Black History Month: William Seymour

Many will know that February is Black History Month in the US. There are countless Black people who have changed the landscape, not just of the US, but of the entire world.

Many may not know the name William Seymour. I would offer that over 600 million Christians worldwide, along with their current denomination and/or local church, exist because of Seymour’s work.

Continue reading

Pentecostal & Charismatic Contributions: Beyond What We First Imagine


With a group of Christians hovering around the 600 million mark worldwide, one would expect such a collective to have a substantial impact. That is the resounding reality within the Pentecostal and Charismatic branch of the church. Yet, while many might begin by looking at this group’s unique perspective on the Holy Spirit and spiritual gifts or their efforts in mass evangelism, and such factors should be noted as major contributions, there are a few other areas that might not be on one’s radar.

I want to bring up three positive, maybe unconsidered, offerings that Pentecostal and Charismatic churches have brought to the table. Continue reading

The Charismatic Theology of St. Luke

Back in December, I posted a book review about a recent book I had read on pneumatology, that is, the doctrine of the Holy Spirit. It was entitled, The Holy Spirit and Spiritual Gifts: In the New Testament Church and Today by Max Turner, professor at London School of Theology. The book must be one of the more modern better books on pneumatology.

At the same time, I was reading through another pneumatological title, The Charismatic Theology of St Luke by Roger Stronstad. I had dipped into this book in the past, but this time I started back at the beginning and read through it fully.

To start out, one of the pluses of the book is that it is a mere 83 pages. Now, of course, one might say, ‘Only 83 pages as an academic work. Are you sure it’s good?’

Well, I am quite aware of the fact that all things cannot be covered in a 300+ page book, like Turner’s, much less an 83-page book. But I was quite intrigued that Stronstad was able to faithfully look at quite a few things in such a shorter work. He was even pulling in references from various sources, including quite a few intertestamental writings as he looked at some later-BC Judaistic views of the Spirit.

Stronstad is a Pentecostal scholar, so I would tend to agree with a lot of things he has put forth in the work. But I would also couple that with stating that he is quite balanced in his approach.

Yes, he does believe the baptism, or initial filling of the Spirit, can be received following salvation-initiation. But I do not believe he is one to argue too far over the top, stating that this is the only way. He even ends out in his final chapter with some practical and pastoral challenges such as 1) not seeing tongues as the initial evidence of receiving the Spirit or that 2) we steer clear of a two-tier class of Christianity. Both are not biblically warranted, to which I agree.

There are three major and important contributions in Stronstad’s work that I point out in this article:

1) He shows the strong connection between the infancy-inauguration of Luke’s Gospel with the Pentecost initiation narrative of Acts. Stronstad states:

‘In the structure of Luke-Acts, the Pentecost narrative stands in the same relationship to the Acts as the infancy-inauguration narratives do to the Gospel. In the Gospel of Luke these narratives not only introduce the motifs which define the mission of Jesus, but they also show that Jesus will execute His mission in the power of the Holy Spirit. In a similar manner, the Pentecost narrative introduces both the future mission of the disciples and the complementary empowering of the Spirit.’ (p49)

He also makes this statement just a few pages earlier in regards to the parallel accounts of Luke’s narrative Gospel and Luke’s narrative of Acts:

‘The Gospel [of Luke] is the story of Jesus, the unique charismatic Prophet; the Acts is the story of His disciples, a community of charismatic prophets.’ (p34)

No wonder Stronstad would later publish the book, The Prophethood of All Believers, of which I also wrote an article about here.

2) Stronstad also shows how Luke must be considered both historian and theologian, not simply historian. This is not always accepted in biblical-scholarly circles. But doing so will be of great help to us as we consider a full and holistic biblical pneumatology. He makes this important statement in his work:

‘Consequently, just as the recognition that Luke is a theologian as well as a historian makes Luke-Acts a legitimate data base for the doctrine of the Holy Spirit, so the recognition that Luke is independent of Paul will broaden the New Testament data base for the doctrine of the Holy Spirit. To recognize these two facts is to rehabilitate Luke as a historian-theologian of the Holy Spirit and to allow him to make a significant, unique, and independent contribution to the doctrine of the Holy Spirit.’ (p11)

He, then, goes on to challenge our thinking with these words:

‘On the one hand, where it is appropriate, all parties in the current debate must abandon those largely self-serving methodological programs which conspire to either silence or to manipulate Luke’s distinctive theology. On the other hand, all parties must develop a methodological consensus for interpreting the gift of the Spirit in Luke-Acts. At a minimum, this consensus must include the following principles: 1) Luke-Acts is theologically homogeneous, 2) Luke is a theologian as well as a historian, and 3) Luke is an independent theologian in his own right.’ (p12)

3) Connected to the last point, Stronstad also emphasises that Luke and Paul have different emphases in their pneumatology. Of course, their theology is to be harmonized as part of the whole of Scripture’s teaching. Yet, within Paul’s writings, we continually read of the soteriological necessity of the Spirit, which sees the work of the Spirit as bringing people into sonship with God and incorporating them into the body of Christ. But, in Luke, the Spirit is recognised as the Spirit of prophecy that empowers God’s people for mission and service.

And we see this as we compare the use of certain phrases in both Luke and Paul. Interestingly enough, Luke uses the phrase, ‘baptised in the Spirit’, 3 times while Paul only uses it once. Even more, Luke uses the phrase, ‘filled with the Spirit’, 9 times of which Paul only refers to it once as well. Maybe Luke will help inform our pneumatology a little more than we had first thought.

Thus, we see that Stronstad puts forth the arguement that Luke’s pneumatology is about the Spirit being given for witness and service. Hence, why he would argue that the Spirit, from a Lukan-charismatic perspective, could be received post-salvation. He states:

‘If we have interpreted Luke’s Pentecost narrative correctly, then the gift of the Spirit is not for salvation, but it is for witness and service. In other words, with the transfer of the Spirit to the disciples on the day of Pentecost, they become a charismatic community, heirs to the earlier charismatic ministry of Jesus.’ (p62)

Therefore, with anyone wanting to studying biblical pneumatology, especially a Lukan pneumatology, though this book is short and from a more Pentecostal-charismatic perspective, I do think it is worth diving into. For me, I definitely appreciated the work. But may be I am a little biased as a charismatic.

Books On Pneumatology

A few months back, I read two books on the topic of pneumatology. Pneumatology deals with the doctrine of the Holy Spirit. As a charismatic, I guess one would expect that I would regularly delve into books on the doctrine of the Holy Spirit. And I guess I do, but I’m not obsessed with such books. And I even have books from those in a more cessationist, reformed camp, and I have learned some good things from them as well.

My biggest struggle is when Christians claim to have a pneumatology, but then leave it to black ink on white paper rather than understanding the importance of the personality and reality of the third person of the Trinity in our everyday lives. I don’t want to say that arrogantly, as if I got it all figured out. I’m a thinker, a teacher, a theologian (or sorts). And so I can easily make my charismatic understanding stick to paper (or Word document on my laptop) and not walk it out. So I challenge myself as well when reading, writing and preaching on these things.

But, yes, I am a charismatic. That is a word full of baggage, as many other words of Christianity carry a negative connotation. Some of my charismatic brothers and sisters (if they are even brothers and sisters) have ruined it for me and others. I spend so much time explaining what I don’t mean and breaking down misunderstandings rather than addressing what I do mean in regards to particular pneumatological topics.

As a charismatic I believe that the baptism, or initial filling, of the Spirit could be a second experience of the Spirit for empowering for service. It doesn’t have to be, but it might be. I don’t base this solely on experience, though we need to recognise experience does shape our biblical and theological understanding. But I look to ground my theology in the Scripture. That is our helpful (or more than helpful) starting place. Also, as a side note, I don’t believe tongues is the evidence of the reception of the baptism of the Spirit. Again, it could be, as for some in Acts it was. But for others it wasn’t.

But on to the books I recently finished…

The first is entitled The Holy Spirit and Spiritual Gifts: In the New Testament Church and Today by Max Turner. Turner is professor of New Testament Studies at London School of Theology. Outside of maybe Gordon Fee’s God’s Empowering Presence, this book might be one of the greatest academic works on pneumatology, at least that I have dipped into.

The text is 348 pages and covers a wide variety of topics on New Testament pneumatology. Turner is a continuationist, but probably more neo-charismatic, in that he believes that the baptism of the Spirit is received by all at conversion rather than seeing it as a possible second reception of the Spirit.

In the first chapter, Turner deals with some Old Testament and Intertestamental understandings of the Spirit. He shows that by the intertestamental times, the Spirit began to mainly be recognised as the ‘Spirit of prophecy’. And, interestingly enough, this is the emphasis of Luke in Acts.

Turner then moves into the Synoptics, Acts and then a Johannine understanding of the Spirit. I really enjoyed reading his collection of thoughts on the enigmatic passage of John 20:22:

And when he had said this, he breathed on them and said to them, “Receive the Holy Spirit.”

He looks at whether or not this was a real, or full, reception of the Spirit, considering all the varying views out there. From his understanding, the passage should be understood within John’s Gospel as ‘the climax in a whole process of life-giving experiences of the Spirit-and-word,’ which is an extension from their earliest encounter with Jesus as ‘the one whose revelatory wisdom is Spirit and life’ (as seen in John 6:63). Yet, John still expects a ‘full’ coming of the Spirit to replace Jesus once He is exalted to the Father’s right hand (which would come about in Acts).

He, then, moves on to look at the Spirit in the Pauline texts, specifically showing how the Spirit is seen as the Spirit of the new covenant and Israel’s renewal. With the giving of the Spirit, there was an emphasis that Israel had been restored and renewed by God. Turner also considers how, with the giving of the Spirit, we now see the major eschatological tension of this age between the already and the not yet.

Chapter 11 has a very interesting thoughts as Turner looks to give biblical and theological evidence of the personal deity of the Holy Spirit. Most who deny the personal deity of the Spirit (Judaism, cults) would say that the Spirit is actually an extension of the Father’s own personhood, not a distinct person Himself. For when the Spirit acts, it is the Father Himself acting, because it is His Spirit.

Turner includes some helpful discussion on this topic, of which here are a few words:

‘Indeed, the “sending” of the Spirit by the Son “from the Father” (John 15:26) itself implies some kind of differentiation of the Spirit from the Father.’ (p173)

His point is that Jesus is the actual one who gives and pours out the Spirit. This shows that the Spirit is connected to not only the Father, but also the Son. And such is true when we read Acts 16:6-7; Galatians 4:6; and Philippians 1:19. I thought this was insightful in showing the distinct personality and deity of the Spirit.

Part 2 of the book then spends time considering the ‘charismatic’ giftings of the Spirit, mainly those from 1 Corinthians 12. Chapter 16 specifically deals with some cessationist arguments. Cessationism is the teaching that certain gifts of the Spirit, especially those in 1 Corinthians 12, were meant to cease once the full revelation of the canon of Scripture was completed by the first apostles and their associates.

Specifically, Max Turner connects most of the modern arguments for cessationism as being initially formulated in two of B.B. Warfield’s most influential works: Counterfeit Miracles and The Inspiration and Authority of the Bible.

With regards to healings, here are some of Turner’s summary thoughts after considering some of the cessationist arguments in details:

‘That miracles were thought to attest God’s messengers need not be doubted; but that that was their prime, if not exclusive, purpose was in no way demonstrated by Warfield (nor by his cessationsist successors).’ (p283)

‘As we have seen (Ch. 14), nothing in the New Testament suggests that healings would cease, and Warfield’s attempt to restrict their function to apostolic accreditation is baseless and reductionist. For the New Testament writers, the healings were not externally attesting signs, but part of the scope of the salvation announced, which reached beyond the merely spiritual to the psychological and physical.’ (p285)

And with regards to prophecy and tongues, Turner concludes:

‘In Chapters 12-13 above we have argued that prophecy and tongues had no special relationship to apostolicity, inscripturation or authentication of the gospel in Paul. They were enjoyed for the other benefits they brought the church, corporately and individually, including the revealing of God’s specific insight, judgement or guidance on questions Scripture could not address (e.g. the diagnostic prophecies of Rev. 2-3, each specific to the circumstances of a single congregation), enhancing private prayer, etc.’ (p289)

So I do believe Turner’s arguments are developed quite well in showing how cessationist theology falls short.

As I stated, I believe the baptism of the Spirit can be a second reception for empowering for service, whereas Turner believes all is received at conversion. When looking at his words on this topic, my main problem is that I don’t believe he faithfully considered all of the passages in Acts, especially Acts 19 and the Ephesians disciples. I believe the disciples in Acts 19:1-7 were already Christian converts, but Turner saw otherwise, saying that they were ‘almost Christians’ (p46).

My reasons for believing the Ephesian disciples were true believers:

1) For starters, one interesting thing to note is that Luke uses the words disciple or disciples exactly 30 times throughout the book of Acts, one of those times being in 19:1. Even more, in all of the other 29 times the word is used, the context is definitely clear that Luke is speaking of true Christian disciples. Of course, it is possible that, in this one instance, Luke is not referring to true believers. But knowing he consistently uses the word as a positive affirmation of true disciples, it is highly likely he has done the same in describing these twelve men in Ephesus.

2) Secondly, here we have an example of our chapter and verse divisions not being helpful in seeing the larger context of Scripture. The whole of Acts 19 is actually connected to the last five verses of Acts 18 where we learn about a certain man by the name of Apollos:

24 Now a Jew named Apollos, a native of Alexandria, came to Ephesus. He was an eloquent man, competent in the Scriptures. 25 He had been instructed in the way of the Lord. And being fervent in spirit, he spoke and taught accurately the things concerning Jesus, though he knew only the baptism of John. 26 He began to speak boldly in the synagogue, but when Priscilla and Aquila heard him, they took him and explained to him the way of God more accurately. 27 And when he wished to cross to Achaia, the brothers encouraged him and wrote to the disciples to welcome him. When he arrived, he greatly helped those who through grace had believed, 28 for he powerfully refuted the Jews in public, showing by the Scriptures that the Christ was Jesus. (Acts 18:24-28)

We see that Apollos had settled, at least for a time, in the city of Ephesus, which was the residence of the twelve ‘disciples’ of Acts 19. Concerning Apollos, we read that he was:

  • Competent in the Scriptures
  • Instructed in the way of the Lord
  • Fervent in spirit
  • Taught accurately the things concerning Jesus

But the problem is that he only knew the baptism of John (that is, John the Baptist). Therefore, Priscilla and Aquila were very helpful in the life of Apollos, becoming mentors to him in the faith. We read that they ‘explained to him the way of God more accurately’ (18:25). Still, we never read that this was Apollos’ conversion. He was already converted and was a true believer. True, we would probably expect that Priscilla and Aquila would have seen him ‘baptised into the name of Jesus’ (an expression used frequently in Acts – 2:38; 8:16; 10:48; 19:5). But this did not negate that he was already a true Christian disciple.

3) Therefore, keeping this in mind, we return to the twelve men of Acts 19:1-7. Knowing Apollos’ ministry in Ephesus, it is most likely that these twelve were disciples of Apollos. Again, the argument would arise that this is the problem – they were disciples of Apollos and not Christ. But such an argument does not stand when we consider that, in the book of Acts, Luke refers to a group as ‘disciples’ of Paul (see Acts 9:25). Yet we can only expect that they were also true believers.

So, here is an example of a delayed reception of the Spirit for empowering for service, which was Luke’s emphasis in regards to receiving the Spirit. I believe these 12 disciples were truly believers who later on received the initial filling of the Spirit for empowered service.

Most cessationists will argue that Cornelius and his household were the first converts to Christ, thus with their extreme external reception of the Spirit as part of fulfilling the expansion of the gospel to the Gentiles (‘ends of the earth’), there should be no expectation of such again. The problem with such an argument is that Cornelius and his household were not the first Gentile believers. The Ethiopian eunuch was in Acts 8. And, here in Acts 19, we find another external confirmation of the reception of the Spirit by Gentiles.

So, this is where I would disagree with Max Turner. I believe the baptism of the Spirit can come at salvation, but it might not. That is my understanding of the testimony of Scripture and that is my understanding from reading about and seeing how God has moved in people’s lives. Experience is not anathema. It is good and healthy, as long as it is not our sole basis of our understanding of God’s workings.

And if one wants to walk down the road and claim Acts is not helpful in developing doctrine, then suffice it to say, I point to one of our favourite passages: All Scripture is breathed out by God and profitable for teaching… (2 Timothy 3:16). There are more things to consider, but that is good for me for now.

Still, if one wants to faithfully engage in understanding a charismatic pneumatology, I think they must be willing to read Max Turner’s work. It is a very balanced view on the Holy Spirit from a charismatic point of view. I don’t agree with every word, as I don’t agree with every word of a Gordon Fee. But it is a solid work.

I had hoped to discuss the second book I read on pneumatology, but I shall have to pick that up in a forthcoming article. [Updated: click here for that newer article.]