not know how to express it.

Just open one of those books and see where it takes you. I wonder, how can a Pentecostal theology have no explicit chapter (!) on Jesus Christ at all (Duffield and Van Cleave’s Foundations of Pentecostal Theology) or put a chapter on Christ in the ninth place (Stanley Horton’s Systematic Theology)? Is a discussion on the unity, clarity, and authority of Scripture really the starting point of Pentecostal doctrine (Arrington’s Christian Doctrine, vol.1)? CanPentecostals afford to look at the table of contents and find no mention of the Holy Spirit (Hart’s Truth Aflame)? In other texts, I find descriptions of theological loci that remind me closely of Reformed teachings (Calvin’s Institutes are a popular model) or some other Evangelical model, but I look in vain for what makes this a Pentecostal text. (All this is not really new criticism; see Terry L. Cross, “Toward a Theology of the Word and the Spirit: A Review of J. Rodman Williams’s Renewal Theology,” Journal of Pentecostal Theology 3 (1993): 113-35.)

What I do not find is a theology that reflects the less vocal Pentecostal majority in the global South; African convictions, Latin American piety, and other non-academic perspectives are absent. The reason for this neglect may be that those Pentecostals do not write a systematic theology. But that should not exclude their voices. If the proper, Anglo-European formulations of Christian doctrine do not fit the Pentecostal ethos, then it is unlikely we can find the heart of Pentecostal theology in such endeavors.

What I do not find is a confidence in being Pentecostla that reflects in the manner doctrines are presented. Pentecostal spend far too much time with apologetics, explaining who they are and justifying their existence in light of the ecemenical traditions (I am guilty of that). It is time that we move ahead and stop apologizing for being Pentecostals and begin to do theology as Pentecostals.

What I do not find is an order of doctrines that truly reflects the priorities of Pentecostal thinking. We continue to adopt the way of ordering theological loci from others despite the fact that several Pentecostal theologians have already shown the negative impact such adoptions have on the preservation of the Pentecostal tradition to the next generation.

What I do not find is a way of speaking (or writing) that reflects a Pentecostal spirituality and cosmology. The way theology is done by Pentecostals most certainly impacts what Pentecostals say and the manner in which they communicate. I am hard-pressed to find a Pentecostal theology that does not seem to be “domesticated”.

To be sure, the reasons for these neglects are not solely found among Pentecostals. Just last week I was told by the senior editor of a major publishing house that Pentecostal texts do not sell very well. At some point, when this was true, Pentecostals found their way into the publishing arena by adopting the conventional way of theology. Today, this convential way has taken the life out of theological texts by Pentecostals. There is, as I was told yesterday, nothing particularly attractive about a Pentecostal book next to a non-Pentecostal book (especially if the other one carries a bigger name). Which one would you choose?

I wonder how the Society for Pentecostal Studies would respond to this assessment. Perhaps we are content with the current state of affairs? Perhaps we do not have the scholars in the field of theology that can write these kind of texts? Did Pentecostals fail to train their own as systematic theologians? Does the Pentecostal leadership in the churches assume that they are sufficiently trained to formulate Pentecostal doctrine? Can we afford to do theology without consulting those Pentecostals without academic training? Where will this lead us? I, for one, am tempted to put out a sign: Wanted! Pentecostal Theology!

Can you help?

My Church, Your Church, but not Everybody’s Church

Monday, June 21st, 2010 by Wolfgang Vondey

Driving down the East Coast through small towns and cities confirmed again the overtly Christian character of the American countryside. Steeples, towers, simple brick buildings, store front churches, ornate houses of worship, temples, cathedrals, and basilicas. You name it, we got it. But wait. There’s more. Come now and also receive a free church building around the corner, right next to the other church, across the street from the next one. Baptist churches right next to Methodists, exactly across the street from a Presbyterian church, and only a block away from a Pentecostal. Make that two Pentecostal churches. No, wait, three. Where does it stop? What is the point of having six churches within a mile from each other? What really distinguishes these churches and what exactly justifies their distinction and visible separation? You tell me, I’m at a loss. Read the rest of this entry »