Pentecostals in the 21st Century

Identity, Beliefs, Praxis

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Editor(s): 
Corneliu Constantineanu, Christopher J. Scobie
  • Eugene, OR: 
    Cascade Books
    , January
     2018.
     276 pages.
     $33.00.
     Paperback.
    ISBN
    9781532616716.
     For other formats: Link to Publisher's Website.

Review

Corneliu Constantineanu and Christopher J. Scobie’s Pentecostals in the 21st Century: Identity, Beliefs, Praxis provides a broad overview of Pentecostal thought from the perspective of several prominent theologians within the movement. Each of the enclosed fourteen essays is written by a different author and covers a particular topic—including Pentecostal views on hermeneutics, the sacraments, spiritual gifts, ecumenism, and missions. The book centers on the themes of identity, belief, and praxis, which reflect the idea that Pentecostalism embraces a holistic and embodied spirituality. Schematically, the text begins by considering how Pentecostals self-identify and ends with an essay reflecting on how Pentecostals fit within the nexus of the broader Church and the world. Space limitations do not allow me to address every chapter, but I will focus upon a key few.

Veli-Matti Kärkkäinen tackles the challenging topic of Pentecostal identity. He correctly maintains that it is appropriate to speak of Pentecostalisms since this movement’s various branches are “not based on creeds or shared history” (16). Kärkkäinen views spirituality as a common thread across the Pentecostal spectrum. Spiritual experiences, which include one’s entire body, guide Pentecostal readings of scripture and theological reflection. Kärkkäinen also focuses upon Pentecostalism through the lens of mystical encounters with God, with a particular emphasis upon Spirit baptism for empowerment. Despite these markers, Kärkkäinen argues that, given its relative newness, Pentecostal identity needs further refinement and that the Global South will play a significant part in this formation.

In a separate essay, Roger Stronstad discusses Pentecostal hermeneutics. Stronstad maintains that everyone who reads scripture functions as an interpreter. This process, however, requires “divine assistance” given that scripture is a holy word. He writes that “the interpreter must be a spiritual person, one who allows the risen Jesus to open his/her heart to understand the Scriptures, one who submits to the teaching of the Spirit” (33). For Stronstad, those who read and interpret scripture must seem themselves as “trustees” of God’s word. He also analyzes Luke-Acts, hoping to assist others to become more knowledgeable of what he calls the foundation of Pentecostal hermeneutics, concluding that Luke must be understood as a historian, a theologian, and a teacher of salvation history.

Frank Macchia addresses Spirit baptism, arguing that–from a traditional Pentecostal perspective–an individual receives the Spirit upon initiation, but that subsequent infillings of the Spirit can occur. He maintains that Spirit baptism provides empowerment for Christian witness, which is a theme evidenced in the Luke-Acts narratives. Such empowerment means that Christians are called to minister across social boundaries, especially to the poor and oppressed. According to Macchia, Spirit baptism begins in an individual’s body but points to and moves toward the establishment of God’s kingdom on earth.

Amos Yong considers church unity in a chapter titled “Pentecostalism and Ecumenism: Past, Present, and Future.” He proposes that the church body, despite its diversity, should reflect the unity between the Father and the Son, and that it should be grounded in the Pentecost narrative of Acts 2. Yong summarizes and counters three classical Pentecostal objections to ecumenism and contends that these protests were imported into the movement, not derived from its foundational precepts, arguing that “Pentecostals have always been ecumenical.” Conversely, he maintains that ecumenism has invaritably been “pentecostal” by embracing unity in the midst of diversity. Yong closes by suggesting future prospects and tasks, urging Pentecostals to be discerning of the Spirit’s pervading work and ready to spread God’s love across human-constructed boundaries.

Overall, the book is readable and, consequently, college professors may find it useful for undergraduate and seminary classes on Pentecostal theology. Individuals interested in an entry-level text on Pentecostal thought may also find it helpful. Scholars who are already familiar with the works of these writers likely will not encounter an abundance of novel ideas. On the other hand, the text includes essays from several European voices, and North American Pentecostals may appreciate the insights of potentially new dialogue partners. The diversity of voices within the text, however, is limited. The contributions are dominated by Western male perspectives and lack voices from women and from the Global South. In my opinion, Pentecostals in the 21st Century would have benefited greatly if its editors had included these perspectives.

About the Reviewer(s): 

David Bradnick is Lecturer in Philosophy at Millersville University of Pennsylvania.

Date of Review: 
March 8, 2019
About the Author(s)/Editor(s)/Translator(s): 

Corneliu Constantineanu is Professor of Theology at “Aurel Vlaicu” University, Faculty of Humanities and Social Sciences, Arad, Romania.

Christopher J. Scobie is an ordained minister and serves in the local church in Ljubljana. He has served as adjunct professor in the Evangelical Theological Seminary in Osijek, Croatia.

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