Pentecostalism's centennial: What are their contributions?
Pentecostals are celebrating the one hundredth anniversary of their founding at the 1906 Azusa Street Revival in Los Angeles. An article from the Christian Science Monitor lists some of the defining marks of Pentecostalism. (Thanks, Chris.) Here's a list of ten, followed by my own response to each:
1. A focus on New Testament "gifts of the Spirit" such as healing, prophecy, and tongues.
2. Spontaneity due to the moving of the Holy Spirit during worship, including prayer for physical healing and deliverance, prophecy, tongues, and a change in the order of worship.
3. Expecting God to make His presence known during worship.
4. A focus on praise leading to lively, upbeat, and jubilant music.
5. Expressive worship, including the lifting of hands, tears, clapping, etc.
6. A belief in the imminence of Christ's return.
7. A belief that after becoming a Christian one should have a second experience called "the baptism of the Holy Spirit" by which the believer receives the real power that makes him able to live with "an extra zeal that is miraculous--(that's) like a turbocharged faith."
8. A belief that this second experience is normally proven to have happened by the individual speaking in tongues.
9. A denial of the need for its pastors to be trained: if God calls you, get up and preach--that's it.
10. Finally, "Pentecostalism has the ability to translate itself into the language and culture of the people being reached, drawing on local music."
Which of the above do you believe to be a gift from God, overall? I'll go first.
1. I'm very much of a split mind on this since, although I'm not the normal reformed cessationist, the vast majority of what passes today in public as the practice of these gifts is, in my experience, fake. (How many times have I heard an overwrought matron prophesying, "O my people, I just want to love you and to gather you to my bosom, if you would only let me." No thanks--this is no prophetic word, but only an overwrought matron.
And yet, I've never found the biblical arguments for cessationism convincing. My denomination, the Presbyterian Church in America, has a very good statement on this that can be found here.
2. If the controlling word is "spontaneity," I'm not a believer. The words the preacher actually uses in his prayers in an Assembly of God worship service are at least as uniform and predictable as the normal reformed worship service. What is perceived as spontaneity is usually carefully scripted and habitual, but being emotionally manipulative it somehow feels spontaneous. Still, if I'm asked whether spontaneity is good, I'll say "yes" since I don't believe spontaneity is a violation of the Scriptural command of decency and good order and I believe we should still obey the biblical command, "Do not forbid to speak in tongues" (1Corinthians 14:39).
As for prayer for healing and deliverance, I believe normally they should not be done in public. Our practice is for the elders to meet with the person making the request, read the words instituting this biblical practice found in James 5, allow time for the one being prayed over to confess his sins, and then anoint with oil and pray for his healing or deliverance.
3. Dead orthodoxy is deadly and a loss of expectation of the presence and work of the Holy when the people of God gather in worship is an indication of worship becoming a museum exhibit or historical artifact. Put more simply, I'm with Jonathan Edwards and against Mark Noll and Daryl Hart on this one.
4. Worship should have joy and sorrow, reverence and exuberance. When the emotions are absent, it's likely the people and their pastor have lost faith in the God Who is here and Who is not silent. Reformed worship needs joy and exuberance whereas pentecostal worship needs reverence and sorrow.
5. Deadpan worship devoid of emotions and physical movement is the bane of reformed worship. God gave us emotions and bodies, and both should be active in worship. As I've pointed out elsewhere, Scripture is filled with examples of the people of God in worship kneeling, shouting, dancing, falling on their faces, standing, lifting their hands, and so on. The absence of any body movement beyond standing and sitting in reformed worship is an indication of our worship of the intellect and our tendency to lift doctrine above practice. So you won't be surprised to find out that I believe it's sin, and that in our congregation we kneel, stand, lift our hands, and that I hope the day will come when we will dance and fall on our faces, too.
6. This is nothing unique to Pentecostals, having been a central part of dispensationalists' doctrine as well as many other traditions within the Church--starting with the Apostolic fathers. In fact, Jesus Himself commanded us to believe in the imminence of His return, telling us always to watch and pray lest He return and find that we are not ready for Him. Likely the better indicator of Pentecostalism is their claim to know the connection between Christ's return and the political occurrences of our time, and their always-wrong predictions of the date He will appear. So I'm for keeping our lamps trimmed but against all books making a claim to connect the dots between, for instance, the oil crisis, the red heifer, Zionism, Russia, Iraq, Iran, and Christ's return.
7. I'm against all second works of grace that tend to place Christians on two levels, whether those two levels are the "carnal" and "spiritual" Christian, or pentecostalism's division between those who have not and those who have received the second baptism of the Holy Spirit. The only division that is Scriptural is that between the sheep and the goats, and all further divisions of the sheep will inevitably diminish the clarity of this biblical division, as well as bringing into the church a pecking order that is contrary to the unity of the Spirit in the bond of peace.
On the other hand, I believe God does special works of grace among His people that are evident and powerful, and that should be desired and sought.
Still, these extraordinary works should never be scheduled and named, as in "First Assembly of God will be holding a revival tonight, and we invite you to join us for this special night of Holy Spirit-anointed music and preaching. The Gospel Crooners will be bringing the music, followed by Brother Kentucky Derby preaching our revival message. Don't miss it--tonight could well be your night of miracles!"
8. Since there is no biblical doctrine of a second blessing which some Christians are given and some never get, there is no test of the reception of this second blessing.
9. The men God has called to preach and teach demonstrate that gift by being "able" to teach and preach, and a critical part of that ability is knowledge of Scripture as well as the work of the Holy Spirit throughout history. And while I'm opposed to the earning of an M. Div. at an accredited seminary being the union card of pastoral ministry, I believe pastors should be trained rigorously, both in heart and mind, prior to being examined for ordination and receiving a call to serve a local church as their pastor. So I'm against both the normal practice of the reformed and the Pentecostal churches insofar as the normal reformed practice is automatically to accept men for ordination based upon their receipt of an M.Div. from an institution of higher learning, and the normal Pentecostal practice is to give the pulpit to any man who claims he has "the gift."
10. I'm absolutely in agreement with this one, believing it to be one of the greatest weaknesses of the reformed church. Until we repent of our cultural idolatry, we will never experience the power of God among us. So here, I'm absolutely opposed to Daryl Hart, and completely in agreement with John Frame as he writes here. (And don't skip over the two links in this paragraph--they're absolutely essential reading for all reformed pastors and elders.)