A Theology of the Spirit in the Former Prophets: A Pentecostal Perspective — PhD Thesis

I recently learned (thanks Daniel Isgrigg) that my PhD thesis “A Theology of the Spirit in the Former Prophets: A Pentecostal Perspective” is available free online through my doctoral alma mater: Bangor University, Wales. For those interested it can be read in whole HERE. An edited version of this work is due to be published within the year (under the same title) by CPT Press.

The following is the abstract:

This thesis works toward a constructive Pentecostal theology of the Spirit in the Former Prophets. Chapter one provides a history of interpretation (from 1896 to present) of major works engaging the Former Prophets with regard to the Spirit. Chapter two offers a Pentecostal hermeneutic of the Former Prophets. Chapter three provides a history of effects (or Wirkungsgeschichte) approach by hearing the Spirit texts of the Former Prophets alongside of early North American Pentecostals (specifically the journals from 1906-1920) in order to offer a better orientation to how Pentecostal communities have interpreted these texts in their formative years. Chapters four through seven apply the hermeneutic of chapter two to the groupings of texts of the Spirit in the Former Prophets. As such, the chapters that follow are larger literary units which include multiple references to the Spirit of Yahweh/God, but are grouped together as narratological units. Chapter four addresses the judges who explicitly experience the liberating Spirit of Yahweh. Chapter five addresses Saul and David’s musical and prophetic experiences of the Spirit of Yahweh/God both for good and ill. Chapter six addresses the ambiguities of the Spirit in the context of the prophet Micaiah. Chapter seven addresses the passing of the Spirit of true prophetic sonship from Elijah to Elisha. Chapter eight then attempts a constructive Pentecostal theology of the Spirit in light of the study of the Spirit in the Former Prophets laid out in the preceding exegetical chapters and the Wirkungsgeschichte of chapter three. Finally, the concluding chapter briefly summarizes the contributions of this study and entertains multiple potential directions for future study brought to light through this study.

Re-Examining Pentecostal Readings of Female Characters in the Bible – SPS Symposium

I received the following great news yesterday that a symposium on “Re-Examining Pentecostal Readings of Female Characters in the Bible” has been approved for the 2019 Society for Pentecostal Studies annual meeting. Here are the details of the symposium:

I am incredibly grateful to be a participant and am looking forward to presenting with these amazing scholars on such an important topic.

A Brief Pentecostal Hearing of the Lectionary: Baptism of the Lord


Jesus baptism
The readings from the Revised Common Lectionary for this coming Sunday, January 7, 2018 offer an intriguing correlation for a Pentecostal hearing of these texts in harmony.
Genesis 1:1-5; Psalm 29; Acts 19:1-7; Mark 1:4-11.
The Genesis text describes the hovering of the divine Spirit over the waters at creation leading into the calling of “light” as “day” for that first day of creation.
The Psalm (being a Canaanite hymn cast into Yahwistic adulation) imagines Yahweh enshrined above the waters as king of all: in power and majesty.
Acts finds Paul leading the Ephesian water-baptized converts into Spirit inundation that Jesus might be demonstrated as Lord.
And the Gospel reading is Jesus’ water baptism leading to the Spirit alighting upon him with the Father’s blessings.
In each of these texts it is the Lord (as Spirit) who oversees the watery baptisms and leads from the abyss of cleansing into the life of the blessed Son who reigns supreme as the glorious light of Heaven. These texts intersect one another pointing to something which a Pentecostal hearing might enjoin as demonstrating the Full Gospel message of Jesus saving, sanctifying, baptizing in the Spirit, [and healing?] as king.
 

SPS 2017 Proposal Submitted

I just submitted my proposal for the 2017 Society for Pentecostal Studies annual meeting in St. Louis, MO. It is always a bit daunting preparing for a presentation at a scholarly society, but I have always found the effort well rewarded by the responses and engagement at the time of presentation. My title is Toward a Pentecostal Hermeneutic of the Former Prophets. Here is my proposal synopsis:

While there is no singular Pentecostal hermeneutic (nor a singular definition of ‘Pentecostal’), and some still persist in questioning whether there is or should be any, there are noticeable trends toward more clearly defined Pentecostal hermeneutics while still ‘in the making’. Perhaps this ‘still in the making’ is part and parcel of the Pentecostal’s sanctified/sanctifying interpretation. Claims to any form of Pentecostal hermeneutics must admit no ‘claim to possess a pristine and qualitatively unique methodology’. Instead, every hermeneutical approach (including those which might be called Pentecostal) is distinguished ‘by the presuppositions on which they build, the questions that they privilege, the interpretive tools they prefer, and the texts to which they attend’. Such a hermeneutical approach is perhaps properly always in the making as an improvisational performance of the Word by the Spirit within the community.
This paper briefly traces the four broad streams of historical development with the Pentecostal community’s hermeneutics as outlined by V. Kärkäinnen: Oral pre-reflexive, Fundamentalist-Evangelical, pneumatic exegesis and an emerging post-modern movement. This last movement is followed more closely as it unfolds in a triadic form in developing the hermeneutic suggestive by the text of the Former Prophets within the Pentecostal community taking into account the recent work on this trajectory by Scott Ellington, J. Christopher Thomas, Kenneth Archer, and Amos Yong (among others). A proposed phenomenological experience of the text by the Pentecostal community is offered toward a narrative approach to the text of the Former Prophets.

And in case you were wondering … “Former Prophets” refers to the books of the Hebrew Bible / Old Testament known as Joshua, Judges, 1-2 Samuel, and 1-2 Kings. 🙂

Testimony as Embedded Proclamation

testimonyHere is a bit from one of my graduate students (used by Matt Payne with permission) on engaging postmodernism as a Pentecostal church and preacher. How does one engage those who, at best, question the notion of the meta-narrative? How does one do so while pointing to the story of God’s redemption in Christ and testified to by the Spirit? Through testimony.

I would like to suggest that honest, theologically-sound testimony is essentially embedded proclamation, specifically as it bears witness to the ongoing work of Christ, proclaimed orally, in writing, graphically or otherwise. Furthermore, I would suggest that embedded proclamation constitutes a form of preaching (witness), though itself not found .[1] The activity of Christ, communicated faithfully by the witnessing community, performs the same function that liturgically embedded preaching does: it forms theology by communicating (as witness) what Christ has done and (prophetically) what can be expected of Christ in the future.[2]
To that end, Walter Brueggemann suggests that the essence of prophecy is “a sustained effort to imagine the world as though YHWH were a real character and the defining agent in the life of the world.”[3] Testimony performs the same function, though more concretely and in the past tense, much like Scripture.[4] If God heals someone, or delivers them miraculously from an addiction, it would stand to reason that those actions re-presented as testimony would serve as witness to the ontic reality of God’s presence, nature, mission, and proximity to humanity. Testimony is at once recollection of the deeds of God and prophecy of what He will do in the future, whether that’s healing, deliverance, the Baptism of the Holy Spirit, salvation, etc.

It is the very nature of testimony to subtly undermine other counter narratives. It does this by offering another world, as it were, and suggesting the potentiality of others entering that same experience and likewise be transformed.
This is precisely the kind of writing I LOVE to read from my students! I pray our testimonies may do just this!
_______________________
[1] Rick Wadholm Jr, “What is Preaching and What Makes it ‘Christian’?” a paper presented to The Socratic Club of Trinity Bible College and Graduate School Thursday, April 23, 2015.
[2] Revelation 19:10.
[3] Walter Brueggemann, The Practice of Prophetic Imagination: Preaching an Emancipating Word (Minneapolis: Fortress Press, 2012), 132.
[4] It could be argued that much of Scripture is in essence a series of testimonies. When considered in this light, it’s significant how much theology we distill not from explicit commands and propositions, but rather through our witness of God’s interaction with Israel and four author’s observations of Jesus’s earthly ministry.

History in the Making – SPS 2014

History has been made. What impact will be felt is yet to be seen, but this year’s Society for Pentecostal Studies saw the launch of a new endeavor that has been in the works for a couple of years now: the SPS Student Caucus.
I have been working with several other guys to see this come to fruition: Justin Gottuso (Fuller Theological Seminary) and Daniel Levy (Princeton Seminary). We were delighted to add Dan Morrison (McMaster Divinity College) to the mix over the last year. This inaugural Student Caucus was (by all means) a success.
AGTS kindly hosted a meet and greet get-together on Friday night after the last plenary session of the day with many student members (and others) in attendance. Yun Lois Dan Justin
Then Saturday morning we held a breakfast session with Drs. Russell Spittler (Fuller Theological Seminary) and Cecil (Mel) Robeck (Fuller Theological Seminary). They shared the formation and history of the Society and offered great wisdom to the student members.breakfast eating Spittler and Robeck
Here is the story of where it began in Justin’s words:

The 2012 SPS gathering at Regent University was my first academic conference, first SPS event, and my first time presenting an academic paper. I had an incredible experience that was beyond any of my pre-conceived ideas, but I also discovered three important issues that needed to be addressed for Pentecostal and charismatic students and next generation leaders.

My first discovery was how important it is to have a mentor who has been around SPS and academia for a while if you are a student or a first time presenter. Dr. Karkkainen from Fuller Seminary read over my initial paper outlines, gave me pointers on presenting, and introduced me to academic conference etiquette-all of which proved invaluable. His wisdom helped me navigate the anxieties and logistics of my first SPS conference.

My second discovery was the power in collaborative research projects and thinking out loud with other SPS members. After my paper presentation, I had the opportunity to discuss my paper topic with fellow scholars and students at SPS. Their ideas helped me see my topic in new ways and open new opportunities for future research. I realized there is power in thinking together and encouraging one another in our scholarship.

My third discovery was how Pentecostal and charismatic scholarly communities like the Society for Pentecostal Studies can help address current issues impacting the local church and the pastors of tomorrow. One of the plenary sessions discussed the need to find new and creative ways to talk about Jesus and experience the power of the Holy Spirit among the Millennial generation. As a “Millennial,” this struck a cord with me as a seminary student wrestling with what it means to communicate the good news of Jesus in the power of the Spirit to my own friends, co-workers and strangers.

When SPS 2012 was about to end, I approached Dr. Paul Alexander, the President of SPS and shared my idea of forming a Student Caucus within SPS. I explained what I saw as a need for three things: 1) To facilitate mentoring relationships between seasoned scholars and student SPS members; 2) to promote collaboration research and writing projects; 3) to help form next generation Pentecostal and charismatic scholars and leaders. He was thrilled by the idea and encouraged me to draft a proposal. I drafted a proposal and sent it to two friends I made at SPS, Rick and Daniel. I submitted this proposal to Dr. Lois Olena, SPS Executive Director who made final edits and presented it before the SPS Executive Committee in April, 2013. I was overjoyed and a bit shocked when I received the notice that the proposal was “approved” by the Executive Committee!

And here are the core contributions which drive the Student Caucus:

1) Next Generation Formation: The student leadership team could promote Pentecostal/charismatic (P/c) scholarship by networking and building community among next generation student scholars. The SPS is a network of people who are ecumenical. Thus, it is entirely crucial that work being produced by P/c scholars becomes known, first by people who engage in P/c circles, and those within the broader Christian theological community. This could be promoted by a) establishing networks of relationships across North America and around the world of student/independent scholars through social media, especially through the medium of blogging (perhaps an official consortium of Pentecostal and charismatic blogs can be formed; b) promoting student scholarly societies on college and seminary campuses; c) facilitating community building among students and scholars at SPS by hosting special student and Next Gen social gatherings at yearly meetings; and d) managing a student contact list database and sending out quarterly newsletters/updates from around the country.

2) Research and Collaborative Projects: The student leadership team could promote Pentecostal/charismatic scholarship by writing quality papers for SPS, generating student specific publishable literature, and working on collaborative projects with established scholars. These student leaders could work toward collecting and disseminating research and writing resources that are particularly gauged towards Pentecostal/charismatic scholarship; and also be encouraged to contribute quality papers at annual SPS gatherings. If a paper is considered worthy of publication, perhaps there could be a place for student contributions in Pneuma.

3) Mentoring Relationships: The student leadership team could promote Pentecostal/charismatic scholarship by helping facilitate mentoring relationships and collaborative inter-generational projects with established scholars. This could be accomplished through a) connecting students with particular research interests with established scholars who are experts in that field and are interested in being a mentor; b) asking established scholars about current issues in Pentecostal/charismatic research and what still needs to be written and researched; c) establishing boundaries and expectations for mentoring relationships; and d) promoting collaborative projects inter-generationally between older and younger scholars as referred to in point #2.

We look forward to the future of the Student Caucus as a valuable part of the development of Pentecostal scholars.

Breakfast group

PhD Programs for Pentecostals

So I’ve been in the process of applying for PhD programs over the last couple of years as I was finishing my M.Div.Honours at Providence Theological Seminary [this was true in 2012 when I first posted this. In full disclosure, I  completed my PhD at Bangor University, Wales in January 2018].  In my researching, I discovered there are a few schools offering PhD programs which are particularly pentecostally friendly (and all of them are somewhat new programs): Assemblies of God Theological Seminary (Springfield, MO), Regent University (Virginia Beach, VA), Bangor University (Wales, UK), University of Birmingham (Birmingham, UK), the Hollenweger Center (Amsterdam, The Netherlands), Alphacrucis College (Australia), London School of Theology, Asia Pacific Theological Seminary (Philippines), and Pan Africa Theological Seminary (two campuses: Lomé, Togo and Nairobi, Kenya), Oral Roberts University (Tulsa, OK).  All of these programs are interestingly enough distance programs…which may (in part) be due to the Pentecostal ethos of pragmatics (though this is just an assumption on my part) since they allow for continuing ministry while pursuing academics.

Assemblies of God Theological Seminary‘s programs offer the more traditional American track for PhD work which involves fairly extensive course requirements accomplished twice a year (for a two week stint on-campus) prior to dissertation writing.  There are four tracks available: Biblical Theology, OT Studies, NT Studies, and Systematic Theology.  They also offer a PhD in Intercultural Studies.

Regent University‘s program similarly offers coursework prior to official dissertation work.  The requirements for entrance are more stringent as are the requirements for maintaining status as a student.  Technically, this program is NOT a Pentecostal program…it is a “Renewal Studies” program offering tracks in Biblical Studies (OT or NT specialization), History of Global Christianity, and Christian Theology.  The distinction should not be dismissed lightly.  The “Renewal” nature of this program means it is more concerned with generalized understandings of the Spirit’s work rather than functioning within a Pentecostally constructed framework (such as one finds in Classical Pentecostalism).  This program requires on-site studies for two week stints three times a year.  Many of the faculty of Regent are top-notch Renewal/Pentecostal/Charismatic scholars in their field.

Bangor University’s program follows the British model for PhD work which is entirely research/writing as opposed to the coursework of a U.S. program.  While the U.S. programs prepare a student for future studies in a broader preparation, the British program offers the self-motivated student the opportunity to jump right into the research they are intending for their final project.  Bangor’s program is in conjunction with Pentecostal Theological Seminary (Cleveland, TN; via John Christopher Thomas – Clarence J. Abbott Professor of Biblical Studies).  This program facilitates the Pentecostal scholar to write from an explicitly Pentecostal perspective (see the works of Ken Archer, Chris Thomas and Lee Roy Martin for examples).  The program functions somewhat in conjunction with the Centre for Pentecostal Theology.  The student is only required to attend discussions/critiques of their current dissertation writing twice a year (for a two day stint each time) at the CPT location in Cleveland, TN (along with monthly supervisions via Skype)…and then to defend their final work onsite at Bangor (the viva). This program now includes supervisors alongside Chris Thomas like Frank Macchia, Chris Green and Robby Waddell.

University of Birmingham also (naturally) follows the British model of research/writing.  They require one two-week stint onsite per year and then attendance for the viva.  The Centre for Pentecostal and Charismatic Studies (at Birmingham) offers considerable resources for such research and writing and offers several notable faculty (Walter Hollenweger was one of these): Allan Anderson, Andrew Davies, and Wolfgang Vondey. Recently several faculty of Southeastern University in Lakeland, FL, have begun U.S. based supervisions: Ken Archer.

The Hollenweger Center is based in Amsterdam and is a part of the Vrije Universiteit Amsterdam.   There is no requirement to know or learn Dutch as a part of this program, but one must regularly visit and research onsite over the four year period intended for the dissertation (see requirements HERE).  There are no specific course requirements, but any given number of seminars should be taken to aid the student in their research and studies.

Alphacrucis College in Sydney, Australia now (2016) offers a PhD in business, education or theology that is taught be leading scholars in their field. It is an entirely research/writing based program that requires no residency nor a viva/oral-defense following standard Australian academic procedure.

The London School of Theology offers a number of foci within Pentecostal studies and includes such faculty as William Atkinson and Graham Twelftree (among others). This is (as noted above) a British PhD and thus is focused upon research/writing of a thesis rather than courses.

Asia Pacific Theological Seminary in Baguio City, Philippines offers PhDs in education, missions, counseling, theology, and biblical studies. It is also entirely a research/writing based program where the residencies consist of three research seminars (accomplished via instensives), dissertation, and oral defense.

Pan Africa Theological Seminary (known as PAThS) is split between two campuses as a joint effort: West Africa Advanced School of Theology in Lomé, Togo and East Africa School of Theology in Nairobi, Kenya. This program (like APTS above) is affiliated with the Assemblies of God. This program requires 3 weeks of residence on campus twice each year, for a total of 8 sessions of course work during a 4-year period.

Oral Roberts University is commencing a PhD in Theology (welcoming applications fall 2018) with a focus upon global contextualized theology under the leadership of Wonsuk Ma.

If I’ve missed any I would love to know so that I could add them to this post.  I would welcome any comments or questions about these programs as I’ve done the application work for all of them (plus others) [I did not apply to either Birmingham or The Hollenweger Center], but determined Bangor was the best fit for me.

[updated September 10, 2018]