Churches Together in England’s Principal Officer for Evangelism & Mission, Rev Dr Ben Aldous, reviews ‘Challenges to Pentecostal Theology in the 21st Century’ – Edited by Phyllis Thompson, London: SPCK 2020…
For those of us who work in the world of ecumenism whether in a local, intermediate or national setting there is always more to learn. Sometimes we may feel mystified by our own tradition let alone be able to speak with any authority about someone else’s.
An antidote to such a feeling comes from a very fine collection of essays (originally lectures) edited by Phyllis Thompson from the New Testament Church of God. The original lectures were part of an annual series honouring Oliver Lyseight who served as National Overseer for twenty five years. The five chapters, each an original lecture worked into a more publishable form, cover a range of topics from a particular Pentecostal perspective.
Keith Warrington explores the Pentecostal theology of encounter reminding us that, ‘fundamental to Pentecostalism is a personal, experiential encounter with the Spirit of God.’ (:17) He argues that perhaps Pentecostals are losing their expectation about encountering the Spirit but need to regain that vital component of their life together.
Joel Edwards sensitively surveys the relationship that Pentecostals have with the prosperity gospel movement reminding us that whilst it is evangelical it sits at the outer edge of Christian orthodoxy. (:83) Edwards notes that to a large extent all prosperity gospel preachers draw very deeply on a reliance on the bible, are committed to theological positivism and preaching is central to their craft – in short they have Pentecostal pedigree. However, there are profound concerns. An over-realised eschatology, a troubling emphasis on the link between declarations of faith and material prosperity and an insistence on following certain ‘principles’ and ‘laws’. As a result prosperity theologians have, ‘unwittingly found themselves dancing between very old theological landmines.’ (:89).
Other essays include a robust challenge to postmodernity from the vantage point of Pentecostal spirituality by Douglas Nelson and Pentecostal appraisal of Scripture, reason, tradition and experience from Charlotte Johnson. Finally Steven Land explores the relationship between Pentecostalism, politics and justice.
This set of lucid and readable essays is really worth exploring.
The book is available from SPCK Publishing.