>I’ve decided to shorten up my blog posts a little because school is intense these days, but mostly because no one will read them (including my wife) when they’re too long except for my dedicated readers! (you know who you are)
My favorite book of 2010 was James Smith’s “Thinking in Tongues.” It’s a book on pentecostal philosophy and worldview (not mostly about “tongues”). Disclaimer: The following post(s) is a personal adaption of Smith’s material and may not completely or accurately represent the material, but I do my best!
The Pentecostal movement, which finds its roots in the Azuza Street (1906) and Welsh (1904) revivals, is the fastest growing and second largest Christian movement (#1 Catholicism) in the world. There are over 600 million pentecostals. Just to put that in perspective, the population of the United States is just over 300 million. There are more pentecostals in the world than facebook users (just under 600 million). Pentecostalism has literally exploded across the globe in just a little over one hundred years and it doesn’t show any signs of slowing.
When we talk about little “p” “pentecostal,” we’re not talking about just particular big “P” “Pentecostal” denominations. We are talking about a broad movement. It’s an umbrella term for a large contingency within Christianity that includes, The Assemblies of God, The Church of God, The Church of God in Christ, International Church of the Foursquare Gospel, United Pentecostal Church International, United Pentecostal Holiness Church, and many, many non-denominational and charismatic churches worldwide.
So, what is “pentecostal”? When most people think of “pentecostal,” if they think of anything at all, they think of “tongues” or they might think of pentecostal’s teaching on a “subsequent work of grace” commonly called, “the Baptism in (or “of”) the Holy Spirit. Though tongues and Spirit baptism are the hallmarks of pentecostal theology, is there anything else distinctive about pentecostalism? Or maybe a better question might be, “What, beyond doctrines on tongues and Spirit baptism, do pentecostals have to offer the wider Church and world?”
So, I’m doing a short series on pentecostal worldview, based of Smith’s book, to stab at that question. We are going to reflect on pentecostal spirituality and practice at a more fundamental and basic level than it’s practice of tongues or Spirit baptism, and see beneath the surface into an often unarticulated worldview – a certain orientation to the world that is informed by far ‘deeper’ than doctrine. Not that doctrine is in any sense invalid, but my goal here is to explore what is going on “below the surface” of pentecosal spirituality and practice. To see if we can ‘mine out’ of pentecostal practice (“what pentecostals do”) an implied worldview, and turn around and offer this to the wider Church as an explanation for the explosive growth of pentecostalism, but more than that, to suggest this worldview is not merely “pentecostal” but actually, at the very heart and soul of biblical Christianity.