Long gone are the days when “pentecostal” and “scholar” were considered mutually exclusive terms (“Whither Pentecostal Scholarship?”). The barriers such as expectant apocalypticism and epistemological immediacy (“you have no need that anyone should teach you” 1 John 2:27) which made Pentecostals weary of intellectual pursuits in the past have generally faded away. Many Pentecostal denominations have since established thriving educational institutions and started to infiltrate mainstream evangelical scholarship. Not to mention the spirituality of the global church has forced Western scholars to take seriously the Pentecostal contribution to the church and world.
If you get beyond the “Charismatic Interest” section at your local Christian bookstore you’ll be pleased to discover a host of Pentecostal scholars moving in circles beyond their own tribe. Below are some of my favorite Pentecostal scholars whose work has often affirmed my experience and other times gently reproved my short-sightedness. Not all of them are classical Pentecostals (holding to tongues as the initial evidence of Baptism of the Holy Spirit) but they are all continuationists, meaning they believe all gifts of the Spirit are operational today, in the full sense of the term. As may be obvious by now, these are limited to male scholars. A forthcoming list of women Pentecostal scholars is in the making. Feel free to add your favorites in the comments.
1. Amos Yong
Among Yong has the ability to regularly work on the cutting-edge of studies, including interfaith dialogue. Through a theology of the Spirit he has explored some of the most pressing issues for Christianity as a whole, including globalism and theology as it relates to physical disability. See his The Spirit Poured Out on All Flesh: Pentecostalism and the Possibility of Global Theology Flesh and Beyond the Impasse: Toward a Pneumatological Theology of Religions. He is a younger scholar who has had his fair share of criticism from various Christian traditions.
2. Gordon Fee
Gordon Fee is of an older generation of New Testament textual critics. He has written several landmark works including God’s Empowering Presence: The Holy Spirit in the Letters of Paul and Pauline Christology: An Exegetical-Theological Study. These two will continue to inform studies for decades. His popular books include several indispensable guides for biblical interpretation: How to Read the Bible for all Its Worth with Douglas Stuart and New Testament Exegesis: A Handbook for Students and Pastors. Finally there is his Paul, the Spirit, and the People of God. These works alone will influence many students of the Bible and people in the church in times to come.
3. Craig Keener
Craig Keener is another New Testament scholar whose work has been a tremendous gift to the church. For starters, his IVP Bible Background Commentary of the New Testament has sold over half a million copies. Keener’s vast knowledge of classical literature is rivaled by few and has led to important insights into biblical interpretation. He is also an expert on the historical Jesus and most recently has published a 2-volume Miracles: The Credibility of the New Testament Accounts, offering a comprehensive defense of the possibility and actuality of both ancient and modern, documented miracles.
4. James K. A. Smith
James K. A. Smith is a Pentecostal philosopher in the Reformed tradition who teaches as Calvin College. While contributing somewhat to Pentecostal conversations, such as Thinking in Tongues: Pentecostal Contributions to Christian Philosophy, his main project has been in relating continental philosophy to the Christian tradition and formation. Most recently his Cultural Liturgies series (YouTube video) has provided a fresh vision for Christian formation which critiques the “think your way to God” approach and instead opts for an Augustinian re-orientation of our desires toward God through liturgical formation.
5. Jack Deere
Jack Deere used to teach at the dispensational, cessationist school Dallas Theological Seminary. Primarily through experience and then through sustained study, he came to abandon his belief that some of the Spirit’s gifts had ceased. He narrates this in two of his works, Surprised by the Power of the Spirit and Surprised by the Voice of God. In these books he relates powerful encounters with God through miracles, which have since led him to be an influential leader and pastor in the charismatic movement (and to lose his post at DTS).
6. Veli-Matti Kärkkäinen
Veli-Matti Kärkkäinen is a Finish scholar who now teaches at Fuller Theological Seminary. I was first introduced to him through his book An Introduction to Ecclesiology in my undergraduate studies which I found incredibly dense. He’s written similar introductory books and is a first-rate systematic theologian with a global perspective. Kärkkäinen is also an advocate of ecumenicism and has participated in groups that are part of the World Council of Churches.
7. Laurence Wood
Laurence Wood is a self-described Pentecostal though he is of the Wesleyan tradition. His work in books such as The Meaning of Pentecost in Early Methodism has helped illuminate early Methodism and argued for John Fletcher as heir to John Wesley’s theology and spirituality. Fletcher has brought the doctrine of subsequence to the forefront of Methodist and holiness traditions and created a fertile environment for the later Pentecostal movement. Wood is an exceptional philosopher-theologian who works in the Pannenbergian model and has done excellent work in the field of history and hermeneutics. See his God and History: The Dialectical Tension of Faith and History. His ideas on space-time relativity are a rare and fascinating
8. Simon Chan
Simon Chan is quickly becoming beloved by many because he has done work in sacramental-liturgical theology as a Pentecostal. See for example his Pentecostal Theology and the Christian Spiritual Tradition, which seeks to place Pentecostal theology and experience in the long line of Christian spirituality. Also, his Liturgical Theology: The Church as Worshiping Community has been influential in shaping the sacramental life of many high church clergy.
9. Stephen Seamands
Steve Seamands was on the ground and an active leader-participant when the Asbury Revival of 1970 took place (YouTube video). Since then he has become a theologian scholar in his own right whose spiritual leadership has encouraged many students in the classroom and has led many seminars and workshops focusing on healing and renewal for the church. His books Ministry in the Image of God: The Trinitarian Shape of Christian Service and Give Them Christ: Preaching His Incarnation, Crucifixion, Resurrection, Ascension and Return have been well received and reviewed.
10. Stanley M. Horton
Stanley Horton is a classical Pentecostal without which this list wouldn’t really be complete. He is a theologian and prolific author whose work has represented the doctrine of subsequence well and whose teaching on the Holy Spirit has led to greater awareness in the church. Furthermore, he was an advocate for higher education, race relations, and encouraging women in ministry for his Pentecostal community. His book Systematic Theology is a serious work, numbering close to 700 pages.
Who are some of your favorites?