September 2, 2012

What's a Pentecostal Anyway?

I would imagine, as it does for me, the word 'pentecostal' triggers a host of imagery, probably weird and, possibly, embarrassing. Recently I heard someone ask, "Can we just be pentecostal for a minute...?," using this question as motivation for praying voluminously, subtly reducing 'pentecostal' to charismatic dazzle.

Those of us born and brought into the Pentecostal tradition should know (or venture to know) what makes and doesn't make one pentecostal.

In the brilliantly titled Thinking in Tongues, Christian philosopher and author James Smith (visit his blog, Fors Clavigera, here) articulates what he understands as the five core aspects to a pentecostal worldview. Taken from the first chapter, and as for venturing goes, this may be a solid place to start.

The five bits to Smith's pentecostal worldview:

"1. A position of radical openness to God, and in particular, God doing something differently or new. In terms adopted from continental discourse, we might describe this as a fundamental openness to alterity or otherness. More traditionally, we might simply describe it as an openness to the continuing (and sometimes surprising) operations of the Spirit in church and world, particularly the continued ministry of the Spirit, including continuing revelation, prophecy, and the centrality of charismatic giftings in the ecclesial community.

2. An 'enchanted' theology of creation and culture that perceives the material creation as 'charged' with the presence of the Spirit, but also with other spirits (including demons and 'principalities and powers'), with entailed expectations regarding both miracles and spiritual warfare.

3. A nondualistic affirmation of embodiment and materiality expressed in an emphasis on physical healing (and perhaps also in gospels of 'prosperity').

4. Because of an emphasis on the role of experience, and in contrast to rationalistic evangelical theology, Pentecostal theology is rooted in an affective, narrative epistemology.

5. An eschatological orientation to mission and justice, both expressed in terms of empowerment, with a certain 'preferential option for the marginalized.'"

If this sparked something in you, pick up the book, as he expands each in detail. Or get ahold of me since I like sharing.