I recently wrapped up my doctorate studies with Fuller Theological Seminary. It is a wonderful feeling to have finished the program and I'm looking forward to a study-free summer! Below are three paragraphs I've plucked out of the introduction to my final paper - Pentecostalism Re-Imagined: Reconfiguring Pentecostalism in Twenty-First Century New Zealand. If you would like a full copy of the paper please e-mail me and I'll send out a PDF copy.
The late Irish poet and philosopher John O’Donohue once stated, “It is essential for somebody who wants to have a mature, adult, open-ended, good-hearted critical faith, to conduct the most vigorous and relentless conversation that [they] can with [their] own tradition.” This project is an attempt to engage in such a conversation with my tradition(s) – Pentecostalism and the Assemblies of God movement in New Zealand. It is not a project of criticism – nothing life-giving or transformative is achieved by throwing stones. Rather, the aim is a critical-reflection – a careful and prayerful analysis of Pentecostalism in my twenty-first century context. It is an attempt to offer fresh perspectives on Pentecostal ministry that would assist Assemblies of God pastors throughout New Zealand to minister, with increasing fruitfulness, the life of Christ in a postmodern world.
Three realities within a twenty-first century context that necessitate a process of critical reflection. Firstly, “ministry today takes place in a world that is rapidly changing and extraordinarily multifaceted;” globalization, the information-age, and the progresses of science have awakened in the world a growing appreciation of the complexities inherent to every aspect of human life. This reality demands that the church exhibits a faith that is not only numinous but also rational and intellectual. This does not have to mean academic, nor does it have to be a capitulation to modernist ideals of logical positivism, scientism or some sort of biblical-rationalism. It does, however, ask that while Pentecostalism holds onto the mystery of faith – that God is unknowable in an empirical sense and is fundamentally ineffable – that it also attempts to speak of faith in a manner that is well considered, well formed and well argued. “The world cannot be ignored and isolation – intellectually, physically and spiritually – is not a viable option.”
The third factor prompting the need for a critical reflection in regard to the theological constructs and ecclesial expressions of Pentecostalism concerns the nature of Pentecostalism and what, in the first place, makes a church Pentecostal. As a younger generation of Assemblies of God pastors are ordained for ministry, appreciation should be given to the fact that they will likely enter ministry with a natural postmodern disposition that will implicitly include a tendency towards deconstruction, institutional suspicion and an incredulity regarding meta-narratives. Whether their points of view are appreciated by older Pentecostal ministers or not, this new generation of pastors is likely to conduct their own evaluations of Pentecostalism and the Assemblies of God as a twenty-first century expression of the Church. Rather than ignore or try and shutdown these postmodern sensibilities, this paper will attempt to create the space required for an honest process of both deconstruction and reconstruction – with the latter being an effort often overlooked in postmodernism. Thus, with Pentecostalism moving into its second century, a critical analysis will consider what should be preserved and what should be discarded; in the first instance, to use the metaphor of 1 Corinthians 3:12, preserving the gold, silver and costly stones of Pentecost and, in the second instance, leaving behind that which might be referred to as the wood, hay and straw of the various Pentecostalisms that have unfolded over time.
If you would like to read the entire paper I'm happy to e-mail you a PDF version of the completed document, just send me an e-mail request: email@example.com