Posts Tagged ‘scholarship’

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.

Read the rest of this entry »

Saving the Society for Pentecostal Studies

Friday, March 1st, 2013 by Wolfgang Vondey

The Society for Pentecostal Studies (SPS) is entering a critical phase of its existence. At its annual meeting this March, the members of the Society will decide whether the SPS should change its “admission policy” and add a particular faith statement as requirement for membership. The nature of the faith statement does not concern me here. Neither am I interested in debating the need for a faith statement or its effects on the Society. Proponents of a faith statement wish to safeguard the Society from admitting non-Christians and non-Pentecostals; opponents to this move wish to protect the academic and ecumenical character of the Society. I consider both perspectives to be valid, even if I prefer one over the other. What does concern me is the manner in which proponents of a faith statement have abused the situation to rally support for their cause.

A number of advocates of a faith statement have voiced their opinion rather loudly, even on the internet (no, I am not providing a link). Some gather signatures, other personal support behind the scenes and among friends  for what seems to become a show-down business meeting of the Society. In the interest of “saving the Society for Pentecostal Studies,” these members contribute to the slow death of their own organization. Young and inexperienced members (some with no postgraduate degrees), who have not held any position of leadership in the Society, have the audacity to voice their opinions without respect for the well-being of the SPS, its diverse members, its history, and the opportunities created in recent years to expand the reach of Pentecostal scholarship. Denominational interests and personal persuasions steamroll over relationships, seniority, and scholarship. I certainly have my own opinion on the matter, but I do not believe that trumpeting my own convictions is in the best interest of the Society. And that is what really matters: not the faith statement, not its potential absence or revision, but the life and well-being of the SPS and Pentecostal scholarship. We should not change recommendations of the executive committee in public before these have been presented to the members of the Society and discussed by the body in its official gathering. We should not post our own proposals for a policy of the Society before others with more seniority, experience, and scholarship have had a chance to speak on behalf of the Society. And we should not rally support for our own agenda behind the scenes as if we are running for office before we have first offered our service and dedication to the Society.

The decision to be made at this year’s meeting will inevitably divide SPS. If we adopt a required faith statement, several members who cannot sign the statement (whether for confessional or academic reasons) will have to abstain from the meetings. If we do not adopt a faith statement as required for membership, those who advocate it currently will likely cease to attend the meetings in the future. So what do we need?

  1. SPS needs a strong, experienced, discerning, and dedicated leadership to face this crisis. The current praxis of a rotating executive committee is perhaps not the best way to give stability to the Society. We need to seek leadership from among those who are dedicated to the SPS and who can provide long-term stability. At the meeting, the members will also vote for a new second vice president who will lead the society in two years. This decision should not be taken lightly, those nominated should ask themselves if their commitment to SPS is sufficient to accept nomination, and those voting should vote not based on personal preference but on character, scholarship, and care for Pentecostal studies.
  2. Official discussions should always have priority over private opinion. We need a membership that engages in the business of the Society. To encourage such engagement, business meetings should not be the last agenda on the last day of the meeting but be given adequate time to discuss and resolve matters concerning the health of the SPS.
  3. Members need to keep a proper perspective on the Society and the care for those who call themselves Pentecostal scholars or scholars of Pentecostalism. This small group of perhaps 500 PhDs deserves to treat each other with respect and dignity. Denominationalism and divisions may be a part of Pentecostal history, but it should not divide Pentecostal scholarship–a young and fragile discipline. Pentecostalism deserves better!  Pentecostal scholarship deserves better!

The proposal on the table will have to be decided. We will have to take a stand. However, on whatever side we are, the first decision should be for the unity of the body. After almost 20 years with the Society, where I have found a home for my scholarship and many personal friends, I am ashamed of those who use SPS to advance their own agenda, denominational persuasion, or scholarship as much as of those who deny their institutions to attend SPS for confessional or doctrinal reasons. I am afraid of those who feel privileged to voice their opinion before seeking together the council of God and the well-being of the community. The Society for Pentecostal Studies now needs to be rescued. This salvation can only come from all of us, all who have come together year after year, who have developed friendships, scholarly bonds, new interests and passions. The SPS is worth saving! What matters is not a faith statement or the absence of a faith statement. What matters is the unity of its members! Repentance, forgiveness, and love may help bring about this unity. I am willing to stand up for this cause. We will have to see who else is …

 

Letter to the Society for Pentecostal Studies (SPS)

Thursday, October 18th, 2012 by Wolfgang Vondey

Dear Society for Pentecostal Studies,

For some time now, I have been pondering the history and nature of Pentecostal scholarship. My peers struggle with the idea that Pentecostals engaged in theological scholarship may perhaps not be contradictory, but that it is not taken seriously. Among my friends, Pentecostal scholarship just does not seem to be advertised sufficiently. Although much of the creative theological thinking that today is taking place among Pentecostals has emerged from the Society for Pentecostal Studies (SPS), almost none of my non-Pentecostal friends has even heard of your organization. Even among my Pentecostal friends, there are many who are uncertain about the intentions of the Society and whether the SPS has a future. What I would like to know is, what role exactly does the SPS serve in the development of Pentecostal scholarship?  What is the vision of the Society? What role will it play in the future of Pentecostal thought in and beyond North America? In order to explain my dilemma, I would like to revisit what I understand to be a long-standing problem–a problem that has resurfaced in recent debates about requiring a faith commitment from members of the Society. Of course, I cannot give an an answer to this debate, but I suggest that in order to resolve what I sense to be very serious disagreements among the membership, the Society should first direct its attention to its own self-understanding. Read the rest of this entry »

Letter to a Pentecostal Scholar V: the new face of Pentecostal theology

Tuesday, September 4th, 2012 by Wolfgang Vondey

Dear Prudence,

I appreciate your passionate interest in the Society for Pentecostal Studies. It is only natural for you to ask if you have a place there as a new and emerging Pentecostal scholar. I will think about how to best approach the topic. But before I can do so, there is need of some more explanation about the development of Pentecostal scholarship that impacts the shape of the Society. In my last letter, I talked about the emergence of biblical scholarship among Pentecostals. I distinguished this group from the historical scholarship that developed earlier. Today, I want to spend some time on the questions: does Pentecostalism have a theological scholarship?

Read the rest of this entry »

Letter to a Pentecostal Scholar II: the nature of Pentecostal anti-intellectualism

Monday, July 16th, 2012 by Wolfgang Vondey

Dear Prudence,

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 »

Letter to a Pentecostal Scholar

Sunday, July 8th, 2012 by Wolfgang Vondey

Dear Prudence,

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 »