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.

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]